Bell Tries to Spin Canadians as it Reattempts Takeover of Astral

Big Telecom Tries to Flip Last Month’s Public Interest Decision From the CRTC

November 19, 2012 – Big telecom company Bell is once again trying to take over Astral media and gain more control over Canada’s media system. This comes only one month after the CRTC listened to Canadians decrying the deal and shot down the merger, saying that this concentration of power in Bell’s hands would not benefit the public.

Grassroots group OpenMedia.ca and the Stop the Takeover Coalition were thrilled to see the CRTC listen to Canadians and deny Bell’s takeover.

Now, however, Bell is again trying to persuade the CRTC to allow them to acquire Astral. The big telecom company has also launched a PR campaign seemingly targeted at Canadians, which OpenMedia.ca calls “manipulative and disingenuous". Bell is attempting to make the argument that their takeover would benefit Canadians, despite the fact that Canadians have already been clear that this is not the case.

Canada's media system is already one of the most highly concentrated in the industrialized world. Canadians pay high prices for worse content and services because of a lack of competition and choice—OpenMedia.ca, the Stop the Takeover Coalition, and thousands of Canadians have argued that this deal will only serve to worsen this broken system.

OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson says: “Canadians were clear that they want less of Bell shoved down their throat. Now that Bell has realized they don't have the public's support, they appear to be trying to spin us into accepting their anti-competitive control over our daily communications. I don't think it's going to work. Canadians are too smart for this.”

After denying Bell’s first application for a takeover, CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais stated in a release: “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.”

Canadians can learn more about the Bell/Astral merger and take action at http://StopTheTakeover.ca.

About OpenMedia.ca

OpenMedia.ca is a grassroots organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet. The group works towards informed and participatory digital policy.

OpenMedia.ca is best known for its StopTheMeter.ca campaign that engaged over half-a-million Canadians, and its StopSpying.ca campaign that prevented warrantless online spying bill C-30 from being passed in Parliament.

About the Stop the Takeover Coalition

The Stop the Takeover Coalition comprises public interest groups and industry players who are coming together, based on a set of common principles, to oppose the proposed takeover of Astral Media by Bell and to promote public engagement through the Stop the Takeover campaign.

Some of the groups leading the coalition include grassroots citizen-engagment group OpenMedia.ca (the group behind the largest online campaign in Canadian history) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). They are joined by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), Canada Without Poverty and the CWP Advocacy Network, the Canadian Media Guild (which represents over 6,000 media workers, including those from CBC, Reuters, the Canadian Press, and Shaw Media), the Consumers' Association of Canada, the Council of Canadians (Canada’s largest citizens’ group), the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO), and Québec-based consumer groups Option consommateurs and Union des consommateurs. Learn more about the Coalition and its members at http://openmedia.ca/takeover/coalition.

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Contact

Lindsey Pinto
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
1-778-238-7710
lindsey@openmedia.ca

Statistics and Background

  • Four large companies—Bell, Shaw, Rogers, and QMI—control 86 per cent of cable and satellite distribution, 70 per cent of wireless revenues, and 54 per cent of Internet Service Provider revenues.
  • A report from Boston-based Analysis Group reports that 81.4 per cent of the value of Canada’s TV distribution (cable and satellite) market is controlled by companies that also create content, such as broadcasters and production companies.
  • Canada currently has the second-highest level of cross-media ownership and vertical integration among 32 countries studied by researchers in the International Media Concentration Research Project (Columbia University). It will be the highest amongst these countries if the CRTC does not pull the plug on the Bell/Astral deal.
  • While concentration is slowly declining elsewhere, in Canada it is rising sharply; the Bell/Astral deal will compound the trend.
  • Astral products currently represent Bell's largest single content cost. Astral owns 22 television services and 84 radio stations, many of which currently compete with Bell's 30 specialty channels and 35 radio stations. This includes Super Écran, The Movie Network and HBO Canada, and top specialty brands such as Canal Vie, Canal D, VRAK TV, MusiquePlus, Teletoon, Family and Disney Junior.
  • The original Bell/Astral deal is valued at $3.38-billion.

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