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Videotron complaints get louder

Chum, Astral Media join Bell Globemedia

TORONTO — Two more broadcasters have complained to Canada’s broadcast regulator after cabler Groupe Videotron cut the fees it pays to carry their specialty channels.

Toronto-based Chum and Montreal-based Astral Media have joined BCE-owned Bell Globemedia in asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to intervene on their behalf. They argue that Videotron, Quebec’s dominant cabler, is contravening rate agreements, and by cutting the fees it pays for their specialty services, it is giving itself “undue preference.”

In its letter to the CRTC, dated Tuesday, Chum said the move subjects its specialty channels Star!, MMM and CLT to a corresponding undue disadvantage.

“Videotron’s actions seem to be at best arbitrary and at worst capricious,” Peter Miller, VP of business and regulatory affairs for Chum, told Daily Variety.

He said the three want the CRTC to order Videotron to restore full affiliation payments, “and if it has issues, bring them to the commission.”

While Miller said there’s less money at stake for Chum than for Bell Globemedia or Astral, who have complained that the cuts will add up to millions of dollars per year, Chum is particularly concerned about the precedent Videotron is setting.

“If Videotron is able to get away with such unilateral action, what’s to prevent (cablers) Cogeco or Shaw (from doing) the same?” he said. “An arbitrary reduction of 50% is unprecedented and unsustainable, and if other distributors were to do this we could not meet our obligations to the CRTC.”

Representatives for Videotron could not be reached for comment Friday. A CRTC spokesman said Videotron has been asked for a response to the complaints.

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