The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has unexpectedly stepped into the debate over BCE Inc.’s $3.4-billion acquisition of Astral Media at the last minute, insisting it be allowed to voice its objection to the company’s plan to launch a French news network as part of the deal.
Bell Media announced plans to use $20-million of the deal’s $241-million tangible benefit fund – money it is obligated pay as part of the deal to improve Canada’s broadcasting system – to fund the $40-million creation of an all-news network.
It would position Bell Media as a rival to CBC’s RDI service and Quebecor Inc.’s LCN, both of which offer 24/7 French news networks in Quebec. CBC argues that throwing another competitor into the mix – which Bell has already said will be a money loser – will distort the market and make it harder for established networks to thrive.
“BCE’s proposal to use tangible benefits monies to subsidize the launch of a … news service is extraordinarily self-serving and unprecedented,” the CBC wrote in a submission file to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. “No party has ever before suggested that benefits monies should be used to subsidize the launch of a totally new broadcasting service.”