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Extension granted to T&T television providers airing major US channels

Subscription television providers in Trinidad and Tobago received a three-month extension on the enforcement of intellectual property rights that will see customers lose four popular network channels.

Trinidad and Tobago television providers to stop airing four major networks after March 31, 2020. (Photo: istock.com)

The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) today said the providers how have until March 31, 2020 to find suitable replacement content for the channels.

The subscription television service providers previously had until January 1, 2020 to remove ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX from their respective line-ups under enforcement of the Intellectual Property Rights.

“…this country’s non-adherence to intellectual property rights with regard to these networks will impact our ability to re-negotiate trade agreements with the USA.”

– The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago

According to the regulatory body in a statement today, it “considers breaches of intellectual property rights as serious and will take action against broadcasters who continue to air US Free to Air Networks beyond March 31, 2020.”

The matter was first brought to the attention of local subscription television service providers in 2015 the TATT said in a statement on December 10. Since then, a forbearance period, in which the TATT tried to reach a solution with the relevant bodies, has been in effect. The Authority said it has held extensive discussions with local and United States entities “towards a favourable outcome for our local providers” but no agreement has yet been reached.

While the four networks are free to air in the US, the Caribbean region does not have rights to broadcast the stations in their entirety.

Should local television providers fail to comply, the TATT said this could affect trade deals with the United States. “The United States Department of State via the US Copyright Office and the US Trade Representative has advised TATT and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GoRTT), that this country’s non-adherence to intellectual property rights with regard to these networks will impact our ability to re-negotiate trade agreements with the USA.”

Popular shows like ABC’s Black-ish will no longer be available to viewers. (Photo: abc.com)

Should an agreement not be reached before the deadline, viewers will see some their favourite shows disappear with the networks including Black-ish, NCIS, American Idol, Blacklist, Modern Family and dozens of others.