Canadian broadcasters threaten DirecTV

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TORONTO -- Canadian broadcasters and satellite companies have issued an ultimatum to U.S. satellite companies to black out signals to the Canadian DirecTV dishes or face lawsuits in U.S. courts. An estimated 300,000 Canadian homes are receiving U.S. satellite service in the so-called grey market, referred to as this because the U.S. satellite services are not licensed in Canada. Canadians set up U.S. mailing addresses to sign on for the services. Programming charges at approximately $40 a month means Canadians are sending about $144m a year to U.S. services. The DirecTV dishes with set-top boxes cost about $750.

Canadian broadcasters and satellite companies argue that while they pay for programming rights in Canada, DirecTV sends in the signals with no proper authority to do so. DirecTV says its policy is to switch off grey market dishes if they have proof they are in Canada, but since Canadians use U.S. mailing addresses, this can be difficult to trace.

ExpressVu, a Canadian satellite company set to launch its service this September in Canada, says its looking at all kinds of ways to "neutralize and repatriate the grey market in Canada."

Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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