NFL hands ball to Trump in Su­per Bowl ad spat

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FINANCIAL POST - EMILY JACK­SON Fi­nan­cial Post ejack­son@na­tion­al­ twit­­ly­jack­son

The brawl over the Cana­dian broad­cast reg­u­la­tor’s new Su­per Bowl ad pol­icy may get big league at­ten­tion from the pres­i­dent of the United States him­self.

With less than a week to go be­fore the Na­tional Foot­ball League’s cham­pi­onship game, and af­ter a week in which trade deals be­tween Canada and its largest trad­ing part­ner have been at the top of the agenda, the NFL says it in­formed Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion of its de­sire to get the new pol­icy over­turned be­fore kick off.

“The pres­i­dent is aware. This is on his radar. We are hope­ful this will be re­solved prior to the Su­per Bowl,” said Jo­ce­lyn Moore, the NFL’s D.C.-based se­nior vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­ment af­fairs.

At­ten­tion from Trump could be a turn­ing point in the bat­tle over the Cana­dian Ra­dio-tele­vi­sion and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion de­ci­sion, fi­nal­ized in Au­gust, that lets Cana­di­ans watch big-bud­get U.S. ads dur­ing the Su­per Bowl in­stead of sub­sti­tut­ing local ads into the broad­cast.

BCE Inc.’s Bell Me­dia, the NFL, politi­cians on both sides of the bor­der, ac­tors and unions have all pres­sured the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to over­rule the pol­icy, which was in­tro­duced to ap­pease view­ers who com­plain they don’t get to see the Amer­i­can ads.

They ar­gue the abil­ity to sell ad space to local com­pa­nies is crit­i­cal for Bell to re­coup costs of its mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar con­tract with the NFL for ex­clu­sive broad­cast rights to the most-watched live tele­vi­sion event in Canada, but Ot­tawa hasn’t budged. The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice and the Depart­ment of Cana­dian Her­itage say they re­spect the broad­cast reg­u­la­tor’s in­de­pen­dence to cre­ate pol­icy and that it is ex­plic­itly out of their con­trol.

The NFL, which has lob­bied the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice over the is­sue, reached out to Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to con­vey its dis­plea­sure with the pol­icy some­time af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion. Moore would not re­veal who was in­volved or what was said in the talks, but she em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of the trade agenda and the abil­ity for U.S. com­pa­nies to know the rules of the road be­fore do­ing busi­ness in Canada.

The po­lit­i­cal pres­sure comes af­ter Bell and the NFL launched a court bat­tle to over­turn the de­ci­sion. It re­mains to be seen whether play­ing the Trump card will re­sult in a last-minute pol­icy over­haul.

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