Quebecor Inc. is asking the CRTC to block Bell Media’s acquisition of a French-language television network, arguing that the deal would be detrimental to Quebec’s TV market.
Bell, a division of BCE Inc., announced last summer that it plans to acquire the V channel and its digital assets from privately-held Groupe V Média. The deal also includes video streaming service Noovo.ca, as well as TV stations in Quebec City, Saguenay, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Bell Media currently owns the CTV Television Network and a number of specialty TV channels.
Quebecor, which owns TV stations in Quebec under its TVA network, as well as specialty channels and a subscription streaming service called Illico, is asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to deny the transaction.
The Quebec-based company, which filed an intervention with the regulator on Friday, claims that if the deal goes through, it would give Bell control over a significant portion of Canada’s total advertising revenue. That would allow Bell to dictate advertising rates, leading to significant revenue losses for other players and ultimately harming the quality of French-language television programming, Quebecor said.
“Bell used to be a monopoly and, unfortunately, I think this is something that they have in their DNA, and certainly they’d like to recreate that monopoly," Quebecor president and chief executive Pierre Karl Péladeau said in an interview.
Bell countered that Quebecor is the one that’s “overwhelmingly dominant” in the province’s media industry.
“As a Quebec company ourselves, Bell sees the rebirth of V as a way to deliver more choices to viewers here, new options for creators and some much-needed competition in the Quebec media marketplace," Bell spokesman Marc Choma said in an e-mail.
It’s not the first time that the two sides have sparred. Earlier this year, they got into a spat over the terms of Bell’s TV services carrying Quebecor’s specialty channel, TVA Sports. After accusing Bell of competing unfairly, Quebecor blacked out the TVA Sports signal for Bell customers just before the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. After a hearing on the matter, the CRTC ordered Quebecor to maintain the signal for Bell subscribers.
Mr. Péladeau said Friday that while he supports competition, Bell’s national presence and diverse array of services leaves others at a severe disadvantage.
“Competition is good until you’re killing the competition,” Mr. Péladeau said, adding that he plans to raise these issues during the CRTC’s public hearings on the matter, which are scheduled to begin Feb. 12.
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