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HissyFitWatch: Bell Loses Net Neutrality Case, Threatens to Bury Complaining Consumers In Legal Fees

The first "bricks of paper" arriving from Bell's attorneys in the case of Bell v. Ordinary Canadian consumers

The first legal “bricks of paper” arriving from Bell’s attorneys in the case of Bell v. Ordinary Canadian consumers arrived at the home of Jean-François Mezei of Pointe-Claire, Que.

A Manitoba university student and consumer groups who won their case against Bell’s preferential treatment of its mobile streaming video service are now being threatened with demands they personally cover Bell’s legal expenses as the phone company appeals the ruling in court.

The dispute involves Bell Mobile TV Service — a $5/mo optional add-on that allows Bell’s mobile customers to stream up to 10 hours of video programming, some of it from Bell-owned television networks like CTV, without it counting against the customer’s usage cap. Each additional hour costs $3. The service prices usage based on time, not data usage, which lets Bell stream very high quality video to customers. Competitors like Netflix do not have this option and their customers are billed based on the amount of data consumed, which is around 800 percent higher than what Bell Mobile TV charges.

University of Manitoba graduate student Benjamin Klass filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 2013 accusing Bell of violating Net Neutrality and creating an anti-competitive marketplace for online video. ​Twelve of the 43 channels available on Mobile TV — including CTV, TSN and The Movie Network — are owned by Bell Media, a subsidiary, like Bell Mobility, of the media behemoth BCE.

Klass alleged the practice was a clear violation of Canada’s laws governing broadcasting: “No Canadian carrier shall, in relation to the provision of a telecommunications service or the charging of a rate for it, unjustly discriminate or give an undue or unreasonable preference toward any person, including itself, or subject any person to an undue or unreasonable disadvantage.”

The CRTC agreed with Klass and in late January ruled in favor of Klass’ complaint, giving Bell and Quebec-based Vidéotron (which offers a similar service) until the end of April to close them down in their present form.

BCE, the parent of Bell Mobility, told the CBC it was “shocked” by the CRTC’s ruling, suspecting the complaining groups mislead regulators into thinking Bell favored its own content over others.

“There’s a hint here that the government believes Bell Mobile TV delivers only Bell Media content,” spokesman Jason Laszlo said. “They should know we offer mobile TV content from all of Canada’s leading broadcasters in English and French.”

Bell_Mobility logoLaszlo added Bell-owned content only comprises 20% of Bell Mobile TV programming and that the ruling would deprive more than 1.5 million current Bell Mobile TV subscribers from getting the service after the spring deadline to shut it down.

The CRTC and consumer groups argue that is beside the point.

“At its core, this decision isn’t so much about Bell or Vidéotron,” CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said at a breakfast luncheon in London, Ont., in late January. “It’s about all of us and our ability to access content equally and fairly, in an open market that favours innovation and choice. The CRTC always wants to ensure ­— and this decision supports this goal ­— that Canadians have fair and reasonable access to content. It may be tempting for large vertically integrated companies to offer certain perks to their customers. But when the impetus to innovate steps on the toes of the principle of fair and open access to content, we will intervene.”

Consumer group OpenMedia says Bell’s motivation isn’t to create a level playing field or provide customers with more options for online video. It’s about artificially inflating the cost of accessing services like Netflix and other independent video companies that are innovating away from the traditional pay television package.

“Bell is doing everything in its power to make the Internet more like cable TV,” said OpenMedia campaigns manager Josh Tabish. “They want the power to pick and choose what we see by forcing competing services into a more expensive toll lane online.”

Klass (Image: CBC)

Klass (Image: CBC)

Bell’s legal strategy going forward is an homage to the one American wireless companies used for years to avoid Net Neutrality.

Bell Mobility argues that Bell Mobile TV is a broadcasting service, not a telecommunications service and therefore doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Telecommunications Act.

Since the CRTC was not receptive to that argument, Bell is taking the matter to the Federal Court of Appeal, asking it to overturn the CRTC ruling and grant the company court and legal costs paid for by the Canadian consumers that brought the original complaint.

Jean-François Mezei of Pointe-Claire, Que. is among them and has been the unhappy recipient of several parcels containing “bricks of paper” from FedEx he suspects is just the beginning.

Mezei has been tweeting about ongoing developments in the case, and asked Bell, “how come you have no press release bragging about how Bell Mobility is suing individual citizens who participated in [the CRTC complaint]?”

Klass told CBC News he hasn’t yet made up his mind how to respond to the court filing, but admitted it is unnerving.

“In that regard, it really strikes me as a method of intimidation,” he said. “Right off the bat, it has a chilling effect. It appears that Bell is simply pursuing the argument, that it unsuccessfully made to the CRTC, through the court.”

Bell Canada Customer Called a “Slut” and “Bitch” in E-Mail by Angry Customer Service Representative

Phillip Dampier February 17, 2015 Bell (Canada), Consumer News, HissyFitWatch 1 Comment
Bell customer Leticia Chartier  (Photo: Judith Plamondon, QMI Agency)

Bell customer Leticia Chartier (Photo: Judith Plamondon, QMI Agency)

A Bell Canada customer complaining about a spike in her television and broadband bill from $72 to $105 was called a “slut” and a “bitch” in an email after she didn’t give the representative high marks for the online customer support chat experience.

Leticia Chartier’s new customer promotion apparently expired and her efforts to secure an explanation of her new rate was met by a shrug by Bell’s customer service. The online agent curtly told her to contact a different department. But before terminating the chat, Bell’s representative, identified as Mohamed Boutallaka, suddenly remembered the customer would be invited to score his performance in a survey after the chat window closed.

Chartier told QMI Agency he begged her not to give him a bad grade for his performance.

Chartier responded favorably to his request, or so she thought, scoring his performance “pretty good,” but explaining her rating wasn’t a criticism of the agent’s performance, just his lack of empowerment to help her resolve the issue.

Not good enough.

A few minutes after submitting the survey, the representative dispatched a scathing e-mail to her personal e-mail address on file with Bell.

bell bad“You’re a bitch Leticia and a real slut,” read the e-mail, which Chartier provided to QMI Agency.

Chartier immediately contacted Bell to complain about the email, but she says nobody at the company is taking the matter seriously.

“The supervisor who I spoke to on the phone apologized, but she never called me back to follow-up,” Chartier said.

After some research on Facebook, Chartier was reassured to discover Boutallaka works out of Bell’s call center… in Morocco.

“At least I know he won’t come to my place.”

A Bell Canada spokesman stopped short of promising the agent in question would be disciplined or fired. He only promised an internal investigation would begin over the incident.

Bell’s Efforts to Take Bell Aliant Private Will Divert $160 Million in Expansion Funds to Shareholders

Bell-Aliant-FibreOP

Bell Aliant’s FibreOp fiber to the home service may suffer as Bell/BCE redirects upgrade investments into shareholder dividend payouts.

Bell Aliant customers in Atlantic Canada won’t benefit from Bell Canada’s (BCE) efforts to take subsidiary Bell Aliant, Inc. private unless they happen to be shareholders.

In July, Bell Canada Enterprises announced its intention to privatize Bell Aliant, which serves customers in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, expecting at least $100 million a year in savings from reduced operating costs and capital investments.

Bell Aliant has operated largely independent of Bell Canada from its headquarters in Halifax, N.S. Bell Aliant customers have received FibreOp fiber to the home upgrades in several Atlantic provinces in recent years, providing more advanced services than Bell’s fiber to the neighborhood platform Fibe in Ontario and Quebec. Bell Aliant customers have also avoided usage caps and usage-based billing, getting access to unlimited use broadband at speeds up to 400/350Mbps.

Politicians in Nova Scotia immediately raised the alarm about the possibility of job cuts. Both Tory and NDP opposition leaders complain the Liberal premier has not done enough to protect jobs.

Bell Canada Enterprises

Bell Canada Enterprises

NDP MLA Dave Wilson said all three parties agreed to work on economic issues for the province. Wilson said he fears if the government isn’t vocal about its support for the jobs, Bell might look to move them elsewhere.

The news is better for those holding stock in the company. Existing public minority shareholders are being offered cash or shares of BCE stock (or a combination of both) in return for selling their Bell Aliant stock.

Bell wants to take Bell Aliant private to get access to its consistent $1 billion in cash revenue earned annually, mostly to satisfy BCE shareholders with a more reliable and consistent dividend payout.

Although Bell promises it will continue to invest in Atlantic Canada, its own financial disclosures show customers in the region will see spending on upgrades and other service improvements cut as a result of Bell’s actions.

Bell has committed to spending an average of $420 million a year across Atlantic Canada, but as an independent, Bell Aliant was investing $578 million annually, primarily on fiber upgrades. Over the next few years $160 million of the investment budget will be diverted to maintain a healthy divided payout for BCE stockholders. As of May 2014, BCE was paying a dividend of $0.6175 per quarter with common shares outstanding of 777.3 million, for a quarterly dividend payout of about $480 million per quarter, or $1.92 billion per year. As Bell Aliant shareholders cash out their holdings or convert them to BCE shares, the growing number of BCE shareholders will require Bell to spend more to satisfy dividend payouts. In fact, BCE may transfer enough money out of Bell Aliant’s operations to raise its dividend for all BCE shareholders to attract new investors.

Reduced spending will mean reduced upgrades for Bell Aliant customers. Bell is not promising significant cost savings from merger-related synergy, so capital spending will likely suffer the most as a result. So will customers.

HissyFitWatch: Canadian Telecom Companies Annoyed Consumers Getting The Upper Hand

Canadians are demanding a better deal from their cable and phone companies and they are forced to respond.

Canadians are demanding a better deal from their cable and phone companies and they are forced to respond.

As the United States battles back against the introduction of usage caps and rising prices for broadband service, increased competition and regulated open wholesale access to some of Canada’s largest broadband providers have given Canadians an advantage in forcing providers to cut prices and improve service.

Canadians can now easily get unlimited broadband access from one of several independent ISPs that piggyback service on cable and phone networks. Some large ISPs have even introduced all-you-can eat broadband options for customers long-capped by the handful of big players. As customers consider switching providers, cable and phone companies have been forced to cut prices, especially for their best customers. Even cell service is now up for negotiation.

The more services a customer bundles with their provider, the bigger the discount they can negotiate, say analysts who track customer retention. Bell, Rogers, Telus, and others have a major interest keeping your business, even if it means reducing your price.

“It’s far more lucrative for the telecom company to keep you there for the third or fourth service,” telecom analyst Troy Crandall told AP. It cuts down on marketing, service and installation calls, he added.

Getting the best deal often depends on your services, payment history, and how long you have been a customer. Cellphone discounts are the hardest to win, but customers are getting them if they have been loyal, carry a large balance and almost never pay late.

telus shawBigger discounts can be had for television and Internet service — cable television remains immensely profitable in Canada and broadband is cheap to offer, especially in cities. Americans often pay $80 or more for digital cable television packages, Canadians pay an average of $60.

Internet service in Canada now averages $45 a month, but many plans include usage caps. It costs more to take to the cap off.

Because of Canada’s past usage cap pervasiveness, online video is not as plentiful in Canada as it is in the United States. There has been considerably less cord-cutting in the north. Despite that, Canadians are ravenous online viewers of what they can find to watch (either legally or otherwise). As usage allowances disappear or become more generous, online video and the Internet will continue to grow in importance for service providers.

Customers should negotiate with their provider for a better deal, particularly if Bell’s Fibe TV is in town. Bell has been among the most aggressive in price cutting its fiber to the neighborhood television service for new customers ready to say goodbye to Rogers or Vidéotron.

Shaw and Telus battle for market share in the west and also have room to cut customer bills and still make a handsome profit.

22,000 Bell Small Business Customers Have Their Usernames/Passwords Hacked

nullcrewHackers exploited poor coding practices at an Ottawa-based third-party contractor to access and eventually publish more than 20,000 usernames and passwords of Bell Canada’s small business customers on a website.

Canada’s largest phone company is being criticized for allowing the third-party contractor access to sensitive account information, which became vulnerable after IT workers introduced security holes that bypassed Bell’s own security and encryption systems. Even worse, security experts say, Bell apparently stores customer usernames and passwords in a plain text format, accessible to any hacker.

Bell has refused to comment on the security lapse or its ongoing investigation, but the hackers are talking.

“Nullcrew” claimed responsibility for the breach on Twitter, including screenshots that suggest the group used a well-known SQL (structured query language) exploit that allowed the hackers to fish for information contained in Bell’s database.

Hackers often use automated scripts to hunt sites for security exploits and often don’t know whether they will get a handful of useless data or a treasure trove like Bell’s customer records.

bell badTrustwave Holdings, a security company based in Chicago, Ill., said in a 2013 report that poor coding practices have made the SQL injection attack a threat for more than 15 years.

“Outsourcing IT and business systems saves money only if there’s no attack,” the Trustwave report said. “Many third-party vendors leave the door open for attack, as they don’t necessarily keep client security interests top of mind.”

“Nullcrew’s” attack also discarded any pretense of encouraging clients to use passwords that are easy to remember but hard for others to guess, since Bell stored the data in an easily readable format.

Nullcrew said it alerted Bell to its security lapse more than two weeks before publishing their find online. An additional screenshot showed a Bell online customer service representative perplexed about the hacker group’s claims and likely never passed the information on to Bell’s security department.

Bell suspended the affected passwords over the weekend and is notifying customers about the security breach.

Consolidation: Financial Sector Wants Bell Canada To Buyout Maritime’s Bell Aliant

bellCanadian investment analysts are recommending that Canada’s telecom giant Bell (BCE) should explore buying out Bell Aliant, Inc. the largest telephone company in the Maritimes, to further consolidate Canada’s telecommunications marketplace.

Bell already effectively controls the phone company serving provinces east of Quebec through its 44 percent stake in the venture. Picking up the rest through a takeover would make financial sense, said Maher Taghi, a telecom analyst at Canada’s Desjardins Securities.

The Globe and Mail reports Yaghi explained in a note to investors a buyout would boost overall free cash flow for Bell (BCE), primarily from the increased revenue paid by customers for phone, television, and Internet service.

Bell_AliantBell Aliant has been one of Canada’s most conservative telecom companies serving the country’s smallest provinces in Atlantic Canada, as well as parts of rural Ontario under the NorthernTel brand and Télébec, which serves rural Quebec.

Unlike Bell (BCE), Bell Aliant has aggressively deployed fiber to the home service in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia to stem landline losses. Bell Aliant’s FiberOP customers avoid stingy usage caps that are pervasive across the rest of Canada. Its fiber network delivers strong competition to cable operators.

Bell (BCE) is already a major player in Canadian telecommunications, both with its landline operation and Fibe — mostly a fiber-to-the-neighborhood service — wireless phone and broadband, owner of more than two dozen specialty cable networks, a satellite TV service, owner of the CTV television network, new owner of Astral Media, and a few dozen radio stations across Canada. With this level of media concentration, Bell (BCE) would have a tough time trying to buy any additional media assets, but with its current de facto control, Bell would likely have little regulatory scrutiny merging Bell Aliant into its existing operations.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bell Aliant FiberOP Intro Video 1-2014.flv

Bell Aliant’s FiberOP introductory video explains the network and its features for Atlantic Canada. (2:20)

Competition Not: Canada’s Forthcoming Spectrum Auction Bidders a Familiar Lot

Phillip Dampier September 30, 2013 Bell (Canada), Canada, Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Rogers, Telus, Wireless Broadband Comments Off on Competition Not: Canada’s Forthcoming Spectrum Auction Bidders a Familiar Lot
before after

Before -and- After

Hopes for increased Canadian wireless competition were dashed last week when Industry Canada released an official list of approved spectrum auction bidders mostly filled with familiar names.

Fifteen Canadian participants including market-dominant Bell, Rogers and Telus each put down a refundable 5% deposit for the Jan. 14 auction. Most of the rest of the bidders are regional providers or suspected spectrum speculators hoping to sell any acquired spectrum at a profit.

It was good news for the three largest cell companies which feared the possibility of a well-funded new entrant like Verizon Wireless. Instead of facing the deep pockets of Verizon, the three cell companies will be competing against regional providers like Quebec’s Vidéotron, Bragg Communications’ EastLink which serves Atlantic Canada, and provincial telephone companies MTS in Manitoba and SaskTel in Saskatchewan.

Two private equity firms are also participating: a subsidiary of Birch Hill Equity Partners and Catalyst Capital which holds the debt for independent Wind Mobile. Wind Mobile’s owner Globalive Communications is also registered as a participant. Both could use the airwaves in the Wind Mobile business or sell them to another provider.

“Ultimately, what would have been great is to have a well-capitalized startup, a feisty competitor coming in,” telecom analyst Troy Crandall told the Canadian Press news agency. “That would have been the best thing for consumers.”

But Canada’s best hope for lower cell phone bills was never to be found from Verizon Wireless.

“I can assure our investors that we never have and never will be leading on price,” Lowell McAdam told investors at a conference last week.

Bell Discovers It Was Ripping Off Travelers Headed to U.S.; Slashes Roaming Rates by Half

Bell's version of price competition before the government made wireless pricing a priority.

Bell’s version of price competition before the government made wireless prices and competition a priority.

After years of acute bill shock afflicting those who didn’t bother to check the breathtaking cost of using a Bell cell phone abroad, Canada’s largest phone company announced today it was cutting in half the prices it charges for mobile data, voice, and text roaming plans for customers headed to the United States.

“During the summer, Canadians told the federal government that they support wireless competition and strongly believe the wireless rules should be the same for all carriers, Canadian or international. But Canadians also told us that they want to use their smartphones a lot when they travel, and they want the price to come down,” said Bell Mobility president Wade Oosterman in a statement. “We heard you, and today Bell is cutting in half the cost of mobile roaming where Canadians travel the most: the U.S.A.”

The new, discounted rates begin Tuesday and cover the following plans:

  • 30-day travel bundle: $25 (was $50) — includes 50MB of data, 50 anytime minutes in the U.S. or to Canada, unlimited incoming text messages, 200 sent text messages.
  • 30-day travel add-ons: $20 each (formerly $40) — 100MB of data, or 100 minutes of voice calling, or unlimited incoming and sent texts.

Bell officials said the company is not stopping with the United States and plans further cuts in joint roaming rates in conjunction with their global telecom partners.

Some Canadians wonder what took the company so long.

“When you can just casually drop the price of something by half, I can only imagine how much profit you are actually making on it to begin with,” commented Mark Winn.

Analysts speculate Bell’s move is designed to preempt, or at least soothe “competition fever,” now rampant in the Conservative Harper government. Officials in Ottawa were reportedly disappointed that a rumored entry by Verizon Wireless into Canada never came to fruition. Opposition critics have labeled the current ‘all competition, no regulation’ government policy impotent. Some have also pointed the finger at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada’s telecommunications regulator, criticized as being too cozy with incumbent market leaders.

“Viagra couldn’t grow competition in this country,” said Sally Pearson, a consumer advocate fighting to broadly open Canada’s wireless market to foreign-owned competitors. “Years of government policies that favor Bell, Rogers and Telus and flaccidity at the CRTC has given us the level of competition telecom lobbyists intended all along.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CP With Verizon out whats next for Canadas wireless space 9-3-13.flv

With Verizon out of the picture, there are no obvious candidates to take on the big three Canadian wireless providers. Canadian Press reporter Steve Rennie considers how this will impact the Harper government, its telecom policies and the telecom industry. Will Canadian consumers demand something better when Parliament returns in the fall? (2 minutes)

Verizon Says It Won’t Enter Canada; Incumbent Providers’ See Major Stock Gains

Phillip Dampier September 3, 2013 Bell (Canada), Canada, Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Rogers, Telus, Verizon, Video, Wireless Broadband Comments Off on Verizon Says It Won’t Enter Canada; Incumbent Providers’ See Major Stock Gains

610px-Verizon-Wireless-Logo_svgExecutives at Canada’s largest telecom companies are sighing relief after Verizon announced it was not interested in competing in Canada.

“Verizon is not going to Canada,” Lowell McAdam, chief executive officer of New York-based Verizon, said yesterday in a phone interview with Bloomberg News. “It has nothing to do with the Vodafone deal, it has to do with our view of what kind of value we could get for shareholders. If we thought it had great value creation we would do it.”

McAdam added he thought speculation about Verizon’s plans in Canada was “way overblown.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CBC Big 3 Canada telecom stocks surge as Verizon threat fades 9-3-13.flv

The CBC reports three of the largest telecom companies in Canada are seeing their stock prices soar on news Verizon won’t enter Canada. Kevin O’Leary takes a position shared by Bell, Telus and Rogers that no spectrum should be set aside for new competitors. Instead, he seeks a “winner takes all” auction, even if it means dominant incumbent carriers monopolize every available frequency. (3 minutes)

McAdam

McAdam

Verizon’s possible entry into Canada was among the hottest stories of the summer, even reported on the CBC’s national nightly news. The potential new competition provoked Bell, Rogers, and Telus — three of Canada’s largest phone and cable companies — to join forces in a multimillion dollar lobbying effort to slow Verizon down and make the wireless business in Canada less attractive. The Harper government used news of Verizon’s potential entry to promote its policies favoring competition over regulation.

Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said the company was considering a wireless venture in Canada at a June Wall Street investor conference.

“We’re looking at the opportunity,” Shammo said at the time. “This is just us dipping our toe in the water.”

Verizon took its toe out yesterday, despite the potential profits available in a country criticized for its extremely expensive cell phone service.

“I’m surprised that Verizon isn’t interested in Canada,” tweeted Adam Shore. “There are over 33 million suckers up here that will pay ridiculous cell phone rates.”

Bell joined Telus and Rogers to launch a multi-million dollar lobbying effort to make Verizon's entry into Canada difficult.

Bell joined Telus and Rogers in launching a multi-million dollar lobbying effort to make Verizon’s entry into Canada difficult.

The three companies most Canadians now buy wireless service from denied they wanted to keep Verizon out, arguing they simply wanted a “level playing field.”

Industry Minister James Moore suggested a fourth large player could provoke a price war in a way much smaller wireless providers like Wind Mobile or Mobilicity never could. The government was willing to set aside coveted 700MHz wireless spectrum at a forthcoming auction to help a new entrant — any new entrant — get started.

Verizon’s decision to stay out might have delivered a damaging blow to the Conservative government’s “pro-competition” solution to the problem of high cell phone bills. After the announcement, Moore was left promising only that spectrum auctions would carry on regardless of Verizon’s decision.

For now, the best chance of increased competition comes from Quebecor, which is gradually expanding its wireless network. Spectrum set asides almost guarantee the owner of Quebec’s cable giant Vidéotron will be able to bid for and win significant spectrum at the upcoming auction, some at a discount.

“If Verizon doesn’t show up, they’re actually in a very strong position to buy a block of spectrum that will not be very expensive,” Maher Yaghi, an analyst at Desjardins Securities Inc., told Bloomberg News. “Wireless is currently providing them with a nice growth platform.”

Without a surprise late entrant suddenly announcing interest by the auction filing deadline of Sept. 17, many analysts predict the outcome will likely not deliver Canadians any significant changes in cell phone service and pricing. The government may also be disappointed with the auction proceeds. Canada’s big three will likely avoid overbidding and still end up dividing most of the available airwaves between them. Quebecor may end up with most of the rest at comparatively “fire sale” prices. The Montreal-based company must then decide how much it will spend to expand its home coverage areas outside of Quebec, Toronto, and southeastern Ontario.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/BNN Verizon Wont Enter Canada 9-3-13.flv

BNN reports Verizon’s decision not to enter Canada leaves the Conservative government without an effective means to moderate cell phone pricing in the country. Mary Anne de Monte-Whelan, president of The Delan Group, observed the government may be forced to take a more regulatory approach to control expensive cell service, possibly starting with roaming rates.  (7 minutes)

Bell’s Idea of Cost Savings: Fire 100 “Redundant Workers” at Acquired Astral Media

Phillip Dampier August 22, 2013 Bell (Canada), Canada, Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't Comments Off on Bell’s Idea of Cost Savings: Fire 100 “Redundant Workers” at Acquired Astral Media
Astral Media... digested by Bell.

Astral Media… digested

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s approval of Bell-BCE’s $3.4 billion acquisition of specialty broadcaster Astral Media has resulted in the loss of at least 100 jobs in Toronto, with more to come in Montreal, all deemed “redundant” by the Canadian telecom giant.

A union representing many of the workers indicated Bell had posted notice of the workforce reduction in Astral’s offices and notified the Minister of Labour “approximately 100 people will be laid off in Toronto” as the merged companies restructure.

The layoffs are expected to include Bell Media workers at locations in downtown Toronto and the Agincourt neighborhood of Scarborough and at newly acquired Astral stations and networks.

Local 723M president Kelly Dobbs told the Toronto Star that the cuts at 299 Queen St., where she represents Bell Media workers at MuchMusic, CP24 and BNN and other television employees, haven’t hit union employees yet. So far, she said, the cuts are in management.

“So far we haven’t been hit. It doesn’t mean we won’t be,” Dobbs said Thursday, adding the notice went up about two weeks ago. “At this moment, we haven’t.”

Bell committed to spend $246.9 million on what the CRTC calls “tangible benefits” over the next seven years to create more Canadian content for its networks and stations after the CRTC initially objected to the merger last fall.

Those tangible benefits do not include Canadian employees.

Last fall, the CRTC claimed the merger would have brought no benefits to Canadian radio and television audiences and would result in the creation of an over-dominant entity, particularly in Montreal, controlling an excessive amount of Canadian media, undermining competition and diversity.

By this spring, the CRTC changed its mind.

Bell’s acquisition includes 84 Astral radio stations — 52 of which were acquired in a $1.08-billion purchase of Standard Radio in 2007. Bell now owns 107 radio stations in 55 markets across Canada as well as the CTV television network and more than three dozen major cable networks.

bell television

Bell’s television outlets include the CTV television network and many of Canada’s largest cable networks.

bell radio

Bell’s radio stations often use the same logos, formats and identities in different Canadian cities.

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