Canadian regulators side with broadcasters

U.S. cable operators, especially those seeking FCC help with broadcaster carriage fees, must hope that cold fronts are the only things that come down from Canada after the country's broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) essentially sided with broadcasters in their effort to get compensation for their on-air signals from cable and satellite providers.

The CRTC decision was made during what has been a vicious debate between broadcasters, hemmed in by a slumping economy and declining revenues, and cable operators who don't want to pay for on-air signals they've always used for free. Sound familiar? On the plus side, and to the chagrin of the broadcasters, the CRTC declined to set a "fee for carriage" for cable operators to carry broadcast content pending a court ruling on its legality.

The CRTC had been trying to work out a compromise between the two parties who should have "a symbiotic relationship" but who instead have been engaged in a War of the Roses-type battle that "threatens the overall integrity of the broadcasting system," said Konrad von Finckenstein, the CRTC's chairman who called on the two sides to "put their differences aside and work together to ensure the continuation of conventional television."

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