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Supreme Court sides with cable, satellite companies on fee system

The Supreme Court of Canada says the CRTC does not have the power to ask cable providers to pay broadcasters for carrying their signals.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that setting up such a system is not within the scope of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, overturning an earlier Federal Court of Appeal decision.

The ruling is a major victory for cable and satellite companies.

“We believe that today’s Supreme Court decision is the right decision for Canadians and a step forward for consumers,” said Rogers Communications vice-chairman Phil Lind.

“There have been dramatic changes to the industry in Canada since the CRTC first looked at the issue more than two years ago. We believe that value for signal has no place in today’s broadcasting landscape where the major players are enjoying significant profits.”

The CRTC had asked the appeal court whether it could set up a value-for-signal system when it decided to launch the plan in 2010.

The system would have allowed television broadcasters to charge cable and satellite providers for picking up their signals, which those companies now do for free.

Broadcasters argued the revenue was needed to support local programming, while the cable and satellite firms said it was beyond the authority of the CRTC and would just lead to higher costs for consumers.