OTTAWA, Aug. 10, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - While thousands of Canadians are making their concerns known regarding Bell Canada's proposed takeover of Astral Media Inc., sources and stories in recent days have presented inaccurate, incomplete or misleading numbers about the extent of market dominance this deal would give Bell Canada.
It's time to set the record straight about what this would mean for Canada's communications consumers and providers.
Bell Canada News Release: "Bell's acquisition of Astral meets all CRTC rules regarding media ownership. After the transaction, Bell Media's national viewership share will be 33.5% for English-language TV and 24% for French-language. Both are within the CRTC threshold of 35%, below which transactions can proceed without concern."1
According to the most recent published CRTC viewership data2, Bell Canada's national viewership will be 41.4% for English language TV and 26.8% for French language. Nationally this could work out to 37.6%, beyond the CRTC threshold.
Bell Canada claims that by acquiring Astral Media Inc., it would be "ramping up" media competition in Canada, and "levelling the playing field."3
If the acquisition is approved, Bell Canada would own 79 TV channels, 107 radio stations and more than 100 websites, far more than anyone else in Canada. Bell Canada's audience share would be 50% greater than the audience share of the largest private firms in most G8 countries. By comparison, the largest communications companies in the United States, Australia, and France have only 18.9%, 24.9%, and 26.1% market shares.4
Bell Canada's agreements with cable TV providers are consumer-friendly, offering Canadians greater choice and "flexibility" when it comes to channel packaging. 5
Intervenors with the CRTC have pointed out that this is not the case. For example, Rogers' intervention comment states: "It has been our experience that BCE has consistently tried to over-charge for its program rights and programming services, requiring a distributor to accept minimum guarantees and/or penetration-based rate cards. These penetration-based rate cards, which are offered under the pretext of providing a BDU with enhanced packaging flexibility, carry extremely stiff penalties if penetration levels decline." These over-charges will inevitably be passed on to the consumer.6
Bell Canada News Release: "Bell is committed to making content as widely available as possible across multiple platforms."7
Bell Canada TV ad: "Get over 25 TV channels, including live Olympic Games coverage on the go. Only from Bell."8
Bell Canada's potential acquisition of Astral Media Inc. is clear evidence that the competitive landscape could be changing, and for the worse. If this mega-merger proceeds, Bell Canada will control communications assets that span the entire content value chain from origination, to broadcasting, to distribution through multiple platforms. No other vertically integrated entity in Canada is in the same position. Concerned Canadians can voice their opposition to the deal by visiting www.saynotobell.ca and submitting a letter through the website to Canada's Ministers of Heritage and Industry, the Competition Bureau, the CRTC and their own Member of Parliament.
The SayNoToBell.ca website and public information campaign are brought to you by Canadians who are concerned about increasing media concentration in Canada. We are opposed to the proposed $3.38 billion Bell Canada acquisition of Astral Media Inc. and wish to inform the public and regulatory bodies about the risks posed by the merger. We call on the Competition Bureau, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Government of Canada to block this deal.
4 "Vertical Integration in TV Broadcasting and Distribution in G8 Countries and Certain Other Countries" Analysis Group Inc. August 7, 2012.
For further information: