CRTC Hearings on Bell's Acquisition of Astral Begin Today
Announced in mid-March, Bell is hoping to acquire Montreal-based Astral Media for $3.3 billion. The acquisition is being pursued by Bell in an effort to strengthen the company’s competitive position in the Quebec marketplace.
To better understand whether this acquisition will have significant impact on the Canadian broadcasting sector, the CRTC has started its review process in which related parties will clearly outline why the acquisition is a good deal for Canada.
As the acquisition is so large, the deal has gotten a lot of attention from Canadian citizens and as a result the CRTC has received 1,600 comments and 8,000 form letters as a response.
“We take very seriously our mandate to review this transaction and ensure that it is in the public interest. I would remind everyone that it is the responsibility of a seller or their representative to prove that a transaction in the public interest. In this case, that means that the burden of proof rests squarely with Astral and BCE. We will not hesitate to challenge their representatives, as well as the other parties appearing before us this week, to demonstrate how it will benefit the communication system from a social, economic and cultural perspective. We will also want to make sure that BCE’s application sets out the best possible proposal for the current market and for Canadian citizens, creators and consumers,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman, CRTC in the hearing opening remarks.
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The CRTC will consider specifically the concentration of ownership in both French and English language TV and radio sectors, the value of the acquisition, whether the acquisition adheres to the CRTC’s various policies including diversity of voices, common ownership, and vertical integration and if the transaction proposes tangible as well as intangible benefits.
“Competition provides many benefits to consumers, including a healthy choice of broadcasting and telecommunications services. The panel will therefore examine how this transaction could impact the competitive balance in the Canadian market. In particular, we will evaluate the potential risk that BCE could abuse its position in the programming and advertising markets for French- and English-language radio and television services. In addition, we will consider the impact the transaction could have on subscriber rates and other relevant markets,” said Blais.