Too late for more offers, says CRTC

The fed agency says it will not consider a last-minute proposal by CGM to sell CHUM stations in the Prairies.

The CRTC says it will not consider a last-minute offer by CTVglobemedia to sell off three Citytv stations in the Prairies because it was made after public hearings had closed. The proposal, filed May 7, was sent back to CGM because it was not ‘part of the public record,’ according a CRTC spokesperson.

Two weeks ago, CGM execs appeared before the federal agency looking to win approval for the pending $1.4 billion purchase of CHUM. The hearings concluded on May 2.

‘[The CRTC] is a bit like a court and they want to behave consistently, so if they allowed [CGM] to fire in something after the hearing was over, then anybody else could do the same,’ says industry analyst Ian Morrison, of the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

CGM reportedly offered to sell off CHUM’s Citytv stations in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary – provided the CRTC placed restrictions on CanWest Global’s expansion of its E! network – but did not back down from its plans to keep the Citytvs in Vancouver and Toronto.

CGM, the parent company of CTV, is looking to get around the CRTC’s ‘twin stick’ policy, which limits broadcasters from owning more than one TV station per market. The proposed buyout would see it control two stations in markets including Winnipeg, Vancouver/Victoria and Toronto, a sticky point that drew questions and criticism during the hearings in Gatineau, though CGM made several concessions on programming and benefits packages.

Rogers Media has already arranged to buy CHUM properties including the A-Channels – one of which is in Barrie, just north of Toronto – and SexTV for $137.5 million.

The company is asking for a ‘big exception’ in its bid to keep the profitable Citytvs stations, says Morrison, who adds that ‘It’s a breach of common ownership policy which means, unless there’s an exception, nobody should be able to own two local television stations in a single market.’ A CRTC decision on the CHUM buyout is expected in the late summer.

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.