New application to join Astral and Bell Media made public by the CRTC
Significant new investment in French-language programming and Québec
Commitment of extensive benefits to create exceptional programming,
promote Canadian talent, connect communities and enhance consumer
All local TV stations to stay open with current levels of local
Learn more about Astral and Bell Media at CanadiansDeserveMore.ca
MONTRÉAL, March 6, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - Astral Media Inc. (Astral) and
BCE Inc. (Bell) today welcomed the public gazetting of their revised
application to the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications
Commission (CRTC) to unite Astral and Bell Media.
"Astral and Bell are ready to propel Canadian broadcasting forward by
raising the bar in consumer choice, programming innovation and industry
competition. Our proposal includes major investments in a broad range
of new TV, radio and film content, and the development of innovative
ways to deliver this fresh and compelling media to consumers across all
platforms," said George Cope, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada.
"This new application to the CRTC clearly demonstrates the tremendous
value the combination of these two all-Canadian media brands will mean
for the Canadian public and their broadcasting industry."
The tangible benefits package of $174.64 million proposed by Astral and
Bell will result in the development and promotion of exceptional new
Canadian TV and film content in French and English, significant new
investment in radio and emerging musical talent, and new and enhanced
initiatives to grow media training and consumer participation in
Canadian broadcasting. In addition to these new proposed benefits of
$174.64 million, Bell earlier committed more than $240 million in
tangible benefits when it acquired CTV to form Bell Media in 2011.
"Canadians want more new options in the way they access the best local
and national programming, and they want a competitive and dynamic
Canadian broadcasting industry," said Ian Greenberg, President and CEO
of Astral. "Our new application to the CRTC outlines how a united
Astral and Bell Media will deliver what the Canadian public is asking
Canadians can learn more about Astral and Bell Media at CanadiansDeserveMore.ca, the information portal for the transaction. The updated website
outlines the benefits of a united Astral and Bell Media for consumers
and the broadcast industry, with interactive features allowing visitors
to show their support for the transaction and get answers to their
questions about the proposal.
Major new Canadian content spending
Of the $124.6 million in TV benefits, 85% will go to independent,
on-screen productions, with $73.1 million dedicated to French-language
programming and $32.81 million to English-language.
"Bell Media and Astral are committed to bringing the very best Canadian
and international content to consumers in all the ways they want.
Innovative viewing options like TMN Go from Astral and Bell Media TV
Everywhere are just the start of the world-class products we'll create
that rival anything that international broadcasters offer - and we
guarantee investment in Canadian content and our broadcasting community
that they can never deliver," said Kevin Crull, President of Bell
Media. "We've based our revised proposal closely on the range of
feedback we've heard from consumers, and we're ensuring that their
direct participation in our industry will grow."
Included in the TV benefits is significant support for the direct
engagement of consumers in Canadian broadcasting. In 2012, Bell Media
established the $3 million Broadcasting Participation Fund, and now
proposes to increase the fund by an additional $2 million over the next
5 years as part of these benefits. A further $2.73 million is dedicated
to consumer education initiatives, $2.69 million to media training and
development, and an additional $500,000 for the Canadian Broadcast
Standards Council. In total, approximately 15% of the TV benefits, or
$18.69 million, will be invested in social benefits.
More French-language production and promotion
A united Astral and Bell Media will bring new consumer choices in
French-language programming and greater competition to Québec media.
Astral and Bell Media will launch a range of new French-language
services, including Investigation based on the successful Discovery TV franchise with programming
specifically tailored to Québec audiences. Bell Media's new joint
venture with Cirque du Soleil will also contribute to further
developing Québec's world-renowned creative industry, while the
Cirque's existing library will have new distribution platforms both in
Canada and abroad.
The TV and film benefits package will include $23.8 million for feature
film initiatives in the Harold Greenberg Fund, $18.8 million of which
will go to French-language projects. An additional $4 million will fund
the creation of a French-language Television Format Development
Initiative for independent producers, directors, writers and actors to
stimulate the development of new talent, from the ideas stage to pilot
production. An additional $5 million will go towards Telefilm Canada's
innovative Private Donation Fund, and $4.9 million will be invested in
French-language youth programming initiatives. $43.65 million will be
dedicated to French-language programming as part of a $68.21 million
investment in the development, creation and production of additional TV
programming of national interest.
Fresh investment in Canadian radio
Astral and Bell Media will direct $50.04 million in benefits to radio,
developing emerging musical talent, showcasing Canada's hottest rising
stars, and opening new doors to action and education in Canadian music.
New initiatives such as the Bell Media Emerging Artist Development
Program and the Breakthrough Canada Showcase Series will be
implemented, over and above the French and English-language benefits
that will also be directed to existing CRTC-established radio funds,
including Radio Starmaker, Fonds Radiostar Factor and the Community
Radio Fund of Canada.
Bell Media will become the first national radio broadcaster to commit to
a minimum of 25% of airplay for emerging Canadian artists at applicable
stations. The companies will also direct more than $8 million to
showcase rising Canadian talent, including development of a free
cross-Canada summer festival spotlighting emerging artists and new
French-language festivals highlighting up and coming acts.
Commitment to local and regional programming
Canadian viewers are deeply committed to their local programming and
local TV stations. Astral and Bell Media will keep all their local TV
stations open and maintain local programming at least through the
length of their current licence terms. Local programming at all Astral
and Bell Media stations already exceeds the minimum required by the
The united companies will appoint executives in Montréal and Toronto to
be Canadian programming champions. Montréal will be media headquarters
for French-language content, under the leadership of the Astral
management team, while English-language programming will be managed
from Toronto. Bell Media will also open new regional development
offices in Halifax and Vancouver.
Astral and Bell Media moving forward
This new application to join Astral and Bell Media responds to the
public interest concerns identified by the CRTC in its October 18, 2012
decision rejecting the companies' original proposal. The new
application to the CRTC released today was filed on November 19 and
later amended to reflect certain terms in the March 4 consent agreement
between BCE and the Competition Bureau.
Under both the consent agreement with the Competition Bureau and the
amended application to the CRTC, Bell will divest several Astral
joint-venture TV services. This will result in a French-language TV
viewership share of 23.0%, and 35.7% in English-language TV viewership.
Bell Media will retain 8 Astral TV services: the French-language
SuperÉcran, CinéPop, Canal Vie, Canal D, VRAK TV, and Z Télé, and
English-language services The Movie Network, which includes HBO Canada,
and TMN Encore. These high-quality pay and specialty TV services are
key to Bell Media's commitment to enhance choice and competition in the
Québec media marketplace and deliver the best content across multiple
platforms in innovative new ways.
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.
Consistent with the CRTC's policy on radio ownership, Bell is also
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 filed a separate
application with the CRTC requesting permission to continue to operate
TSN 690 as an English-language sports radio station.
Even after the planned divestitures, Bell has retained approximately
four-fifths of the original value of the Astral transaction - the
retained TV services, retained radio and Astral's out-of-home
advertising business represent approximately 77% of Astral's EBITDA
(earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).
Originally announced in March 2012, the $3.38-billion transaction to
join Astral and Bell Media was approved by shareholders representing
more than 99% of Astral shares and the Québec Superior Court. Due to
the need for regulatory approvals, Astral and Bell on November 19, 2012
extended the outside date for closing the transaction to June 1, 2013,
with both Astral and Bell having the right to postpone it further to
July 31, 2013.
Founded in 1961, Astral Media Inc. (TSX: ACM.A/ACM.B) is one of Canada's
largest media companies. It operates several media properties - pay and
specialty television, radio, out-of-home advertising, and digital -
that are among the most popular in the country. Astral plays a central
role in community life across the country by offering diverse, rich,
and vibrant programming that meets the tastes and needs of consumers
and advertisers alike. To learn more about Astral, please visit Astral.com.
Headquartered in Montréal since its founding in 1880, Bell is Canada's
largest communications company, providing consumers and business with
solutions to all their communications needs. Bell Media is Canada's
premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio and
digital media. Bell is wholly owned by Montréal's BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE:
BCE). For more information, please visit Bell.ca.
The Bell Mental Health Initiative is a multi-year charitable program
that promotes mental health across Canada via the Bell Let's Talk Day
anti-stigma campaign and support for community care, research and
workplace best practices. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.
Caution Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
Certain statements made in this news release, including, but not limited
to, statements relating to the proposed acquisition by BCE Inc. (BCE)
of Astral Media Inc. (Astral), certain benefits expected to result from
this transaction, BCE's plans and objectives, and other statements that
are not historical facts, are forward-looking. Forward-looking
statements, by their very nature, are subject to inherent risks and
uncertainties and are based on several assumptions which give rise to
the possibility that actual results or events could differ materially
from our expectations expressed in or implied by such forward-looking
statements. As a result, we cannot guarantee that any forward-looking
statement will materialize and you are cautioned not to place undue
reliance on these forward-looking statements.
The forward-looking statements contained in this news release describe
our expectations at the date of this news release and, accordingly, are
subject to change after such date. Except as may be required by
Canadian securities laws, we do not undertake any obligation to update
or revise any forward-looking statements contained in this news
release, whether as a result of new information, future events or
otherwise. Forward-looking statements are provided herein for the
purpose of giving information about the proposed transaction referred
to above and its expected impact. Readers are cautioned that such
information may not be appropriate for other purposes. The completion
of the above-mentioned proposed transaction is subject to customary
closing conditions, termination rights and other risks and
uncertainties including, without limitation, approval by the CRTC.
Accordingly, there can be no assurance that the proposed transaction
will occur, or that it will occur on the terms and conditions currently
contemplated by this news release. The proposed transaction could be
modified, restructured or terminated. There can also be no assurance
that the benefits expected to result from the above-mentioned proposed
transaction will be fully realized. For additional information with
respect to certain of these and other assumptions and risks relating to
BCE's proposed acquisition of Astral, please refer to BCE's 2012
quarterly MD&As , and BCE's Safe Harbour Notice Concerning
Forward-Looking Statements dated February 7, 2013, filed with the
Canadian securities commissions (available at www.sedar.com) and with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (available at www.sec.gov). These documents are also available on BCE's website at www.bce.ca.
SOURCE: Bell Canada
For further information:
Bell Media Relations
BCE Investor Relations