Industry calls CRTC Bell-Astral decision “well-reasoned”, “courageous”


The CRTC’s surprise ruling Thursday to deny BCE’s $3.4 billion takeover of Astral Media was followed by a gush of praise from a host of Canadian industry players.

Rogers Communications, which opposed the transaction on the grounds that Bell was already “too big and powerful”  was short and sweet in its support of the regulator’s 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,” said Rogers Communications vice chair Phil Lind in the statement.

ACTRA, which cited concerns for undue media consolidation from BCE’s proposed takeover and proposed tangible benefits package, said it trusted the regulator’s analysis of the transaction.

“Given the stakes of this proposed transaction and the impact it could have had on the Canadian media landscape, we respect the Commissions desire to see that the Canadian public’s best interests are being looked after,” said ACTRA national president Ferne Downey in her own statement.

ACTRA national executive director Stephen Waddell added the CRTC set the table for Canadian media players after a recent spate of industry consolidation.

“Today, we heard, loud and clear, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais’ concerns that this deal would have given Canada’s largest vertically-integrated media company a disproportionate amount of power in the marketplace. It is important to us that competition between Canada’s broadcasters continues to flourish and that a single media entity does not dominate the entire industry, to the detriment of Canadians who depend on its services,” Waddell said in his statement.

Meanwhile, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Union of Canada called the decision “well-reasoned,” reiterating points it had presented at the September public hearing, including concern over job losses following the transaction should it have gone forward.

“Bell proposed to devote millions of dollars to independent productions; CEP expects that as one of the country’s largest media companies, Bell will continue to invest in Canadian programming,” said union VP media Peter Murdoch in a statement. “Going forward, CEP expects the CRTC will apply the same rigour and analytical criteria it did in this decision to the next application filed regarding the Astral assets.”

The Canadian Association of Journalists also praised the decision as one that maintains diversity of voices in the Canadian media sector.

“After a recent history of approving mega-mergers within the broadcast media sector that only increased the consolidation of ownership and decreased the diversity of voices available to Canadians, we’re pleased the CRTC has denied this request. We are best served by having a diverse, healthy, competitive domestic media market and this decision pushes the pendulum back in that direction,” said CAJ president Hugo Rodrigues in his own statement.

BCE, expressing shock over the CRTC ruling, late Thursday said it will appeal the Astral Media takeover ruling to the federal cabinet (read the full story here).

Related: CRTC denies Bell Canada takeover of Astral Media, “Shocked” Bell Canada slams CRTC rejection of Astral deal, Five things we learned from CRTC denying BCE’s Astral takeover