CanWest, WIC ink 5-year program deal

TORONTO — CanWest Global Communications Corp. has agreed to sublicense its national TV programs to rival WIC Western Intl. Communications Ltd., which will air them on its four stations in Alberta.

Winnipeg-based CanWest has no outlets of its own in the province, having recently lost its bid to establish new independent stations there. Canada’s broadcast regulator instead licensed Craig Broadcast Systems Inc.

The five-year deal “provides a secure long-term outlet for our top-rated programs,” CanWest president Izzy Asper said.

WIC Television president Jim Macdonald said the deal gives its stations the strongest possible program schedule in the face of new competition from Craig.

Relations between CanWest and Vancouver-based WIC have been strained since late 1995 when CanWest made an unsuccessful takeover bid for WIC, which was followed by litigation by both sides over a program supply agreement.

As a consequence of its takeover attempt and subsequent share purchases, CanWest owns about 15% of WIC. CanWest said the deal will allow its programming to reach 88% of English-speaking Canada, representing about 20.4 million viewers.

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