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Astral moves into CHUM digital radio tent

Companies in this story
Astral Media Inc.
CHUM Limited
Articles in related categories
CRTC/Regulatory - Radio
Digital Radio
TORONTO - Astral Media Inc. announced today it is joining forces with CHUM Ltd. to pitch for a license to operate a Canadian digital subscription radio service.

The application for CHUM Subscription Radio Canada (CSRC) was filed on February 16, 2004 in response to a call issued by the Commission. "CSRC is unique in that it is the only service of its kind that will be 100% Canadian-owned and controlled, and specifically devoted to serving Canadians while fully supporting and promoting Canadian artists," says the release.

Also bidding for licenses when the Commission holds hearings in November on the issue are partnerships between XM Radio and Entrepreneur John Bitove; and another by Standard Broadcasting, CBC and SIRIUS Radio.

All are multichannel digital radio subscription services. CHUM is different in that it is a terrestrial service (think cell-phone-like technology) versus the other satellite-driven proposals.

"CSRC promises the only subscription radio service that will provide 50 growing to 100 channels of unique content, designed and assembled in Canada. This new partnership will provide the best possible choices to meet the needs of both French and English Canadians in urban markets," said Paul Ski, executive vice-president radio, CHUM Limited. "Moreover, this new service will meet all of the CRTC's Canadian-content requirements and provide the most effective exposure for the promotion and development of Canadian recording talent."

The Bitove/XM partnership and CBC/Standard/SIRIUS group plans to offer all of what's currently available Stateside, plus four Canadian channels. The kicker for them is that those four Canadian channels would be carried throughout the United States.

The new CHUM venture will facilitate the introduction of digital radio in Canada but will pose no competitive threat to existing stations, says today's CHUM/Astral release. Terrestrial digital signal transmission will give subscribers access to crystal clear sound and high quality reception, with a wider variety of content.

"We believe our application stands out from the rest. One of our goals is to revive interest in radio among young people, who had given up listening to Canadian radio, favouring services that allowed them to illegally download music from the Internet," said Jacques Parisien, president, Astral Media Radio. "By offering portable units, our service will provide total mobility - at home, in cars, wherever our subscribers are," he added.

Astral Media will have a 19.9% ownership interest in CSRC. If the CRTC approves the application and grants a license for the service, Astral Media will have the option to increase its ownership interest in the service to be equal to that of CHUM, up to and including 50% each, also subject to CRTC approval.

Astral and CHUM are already in music partnerships as they share ownership of French music video channels MusiquePlus and MusiMax.

The CRTC hearings on subscription radio will be held on November 1, 2004.
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