Bell Opposes Rogers-Shaw Deal, Citing Market ‘Dominance’ in Filing to CRTC

Bell has written to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), opposing the proposed Rogers takeover of Shaw, a $26 billion deal.

According to a filing submission on Monday, Bell argued the Rogers-Shaw deal would allow for an “unprecedented level of market power,” should the merger be approved by regulators, reports The Globe and Mail.

According to Bell Canada’s filing, should Rogers be allowed to take over Shaw’s cable and satellite TV service, it would allow the former to control 47% of the English-language broadcasting distribution market. Shaw has cable TV offerings in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario.

The CRTC is reviewing the Rogers takeover, specifically the transfer of broadcasting assets. Meanwhile, the Competition Bureau and Innovation, Science and Economic Development are similarly overseeing the proposed merger as well.

“Rogers will be able to control the availability of programming services in every English-language market on all available platforms as even the most popular channels will need carriage on Rogers to survive,” explained Bell’s submission.

BCE’s submission emphasized, “this type of dominance is exactly what the commission highlighted when it denied BCE’s initial application to acquire Astral Media in 2012.”

After eventually acquiring Montreal-based Astra Media in a $3 billion deal in 2012, Bell had to sell the latter’s specialty channels and English radio stations to satisfy the CRTC’s demands.

“Ironically, Rogers intervened in that process to voice its concern that, if approved, more than one-third of [broadcasting distribution undertakings] wholesale fee payments would be to Bell Media services, significantly enhancing BCE’s market power,” added BCE’s submission.

Bell also tried to bid on buying Shaw, but wasn’t ready to take on the regulatory risk that came with the deal. The company was also outbid by Rogers in a bidding war.

Rogers told the Globe in a statement “together, Rogers and Shaw will create a truly national competitor that will ensure greater choice” for businesses, consumers and governments. Consumer groups believe the opposite, arguing the deal would reduce competition and increase prices.

Meanwhile, the federal NDP has been the only party to publicly denounce the Rogers-Shaw deal, urging other parties to join in and oppose the deal.

The CRTC is set to hold a public hearing on the Rogers-Shaw deal, set for November 22, 2021.