ARCHIVED - Broadcasting Procedural Letter Addressed to the Distribution List

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Ottawa, 15 June 2017


Distribution List

Re: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2017-160 – Request for disclosure

Dear Madams, Sirs:

On 30 May 2017, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) filed a request for disclosure of responses to Commission staff requests for information submitted as part of the renewal applications of broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) for which the licences will expire on 31 May 2018.

More specifically, PIAC requested: 1) the aggregated disclosure of subscriber numbers; and 2) the individual disclosure of complaints in regard to the small basic service, new small packages and pick-and-pay programming services. In a subsequent letter filed on 6 June 2017, PIAC clarified that it was requesting the aggregated disclosure of subscriber data on a national, industry-wide basis.

The Commission received responses to PIAC’s request from 2251723 Ontario Inc. (VMedia), Atop Broadband Corp. (Atop), Bragg Communications Inc., carrying on business as Eastlink, Cogeco Communications inc. (Cogeco), BellMTS Inc. (Bell), Quebecor Media Inc., on behalf of Videotron G.P., Rogers Communications Canada Inc. (Rogers), Shaw Communications Inc., on behalf of Shaw Cablesystems Limited and Shaw Cablesystems (VCI) Limited, and TELUS Communications Company (TELUS).

Disclosure of subscriber numbers

With respect to the disclosure of subscriber numbers, most BDUs argued, among other things, that subscriber information has consistently been filed in confidence as it could provide competitors with insight on marketing strategies and promotional initiatives and that, even in the aggregate, disclosure could reveal information about specific BDUs and result in material financial loss.

Some BDUs also noted that the information would be incomplete and flawed as it would exclude data on satellite services, most of Bell Canada’s terrestrial services and some of TELUS’ terrestrial services. Others cautioned that, because not all BDUs are participants in the current proceeding, disclosure could provide certain competitors with competitive insights that would not otherwise be available.

Disclosure of complaint numbers

With respect to the disclosure of responses related to complaints, Bell indicated that the disaggregated disclosure of complaints was consistently filed in confidence, noting that information related to subscribers is competitively sensitive and strategic in nature. Rogers submitted the number of complaints as part of its response to PIAC and Cogeco did not object to its disclosure.

The Commission acknowledges that, given its commercially sensitive nature, subscriber-related numbers are typically filed in confidence in accordance with section 32 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure. Also, unlike the subscriber numbers publicly released in Phase 1 of the BDU renewal process in 2016, which took into account the data provided by all licensees, the aggregate numbers obtained as part of this renewal would not accurately reflect the industry-wide uptake of subscribers to the small basic service and flexible packaging options.

The Commission also acknowledges that, if given access to the aggregate subscriber numbers obtained as part of this renewal, it may be possible for competing licensees and other interested parties to estimate a licensee’s subscriber numbers based on this information and on the overall subscriber data already publicly available.

As regards the number of complaints, with the exception of Bell and Cogeco, all licensees have already disclosed this data or, as in the case of Atop, Saskatchewan Telecommunications and VMedia, have indicated in their responses to requests for additional information that no complaints were received. 

In light of the above, the Commission is of the view that the direct harm that would likely result from the disclosure of the subscriber numbers, as requested by PIAC, would outweigh the public interest and therefore denies the request.

Further, given that only Bell and Cogeco did not disclose the number of complaints, the Commission directs both licensees to submit the information to the Commission for the public file by no later than 19 June 2017.
A copy of this letter and all related correspondence will be added to the public record of the proceeding.
Original signed by

Danielle May-Cuconato
Secretary General

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