Update: CRTC denies BCE bid to purchase Astral Media, would have been to the “detriment of the entire industry”

Daniel Bader

October 18, 2012 4:37 pm

The CRTC ruled today that BCE Inc., owner of Bell Mobility, could not purchase Astral Media. The $3.4 billion deal would have put over 100 radio stations, 30 standard television stations and over 50 specialty services in the hands of one company. While the deal would not have affected the mobile industry directly, it stood to impact the price of content for competing companies such as Rogers, TELUS, Shaw and others.

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

Astral Media owns specialty stations such as TMN and HBO Canada, which are part of Bell’s growing Mobile TV offering. Bell claimed that they would have created a Netflix competitor if the deal went through, in order to better fend off competition from the service and others like it, which are increasingly steering Canadian eyes away from traditional broadcasters such as network television.

Most of the deal’s opponents argued that services, from television to mobile, would become more expensive for Canadians. BCE claimed the deal would not have stifled competition and would have led to better Canadian content and lower content prices down the road.

Update: Rogers sent out a press release with a statement on the decision. “We commend the CRTC for this courageous decision. We believe that Canadians should have fair and open access to content. This is a good day for consumers.”

Update #2: Bell has now issued a statement, saying they are “shocked by CRTC rejection of Astral transaction,” further stating that they’ll “request that the federal Cabinet intervene in the CRTC’s decision to reject Bell’s acquisition of Astral Media. Bell is appalled that the CRTC would come to a decision that so negatively impacts Canadian consumers and the national broadcast industry, contravenes its own policy and is tainted by behind-the-scenes lobbying by Bell’s cable rivals.”

Source: CRTC
Via: The Globe and Mail

  • Mark

    WOW, alot of pundits and “experts” said they would be very surprised if it was just a flat “no”.

    • john

      yea pretty surprising those saynotobell.ca campaign actually worked.

    • MG

      I’m doing the “Bell got screwed” happy dance! woooohoooooo!!!

  • J

    Yet the competition bureau, the one in charge of determining competitive behaviour, approved this.

    What this really proves is that the CRTC can be bullied by opposing business interests.

    Prime example: Quebecor was a fierce opponent – yet they hold 35% of French media and 28% of English media in Quebec. This would make Bell their only true competition there.

  • J

    And now Rogers and Telus can bid on Astral assets as well. How is that “competitive” or “beneficial to Canadians?”

  • BT

    I’m really surprised they didn’t just rubber stamp this…

  • Bad Apple

    Good!!!
    CRTC show me more what you can do!
    Open this freaking market.

    • Nik

      What they did is essentially close the market by saying that Astral could not be sold to the most applicable bidder. The CRTC has taken the industry back.

  • jpp613

    What a load of cr*p. The CRTC is limiting technology growth and consumers to enjoy new innovative things. Sure Bell would own a lot of media, but in a country with less people the only way to distribute this kind of technology is through a bigger company who can afford it. Bell won’t be a monopoly, they would still be competing with Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu etc. It would be nice if the stupid government would actually let a Canadian company do well among other bigger players and allows Canadians to experience rich media channels like the US does. Disappointed in the CRTC

    • HO

      ..Hulu?, what fkn country do u live in?, if anything is good what they did today (at last), shame they don’t do it more often.

    • Big Ang

      Bell has the money, technology, know-how, and established client base WITHOUT the Astral merger to open up a Netflix competitor. Clamming they needed Astral to create one is BS.

    • MG

      Either JPP613 is actually George Cope or this person is a seriously brainwashed Bell employee…

      First time ever I see CRTC having real cojones. Too bad Cope’s ego is too large to take this one on the chin. He will not stop until this decision gets reverted. It’s all about money and ego…

    • Paul

      Apple, Hulu, Amazon??? you are writing about the wrong country!!! There is no real competition in Canada now as it is. you want to concentrate it more for the financial gain of one company??? Is this really Kevin O’Leary??? Come on Kevin you can tell us it is really you…lol

  • Me

    Finally!! If customers knew how much Bell litigates behind their back (i.e. before CRTC), they would never support Bell, and consequently BCE. I, for one, am always happy when Bell loses anything (from a customer, to a case such as this)

  • superfly

    End 3 year contracts…..stop wasting our time with this crapola.

    • Marianne

      I love that there are 3 Bell ads on the page right now, take that Rogers/Telus

    • Marianne

      There are 3 year contracts because people don;t want too pay for their phones, you NEVER have to take a contract, it’s the customers choice. Choice is good.

    • Big Ang

      @ Marianne

      Your argument would be valid EXCEPT that there is no discount on your monthly bill if you choose to buy the device outright and do not go under contract.

      Come back when Bell (or Rogers or Telus) have added a viable option for people to buy the device outright AND get a discount on their monthly fee if they choose not to get a phone subsidy.

    • Masked Bandito

      Big Ang is wrong. Bell gives a 10% discount per month when you buy a phone outright. And even that’s too much IMO. Why should you get a discount for buying your phone outright? Your discount is not having to pay a cancellation fee.

  • Mankin4

    CRTC you’re full of old, bureaucratic bums who need to change and be fired. CRTC needs to lean down and get a fresh perspective on the way things work, instead of being old fashioned and archaic

    • Paul

      you have to be kidding mankin!!! This is the first time in recent memory the CRTC actually did something right. To say it is full of old bureacrats make me question what you would like to see. I would like to see robelus stop buying the media up and then only offer it exclusively to their own carrier. Now please go seel you Astral stock now because the only ones that can justify this abad decsion are the ones with a vested interest. Way to go CRTC!!! Never thought I would say that…lol

  • Netguru

    It is about time the CRTC grew a pair and stood up for Canadians! Bravo (not the Bell channel).

  • Mr. Reliable

    WoW! CRTC DID SOMETHING! I’m impressed!

  • Thai

    This is the very single useful decision the CRTC has ever made. Good stuff. Those who wanted BCE to make the purchase, you’re a complete utter moron in epic proportions.

  • common_sense

    Good decision.

  • Kid.Canada

    This is very surprising considering that the CRTC would bow down to them. Honestly…

    P.S: I agree with Mankin4, its time to get rid of all these bums who can’t do their jobs right. They should not be able to be pushed over more so taking control of the industry. Its time for a change, its time for new faces.

  • HO

    Why so many ppl in anger about a good (finally one) decision by the CRTC?, and if Rogers and Telus decide to bid they should get the same treatment, pls ppl don’t jump the gun just yet, this is not a detriment to technology in Canada, blame that on RIM and the likes who buy mApple trash along with every single bad mandate by the CRTC (not this one!), blame that on Rogers n the big telcos of this country.

  • Aubin78

    Garbage! The CRTC would rather see this company fall in to foreign hands I guess???? And you can’t tell me if they didn’t have the capital Roger’s and or Telus/Shaw wouldn’t have tried the same thing? GARBAGE! TIME TO ABOLISH THE CRTC!

    • Big Ang

      I’d rather have the Canadian media marketplace full of many, small and mid-sized companies even if half of them are foreign owned, than a marketplace dominated by 2 or 3 giant monopolies which control every single media distribution even if those 2-3 companies happen to be Canadian.

  • 0defaced

    funny how the CRTC says one big company can’t rule a whole bunch, and people are whining about it……

    oh and Aubin78, shut the f**k up. Robbers have more capital than Bell on their own. Bell just tried to be the big boys and got put in their high-chair.

  • kroms

    “BCE failed to persuade us that the deal would benefit Canadians. 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.”

    This is exactly why Canada is messed up…the CTRC needs to OPEN the market to the outside world and then this BCE thing would not even be NEWS.

  • GENERAL WONG

    They don’t even want to unlock my IPhone. Take that, Bell!

  • Pukka

    I was hoping this deal would go through. Would have been an awesome chance for bell to start something creative (Netflix competitor). I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of this.

  • CD

    Bell doesn’t need this to compete with Netflix – they can do that today with their current content agreements. They just haven’t delivered an app that can do so.

    The big win here is that if BCE would have been allowed to monopolize the content to such an extreme, they would have made it very difficult for other content providers to negotiate with them for access. Whose quality do you thenk they’d guarantee first? (their own) Even with what they have today, competitors have to go to extreme lengths to access content that is managed by Bell.

    I’d be surprised if Telus wanted a bid for it, perhaps Rogers, but more likely Shaw.

  • gurtej08

    The price for cable and satellite and cable (which ever company you would go with) would have increased with this deal. By how much? I don’t know but it’s not hard to imagine. Companies would have to get the rights of their competitors channels which would likely mean that the end users would end up paying (like we already do for some channels). Also, the CRTC does to some extent need to allow foreign competition in for the media industry. Rogers runs the cable and Bell runs satellite. There is absolutely no competition for either company in this regard. In the US, you have DirectTV v.s. Dish Network, Comcast vs. TimeWarner, etc. Thats what competition should be like. The customers shouldn’t have to pay more just because cable companies have to licence shows from the U.S.

    • gjeff12

      Out here in B.C. and Alberta we have Shaw instead of Rogers but its the same deal. Its getting harder to justify paying for tv anymore.

  • gurtej08

    Also, I would like to see google fibre in Canada. That would be amazing.

  • gjeff12

    The crtc is not that bad when it comes to radio and tv. We all base our opinions on their crappy job at dealing with phones and wireless stuff.

    • Nik

      CRTC doesn’t deal with phones and wireless stuff. The Industry Canada does.

  • BteeDunya

    Why consumers beg for Canada to open the gates to foreign companies is rediculous. You really think if AT&T purchased Bell Rogers or TELUS they would drop their pants? Come on. Things would remain status quo except they would just send all profits south of the border.

  • pots

    the crtc should rule the country they rule the airwaves

  • Bwlig1234

    Fu*k you CRTC, fu*k you Quebecor

    I live in Québec and I swear people are fkin stupid over here they claim that this would put Quebecor in bankruptcy! Why are they so dumb? Quebecor and Pierre Carl Pelado (was an a*****e) controls TvA news and all day long they were talking about how bad the merger would be to quebecers! Lol complete morons! The worst thing is that Quebecor have everything here, biggest tv station, newspaper, radio station EVERYTHING and these fkin arssshole (with the voice of Roman Bellic) wants the monopole fakkk this s**t (Romans voice)

    • Francis

      I wanted Bell to get it for that reason… Quebecor…

  • rogue17

    I would have also liked Bell to aquire Astral because in Quebec, Quebecor controls a large part of the market here. They have been doing for 10 years what Bell is trying to do now. Quebecor has a stranglehold here.

    Quebecor outbid Mobilicity and Wind Mobile so they could have the entire Quebec Market to themselves. They Knew that Mobilicity and Wind would be a thorn on their side with their unlimited plans.

    So Quebecor crying foul about the Astral deal is being a hyprocrite.

  • sammmm

    What about the owners of Astral? Its good for them if no one can buy them?

  • Wes

    Screw videotron and Quebecor!!! i want WIND MOBILE!!!!!! unlimited internet at good prices!!!!

  • sammmm

    Also in mobilesyrup related news From 2008 the crtc was approving buying BCE by private equity firms. This was good for canadians. mobilesyrup.com/2008/03/27/crtc-approves-bce-purchase-with-conditions/ Today they refuse consolidation what’s up with that.

  • marcello

    Now that Bell has robbed all their customers out of their hard earned money with High Prices…they are trying to take even more money from each and one of us with trying to rule the world! I commend the CRTC!

  • OgtheDim

    I suppose this means the Globe and Mail can stop the anti Netflix articles?

  • rogue17

    I agree with you Wes. But Quebecor did everything to keep Mobilicity and Wind Mobile out of Quebec. They overbid at the auction just like Bell was willing to overpay for Astral’s Shares.

    So Quebecor starts the nonto bell camapign.Quebecor is a bunch of hyproctites and now are afraid of losing market share to FibeTV. But guess what. Videotron now doesn not stand chance going up against Bell for Market shar.Fibe is way ahead in technology. Videotron took their customer base for granted and did not invest. So with or with out Astral Bell is going to kick Videotron’s butt.

  • Terry_in_Hali

    How many times can they re-run “Storage Wars” on 5 or 6 specialty channels at the same time?

    This seems to be more about denying acess than providing quality content.

  • rogue17

    I hope that Bell is able to buy the French specialty channels from Astral to compete with Quebecor. Quebecor has way too much marketshare in Quebec.

    Quebecor is no angel either.

  • abc123

    What this only tells us is that there are more former Rogers and Telus employees at the CRTC than Bell. LOL.

  • Jaymerman79

    still don’t understand the reasoning behind purchasing media… the CRTC has already ruled that even if Bell owns a channel, they must offer it to TELUS (Etc) at fair market rates and cannot lock it to Bell customers only.

  • mediajediX

    The way I look at this is not that the CRTC “stood up” for Canadians but instead stood up for all the lobbyist money streaming from Rogers. I don’t think the Bell purchase of Astral was a good thing for consumers, but I don’t think the CRTC was actually worried about consumers, and was more worried about upsetting the other big controlling interest in CRTC policy, namely Rogers.