QUISPAMSIS, NEW BRUNSWICK--(Marketwire - Aug. 22, 2012) - The Canadian Cable Systems Alliance (CCSA), a group that speaks on behalf of independent television distributors across Canada, added its voice to those of the larger independent TV distributors and consumer groups that have spoken out against the proposed merger of Bell and Astral.
"Bell already has a dominant position in the industry both as a television distributor and a content owner," says CCSA's President, Alyson Townsend. "As a result of its purchase of CTV Globemedia, Bell already controls a third of the Canadian pay and specialty channels, including most of the available premium sports channels and established, popular channels like BNN, Bravo!, Comedy, Discovery, MTV and MuchMusic. If the Astral transaction is approved, Bell will control many more pay and specialty channels, including virtually all of the popular French language channels and the premium movie services, HBO and The Movie Network."
Having just completed an extensive negotiation and CRTC dispute resolution process for renewal of its distribution agreement for the 29 specialty channels Bell already owns, CCSA has first hand experience with the power that Bell now wields in the industry. "The contract that eventually resulted from that difficult negotiation," says Ms. Townsend, "is completely different from anything we have seen before. It combines major price increases, especially on the marquee, 'must have' channels like TSN and RDS, with packaging restrictions that effectively prevent the smaller distributors from creating any new digital packages to respond to their customers. That means that the Bell services will, for the most part, remain packaged as they are today but with increased prices. That means that more consumers will be forced to pay more money for the same services they get today."
It also means that, despite the fact that the CRTC has eliminated many of its rules around packaging over the past couple of years, Canadian consumers will continue to be denied the ability to buy and pay for only the channels they really want.
"This is profoundly a consumer issue," continues Ms. Townsend, "not only because of the price increases and packaging restrictions but, also, because if Bell is permitted to continue down this path, one of the first results will be the disappearance of small cable and telephone TV distributors - including many community cooperatives, municipalities and First Nations groups - that serve rural and remote communities from coast to coast to coast throughout Canada. Canadians in such communities stand to lose locally based TV distribution, High-Speed Internet service and, in many cases, access to an alternative telephone provider. Basically, those Canadians will be left with Bell or Shaw satellite TV and Bell telephone. That is bad for Canada and should not be allowed to happen. We urge Canadians to stand up for their rights before it is too late. They can start by weighing in against the Bell/Astral merger."
CCSA represents more than 110 small, independent and highly resourceful cable, telco and IPTV companies that serve over 750,000 Canadians in communities in all of the provinces and territories, including many isolated communities across the North.