CRTC says no to BCE acquisition of Astral Media

“BCE failed to persuade us that the deal would benefit Canadians,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC.

“BCE failed to persuade us that the deal would benefit Canadians,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this afternoon announced it had denied BCE’s (TSX:BCE) application to acquire control of Astral Media’s television and radio services because it is not in the public interest.

“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.”

BCE, the parent company of Bell, wanted to buy Astral for $3.4 billion.

BCE competitors Telus, Rogers, and Quebecor said the transaction would not be in the best interest of consumers and would be bad for competition.

At a hearing in September, Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said “The proposed transaction includes a staggering number of precedents that no other Western country, conscious of diversity, competition and democracy, will have faced.”

BCE operates Bell Media, one of Canada’s largest media companies, which owns the Canadian television networks, CTV and CTV Two, plus thirty other specialty television channels, Bell Media Radio, and a chain of retail stores. BCE owns 18% of the Montreal Canadiens and, along with its competitor Rogers, now owns a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns several Toronto professional sports franchises, including the Toronto Maple Leafs. BCE ranked number 262 on the 2011 edition of the Forbes Global 2000 list.

Astral Media operates 84 radio stations and 20 pay and specialty television channels in both official languages.