TELUS has filed a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), opposing Bell’s potential acquisition of Astral Media and specifically the impact that an unprecedented concentration of market power in the broadcasting sector would have on Canadian consumers. TELUS supports the views expressed last week by the Say No to Bell coalition, comprised of Quebecor, Cogeco and Eastlink, as well as the concerns expressed by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and its associates. TELUS is joining the discussion and is speaking out against the purchase of one of the last large independent television groups in Canada.
Already Canada’s largest vertically integrated media and communications company, Bell has not complied with the spirit of the policies adopted by the CRTC, choosing instead to engage in behavior that limits choice for Canadians and raises the costs of content for consumers.
“All Canadians should be able to access the content they want through the provider they choose; we all benefit from competition between a variety of organizations and no one company should be in a position to take away choice or access to content for consumers,” said Darren Entwistle, TELUS President and CEO. “If the Bell/Astral merger proceeds, the concentration of Canadian ownership will be equal to an American company owning Verizon, Direct TV, CBS, ESPN, MTV, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Bloomberg Television, HBO, Starz, ClearChannel Radio, ESPN pay-per-view, HBO pay-per-view, Lamar Outdoor Advertising and Radio Shack – it’s a gravely concerning proposition when examined in that context.”
Bell’s proposed acquisition of Astral Media is not in the public interest; if the transaction is approved, Bell could hold a 49.51 per cent share of the English-language television audience share when joint venture assets such as Teletoon, which is 50 per cent owned by Astral, and MLSE assets, which are pending approval, are factored in.
The potential for abuse of market power is real and the risk to consumers is significant. TELUS strongly urges the CRTC to enforce and further strengthen its existing vertical integration safeguards to curtail anti-competitive conduct on all platforms: TV, distribution, mobile and broadband access to content. Both the CRTC and Competition Bureau should consider implementing further measures to prevent a greater decrease in competition and increase in anti-competitive conduct. Without proper regulatory safeguards, consumers could soon be facing increased costs and reduced choice in their TV viewing options.
Canadians agree: a 2011 survey by Harris/Decima found that 88 per cent of Canadians support federal government rules that require all content to be made equally available to all distributors. This ensures consumers can watch any program they like, no matter which company they buy their TV, internet or wireless service from.
Concerned consumers can contact the Competition Bureau at http://www.competitionbureau.