Last month we launched the CMCR project with a goal of making available a systematic, comprehensive and long-term body of data covering more than a dozen sectors of the telecom, media and internet (TMI) industries in Canada for the period from 1984 to the present. The launch coincided with the start of the CRTC’s hearings on Bell’s proposed take-over of Astral Media. It was a huge success, with nearly 700 hits on our blog on just the first day.

We worked hard on getting the material up in time for the hearings and to this I owe several graduate students, Adeel Khamisa, Adam Webb and, subsequently, Lianrui Jia, an enormous amount of gratitude. They did an extraordinary amount of work under a great deal of pressure and exceeding tight time frames to make this happen.

Indeed, it was only at the very end of July that I got the call to write a report on behalf of PIAC’s intervention opposing Bell’s bid to take-over Astral that the gears were put into motion to pull all of the data together for 2011 and to write the report. The report was submitted to the CRTC less than two weeks later, on August 9th.

I was extremely proud of the work done to pull together the report for PIAC and in getting our updated data sets out in the public domain. All sorts of numbers were being tossed about with little sense of how different people ostensibly looking at the same thing could arrive at such different conclusions about the state of media concentration in Canada.

This sense of great satisfaction took a hit on the last day of hearings, however, when Bell filed an exhibit with the CRTC claiming that the figures in my report for CBC television and radio revenues was incorrect. Unfortunately, Bell was right and the figures that I reported for CBC revenues were too low.

The data was revised, corrected and resubmitted to the CRTC immediately. These errors are regrettable and I am deeply sorry they happened. However, as I have said many times before, systematically gathering a body of data that covers more than a than a dozen sectors of the TMI industries over the course of more than a quarter-of-a-century is not easy. Indeed, this is why we initiated the CMCR project in the first place, and no doubt why no comparable body of data exists.

Nonetheless, it is essential that I be transparent about my mistakes and work to set things right. This is what we have done over the past month. Today we will start to release the revised data sets, beginning with those that are directly relevant to the Bell Astral deal: radio, broadcast television, pay and specialty television and lastly the total television market.

Also included in today’s release is a new set of tables showing the impact of the Bell’s acquisition of Astral should it be approved. Lastly, in addition to showing market shares for each of the players in these media sectors, we have also added completely new data sheets showing their revenues in each of the years covered by our study.

The corrections and revisions do not contradict my original report’s main assertions that, should Bell’s bid to take over Astral be approved, concentration levels:

1. in radio will rise significantly;
2. remain unchanged in broadcast tv because Astral has a miniscule presence there;
3. rise to extremely high levels of concentration in the pay and specialty servicesmarket (43%);
4. increase substantially in the “total television market”.

The corrections to the CBC data do reduce Bell’s market share slightly but actually result in CR4 and HHI scores that are higher than originally reported. Finally, the Bell Astral deal will raise the levels of vertical integration in Canada significantly as well. We already have the second highest levels of cross-media, vertical integration among thirty-two countries studied by the IMCR project. If the Bell Astral deal is approved, we will have the dubious honour of being Number One.

We will release the rest of the updated and revised data sets for the following sectors over the next two weeks: wired telecoms; internet access; wireless cable, satellite & IPTV; newspapers; magazines; online news sources; search engines. Stay tuned!