Media Advisory: The public demands the CRTC stop Bell’s takeover

OpenMedia.ca and PIAC Available for Comment about Bell/Astral Hearing

WHO:
Steve Anderson, Executive Director, OpenMedia.ca
Lindsey Pinto, Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
Janet Lo, Legal Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

WHAT:
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is examining Bell Canada's $3.4 billion takeover of Astral Media at hearings in Montreal the week.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, an Ottawa-based consumer group is scheduled to appear before the Commission on Wednesday, September 12. PIAC is a member of the Stop the Takeover Coalition, which opposes the acquisition based on the principles at http://openmedia.ca/takeover/principles.

WHY:
“This deal will give Bell more market power because they will control a remarkable share of television services,” says Public Interest Advocacy Centre counsel Janet Lo, “If the deal goes through, consumers will be offered even less flexibility in packaging and choices to pick and pay only for the television services they want to watch, and consumers will pay higher prices to access broadcasting services.”

OpenMedia.ca, a grassroots organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet, has further concerns about big telecom companies that own both content and the methods of distributing it.

Steve Anderson, Executive Director at OpenMedia.ca, says: “If you watch TV, use the Internet, or own a cell phone, you’ll feel the effects of Bell’s takeover. This deal threatens the choice and flexibility, fair prices, and dynamic innovation that Canadians deserve, and it will ultimately act as dead weight on our digital economy. It’s no wonder that experts from the public interest community are up in arms about the Bell/Astral takeover, and that citizens are continuing to make their voices heard via the petition at StopTheTakeover.ca. If the CRTC is really working for Canadians we all know they will simply stop this merger”

WHEN / WHERE:
The CRTC hearing on Bell’s takeover of Astral is taking place from Monday, September 10, 2012, through Friday, September 14 in Montreal, PQ.

Janet Lo of PIAC and Sophy Lambert-Racine of Union des consommateurs are scheduled to appear before the Commission on Wednesday, September 12. Spokespeople from OpenMedia or PIAC will be available to comment at any time.

BACKGROUND:
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.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is a non-profit organization that provides legal and research services on behalf of consumer interests, and, in particular, vulnerable consumer interests, concerning the provision of important public services.

OpenMedia.ca and PIAC are both members of the Stop the Takeover Coalition. The 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.

The CRTC hearing has been called to examine the merits of Bell’s application for transfer of effective control for Astral Media’s licences. The CRTC hearing will canvass a number of issues, such as media concentration in radio and television services, vertical integration, and diversity of voices.

As CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais remarked in his opening statement, “I would remind everyone that it is the responsibility of a seller or their representative to prove that a transaction is in the public interest.” The Chairman also noted that the Commission would consider “the impact the transaction could have on subscriber rates and other relevant markets.”

Studies show that Bell’s takeover of Astral would lead to the former controlling an unprecedented amount of Canada’s content which would cement its dominance across the significant sectors of the media industry. Given this, the Stop the Takeover Coalition holds that the proposed Bell power grab will mean “fewer media and telecom choices, higher prices, and less opportunity for free speech” in Canada.

For more information, please contact:
Lindsey Pinto – 778.238.7710 – lindsey@openmedia.ca
Jim Goss – 416.534.4008 – pres@jgoss.com

Details can also be found at http://StopTheTakeover.ca.


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