Bell vows to appeal merger decision with cabinet

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) president and chief executive officer George Cope (L) and Ian...

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) president and chief executive officer George Cope (L) and Ian Greenberg (R), president and chief executive officer of Astral Media Inc., speak at a news conference in Montreal, March 16, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Daniel Proussalidis, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 7:16 PM ET

OTTAWA — Bell Canada Enterprises isn't giving up its $3.4-billion effort to swallow Astral Media.

“The Broadcasting Act explicitly empowers the cabinet to issue directions to the CRTC on broad policy matters,” Bell legal officer Mirko Bibic said in a statement.

Bell accused the CRTC of ignoring its own policies in rejecting the mega-merger Thursday, so it will formally ask the federal cabinet on Monday to direct the CRTC to follow a 2008 policy Bibic believes would favour the deal.

Still, the Conservatives don't seem inclined to get involved.

“There actually is not a mechanism by which cabinet can intervene in this process,” Heritage Minister James Moore said Friday in Vancouver. “This is an independent decision and it’s for the CRTC to explain their decision making, which I believe they did yesterday."

The NDP said it’s happy the feds seem to be staying out of the issue.

“I’m, in a sense, a bit relieved if that’s the position that the government takes, that it’s none of their business to intervene in a legal matter,” said New Democrat MP Francoise Boivin.

Boivin added she wishes the Tories had also “voiced their happiness” with the CRTC decision, instead of staying so neutral.

“I think there’s nothing wrong for the government to state very clearly that they do agree that concentrating all the media into a few hands is not ... a good thing for Canada,” she said.

In rejecting the takeover, the CRTC stressed it was concerned that if Bell got too big, it would be able to bully its competitors and reduce the options available to consumers.

Independent media analyst Carmi Levy agrees.

“The more content you own, the more networks that you own, the more infrastructure that you own, the more you can control how much that content should cost, who has access to it, who can licence it, who can’t,” Levy said.

If the federal cabinet tilts the CRTC process in Bell's favour, the company said it will re-file for approval of its takeover bid.

— with files from Ada Slivinski


Photos