CRTC establishes new chief consumer officer post

CRTC establishes new chief consumer officer post
Jamie Sturgeon | Aug 31, 2012 11:49 AM ET | Last Updated: Aug 31, 2012 1:42 PM ET
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The regulator for the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors has established a “chief consumer officer” position, whose job will be to put the interests of the public at the heart of policy-making.
 Veteran bureaucrat Barbara Motzney, formerly the director general of copyright policy within the federal Heritage department, has been appointed as the first CCO for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
“This [position] will ensure that consumer issues are integrated into all aspects of the CRTC’s work and that its decisions are more relevant to Canadian consumers,” new chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.
The commission, which holds the difficult task of managing market balance across two fast-changing industries, has faced some criticism in the past stemming from a perception it has allowed corporate interests to sway its decision making.
In late 2010, the commission permitted Bell Canada Inc., the country’s largest Internet provider, to implement so-called usage-based billing on third-party Internet resellers. The move threatened to upend the small but competitively important sub-sector and was ultimately amended after then-federal Industry Minister Tony Clement threatened to intervene.
The CRTC’s decision in late 2009 forbidding new wireless entrant Wind Mobile from launching services as a result of its controversial ownership structure also drew cries from consumer advocacy groups that incumbent interests like BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp. were heavily influencing the commission’s thinking.
 The creation of the new post, which follows on Mr. Blais’s June appointment, also arrives amid unprecedented consolidation between the broadcast and telecom sectors, as larger wireless, TV and Internet providers like Bell and Rogers acquire a growing array of media properties.
 Consumers groups as well as competitors have voiced concerns that the market consolidation could lead to higher prices and less competition. BCE faces regulatory hearings beginning Sept. 10 over its proposed $3.38-billion acquisition of Astral Media Inc.
 Rogers bid $167-million for Score Media Inc. last week, a deal also requiring regulatory approval.
 Ms. Motzney, who will assume the post Oct. 1, will lead research initiatives “to identify trends and best practices, including those in other jurisdictions,” a statement said.

The new role “is to better understand the concerns of Canadian consumers and bring them to the commission’s attention during the decision-making process,” the chairman said.

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