V-chip maker in merger


TORONTO -- Tri-Vision International, the Canadian maker of the V-chip, said Tuesday that it will merge with Ottawa-based Wi-LAN Inc. as part of a CAN$108 million ($92.3 million) deal.

In 1997, Tri-Vision secured the world rights to the V-chip, a technology developed by Vancouver engineer Tim Collings to help parents screen out TV sex and violence. That discovery followed concern raised by parents and politicians in the early 1990s over depictions of sex and violence in TV programming.

The tie-up will see Wi-LAN secure access to the "V-chip," which to date has been installed in about a quarter of all U.S. digital TV sets sold and virtually all Canadian TV sets purchased.

As part of the deal, stock in Tri-Vision will be exchanged for common shares of Wi-LAN priced at CAN$1.72 ($1.47) per Tri-Vision common share.

The boards of both companies have approved the merger deal, expected to be completed in June.

"The combination of Wi-LAN and Tri-Vision will create a company that is more than the combined parts. It will be a world-class IP licensing company with exciting growth expected from our portfolio of essential patents," Wi-LAN CEO Jim Skippen said in a statement.

The deal also follows the March 1 deadline set by the FCC for flexible V-chip technology to be installed in all digital television receivers shipped in the U.S. market.

Despite its name, the V-chip combines several technologies that enable an electronic circuit in a TV set or digital cable set-top box to read a preselected numerical code to screen offending sexual or violent content.

"As with the successful Canadian licensing campaigns, it is Tri-Vision's goal to license all digital television receivers sold in the U.S. market," Skippen said.