BCE and Astral Continue to Address CRTC’s Merger Concerns

BCE and Astral Media are moving forward in addressing submissions in preparation for the CRTC hearing that begins May 6 in Montréal.

Both organizations have replied to interventions filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission as part of the review process to cement the proposed merger embarked upon in March 2012.

“Astral and Bell Media are happy to present our plan to deliver great new TV, radio and film content across all platforms and to enhance competition in a rapidly evolving broadcasting system,” said Kevin Crull, President of Bell Media.

Crull continues: “We appreciate the letters of support received from Canadian consumers, creators, and broadcast and cable companies, and we acknowledge those who question the transaction. We believe our plan fully addresses their concerns, and we look forward to detailing the benefits of the transaction during the CRTC’s public hearing in May.”

Several Astral TV services will be sold to accommodate provisions by the Competition Bureau as well as the CRTC, notably 100 percent of Astral’s English-language specialty TV services and 50 percent of its French-language specialty TV.

The sale of 11 Astral TV services means Bell retains 8 Astral pay and specialty TV services, including the French-language Super Écran, Cinépop, Canal Vie, Canal D, VRAK TV, and Ztélé, and English-language services The Movie Network, which includes HBO Canada, and TMN Encore.

Crull points out that even after selling half of Astral’s French-language specialty TV services, Bell Media would increase its viewing share in this market to 22.6 percent, considerably less than Québecor’s 31 percent share.

A tangible benefits package of $174.64 million to develop and promote new French and English language media and a commitment to keep all local TV stations open while maintaining their local programming are other measures being implemented to secure the merger’s approval.

But not all of the competitors remain convinced, however.

“Canadian consumers of television entertainment can only expect rising costs for their viewing options on fixed and mobile platforms, more forced packaging of BCE services and less choice in the selection of services they actually wish to use,” said a spokesperson from Cogeco Cable.

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