CRTC denies BCE’s bid to acquire Astral
Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission(CRTC) denied BCE’s application to acquire control of Astral Media’s television and radio services because it is not in the public interest.
Astral Media operates 84 radio stations and 20 pay and specialty television channels in both official languages.
“BCE failed to persuade us that the deal would benefit Canadians,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “It would have placed significant market power in the hands of one of the country’s largest media companies.
We could not have ensured a robust Canadian broadcasting system without imposing extensive and intrusive safeguards, which would have been to the detriment of the entire industry.”
The proposed transaction raised substantial concerns related to healthy competition, the concentration of ownership in the television and radio markets, vertical integration and the exercise of market power in an anti-competitive manner. The CRTC was not persuaded that the transaction would have provided significant and unequivocal benefits to the Canadian broadcasting system and to Canadians sufficient to outweigh its concerns.
BCE already controls numerous television and radio services, as well as a national broadcasting distribution service. It is the largest Internet service provider in Canada, the second largest wireless service provider and the third largest television distributor. The acquisition of Astral Media’s services would have created a situation where a company of BCE’s size and scale would be able to exert its market power unfairly and hinder healthy competition.
The CRTC also denied BCE’s application to convert CKGM Montréal from an English- to a French-language station. BCE indicated that it was only interested in changing the station’s language format if its acquisition of Astral Media were approved.
Today’s decision follows a public proceeding, which included a public hearing held from September 10 to 14, 2012.
Background information on the public interest test http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/com100/2012/r121018.htm#adtnl
This raises the question “What next?” Presumably the owners of Astral still want to sell..would a Rogers or Shaw purchase be any more in the public interest? Same question for a breakup of Astral and piecemeal sale of the assets. What do you think?