Consumers fight 'grey market' satellite ruling

Owners of "grey market" satellite dishes say they're willing to fight for their right to own them.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last month that grey market satellite receivers were "black" they contravened federal broadcasting laws.

The dishes provide access to hundreds of channels of television distributed through an American satellite system.

Canada's two satellite companies Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice brought the matter to the country's highest court. The companies say they're losing almost $400 million annually to the grey marketeers.

They estimate 600,000 to 800,000 homes in Canada have grey market receivers.

Members of the Calgary Latin American community say mainstream satellite providers don't give them with the programming they want.

At one cafe, the satellite dish brings flavours of home.

"(Customers) want to know anything about our countries," says the cafe owner Theresa Zepeda. "There is not much in the news."

"Almost every day, there's three or four people asking where we can get a satellite so then they can watch the Spanish programs."

Paying for something they don't get in the mainstream

Other immigrant communities echo Zepeda's experience.

Harry Diamontopoulis says his dish comes with three Greek channels, none of which his family wants to give up.

"You try to explain to my grandmother, that she can't watch her shows," says Diamontopoulis. "Of course she doesn't speak good English so she cannot follow the Canadian or American TV. She finds refuge in this three channels."

It's not individual satellite users who are being targetted by the government. Industry minister Allan Rock says he's going after the people who sell the equipment.

"What we're hoping is the federal government will recognize the forcefulness of this decision and will take that as a message to begin to enforce the existing legisliation again, against the individual dealers who are selling this equipment," says Ian Gavaghan of Bell ExpressVu.

But the fight is not over. The Supreme Court, in its ruling, left the door open for a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Among the groups taking this to court, again, is the Congreso Iberamericana de Canada, which represents Spanish-speaking Canadians.

Paul Fitzgerald, the organization's vice-president, says grey market subscribers are paying for something they wouldn't otherwise get. Fitzgerald says it's not a true "black market."

"People who have grey market dishes can show credit card receipts, monthly payments to dish network or Direct TV," says Fitzgerald. "People on the black market can't because they're buying stuff off the back of a truck. They paid some money to a guy who gave them a de-coder card."