BCE-Astral, Consumers ready for the $3.4-billion CRTC decision today

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre knows Bell Canada (TSE:BCE).
From J. Goss + Art

At 4:00 PM EST this afternoon the  Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission will release its decision on Bell's $3.4 billon takeover of Astral Media. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre will be on-site analyzing the document. PIAC represents consumers. Its team of lawyers and researchers know the CRTC, Competition Bureau, Bell Canada (TSE:BCE), Rogers Communications Inc. (TSE:RCI:B), Telus Corporation (TSE:T) ...

Shortly after 4:00 PM the Public Interest Advocacy Centre will comment on the decision. J. Goss + Associates provides strategic communications services to the influential consumer group. 

Three ways the CRTC decision on BCE-Astral could go 

The Globe and Mail outlined three scenarios: "The deal is killed entirely. This seems highly unlikely … The deal goes through without alterations. Given the tenor of the CRTC’s questioning last month during the hearings, this too seems improbable. 

Simon Houpt reported for the Globe and Mail the deal could be "approved, with conditions. The CRTC wants to ensure a so-called “diversity of voices” on the TV lineup, which requires it to figure out whether the market share of the combined Bell and Astral TV channels exceeds certain levels of concentration. Bell submitted viewership data that argued it would still be below the threshold, but even if it is forced to divest some channels to lower its market share, that might not be a net loss for the company, which may be happy to sell off some of its money-losing CTV2 channels. The Commission might also insist Bell change the programs it pledged to fund with the $200-million tangible benefits package it proposed, or increase the amount of money. 

Reuters, Canadian broadcast regulator set to rule on BCE-Astral deal

"The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission said it will issue its decision on Thursday on BCE Inc's (BCE.TO: Quote) controversial C$3 billion takeover of content provider Astral Media Inc (ACMa.TO: Quote). In public hearings before broadcast regulator CRTC last month, BCE's competitors including Telus Corp (T.TO: Quote), Quebecor Inc (QBRa.TO: Quote) and Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO: Quote) all voiced strong issues with the deal," Euan Rocha reported for Reuters on Oct. 17

Dow Jones, Canada Broadcast Regulator to Rule Thursday on BCE Deal for Astral

The acquisition by Montreal-based BCE, Canada's largest telecommunications provider, would bolster its presence in Quebec and expand its French-language media content. Astral is the largest supplier of English- and French-language pay- and specialty-television services in Canada. Its channels include HBO Canada and the Movie Network," Paul Vieira and Ben Dummett reported for Dow Jones.

QMI Agency, CRTC chair to rule on Bell-Astral merger 

"The proposed transaction includes a staggering number of precedents that no other Western country, conscious of diversity, competition and democracy, will have faced," Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau told a CRTC hearing last month. Quebecor — which owns Sun Media, Sun News Network and QMI Agency — would face hefty competition in Quebec if such a deal were allowed to go forward – one Bell has argued would be good for Quebecers," QMI Agency reported on Oct. 17, 2012.

Media Advisory - CRTC Media Lock-Up - Decision on BCE/Astral's transaction

October 18, 2012
Lock-up:  2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
CRTC Central Office
1 Promenade du Portage, Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
Central Building, Gatineau, Quebec
The decision will be posted on the CRTC website at 4:00 p.m. at www.crtc.gc.ca

Globe and Mail, Online campaign takes on ‘telecom price-gouging’

"OpenMedia.ca is set to launch a new online campaign Wednesday to channel consumer anger over convoluted contracts for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The group’s launch of CellPhoneHorrorStory.ca comes as the federal telecommunications regulator seeks the public’s input on creating a national code to strengthen consumer protections for wireless services," Rita Trichur reported for the Globe and Mail on Oct. 17

Financial Post, Competition beats cell regulation

"Our counsel to government would be to intensify focus on the industry framework and use the policy tools available to buttress the competitive marketplace. Look at mandatory wholesale, proscribe tower-sharing and roaming prices and availability, extend spectrum exclusivity in the new 700 megahertz band to the new entrants — these steps will do more to add balance to the marketplace, and more to benefit the consumer, than still more regulation," Iain Grant, the managing director of SeaBoard Group wrote in the  Financial on Oct 15, 2012.

Previous reports on Bell-Astral.

For more information: Public Interest Advocacy Centre