TORONTO - At stake is a shake-up of Canada’s regulatory system; people’s confidence in the Government’ ability to uphold its own policy statements declared through Laws; the trustworthiness of the guardians of procedural mechanisms, and the sincerity of the current government when it talks the talk of nurturing small and medium sized business - just as its agents pour more and more public resources into the coffers of the super-sized fat cats in the communications industry.
Ironically, by law, the Cabinet, which surely would prefer to be otherwise engaged in self-indulgent expressions of “the good things it has done and wait for more of the same”, must, by August 22, rule on petitions to Cabinet filed by four of the eight respondents to the CRTC’s Call for proposals to provide a multilingual news and current affairs programming TV station.
Then Chairman, Jean-Pierre Blais who issued that Call in May of 2017, blamed “the three sisters” of telecommunications, Rogers, Telus and Bell for the high prices in the retail wireless industry. He also criticized the federal government for poor governance.
Jean-Pierre Blais, it could be argued, was unhappy with the performance of the Telecoms in implementing the intended government policies under the Multiculturism Act and the Broadcasting Act. Any perusal of the Call he issued will strike the reader that he must have been particularly offended by Rogers’ betrayal of its mandate when it cancelled OMNI multilingual news.
After the issuance of the Call in May of 2017, he was replaced by Ian Scott, a former employee of Telus and advisor to the CRTC. It was widely expected Mr. Scott would be more “telecom friendly”.
Two years later, in May of 2019, the CRTC, which reports to Cabinet through two Ministers – Navdeep Bains and Pablo Rodrigues (the lead Minister in this instance) – decided in favour of the Canadian communications behemoth, Rogers Media.
Bell Media reported 2018 Revenues of $23.49 billion. Telus declared $13.3 billion in operating revenues.
That’s a healthy nest-egg. There are many careerists attracted to the potential of working in that kind of environment. Including former Parliamentarians. Including former Premiers whose chequered past includes association with known criminal oligarchs.
Rogers reported income of $26.94 billion last year.
The CRTC decision allows Rogers to tax subscribers to carriers of cable and satellite an additional $0.19 per month for an approximate sum of $20 million annually.
The decision is not just about the money.
Rogers is no longer obliged, in its conditions of license, to fill the “urgent need” for news and current affairs programming for the more than seven million Canadians who function in a language other than French or English. Rogers knows best what their needs are.
It’s ok. Rogers is not running for office or re-election.