Competition Bureau Grants BCE–Astral Deal

by Istvan Fekete on March 5, 2013

After a lengthy review process, the BCE–Astral deal has received clearance from the Competition Bureau on Monday. The deal also needs the approval of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The approval comes in the wake of Bell’s announcement to sell a number of Astral TV services, retaining only eight services: The French-language SuperÉcran, CinéPop, Canal Vie, Canal D, VRAK TV, and Z Télé, and English-language services The Movie Network, which includes HBO Canada, and TMN Encore.

“Consumers who pay for television programming are looking for greater choice, more innovative product offerings, and reasonable prices,” said John Pecman, Interim Commissioner. “Today’s agreement is essential to preserving choice for consumers and ensuring continued and effective competition in this area.”

You may recall that TV viewership rate, a public interest concern identified by the CRTC among other concerns, was one of the reasons why the Commission rejected the BCE–Astral deal in the first place. Both Bell and Astral have sought to push the deal through, so Bell filed another application on November 19, responding to concerns noted by the CRTC. As a result, Bell Media will have a French-language viewing share of 23%, below Québecor’s 30.5%, while in terms of English-language ownership, it will have 35.7%, 2% more than the company’s current share.

“This positive news from the Competition Bureau is a major step forward in uniting Astral and Bell Media and delivering on our promise to grow investment and competition in Canadian broadcasting,” said George Cope , President and CEO of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada . “This decision preserves the tremendous value the transaction represents to consumers, the Canadian media community, and Astral and Bell shareholders.”

Bell is also committed to selling Astral’s share of 6 TV joint ventures, two Astral stations in Ottawa, to Corus in order to comply with the consent agreement with the Competition Bureau and the amended filing with the CRTC. The aforementioned deal is valued at $400.6 million.

“The commitment to broadcasting investment and innovation by Astral and Bell Media, and Corus’s further expansion into the Québec marketplace, underscores the growing competitiveness in the Canadian broadcasting industry,” said Kevin Crull , President of Bell Media. “We now look forward to demonstrating the many benefits of the transaction to the CRTC and all Canadians.”

Furthermore, has Bell agreed to sell the English-language Family and Disney XD services and the French-language Disney Junior, Musimax and Musique+ services, through an auction process.

After analyzing Bell’s initiatives to comply with the Competition Bureau and CRTC’s Common Ownership Policy, the Bureau announced that it is satisfied with Bell’s proposed divestitures, which “are sufficient to ensure the transaction will not result in a substantial lessening or prevention in any radio market.”

Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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Bell–Astral Merger Receives Green Light from CRTC — TheTelecomBlog.com
June 28, 2013 at 5:31 am

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