Bell Astral Deal: Rick Mercer Offers 'Media Swab' Test To See If You've Been Taken Over

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Have you been taken over by Bell Media? The Rick Mercer Report is offering a simple way to find out for sure.
Have you been taken over by Bell Media? The Rick Mercer Report is offering a simple way to find out for sure.

Have you been taken over by Bell Media? The Rick Mercer Report is offering a simple way to find out for sure.

On his show Tuesday night, Mercer introduced the world to the “media swab” — a tongue-in-cheek “test” that “lets you know in seconds whether Bell Media has purchase on your being.”

The test involves placing a paper strip on your thumb.

“If your thumb turns blue, you have in fact become a low-level subsidiary of Canada’s largest media provider,” the announcer states. “If your thumb is non-reactive, you are still an independent entity ... that will eventually be taken over by Bell Media. Just not today.”

The mock ad campaign is a reflection of concerns among many people that Bell Media — already the country’s largest media company — will become too large if its bid to buy Astral Media goes through.

Consumer advocates and Bell competitors alike have lined up against the deal, saying it would raise the level of media concentration in Canada to unacceptable levels, reduce jobs in media, and could pose a threat to cultural diversity, particularly in Quebec.

The Say No To Bell campaign, organized by some of Bell's corporate competitors, says the media conglomerate will control 37.6 per cent of all TV viewing in Canada if the deal goes through.

"If Ottawa allows this deal to proceed, Bell Canada will dominate the Canadian TV broadcasting scene and become a threat to the industry and to Canadian consumers," its website states.

For its part, Bell says its $3.4-billion deal to buy Montreal-based Astral Media is necessary in order for it to compete with rising international media brands such as Netflix.

"Canada should not have to wait any longer to deploy a viable, national multi-platform solution, backed by a company with the resources to compete against well-funded global competitors," CEO George Cope told the CRTC earlier this month.

The proposed merger is under review by both the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.

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