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Rogers to take fight over TV fees to supreme court

The battle over whether broadcasters have the right to charge cable and satellite providers for carrying their programs is headed to the Supreme Court.

Rogers Communications Inc. said Tuesday it plans to file for a leave to appeal with the top court over a decision this week by the Federal Court of Appeals.

That court ruled 2-1 that the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission had the right to establish a regime whereby broadcasters could attach a monetary value to their signals. The CRTC itself had referred the matter to the court as it announced its plans for embarking on the regime.

But the fact the Federal Court of Appeals decision was not unanimous made an appeal more attractive.

“It’s not a question of it’s a slam dunk and there was a 3-0 decision and the court ruled on the actual law. It’s a different story than that altogether,” said Phil Lind, vice-chairman of Rogers Communications Inc.

Rogers and other distributors of TV network signals argued that the so-called value-for-signal issue was a matter that fell under the Copyright Act and the question of royalties, and was not in the jurisdiction of the CRTC.

Justice Marc Nadon agreed.

Said Lind: “The CRTC even acknowledged that it was a problem because they referred it directly to the courts without even rendering it to us. They knew it was going to be a problem.”

Rogers will likely be joined by other cable and satellite firms in filing the leave to appeal. While it didn’t indicate which companies, Bell Aliant was among those who made submissions in the lower court’s case.

The cable and satellite companies have warned that the extra costs will be passed on to consumers. Lind estimates cable and satellite companies would wind up paying $5 or more per subscriber for TV signals.

The private broadcasters had warned repeatedly that without the extra funds, they would have to shut down more local stations and cut back on Canadian productions.

Since the value-for-signal debate began, major networks such as CTV and Global have been purchased by the very distributors they were fighting.

 

Citytv is owned by Rogers Communications Inc.