Critics of the connection between cable giants Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. say the deal jeopardizes significant funding for Global News and could hurt viewers in Western Canada, where the station is popular, and hurt independent broadcasters in smaller markets.
Rogers, who is seeking approval for the transaction from the Canadian Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and other government bodies, has said he plans to redirect the Calgary-based Shaw funds currently giving Global – about $ 13 million in 2020 – to own transmitter. , Citytv.
It’s a small part of the $ 26 billion deal, but a large part of Global News’s annual budget of about $ 138 million by 2020, and some speakers at this week’s CRTC merger hearing say Rogers should held responsible for the negative consequences of more consolidation in the communications industry.
Consequences may include a worse product for viewers plus Global News by turning to other sources of funding and getting a share of the money that would otherwise go to local news producers in smaller cities that are not affiliated with the three major private English language networks (Bell’s CTV is third).
“Apart from this union, we would not discuss this. “It’s just (this) merger that leaves Global seeking funding through another source,” Lecia Simpson, director of broadcasting policy and regulatory affairs at Telus Corp., told CRTC on Tuesday. “I think it’s (Rogers)’s duty to first acknowledge, but then address the damage that comes from this union.”
Vancouver-based Telus is one of Canada’s three largest national wireless companies and sells television services to customers in BC and Alberta and parts of Quebec, but there is no media division. He argued on Tuesday that the commission should refuse to transfer broadcasting licenses from Shaw to Rogers for a number of reasons, mainly because it would give the combined company a lot of power in the Canadian broadcasting sector.
On the issue of local news, Simpson and other Telus executives said that if the commission approves the transfer of licenses, it should ask Rogers to continue funding Global News.
“Global News is a service that many Western Canadians rely on,” said Zainul Mawji, executive vice president of home solutions at Telus, adding that Global attracts more than 20 percent of viewers to evening news broadcasts in BC and Alberta , compared to just over one percent for Citytv stations.
Simpson said Global is likely to turn to the Independent Local News Fund (ILNF) for support, noting that $ 13 million would chew more than half of the fund’s $ 21 million budget in 2019-2020. .
“The whole (Rogers) proposal relies on outsourcing (those costs) to the detriment of truly independent local news production,” she said.
On Monday, Rogers’s vice president of broadcasting, Susan Wheeler, told CRTC that the company had a hard time “getting its head around” the idea of continuing to fund a rival network.
Wheeler said that with about $ 27 million, Citytv’s annual budget is much smaller than Global’s, and the redirection of money will help City compete for more viewers in the West.
To enhance Canadian content, CRTC requires cable providers to contribute to the broadcast system. Under a 2016 policy for “vertically integrated” players (businesses that create TV content and also distribute it to home TV subscribers), the CRTC has allowed cable companies to direct some of that funding to local news programs.
Global is owned by Corus Entertainment Inc., which is ultimately controlled by the Shaw family, which also controls the telecom business Shaw Communications. Following a split in media sharing and subsequent share sales in recent years, Corus is no longer owned by the cable company, but because of family-owned ties, CRTC still considers the companies affiliated.
Since 2016, Shaw has run local news funding for Global News while Rogers has funded Citytv (Bell has funded CTV).
Corus said in a September dossier on the CRTC that he was concerned that the loss of funds “would have a detrimental impact on the production and dissemination of local news, including in markets such as Kelowna, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Regina, Peterborough, Kingston, Saint John and Halifax, where Corus operates local stations, but Rogers does not.
But Corus is not scheduled to appear in person at the CRTC’s five-day hearing, and a spokesman declined to comment further on the matter Tuesday.
Dwayne Winseck, professor at Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication and director of the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project, has studied the effects of consolidation in the Canadian media and telecom industry over the past two decades.
“When you look at ownership transactions, you usually see the diversion of resources away from creating original content, especially expensive content like news that does not have large profit margins,” Winseck said, adding that new combined companies often prioritize the cost of others. , “especially by repaying the debt of these unions.”
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