Canada backs BCE takeover of Astral


A Canadian regulator on Thursday approved a revised multibillion-dollar takeover bid by telecom and media giant BCE for pay television and radio operator Astral Media.

In the modified proposal, there remained “a significant risk that BCE could exert its market power to limit choice and competition,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

But, he added, to win approval of the deal, BCE has agreed to checks on its market domination, as well as the sell-off of significant parts of Astral to competitors and the investment of 246.9 million Canadian dollars ($235.7 million) in new Canadian programming.

Most of that money has been earmarked for television programs, with the rest going toward the development, production and promotion of Canadian feature films, as well as helping launch the careers of emerging artists and supporting campus and community radio stations.

BCE also must make its newly acquired and vast film and television library, which gives it an edge against online content providers such as Netflix, available to others at a reasonable price.