Quebecor paying higher price in tussle

MONTREAL — Two of Canada’s leading media companies, Quebecor and BCE, are locked in a bitter dispute as they battle it out for money and market dominance.

At the moment, Quebecor is paying the higher price in the tussle. Federal regulator Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently ordered Quebecor’s cable operator Videotron to stop charging rivals 10 times the CRTC-ordained rate to use its wires in apartment buildings in Quebec.

The regulator also has set up a public hearing for Dec. 2 to haul Videotron onto the carpet to explain why it is refusing to pay millions of dollars in fees to BCE-owned sports specialty channel RDS.

In August, the CRTC ordered Videotron to compensate RDS after it cut the amount it pays to carry the channel.

The fight is really about who controls the lucrative Canadian TV market. Quebecor’s Videotron, the country’s third-largest cable operator, is losing ground to BCE-owned DTH service Bell Expressvu.

Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau has been angrily alleging for months that Bell Expressvu has an unfair advantage because parent company BCE has much deeper pockets than any cable company thanks to its telecom operations.

But BCE isn’t Quebecor’s only worry. Quebec pension fund manager the Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec might write down a large part of its C$2.7 billion ($1.7 billion) investment in Quebecor due to the problems at Videotron.

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