Regulatory, Telecom & Media News – Liberals pledge another $750M to Universal Broadband Fund

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced an additional $750 million, on top of the $1 million announced in Budget 2019, to help connect Canadians to high-speed internet. The Liberals say the additional funding for the Universal Broadband Fund will help advance projects like the Canada Infrastructure Bank to connect those in underserved communities, including a $150 million Rapid Response Stream with an accelerated application process. Trudeau also announced a $600 million agreement with Telesat to improve connectivity and expand high-speed internet coverage in the far north, as well as rural and remote regions, through low-earth-orbit satellite capacity.

StingrayStingray revenues in the second quarter decreased $12.3 million or 16.0% to $64.3 million, from $76.6 million a year ago. The decrease was primarily due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Radio revenues (down $12.7 million or 33.6% to $25.1 million from $37.8 million a year ago) and, to a lesser extent, on Broadcast and Commercial Music revenues, partially offset by the acquisition of MSM and Chatter Research Inc. For the quarter, revenues in Canada decreased $13.0 million or 24.7% to $39.7 million, from $52.7 million a year ago, primarily due to COVID-19’s impact on Radio, Broadcast and Commercial Music revenues. Revenues in the U.S. increased $1.1 million or 11.7% to $10.1 million, from $9.0 million a year ago, primarily due to organic growth in streaming subscriptions and in advertising revenues in the Broadcast and Commercial Music segment. Revenues in Other countries decreased $0.3 million or 2.2% to $14.5 million, from $14.8 million a year ago. Adjusted EBITDA for the second quarter increased $3.5 million or 12.6% to $31.2 million from $27.7 million a year earlier.

Quebecor’s consolidated third quarter 2020 highlights include revenues of $1.11 billion in the third quarter, up $38.3 million (3.6%) from the same period of 2019. Adjusted EBITDA was $513.4 million, up $4.1 million (0.8%). The Telecommunications segment grew its revenues by $61.2 million (7.0%) and its adjusted EBITDA by $15.9 million (3.4%) in the quarter, while Videotron significantly increased its revenues from customer equipment sales ($60.9 million or 87.5%), mobile telephony ($12.7 million or 8.2%) and Internet access ($6.2 million or 2.2%). Videotron’s total average billing per unit was $49.96 in the third quarter, compared with $50.49 in the same period of 2019, a $0.53 (‑1.0%) decrease. Mobile ABPU was $50.98, compared with $53.28 in the same period of 2019, a $2.30 (‑4.3%) due in part to a decrease in overage and roaming revenues due to COVID‑19 and the popularity of bring your own device (BYOD) plans. There was a net increase of 4,700 revenue‑generating units (0.1%) in the third quarter, including 47,700 connections (3.4%) to the mobile telephony service and 20,500 subscriptions (1.2%) to cable Internet.

TELUS has released its unaudited results for the third quarter of 2020, reporting consolidated operating revenue of $4.0 billion, an increase of 7.7% over the same period a year ago. EBITDA decreased by 3.1 per cent to $1.4 billion reflecting multiple impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, declines in wireline legacy voice and legacy data services and higher employee benefits and other costs, including support for business acquisitions. That was partly offset by growth in wireline data service margins resulting from business acquisitions; expanded services and subscriber base growth; increased organic and inorganic EBITDA contribution from TELUS International (TI) business growth; and enhanced cost efficiency. Customer growth in the quarter included 111,000 mobile phone net additions and 79,000 wireline customer additions, driven by 50,000 internet, 19,000 TV and 18,000 security net additions.

 

CRTCThe CRTC has discovered a $525,355.35 payment shortfall dating back to 2009 when Corus acquired specialty channels Sex TV (now The Cooking Channel) and Drive-In Classics (renamed the Sundance Channel) from CTV. Representing roughly 13% of the $4 million tangible benefits package, originally committed to research and development under the banner of the “Communitech Rights Project,” the funds will now be directed to the Canada Media Fund (CMF) as the Rights Project is no longer active.

The CRTC’s virtual hearing on the renewal of CBC’s radio and TV licences will begin on Jan. 11. In the meantime, the commission has gone back to the public broadcaster to request more information on diversity and inclusion numbers reflected in the production teams of its in-house audio-visual programming for both on-air and key leadership positions. The request coincided with the release of a new blog post from CBC News editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon outlining action taken so far to deliver on CBC’s pledge to improve diversity and inclusivity. 

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) says it plans to send letters to both federal cabinet and shadow ministers requesting meetings to re-emphasize the importance of maintaining Canada’s access to information system. Citing a recent report in the Winnipeg Free Press, CAJ says less than half of federal access to information offices are currently operating at full capacity because many departments have de-prioritized the processing of requests, which have not been treated as “a critical service”, resulting in serious backlogs and no clear guidelines on when they might be answered. The CAJ says the pandemic is not an excuse for the government to ignore access to information legislation. “In fact, with other accountability systems operating below par, and decisions of the utmost importance to our health, our rights and our economy being taken regularly, government transparency is now more important than ever,” the association stated in a release. 

Joy Malbon & Paul Hunter

The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) J-Talks Live event Thursday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. ET will explore the results of the recent U.S. election, the media’s coverage and how the outcome will impact Canada’s relationship with the U.S. Joy Malbon, Washington bureau chief for CTV National News, and Paul Hunter, CBC News’ Washington correspondent, will also discuss the challenges faced in reporting through a pandemic and growing political polarization. Learn more about the free, virtual event, here.

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