CRTC head wants to rebuild consumers' trust
CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais delivers opening remarks on the opening day of the CRTC hearings into the proposed acquisition of Astral Media Inc., by BCE/Bell Canada, in Montreal, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, October 29, 2012 5:21PM EDT
OTTAWA, Ont. -- The head of the CRTC says he wants to put consumers at the centre of the decisions that his regulatory organization makes.
Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais says he wants to rebuild consumers' trust in the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Blais says there's some skepticism about the CRTC, which is responsible for regulating and supervising the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications systems.
In prepared remarks to Canadian Chapter of the International Institute of Communications, Blais said Monday the CRTC has some work to do to rebuild that trust.
Blais says the CRTC will put Canadians front and centre in its work.
He recently killed Bell's $3.4-billion friendly takeover of Astral Media, saying it wasn't in the best interests of Canadians.
"It's important to listen to Canadians," he said in his prepared remarks.
"I will be listening myself to find out what they think about the job we're doing.
"Social media provide all kinds of opportunities for Canadians to say what's on their minds, and they're not shy about giving us an earful."
Blais said Canadian families spend an average of $2,100 a year on communications services.
"That's the sixth largest family expense. It's just about what they spend on health care," he said.
"But when I speak of consumers, I'm not just thinking of individuals. Canadian businesses of all sizes rely on the communications system to serve their customers and to help their employees work more productively."
Blais said a good example of the CRTC's consumer focus is its decision to ask Canadians to help established a mandatory code that would cover cellphones and other wireless devices. He said consumers have made it clear they find their monthly bills confusing and contradictory.
He noted the commissioner for complaints for telecommunications services received about 8,000 complaints about wireless services. That's more than 60 per cent of all the complaints it received, he said.
The CRTC doesn't want to be a heavy-handed regulator, Blais said, adding it should be the exception rather than the rule.
But Bell (TSX:BCE) doesn't agree with the CRTC's decision to nix its takeover of Astral and has asked federal cabinet to intervene. Ottawa has suggested it has little appetite to do so.
The CRTC said if it had allowed the deal, BCE would have controlled almost 45 per cent of the English TV viewership and almost 35 per cent of the French.
Bell disagrees, saying Bell and Astral combined would have an English-language TV market share of 33.5 per cent and the combined companies would have a 24.4 per cent stake in the French-language TV market, both within the rules.
The discrepancy arises because Bell includes U.S. competitors in the calculations, while the CRTC does not.
Blais, a long-time civil servant, was appointed in June and his term expires in 2017.