Volume 93, Issue 10

Wednesday, September 15, 1999


CRTC is lost on the information superhighway

Canuck peacekeepers in over their heads

CRTC is lost on the information superhighway

This month a new Canadian media corporation was born.

Newspapers were adorned with the smiling face of John Cassaday, late of the CTV Television Network as he took the reigns of the Corus division of Shaw Communications.

If one believes the rhetoric accompanying the birth of Corus, it came into being because the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission was concerned that Shaw Communications was moving dangerously close to concentrations not only in cable distribution, but internet services and broadcasting as well. Corus was designed to move the broadcast services at arms length to the rest of the Shaw empire.

The commission seems to have missed that control of the company remains with the Shaw empire.

Virtually overnight, Corus purchased the radio and television holdings of the Quebec-based power corporation for a mere $107 million. The CRTC is expected to approve the deal without any major difficulties.

By pretending that the creation of Corus will offset the tendency by Shaw and others to purchase broadcast licenses, the CRTC has engaged itself one more time in a master deception.

The commission, created to promote and protect Canadian broadcast interests, is again the consumers' worst enemy. While trumpeting the benefits of competition in the long distance telephone market, the CRTC succeeded in allowing monopolies in the local service to raise rates four times in a four year period. If competition is so good in telecommunications, why doesn't the commission actually promote it?

It must also be noted that the CRTC willingly gave away nearly all of the specialty channels to Canadian corporate media giants who, in too many cases, used these new licenses to buy up old, U.S. produced shows strung together with tons of advertising. And I don't even want to open the sores created by cable and satellite rates.

Karl Marx may have goofed when he predicted the revolution of the proletariat. But let's not forget he got it right on the need for capital to continue to concentrate and eliminate its competitors.

Regrettably, the CRTC has bought into this philosophy. The agency designed to protect and nurture the Canadian media consumer has become its worst enemy. Let's get rid of it once and for all.

David R. Spencer
Associate Professor
Information and Media Studies

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Copyright The Gazette 1999