Opening remarks at the public hearing on the apparent non-compliance of TVA Group inc. in the dispute with Bell Canada with respect to section 15(1) of the Discretionary Services Regulations

Speech

Gatineau, Quebec
April 17, 2019

Ian Scott, Chairman
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Good morning and welcome to this public hearing. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples. I want to thank the Algonquin people and pay respect to their Elders.

We called TVA Group to this public hearing today for a very specific reason.

Over the normal course of business, broadcasters and television service providers engage in commercial negotiations to set wholesale rates for the discretionary television channels that are offered to Canadians. The Commission stands ready to assist parties when they are unable to conclude an agreement on their own. Our dispute resolution services are designed to ensure that negotiations are conducted fairly and in good faith.

Moreover, the Commission has put in place a rule to ensure that Canadians do not lose access to the services they pay for in the event of a dispute between parties. This is known as the standstill rule, which is part of both the Discretionary Services Regulations and Broadcasting Distribution Regulations.

On April 10, the Commission informed Québecor and Bell that the standstill rule applied during their negotiations regarding the distribution of TVA Sports. We further instructed the parties that they were required to provide their respective television channels to one another, and to distribute them to their subscribers, at the same rates, terms and conditions as before the dispute.

That evening, it appears that TVA Sports’ signal became unavailable to Bell subscribers, leaving them unable to watch the French-language coverage of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, as well as other programming.

The Commission takes this matter very seriously. It is our job to regulate in the public interest and to protect Canadians, who are currently caught in the middle of this dispute. The Commission is acting as expeditiously as possible, while ensuring that due process is followed.

Under the Broadcasting Act, the Commission has a number of enforcement tools at its disposal, such as issuing a mandatory order requiring TVA Group to comply with the Discretionary Services Regulations at all times during the dispute with Bell or suspending its licence when it interferes with TVA Sports’ signal. At this hearing, TVA Group is expected to show cause why the Commission should not use either of these tools.

As a reminder, holding a broadcasting licence is a privilege and the regulations set by the CRTC are to be followed at all times.

Procedure

Before we start, I would like to make a few introductions.

The panel for this hearing consists of:

  • Christianne Laizner, Vice-Chairperson of Telecommunications
  • Caroline Simard, Vice-Chairperson of Broadcasting
  • and of course, myself, Ian Scott, Chairperson of the CRTC. I will preside over this hearing.

The Commission team assisting us includes:

  • Tandy Yull and Matt Tosaj, co-managers of this hearing
  • Shari Fisher and Valérie Dionne, legal counsel, and
  • Jade Roy, hearing secretary.

I would now invite Ms. Roy to explain the procedure we will be following.

Madam Secretary…

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