CRTC watchers eat crow. Don't you hate it when the world changes faster than you can write about it? Thursday's triumph over Bell is wonderful for consumers; for the thesis I was developing here, not so much. The comments I've read all indicate the Astral decision shows Chairman Blais really does intend to build a consumer-oriented CRTC. I trust he will understand why industry watchers, present company included, had been pretty much unanimous in predicting he'd never, ever turn down Bell on this acquisition.
On Thursday this week, the CRTC killed the Bell Astral deal. The decision was entirely unexpected by anyone, including me, although all along I have argued that Bell's bid to acquire Astral Media, the eighth largest media company in Canada, gave the CRTC ample ground to do exactly what it did. I also argued that it was the right thing to do, and that the CRTC should stop Bell's take-over bid for Astral "dead in its tracks."
On Thursday, the CRTC rejected Bell's proposed acquisition of Astral. The quick, unanimous decision -- the hearings wrapped up just over a month ago -- leaves no doubt about CRTC chair Jean Pierre Blais' top priority. Simply put, the public (whether as the public interest or as consumers) comes first. In four months, Blais has transformed the CRTC into a pro-consumer advocate, creating the kind of regulatory agency that until recently was scarcely imaginable. The change is long overdue and credit must go to the new chair and to the government, which has presumably provided the mandate for real change in Canadian telecom and broadcast regulation.