CAB's Spike TV complaint gets turfed


OTTAWA- There's not enough evidence to conclude that the U.S. specialty channel Spike TV competes with any Canadian services and therefore it should remain available to domestic cable and satellite viewers, the CRTC ruled Thursday.

"There is insufficient evidence to conclude that the service known as Spike TV is competitive with Canadian specialty services. The cCommission therefore considers that this service is eligible to be included on the lists of eligible satellite services," the CRTC said in a statement today.

The decision was prompted by formal complaints lodged last May, mainly by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters on behalf of Global TV. The CAB argued that Spike provided unfair competition to a variety of domestic channels, notably Global's new diginet, Men TV.

In its original format, The Nashville Network and later the National Network, the American service had been authorized for carriage in Canada for some 20 years. But in 2003, TNN was re-branded by its new owner as Spike and, the CAB alleged, its Canadian eligibility should have been reviewed.

In its ruling, the CRTC responded by announcing it would merely amend its list of approved imported services to identify Spike in its new incarnation.

The commission said that out of 219 comments submitted, 184 opposed the CAB position. The CRTC had argued that to remove Spike from the list of legal foreign signals would be anti-consumer and would also encourage the satellite TV black market. CCTA president Michael Hennessy now is calling the ruling "a victory for consumers across Canada" that also sets the right course for Canadian broadcasting.

"Rather than trying to restrict competition, Canadian broadcasters should lobby for more freedom to compete with each other and more flexibility to change formats to meet consumer demands," says Hennessy.

In the U.S., the 2003 re-branding of Spike also brought a formal complaint from filmmaker Spike Lee who saw the moniker as an infringement on his own identity. The issue was finally settled with Viacom, which owns the channel as part of its suite of MTV networks.

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