The larger story is that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has rejected an application from BCE Inc. to acquire Astral Media Inc. This means that the companies will remain independent, and among other things CJAD and CTV won’t be owned by the same company.
The smaller story is the denial of a related application from Bell to convert TSN Radio 690 (CKGM) from English to French, to meet the commission’s common ownership policy. With the larger deal denied, the smaller one becomes moot. Bell said at the hearing that the latter was contingent on the former, and without approval of the larger purchase it would continue to operate TSN Radio as is.
This is the best possible outcome for TSN Radio and its fans. Any decision allowing Bell to acquire CJAD would have meant moving Canadiens games there, and TSN would have either been converted to French, sold or shut down.
The question is what will Bell do now. Does it still plan to launch RDS Radio in Quebec? If so, on what frequency and where? (The number of vacant AM frequencies in Monteral is going down fast.) Many people were looking forward to a French sports station that could take over where CKAC left off. Even many TSN Radio fans angry with the application said they would love to see a French-language all-sports station alongside the English one.
Requests for comment from people at the station were passed up the chain until I got an official “no comment” from Greg McIsaac at TSN. But privately, station staff are thrilled. As are fans, who expressed delight on Twitter. The language change would almost certainly have meant job losses at CKGM and possibly CJAD as well as the latter incorporated programming from the former.
UPDATE: Bell says it’s asking the federal cabinet to step in to reverse the decision. (Astral has nothing interesting to say yet.) The federal government says it will not overrule the regulator (whose chair it has just appointed), but Bell says it will formally ask for intervention anyway. Bell could also try to have the decision overturned in court, though it’s unclear under what grounds they would ask for a legal appeal.
In its angrily-worded statement, Bell also accused the CRTC chair of impropriety, saying he had met with Bell’s competitors but not with Bell. As the CRTC tells it, this is correct, but only because Bell had an application in front of the commission and it would have been improper to meet with Bell. The commission also says that at no time did the other companies discuss the Bell application with the CRTC ex parte.