Rogers-Bell collaboration bad for Canada

December 13 2011 by Ellen Roseman

Last Friday, we learned that Canada’s two telecom giants were buying a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Media coverage was sympathetic.

CEOs George Cope of Bell and Nadir Mohammed of Rogers said they were avid sports fans and weighed the chances of the Leafs finally winning a Stanley Cup. (The Rogers CEO hoped the Blue Jays would win the World Series at the same time.)

What about fairness? Isn’t it anti-competitive to have the two rivals team up to gain a stranglehold on sports ownership and broadcasting rights? Can the CBC hang on to Hockey Night in Canada once Bell-owned CTV muscles into its territory?

It’s good to hear that the Competition Bureau will review the deal before it’s approved. Commissioner Melanie Aitken is a tiger when it comes to anti-competitive behaviour.

I don’t like the deal because I think this duo has too much power already. I didn’t see many mainstream media commentators take this stand, but did find some sympathy among bloggers such as Medium Close Up.

This concentration of power will be bad for everyone. While Bell and Rogers are busy divvying up the nation, they leave little room for their competition. This means they can do with sports content what they have done with mobile technology and cable and satellite delivery. They can control access and they can control price.

All you have to do to see the future is to look at what these to companies have done in the past. Canadians pay among the highest rates in the world for mobile service and internet access, and Bell and Rogers continually strive to keep competition out through influence on government and regulatory bodies and with unfair discount practices that disappear when the competition is wiped out.

What do you think? Should the federal government stand up to these corporate bullies? Is it time to take a stand against a homegrown media and telecommunications cartel?

Let’s not treat this as a done deal. Let’s discuss what it means to consumers before it’s too late.

16 comments

  1. Frustrated IT Cellular Consumer

    Dec 13 2011

    Yes. The Federal Government should stand up and not approve. They should also break apart these telcos.

    Provide the pipe, provide the content, but not both. It’s a conflict of interest.

  2. Lou

    Dec 13 2011

    Bravo Ellen!! About time someone spoke up with clout to address the absurdities of Bell and Rogers.

    Having had a bad experience with Bell this summer, I now resort to pay and go cell, and long distance on the MagicJack.

    There is not one person I know who has not had an issue with either Bell or Rogers, and as you say…Now This!

    We are buying the Leafs, so that translates in a dividend to me in some fashion. The people are buying it, the people should benefit — not just a certain few.

    Thank you for this article and I hope you would consider a weekly exposé.

  3. DS

    Dec 13 2011

    I used to get unlimited download on Rogers Internet a few years ago, but it was reduced 80% to 2 GIG’s…the bill was not.

    My basic cable gives me 21 channels, so one would think. Not so…when two programs are broadcast, they come in on 5 channels so I’m really getting only 18, but paying for 21.

    All my life I watched CFL and Grey Cup, but can’t get it any more…I can watch NFL all weekend but not Monday Night Football.

    Halfway through The Breeders Cup in the fall, the broadcast switches to TSN (Bell).

    The regulated corporate monopoly trough monkeys have destroyed broadcasting.

  4. MG

    Dec 13 2011

    You’re the only one I’ve heard making intelligent comments why the MLSE deal with BCE and Rogers could be negative.

    In last two days, I added a new phone and it took — I’m not exaggerating — 3 to 4 hours over 12-15 phone calls to get internet hooked up on my phone at the price they offered me. (And I have a 1st cell, Fibe TV and internet bills about $450/mth.)

    AND I only got the plan they offered me because I recorded all convos on Ipro on my Ipad. Even THEN the supv at retention would not give me what the plan I had recorded.

    I played it to him. The employee on tape confirmed the date and time and his ID. I played the recording from one of his own retention employees – recorded just 2 hours earlier.

    AND what I had recorded wasn’t an offer, it was a plan he said was already on my phone – he read it to me – and I repeated it line for line back to him and said ‘this is what I have for x price’ and he said YES.

    I didn’t have it and I was forced to renogotiate – this cycle of “this is what u have” “u don’t have that” happened 4 or 5 times in 48 hrs.

    I had ALL CSR names and employee IDs ON TAPE – useless – they couldn’t find the people.

    I had RECORDED a guy saying his name was Luke – next guy said Luke’s employee ID came up as Clarence.

    If recording your plans with Bell and playing them back to retention staff the SAME DAY isn’t honoured by Bell, then there is absolutely no hope.

    Next time I have to negotiate, I’m recording it and putting Bell on Youtube to expose the incompetent lying thieves for what they are.

  5. Brad

    Dec 14 2011

    I agree. It is time for foreign companies to be allowed to enter the Canadian market and to encourage smaller companies to compete. Time to bring the prices down and take the handcuffs put on the consumers by the telecom giants. Reject this purchase.

  6. Al

    Dec 14 2011

    I agree. Two bad oligopolies make one big monopolistic monster.

    As a teacher, I’ve been told the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan is the reason the Leafs are losers. What a joke.

    They hired and pay Brian Burke mightily (met him at LA airport last summer). They spend to the cap. And people think this unholy alliance will make it better?

    Leave the Leafs aside. We suffer from a lack of competition in this country. We pay too much for basic cable, phone, internet and especially wireless services. Shoot me now.

  7. Matt

    Dec 14 2011

    Just another way for the two giants to outmuscle consumers and take every penny they have.

    I have recently gone through a battle with Rogers regarding a cancellation and was told 2-3 different policies by several employees.

    There is zero accountability and no way to resolve or compete with them.

    The acquisition of MLSE carries a hidden agenda. It is not about building a winning franchise; win or lose, Toronto fans still pay the bills.

    This is a control measure for both Bell and Rogers to take over all programming and control content and price. It won’t be long before we are paying a premium to watch professional sports.

    Maybe it’s time the Competition Bureau steps in and follows policy.

  8. Mike V

    Dec 14 2011

    Rogers and Bell have a lot of friends in government (Liberal, Conservative, it doesn’t matter who’s in charge) and at the CRTC, so any review will be nothing other than to placate the masses.

  9. Dan

    Dec 15 2011

    Excellent idea, MG! We can take the technology given to us (recording conversations) and transfer it to another technology – U-Tube! We should all do this when dealing with these companies!

  10. MoneyAndWealth

    Dec 22 2011

    Would you rather have an American company buy the Leafs Ellen?

    At least this way we’ll get good distribution of Maple Leaf content.

  11. Yuri Stoyanov

    Jan 11 2012

    Well, I don’t see anything surprising or unnatural here – Bell and Rogers are buddies in crime, the crime being their monopoly position on the Canadian telecom market, and their bullying of any smaller competitor that comes on their turf with the intention of serving the consumers better.

    I am so thankful to this federal government for allowing real competition in the telecom space, and freeing Canadians from telecom slavery tolerated (and, perhaps, supported) by decades of liberals’ rule. Fighting the status quo has never been easy in history, so hats down to Tony Clement for doing what no other government has done for the consumers!

    @MoneyAndWealth: I would gladly sell Bell and Rogers themselves to American companies as they already behave like ones as far as corporate greed is concerned.

  12. wendy

    Jan 16 2012

    First of all , the usual thanks to Ellen, who has intervened so successfully that we no longer worry that much about roaming (except for 3 years it took Bell to change a contract and calling card replacement ordered a month ago)??!!

    Cell phone tech makes some excellent points and thank you for your clarity.. the parallels can be made to the teacher who shared a comment (actually made on TV) .. that now that Teachers did not own them, the Leafs could win the Cup???!! Rogers manufactures..??

    So, here is the thing re these 2 monoliths: 2 years ago, a SETTLEMENT was announced to a consumer lawsuit..against Bell… each consumer about residential rates. I was even sent a letter.. offering me a credit on new cell or satellite.. AND since I needed NEITHER< I am still WAITING for the 100 dollars??

    So great .. now there will be 2 companies to mess up the Leafs?? ANTI Competition laws?? As Ellen so aptly points out.. what Review will fail?? Perhaps our new Senators (not hockey) will help??