CRTC, Telecom & Media News – Canadian Heritage upholds CRTC decision on OMNI

Canadian Heritage will uphold the May CRTC decision to issue Rogers Media the broadcast licence to operate national, multilingual, multi-ethnic discretionary service OMNI Regional. An order-in-council dated Aug. 17 declines to review the decision saying it is “satisfied that the decision does not derogate from the attainment of the objectives of the broadcasting policy for Canada set out in subsection 3(1) of the Broadcasting Act.” The Governor in Council received several petitions from a number of companies unsuccessful in their bids to operate the television service, requesting that the decision be set aside or referred back to the commission for reconsideration and hearing. One of those companies, Montreal-based Independent Community Television (ICT), took  its appeal to the Federal Court arguing suspicion of bias, based on several meetings registered between CRTC chair Ian Scott, vice-chair Caroline Simard and representatives from Rogers and BCE, respectively. ICT argued that the meetings gave those companies an unfair advantage. The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed ICT’s motion last week.

The CRTC has lowered wholesale rates – the price paid by competitors who access the existing high-speed access networks of the large cable and telephone companies. Final rates are retroactive to 2016 with monthly capacity rates 15% to 43% lower than the interim rates and access rates 3% to 77% lower than the interim rates. Rogers, Cogeco, Videotron, and BCE have all responded to the move negatively saying it will hamper future network investments. Rogers expects to record a charge of approximately $140 million in the current quarter to account for the retroactive impact of the lower rates, while Bell estimates a $100-million impact. Bell also says it will reduce the scope of its broadband internet buildout for smaller towns and rural communities by 20% or approximately 200,000 households.

Bell Canada workers rallied outside the company’s headquarters in Quebec City on Tuesday, demanding an end to job erosion. Unifor says there’s been a decrease in the number of jobs in virtually all Bell bargaining units across the country in recent years, including a move earlier this year to outsource one million installations of its new “Wireless to the Home” technology, which is partially supported by federal grants. Unifor’s efforts recently led to the company reversing a layoff notice for 78 technicians, and to the removal of the “Stacked Ranking” performance management system in the Bell Sales bargaining unit.

Bruce Marshall

Bruce Marshall, retired CHUM Toronto announcer, is taking on Brampton City Hall. Marshall has filed a complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner following council’s move to sign an exclusive deal with a local online media organization that has close ties to some members of council. The City has signed a $150,000 six-month pilot agreement with Brampton Focus to help advance city messaging by providing video creation and content services and help promote city messaging across its social channels. Marshall, who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in last year’s election, says council didn’t follow the rules by failing to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) which is required for city contracts over $100,000.