September 15, 2012
CBC opposes Bell's plan to buy Astral
By QMI Agency
MONTREAL - CBC/Radio-Canada is the latest media company to come out against the planned merger between Bell and Astral Media.
The CBC - both its English and French departments - opposes Bell's plan to create a French-language TV news service, according to a letter the state broadcaster sent to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
The CRTC is holding public hearings into the planned multibillion-dollar merger.
The CBC said Bell wants to sidestep federal rules requiring companies to invest in Canadian content. Federal rules stipulate that the buyer in a media company transaction must use a percentage of the sale towards the creation of Canadian programming.
CBC wrote that Bell's plans are a "an affront to the commission, an abuse of the commission's procedures and a breach of natural justice which prejudices the rights of intervenors, CBC/Radio-Canada and other interested parties."
The CBC wrote that Bell's plan "is extraordinarily self-serving and unprecedented. No party has ever before suggested that benefits monies should be used to subsidize the launch of a totally new broadcasting service - let alone a service in a category that the commission has classified as competitive and made subject to open entry with uniform conditions of licence."
The CRTC said it would take CBC's objections into consideration.
The CBC wrote that all Bell wants to do is undermine competition and asked the CRTC to reject Bell's French-language news service proposal.
"Despite its protests to the contrary, (Bell) has a dominant position in Canadian communications. A new French language news service owned by (Bell) would be able to leverage (Bell's) dominant position to its own advantage and to the disadvantage of existing services and other potential start-ups."
Astral Radio's president, Jacques Parisien, said he isn't surprised by the CBC's stance on the merger.
"(The CBC's objections) prove that there is room in the market ... and consumers will come out winners."
Parisien disagrees that Bell's plan to start a new French-language news service is an abuse of federal regulations.
"(The CBC) can accuse us of what they want," he said. "We can ask to have a service and we will. The CBC can react at that time."
Quebecor, which owns QMI Agency and Sun Media, has told the CRTC that the Bell-Astral deal would create a near-monopoly.