IRISH WEB GETS BACKER

Canada's CanWest takes 48% stake in TV3

DUBLIN — The oft-postponed launch of Irish commercial web TV3 now looks more certain with news that Canadian broadcaster CanWest Global is set to move in as main backer, taking a 48% share.

TV3 has had a checkered past since its license was granted in 1989. Initial backer British regional channel Yorkshire TV pulled out later that year, while state-appointed watchdog body the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC) withdrew the license in 1991 due to TV3’s failure to supply a list of the station’s financial backers. (The other main shareholders of the current $27 million venture include CEO James Morris and U2 manager Paul McGuinness.)

After TV3’s protracted legal battle to regain its license, Northern Irish channel UTV announced in September 1995 that it was to invest $13.2 million in the station. However, one year later, UTV withdrew, citing as unacceptable the IRTC’s refusal to allow UTV, as majority investor, to appoint the chair of TV3’s board, and an investment clause excluding UTV from competing for advertising in the Irish market.

International markets are nothing new for Winnipeg-based CanWest, which posted record net earnings of $78 million and $478.5 million revenue figures for 1995-96. It already owns majority interests in Australian broadcaster Network Ten and in New Zealand’s third TV channel, also known as TV3.

Subject to the IRTC’s approval for CanWest’s proposal, TV3 should now be on course for a startup date of 1998. Although it will be acquiring primarily foreign product, it initially aims also to commission 15% of its programming from independents, rising to 25% after five years.

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