By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
A statement from Marjory LeBreton, leader of the government in the Senate.
“Senator Duffy has informed me that he has resigned from caucus to sit as an independent senator.”
And a statement from Mr. Duffy.
“It is clear the public controversy surrounding me and the repayment of my Senate expenses has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues, and to the government. Given that my presence within the Conservative caucus only contributes to that distraction, I have decided to step outside of the caucus and sit as an independent Senator pending resolution of these questions.
“Throughout this entire situation I have sought only to do the right thing. I look forward to all relevant facts being made clear in due course, at which point I am hopeful I will be able to rejoin the Conservative caucus.
“This has been a difficult time for me and my family, and we are going to take some time away from the public. I ask the media to respect our privacy while these questions are resolved through the appropriate processes.”
A government source says “there are a growing number of questions about Mr. Duffy’s conduct that don’t have answers” and that reports that Senator Duffy had taken out a loan—as CTV first reported last night—came as a “complete surprise.”
Update 10:07pm. CTV is now reporting that Mr. Duffy “attempted to influence the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s upcoming decision involving the right-leaning Sun News Network.”
A well-placed source told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that Duffy approached a Conservative insider with connections to the CRTC three weeks ago to discuss Sun Media, which is asking the federal regulator to grant its news channel “mandatory carriage,” or guaranteed placement on basic cable and satellite packages. The move would boost Sun News Network’s profile and revenues.
“You know people at the CRTC,” the insider quoted Duffy as saying. “This is an important decision on Sun Media. They have to play with the team and support Sun Media’s request.”
Update 11:39pm. The Canadian Press reports that Senator Duffy was facing a revolt.
Conservative sources said the vast majority of his Senate colleagues had signed a petition calling for his ouster from caucus and they were prepared to confront Duffy with that petition at a meeting next Tuesday evening.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 2:34 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Bell should be forced to sell Astral’s Movie Network pay TV service…
MONTREAL – Bell should be forced to sell Astral’s Movie Network pay TV service if the CRTC is going to allow the $3.4-billion revised merger of the two companies to go ahead, Rogers Communications Inc. said Tuesday.
However, Rogers (which owns Maclean’s) also told regulatory hearing reviewing the proposed deal it would like to buy Astral’s Movie Network for itself and add it to its own services, including mobile and on-demand.
Rogers said it expects Bell will impose financial terms to make it more difficult to get the English-language pay TV service’s movies and programs and ultimately make it more expensive for consumers.
“These are premium services that hold the multi platform rights to ‘must have’ feature films and HBO series,” said Ken Engelhart, vice-president of regulatory at Rogers (TSX:RCI.B).
“They are the jewels in the Astral crown. We think it would be unwise to allow these services to be acquired by Bell Media.”
By LuAnn LaSalle, The Canadian Press - Monday, May 6, 2013 at 5:46 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Consumers will get more content and Bell will play fair with its…
MONTREAL – Consumers will get more content and Bell will play fair with its competitors, the company promised as it made a revised sales pitch to the CRTC seeking approval for its $3.4-billion takeover of Astral Media that was turned down last year.
George Cope, chief executive of Bell parent company BCE Inc., said Monday the merger will be good for Canadians and the industry after a warning from the CRTC that the burden rests with Bell and Astral to prove its case.
“We will be investing more in Canadian content,” Cope told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearing.
“We will bring more competition to Quebec,” he said, where a combined Bell-Astral would compete with dominant TV broadcaster Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) and with radio stations owned by Cogeco (TSX.CCG).
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
GATINEAU, Que. – Sun News Network is set to make its case later today…
GATINEAU, Que. – Sun News Network is set to make its case later today to the federal broadcast regulator that it should be included in every basic cable and satellite package across Canada.
The Quebecor-owned news channel is seeking what is known as mandatory carriage from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Mandatory carriage would generate significant revenue for the network, which is proposing that it would earn 18 cents a month from every household that subscribes to a basic cable or satellite package.
That would help offset the network’s losses, which were $17 million in 2012 — a situation that Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) calls “clearly unsustainable.”
Sun News Network says the current distribution agreements are inadequate to support the channel, which is only offered in 40 per cent of households.
It says these distribution challenges also hurt advertising revenues.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM - 0 Comments
Starlight is a proposed TV channel dedicated exclusively to Canadian film. It’s owned by producer Robert Lantos and two partners, and has the support of a veritable who’s who of Canadian filmmaking. As the CRTC considers Starlight’s application for a “mandatory carriage” license, Lantos has been making passionate pleas to the public to support his cultural undertaking, and the media has been largely sympathetic.
George Burger is not. Burger, a film industry veteran, is now a partner in VMedia, a small Toronto startup offering TV subscribers cheap, largely unbundled channel packages over IPTV (Internet Protocol Television). The CRTC is supposedly encouraging cable, satellite, and IPTV providers to break up channel packages and offer more ” a la carte” choice, and VMedia has emerged to do so and thus compete with Videotron, Bell, Shaw and Rogers. VMedia has filed an intervention with the CRTC against Starlight and other proposed mandatory carriage channels. [Note: Maclean's is owned by Rogers Communications, which has also filed an intervention against Starlight's proposal.]
George Burger spoke with me this week from his Toronto office.
What’s your objection to a channel dedicated to Canadian film?
I don’t have an objection at all. I think it’s a terrific idea. What I object to is the Canadian public taking on all the risk, while the principals get all the benefit. They have no skin in the game. They would have an easy time getting a “category A” license (which would make the channel available to viewers, but not mandatory -ed). They don’t appear to be confident about that.
Robert Lantos says this will cost Canadians just a few cents a day. You have a different figure.
Overall you’d be looking at probably about $775 million gross out of the public’s pockets over the seven year license.
So you see this as yet another public subsidy for Canadian film.
Look, for the last 40 years, well-intentioned bureaucrats and regulators have been trying to get Canadian-made films to catch fire with the Canadian public. No matter their targets, box office market share for English-language Canadian film resolutely clings to 2-2.7 per cent. We need a cold, clinical analysis of the value for money of all this initiative.
Lantos and his partners say that’s because there’s nowhere for people to see Canadian movies. They get made, but people can’t watch them…
…and if they were just made available, we’d watch more of them. It’s a false argument. Over 10,000 hours of Canadian films are already available on TV each year. It’s not exactly the Sahara desert of Canadian film. But every time we talk about how acclaimed our films are, we always get back to the same four or five titles. There’s something wrong with this picture.
Starlight isn’t just proposing to show Canadian movies, they’re promising to make them. They say they’ll put 70 per cent of their revenues back into original productions.
It’s easy to say that when it’s not your money that you’re committing. Why not 90 per cent? If you started up a charity, you don’t pat yourself on the back for spending most of the money people donate to you. But there’s more–once those movies are made, they’ll be owned by Starlight!
How exactly would the granting of this license hurt VMedia, your Internet TV startup?
VMedia’s business model is based on our ability to maximize choice and flexibility for Canadian viewers. We provide conventional TV service plus equal access to OTT (over the top) Internet services like Netflix and Google Movies that traditional broadcasters are not going to promote or make seamless for their customers, because it makes it easy to leave their content. So we’ve been negotiating maximum flexibility from channel suppliers.
Yes, as much as possible. If we offer bundles, it’s not by our choice.
So every new channel granted mandatory carriage compromises your ability to do so.
That’s right, I have to increase my infrastructure and my basic channel pricing.
Isn’t your argument against “mandatory carriage” as a whole, and not with this specific channel?
I look at mandatory carriage as a privilege unto itself. To be asking that subscribers have to pay for these channels in addition is quite a stretch. There are lots of channels that would give their eye teeth to be carried on basic for free, because that’s 12 million homes you’re in automatically. It’s like being put on the middle shelf of every supermarket in Canada.
But what they want is more than great placement–it’s a forced purchase.
Yes, this is the only industry where Canadian consumers are actually obliged to purchase something. The fact is, as a matter of policy, the CRTC wants to keep people in the broadcasting universe as opposed to losing them to the Internet world. Does anyone believe that jamming more channels at us is going to do that? It’s going to send viewers to the exits.
Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown
By The Canadian Press - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The Competition Bureau approved Bell’s proposed $3.38-billion takeover of Astral Media Inc….
OTTAWA – The Competition Bureau approved Bell’s proposed $3.38-billion takeover of Astral Media Inc. on Monday, but is forcing the company to sell several of Astral’s pay and specialty television channels.
Bell will, however, keep eight of Astral’s TV channels including the Movie Network, which includes HBO Canada, and TMN Encore as well as the French-language SuperEcran, CinePop, Canal Vie, Canal D, VRAK TV, and Z Tele.
The Competition Bureau said without the sale of Astral’s (TSX:ACM.B) pay and specialty television channels the deal would likely have led to higher prices and reduced choice for television programming.
“Consumers who pay for television programming are looking for greater choice, more innovative product offerings, and reasonable prices,” said John Pecman, interim competition commissioner.
“Today’s agreement is essential to preserving choice for consumers and ensuring continued and effective competition in this area.”
The proposed deal is still subject to review by the CRTC. The broadcast regulator rejected the deal last year, but Bell has since revised its proposal in hopes a revamped proposal will be approved.
Corus Entertainment chief executive John Cassaday called the deals transformative for his company. Corus (TSX:CRJ.B) will buy the 50 per cent ownership interest in Teletoon and two Ottawa-based radio stations, CKQB-FM and CJOT-FM that it does not already own from Bell.
In addition, Corus has also signed a deal with Bell and Shaw Media to buy each of their respective 50 per cent interests in the French-language specialty channels Historia and Séries+.
Seperately, Corus has signed a deal with Shaw Media to buy the remaining 49 per cent stake in ABC Spark. As part of the agreement, Corus will sell its 20 per cent stake in Food Network Canada to Shaw Media.
“The consolidation of Teletoon and the addition of the popular services Historia and Séries+ give Corus the scale to expand into the growing French-language specialty television market,” Cassaday said in a statement.
“As a well-capitalized company, Corus can contribute to the growth of this market and provide new opportunities for the production community, while adding greater diversity to the system and more choice to French-speaking audiences.”
Corus said the combined acquisition price for the assets was $494 million.
In addition, Bell said it will also sell the English-language Family including Disney Junior English and Disney XD services, and the French Disney Junior, Musimax and MusiquePlus services.
The approval by the Competition Bureau also includes restrictions on Bell that prevent imposing restrictive bundling requirements on any provider seeking to carry the Movie Network or Super Ecran.
“This positive news from the Competition Bureau is a major step forward in uniting Astral and Bell Media and delivering on our promise to grow investment and competition in Canadian broadcasting,” said George Cope, president and chief executive of Bell corporate parent BCE Inc.
“This decision preserves the tremendous value the transaction represents to consumers, the Canadian media community, and Astral and Bell shareholders.”
Eamon Hoey of Hoey Associates said the Competition Bureau ruling will make it more difficult for the CRTC to ultimately reject the deal, even though it turned it down last year.
But he said he himself has not changed his mind that it puts too much media control in the hands of one corporation.
“My view is it’s bad for the country and it’s bad for consumers. We have far too much concentration in the ownership of the media,” he said, adding he would prefer that Bell used its clout to expand in its core telecom business rather than “wandering in and out” of non-related holdings.
The CRTC is expected to announce a decision on new public hearings this week.
Bell corporate parent BCE Inc. has said it expects that its new proposal to buy Astral Media will address the federal regulator’s concerns.
When the CRTC killed the deal last year, it said the acquisition wasn’t in the best interests of Canadians and would have resulted in an unprecedented level of concentration in the Canadian marketplace.
Astral has 25 specialty TV services, including the Movie Network, Family Channel and Disney XD, and 84 radio stations.
Bell, owner of the CTV TV network, has said it wants to put Astral’s content on smartphones, tablets, computers and traditional TVs, and to compete with foreign online competitors such as Netflix.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 4:44 PM - 0 Comments
GATINEAU, Que. – Two of the country’s largest telecom companies have some advice for…
GATINEAU, Que. – Two of the country’s largest telecom companies have some advice for Canada’s telecommunications regulator as it considers imposing new rules for cellphone contracts: scrap the $50 cap.
A $50 spending limit on extra wireless data charges is one of several ideas on the table as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission holds hearings on a proposed new wireless code.
But executives from Rogers Communications and Telus Corp. say a spending cap would be a bad idea.
“That’s very disruptive to customers,” Rogers’ regulatory chief Ken Engelhart said Tuesday. “It’s very disruptive to be cut off.”
By The Canadian Press - Monday, February 11, 2013 at 12:06 PM - 0 Comments
GATINEAU, Que. – Consumer groups and cellphone companies with starkly opposed views about contracts for handheld devices started to make their cases Monday as the CRTC began public hearings on a proposed wireless code.
Representatives of three consumer groups urged the national telecom regulator to do away with three-year terms in favour of capping contracts at two years. They also argued that any new wireless code ought to apply to all existing contracts — including prepaid deals — not only new ones.
“Consumers are sick of termination penalties designed to keep them locked into long-term contracts,” said John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 7:04 AM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The hot-button issues the Canadians have with cellphone contracts — roaming fees, ability to unlock handsets and three-year contracts — will get another opportunity to be heard this week.
The CRTC will hold a week of public hearings starting Monday on its proposed wireless code. The regulator is aiming for a set of national standards for the content and clarity of cellphone contracts.
In the lead-up to the hearings, Canadians have again made it clear they don’t want three-year contracts offered by wireless carriers.
“Eliminate three-year contracts,” said a comment submitted by a user identified as Celli041 on the online forum for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission’s draft wireless code.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 11:09 AM - 0 Comments
The ethics commissioner issued two more compliance orders yesterday concerning letters sent to the CRTC, this time by parliamentary secretaries Eve Adams and Colin Carrie. Both rulings come to the same conclusion.
It is improper for you to have written a letter of support to a tribunal in relation to its decision-making. Writing such a letter would be improper regardless of whether or not you explicitly identified yourself as a parliamentary secretary.
When Jim Flaherty wrote to the CRTC and was reprimanded by the ethics commissioner, the Finance Minister blamed the “oversight” that his ministerial title had been listed under his signature on the letter—essentially arguing that he was permitted to send such a letter so long as he didn’t explicitly identify himself as the finance minister in doing so.
The commissioner’s rulings on Ms. Adams and Mr. Carrie suggest to me that’s not the standard to be applied. I’ve asked the commissioner’s office for clarity and will pass along whatever I receive in response.
Update 11:44am. A note from the ethics commissioner’s office.
While the wording of the orders differs, the interpretation and application of the rules is the same. The Commissioner is of the view that the provision of the Conflict of Interest Act applies in these instances regardless of whether Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries use their titles or not.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 12:53 PM - 0 Comments
Jim Flaherty blames an “oversight” for the fact that his ministerial title was included in his letter to the CRTC. The Globe finds two parliamentary secretaries who wrote to the CRTC with their titles noted and, with various backbench and opposition MPs writing to the CRTC, Duff Conacher wonders why any MPs are allowed to write such letters.
Public interest advocate Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch argues that section is ill-defined. He says MPs should not be picking and choosing which local companies they will help.
“I don’t think it’s proper for MPs to become lobbyists for individuals with specific interests,” said Mr. Conacher, who praised Ms. Dawson’s decision Friday but added that it calls for more clarity around the proper role of an MP. As it stands, Mr. Conacher said there is nothing to prevent MPs from giving favourable treatment to constituents who are friends or political supporters. “That’s trading favours,” he said. “They give preferential treatment to those who do more for them – either vote for them, raise money for them or work on their campaigns – and I don’t think that is the proper role of a member of Parliament.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair has written to the Prime Minister about Jim Flaherty’s letter to the CRTC.
Your guidelines, Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State document, which is available on your website, clearly outlines what you expect of Ministers. The guidelines state that “ministers must not intervene, or appear to intervene, with tribunals on any matter requiring a decision in their quasi-judicial capacity, except as permitted by statute.”
That the application was unsuccessful hardly seems to count, when it comes to ethics there is no special award for attempted influence…
The Conservative Party promised over six years ago that “the time for accountability has arrived”, it’s time to close the gap between promises and reality. It’s time to take the first step by investigating the actions by Mr. Flaherty and start holding your ministers to account when they break the rules.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 9:28 AM - 0 Comments
A note from the ethics commissioner’s office about Jim Flaherty’s letter to the CRTC.
After looking into the matter of Minister Jim Flaherty’s letter of support on behalf of a business in his constituency, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson issued a compliance order late yesterday afternoon to the Minister under section 30 of the Conflict of Interest Act.
In the order, she notes that it was improper for Mr. Flaherty, as a minister, to have written a letter of support to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on behalf of a radio station in his constituency seeking a broadcasting licence from the CRTC. The order directs Mr. Flaherty to refrain from writing similar letters in the future without seeking approval from her office.
While ministers are not precluded from representing their constituents in their capacity as Members of Parliament, they are prohibited, under section 9 of the Act, from using their positions as public office holders to seek to influence decision making so as to improperly further the private interests of another person.
As the facts are clear and an order has been made, the Commissioner will not be launching an investigation.
Under section 30 of the Conflict of Interest Act, the Commissioner may order a public office holder to take any compliance measure that the Commissioner determines is necessary to comply with the Act. Compliance orders are posted in the public registry under the Act.
Kady O’Malley has the talking points from the Prime Minister’s Office.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 3:09 PM - 0 Comments
I emailed the office of the ethics commissioner to ask if the commissioner was planning to investigate the Finance Minister’s letter to the ethics commissioner. Here is the response.
Commissioner Dawson is aware of the issue and is following-up with Minister Flaherty’s office. We cannot comment further at this time.
By Jim Bronskill - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty urged the federal broadcast regulator to grant a…
OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty urged the federal broadcast regulator to grant a radio licence to a company in his Ontario riding even though government rules on cabinet responsibility forbid ministers from influencing the decisions of administrative tribunals.
In his letter to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, Flaherty praised Durham Radio Inc.’s bid to obtain a licence to operate a new FM station for the Toronto area.
The broadcaster, based in Flaherty’s Whitby-Oshawa riding, was one of several applicants last year for the hotly contested spot on the FM dial. The company — which already has country and rock radio stations in Oshawa and Hamilton — was proposing an easy-listening outlet.
“Durham Radio has a strong track record for providing excellent service for their listeners and this puts them in a solid position to offer this new service,” Flaherty wrote in the letter, dated March 30, 2012. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM - 0 Comments
I asked the Prime Minister’s Office if Mr. Harper had any opinion on the actions of Jim Flaherty in regards to the application of Durham Radio.
Does the Prime Minister believe that the Finance Minister acted in accordance with the rules and standards of ministerial conduct when he wrote to the CRTC to express support for a Durham Radio Inc’s application?
Here is the response from the Prime Minister’s press secretary.
The Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa wrote a letter on behalf of his constituents, as Members of Parliament often do. The Ethics Commissioner has previously acknowledged that “ministers, as Members, have duties towards their constituents” but must exercise caution. The Minister of Finance plays no role and has no input into the deliberations or decisions of the CRTC.
I would also point out that Durham Radio Inc.’s application was unsuccessful.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 11:39 AM - 0 Comments
CP reports that the Finance Minister wrote a letter to the CRTC to express his “support” for the application for a radio license by a Durham company and that might be a problem.
The CRTC, which administers broadcasting and telecommunications, is among the federal agencies known as quasi-judicial tribunals — court-like bodies that make decisions at arm’s length from the government. Federal rules on ministerial responsibility, including interaction with such administrative bodies, are set out in Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State. The document, last updated by Stephen Harper’s government in December 2010, is posted on the prime minister’s website.
The rules say decisions made by administrative tribunals often concern individual rights or interests, are technical in nature or are “considered sensitive and vulnerable to political interference (such as broadcasting).” “Ministers must not intervene, or appear to intervene, with tribunals on any matter requiring a decision in their quasi-judicial capacity, except as permitted by statute.” The guide add that in all instances, even where the minister or cabinet has authority to send back or overturn decisions once made, as is the case with the CRTC, “it is inappropriate to attempt to influence the outcome of a specific decision of a quasi-judicial nature.”
You can view the letter here.
CP notes that David Collenette resigned as defence minister in 1996—here is the Maclean’s story from the time—after it was discovered that he had written to the Immigration and Refugee Board on behalf of a constituent.
In 1994, the Reform party called for the resignation of heritage minister Michel Dupuy after it was discovered that he had written to the CRTC on behalf of a constituent. Mr. Dupuy’s defence at the time seems to have rested on the idea that he had not meant to express support for the application, merely to advocate that it receive a fair hearing.
Mr. Speaker, last March I was approached at my constituency office by a constituent whom I had not met before and whom I have not met since, to write a letter drawing the attention of the CRTC to his application for a radio licence. I explained to this constituent that as minister responsible I could not interfere with the workings of the CRTC, but I agreed as his member of Parliament to do my best to ensure that he was treated fairly.
On March 15, I wrote to the chairman of the CRTC in my capacity as an MP for this constituent asking the commission to give the application a fair hearing. This was the letter of an MP seeking to ensure that a constituent received due process.
I wish to table the letter. The letter was not meant in any way to be an endorsement of the licence application, nor was it intended to exert pressure on the CRTC. I also understand that on March 30 the CRTC acknowledged my letter, categorizing it as a letter in support of the licence applicant. That acknowledgement letter was never brought to my attention. If it had been, I would have immediately rectified the matter.
As soon as I did learn that one of the interested parties wrote to me in September regarding my “alleged support” for the licence application, I took immediate corrective action. I wrote to the interested party, clarifying my earlier letter and clearing up any misunderstanding.
In this letter dated September 30, I wrote: ‘My letter of March 15, 1994 to the CRTC simply asked that due consideration be given to the application. It is not intended to convey support for or opposition to the application. The CRTC is the body mandated by law to make independent decisions on all such applications. It is therefore for the CRTC to weigh the merits of the arguments raised by the applicants and the interveners.’
In this case, Mr. Flaherty seems to have explicitly expressed support. Mr. Dupuy was shuffled out of cabinet a little over a year later and that precedent was cited in 2004 by Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Bell Canada and Astral Media Inc. have submitted a new proposal to…
MONTREAL – Bell Canada and Astral Media Inc. have submitted a new proposal to the federal broadcast regulator, saying they’ve found ways to address the CRTC’s concerns over the level of ownership concentration in some markets.
The companies say in the joint announcement Monday that the revised deal is worth $3.38 billion, subject to approval by the CRTC and the Competition Bureau — about the value as the original deal.
Bell Canada’s parent (TSX:BCE) originally agreed in March to buy Montreal-based Astral (TSX:ACM.A) for $3.4-billion but the CRTC killed the deal last month — saying Bell would end up with too much market share in some areas, despite the companies’ view that they had stayed within regulatory thresholds.
“We heard Canadians and the CRTC loud and clear — they want assurance that Astral joining with Bell Media will directly benefit consumers and creators,” BCE chief executive and president George Cope said in the statement.
“We’re ready to deliver more choice for listeners and viewers, more opportunity for content creators, and more competition for the broadcasting industry,” Cope said. Continue…
By Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 4:46 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The federal broadcast regulator gave an unequivocal thumbs down to BCE Inc.’s takeover of Astral Media on Thursday, declaring in no uncertain terms the $3.4-billion deal was not good for Canadians.
OTTAWA – The federal broadcast regulator gave an unequivocal thumbs down to BCE Inc.’s takeover of Astral Media on Thursday, declaring in no uncertain terms the $3.4-billion deal was not good for Canadians.
The surprise announcement by the CRTC was announced after stock markets closed and marked the first major decision for newly installed commissioner Jean-Pierre Blais.
Not only did Blais, who took over in late June, turn down one of the biggest takeovers ever submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, he left little doubt about where he stood, or how he would respond should BCE (TSX:BCE) return with a modified but essentially similar proposal.
“BCE failed to persuade us that the deal would benefit Canadians,” he said. “It would have placed significant market power in the hands of one of the country’s largest media companies.
“We could not have ensured a robust Canadian broadcasting system without imposing extensive and intrusive safeguards, which would have been to the detriment of the entire industry.”
The CRTC said BCE — owner of Bell Canada, the CTV television network, numerous specialty stations and the former Chum radio stations — already has 33.7 per cent of the English television viewing audience, well ahead of its nearest rival Shaw Communications with 21.9 per cent.
Had it succeeded in acquiring Astral Media’s (TSX:ACM.A) 25 channels, including The Movie Network, HBO Canada and French-language Super Ecran, Family Channel and Disney Junior and more than 80 radio stations into the BCE fold, it would have gained 42.7 per cent of the English viewing audience. The combination would also have given it 33.1 per cent of the French TV market.
“That convergence, integration and scale may lead to a point at which the size of an entity on a national level becomes so large that it hinders effective and healthy competition,” the regulator said.
In public hearings last month, BCE officials said the acquisition still left sufficient “diversity of voices” in the broadcasting system, and pledged tangible benefits by adding $200 million in funding for programs.
Bell said it needed to get bigger to take on foreign online competitors like Netflix and that if the deal is killed that Astral’s assets will ultimately be split up, guaranteeing continued foreign dominance in the way that online content is delivered.
Most of Bell’s rivals, with the exception of Shaw, opposed the deal at the CRTC hearing, some presenting doomsday scenarios of uncompetitive behaviour.
The CRTC said there were some benefits to the system in Bell’s proposal, but they were not “significant and unequivocal” enough to outweigh the concerns.
Had the regulator approved the deal, it would not have been clear sailing for Bell.
The Competition Bureau had indicated it was “increasingly concerned” about the deal.
By From the editors - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
The cost of a mild convenience is doubling to $1
Pay phones once held a special place in both popular culture and interpersonal communications. The corner phone booth not only gave Superman a place to change, it offered everyone else the opportunity to check in at home, get messages from the office, conduct business, call a cab or arrange a rendezvous with a lover. It was the original pay-as-you-go plan. But Superman’s modesty aside, everything a pay phone once did a cellphone can do better.
And so today the fate of Canada’s pay phones now hangs in the balance.
Earlier this year, Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Télébec, dominant pay phone providers throughout Ontario, Atlantic Canada and Quebec, applied to double the cost of a pay phone call—from 50 cents to a dollar. The cost of using a prepaid debit card would rise to $2 a call. These prices were previously doubled five years ago.
In the face of criticism from various social justice groups, last week Bell filed new documents with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), warning that if its price hike is denied, it may begin to dismantle its entire network of pay phones. Tough talk, for sure. But even if Bell carries out its threat, will anyone notice?
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 5:19 AM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Major telecom players Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Telus (TSX:T) are scheduled to appear…
MONTREAL – Major telecom players Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Telus (TSX:T) are scheduled to appear before a CRTC hearing into whether their chief rival should be allowed to forge a deal that would make it even larger.
Testimony from those competitors as well as major cable provider Cogeco (TSX:CGA) is expected today before the hearing into BCE’s (TSX:BCE) proposed $3.4-billion acquisition of Astral Media Inc. (TSX:ACM.A).
Cogeco and Telus have already voiced concern about the deal, which they say would give Bell too much control over the country’s broadcasting landscape.
Bell has said the acquisition of the Astral media assets will provide more competition in Quebec’s French-language market, which is dominated by Quebecor.
Bell says that with the acquisition of Astral, it will own 33.5 per cent of the English language market and 24.4 per cent of the French-language market.
The deal aims to create a media powerhouse that’s poised to take on rivals in providing digital content to consumers through online services and mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers.
By LuAnn LaSalle, The Canadian Press - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
CRTC hearing will focus on how much of the English-language TV market Bellwill corner if the deal were to go through.
MONTREAL – A public hearing into Bell’s $3.4-billion acquisition of Astral Media is scheduled to get underway today.
The CRTC hearing in Montreal will focus on how much of the English-language TV market the telecom giant will corner if the deal were to go through.
The commission will examine the multibillion-dollar transaction and hear from multimedia, telecom and radio companies, and producers as well as film groups and consumer advocates — many of them against the deal.
Bell’s parent company BCE said if the deal is approved it will own 33.5 per cent of the English-language market.
That’s under the 35 per cent threshold set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for approval.
However, not every one agrees with the math put forward by BCE (TSX:BCE) — telecom competitor Telus Corp. (TSX:T) argues Bell would have too much control of English-language TV content and leave consumers with fewer choices and higher cable bills.
Telus has argued that the purchase of Montreal-based Astral, along with Bell’s part ownership in the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment TV assets, and its stake in joint venture assets, such as Teletoon, would give Bell 49.5 per cent share of the English-language television audience.
The “Just Say No To Bell” campaign’s website says if the deal is successful, Bell would control 37.6 per cent of TV viewing. It wants the federal government to stop the deal.
BCE announced the Astral deal last March aimed at creating a media powerhouse poised to take on rivals in providing digital content to consumers. At the time of the deal, BCE chief executive George Cope had said the deal gives Bell important new content for online services and mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers.
In 2010, BCE bought the rest of the CTV assets it didn’t already own for $1.3 billion.
CTV operates more than 25 stations across the country, 30 specialty channels including sports networks TSN and RDS online video programming and properties such as CTV.ca, TSN.ca, RDS.ca, MuchMusic.com, MTV.ca and TheComedyNetwork.ca. It also owns CHUM Radio, which operates more than 30 radio stations throughout Canada.
Astral is Canada’s largest pay and specialty TV broadcaster and owns 84 radio stations in 50 Canadian markets and 24 television services. It is also the third-largest outdoor advertising company and has a stake in the country’s only subscription radio service, XM-Sirius Canada.
If the deal goes ahead, Bell said it would control 24.4 per cent of the French-language market. Bell has said the acquisition of the Astral media assets will provide more competition in Quebec’s French-language market which is dominated by Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B).
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 4:10 PM - 0 Comments
From the headlines of Aug. 30-Sept. 6, 2012
North Korea is reportedly making significant reforms to collective agriculture. Foreigners cannot visit rural areas in the cloistered republic, but defectors say co-operative farms are being subdivided into smaller units, and farmers are being allowed to keep more of their crops for consumption or sale. Agriculture is always a bellwether in centrally planned economies, and the changes might signal a reformist appetite in the circle of Western-educated Kim Jong Un. But they’re good news in themselves, either way.
New rules requiring TV commercials to be no louder than the surrounding programming came into effect Sept. 1, one year after being promulgated by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. Former chairman Konrad von Finckenstein’s 2011 call for comments was met by a deluge of support from viewers tired of “ear-splitting” ads. The new rules require broadcasters to abide by international ad-loudness standards, which are also being adopted by the U.S. this year.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 1:13 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The CRTC says Canadians spent more time watching television or listening to radio in 2011 than the previous year despite the proliferation of non-traditional media.
OTTAWA – The CRTC says Canadians spent more time watching television or listening to radio in 2011 than the previous year despite the proliferation of non-traditional media.
But they also increased their Internet television watching, to 2.8 hours a week from 2.4 the previous year.
Four per cent of Canadians report watching television online, while four per cent said they watched on a smartphone and three per cent on a tablet.
The federal regulator says on a weekly basis, Canadians watched an average of 28.5 hours of television, up from 28 hours in 2010.
And they listened to an average of 17.7 hours of radio, up from 17.6 hours the previous year.
The federal regulator says 78 per cent of Canadian households had Internet service in 2011, and the number of subscribers of wireless services grew by six per cent, with newer competitors doubling their market share to four per cent.
CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais says in the report that the evidence suggests Canadians are enthusiastic consumers of creative content, whether it is offered on TV, radio or through digital platforms.
The regulator says Canada’s telecommunications and broadcasting industries had a strong year in 2011, with consumers spending an average of $180 a month on services.
Broadcast revenues climbed 5.5 per cent to $16.6 billion from 2010, and revenues from telecommunications services increased by 2.5 per cent to $42.7 billion.
Overall, the communications industry accounted for about 4.6 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product in 2011.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 24, 2012 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
“I accept the findings of the CRTC regarding the election call placed by my campaign designed to educate Guelph voters about specific policy differences between myself and an opponent. We were unaware of certain requirements and inadvertently neglected to include some identifying features in the message, such as a phone number and address. When I first learned of the errors in the call earlier this year, I was fully and immediately cooperative with the CRTC; I take full responsibility and apologize for the infringement.
“This has been an important learning experience, not just for me, but for all MPs and future candidates. Consequently, I have volunteered to do whatever I can to assist the CRTC to educate MPs, candidates and their staff to the full extent of regulations governing calls and the use of auto-dialers. It is important for these types of investigations to take place regularly to ensure that Canadians are aware of our rules and that they are respected.”