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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2012

Growing Chorus asks Ottawa to Say No to Bell Canada's Acquisition of Astral Media Inc.

Saynotobell.ca website launched to alert public to risks from unprecedented concentration of media ownership

OTTAWA, Aug. 7, 2012 - Canadians are asking the federal government to disallow the proposed $3.38 billion takeover of Astral Media Inc. by Bell Canada.

From individual consumers to major communications companies, Canadians are increasingly worried about the concentration of media assets under one roof and the market domination this deal represents. To this end, a national coalition has come together to oppose the transaction.

Today,  the website SayNotoBell.ca was launched to promote a national campaign with two objectives: first, warn the public of the risks to them as consumers and of the potential harm to the Canadian television industry if this unprecedented deal is approved; and second, encourage Canadians to contact the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and voice their concerns.

If the deal is approved, Bell Canada would control:

  • 42% of Canadian private commercial television programming revenues;
  • 45% of English-language television audiences;
  • 35% of French-language television audiences;
  • 79 TV channels, 107 radio stations, more than 100 websites, which is twice as big as its nearest competitor.
  • 38% of total advertising revenues from television and 31% from radio programming; and among national time sales, 40% and 38%, respectively.

The leaders of the coalition commented on the proposed merger:

"As communications industry leaders and concerned Canadians, we view it as our responsibility to inform the public of the dangers inherent in this proposed merger and to oppose this anti-competitive gambit by Bell Canada," said Louis Audet, President and CEO of Cogeco Cable Inc. "This deal is not in the public interest."

"Few of the world's major economies permit a single private broadcaster to acquire such a dominant share of TV viewing. Bell Canada's TV audience share would be 50% greater than the audience share of the largest private firms in the USA, Japan, UK, Australia, France or even Russia," said Lee Bragg, CEO of Eastlink. "Giving one private broadcaster so dominant a share of the television market is bad for consumers and bad for Canada."

"Bell Canada's proposed merger with Astral Media Inc. poses a serious threat to the health of the Canadian broadcasting industry," said Pierre Karl Péladeau, President and CEO of Quebecor Inc. "Competition will be severely reduced and the broadcast market as we know it in Canada will be handcuffed."

Bell Canada already owns CTV and TSN and has a dominant presence in all sectors of broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada, with annual revenues of over $19 billion. In an effort to boost its market share even further, the company made an offer on March 16, 2012 to acquire Astral Media Inc. for $3.38 billion.  Astral Media Inc. currently provides HBO Canada, The Movie Network, Viewers Choice, and many other popular TV channels. The federal government will consider this proposed transaction over the next few weeks and a decision is expected by the end of this year.

History demonstrates that when too much power is concentrated in one company, it leads to higher prices and poorer choices. The coalition is warning consumers that if Bell Canada controls all of the most popular television content, they could charge consumers any price they want to watch it. To get popular channels, you could face pressure to pay for other Bell Canada channels that you are not interested in watching. To watch popular programs, you may be pressured to buy other Bell Canada phone, wireless, Internet and TV services.

The deal could result in the creation of fewer original Canadian programs, and fewer jobs in Canadian TV production. Finally, advertising rates could increase - costs that are eventually passed on to the consumer.

Concerned Canadians can voice their opposition to the deal by visiting www.saynotobell.ca and submitting a letter through the website to Canada's Ministers of Heritage and Industry, the Competition Bureau, the CRTC and their own Member of Parliament.

About the website at SayNoToBell.ca

SayNoToBell.ca is brought to you by Canadians who are concerned about increasing media concentration in Canada. We stand in opposition to the proposed $3.38 billion Bell Canada acquisition of Astral Media Inc. and wish to inform the public and limit the risk posed by the merger. We call on the Competition Bureau, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the Government of Canada to block this deal.

 

For further information:

Emily Wehbi
emily.wehbi@saynotobell.ca
613-762-4207

 

About Eastlink
With more than 1,600 employees from coast to coast, Eastlink delivers world-class video entertainment, internet and telephone services to residential, business and public-sector customers across Canada.

Powered by a state-of-the-art fibre optic network, Eastlink's advanced services include Whole Home DVR, Video OnDemand, HD and 3D programming, High Speed Internet scalable to 200 Mbps, competitive local and long distance telephone services, and exclusive locally-produced programming via Eastlink TV. Eastlink has been recognized as one of Canada's 50 Best managed Companies for six years running.

Media Contact

Jill Laing
Public and Media Relations
(902) 446-1939
Jill.Laing@corp.eastlink.ca