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Canadian gov't OKs b'caster's controlling CTV stake

TORONTO — CTV Television Network, Canada’s only privately owned national television network, has a controlling shareholder for the first time in its 35-year history.

Canada’s broadcast regulator approved a series of transactions Thursday that gives Baton Broadcasting Inc. of Toronto about 58% of the network, which programs about 40 hours a week on its affiliated stations.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said it endorsed the deals partly because Baton’s ownership would stabilize CTV, which began in 1962 as a cooperative of often-fractious broadcasters, evolving later into a corporate entity with an equally fractious board.

The deals that put Baton in the driver’s seat include the purchase of the broadcasting assets of Electrohome Ltd. of Kitchener, Ontario, including TV stations in Kitchener and Edmonton, Ontario, and an asset swap with Chum Ltd., in which Baton acquired Chum’s television operations in Atlantic Canada, while Chum got some Baton stations in Ontario.

Under the terms of the deals, each company transfers its 14.3% interest in CTV to Baton. The remaining CTV shareholders, WIC Western Intl. Communications Ltd. of Vancouver and Moffat Communications Ltd. of Winnipeg, may exercise a put option, requiring Baton to purchase their stake in CTV at the going rate set by the Chum and Electrohome deals of C$10 million ($7.2 million) for each holding of 14.3%. WIC, a CTV shareholder and affiliate in Vancouver, recently bought CF-12 in Montreal from Groupe Videotron, giving it a total of 28.6% of CTV. Moffat has a 14.3% stake.

The value of the Electrohome transaction is $76.7 million and the Baton-Chum asset swap is valued at $23.5 million.

The CRTC decision reshapes the Canadian television broadcasting landscape by putting Baton on an equal footing in terms of national reach with CanWest Global Communications Corp. of Winnipeg, which operates the Global Television Network in every province but Alberta; and WIC, which has outlets in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. (Although Global now calls itself a network, it is not in the eyes of the regulator.)

Baton made spending commitments of more than $11.5 million over five years to win the CRTC’s favor.

The Electrohome deal, first announced Sept. 19, 1996, will close Aug. 31.

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