BCE Inc.'s chances of reversing the broadcast regulator's decision to block the takeover of Astral Media Inc. by appealing to the federal cabinet look slim, given the public statements from the government.
But BCE chief executive George Cope has pledged to try, even though he acknowledges that it's a "hill to climb." So what does BCE have to do?
The first step is convincing cabinet to ignore any public sentiment against the deal (and there was plenty, as evidenced by the volume of submissions to the regulator) and step in to issue a "policy directive" to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. But it doesn't end there.
BCE argues that a long-standing policy requires the CRTC to include Canadian viewership of U.S. channels in its market share numbers, and says that the CRTC ignored that policy and instead used only Canadian channels. That boosted market share numbers for a combined BCE-Astral and put the deal offside.
BCE plans to apply soon to the federal Cabinet seeking a directive requiring the CRTC to hew to that policy. But even if Cabinet agrees, it's only the beginning of a long process.
After notice of the directive is officially published, the government must hear "representations" from "interested persons," according to the Broadcasting Act.
Then, the order has to go into the houses of Parliament. It then faces committee hearings, should the House of Commons or Senate decide those are necessary.
And nothing can happen before 40 "sitting days" have expired.
There are 35 sitting days left before the holiday break, meaning it certainly won't be until the New Year before anything can move ahead.
Then finally, it the policy direction would go to the CRTC. If BCE gets what it wants, the company would then reapply to the CRTC for approval to buy Astral, starting another very lengthy approvals process.
In other words, even if Cabinet agrees with BCE's position, no decision on whether the company can buy Astral would be forthcoming for many months.