Archive for October, 2012
The CRTC has actually momentarily remembered that its job isn’t to rubber-stamp requests from the big telecoms: It has squashed Bell’s plan to buy Astral and thus control a massive share of the telecom market:
“BCE failed to persuade us the deal would benefit Canadians,” said chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, who took over the post earlier this year and has quickly put a populist stamp on the regulator. “It would have placed significant market power in the hands of one of the country’s largest media companies. We could not have ensured a robust Canadian broadcasting system without imposing extensive and intrusive safeguards, which would have been to the detriment of the entire industry.”
Anglos are breathing a sign of relief because this will save TSN 690, Montreal’s English-language sports radio station (and official home of the Habs, when the NHL isn’t on lockout). Rival media conglomerate Quebecor is breathing a sigh of relief, because its dominance in the francophone market won’t be challenged by a Bell/Astral giant.
But there’s a bigger issue here, and one that should be of interest to all Canadians who are concerned about the extreme amount of media consolidation that we’ve witnessed in our country over the past couple of decades. When two or three companies are allowed to control both the media and the messaging via television, radio, newspapers, digital and mobile channels, we all suffer. Just about every Canadian has a nightmare story about one of the telecom giants (and Bell figures at the top of most of those nightmare story lists). Canadians already pay the highest cell phone rates in the world, and that’s only getting worse due to the lack of competition in the marketplace. The telecoms are all working hard to produce exclusive content, and are licensing it to their rivals for high costs. The limited choice in television service offerings is leading many Canadians to simply pull the plug rather than put up with poor service and content offerings for high prices.
Canadians are fed up. And plenty of them spoke up at the CRTC hearings. There were 9,700 interventions filed, and while many of them were from rival media conglomerates such as Rogers, plenty of others were from the general public. They were standing up to say that having one company in charge of nearly half of what we see, hear, read and watch isn’t in anyone’s best interest.
I’ve been really hard on the CRTC in the past for being in the pockets of the telecom companies and shirking its mandate to protect the consumer. Thanks to this decision, I have to issue this blog’s first-ever kudos to the CRTC. It’s a step in the right direction. Keep it up.
There’s nothing more depressing than a pub in late October with no hockey on the big screen.
Players, owners, settle this thing already. We need our hockey back.
Update: Venezuelan election authorities have awarded Hugo Chavez the victory, with 54% of the vote, versus 44% for Capriles — a suspiciously high margin of victory. Sadly, it looks like the nightmare in Venezuela will continue.
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Venezuelans went to the polls today in an historic election that, for the first time in 14 years, provided some hope that the country would extract itself from the iron rule of Hugo Chavez.
The results are being watched worldwide. Venezuela is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and the Chavez regime has firmly allied itself with Cuba, Iran, Bolivia and against the USA. Obviously there are wider geo-political implications here.
And the world’s Jewish community is watching closely too. As Ben Cohen writes in Ha’aretz, Chavez’s opponent, Henrique Capriles, is a Catholic with Jewish lineage and a descendent of Holocaust survivors, and the antisemitism card was widely used by the Chavez camp during the election campaign:
Chavez’s strategy in dealing with the Capriles campaign has avoided actual policy debate. He has focused instead on demonizing his opponent as, variously, an “imperialist,” a “capitalist,” a “little bourgeois,” and – inevitably, given Capriles’ Jewish origins and Chavez’s historic willingness to deploy anti-Semitism for political purposes – a “Zionist.”
These attacks have highlighted the vulnerability of the Venezuelan Jewish community, whose numbers have declined from 30,000 – before Chavez came to power – to just 9,000 now. As a September study by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism noted, “recent years have witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic manifestations, including vandalism, media attacks, caricatures, and physical attacks on Venezuelan Jewish institutions.”
This election is about all Venezuelans, not just the small and besieged Jewish community, of course. People reportedly lined up for hours across the country, and transplanted citizens cast their ballots from around the world. The turnout is being reported at over 70%. And while some early exit polls are predicting a narrow Caprile victory, it’s bound to be close — raising questions about whether Chavez will respect the result in the event of a loss.