CRTC Approves Rogers Takeover Of Shaw…. And That’s A Mistake

Yesterday, the CRTC approved the takeover of Shaw by Rogers. In it’s decision, it said this:

The Commission approves, subject to a number of modifications and the fulfilment of specific conditions of approval, an application by Rogers Communications Inc. (Rogers), on behalf of Shaw Communications Inc. (Shaw), for authority to transfer the effective control of the broadcasting undertakings licensed to Shaw or its subsidiaries to Rogers or its subsidiaries. The Commission concludes that the transaction as modified by the Commission is in the public interest and advances the objectives set out for the Canadian broadcasting system in the Broadcasting Act (the Act).

Those conditions are:

  • A $27.2 million payout to the Canada Media Fund, Independent Journalism Fund and other cultural agencies
  • Time-bound commitments to Shaw customers, such as notifying them 90 days before current contracts end about the impending merger
  • Rogers also must report annually on its increased contribution to local news
  • Hiring more journalists at its Citytv stations
  • Producing an extra 48 news specials annually “that reflect local communities.”

Now this decision only covers broadcasting elements of the transaction. It doesn’t cover the cellular parts of the deal for example. But regardless, the CRTC has once again proved that they don’t have the interests of Canadians in mind. This deal would reduce competition, raise prices, and not benefit Canadians at the end of the day because they would have less choice in the telco marketplace. And it proves that the CRTC needs to be abolished in favour of a regulatory body that protects Canadians and holds telcos accountable. Because when the head of the CRTC meets his telco friend in a bar for a beer, then any pretence of impartiality goes out the window. Which by extension means that decisions like this are suspect by default.

Now to be fair, there are other hoops that this deal has to go through. And one can hope that common sense prevails and nukes this deal from orbit. But somehow I see this as the beginning of the end for affordable telco services in Canada.

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