Bell renews appeal to CRTC to rescind its Super Bowl ad policy

Bell building

Bell has announced that it is once again appealing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to rescind its Super Bowl advertisement policy. The telecommunications giant says it has the support of the National Football League (NFL), national union Unifor, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) and the Canadian Media Directors’ Council (CMDC).

The organizations are protesting a CRTC ruling from August 2016, in which changes were made to simultaneous substitution (simsub). Under this practice, signals and ads from American channels broadcasting the annual football game were allowed be temporarily replaced by those from another channel showing the same program at the same time.

In Bell’s case, this meant the ads shown in America during programming like the Super Bowl could be replaced with those from Bell Media. The August ruling, however, banned the practice of simsub during the Super Bowl games, meaning Canadians were then able to see the high-profile ads shown on American networks. The CRTC said it made this decision in response to those at home saying they didn’t want to miss out on these highly popular ads, as well as in response to concerns that errors in substitution could interrupt live programming.

Bell is arguing that the ruling has had a significantly negative impact on its business practices, blaming the simsub ban for a 40 percent drop in Super Bowl viewers on its networks, as well as causing advertising revenues to fall $11 million. Back in January, Bell also said simsub was a major factor in its decision to layoff more than 20 notable jobs across the country.

Furthermore, in a press release, Bell is now referencing new independent research that it says confirms “the broader impact on creators, broadcasters and Canadian businesses after just a single year of the CRTC’s Super Bowl simsub ban.” Conducted by Communic@tions Management Inc., the research suggests the ban has cost the overall Canadian economy approximately $158 million, as it encourages Canadian businesses to spend advertising dollars on US border television stations to reach viewers at home. “Based on revenue impacts, the Canadian creative community has been deprived of $3.3 million in direct funding and $4 million in promotional time for homegrown content,” Bell says.

“There are no benefits to Canadians when our broadcast regulator favours US advertising, but there have been significant negative economic and cultural impacts in our country resulting directly from the CRTC’s decision,” Mirko Bibic, Bell’s chief legal & regulatory officer and executive VP, corporate development, said in the press release. “The damage is being felt across the Canadian creative, cultural and broadcasting communities, including drastic reductions in Super Bowl audiences and revenues at CTV. The reality of the impact is reflected in calls from a wide spectrum of Canadian organizations and the NFL itself to lift the simsub ban.”

“The CRTC’s decision to single out the Super Bowl for disparate treatment is arbitrary and should be reversed. Not only does it undermine the value of our programming, it also undermines Canadian content creators, and, ultimately, the Canadian economy,” added David Thomson, NFL Canada managing director, in the press release. “We’re pleased to join with our partners at Bell Media as well as with others in the business, labor, cultural and creative communities to ask the CRTC to restore rules of the road that promote fairness and growth in Canada.”

Bell says it acknowledges the interest in U.S. Super Bowl advertisements. “If the simsub ban is lifted, Bell Media would produce a special broadcast of US Super Bowl commercials airing on game day and make it available free of charge to all Canadian broadcast distributors to offer as a video-on-demand service, supported by a promotional campaign to ensure more Canadians know they can access the US commercials in advance of the game,” Bell says in the press release.

Bell’s renewed push towards an upheaval of the simsub ban follows the appointment of former Telus executive Ian Scott as the new head of the CRTC back in July.

Source: Bell