Shaw Comms gets regulator’s OK to buy Canwest TV

TORONTO (BestGrowthStock) – Cable company Shaw Communications (SJRb.TO: ) can proceed with its C$2 billion ($1.94 billion) purchase of the television assets of distressed media company Canwest Global (CGS.V: ), Canada’s communications regulator said on Friday.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission also said it would launch a review into rules governing the broadcast industry as companies increasingly own both content and the means to distribute it.

“We are satisfied that this transaction will generate substantial benefits for the Canadian broadcasting system,” CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said in a statement.

Shaw, which earlier on Friday posted earnings that missed analyst expectations, said it would close the deal next week with a C$500 million payment.

The CRTC will next turn to a move by Bell Canada parent BCE Inc (BCE.TO: ) to buy CTV, Canada’s biggest private broadcaster and owner of rights to the 2012 Olympics.

The Shaw-Canwest deal was challenged by telecom company Telus (T.TO: ), which was concerned Shaw might keep some content for its exclusive distribution via mobile devices or online.

However Shaw told the CRTC it would give competitors fair opportunity to negotiate for programing and other broadcast rights, a stand that was welcomed on Friday by Telus.

“We see this as incredibly positive in terms of the signal it’s sending to the market,” said Michael Hennessy, Telus’s senior vice-president for regulatory affairs. “The principle has been won and that’s a good thing for consumers and non-affiliated competitors.”.

But while Shaw said during the proceedings that it had no intention of limiting competitors’ access to content, Bell has been more circumspect, saying it would decide on a case-by-case basis. Bell already offers its wireless customers access to CTV content.

Von Finckenstein told Reuters that the Bell decision would be based on existing rules, but knowledge that a review is imminent should focus Bell’s attention.

“It makes things easier for them. They’ll realize they need their deal approved and they’ll also realize that whatever they say will be used by other people for and against in the vertical integration review,” he said.

Interested parties will be able to submit their views until March 7 and a public hearing will begin on May 9, the CRTC said.

(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Peter Galloway)

Shaw Comms gets regulator’s OK to buy Canwest TV