Bell-Astral takeover would give Bell millions of your dollars
Last year telecom giant Bell unleashed a new $3.4B plan to take control of Astral Media, one of Canada’s largest media companies. Canada already has one of the most highly concentrated media systems in the industrialized world, and this deal would only make this situation worse by giving Bell a monopolistic share of the media market. Now, it seems that the takeover would also give Bell millions in public funding from the Canada Media Fund (CMF), making the deal bad for Canadians on all possible fronts. The CMF was designed to provide broadcasters with public funding to promote new and innovative Canadian content in a way that levels the playing field and reflects the rapidly changing media landscape. But rather than being used to encourage media innovation, it appears that a whole bunch of CMF funding is going to help Bell further cement its power over Canada’s media system.
For the 2013-2014 period, Bell has been allocated the second highest funding share of all the broadcasters, at almost $32.6 million. Now it looks like if the Bell-Astral deal goes ahead, the $5.6 million in CMF subsidies currently set aside for Astral Media will be added to Bell’s already full pockets.
Bell is pursuing an outdated business model that reduces customer choice and forces subscribers to pay for content they don’t want, all the while banking millions in taxpayer-funded subsidies. It seems that Bell’s priority is getting as much money out of Canadians as possible, without any consideration of what citizens actually want or need.
On the issue of Bell’s takeover so far, the CRTC has been on Canadians’ side and has emphasized that its top priority is to "put Canadians at the centre of their communications system." But we need to ensure that they know we’re still paying attention, and that we won’t put up with even more of Canada’s key media assets going to Bell.