CTV offers to sell TV stations in takeover bid


TORONTO -- Looking to ease monopoly concerns, Canadian media giant CTVglobemedia has offered to spin off TV stations in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton that it would acquire if its CAN$1.4 billion ($1.3 billion) takeover of Chum Ltd secures regulatory approval.

In a May 7 letter to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Toronto-based CTVglobemedia backtracked on an earlier bid to own and operate local TV stations in five major Canadian markets -- Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg -- after acquiring Chum.

Such a request proved controversial, as current CRTC rules bar domestic broadcasters from owning more than one TV station in any Canadian market and CTVglobemedia already has an exemption to own and operate two TV stations in Toronto and Vancouver.

During CRTC hearings in early May, Canadian regulators told the CTVglobemedia applicants that granting three additional exemptions in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg risked gutting their ability to referee the domestic TV industry.

In their May 7 letter, CTVglobemedia said it is no longer seeking an exemption for Winnipeg. In addition, the broadcaster offered to put Chum's Alberta stations up for sale, but only if the CRTC denied a separate request from CanWest MediaWorks to secure "local station status" in Calgary and Edmonton for its existing TV station in Red Deer, Alberta.

"If the commission grants CanWest's request, we believe that the commission should also grant our Calgary and Edmonton requests for exemptions," CTVglobemedia wrote, tying its application for takeover approval to another application before the CRTC.

Executives at CTVglobemedia were not available for comment at press time.

The broadcaster last week promised to raise its investment in homegrown local TV shows airing on Chum TV stations to CAN$123.9 million ($112 million) from CAN$103.5 million ($93.3 million) in an earlier bid to secure the CRTC's blessing for the Chum deal (HR 5/4).

The horse-trading between CTVglobemedia and the CRTC comes as the regulator attempts to assess and rule on a series of recent takeover deals in the Canadian industry.

In addition to the Chum takeover, CanWest Global Communications and equity partner Goldman Sachs & Co. recently acquired cable channel broadcaster Alliance Atlantis Communications for CAN$2.3 billion ($1.96 billion), and Astral Media has offered CAN$1.2 billion ($1.08 billion) for Standard Broadcasting, the country's largest radio station operator.

The CRTC is looking at each takeover deal for its competitive impact on Canada's TV advertising market and whether the merging of radio and TV newsroom will reduce the "diversity of voices" in the Canadian industry.

The CRTC is expected to rule on the CTVglobemedia-Chum deal within six months.

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