Astral Media calls for caution in considering changes to television sector



    MONTREAL, May 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Astral Media Inc. (TSX: ACM.A/ACM.B)
appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage today to present
the Canadian specialty/pay television sector and to reinforce the need for
caution when considering changes to a particular rule governing the industry
without looking at the broader matrix of rules that serve to produce a
carefully regulated balance between the various sectors of the industry.
    "The Canadian television industry has developed because of a careful
balance in benefits, rights and obligations," said Mr. André Bureau, Chairman
of the Board, Astral Media Inc. "It may well be that we have reached a point
where a rethink is required. However, it has taken 40 years to establish this
balance and we should be careful to assure that any changes that are made do
not have unintended consequences."
    Speaking about the sector as a whole, Mr. Bureau underlined the
importance of the specialty/pay sector as a key contributor to Canadian
programming. According to the Fiscal 2008 CRTC industry report, the overall
specialty/pay sector invested $1.1 billion in Canadian programming.
Furthermore, according to the CRTC's 2008 Communications Monitoring Report,
55% of the total viewing of Canadian programs occurs on Canadian specialty and
pay services.
    In reference to the particularities of the French market, Mr Bureau
added: "Investments in original programming for the Québec market are
significant. In Fiscal 2008, Astral's French-language specialty and pay
services invested more than $85 million in Canadian content. And, because we
work almost exclusively with independent producers, the vast majority of this
amount was invested in Québec's independent production community, increasing
the overall impact of our Cancon dollars on domestic cultural development."
    Astral Media's presentation also focused on the dynamics of the industry
within the Québec market suggesting that the Broadcast Distribution
Undertakings (BDU) relationship is a particular challenge. Quebecor Media is
the dominant player in Québec, with integrated cable, OTA broadcasting as well
as specialty and VOD services. Astral voiced its concern that if a
fee-for-carriage was recommended, that it should not be left to the discretion
of the BDU to decide how to source the funds. Quebecor has repeatedly
indicated that if they were to negotiate the fee, it would be deducted from
what is paid to specialty services as part of a "so-called" re-calibration of
the system. In fact, in Quebecor's case, this "negotiation" would allow them
to redirect the fees to benefit their own service.
    For a full transcript of the presentation, please go to
www.astralmedia.com.

    About Astral Media

    Astral Media is a leading Canadian media company, active in specialty and
pay television, radio, outdoor advertising and interactive media. Astral
Media's solid and dynamic presence in the country's major markets rests on its
commitment to offer a unique combination of high-quality, targeted media for
all its audiences. For more information, please visit: www.astralmedia.com.




For further information:

For further information: Rachel Yates, Director, Corporate and
Institutional Communications, Astral Media Inc., (514) 939-5000, extension
3077

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