The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) gave its decision late yesterday afternoon (Oct. 18) to deny BCE's bid to purchase Astral Media for $3.4 billion (U.S. $3.45 billion).
The CRTC, a public organization that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada, echoed the stance of other media giants in the country - Quebecor, Cogeco, Eastlink, Rogers, Telus and the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance - that opposed the sale.
"BCE failed to persuade us that the deal would benefit Canadians," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement. "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 already controls numerous television and radio services, as well as a national broadcasting distribution service. It is the largest Internet service provider in Canada, the second largest wireless service provider and the third largest television distributor.
Astral is Canada's largest radio broadcaster with 84 licensed radio stations in 50 markets in Canada, operates more than 100 websites, including for TV and radio, and has an out of home advertising division. It also owns 25 television services, making it the country's largest broadcaster of English and French-language pay and specialty television services.
According to the CRTC release, "The proposed transaction raised substantial concerns related to healthy competition, the concentration of ownership in the television and radio markets, vertical integration and the exercise of market power in an anti-competitive manner. The CRTC was not persuaded that the transaction would have provided significant and unequivocal benefits to the Canadian broadcasting system and to Canadians sufficient to outweigh its concerns."
BCE's application to convert CKGM Montréal from an English-language station to French was also denied, since BCE had stated it was only interested in the change if the acquisition was approved.