Archive for October 18th, 2012

This Is Not Your Parent’s CRTC: Commission Rejects the Bell – Astral Deal

Earlier today, the CRTC rejected Bell’s proposed acquisition of Astral. The quick, unanimous decision – the hearings wrapped up just over a month ago – leaves no doubt about CRTC chair Jean Pierre Blais’ top priority.  Simply put, the public (whether as the public interest or as consumers) comes first. This is not a decision many expected. I wrote several pieces on the merger, but thought that the Competition Bureau was a far more difficult regulatory hurdle for the deal.

The CRTC identified multiple problems with the Bell bid (radio, tangible benefits, lack of evidence that bigger is better online), but the conclusion says it all:

The Commission finds that BCE has not discharged its burden and demonstrated that, on balance, this transaction is in the public interest. The benefits proposed would advantage BCE and its services, but the Commission is not persuaded that the transaction would provide significant and unequivocal benefits to the Canadian broadcasting system and to Canadians sufficient to outweigh the concerns described above.

While demonstrating that the transaction is in the public interest is always the language used in these proceedings, the CRTC has in the past focused on the tangible benefits package (ie. the multi-million dollar payments to creator groups) as the primary proxy for public interest. No longer. The CRTC’s focus today is unequivocally on the broader public interest with consumer impact the leading concern. 

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October 18, 2012 17 comments News

The $2 Billion Big Pharma Giveaway in CETA: Can the Government Ignore Its Own Internal Analysis?

The Canada – EU Trade Agreement has been the subject of conflicting reports on the inclusion of ACTA provisions, but there has been no doubt about the ongoing dispute over the agreement’s patent rules. Given the EU demands for significant patent reforms, the issue has been set aside with the ministers expected to address it when they meet in November.

For months, big pharmaceutical companies (known as Rx&D) and civil society/the generic pharmaceutical industry have been battling over the issue. Each has released public opinion surveys that purport to demonstrate support for their position (Rx&D, civil society). More important has been a study that concluded that the proposed reforms could add billions to annual Canadian health care costs along with reports that show that the large pharmaceutical companies failed to meet research and development commitments the last time the Canadian government acquiesced to patent reform demands.

While Rx&D sought to downplay those studies (as did the government, which described these concerns as a myth), it now faces an internal government study conducted by Industry Canada and Health Canada that placed the costs of CETA patent reform as high as $2 billion per year. The $2 billion cost would significantly decrease the government’s claims of likely economic gains from CETA and heighten provincial opposition, since the costs will be offloaded to provincial health care budgets.

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October 18, 2012 5 comments News

Study Finds File Sharers Buy 30% More Music Than Non-File Sharers

A new study by the American Assembly finds that file-sharers buy 30 percent more music than non-file sharers. The study is consistent with many other studies that confirm that file sharers spend more on music and cultural products than those that do not. Study author Joe Karaganis has a follow-up […]

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October 18, 2012 5 comments Must Reads