BCE urges CRTC to reject Rogers-Shaw deal, independent firms call for safeguards


BCE Inc. urged CRTC to reject a proposal to acquire Shaw Communications Inc. $26 billion worth of Rogers Communications Inc. on Thursday, while independent operators have called for more protective measures.

Speaking at the final day hearing in Gatineau, Que. This week – focusing on the broadcast impacts of the deal – a BCE representative echoed concerns raised by broadcasters, manufacturers and distributors about Rogers’ market dominance should the deal go through. .

“The market power that Rogers seeks to gain will have a long-term negative impact and will reverberate throughout this interdependent ecosystem,” said Robert Malcolmson, chief legal and regulatory officer at BCE. .

“If successful, Rogers would gain control of the broadcasting sector on levels never before contemplated and with no apparent antagonistic interest in Canada’s broadcasting system. “

Malcolmson points to CRTC’s initial refusal to BCE’s acquisition of Astral Media in 2012 because of the size of the market it would create as a clear precedent if it didn’t refuse, at least asking Rogers to commit Sell ​​off assets to reduce the resulting market share.

Sarah Farrugia, vice president of content and business intelligence at Bell, said that if Rogers was allowed to guarantee 47% of subscribers to English-language broadcasts, it would be able to secure exclusivity on the shows. internationally that the company can use to direct subscribers to a streaming service that damages the broadcasting system.

“It is clear that the transaction will result in Rogers benefiting from a dominant position in the shipping negotiations, which in turn will result in reduced revenue for the Canadian channels.”

Rogers has argued that it needs to scale up to compete with growing competition from companies like Netflix and Amazon, while keeping subscribers in the regulated broadcast system.

While direct competitors to Rogers such as Telus Corp. and BCE Inc. has completely opposed the deal, companies that depend on Rogers and Shaw to host their programming have been more targeted, with many requests focused on maintaining the status quo for a period of time. specific .

The Independent Television Corporation asked Rogers to commit to maintaining 50 independent channels, compared with the 40 channels the company said it would maintain for three years.

The Ethnic Channel Group has asked the CRTC to require that subscription revenue for independent ethnic producers does not decrease for 5 years; the producer of the children’s television show WildBrain asked the regulator to force Rogers to continue performing existing independent work on Rogers or Shaw for five years; while others demanded that Rogers be forced to maintain the satellite transport services that Shaw currently provides.

Earlier, on Thursday, Reynolds Mastin, chief executive officer of the Canadian Media Producers Association, called for more specific benefits from the deal, saying that the $5.7 million Rogers proposed did not proportional to the size of the deal.

“The commission must ensure that the applicant commits to a package of tangible benefits commensurate with the size and nature of the transaction, while providing a clear and unambiguous benefit to Canadians and the broadcasting system. their picture.”

Unifor raised concerns about the $13 million a year Shaw redirection scheme Shaw spends on Rogers’ Global News to expand its own CityNews network, arguing that the plan risked a loss of diversity. voice in smaller markets.

Hearings at the CRTC focus on the broadcast aspects of the merger, while other issues such as mobile wireless service will be handled by the Competition Bureau and the Authority for Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Canada review.

Rogers is scheduled to respond on Friday to issues raised during the week.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 25, 2021.

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