Canadian Supreme Court: CRTC Lacks Authority to Impose Retrans

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 local station retransmission consent regime on Canada's cable and satellite

a decision handed down Thursday, the court ruled that the CRTC could not use
its general regulatory authority to impose the specific requirement that MVPDs
negotiate retransmission consent payments with broadcasters for retransmission of local stations.

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.

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

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.

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.