CRTC approves Astral commercial radio deal

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TORONTO -- Canada's broadcast regulator has signed off on Astral Media's purchase of Standard Broadcasting, a move that will create the country's largest network of commercial radio stations.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a second deal Friday that will see Rogers Media acquire five Citytv free-to-air TV stations from CTVglobemedia, provided it sells off two religious TV stations within a year.

The CRTC's green light means Astral will buy 53 radio stations and two free-to-air TV stations from Standard Radio, controlled by Toronto's Slaight family, for CAN$1.08 billion ($1.07 billion) in cash and stock. The move will see Astral expand its base of radio stations in Ontario and Quebec -- where it already operates 29 stations -- to 83 radio stations in eight Canadian provinces.

Montreal-based Astral welcomed the CRTC approval and said it expects to close the takeover deal for Standard Radio on Oct. 29.

Separately, the CRTC gave the go-ahead for Rogers Media to pay CTVglobemedia CAN$375 million ($373 million) in cash for five Citytv-branded TV stations in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

To secure approval for the Citytv purchase, Rogers Media, a division of cable giant Rogers Communications, was ordered by the CRTC to sell off its religious TV stations in Vancouver and Winnipeg. Spinning off the two stations will ensure that Rogers Media doesn't breach CRTC rules that bar ownership of two or more TV stations in a major market.

The sale of the Citytv stations was forced on CTVglobemedia so it could secure separate approval for a CAN$1.4 billion ($1.39 billion) deal to buy rival broadcaster Chum Ltd.

Rogers, Canada's largest cablecaster with a radio and TV division, struck a deal in May with CTVglobemedia to buy 10 terrestrial and cable channels, including seven A-Channel branded TV stations, for CAN$138 million ($137.3 million).

But that deal came unstuck when the CRTC this summer ordered the sell-off of the Citytv stations and opened the way to CTVglobemedia replacing the A-Channel stations with the Citytv services.

Acquiring the Citytv stations in Toronto, Vancouver Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary will enable Rogers to expand its stable of Canadian TV channels and possibly become a major buyer at the Los Angeles Screenings next May.

Rogers Media CEO Leslie Sole said combining the Citytv stations with existing and proposed TV stations in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver would hand the broadcaster "a national television platform" on which to build increased viewership.

Rogers is expected to close the deal for the five Citytv stations Oct. 31.

The CRTC will consider in November the CAN$2.3 billion ($2.28 billion) takeover of Alliance Atlantis Communications by rival broadcaster CanWest Global Communications and equity partner Goldman Sachs & Co.
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