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Astral Media seeks court protection from Competition Bureau

Montreal, - Astral Media Inc. asked the Federal Court of Canada on Monday to prevent the federal Competition Bureau from interfering in Astral's purchase of radio stations in Quebec and New Brunswick.

Astral lawyer Louis Belanger argued that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has all the authority and competence it needs to vet or reject the takeover of 17 French stations announced in 2001.

The CRTC has already held hearings into the proposed $255-million acquisition from Telemedia Corp., and a decision is pending shortly.

However, the Competition Bureau later insisted it also wanted to go over the deal, to see if there would be less competition in the French-language radio market if the Astral purchase went through.

Belanger argued that the CRTC has exclusive jurisdiction in the field and that the agency also looks at the economic aspects of media acquisitions, including the issue of competition.

"Although the (Competition) Bureau has a general jurisdiction over competition, essentially economic, what we're saying is the CRTC has the general and exclusive jurisdiction over the radio industry, which includes the economic aspects of the industry itself, including competition," Belanger said outside the courtroom.

Belanger said the CRTC looks at the competition issue in the context of other competing media, such as television and newspapers.

The Competition Bureau, he said, merely looks at competition between radio stations within a given radio market.

The case continues before Justice Luc Martineau.

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