Rivals Continue Backlash Over BCE & Astral Merger

As BCE’s profits continue to mount so too does the opposition from the telecom’s competitors about the proposed Astral takeover.

On August 8th, the telecommunications giant reported a second-quarter profit of $773-million up from $590-million a year ago. The day before, three cable companies jointly urged Canadian regulators to block BCE’s planned acquisition of Astral, claiming the move would hurt competition, boost fees and reduce content choices.

“Few of the world’s major economies permit a single private broadcaster to acquire such a dominant share of TV viewing. Bell Canada’s TV audience share would be 50% greater than the audience share of the largest private firms in the USA, Japan, UK, Australia, France or even Russia,” said Lee Bragg, CEO of Eastlink.

He adds: “Giving one private broadcaster so dominant a share of the television market is bad for consumers and bad for Canada.”

Cogeco Cable and Quebecor joined Eastlink to call on the Competition Bureau, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the Government of Canada to block the $3.4-billion takeover of Astal.

To further that cause, the three media companies also launched the website saynotobell.ca to get Canadian consumers on the bandwagon.

Responding to the accusations that Bell would gain too much control over the country’s broadcasting landscape, BCE’s CEO, George Cope said that the limit for market share established by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is 35 percent.

“With the acquisition of Astral, combined with Bell, we will be at 24 per cent of French language in Quebec,” Cope said in a Toronto Star report.

“In fact, noted Cope, “that will be less than Quebecor, the company that yesterday was claiming that we were going to be too large in Quebec.” Looking at the English perspective, Cope said the company would be at 33.5 percent, also under the established threshold.

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