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Bell goes to court to quash CRTC policy bringing U.S. Superbowl ads to Canada

One of Canada's media giants has launched an appeal of the broadcast regulator's ban on substituting Canadian advertising over American ads during the Superbowl.
This image provided by Kia shows a portion of the company's television ad featuring Pierce Brosnan, scheduled to run during Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. AP Photo/Kia

OTTAWA – One of Canada’s media giants has launched an appeal of the broadcast regulator’s ban on substituting Canadian advertising over American ads during the Superbowl.

Bell Media (TSX:BCE) has filed a motion with the Federal Court of Appeal seeking leave to appeal a Jan. 29 decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that would prevent so-called simultaneous substitution of ads during the NFL final.

Bell claims the CRTC acted in error by singling out Super Bowl ads for the ban while declaring simultaneous substitution, known as simsub, important to the broadcasting system.

Simulcasting of Canadian ads over U.S. ones during the Super Bowl has been a pet peeve for many viewers.

But the broadcasters have argued they need the revenues generated by the ads to pay for the Canadian rights to air the game.

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The CRTC also banned simsub for specialty channels, which affects live sports programming on other networks, and warned it would impose penalties for mismatched ads that run over top of important points in the broadcasts.

CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said when the CRTC released its decision in January that “viewers dislike it” especially during the Super Bowl.

“They tell the CRTC — and we receive many complaints — that they want to see the newest American commercials as and when they are broadcast. And they rightly resent the fact that simsub is often mistimed, causing viewers to miss, for example, key plays during a big game,” Blais told Global News shortly after making the announcement in January.

A new Nanos Research poll suggests 69 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed believe “supporting Canadian broadcasters” is more important than watching American advertisements during the game.  The poll was released Monday morning and commissioned by Bell Media, which owns CTV and airs the NFL games, including the Super Bowl, in Canada.

Most Canadians, according to the poll, didn’t think the number of complaints the CRTC received – which Bell pegs at 100 – were enough to legitimize a shift in policy. Twenty-eight per cent of people, according to the poll, say 500,000 complaints or more would be necessary for a change of policy. Only 10 per cent said 100 complaints was enough.

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The Nanos poll was conducted between Feb. 24 and March and spoke to 1,000 Canadians and is considered accurate within +/- 3.1 percentage points.

The NFL has not commented publicly on the CRTC decision. A Bell spokesperson said in an email it would be “premature to comment” on whether the CRTC would keep the broadcaster from bidding on future NFL contracts.