Astral and Bell Media ready to deliver more for Canadian consumers, creators
-- New application to join Astral and Bell Media made public by
the CRTC today
-- Significant new investment in French-language programming and
-- Commitment of extensive benefits to create exceptional
programming, promote Canadian talent, connect communities and
enhance consumer participation
-- All local TV stations to stay open with current levels of local
-- Learn more about Astral and Bell Media at
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
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
"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 for."
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 CRTC.
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
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.
Media inquiries: Jacqueline Michelis Bell Media Relations 1 855-785-1427
Investor inquiries: Thane Fotopoulos BCE Investor Relations (514) 870-4619
SOURCE: Bell Canada
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-0- Mar/06/2013 16:10 GMT
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