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This Is Not Your Parent's CRTC: Commission Rejects the Bell - Astral Deal

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Thursday October 18, 2012
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. 

This approach has been building for several months. From the appointment of a consumer chief to Blais raising consumer interventions directly during the Bell-Astral hearing to the creation of a new enforceable wireless code of conduct, the CRTC is leaving no doubt about the prioritization of consumers. Its three year priorities document placed consumer access as the top priority, dropping the prior emphasis on balance. Moreover, the decision to kill LPIF over the objections of creator groups sent another signal that the CRTC was focused intently on consumers and the public interest.

In four months, Blais has transformed the CRTC into a pro-consumer advocate, creating the kind of regulatory agency that until recently was scarcely imaginable. The change is long overdue and credit must go to the new chair and to the government, which has presumably provided the mandate for real change in Canadian telecom and broadcast regulation.
Comments (18)add comment

Crockett said:

...
Well BCE's merger didn't fly, but it seems pigs have picked up the skill :D

Consumer win checklist:

SOPA = CHECK
ACTA = CHECK
SCC = CHECK
NEW THINKING AT THE CRTC = CHECK!

What's next, transparency in trade negotiations? Crazy!
October 18, 2012

Andrew Butash said:

...
Well I'll be goddamned. This is certainly a welcome, if unexpected, change. What say we entice Google to bring their fiber optic ISP service north of the border next? Or some kind of real fiber to the home stuff. Not that Bell "Fibe" BS.
October 18, 2012

Byte said:

Ouch!
That hurt... falling off my chair like that. Who, in this Age of Corporatism, where "what's good for business, is good for the country" is the adage, would have thought?

"The consumer" is you. It's me. It's all of us. Of course the interests of "the consumer" should be front and centre, and it's time this realization trickles up, down, and laterally.

I'm glad that we don't see more concentration in the market. Good job, CRTC!
October 18, 2012

Byte said:

@Crockett
CETA = ?
TPP Agreement = ?

I share your joy but there's still a lot of work to be done to get specifics in the open, and to force trade partners to remove SOPA/PIPA/ACTA-like clauses that directly impact the public from "trade agreements".
October 18, 2012

Sharon G. Wilson BA FP said:

Ms.
More of the same seems to be the corporate/political/educational rhetoric that has developed the fear mongering aspect. Now CRTC is our collective baby-sitters/nearing 60 and definitely an orphan with 3 married daughters and each one having one of my amazingly cute granddaughters I say poppycock.
October 18, 2012

Anon said:

...
Cabinet will overturn the decision
October 18, 2012

monster beats pro said:

monster beats pro
http://www.beatsbydresite.org/
October 18, 2012

pat donovan said:

...
education, (government, justice,) medicine, religion, (rel=entertainment, if you follow weber)

monsanto, enron, microsoft, diebold, big oil, phrama, copyright.

lets see bell media provide e-book textbooks for grades x-y, for a start.

(written by other a loyal (conservatives who can't read or write, but do manage to steal.) types, natch.

or provide warnings that the TV (viewing, settings) is being monitored/ altered.

no? aid and abet one of the 'other' four pillars in some way?
(a ban on fox info-tainment, for starters)

no?

unlease the jesters. It's time to roast quebec again.

packrat
October 19, 2012

jake said:

...
why do you assume the CRTC is more activist than previously and it is not just a political appointment fulfilling their duty on behalf of certain industry players - Palideau?
October 19, 2012

cap said:

...
Now if they would loosen up the foreign ownership rules and loose the cancon requirements so we could get some real competition.
October 19, 2012

sohbet said:

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October 19, 2012

marcia said:

...
BRAVO PEOPLE! BRAVO!!!
October 20, 2012

Socrates said:

I almost fainted.
Michael, I have followed your blog for a long time. Myself and friends participated in the Shaw consultation, watched as the Internet was sold to the public as a commodity, and always bemoaned the anemic responses of the CRTC.

We are overjoyed at this decision - consumers and the public interest finally have the body designed to protect them, actually doing its job.
October 20, 2012

Kf said:

Free the tubes!
A step in the right direction, but now we the public need to wrestle control of the internet infrastructure (back) from Bell. If they want to be a media company, that's fine, but they can't own the pipes competition (i.e. Netflix) rely upon to deliver their services too. This only serves Bell's business and allows them to stifle the competition by pricing internet services such that Netflix and others are priced out of existence. Bell doesn't get to have its cake and eat it too!! Free the tubes and allow innovative internet services to flourish in the absence of a "tax" from the entrenched juggernauts like Bell and Rogers.
October 22, 2012

bigone said:

game@gmail.com
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January 22, 2013

Emanuela said:

February 12, 2013

greet said:

good
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February 19, 2013

ralph said:

...
I wonder how the rejections has affected everything since then. learn more here
August 07, 2013

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