Business

Supreme Court to hear 'value for signal' TV case

The Supreme Court of Canada says it will hear a case that could determine if cable and satellite companies must pay broadcasters to retransmit their signals.

The Supreme Court of Canada said Thursday it will hear a case that could determine if cable and satellite companies must pay broadcasters to retransmit their television signals.

Cable and satellite companies currently carry over-the-air network TV signals without paying for them.

In 2010, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission asked the Federal Court of Appeal to rule on whether the broadcast regulator had the right to establish a regime whereby broadcasters could attach value to their signals and charge the distributors — the cable and satellite companies .

Canadian cable and satellite companies currently carry over-the-air network television signals without paying for them. (Mike Groll/Associated Press)

In a 2-1 ruling released in late February, the appeal court said the regulator could implement a proposed "value for signal" regime.

The cable and satellite companies subsequently asked the Supreme Court for leave to appeal that decision.

The top court on Thursday said it will hear the appeal, which pits Cogeco Cable, Rogers Communications, Telus and Shaw Communications against Bell Canada, Canwest Television, the Attorney General of Canada and others. The CRTC is an intervener in the case.

"We believe the Federal Court was correct in finding that value for signal falls within the CRTC's jurisdiction, and we are confident the Supreme Court of Canada will agree when they are presented with the relevant facts and arguments," Bell Media president Kevin Crull said in a statement.

Conventional television stations must have a regulatory framework that allows them to survive on their own merits, regardless of whether they are integrated with cable and satellite companies, Crull said.

"As with most other channels on the dial, local television stations should receive compensation for their signal. Otherwise they are left to rely solely on advertising revenue, which continues to prove to be unsustainable. This antiquated compensation model is not viable in today's media landscape," he said.

The cable and satellite companies have said in the past that any new fees charged to them will be passed straight on to consumers.

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