Catching up on MediaPolicy.ca – Rogers Shaw merger delivers more drama – the bully tactics of US trade politics – analysis of the DVS/Fox News libel suit.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne

January 14, 2023

The buzz is building in anticipation of the Competition Commissioner’s appeal against the approval of the Rogers-Shaw merger. The January 24th court date takes place under the shadow of a financing deadline at the end of the month.

MediaPolicy.ca made this observation about the merger ruling in this week’s post here: Commissioner Matthew Boswell got his hat handed to him by the Competition Tribunal and might have been better off using the threat of litigation to forge a settlement reducing wireline and wireless prices.

The response to the Tribunal ruling from the feisty telco re-seller TekSavvy was to issue a press release challenging ISED Minister François-Philippe Champagne to veto the merger.

TekSavvy is promising an “undue preference” complaint to the CRTC, alleging Rogers saved its merger deal only by giving Québecor’s Vidéotron a special wholesale broadband price to enter the B.C. and Alberta markets as an Internet re-seller piggybacking on Rogers’ networks. Presumably, TekSavvy wants the same deal.

Lower wholesale prices for ISP re-sellers was on TekSavvy’s original list of demands to the Minister when the Rogers-Shaw merger was announced in March 2021.

ISP re-sellers like TekSavvy are underweighted in the West, the vast majority of their business is done in Ontario and Québec. The Vidéotron discount with Rogers kicks in after a significant number of new customers are signed up.

The January 24th appeal isn’t the only thing creating a buzz of anticipation however.

Yesterday the Globe and Mail reported that the House of Commons Industry & Technology (INDU) Committee plans to convene renewed hearings on the merger. In March 2022 the Committee, made up of MPs from all parties, unanimously opposed the merger.

This time the Committee agenda appears to be a consideration of the choice of Vidéotron as the buyer of Shaw’s Freedom Wireless, a deal that was announced in August 2022.

Québecor CEO P.K. Pélédeau confirmed to the Globe he would attend the INDU proceedings on January 25th, the day following the Court of Appeal hearing. A representative of an unsuccessful bidder for Freedom Wireless, Globalive, also confirmed attendance.

What’s intriguing about the Globe’s reporting is the absence of comment (as of yesterday) of the Minister or the chair of the INDU committee, Liberal MP Joël Lightbound from Québec City.

Just another twist in the tale.

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If you are curious about the chances of the Dominion Voting Systems libel lawsuit against Fox News, the Washington Post’s George Will wrote an excellent analysis this week.

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The Canadian Press released a story on the US Embassy suggesting Bill C-11 might not be trade compliant. The Embassy’s measured words were the same that were put on the record by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai last year.

It is a tiresome if regular feature of US politics that the White House and the US Trade Representative do solids for US companies coveting Canadian market share by issuing veiled threats of trade complaints.

It’s not clear whether it’s Google or the Hollywood studios behind this latest one, but the threats have no legal merit.

In a serendipitous moment, a trade dispute resolution panel ruled this week in Canada’s favour and against the US violation of the CUSMA deal on auto parts.

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It’s anyone’s guess at how the American version of Bill C-18 will fare in the forthcoming mayhem of the House of Representatives. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act was introduced in the Senate last summer and didn’t make the cut for inclusion in the lame duck omnibus funding Bill in December.

Journalist unions have taken different approaches to endorsing or qualifying their support for this kind of legislation. A Press Gazette story contrasts the different approaches of the US Newsguild and the British National Union of Journalists for similar legislation proposed in the UK.

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Howard Law

I am retired staff of Unifor, the union representing 300,000 Canadians in twenty different sectors of the economy, including 10,000 journalists and media workers. As the former Director of the Media Sector and as an unapologetic cultural nationalist, I have an abiding passion for public policy in Canadian media.

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