ABA Clears Net 10 In CanWest Probe

More than two years after it began, an Australian Broadcasting Authority investigation determined Nov.30 CanWest does not illegally control Network Ten.

The result comes just four days after Ten extended its reach to all five capital cities and fuels speculation that Ten is about to list itself on the stock market. In Sydney last month, CanWest chief exec and chairman Izzy Asper said the inquiry was the major stumbling block for the float.

The probe emanated from Can West’s late 1992 acquisition of a 57.5% interest in the then troubled web, which in fiscal 1995 returned a profit of A$107.7 million ($81 million). Australia’s federal media ownership and control laws bar foreign entities from controlling or holding more than 15% shares in media interests, which is the level of voting stock CanWest has in Ten. The rest of its interest is in debentures.

The inquiry concluded Ten’s 11-person board – only two of whom are from CanWest- acts independently and that its executive committee is free of undue influence by CanWest. Having monitored Ten’s decision-making processes, the ABA found Ten’s board often rejected advice proffered by CanWest consultants and that it controlled its own budget and programming.

Ten expanded its reach to all five major capital cities with its Nov. 27 purchase of its Adelaide and Perth stations from Charles Curran’s Capital Television reportedly for up to $60 million.

The deal sees Curran sell the two stations to Ten as well as Capital’s 3.5% interest in regional broadcaster Southern Cross Broadcasting (boosting to 15% Ten’s shareholding in that group, which owns the Ten affiliate in the national capital of Canberra and airs the Ten signal rurally) in exchange for Ten selling back to Curran its 50% interest in Capital.

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