CRTC chair to rule on Bell-Astral merger

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais listens to Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) President and Chief...

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais listens to Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) President and Chief Executive Officer George Cope as he speaks during the CRTC hearings in Montreal September 10, 2012. A public hearing into Bell's $3.4-billion acquisition of Astral Media got underway on Monday in Montreal. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 4:14 PM ET

The president of the CRTC will announce a decision on the controversial Bell-Astral merger Thursday afternoon.

A decision on the $3.4-billion deal, which has been at the heart of months of debate regarding to the Canadian media landscape, is expected at 4 p.m.

Montreal-based BCE, parent company of Bell, wants to buy multimedia company Astral for $3.4 billion.

"The proposed transaction includes a staggering number of precedents that no other Western country, conscious of diversity, competition and democracy, will have faced," Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau told a CRTC hearing last month.

Quebecor — which owns Sun Media, Sun News Network and QMI Agency — would face hefty competition in Quebec if such a deal were allowed to go forward – one Bell has argued would be good for Quebecers.

But Quebcor — along with Cogeco, Eastlink, Rogers, Telus and the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance — say the transaction is not in the best interest of consumers and would be bad for competition.

Bell says the Astral deal would give it control of less than the maximum 35% English-language market share decreed by the CRTC.

But a monitoring report by the broadcast watchdog reports a figure of 39.7%.

At the end of the CRTC hearings regarding the acquisition of Astral Bell, the Competition Bureau said he was "increasingly concerned" about the consequences that might result from this transaction.

Melanie Aitken, the former commissioner of competition with the bureau, stated that even if the CRTC approves the transaction, the Competition Bureau could refuse.


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