Canada approves revision to previously anti-competitive broadcaster acquisition

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE)'s most recent bid to buy Astral Media's television and radio services for CAD$3.4 billion has been approved on Thursday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Canadian regulatory body which supervises broadcasting and telecommunications.

The CRTC rejected BCE's initial bid for Astral in October, citing concerns over market competition. According to Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC, BCE's most recent bid protects Canadians' interests because BCE will have to invest in new Canadian programming to the tune of $246.9 million in addition to selling almost two dozen of Astral's services.

Do you think this decision really protects costumers' interests?

The CRTC said they will also be imposing a number of competitive safeguards. For example, BCE is required to adhere to certain sections of the CRTC's code of conduct for commercial arrangements, the purpose of which is to limit potential behaviour which would stifle competition as well as to treat independent programming services and distributors fairly. It must also provide to its competitors "reasonable access" to advertising opportunities on its radio stations.

When the deal is completed, BCE's share of the English-language and French-language market will grow to 35.8% and 22.6%, respectively. BCE will be required to keep running all of its local TV stations while maintaining their current levels of local programming.