Bell Canada Rivals Urge Regulators to Block $3.38 Billion Astral Media Takeover

Top media execs launch an online petition to block the acquisition, which will give the phone giant a larger share of the domestic radio and TV market.

TORONTO – Bell Canada’s three main rivals in eastern Canada have launched a public campaign to oppose the phone giant’s pending $3.38 billion takeover of Astral Media.

“History shows us that when too much power is concentrated in one company, it leads to higher prices and poorer choices,” Lee Bragg, CEO of Eastlink, told reporters in Ottawa as he urged the CRTC and the federal Competition Bureau to block the proposed takeover.

Bragg, Louis Audet of Cogeco Cable and Pierre Karl Peladeau of Quebecor said greenlighting the Astral Media acquisition would put Canada in league with Italy, Mexico and Brazil in allowing undue media concentration.

The deal will give Bell Canada and its Bell Media subsidiary a 38% share of the Canadian TV market, the three competitors insisted as they launched an online petition to appeal to Canadian TV and radio consumers, and warn against higher prices and poorer choice should the Astral Media deal receive regulatory approval.

“Those of us that are assembled here today know this transaction is not good for the country and should not be approved,” Audet, president and CEO of Cogeco Cable, argued ahead of the CRTC and the Competition Bureau ruling on the deal.

The Cogeco Cable topper refused to say whether his company had put in a bid for Astral Media, alongside the winning overture from Bell Canada.

“This is totally irrelevant,” an irritated Audet told reporters.

The CRTC, Canada's TV watchdog, is expected to rule on the Astral Media takeover in October.

The Competition Bureau, which weighs major takeover on competition grounds, will also weigh in on the blockbuster deal.