Sat sunset in Canada

TORONTO — Canada’s gray market for U.S. direct-to-home satellite systems has officially been declared black. Norsat Intl. Inc., one of the largest suppliers of U.S. satellite dish systems in Canada, announced Wednesday that it has settled the legal action that Canadian broadcasters ExpressVu, TMN Networks Inc., the Family Channel Inc. and WIC Premium Television Ltd. (formerly Allarcom Pay Television Limited) initiated against it in June 1996.

Norsat has agreed to discontinue importing and selling satellite systems designed to receive U.S.-originated DTH signals and to pay the four plaintiffs’ legal costs.

The settlement comes after Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal upheld the judgment granting broadcasters, program suppliers and others a right of action against those who participate in the DTH gray market. The court also ruled that the sale of dishes is illegal.

“It was an infringement of our business and our franchises,” said Luther Haave, vice president and general manager of WIC Premium Television, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “It means that gray is now black.”

Canadians who own the U.S. dishes and receive American programming can trade in their illegal dishes for legitimate Canadian ones at local dealers across the country. There are also two choices of Canadian programming — Star Choice and ExpressVu.

Asked if the settlement will adversely affect American content providers, Haave responded, “The U.S. (providers) should have a smaller audience, they haven’t paid for Canadian rights … If it was the opposite case, you can bet U.S. companies would have stopped it in a New York minute.”

The gray market in American DTH systems sprung up in Canada after bureaucratic delays, technical complications and political infighting between Canada’s licensing body and its content providers slowed the launch of Canadian DTH system and service.

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