Bell proposes $200M in benefits for broadcast industry as part of Astral deal

MONTREAL – Bell (TSX:BCE) proposed Tuesday tangible benefits valued at $200 million to help support the country’s broadcasting industry in its effort to obtain approval by the CRTC of the company’s acquisition of Astral Media.

Approval by the federal broadcast regulator of the Astral acquisition will also require Bell to sell 10 radio stations in five markets: Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau and Winnipeg, the company said.

“By increasing funds available for Canadian programming and talent, and ensuring those in the North can access programming on the broadband screens of their choice, Canadians in all parts of the country will gain from this initiative,” said George Cope, president and CEO of BCE and Bell.

The payment of tangible benefits is a condition of approval by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The proposed benefits package includes $96 million for the development and production of Canadian programming and $61 million to help support, promote and develop Canadian musical talent and to assist community radio and other initiatives.

The deal also includes $40 million to help make Canadian programming more widely available in the North through the extension of new broadband services and $3.5 million to help raises money and awareness to help combat mental health issues.

Astral Media shareholders voted in May to approve the $3.4-billion acquisition of the TV, radio and billboard company by BCE Inc.

BCE has said it expects the deal will be completed in the second half of the year.