In a decision released Friday afternoon, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced it has approved the acquisition of the V television network by Bell Media, filling one of the few remaining holes in Bell’s multi-platform empire.
The V network’s five owned-and-operated stations (it also has three affiliate stations that aren’t affected by the transaction) will become part of the Bell group as of Sept. 1, and have new conditions of licence, including an incremental increase to the amount of local programming and local news they are required to broadcast:
- All stations: 5 hours local programming and 2.5 hours locally reflective programming per week
- CFJP-DT Montréal and CFAP-DT Québec: 8.5 hours local programming and 4.25 hours locally reflective programming per week
- Other stations (Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Sherbrooke): Same as 2020-21
Bell has committed to exceeding those requirements.
The CRTC has also increased Bell’s requirements for Canadian programming, which were 35% for its French channels (RDS, Canal Vie, Vrak, Canal D et al) and 10% for V, up to 40% to for the combined group.
For Programs of National Interest (mainly expensive scripted programs), which became a point of contention in this proceeding, the CRTC has sided with critics that said Bell should be forced to keep it at 18% for the entire group instead of averaging the group between the 18% for its existing French-language channels and the 10% that V was previously subject to.
The CRTC calculated tangible benefits at $3.1 million, split between the Canada Media Fund (60%) and the Bell Fund (40%). The latter, a certified independent production fund, will spend the money solely on French-language initiatives.
Bell welcomed the decision, without giving any specifics on its plans. The company told the CRTC it would expect to get newsrooms back running at the V stations by next January, and those newsrooms would be independent from those run by CTV.
The acquisition also includes Noovo.ca, which is V’s online video hub and whose change of ownership does not require CRTC approval.
The specialty channels Elle Fictions (formerly MusiquePlus) and MAX (formerly Musimax) remain under the control of Maxime Rémillard and with the same minority shareholders including the Caisse de dépôt, Investissement Québec and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ. Another CRTC decision regroups them as their own separate group, whose name is to be determined.
UPDATE (May 7): Quebecor has filed notice in court that it may appeal the decision, once the CRTC releases its reasons.