Regulatory, Telecom & Media News – Competition Bureau seeking full block of Rogers/Shaw merger

The Rogers/Shaw merger is headed for a potentially protracted hearing process with the failure of a second attempt at mediation. Quebecor Inc., Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications attended a mediation session with the Commissioner of Competition last week as part of the Competition Tribunal process that failed to yield a negotiated settlement. In a statement issued on behalf of the three parties, they indicated disappointment with the outcome, saying they believe litigation “is both unnecessary and harmful to competition.” During a case management conference this week, Competition Bureau lawyer Derek Leschinsky made it clear the bureau is seeking nothing less than a full block of the merger. Four weeks have been set aside for hearings, set to begin Nov. 7. Read more here.

Randy Kitt speaks at Tuesday’s Senate hearing via Zoom. (CNW Group/Unifor)

Unifor is calling for amendments to Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, directed specifically at preserving local news as employment levels in broadcasting decline. Unifor Media Director Randy Kitt told the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications (TRCM) on Tuesday that Unifor wants C-11 amended to ensure the Broadcasting Act mandates the CRTC to support local news, including by “developing, financing, producing or promoting local news and information programming,” with the creation of a news fund. “In 2014, the CRTC said we didn’t need to fund local news anymore because advertising is coming back. They got it wrong,” said Kitt in his testimony via Zoom. Read more here.

CRTCThe CRTC has hosted a first-of-its-kind in-person meeting including regulators from Canada, Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong and the U.S. to find better ways to combat scams. The Combating Scam Communications meeting offered an opportunity to share insights into current initiatives and cross-border enforcement challenges. Opportunities for greater international collaboration to disrupt scam communications were also explored. Representatives from the five countries agreed to continue their collaboration and seek engagement from other regulatory agencies in jurisdictions that may be the source of or suffering from scam communications. The meeting preceded the International Regulators Forum and International Institute of Communications’ Annual Conference held in Ottawa, Nov. 1-4.

The CRTC has approved an application by The News Forum for mandatory distribution of the specialty channel’s national news service. The News Forum, which is airing newscasts every 120 minutes, is now in line with the commission’s updated Distribution of National News Discretionary Services guidelines. Launched in 2020, the right-of-centre news channel features programs including Boom or Bust, hosted by former Conservative cabinet minister Tony Clement and The Buck Stops Here, helmed by former BNN Bloomberg host Catherine Murray, among other shows. Read more here.

Cogeco has announced its financial results for the fourth quarter ended Aug. 31. Revenue increased by 14.0% to reach $746.9 million. Revenue from media activities decreased by 4.1%, as the radio advertising market continued to be impacted by supply chain disruptions limiting other customers’ businesses. “As for our radio broadcast operations, while the market remains challenging, Cogeco Media has continued to perform well in the ratings. Several of our radio stations topped the charts, including 98.5, which remains Canada’s most popular radio station,” said Philippe Jetté, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cogeco, in a release. “Our efforts to develop new advertiser niches are beginning to produce results.”

TVA Group recorded revenues of $130.5 million in Q3, a year-over-year decrease of $20.2 million. Net income attributable to shareholders was $7.6 million for earnings of $0.18 per share, compared with $0.44 per share for the same quarter of 2021. TVA reported $14,067,000 in adjusted EBITDA in the Broadcasting segment, a $7,557,000 unfavourable variance mainly due to the decreased profitability of TVA Network, which posted an 8.2% decrease in its advertising revenues, combined with increased investments in content. The specialty channels were also affected by declining advertising revenues and lower profitability, with the exception of TVA Sports, where adjusted EBITDA remained stable as a result of considerably lower costs compared with the same period of 2021, when the channel broadcast the Stanley Cup finals. $2,585,000 in adjusted EBITDA in the Film Production & Audiovisual Services segment (MELS) was reported, a $7,980,000 unfavourable variance due to decreased profitability of soundstage, mobile and equipment rental as well as visual effects services, while postproduction posted an increase.

Philippe Leblanc

CBC News has announced the closure of the public broadcaster’s China bureau, citing its inability to secure visas for its journalists from the Chinese government to work as permanent correspondents. Brodie Fenlon, CBC News’ Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director of Programs and Standards, outlined the broadcaster’s ongoing efforts to facilitate coverage abroad in a blog post published Wednesday. CBC has had a China bureau for 40 years, however its last Beijing correspondent, Saša Petricic, returned to Canada as the pandemic took hold. Its journalists have only returned for the 2022 Winter Olympics under heavily restricted conditions. While efforts have been made since 2020 to obtain a visa for Radio-Canada Info reporter Philippe Leblanc, Fenlon says despite numerous exchanges and requests for meetings over the last two years there is still no visa. Leblanc will instead work from Taiwan for the next two years. Read more here.

Ann Medina

Ann Medina has been inducted into the CBC Hall of Fame. Medina, who becomes the Hall’s ninth member since its founding in 2014, was chosen for being “a woman of influence who broke the ceiling many times over.” Medina started her career in journalism in Chicago in the 1960s, going on to join NBC and ABC. She met CTV producer Jack McGaw in 1974 while on assignment in Ottawa. They married a year later and she joined CBC that same year. She soon made a name for herself as a foreign correspondent, going on to work on The Journal and then Saturday Report where her contract was prematurely terminated in 1987. After leaving the CBC, she went on to serve as Chair of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, and became one of the first residents at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC).  

The Institute of Canadian Agencies (ICA) and Bell Media have announced that Big Brothers Big Sisters and its agency, Humanity, have won the 2022 Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity in Advertising (IDEA) Competition. The 2022 competition focused on campaigns highlighting LGBTQ+ communities with the winner awarded $1 million worth of inventory on Bell Media platforms. Big Brothers Big Sisters will debut the winning campaign in the coming months. The award-winning idea features a brand evolution that embraces self expression and champions authenticity in the eyes of the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Open to national and international brands and their agencies, and judged by a specially curated jury from the Canadian media sector, the IDEA Competition seeks to create meaningful change in the media industry and encourage greater representation of diverse communities in Canadian advertising.

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