Quebecor is asking the CRTC to outright deny Bell Media’s application to acquire the French-language V network.
In its intervention to the commission, filed Friday, Quebecor stated its opposition to the proposed acquisition “in view of Bell’s national dominance across Canada and the damaging repercussions of the acquisition, including fragmentation of the advertising market, the bidding up of content acquisition costs, and deterioration in the general quality of French-language television in Québec.”
Bell Media currently owns 30 television stations and 29 specialty channels, in addition to 109 radio stations in 58 markets. V Média owns and operates TV stations in Montreal, Quebec City, Saguenay, Sherbrooke, and Trois-Rivières. The network’s Elle Fictions and Max specialty channels aren’t included in the deal, first announced in July, however it does encompass V’s related digital assets and ad-supported VOD service Noovo.ca.
In its application, Bell says it’s committed to maintaining local programming quotas and producing news internally, but wants to redesign news broadcasts for the Montréal and Québec City markets by devoting 90 minutes per day to local news and 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays. News broadcasts for the Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke and Saguenay markets would be limited to 60 minutes per day Monday to Friday and 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays. Bell has also stated its intent to invest in digital platforms where viewers can access news online.
France Lauzière, President and CEO of TVA Group and Chief of Content of Quebecor Content, said that in a shaky television advertising market, Bell’s market power could crush competition in Quebec.
“If Bell uses its national market power in Canada to crush competition in Québec, this will certainly cause significant revenue losses for the other players and jeopardize our ability to deliver compelling French-language television offerings. Québec viewers and cultural workers are the ones who stand to lose out,” said Lauzière, in a release.
Quebecor maintains that the addition of a French-language conventional channel such as V “would accentuate Bell’s hegemonic stature and the risk that it will abuse its power to crush all competition.”
By Quebecor’s estimates, the transaction would give Bell “near-total control over the entire industry” including control of 42% of advertising revenues in Canada and more than 48% of the ad revenues of Canada’s private convention television stations.
A CRTC hearing on the proposed acquisition is set for Feb. 12.
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