Bell Media has made its first move as the soon-to-be owner of Astral Media – announcing plans to shutter a Montreal sports station that broadcasts in English and replace it with one that broadcasts sports in French. It’s the first step that Bell, owned by BCE Inc., will have to take to meet strict ownership requirements of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which dictate how many stations per market any one media company can own. Bell said it would also have to sell 10 stations – nine FM and one AM in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Winnipeg – to win approval from the regulator.
The decision to close TSN Radio 990 and replace it with RDS Radio is an example of the challenges the company faces in securing approval of the deal that will sharply increase the ownership concentration in the Canadian broadcast industry. The rules state a company can only own two FM and two AM stations in any language in any market. That means Bell has to either change the language of as many as 10 stations in large markets across the country, or sell them. The takeover is before the CRTC, which will hold hearings in September to iron out details. The stations won’t be formally put up for sale until the deal closes.
Meanwhile, BCE filed a complete breakdown of the Astral deal’s intricacies Tuesday. Part of the package is a tangible benefits payment of $200-million, money that Bell must pay as part of the transfer process and which is supposed to help support the country’s broadcast industry.
The package includes $96-million for the development and production of Canadian programming. There is another $61-million to “help support, promote and develop Canadian musical talent and to assist community radio and other initiatives” and $40-million to extend broadband service to the north.
The company’s filings also show the deal valued Astral’s 63 English-language stations at $724-million.
Which Calgary radio station do you think Bell will sell? Will it be their classic country 1060 AM station aka CKMX or will it be one of their FM stations –Virgin Radio aka CIBK, their contemporary hit radio playing Top 40 hits or will it be CJAY 92 playing active rock?