New coalition aims to block Bell takeover of Astral
Bell Canada Enterprises president and chief executive officer George Cope and Ian Greenberg, president and chief executive officer of Astral Media Inc., speak at a news conference in Montreal, March 16, 2012. (Christinne Muschi/REUTERS)
OTTAWA - New pressure is being brought to bear on the CRTC and the Competition Bureau to reject Bell's proposed $3.4-billion takeover of Astral Media, as four consumer groups form a second coalition to oppose the merger.
Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers' Association of Canada, says his group has joined the Stop the Takeover Coalition.
"There's certainly almost a total disdain for (the takeover), not only amongst the public, but certainly amongst their competitors," said Cran.
The deal would give Bell control of 38% of the TV market and 29% of the radio market in Canada.
Cran sees that as "stripping competition" from the media marketplace.
"It would give (Bell) the potential to feed us whatever they wanted, rather than what we wanted as consumers," he said. "In additional to that, they would have almost total control of the pricing structure."
The Stop The Takeover Coalition calls the deal a "power grab" by Bell that would lead to job cuts and provide "less opportunity" for free speech.
So, the coalition is calling on Canadians to sign an online petition that would be submitted to Canada's broadcast watchdog, the CRTC, as well as the federal Competition Bureau.
Aside from the Consumers' Association, coalition members include the Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre, as well as two consumers' groups from Quebec.
It's the second coalition to contest the deal-in-principle this summer.
Cogeco, Eastlink and Quebecor previously launched a "Say No to Bell" joint campaign.
They have received support from Rogers, Telus and the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance (CCSA), who say the Bell-Astral transaction is not in the best interest of consumers and would be bad for competition.
Quebecor owns QMI Agency and Sun Media, and the company's 30% share in the French media market was specifically mentioned by Bell as a catalyst for the proposed merger.
Bell says joining forces with Astral Media will give Quebecers much-needed media competition.
The CRTC will rule on the deal in October following public hearings.