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A Rogers Communications Inc. office tower is seen in downtown Montreal, March 6, 2009.

Shaun Best/REUTERS

Rogers Media Inc. is planting a flag in Montreal with a new CITY-TV station for the English-language market there, as the battle for Quebec viewers is heating up even before BCE Inc. can proceed with its second attempt to buy the assets of Astral Media Inc.

On Thursday morning, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced it had approved Rogers's application to convert the ethnic station CJNT-DT to a mainstream English-language format. The move means Rogers will have seven stations in the growing CITY-TV network, which already expanded into Saskatoon this year.

The station is expected to produce a three-hour edition of the popular weekday show Breakfast Television as the bulk of its local programming. It will also produce a half-hour weekly sports show, Connected Montreal.

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"The launch of CITY-TV Montreal is a crucial step in our overall strategy to deliver our premium original and acquired content to a national audience," said Scott Moore, the president of broadcast for Rogers Media, in a statement. "Breaking into this key market gives CITY-TV the momentum to better serve and reflect Canadians through our programming and engage audiences across the country as we move towards our goal of becoming a fully national network."

Rogers said the addition of the Montreal station would put its programming in nine million Canadian homes. The stated purchase price was $10.3-million, plus assumed leases of $370,000. The company will build new studios in downtown Montreal for the station.

The move comes shortly before Rogers's rival Bell Media takes another run at expanding its own presence in the Quebec market with an acquisition of Astral Media. The first attempt at that acquisition was denied in October by the CRTC.

Bell did not take a position on Rogers's acquisition of CJNT during a CRTC hearing. Shaw Media, which is launching a half-hour edition of its Global News morning show across the country next month, did not object to the application, but did express concern about the ability of the Montreal advertising market to absorb another English-language TV station.

Montreal will still have an ethnic TV station, as the CRTC also announced it had granted a licence for International Channel / Canal International, a new station that intends to broadcast in at least 15 different languages, including Mandarin, Creole, Persian, Portuguese and Romanian. It is expected to program 14 hours per week of local ethnic programs.

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