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Canadian TV biz goes to court

It wants regulator to treat ISPs as broadcasters

MONTREAL — The battle to force Internet Service Providers to be treated like broadcasters went before Canada’s Supreme Court on Monday, a case that could have a major impact on the local TV business.

A coalition representing actors, writers and producers argued that ISPs should be forced to follow rules set by federal broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, including paying a levy to support original Canadian content.

The Internet providers — including major players Bell Canada and Shaw Communications — beg to differ.

The entertainment guilds lost the first round in the fight after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the ISPs are not broadcasters in July 2010. But in March 2011 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

“Internet providers are the broadcasters of the 21st century,” said Jay Thomson, VP at the Canadian Media Production Assn. “We want to give the CRTC the chance to review this and to see if there is any way they can support Canadian programming.”

The Supreme Court is expected to take between six and eight months to reach a decision.

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