Opening remarks by Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
At the public hearing in Montreal
May 6, 2013
Check against delivery
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this public hearing. During this hearing, we will review Astral Media Inc.’s application for authorization to transfer control of its radio and television services to BCE Inc.
The proposed transaction consists of the purchase, by BCE, of all outstanding shares of Astral pursuant to the agreement entered into by BCE and Astral on March 16, 2012, and amended on November 19, 2012. This agreement would notably be subject to divestitures of certain television and radio services operated by Astral.
This is without a doubt an important transaction; its scope and magnitude are such that it could potentially redefine the Canadian broadcasting system and have an impact on the communications system as a whole.
As for all applications to change effective control, the Commission will base its decision on the evidence presented within this proceeding. We will first and foremost seek to determine whether this transaction is in the public interest. We will do so against the backdrop of the mandate entrusted to us by the Canadian Parliament under the Broadcasting Act.
We will determine if this transaction would benefit Canadians, as well as the Canadian broadcasting system. We also want to be convinced that the application filed by Astral Media represents the best possible proposal under the circumstances. For all of these questions, the burden of proof rests squarely with the applicants and their representatives.
I do not need to remind you that the CRTC reviewed a similar application last year. I would, however, like to make it clear to all participants that this proceeding is separate, and that the application will be evaluated on its own merits.
We received over 19,000 comments in connection with this proceeding, which we read with interest and added to the public record. We would like to thank everyone who shared their views on this application.
Issues to be addressed
The panel will address the following issues with the parties:
- ownership concentration and questions related to vertical integration in the English- and French-language television sectors, as well as mechanisms to reduce the impact of concentration and its negative effects
- various Commission policies, including diversity of voices and the policy on common ownership in radio and television
- the value of the transaction, and
- the proposed tangible benefits package as well as the intangible benefits.
Among the numerous issues we will be examining during this hearing is the common ownership policy for the radio sector, which limits each owner to three English-language radio stations in the Montreal market. The applicants are seeking an exemption to continue operating the English-language commercial AM radio station CKGM Montréal.
The panel for this hearing consists of:
- Elizabeth Duncan, Regional Commissioner for the Atlantic and Nunavut
- Suzanne Lamarre, Regional Commissioner for Quebec
- Peter Menzies, Regional Commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories
- Tom Pentefountas, Vice-Chairman of Broadcasting, and
- myself, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.
The Commission team assisting us includes:
- Rachel Marleau, Hearing Manager and Manager of Corporate Analysis and Ownership;
- Romy Ochmann St-Jean and Anthony McIntyre, Legal Counsel; and
- Jade Roy, Hearing Secretary and Public Hearings Supervisor.
I would now invite the Hearing Secretary, Jade Roy, to explain the procedures we will be following. Madam Secretary…
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