Quebecor takes aim at Bell-Astral deal, tells CRTC it can’t be allowed

September 11, 2012  |  Canadian Press  |  Comments

Quebecor‘s chief executive says Canada will have one of the highest levels of media concentration if Bell‘s $3.4-billion acquisition of Astral Media goes ahead.

CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau is telling a CRTC hearing in Montreal that Bell’s pan-Canadian media ownership would be well above the accepted 35% level.

Peladeau says his company – one of Bell’s chief rivals – owns 8.4% of the Canadian market.

Quebecor has joined Cogeco Cable and Eastlink to launch a campaign to oppose the deal, which they say would give Bell too much control over the country’s broadcasting landscape.

Peladeau told the hearing that Bell’s negotiating power to buy series, documentaries or sports in both languages would be much stronger than other players in the Canadian market.

He says even if the CRTC were to impose conditions, Bell would try to find ways to get around them.

Bell has told the hearing that with the acquisition of Astral, it will own 33.5 per cent of the English language market and 24.4 per cent of the French-language market.

That’s under the 35% threshold set by the CRTC for approval, but BCE’s competitors dispute that figure and say it is higher.

The deal would bolster Bell’s French language content in Quebec – Quebecor’s core market – and will see an all new French language news service launched in Montreal.

Bell has said the acquisition of the Astral media assets will provide more competition in Quebec’s French-language market, which is dominated by Quebecor.

Earlier Tuesday, Bell Media said it will look at selling TSN radio in Montreal if the CRTC shoots down changes the telecom giant wants to make at some of its radio stations in the city.

Bell is asking the CRTC to convert its English language TSN sports radio to French language RDS all sports radio. The company says the move would better appeal to English and French listeners.

Bell says it will add more sports content to its all-talk station CJAD in Montreal to serve the English market.

It has already told the hearing that it will divest 10 radio stations in five markets as part of the deal to buy Astral.

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