Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Paradis stays out of Bell takeover

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TORONTO -- Industry Minister Christian Paradis said he will not meddle in Bell's proposed $3.4-billion takeover of Astral, despite rallying calls from another coalition for Canadians to petition him to oppose the deal.

"As far as I understand this is within the (Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission) jurisdiction and Competition Bureau," Paradis said. "These are arm's-length organizations, so I believe these institutions will do what they have to do according to the law."

Paradis made the statements after a speech about strengthening Canada's involvement in the global digital economy to a Toronto audience at the Economic Club of Canada on Tuesday.

The Stop The Takeover Coalition is calling on Canadians to sign an online petition to Paradis, Heritage Minister James Moore, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau to voice their opposition to the deal they say will further concentrate Canadian media.

However, the Industry Department usually does not become involved in large takeovers unless they are by foreign companies. The deal would see Bell own more than 33 per cent of the Canadian English-language content.

The group is led by Openmedia.ca, and also includes unions and lobby groups such as Canada Without Poverty, the Canadian Media Guild and the Consumers' Association of Canada.

This campaign is similar to one launched earlier this month by Cogeco Cable Inc. (TSX:CCA), Eastlink, and Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B), which are competitors of BCE Inc's Bell (TSX:BCE) and Astral Media (TSX:ACM.A), while Telus Corp. (TSX:T) has also raised concerns.

A Bell spokeswoman said Tuesday it "sees no reason of course, why the Astral-Bell deal wouldn't happen."

In connection with the proposed takeover, Bell announced Tuesday it will invest $15 million in a new partnership with Cirque du Soleil to develop Quebec-based television, film, digital and gaming media content.

The new company will be headquartered in Montreal and develop projects for sale and licensing.

Bell says it would commit another $80 million in new investment in Quebec content development as part of the Astral takeover.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2012 B5

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