Telus unfairly treated gay network OUTtv, rules CRTC

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled December 10 that Telus Corp. (TSX:T) violates regulations by the way it markets the Vancouver-based gay and ...

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled December 10 that Telus Corp. (TSX:T) violates regulations by the way it markets the Vancouver-based gay and lesbian network OUTtv Network Inc.

The CRTC has given Telus until February 8 to file a detailed plan demonstrating how it will remedy the unfair treatment.

OUTtv executives, however, said they doubted much will change in the short term.

"You think they're going to do that? They'll give some gobbledygook. This has been going on forever with Telus," OUTtv president James Shavick told Business in Vancouver.

"We're in the same town. We can't get a meeting with them. We have to go to the CRTC and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees against a multibillion-dollar company that is beating up on us."

The dispute centred on the fact that OUTtv is a category A service under CTRC regulations and Telus was not treating the network in that fashion.

Category A networks are networks that telecommunications providers must carry, place in the best available packages and advertise the offering, Shavick said.

Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall said Telus representatives have held several meetings with counterparts at OUTtv.

Telus offers customers access to OUTtv as part of a "Lifestyle Extra" package. OUTtv wants to be included in Telus' "Lifestyle" package of TV channels and Hall said Telus currently has no plans to include the station in that package.

The CRTC did not rule that Telus must include OUTtv in its Lifestyle package, only that it should market the station more.

"Telus has subjected OUTtv Network to an undue disadvantage and has given an undue preference to operators of other programming services, contrary to section 9 of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations," the CRTC noted in its ruling.

This is not the first time that the CRTC has sided with OUTtv in a ruling against a telecommunications provider. In 2008, the nation's telecom regulator ruled that Shaw Cablesystems broke broadcast regulations by subjecting a numbered company, 6166954 Canada Inc., to "an undue disadvantage" in how it marketed OUTtv.

Since that ruling, OUTtv and Shaw have become partners and Shaw was a major sponsor on OUTtv when Vancouver hosted the North American Out Games in 2011.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom

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