Executives from various media groups across the country met in a Gatineau boardroom to continue the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) hearing into the merger of Rogers and Shaw.
The day focused on interveners, organizations raising various issues with the proposed merger.
Telus has been vocal about their opposition since day one. At the hearing, executives asked the CRTC multiple times not to approve the merger, targeting Rogers regarding the promises made during its presentation the day prior.
Stephen Schmidt, vice president of telecom policy at Telus, said Rogers failed to understand the harms this merger creates, including reducing competition and consumer choice. The scale the company will cover alone will give Rogers access to 47 percent of subscribers using the English language, and their network would pass 80 percent of English homes.
Telus also argues the scale will allow Rogers to determine what program would be available for English language consumers, whether or not they’re a Rogers customer, and secure exclusive foreign content.
The company says that the media giant failed to show the merger is in the best interests of Canadians and that the best proposal possible was presented.
Schmidt said the principle on non-exclusivity of programming was what the Canadian broadcasting system was built on to create “healthy competition.” But if approved, the merger will change that and give Rogers the ability to be the only provider to offer specific content and give consumers no other option but to subscribe to them.
“Denial of the application is the only response that is proportionate to the concerns that it raises,” Schmidt said.
The Global News fiasco
Another issue this merger creates is the funding associated with the Global News network that runs under Corus Entertainment. Shaw directs roughly $13 million towards Corus every year because of a federal rule that asks broadcaster distributors to redirect five percent of revenue towards Canadian content and local news.
Zainul Mawji, executive vice president of home solutions at Telus, said Rogers should continue to provide this funding, over redirecting it to its network, CityTV, because many Western Canadians rely on the network. She shared CityTV has roughly one percent viewership and Global about 20 percent.
Lecia Simpson, a director at Telus, said Corus might have to turn to the independent local news fund if the funding is pulled. $13 million is more than half of what the fund has, she shared.
“Further having listened yesterday to Rogers and response to their questions, or the questions you posed to them, there were no guarantees made, no actual firm commitments on how they would be spending the $13 million,” Simpson said.
Need for safeguards
The executives say the current safeguards offered aren’t enough, and Rogers hasn’t proposed any of their own, a concern raised by many others as well.
“Denial of the application is the only response that is proportionate to the concerns that it raises,” Stephen Schmidt, vice president of telecom policy, Telus
The Canadian Communication System Alliances represents dozens of broadcasting and telecommunications providers, specifically in rural and remote areas. Representatives raised concerns the merger could impact the investments and affordability of the services they offer. While they were clear to note they do not oppose the transaction, they say it will impact many people unless safeguards are implemented.
“We do not believe that the safeguards in your current toolbox are adequate to do the job. And we fear that, even if you impose the right safeguards, you will not adequately and effectively enforce them. Unfortunately, our own experience says that you won’t,” Jay Thomson, the organization’s CEO, said to the panel of CRTC representatives.
The Independent Broadcast Group also raised similar issues.
“Without clear enforceable safeguards, this transaction will make things much worse – if it can be – for independents. A combined Rogers-Shaw entity will set the market and, based on their current approach to independent services, it is going to be a choppy ride. The situation for many, if not most of us, is dire,” Brad Danks, CEO of OUTtv and OMG Media Group, said.
Blue Ant Media, the parent company of MobileSyrup, has also raised an intervention with the merger.
Executives from Rogers were on hand Monday and said the merger would be the best for Canadians. On behalf of Shaw, representatives from Rogers will be back Friday to answer questions raised throughout the week.
Image source: CRTC (screenshot)