Bell-Quebecor dispute threatens to hit NHL playoff viewers
MONTREAL - A Quebec judge has ordered Quebecor to reconnect the signal for three TVA Sports channels to Bell TV customers Friday night.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Claude Champagne refused, however, to prohibit the media company from making negative publicity about Bell, as its rival had requested, citing freedom of expression.
Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau told reporters that the company was going to obey the injunction.
The ruling came after lawyers for Bell Canada and rival Quebecor Inc. were in court Friday, battling over three French-language sports channels that Bell TV subscribers haven't received since the NHL playoffs began this week.
Bell lawyer Francis Rouleau said cutting the signal “is a conduct that deserves to be highly sanctioned (...) to reinstate those who are in the penalty box, who are the consumers and the subscribers of Bell.”
He added that Quebecor planned well in advance to cut the signal on Wednesday as the National Hockey League playoffs began.
Rouleau said Quebecor's action breached its contract and flouted Canada's Broadcasting Act.
Bell's lawyer said it was “disturbing” that Quebecor has publicly denounced the rules of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which says feeds should remain intact during contractual disputes.
Bell had called for Quebecor to end its deceptive advertising that suggested that it cut the signal.
Quebecor's lawyer responded that the company believes it has done nothing illegal since section 15 of the CRTC regulation which requires the maintenance of service when there is a dispute between the parties is invalid.
“It's not a question of flouting the law, it's a challenge to the law,” said Quebecor attorney Neil Peden, who also told the judge that he doesn't have jurisdiction to declare the rule valid.
Champagne told Peden several times that he has been asked to rule on a request for an injunction, not on the validity of CRTC rules.
Peden argued that Quebecor's grievance is much more fundamental than a few hockey games, but rather the durability of Quebec channels that are at stake.
Peden had described the request to “gag” his client as “unacceptable”.
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