Ottawa wont intervene in CRTCs BCEAstral decision Paradis

[np_storybar title=”Terence Corcoran: The telecom-media revolution stops here” link=”http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/10/18/bce-astral-the-telecom-media-revolution-stops-here/”%5D It’s a stunning but not illogical decision given the CRTC’s antiquated mandate as an all-knowing and all-seeing regulator. In denying telecom giant BCE’s bid to acquire the broadcasting assets of Astral Media, the CRTC stood athwart the 21st century communications revolution and said the revolution stops here.Read Terence Corcoran’s full comment piece here. [/np_storybar]Industry Minister Christian Paradis is giving the cold shoulder to any government intervention in the CRTC decision to block Bell’s friendly takeover of Astral Media.Paradis says the government won’t get involved to reverse the CRTC’s decision.He says the CRTC operates at an arm’s length from the government, its decision was clear and he respects the CRTC’s ruling.Paradis made his comments at the Canadian Space Agency south of Montreal.[np-related]BCE Inc. has said it will call on the federal cabinet to intervene, but a CRTC spokesperson has said a challenge would have to go to the Federal Court of Appeals rather than to the government.The surprise decision by the CRTC was announced after stock markets closed Thursday and marked the first major ruling for newly installed commissioner Jean-Pierre Blais, who took over in late June.Not only did Blais turn down one of the biggest takeovers ever submitted to the CRTC, he left little doubt about where he stood, or how he would respond should BCE return with a modified but essentially similar proposal.“This transaction would have resulted in an unprecedented level of concentration in the Canadian marketplace and we had grave concerns that BCE would be able to use its market power in an unfair manner and engage in uncompetitive behaviour,” Blais said.“Simply put this was not a good deal for Canadians” that could have restricted choice and raised prices of services, he added.Bell claims the deal would have given it control of 33.5% of the English-language TV market, a level it says should have been approved under guidelines set out in the CRTC’s Diversity of Voices policy, which governs the level of media concentration in Canada.But Blais said that had the regulator allowed the deal, BCE would have controlled almost 45% of the English TV viewership and almost 35% of the French. As well, it would have become the largest radio station operator in Canada and would have controlled over half of TV pay and specialty services.“At the end of the day, BCE demonstrated clearly that the proposed transaction would be good for BCE, but we were not persuaded that it was in the best interest of Canadians,” he said.Astral shares fell 16% Friday in response to the decision. Astral’s A shares fell $7.43 to $39.57 in late morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.BCE Inc. shares were down 73 cents to $42.90.The Canadian Press