Bell Canada: Employees Reportedly Instructed To Downplay ‘Skinny’ Television Package Required By CRTC

In March, 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) introduced new legislation aimed at fostering a “healthy, dynamic TV market” in the country. The commission mandated that major television providers in Canada, such as Bell Canada (TSE: BCE) and Rogers Communications (TSE: RCI-B), provide options that allow consumers to pick and choose which channels they would like to have access to, or offer an affordable “skinny” entry level package priced at $25 by March 1, 2016, as reported by the CBC.

Leading up to the March 1 deadline, reports are surfacing that employees with Bell Canada have been instructed not to mention the new basic package, and not to discuss it, unless a customer brings up the subject first.

“Do not promote the Starter TV package,” documents obtained by the CBC reportedly state. “There will be no advertising, and this package should only be discussed if the customer initiates the conversation.”

According to reports, the initial plan was for Bell Canada to require “Fibe TV ‘Starter’ ” customers to also subscribe to high-speed internet service. Added together, the starter TV package, internet, a “couple” of $7 à la carte channels, and receiver rental would cost $130.35 monthly — a figure much higher than the $25 CRTC-mandated package was expected to cost.

Looking for clarification as to whether Bell Canada would be in compliance with the new regulations if they required customers to subscribe to its internet service in order to receive the $25 starter TV packager, the CBC queried the CRTC on the issue.

Shortly after, the CBC received word that while it was Bell Canada’s intention to make the internet subscription mandatory, the inquiry to the CRTC caused the telecommunications company to back off, and drop the requirement that Fibe TV Starter customers also subscribe to internet service.

An anonymous employee of Rogers reportedly told the CBC that similar instructions, to “downplay” its affordable starter package, had also been given to employees of that company.

In response, the CRTC has reportedly made statements that Bell Canada, Rogers, and other Canadian television providers are “obligated” to advertise the new skinny packages alongside pricier offerings.

“They’re making the skinny basic package simply unbuyable,” a Bell Canada employee who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals was reported to state. “What’s been explained to me is that maybe one percent of people would be interested in getting it.”

In 2015, Bell Canada’s parent company, Bell Canada Enterprises, which also owns the CTV television network and portions of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs hockey franchises, reported revenues of $21.5 billion. Analysts expect BCE to report revenues of $21.95 billion 2016, and $22.29 billion in 2017. BCE reported a profit margin of 12.45 percent and an operating margin of 23.34 percent in 2015.

Per share company profits are forecast to grow by 4.5 percent in 2016, 4.6 percent in 2017, and to average 4.8 percent annually over the coming five years.

As of 2014, BCE reported 55,250 full time employees. Bell Canada is a major sponsor of many Canadian initiatives, including committing $100 million to the Bell Let’s Talk mental health program, as well as sponsoring many sporting and cultural events, such as the Toronto International Film Festival, the Calgary Stampede, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the NBA Canada, and the Canadian Soccer Association.

Bell Canada was divested by AT&T, Inc. (NYSE: T) in 1975, when the Canadian company became responsible for its own research and development, but continued to operate in the Bell system, as other “Baby Bells” did, until the company was broken up in 1984, as reported by Wikipedia.

[Photo Courtesy of Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 1.0]