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TheStreet Open House

Astral And Bell Media Reply To CRTC Submissions

Stocks in this article: BCE

"A primary focus for Bell Media is growth in Québec and the French-language media marketplace. Even after the sale of half of Astral's French-language specialty TV services, Bell Media would increase its viewing share in this market to 22.6% - still less than the 31% viewing share enjoyed by Québecor, but a significant enhancement to market competition nevertheless," said Mr. Crull. "All of these remaining English and French-language TV services are part of the Astral and Bell Media plan to increase consumer choice and service innovation in Canadian media."

The principal opposition to Astral joining with Bell Media has come from some cable and telecom companies that compete with Bell, specifically because Astral and Bell Media are eager to inject fresh ideas, significant new investment, and more competition into Canadian media, especially in Québec.

These competitors, many of them large vertically integrated corporations, claim Astral and Bell Media will somehow restrict their access to content - despite the fact that both Astral and Bell Media already have long-term distribution and affiliation agreements in place with them. Bell Media is also respectful of and compliant with the CRTC's rigorous Vertical Integration rules, which govern the relationship between broadcasters and distributors.

Recognizing the rapidly changing competitive landscape in a multi-platform, cross-border broadcasting universe, Bell Media was formed in 2011 to compete both with Canada's established vertically integrated cable/broadcast companies and with fast-growing international broadcasters such as Netflix and Google. Bell Media's plan to join with Astral was originally announced on March 16, 2012. After the CRTC's rejection of Astral and Bell Media's original application on October 18, 2012, the two companies filed a new application addressing the CRTC's concerns on November 19, later amended to reflect terms in the March 4, 2013 consent agreement between Bell and the Competition Bureau.

Bell Media has also committed to a tangible benefits package of $174.64 million to develop and promote new French and English language TV, radio and film content, support emerging Canadian musical talent, and enable new media training and consumer participation initiatives in the Canadian broadcasting industry.

Bell Media will also retain Astral's 2 rural over-the-air TV stations in British Columbia, CJDC in Dawson Creek and CFTK in Terrace, and Astral's interest in the Viewer's Choice Canada pay-per-view service. Astral and Bell Media have committed to keeping all local TV stations open and to maintaining their local programming.

Consistent with the CRTC's policy on radio ownership, Bell is divesting 10 English-language radio stations. Because of the strong desire expressed by Montréal sports fans to retain TSN Radio 690 as an English-language sports station, Bell Media has requested permission to continue to operate TSN 690 as an English-language sports radio station.

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