Canadian telecom and media giant BCE, owner of Bell Canada, announced Friday the takeover of pay television and radio operator Astral Media in a deal worth $3.38 billion. The cash-and-stock deal for all outstanding Astral shares will make BCE, Canada\'s biggest media giant, \"the leader in French-language media,\" according to a joint statement from the firms. \"Greatly strengthening Bell\'s competitive position in the important Quebec media marketplace, this transaction directly supports Bell\'s strategy of investment and innovation in broadband networks and content,\" the statement said. \"Bringing together two respected and longstanding Montreal brands, Bell\'s acquisition of Astral firmly establishes our company as Quebec\'s media leader,\" said George Cope, president and chief executive of BCE and Bell Canada. \"Bell is gaining a well-seasoned national Astral management team, dramatically expanding our French-language content, and more than leveling the playing field with our largest broadcast media competitor in Quebec.\" Astral operates 22 television services including 13 French-language channels, including Super Ecran, The Movie Network and HBO Canada. It also has 84 radio stations in 50 markets, including big brands like NRJ, Virgin Radio, Rouge fm, EZ Rock and boom, and more than 100 websites and digital media properties. Under the deal, Bell will acquire the non-voting Astral shares for $50 per share, a 39 percent premium to its average closing over the last five trading days. Bell will also acquire all voting and special shares.