Back in March, BCE Inc. announced that it would purchase all of Astral's issued and outstanding shares for $3.38 billion. However, numerous outside media entities are calling for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to stop the deal in its tracks.
Last week, a Website called Saynotobell.ca was launched, in order to "warn the public of the risks to them as consumers and of the potential harm to the Canadian television industry if this unprecedented deal is approved," and to encourage Canadians to express their concerns to the CRTC and the Competition Bureau. Cogeco Cable Inc., Eastlink and Quebecor Inc are leading the movement.
The trio of companies have suggested that the potential acquisition could force consumers into paying for Bell channels that they don't want, hinder the development of Canadian programming, increase advertising rates, and more.
Today, Telus has declared that it too is against the proposed merger and has filed a submission to the CRTC that voices its displeasure about the matter.
"All Canadians should be able to access the content they want through the provider they choose; we all benefit from competition between a variety of organizations and no one company should be in a position to take away choice or access to content for consumers," says Darren Entwistle, Telus President and CEO. "If the Bell/Astral merger proceeds, the concentration of Canadian ownership will be equal to an American company owning Verizon, Direct TV, CBS, ESPN, MTV, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Bloomberg Television, HBO, Starz, ClearChannel Radio, ESPN pay-per-view, HBO pay-per-view, Lamar Outdoor Advertising and Radio Shack - it's a gravely concerning proposition when examined in that context."
While Telus hasn't officially joined forces with Saynotobell.ca, it does support its views and is also encouraging consumers to rally against the potential acquisition.
Both Saynotobell.ca and Telus have offered a number of statistics as a way to support their claims. Saynotobell.ca suggests that if this deal was to go through, Bell would control 79 TV channels, 107 radio stations and more than 100 Websites. This, it says, is double the amount of entities owned by the nearest competitor. Telus, on the other hand, points to the fact that Bell could eventually hold a 49.51% share of the English-language TV audience.
"Few of the world's major economies permit a single private broadcaster to acquire such a dominant share of TV viewing. Bell Canada's TV audience share would be 50% greater than the audience share of the largest private firms in the USA, Japan, UK, Australia, France or even Russia," notes Lee Bragg, CEO of Eastlink. "Giving one private broadcaster so dominant a share of the television market is bad for consumers and bad for Canada."
Bell has previously stated that the allegations made by Saynotobell.ca are "preposterous." It's being reported that the CRTC will listen to the dispute next month.