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CONSUMERS APPLAUD CRTC DENIAL OF BELL’S BID FOR ASTRAL

OTTAWA – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today welcomed and applauded the decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to deny the acquisition of Astral Media inc. by Bell Canada Enterprises.

“In today’s clear and unequivocal decision, the CRTC listened to concerns voiced by Canadians and public interest groups about the proposed Bell bid to acquire Astral,” said Janet Lo, Counsel for PIAC. “Bell did not prove that this deal would benefit consumers through increased choices, improved service, or price reductions.”

The Commission found that Bell’s proposal to acquire Astral was not in the public interest. The Commission’s decision recognized that a combined Bell/Astral would control an unprecedented amount of total revenues and viewing share. The Commission also noted that Bell already holds a significant position in the Canadian broadcasting system. The Commission detailed the public interest test for ownership transactions and found substantial concerns related to competition, concentration of ownership in the broadcasting industry, vertical integration, and anti-competitive behaviour in the broadcasting market.

“The Commission drew a bright line that Bell’s proposed bid for Astral would result in too much control in the hands of Bell and reduce competition to the detriment of Canadian consumers,” said Lo. “The Commission is sending a strong message to the broadcasting industry that any future media consolidation transactions must be proven to serve the public interest, reinforcing the importance of a healthy diversity of voices in the Canadian broadcasting system.”

PIAC, which acted as counsel for the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC), Canada Without Poverty (CWP), and Council of Senior Citizens’ Organization of British Columbia (COSCO), appeared before the Commission in September arguing that the transaction would create an unprecedented level of media concentration and vertical integration in Canada and weaken competition in broadcasting services, resulting in higher prices for television programming to consumers. At the hearing, PIAC presented survey results showing that 82% of consumers felt the cost of television service was too high and 71% of consumers feel there is no real choice between television service providers.

 

thumb_pdfDownload File: bell_astral_sept12_environics.pdf [size: 0.04 mb]

 

PIAC is a member of the Stop the Takeover Coalition , a broad-based coalition of public interest groups who opposed the transaction.

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