Bell and CTV sweeten acquisition proposal

As the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission  prepares to review BCE Inc.’s proposed acquisition of CTVglobemedia, the two companies have offered up a benefits package worth between $143 million and $221 million, in hopes of swaying the decision in their favour.

The benefits are a requirement of CRTC policy whenever a broadcaster changes ownership. CTV and Bell’s proposal promises to boost the pair’s commitment to Canadian broadcasting, including “new Canadian progamming, local news expansion and accelerated HD news production,” BCE president and CEO George Cope said in a press release.

The first time BCE acquired CTV, in 2000, the company paid a record $230 million in benefits. Bell currently owns 25% equity in CTV, and last September announced it will acquire the rest for $1.3 billion from The Woodbridge Company Ltd., the Toronto-based holding company of the Thomson Family, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan and Torstar Corp.

The acqusition would give Bell ownership of CTV’s assets in specialty television, digital media, TV and radio broadcasting. The transaction is valued at $3.2 billion.

BCE’s acquisition means that now most of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies own broadcasters, so would still be governed by the same ownership restrictions.

According to a Bell press release, the proposed benefits package includes:

-Support for new Canadian independently produced programs of national interest, such as dramas, documentaries and new media content

-Enhanced local news content and HD news production, especially in the underserved Western Canada market. That includes 100 hours of incremental news programming a week and 80 new jobs in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver

-Increased satellite carriage of small local TV stations, with a commitment from Bell Satellite TV to carry every over-the-air TV station eligible for the CRTC’s Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF)

-Enhanced support for CTV’s /A channels, including enhanced support for their digital transition, HD infrastructure and new local programming

On February 1, the Canadian
Radio-television Telecommunications Commission will hold a public
hearing in Gatineau, Quebec to discuss BCE Inc.’s proposed acquisition of CTVglobemedia Inc.