Opening remarks by Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

To the Public hearing in Montreal

Montreal, Quebec
September 10, 2012

Check against delivery

 

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

BCE/Astral transaction

At this hearing, we will be reviewing BCE’s application to acquire Astral Media for $3.3 billion. This is a large transaction that could have a significant impact on the Canadian broadcasting sector and the broader communication system. In fact, it could affect all Canadians and we at the CRTC need to make sure that the parties clearly outline why this is a good deal for Canada.

This proposed transaction has attracted a great deal of attention across the country. This is not surprising since all Canadians have a stake in its outcome. In recent weeks, thousands of Canadians have shared their views with us. We have read with interest the more than 1,600 comments and 8,000 form letters that we have received, all of which have been placed on the public record.

We take very seriously our mandate to review this transaction and ensure that it is in the public interest. I would remind everyone that it is the responsibility of a seller or their representative to prove that a transaction in the public interest. In this case, that means that the burden of proof rests squarely with Astral and BCE. We will not hesitate to challenge their representatives, as well as the other parties appearing before us this week, to demonstrate how it will benefit the communication system from a social, economic and cultural perspective. We will also want to make sure that BCE’s application sets out the best possible proposal for the current market and for Canadian citizens, creators and consumers.

A transaction of this size and scope raises a number of concerns for the Commission. The panel intends to address the following issues with parties:

  • the concentration of ownership in the French- and English-language television and radio sectors
  • the Commission's various policies, including the diversity of voices, the common ownership policy for radio and television, and vertical integration
  • the value of the transaction, and
  • the proposed tangible benefits package as well as the intangible benefits.

Competition provides many benefits to consumers, including a healthy choice of broadcasting and telecommunications services. The panel will therefore examine how this transaction could impact the competitive balance in the Canadian market. In particular, we will evaluate the potential risk that BCE could abuse its position in the programming and advertising markets for French- and English-language radio and television services. In addition, we will consider the impact the transaction could have on subscriber rates and other relevant markets.

CKGM Montréal

As part of this hearing, we will also consider BCE’s application to convert the radio station CKGM Montréal to a French-language service. We have received numerous comments from the public following this announcement, both in favour and in opposition of the proposed change. We will want to ensure that BCE’s application is consistent with the Official Languages Act and the applicable regulatory policies.

Procedure

The panel for this hearing consists of:

  • Timothy Denton, National Commissioner
  • Suzanne Lamarre, Regional Commissioner for Quebec
  • Peter Menzies, Regional Commissioner, Alberta and Northwest Territories
  • Tom Pentefountas, Vice-Chairman, Broadcasting
  • and myself, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman, CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.

The Commission team assisting us includes:

  • Rachel Marleau, Hearing Coordinator and Manager, Regulatory Corporate Analysis
  • Neil Barratt, Hearing Coordinator and Corporate Analyst
  • Anthony McIntyre and Romy Ochmann St-Jean, Legal Counsel, and
  • Jade Roy, Hearing Secretary and Senior Public Hearings Officer.

I would now invite the Hearing Secretary, Jade Roy, to explain the procedures we will be following. Madam Secretary…

 

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