I'm Mad as Hell


and I can't do a thing about it

Canada’s Own Evil Empire?

Most of the blogs I write are born in a news story or an event that grabs my interest and all but twists my arm forcing me to write something about it. This one is different. This blog is the result of an accumulation of upset that has taken years to come to terms with. I ask you, anyone who reads this column, is there a huge corporation in Canada that is more anti-consumer than Rogers?

Let me start with the easy stuff. Rogers brought the mobile phone industry to Canada, does anyone remember Cantel? They created a mobile telephone system that was ludicrously expensive and then created fictitious fees to gouge their customers even more, fees that we are still paying, for services that do not exist and never have. Sure Bell and Telus came along afterwards and jumped on board to overcharge Canadian consumers, but it was Rogers that created the pricing policies that make this country one of the most expensive in the world to own and operate a cell phone.

Canada was a leader in creating cable television. We were the first country in the world to use this system for disseminating TV signals. Many Canadians have a short memory about this industry. In fact Rogers bought into the industry, they had little to do with creating it. What Rogers added was higher prices and the inability to chose the stations you wanted. They bundled services so that if you want The Movie Channel, you have to buy a whole whack of stations you may not have any interest in. Worse, if you want Turner Classic Movies, you have to pay the big bucks for The Movie Channel to get it. It’s been close to two years since they promised the CRTC that they would give the consumer the choice to pay for only the stations they want, yet nothing has happened. The Rogers people gift to Canadians: little choice, higher prices and if I may add here, long telephone waits and poor service.

I will only mention Rogers internet service in passing. Canadians pay way too much for internet service, again, amongst the highest in the world. And, if that’s not enough Rogers has added insult to injury by using throttling to slow their service when it gets busy. You pay for fast service, but Rogers slows it down on purpose. While U.S. companies race to install fibre optic wire to help make their service better and quicker, Rogers uses old fashioned coaxial cable that in many cases is as much as forty years old. They claim the high prices are to increase bandwidth and new technology…where do we, the consumers, see the results of that money?

Don’t get me started on their television services. In a previous blog, The Rape of CITY-TV, I discussed how Rogers ruined one of the most unique and innovative television franchises anywhere. When was the last time anyone noticed CITY-TV? They also own Rogers Sportsnet. This started as a regional sports network with four channels, each aimed at a different part of the country. Then the tricky bastards at Rogers added Sportsnet One, put a lot of the most watched content on the new station exclusively and made us pay more to see the channel. Rogers also owns Omni, the multicultural channels with bases in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
What did they do with those licenses? First they got rid of most of the multicultural content and replaced it with cheap U.S. game shows and sit-com reruns. They do news in Italian, Chinese and Hindi and run some movies in those languages but they produce very little else. What you may not know is that when you see a Russian show, an Arabic show or any other minority show, the minorities buy the time from Rogers and then have to find their own advertising dollars to pay for their work and what they owe Rogers for the airtime. Many actually lose money to provide their poor communities with a service while Rogers makes millions off them and billions in total.

Rogers also owns the Toronto Blue Jays. They should be embarrassed by their involvement. They have managed to turn the largest market for any single baseball team, 33 million in Canada and 5.5 million in the Toronto area into what they call a small market. Year after year they have underfunded the Jays, in fact the Jays’ budgets are the same today, about $60 million U.S., as when Rogers bought the team. What that doesn’t take into consideration is that the Canadian dollar was at 65 cents when they took over and is close to par today. That means they are actually spending 30% less today then they spent when they bought the team. No need to ask why the Jays have never gone to the post-season under Rogers’ ownership, the answer is all too obvious.

Now Rogers wants a piece of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, TFC, etc. Here they see an opportunity to parlay ownership of the teams into television content for their channels. If past performance is any example of future performance, don’t plan for any parades on Yonge Street…ever.

Over the decades Rogers has set the example of greed and gouging that has been seen and followed by the folks at Bell, Shaw, Telus and the rest. They could have been leaders in customer service, competitive pricing, quality television and performance excellence. They never chose those routes. All they have ever shown an interest in was maximizing their bottom line at the expense of their customers.

Who do I blame? Ted Rogers of course, but I also blame the CRTC and the Canadian government for allowing them to get away with the worst of their actions. How could the CRTC allow them to create phony charges for cell phone service? How could the CRTC have allowed prices to grow out of all proportion to other countries? How could the CRTC change their own rules to allow cable companies to own television stations? How indeed?

The people who ran and run Rogers should be ashamed of what they have wrought. The CRTC should be ashamed of what they have allowed to pass. Finally, successive governments of Canada, both Liberal and Conservative should be ashamed of standing by while the CRTC allowed Rogers to gouge the Canadian public.

I invite anyone from Rogers who wants to rebut anything to contact me. I will make space available to them to explain their side. I’m sure all Canadians would like to hear any explanation from Rogers.


Filed under: Media Commentary, Political Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

16 Responses

  1. I posted this on Twitter, saying, “The only thing wrong with this post on #Rogers is the question mark in the title,” and it’s now being passed around with, it seems, no small amount of gratitude. Thanks 🙂

    • hlbtoo says:

      Your welcome Scott. The question mark was for my protection not Rogers’.
      By the way, I have since been informed by readers who want to remain anonymous that I missed some issues. I missed, forgot Rogers’ wonderful negative option billing for which they were slammed by nearly everyone in Canada.
      An ethnic reader using the example of Russian programming points out that one has to pay $30 for the five Russian channels available through Rogers Cable. Rogers keeps half, $15 for doing next to nothing resulting in costs that are way above what they need be.
      Keep your thought coming.
      Interestingly, I have not heard a word from Rogers.

  2. Lon says:

    The problem also Howard is the cozy I’ll scratch yours relationship between Rogers executives and CRTC bureaucrats. Ask yourself where the bureaucrats find work in the private sector and you might have part of the answer why Rogers gets pretty well all that it asks for and can pay lip service to much of what the CRTC asks of it.

  3. Josh. says:

    Howard, in terms of the channel bundling – the thing is, that’s standard practice in the industry. The only place in North America where you can choose your channels individually is in Quebec: http://www.videotron.com/service/tv/illico-digital/custom-package/custom-package (Look at option #2. Bell offers a pick-and-pay service too, but only in Quebec, and theirs isn’t nearly as good as Videotron’s.)

    Comcast, Cablevision, Time-Warner, Bell, Shaw – none of these companies offer pick-and-pay options either.

    I agree with you that Rogers spits all over its customers, but in terms of channel-bundling, they’re simply following the crowd.

    One other point on that is that Rogers is currently offering pick-and-pay, but only in London as a pilot project and only, as you note, because the CRTC has told them to. And they’re doing all that they can to bury the option: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/tech-news/rogers-to-test-pick-and-pay-tv-in-ontario/article2221633/

  4. Bill says:

    Howard you are right on and the CRTC and Competeition bureau plus several Tory Govt’s have allowed it to continue!

    There is far too little competition in our media, phone, cable and satellite industry in Canada, it is a disgrace.

    For all its greed and awful business practices Rogers is continually $7-$8 billion in debt. They couldn’t run a two
    holer! They paid at least three times what the cable
    company was worth in Eastern Nfld.

  5. Brian says:

    Fantastic article. I just left a message to CRTC to formally complain about a company that totally abuses its monopolistic powers. I even think the article was a little too kind. The interest they charge for consumers is something a loan shark would be envious of. I can go on and on about Rogers. It is very odd to me that a democratic country with elected officials would allow this to continue. It just shows me that not as many people have had the opportunity to live abroad for an extended period of time. What we pay for cell phone, internet and cable is absolutely criminal. Please someone in our government do the right thing.

    • hlbtoo says:

      The problem ruggedcanuck, is that the CRTC does not control Rogers, Rogers controls the CRTC.

      • Brian says:

        So what can we do? Regrettably, I usually don’t get involved actively to fight for the consumer or common man but Rogers has pushed me to the edge with their total disregard to fair practices. Also, I lived in Seoul, South Korea, Australia and Colombia. The internet services and cell phone services were every bit as good if not better than Rogers at a fraction of the price. Cable was cheap but the channels were foreign (foreign content) so it would be comparing apples to oranges but no doubt the public in those countries would be willing to pay for the same channels as we pay here. Anyway, I guess I have to write my local MP now? Lastly, I stumbled on your blog. I want to know more about you. You seem very candid, thoughtful, knowledgeable and thorough in your writing. Thanks Howard. We need more people like you articulating the dangers and exploitation of institutions like Rogers (evil empire).

  6. Brian says:

    Correction: Cable was cheap but the channels were foreign (foreign content) so it would be comparing apples to oranges but no doubt the public in those countries would be willing to pay for the same channels as we pay here.

    Cable was cheap but the channels were foreign (foreign content) so it would be comparing apples to oranges but no doubt the public in those countries would NOT be willing to pay for the same channels as we pay here.

    • hlbtoo says:

      thanks ruggedcanuck for the kind words…it’s time to start spreading the word about Rogers and let’s not forget Bell, if enough people get angry the politicians will have to respond. Rogers and Bell will never respond without political pressure.

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