The battle over the future of Canadian TV has taken a major step forward this week when the country’s major networks and their rivals agreed on a network for the future.
The deal was announced on Wednesday as the Federal Court of Canada heard arguments over whether the CRTC should let the CRF buy the stations, which the two parties say should be a guarantee of a fair price for the broadcasters.
The CRF says it wants to be the exclusive broadcaster in Canada, but that the government has no mandate to give it that authority.
The two sides have argued that the deal must be approved by the Federal Election Commission, and that it is not fair to the broadcasters or Canadians for the CRT to buy stations.
The judge in the case has already ruled in favour of the broadcasters and ordered the CRRC to provide them with a list of stations.
“The parties have both stated their intentions of having the CRC buy stations, but this is a question for the Court of Appeal,” said lawyer Kevin Johnson.
He said he thinks the judge has ruled on the question of whether the agreement should be approved.
The case will be heard at the Federal Circuit Court of Quebec, where it is also expected to be heard by the federal court’s senior judge.
The parties had been expected to reach a deal by next month, but have since been unable to agree.
The court heard arguments on Wednesday that the current system of buying stations is too cumbersome, and is unfair to the CRTs.
“If it had been a fair deal, there wouldn’t have been a hearing and the parties could have been in a much better position,” said Brian Bales, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in consumer protection law.
“We have a very different set of rules, a different set in place, a completely different set, a system in place that is not as effective as it could be.”
He said it is important to understand that the parties have not yet reached an agreement.
“They have made an agreement that would have allowed the CRTS to purchase stations, and the judge still has to make that decision,” he said.
“I think it’s important that we understand that this was not an agreement in the sense that the judge made it.”
The judge will also decide if the CRFC is justified in requiring the broadcasters to purchase their stations.
Bales said he hopes the ruling will encourage the CRTV to do the right thing and buy stations that are competitively distributed, even if the cost of doing so is prohibitive.
“It’s not going to be easy, but I think the CRFTs have to be aware of the fact that there is an issue with the existing rules, and I think they have to do everything they can to get it right.”
The Federal Court will be hearing the case next month.
The debate about the future role of the CRTF and the CRST, which are two separate bodies, has been raging since the CRFO was created in December 2011, with the CRTD arguing the CRCT should continue to operate and that the CRRT should operate independently.
The Federal Election Act says the CRTR “shall have the power to make all necessary expenditures, including expenditure on advertising and communications, in order to carry out its duties.”
The CRFT says it should operate under the same rules as the CRTB.
The federal government says the agreement will be a good deal for the Canadians and will make Canadian television more competitive.
The Conservatives, in the past, have called for the creation of a separate CRTC, but the parties disagree on whether that should be allowed.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has said it will not be allowing the CRTT to operate without an independent agency.