Bell asks federal Cabinet to direct CRTC to follow its own policies

Bell asks federal Cabinet to direct CRTC to follow its own policies 


    --  Broadcasting Act allows Cabinet to issue policy direction to
        CRTC
    --  CRTC decision on Astral-Bell did not follow its established
        Diversity of Voices and other policies
    --  Lack of consistency in regulatory approach creating uncertainty
        in Canada's broadcast sector

MONTREAL, Oct. 22, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - BCE Inc. (Bell) today submitted its 
request that the federal Cabinet issue a policy direction, under Section 7 of 
the Broadcasting Act, that directs the CRTC to follow its existing policies 
when reviewing change of control transactions in broadcasting.

"In rejecting the Astral transaction the CRTC rejected its own established 
policies, creating serious regulatory uncertainty in Canada's vital 
broadcasting sector," said Mirko Bibic, Bell's Chief Legal and Regulatory 
Officer. "We're requesting that Cabinet provide the required guidance to the 
CRTC to follow its own rules in place, with which the Astral-Bell transaction 
fully complied."

Astral joining Bell would bring a range of benefits to Canadian consumers and 
content creators, including more than $240 million in new funding for English 
and French language programming, the protection of local TV stations in small 
communities, the launch of a national French-language news service based in 
Québec, and an innovative new service to compete with U.S. Internet 
broadcasters.

In its application, Bell has asked Cabinet to direct the CRTC to adhere to 
policies governing the evaluation of broadcasting acquisitions, including the 
Diversity of Voices decision, the Vertical Integration framework, the common 
ownership policy for radio, and the benefits policy.

When it announced its Astral-Bell hearings on July 10, the CRTC said it would 
follow the Diversity of Voices policy, issued by the commission in 2008 to 
guide the evaluation of broadcasting acquisitions. Instead, the commission 
ignored its own rules, creating new criteria and metrics not included in any 
of its existing policies and never used before. The commission set no 
standards for these new criteria and established them without offering any 
stakeholder the opportunity to comment.

As the CRTC itself stated in determining the Diversity of Voices policy, "the 
need for specific ownership limits… is the central issue of the proceeding" 
because there are "benefits of rules or guidelines that provide the greatest 
possible clarity for future transactions." Indeed the lack of such clarity and 
consistency in the case of the CRTC's Astral decision has injected much 
uncertainty into Canada's broadcasting, capital and investment sectors.

Diversity of Voices directs that the CRTC "will process expeditiously 
transactions that would result in the control of less than 35% of the total 
television audience share." Properly calculated, the Astral-Bell transaction 
would result in a total English-language TV market share of 33.5%, on par with 
competitors Corus/Shaw, and just 24.4% in French-language TV - significantly 
lower than Québecor, Bell's primary cable-broadcast rival in Québec.

Despite the Diversity of Voices policy directing the CRTC to include all TV 
services licensed or authorized for distribution in Canada in its 
calculations, the CRTC inexplicably ignored the significant viewership of 
popular American channels such as CNN, A&E, TLC, CNBC, Fox News, US 
superstations and others. The more than 200 cross-border channels available in 
Canada obviously compete directly for Canadian viewers, holding a share 
greater than 13% in the English-language TV market.

A policy direction is also needed to remove any perception of bias created by 
several meetings between senior CRTC officials and cable companies opposed to 
the Bell-Astral transaction in the days before and after public hearings into 
the transaction. Bell was denied the opportunity for such meetings.

About Bell
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 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. of Astral Media 
Inc. and other statements that are not historical facts, are forward-looking. 
Forward-looking statements, by their very nature, are subject to inherent 
risks, uncertainties and 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. Readers are cautioned that such information may 
not be appropriate for other purposes. For additional information with respect 
to certain of these and other assumptions and risks, please refer to BCE 
Inc.'s 2012 First Quarter MD&A dated May 2, 2012, filed by BCE Inc. with the 
Canadian securities commissions (available at www.sedar.com) and with the U.S. 
Securities and Exchange Commission (available at www.sec.gov). This document 
is also available on BCE Inc.'s website at www.bce.ca.

Jacqueline Michelis Bell Media Relations 1 855 785-1427 
Jacqueline.michelis@bell.ca

Thane Fotopoulos BCE Investor Relations (514) 870-4619 thane.fotopoulos@bell.ca

SOURCE: BELL CANADA

To view this news release in HTML formatting, please use the following URL: 
http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/October2012/22/c9033.html

CO: BELL CANADA
ST: Quebec
NI: TLS TVNEWS INTERNET CANADA 2532 MNA 

-0- Oct/22/2012 20:20 GMT


 
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