Shaw sweetens benefits package

The BDU also reiterated its promise to allow rival companies access to its broadcast advertising inventory.

The carrot dangled by Shaw Communications to win approval for its $2 billion purchase of Canwest Global Communications Corp’s TV assets on Thursday became a bushel.

Shaw promised $55 million more for indie TV production as part of its tangible benefits package submitted to the CRTC. On Tuesday, the cabler proposed $24 million for scripted fare, and by Thursday that figure had grown to $79.1 million for eight-point dramas, after unions and guilds on Wednesday urged the regulator to direct more of Shaw’s $200 million in tangible benefits into 10-point dramas and other labour-intensive programming.

Shaw also promised $15 million for free satellite TV gear for rural markets that rely on rabbit ears, a pet project of CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein, and $23 million to convert additional TV transmitters to digital.

The cabler also repeated its commitment for non-exclusivity of its programming content across its media empire, with Brad Shaw, EVP of Shaw, telling the CRTC: ‘We like money. We like it Canadian and green.’

Shaw was hitting back at earlier criticism from western Canadian rival Telus Corp. that the cabler could abuse its market position with Canwest Global in its fold by, for example, denying advertising space on Global Television and its specialty channels.

‘We’ll take Telus’s money as soon as anyone,’ he told the CRTC commissioners.

Von Finckenstein on Tuesday urged Shaw to sweeten its benefits package after the original submission contained $95 million in promised expenditures left over from its 2007 acquisition of the former Alliance Atlantis Communications.

The CRTC said Shaw deserved a discount for raising Canwest Global out of creditor protection, but differed with the cabler on its size.

Shaw’s revised benefits package now stands at $180.1 million in expenditures over seven years, or 8.8% of the $2 billion acquisition price for Canwest Global.