Quebecor’s threat to pull TVA Sports from Bell TV has sparked a war of words, with both sides making claims (TVA’s more publicly), some of them contradictory. Who’s right and who’s wrong in this battle? Montreal media critic Steve Faguy does his best to break down some of those arguments.
Bell Canada says it has received a legally binding directive from the CRTC confirming that Quebecor must continue to make its TVA Sports channel available to Bell TV customers.
Despite an earlier CRTC directive requiring the cable and media company to continue to provide TVA Sports to Bell TV and its customers, Quebecor has continued its threat to cut off access to the channel during the NHL playoffs.
TVA Sports is the exclusive French-language broadcaster of National Hockey League playoff games, and the only channel in either language carrying many Montreal Impact Major League Soccer games
The battle is over carriage fees, with Quebecor arguing that Bell’s specialty channels get much higher subscription wholesale fees than its own TVA sports do.
Quebecor began its campaign by issuing a series of what Bell characterizes as “misleading statements on its hockey broadcasts and other media platforms that falsely claimed Bell itself planned to remove access to TVA Sports,” and directed Bell TV customers to switch to Quebecor's cable TV subsidiary Videotron.
"The CRTC has made it quite clear to Quebecor that it must comply with the law and continue to provide TVA Sports to Bell customers who've paid for it. It's highly inappropriate for Quebecor to make these threats to illegally deny service and in effect take viewers hostage over a business disagreement," said Bell Quebec Vice Chair, Martine Turcotte. "We've always negotiated in good faith and invite Quebecor to do the same."
According to the CRTC's decision, Quebecor is "required to provide" TVA Sports to Bell TV "at the same rates and on the same terms and conditions as they did before the dispute, until the parties resolve their dispute or the Commission issues a decision concerning this unresolved matter."
Consistent with the CRTC's procedures, Bell filed a request with the regulator Wednesday morning to resolve the dispute by way of final offer arbitration.
As part of its demands, Quebecor is pressing Bell TV to pay more to carry its TVA Sports channel than Quebecor/Videotron pays Bell Media for the RDS sports network – even though RDS had 67% more viewers on average than TVA Sports, a Bell communique states.
As reported by the Montreal Gazette, Videotron owner Karl Péladeau maintains that Bell is mistreating TVA’s channels.
“All the cable providers in Quebec accepted the rate proposed by TVA Sports. Why is Bell the only one to refuse? Because Bell is also the owner of RDS, which is TVA Sports’ competitor,” Péladeau said, noting that Videotron “treats all channels equally based on precise criteria.”