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CRTC approves Shaw-CanWest deal

$2B deal among biggest in Canuck media history

MONTREAL – One of the biggest media deals in recent Canadian history has been given the greenlight by the Canuck broadcast regulator. On Friday, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that it was approving the $2 billion deal inked earlier this year giving Shaw Communications of Calgary control of financially-ailing Winnipeg-based broadcaster CanWest Global.

The takeover gives Shaw, one of the country’s leading cable operators, ownership of the Global TV network and a slew of cable channels, including Showcase, History Television and HGTV Canada. The CRTC has also accepted Shaw’s proposal to spend $175 million on a number of initiatives over the next seven years, including producing new two-hour morning shows in a number of cities and buying more drama, docus and comedy shows from independent producers.

But at the same time the CRTC announced that it will be holding hearings next year to look into the consolidation in the TV biz in Canada to see if it needs to introduce new rules to prevent anti-competitive behaviour. In the past few years, Rogers Media has taken over the City-tv stations, Shaw has bought CanWest and now telecom giant BCE is set to acquire CTVglobemedia.

Most industry groups – including the independent producers association, actors union ACTRA, and the Writers Guild of Canada – reacted favourably to the announcement that the CRTC was approving the Shaw-CanWest deal. Though the producers association did say it was disappointed that the regulator had not forced Shaw to guarantee that Shaw/CanWest would operate independently of Shaw affiliate Corus Entertainment, which also owns a host of cable channels.

Also Friday, Shaw CEO Jim Shaw announced that his younger brother Brad Shaw will take-over the top job at the company, starting early next year. Jim Shaw had headed the company for the past 12 years and has a reputation as a tough, straight-talking exec not afraid to stir up a little controversy. Jim Shaw will stay with the company as vice-chair of the board.

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