October 18, 2012
Regulator’s decision regarding Astral sale benefits Canadian broadcast landscape
TORONTO – Canada’s professional performers appreciate today’s announcement that the CRTC is not approving the sale of Astral Media’s broadcast assets to BCE.
“Given the stakes of this proposed transaction and the impact it could have had on the Canadian media landscape we respect the Commission’s desire to see that the Canadian public’s best interests are being looked after,” said Ferne Downey, ACTRA National President. “We trust their analysis of the transaction and defer to their decision to maintain the status quo, for now.”
ACTRA had appeared in front of the Commission with strong reservations regarding the transaction, particularly in regards to the size and makeup of BCE’s proposed tangible benefits package. Besides being underfunded, as a result of BCE’s decision to exempt Astral’s minority stake in a number of specialty channels, the benefits package failed to meet the standard of having 85% of benefits monies flow to onscreen initiatives.
Instead, BCE proposed to spend benefits monies on initiatives that served their own corporate interests and not those of the Canadian public, such as earmarking $40 million to subsidize Northwestel’s “Modernization Plan” that would have seen the expansion of wireless broadband services throughout the North.
At the hearings ACTRA expressed its concern that BCE was putting the Commission in a difficult position by making numerous commitments to Canadians with the caveat that they would only happen if the deal was approved.
ACTRA is also pleased that the Commission has made it clear that applicants should not be amending their applications on the fly at the public hearings. These last minute changes have made it extremely challenging for concerned interveners to participate fully in the public process.
There is no question that a strong, independent media system is vital to Canada’s cultural and economic future,” added Stephen Waddell, ACTRA National Executive Director. “Today we heard, loud and clear, Chairman Blais’s concerns that this deal would have given Canada’s largest vertically integrated media company a disproportionate amount of power in the marketplace. It is important to us that competition between Canada’s broadcasters continues to flourish and that a single media entity does not dominate the entire industry, to the detriment of Canadians who depend on its services.”
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