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Significant divestitures in Bell-Astral merger to preserve competition

OTTAWA, March 4, 2013 — The Competition Bureau announced today that, following an extensive review of BCE Inc.'s (Bell) proposed acquisition of Astral Media Inc. (Astral), it has reached an agreement with Bell that preserves competition in the supply of English and French pay and specialty television programming services in Canada.

Under the terms of the Consent Agreement filed with the Competition Tribunal today, Bell must divest itself of Astral's ownership interests in the following pay and specialty television channels: The Family Channel, Teletoon, Teletoon Retro, Disney XD, the Cartoon Network, Disney Jr. (English and French), Historia, Séries+, Télétoon, Télétoon Rétro, MusiquePlus and Musimax. Additionally, the Consent Agreement contains restrictions on Bell, including a prohibition on imposing restrictive bundling requirements on any provider seeking to carry The Movie Network or Super Écran.

"Consumers who pay for television programming are looking for greater choice, more innovative product offerings, and reasonable prices," said John Pecman, Interim Commissioner. "Today's agreement is essential to preserving choice for consumers and ensuring continued and effective competition in this area."

During its review, the Bureau collected and analyzed a large volume of information from the parties and many third parties. In addition, multiple industry participants were interviewed, including: owners of television programming services; cable, satellite and wireless service providers; media buying agencies; and consumer groups. The Bureau determined that, without this Consent Agreement, Bell's acquisition of Astral's pay and specialty television channels would likely have led to increased prices, less innovation and reduced choice for television programming.

Bell has also indicated that it will divest itself of a number of radio stations to comply with the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission's (CRTC) Common Ownership Policy. The Bureau is satisfied that these proposed divestitures are sufficient to ensure the transaction will not result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in any radio market.

The proposed transaction is still subject to review by the CRTC.

For further information on the Bureau's review of this matter, please consult the fact sheet and backgrounder.

A copy of the Consent Agreement will be available shortly on the Competition Tribunal Web site.

The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.

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