Canada regulator rejects Bell's bid for Astral
TORONTO (AP) — Canada's broadcast regulator rejected BCE Inc.'s bid to buy Astral Media Inc. for US$3.4 billion on Thursday, saying the deal would have resulted in an unprecedented level of consolidation in the country's media landscape.
BCE, Canada's largest telecommunications company, said it was "appalled" by the decision and vowed it would ask the federal cabinet to intervene.
BCE had wanted to create a media powerhouse with more content to deliver to televisions, tablets and mobile devices.
Astral is Canada's largest pay and specialty TV broadcaster, owning 25 TV stations including The Movie Network and HBO Canada. It also owns 84 radio stations in 50 Canadian markets and is the third-largest outdoor advertising company.
Jean-Pierre Blais, who took over as chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, four months ago, noted the combined company would have controlled 107 radio stations, two national english language television stations and 49 pay and specialty television channels.
Blais said BCE is already Canada's largest internet service provider, the second largest wireless service provider and third largest television distributor in Canada.
"Simply put this was not a good deal for Canadians," he said. "All the services are mechanisms through which content is delivered to Canadians. This transaction would have resulted in an unprecedented level of consolidation in the Canadian marketplace and we had grave concerns that BCE would be able to use its market power in an unfair manner and to engage in anticompetitive behavior."
Many had expected the regulator would approve the deal with conditions. Blais said it's rare that the CRTC has turned down such deals but they had no other option. He dismissed the notion that they could have set conditions on the deal.
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