Cable companies warn of possible TV blackouts in Canada

Canadians could face the prospect of cable blackouts similar to that of the United States if TV broadcasters are allowed to charge cable companies fees for their signal.

The warning comes as cable companies stated their case in the Supreme Court of Canada this week against plans for a value-for-signal scheme that they believe would violate Parliament’s intent for stable and affordable access to TV.

“Canada for 50 years has avoided blackouts. Look at the U.S. regime, where blackouts become a nightmare for ordinary consumers,” cable lawyer Kent Thomson told the court.

While blackouts are rare in the US, when they do happen it is usually the result of last-minute pressure tactics forced upon cable companies by broadcasters.

A 2010 example is when 3 million New York cable subscribers missed the first 12 minutes of the Academy Awards due to a dispute between Cablevision and the local WABC-TV station.

It happened again later that year during baseball’s World Series.

Thomson used the 2010 Winter Olympics as an example when a blackout would hit Canadians hard.

“Try to imagine what might have occurred if a blackout had occurred on the eve of the gold-medal hockey game,” he said.


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