With the CRTC’s hearings on the Bell – Astral deal beginning today (Monday, September 10th), it is an opportune time to launch our project and to put the data that we have collected in the public domain for all to see. Indeed, the whole raison d’etre of the Canadian Media Concentration Research (CMCR) project is to make available a systematic, long-term and comprehensive body of data on the telecom-media-internet industries in Canada so that people can use and analyze it in order to reach their own conclusions based on the evidence.

Our aim with this post is not to examine and discuss the data but simply to make it available. Our analyses are widely available elsewhere (see here and here, for example) and Dwayne’s intervention on behalf of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre/Consumers Association of Canada is available here.

Research methods and data are never innocent. This is especially true when it comes to tracking changes in the structure and levels of concentration in the telecom-media-internet industries. Indeed, the issue of media concentration is a highly contentious one and while debates are rife, good quality data is remarkably difficult to come by.

The truth of these statements is highlighted by the current debates over media concentration that have been prompted by Bell Canada’s attempt to take-over Astral Media, the eighth largest media company in Canada. While the debate is loud and cantankerous, the data and evidence is all over the place, and badly skewed by specific interests.

The data that we have prepared, either as a part of the newly-incarnated Canadian Media Concentration Research project or its progenitor, the International Media Concentration Research project, has been used by many people in the context of Bell’s proposed acquisition of Astral Media. It is cited extensively in a report by the Analysis Group consulting firm, for instance, that aims to highlight how high media concentration in Canada is in comparison to the other G8 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan), for instance.

That report has been widely circulated and quoted in several Canadian media outlets. The Huffington Post covered the Analyst report on August 14. The Globe and Mail’s two-page coverage of Bell’s take-over bid for Astral on September 1st also cites the Analysis Group study as well as the CMCR research extensively, even if it garbles the story badly. A featury-length story in the Toronto Star this past weekend also used the CMCR/IMCR data extensively as well.

Finally, Bell refers to our data, and offers a weak refutation of its methodology, in its response filed with the CRTC. Likewise, the Say No to Bell campaign organized by Quebecor, Cogeco, Eastlink, and with the support of Telus, has circulated bits and pieces of CMCR/IMCR data, as have campaigns opposed to the deal by public interest groups such as Open Media and PIAC.

We are very happy to have our research used by anyone who might find it useful. Indeed, we want as many people to use this data, scrutinize it, improve it, suggest better data sources, especially for the early years and for hard-to-come by industries such as film, music and books, etc., as possible.

Of course, we have our views on these matters, but we strongly believe that it is more important that you take a look at the data and draw your own conclusions.

By clicking through to the Media Industry Data tab of this site you will find a series of worksheets with “raw data” for each of the twelve sectors covered by our study. The data covers the years 1984 through to 2011, with a separate set of spreadsheets showing projections of what the Bell-Astral deal would mean for radio, television and the network media as a whole in Canada, should it be approved.

The data has been gathered and presented at four-year intervals up until 2010, after which they have been done on an annual basis. Market share is based on the revenues of each firm with over a 1 percent share of the market. Some of the data sets have not been completely updated for this year (wired and wireless telecoms, magazines, search), but we will do so as soon as time permits. A much fuller discussion of methodology can be found here.

We hope that you find these resources useful. We would love to hear any comments or suggestions that you’d like to offer.

The CMCR Project Team