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Blais Says CTRC Applying Rigorous Test on Media Buys

Canada’s top broadcast regulator said he is applying a “more rigorous” public-interest test on ownership transactions in the country’s broadcasting industry.

In a speech today at a media conference in Banff, Alberta, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said it’s important for regulators to be audacious to serve the interests of Canadians, citing his decision to toughen regulation in the wireless phone market and last year’s rejection of BCE Inc.’s bid for specialty-channel provider Astral Media Inc.

“That was clear from our response to the initial application made by BCE to acquire control of almost all of Astral’s holdings,” Blais said in the text of the speech posted on the agency’s website. “Our decision last fall sent a clear signal that the public interest is paramount.”

Blais rejected BCE’s C$3 billion ($2.95 billion) bid for Astral Oct. 18, saying the takeover would curb television and radio competition. BCE has since revised its offer for Astral, agreeing to sell assets to allay concerns about its size. Hearings on the new bid were held last month in Montreal.

BCE shares fell to C$43.95 in Toronto today, the lowest level since January, while Astral shares fell 3 cents to C$48.53.

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