My name is Julien Brazeau. I am the associate deputy commissioner, competition promotion branch, with the Competition bureau. I'm joined to my right by my colleague Ms. Jeanne Pratt who is the senior deputy commissioner, mergers and monopolistic practices with the Competition Bureau, and to my left by my colleagues from the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Mark Schaan, director general, marketplace frameworks, as well as Adam Scott, director, telecommunications policy branch with the department.
We've been advised of a number of the issues of concern to the committee. I'll endeavour to address some of these issues in my remarks today.
I will begin by providing some context about the Competition Bureau and its mandate, then move on to our role as it relates to merger review and how we interact with the CRTC.
The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian consumers and businesses prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace. Headed by the Commissioner of Competition, the bureau is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act and three labelling statutes.
The Competition Act provides the commissioner with the authority to investigate anti-competitive behaviour. The act contains both civil and criminal provisions, and covers conduct such as bid-rigging, false or misleading representations, price-fixing, and abusing a dominant market position, among other things.
The act also grants the commissioner the authority to make representations before regulatory boards, commissions or other tribunals to promote competition in various sectors.
In reviewing mergers, the bureau undertakes an exhaustive, fact-intensive review, including an evidence-based quantitative analysis. It's also important to note that each review is conducted on a case-by-case basis, and decisions are made based on a thorough analysis of the available evidence.
The bureau conducts its merger reviews in confidence. All non-public information gathered by the bureau in enforcement matters, whether it be obtained voluntarily or through the use of formal powers, is held on a confidential basis. The law requires that we do not comment publicly until certain steps have been taken, such as referring a matter to the Competition Tribunal. This is done to protect the integrity of the bureau's investigations.
In our merger reviews, we consider many different factors, including the level of economic concentration in the relevant market, the merging parties' market shares, the degree to which the parties compete with one another, and whether there are other effective competitors that could constrain the exercise of market power by the merged entity. In examining a merger, the bureau consults with a wide range of stakeholders, including consumers, competitors, suppliers, and regulators.
Our act is a general framework piece of legislation applicable to all sectors of the economy. I would stress that when reviewing mergers, the bureau's focus is on economic competition and efficiencies related issues, such as the impact of the merger on prices, or in the case of media mergers, on advertising rates and viewership. As you well know, in conducting our analysis, we are bound by the four corners of our act. The factors I just listed are contained in section 93 of the act. It is important to note that it is the combination of these factors and not the presence or absence of a single factor that is determinative in the bureau's assessment.
While the bureau's focus is primarily on price and output, we also consider non-price dimensions of a proposed merger, such as quality, choice, service, and innovation. These factors are approached again from an economic lens and are considered especially in markets in which there is significant non-price competition. The Competition Act is not intended or designed to address social or cultural issues associated with media mergers, such as diversity of voices.
At the bureau, we are aware that there are a number of broader policy issues at play, as evidenced by the Department of Canadian Heritage's review of cultural content that encompasses the CRTC and that may impact this committee's considerations.
Discussions of media concentration and its effect on diversity of voices are not unique to Canada. While regulatory frameworks do differ from country to country, there is general international consensus that antitrust merger reviews should be focused on economic effects.
As such, antitrust authorities are seldom tasked with examining socio-cultural issues in the context of their reviews. The consideration of public interest issues such as diversity of voices is often the purview of communications regulators distinct from competition authorities. Notable examples include the United Kingdom, where the Competition and Markets Authority, which is the U.K. equivalent of the Competition Bureau, is tasked with reviewing mergers, including mergers of communications entities through an economic lens. Ofcom, which is the U.K. telecommunications regulator, considers public interest issues and advises the Secretary of State whether to intervene in a given transaction.
Similarly, in the United States, the United States Department of Justice's antitrust division is responsible for merger review, whereas the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is mandated with considering broader public interest considerations, including diversity of voices, in the context of their concurrent review with media ownership transactions.
Canada is generally aligned with its foreign partners in this respect. While the bureau through its economic efficiency lens conducts a rigorous economic analysis to determine whether a proposed transaction is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition, the CRTC, in its concurrent review of proposed broadcasting transactions, is enabled to look at broader public policy issues, including diversity of voices in their determination of whether or not to approve a transaction.
I understand that one of the interests of this committee is the bureau's understanding of the current competitive state of the media and communications market.
Briefly, the bureau does not monitor any market on a day-to-day basis. As a law enforcement agency, our focus on competition in a specific market is driven by a proposed transaction in a given sector, complaints we have received or information that has come to our attention that there may be an issue in a market.
As I previously mentioned, bureau reviews are conducted on a case-by-case basis and thus, the bureau's understanding of the competitive landscape in a given sector is limited to the time frame in which the transaction or investigation arose.
There are many other issues of concern to the committee, so I will end my remarks here. I will note that while the bureau is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the act, the lead for competition policy rests with the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
I'll, therefore, turn it over to my colleague, Mark Schaan.