Canada – CRTC approves BCE’s bid to acquire Astral’s television and radio services

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved an application by Astral
Media Inc. to sell its pay and specialty television channels, conventional television stations and radio stations to BCE Inc. The CRTC’s approval comes with a number of conditions that are necessary to uphold the public interest.

The application filed in agreement with the Competition Bureau included a proposal to sell 10 radio stations and 11 television services as well as certain restrictions, such as a prohibition on imposing restrictive bundling requirements on providers.

Following the divestitures, BCE’s share of the French-language television market will be 22.6 per cent. Consumers in this market will benefit from a more competitive landscape. In the English-language market, its share will be 35.8 per cent, which required a careful examination of this transaction’s impact on the broadcasting system.

As a result, the Commission has put in place further measures to address
potential anti-competitive behaviour, to maintain a dynamic marketplace
and to ensure Canadian listeners and viewers will continue to have access
to a diversity of voices in the market. Among other things, BCE must:
– adhere, as a condition of licence, to certain sections of the CRTC’s code of conduct for commercial arrangements that limit potential anti-competitive behaviour and ensure fair treatment for independent programming services and distributors
– not unduly withhold non-linear rights from competing distributors, even if BCE is not exploiting such rights itself
– provide reasonable access to advertising opportunities on its radio stations to all competitors
– file with the CRTC affiliation agreements with programming services and television distributors
– enter into a CRTC-supervised dispute resolution process if an affiliation agreement is not reached 120 days before the expiry date of
the existing agreement.

Today’s decision follows a proceeding that included a public hearing, which was held from May 6 to 10, 2013. The CRTC received more than 800 interventions during this public proceeding, as well as two petitions totalling more than 16,000 signatures.

Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2013-308

Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2013-309

Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2013-310

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