Telecom provider TELUS has filed a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), opposing Bell's potential acquisition of Astral Media.
TELUS says it supports the Say No to Bell coalition, comprised of Quebecor, Cogeco and Eastlink, as well as the concerns expressed by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and its associates.
"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," said 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."
Bell's proposed acquisition of Astral Media is not in the public interest, members of the coalition say; if the transaction is approved, Bell could hold a 49.51 per cent share of the English-language television audience share when joint venture assets such as Teletoon, which is 50 per cent owned by Astral, and MLSE assets, which are pending approval, are factored in.
Both the CRTC and Competition Bureau should consider implementing further measures to prevent a greater decrease in competition and increase in anti-competitive conduct, TELUS says. It joins the anti-merger coalition in voicing concerns that, without proper regulatory safeguards, consumers would face increased costs and reduced choice in their viewing options on all platforms: TV, distribution, mobile and broadband.
Their comments echo results in a 2011 survey by Harris/Decima that said 88 per cent of Canadians support federal government rules that require all content to be made equally available to all distributors, and to ensure that consumers can watch any program they like, no matter which company they buy their TV, Internet or wireless service from.
For more Mediacaster Magazine coverage related to this topic, please see:
Competition Bureau Weighs in on Bell Astral Battle
Carrier Critics Assail Proposed Bell-Astral Takeover
Bell Offers $200 Million in Astral Acquisition Benefits
Astral Shareholders Approve Take-over by BCE – UPDATED
No Challenge over MLSE Purchase: Competition Bureau
Olympics Revisited as BCE, Rogers Partner on Major Sports Deal for Maple Leaf Sports