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Shaw takeover of Global ? no immediate changes for CW Television

This week the CRTC held three days of hearings into Shaw Communications’ proposed purchase of all the Canwest Global TV ? including the unit currently known as CW Television Inc. Based on the discussions, there appear to be no immediate plans for changes at CW Television.

The Canadian Media Guild appeared at the hearing to make recommendations on the takeover. As the bargaining agent for over 80 employees of CW Television, our primary concern is the preservation of meaningful jobs. Far too often we’ve seen that immediately after the purchase of a media outlet, the first move is to lay off a group of employees in the name of “efficiency.”

For that reason the Guild suggested that Shaw be required to keep the Canwest operations separate from Corus Entertainment, which is linked to Shaw because they have shareholders in common. Global’s TV stations and the CW Television stable of specialty channels are among the strongest-performing media groupings in Canada.

“For all its faults, Canwest Global didn’t tinker much with the operations of its most valuable asset, the specialty channels, and we’re suggesting that Shaw do the same,” says CMG staff representative Keith Maskell, who attended the hearings along with the Guild’s regulatory affairs specialist, Karen Wirsig.

While Shaw told the CRTC it opposes a formal rule against merging the operations of the Canwest broadcasting units with Corus, executives said Shaw and Corus have separate management and boards and “that will remain.”

Another key issue discussed at the hearing was “public benefits.” This is the percentage of the purchase price that the buyer of a media company is required to spend to develop and advance the Canadian broadcasting system. The Global transaction has been valued at just over two billion dollars, meaning that Shaw would normally be expected to spend approximately $200 million, or ten per cent of the purchase price. Shaw pushed for a reduction of that figure to $180 million, arguing that they have already performed a significant public service by rescuing Global TV from bankruptcy.

It is widely expected that the CRTC will approve the transaction. A formal announcement is expected before the end of October. The Guild will seek a meeting with Shaw management as soon as the deal is confirmed.

For more information, please get in touch with Guild staff representative Keith Maskell (keith@cmg.ca) at 416-591-5333.

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