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BCE, Astral submit revised acquisition proposal to CRTC

Astral Media and BCE have submitted a new proposal to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission reflecting amendments to their agreement by which Bell would acquire Astral. According to the companies, the new proposal addresses the CRTC's concerns about concentration of ownership and the best interests of consumers. It sets out a number of steps the companies would take to comply with established viewership thresholds. The proposal also includes a revised package of benefits in support of Canadian television and radio content creation. French-language TV and radio assets would be led by Astral in Montreal. Jacques Parisien, currently executive vice-president and COO of Astral, would join Bell Media. Astral president and CEO Ian Greenberg would join the BCE board of directors. As a result of these amendments, the closing date for the transaction has been extended to June 1, 2013. Details of the proposal will be released when the CRTC begins its public consultation on the deal. Bell has also formally withdrawn its request to the federal Cabinet for a policy direction to the CRTC. "We heard Canadians and the CRTC loud and clear," said George Cope, president and CEO of Bell. "They want assurance that Astral joining with Bell Media will directly benefit consumers and creators. We're ready to deliver more choice for listeners and viewers, more opportunity for content creators, and more competition for the broadcasting industry. Bell and Astral are happy to move forward with a new proposal that benefits all Canadians, in both official languages, in communities large and small across the nation, with new ideas, new funding and new choices." The $3.38 billion transaction must be approved by the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.

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