Category: CRTC

XM, Sirius receive CRTC approval to merge in Canada

It always amazes me how long media-related changes take to get full regulatory approval here in Canada. It took a year for iTunes to open here after its launch in the U.S., it took nearly three years for Slacker Radio to open its doors here and other ventures such as Pandora and Spotify are still waiting in the wings with no indication as to when (if ever) they will be able to operate here legally.

Today however, we can finally check one more change off the list: XM and Sirius have been cleared for their merger by the CRTC. The new entity, “Sirius|XM Canada,” will become official in June as long as they meet all of the conditions of the merger.

Here’s the full press release for your reading pleasure:

XM Canada and Sirius Canada Receive CRTC Approval to Merge

Merger on track to close by June 2011

Toronto, Ontario, April 11, 2011 – Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (“CSR” or the “Company”), parent company of XM Canada (TSX: XSR), along with SIRIUS Canada Inc., welcome today’s Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruling which includes authorization of the transaction that will result in the merger of Canada’s two satellite radio businesses, XM Canada and SIRIUS Canada (the “Merger”).

“This decision will lead to the creation of a stronger combined organization, better equipped to innovate and compete in the broader audio entertainment marketplace,” said Mark Redmond, President & CEO of both SIRIUS Canada and the merged entity. “We are pleased that the CRTC recognized the clear benefits derived from this merger. This is an exciting time for SIRIUS|XM Canada, and we look forward to continuing to offer a world-class entertainment experience for our current and future subscribers.”

“Today’s decision is great news for our subscribers, shareholders, employees and partners, keeping us on track for completing this transaction by June,” said John Bitove, Executive Chairman of CSR. “SIRIUS|XM Canada will now have more than 1.8 million subscribers in Canada, and this merger will create long-term shareholder value.”

In November 2010, SIRIUS Canada and CSR agreed to merge in order to create a stronger platform for future innovation within the Canadian audio entertainment industry. The combined company will leverage key content and programming relationships and distribution agreements with every major automaker and retailers nationwide. Subscribers will continue to enjoy a broad spectrum of commercial-free music channels, plus exclusive sports, talk and news content featuring today’s biggest names in audio entertainment.

At the CSR (XM Canada) annual general meeting held in Toronto on February 17, 2011, shareholders unanimously approved the Merger recognizing that the merger would enhance the long-term success of satellite radio in Canada.

On February 23, 2011, the Competition Bureau issued to the Company a No-Action Letter under the Competition Act, and announced that it did not intend to make an application to the Competition Tribunal to challenge the proposed merger with Sirius Canada Inc. under the merger provisions of the Competition Act, recognizing that the proposed transaction would not likely give rise to a substantial lessening or prevention of competition.

The approximate ownership interest in CSR following closing of the transaction will be as follows, the balance being widely held:

· CSRI Inc., 30.0% voting interest

· CBC/Radio-Canada 20.2% voting interest

· Slaight Communications, 20.2% voting interest

· Sirius XM Radio Inc. (NASDAQ:SIRI) 25.0% voting interest

The Merger remains subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions and is scheduled to close by June 2011.

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CRTC to make switching broadcast, telco services as easy as one call

image (c) Getty ImagesWhile I’ve never experienced any hassles when switching providers for any of my services, I know that this has not been the case for many Canadians. And clearly that’s the message the CRTC has been receiving, because today they have announced a new process whereby consumers can place a single call to their new provider and from there the new provider will make all the arrangements for the switch, including service cancellation, with the old provider.

In a press release sent out today, Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC said, “In a competitive marketplace, consumers are always encouraged to explore different options for their broadcasting and telecommunications services. The new rules will make the transfer process a seamless and convenient experience, while enabling Canadians to benefit from receiving retention offers from their current providers.”

Along with the new, simpler switch procedure comes new requirements for how long any switches should take: “The CRTC requires that customer transfers be completed within two business days, except for wireless service where transfers must be completed within 2.5 hours.”

2.5 hours? That’s seems like a tall order… we’ll see if that ends up being the reality or not.

The new rules don’t prevent you from doing a regular cancellation, if that’s what you want. In fact, it may arguably be a better way to go about switching, especially if you’re planning to move for pricing reasons. By calling your existing provider to cancel in-person, you’ll likely be offered any number of incentives to stay, which will not happen if you use the “one-call” technique.

The CRTC is warning Canadians that these new procedures do *not* help get you out of any early-cancellation fees that your current provider might charge you depending on the nature of your contract, so don’t be surprised if you get a bill in the mail following the switch-over process.

Finally, near the end of the release, the CRTC mentions that it “has established safeguards to prevent service providers from sharing confidential customer information with their internal sales and marketing groups during the transfer process,” presumably as a way to prevent the old provider from placing calls to the customer in an attempt to lure them back before they leave. Interestingly, the Commission isn’t completely convinced that this decision is in the best interest of consumers and is seeking comments on the issue.

Do you think these changes are good for consumers, or will you still use the cancel-and-switch-yourself technique the next time you decide to move?

Are TV ads too loud? The CRTC thinks so and wants to know if you agree

Nothing makes me reach for the remote control faster than when the barely-audible dialogue of an older show suddenly switches to the overpowering voice-over for a laundry detergent. Sometimes I drop the volume down only to raise it later when the ads come to an end, but mostly I just hit the mute button. Take that, loud, annoying ads. Ugh. There’s got to be a better way.

After years of essentially doing nothing, the CRTC is no longer ignoring an issue that has been a thorn in the side of TV viewers for ages: The sometimes dramatic difference between the volume level of the programme being watched and the commercials that air during the programme.

The commission announced today that they are seeking comment on “possible technical and regulatory measures that would ensure commercials are not perceived to be louder than the programs they accompany.”

“Loud ads on television can disrupt an otherwise enjoyable program and are a source of significant annoyance for Canadians,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC in a press release. “Viewers should not have to adjust the volume at every commercial break, and we will work with the broadcasting industry to find an acceptable solution.”

I can only hope that this isn’t empty rhetoric on the part of the CRTC. Nothing would make me happier than being able to watch TV without constantly riding the volume control, or shelling out big bucks for an after-market solution like Geffen’s Auto Volume Stabilizer.

You would think that there would already be some sort of standard for an issue as widespread as this, and you’d be right: the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) created just such a standard back in November of 2009. The CRTC is well aware of this and is using this standard as the starting point of their public consultation.

As the process evolves, they are hoping to get feedback from all parties on:

  • how broadcasters currently control the loudness of commercials
  • the technical changes, as well as associated costs and practical implications, that would be required to implement the Advanced Television Systems Committee’s recommended practice
  • the appropriate timeframe in which any changes should be implemented
  • possible regulatory changes required to ensure the effective control of the loudness of commercials, and
  • the extent to which technical and regulatory changes are applicable to cable and satellite companies and video-on-demand services.
  • There’s not much time if you want to make your views heard (you may have to shout) – the deadline for submissions is April 18, 2011.

    You have three options for contacting the CRTC and sharing your thoughts:

    Read the full release from the CRTC.