CSA weighs in on Canal Plus

PARIS — As Canal Plus and TPS await the verdict of Gaul’s Competition Council on the merger of their pay TV operations, France’s audiovisual watchdog Wednesday unanimously adopted its formal opinion on Canal Plus’ acquisition of TPS.

While the Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel is obliged to keep the opinion under wraps until the Competition Council weighs in on the deal, CSA prexy Dominique Baudis said the role of the CSA was “not to say yes or no” but to outline conditions it believes should be placed on the deal.

Expected to be included in the 100-plus-page document are recommendations to allow Canal Plus to keep its premium channel and the web’s offshoots, in order to guarantee that the paybox will be able to continue providing the same level of financing for film production.

However, as the deal will create a single feevee operator in the French market, the CSA is likely to recommend the new company be forced to give Internet service providers and telcos access to its film and sports channels for ADSL distribution.

Speculation also surrounds what recommendations the CSA may have on existing deals with U.S. majors. The merger will bring together not only Canal Plus and TPS but also shareholders TF1, M6 and Lagardere, which may shut out public webs France Televisions, as well as ADSL upstarts, from accessing rights to U.S. film and TV productions.

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