CanWest gets go-ahead for Alliance Atlantis buy

The $2.3-billion deal of the year has won the CRTC's stamp of approval.

The CRTC gave official approval yesterday to CanWest Global’s $2.3-billion buy of Alliance Atlantis’ specialty channels. CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein stated the regulator is ‘satisfied that this transaction meets the requirements for Canadian control both in law and fact.’ CanWest must merge its existing broadcasting properties into CanWest Investments by 2011 – including the Alliance assets.

Speculation about the implications of the deal is swirling – from questions about whether other Canadian broadcasters will now seek foreign investment partners (CanWest is financing the deal with US-based Goldman Sachs Capital Partners) to concerns about control of the airwaves. As a result of CRTC concerns, CanWest made several changes to the proposed governance structure to satisfy the regulator that programming decisions will remain under CanWest’s control.

CanWest MediaWorks president of television Kathy Dore said the company’s acquisition of the Alliance Atlantis specialty channels ‘will ensure that the Canadian broadcasting system has another strong competitor in the conventional/specialty marketplace.’ She added the deal will ‘allow us to produce even better Canadian content, promote it more effectively and provide greater access to more viewers across more platforms.’

CanWest will devote $136.6 million over seven years to programming initiatives (drama, documentary productions and news and public affairs), and the CRTC stated several of them will be produced by independent production companies. As well, CanWest committed $14.6 million toward social and industry initiatives, including mentorship and internship programs and support for arts and diversity festivals.

For background, analysis and recent news concerning the deal, see the following MiC stories: