Pay TV told to compensate broadcasters for carriage

Free-to-air broadcasters have won their battle to force cable and satellite companies to pay for carrying their channels.

The Federal Court of Appeal in Canada has ruled that the pay TV platforms must negotiate over carriage fees, following a lengthy campaign by the top TV webs, including CTV and Global.

The networks say it is the only way they can survive in the current economic climate where it is harder and harder for commercial broadcasters to make a profit.

In Canada, the cable and satellite companies already pay up monthly fees for pay TV channels such as sports web TSN.

On Tuesday, Rogers Communications, the country’s largest cable operator, said it would appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ironically, Rogers is also one of the leading broadcasters via its ownership of City-TV.

“We’ve always been a broadcaster and a distributor, and we’ve always been opposed to fee for carriage,” said Rogers spokeswoman Jan Innes.

Other companies find themselves in a similar position. In the past year, Cabler Shaw Communications acquired CanWest Global, which owned the Global network, and Bell Canada, the country’s top satellite operator via Bell TV, took over CTV.

It’s unclear if those networks will continue to fight for carriage fees since their parent companies will have to cough up the coin.

Broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission greenlit the carriage fees last year. But knowing there would be legal challenges, the CRTC referred the matter to the federal court, asking if it had the authority to impose fees on cable and satellite companies. Two of the three judges on the court sided with the CRTC.

Innes said other companies would join Rogers in the appeal but none had come forward Tuesday.

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