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Bell TV's satellite television service has consistently lost money for more than a decade, but has not asked for regulatory changes to help change its financial fortunes, company executives say.

The comments came yesterday afternoon at regulatory hearings as Canada's largest satellite television provider contested a proposal by the country's big TV networks to begin charging for their signals.

Bell TV executives told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that its satellite TV business is not profitable, but has not sought financial help from the regulator. Since 1997, the satellite TV business has racked up $2.2-billion in pre-tax losses and Bell TV is still losing money, the company said.

Bell TV's head of regulatory affairs Mirko Bibic said the networks have chosen to pursue the fee idea, and refused to discuss other proposals. "They prefer to hold out for the big prize," he said.

In the past, the broadcasters have sought a fee of 50 cents a month per subscriber. At that rate, the fees would be worth about $70-million a year in new revenue to each broadcaster. Mr. Bibic said Bell TV is concerned that approving the fees would hurt its business if consumers refused the cost. "It will damage our financial situation, which isn't very good to begin with, and harm consumers," he said.

Bell TV appeared after the CBC, which receives public financing, argued earlier in the day that the business model for network TV has changed, and needs to be stabilized with subscription revenues, instead of relying on ads.

"We are in the same position as any other private broadcaster that has come before you," CBC executive vice-president Richard Stursberg told the CRTC.

 

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