Canadian Court Tosses Retrans-Consent Plan

In a 5-4 decision, the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that that country's version of the FCC does not have the authority to impose a retransmission consent regime on Canada's cable and satellite operators.

In a decision handed down today (Dec. 13), the high court ruled that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission could not use its general regulatory authority to impose the specific requirement that MVPDs negotiate retransmission-consent payments with broadcasters.

"The provisions of the Broadcasting Act, considered in their entire context, may not be interpreted as authorizing the CRTC to implement the proposed value for signal regime," the court said.

CRTC in 2010 tried to establish a retransmission regime similar to that in the U.S. Broadcasters could negotiate for payment, and would have the right to deny retransmission if an agreement was not reached.

Not surprisingly, cable operators there objected, saying it conflicted with provisions in Canada's copyright act.

CRTC referred the matter to an appeals court, which upheld its authority saying no copyright conflict existed. Operators appealed again and the Supreme Court Thursday sided with them.

"Reading the Broadcasting Act in its entire context reveals that the creation of such rights is too far removed from the core purposes intended by Parliament and from the powers granted to the CRTC under that Act," said the court. "Even if jurisdiction for the proposed value for signal regime could be found within the text of the Broadcasting Act, the proposed regime would conflict with specific provisions enacted by Parliament in the Copyright Act."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.