CRTC set to okay Canwest sales

Clear skies for handover of Hamilton and Montreal stations, following hearing and deal with union.

Canwest Global and Channel Zero are approaching the last hurdles to the license transfers of CHCH-TV Hamilton and CJNT-TV Montreal.

The CRTC is expected to signal today to both broadcasters whether it will okay the transfer of ownership for the two local TV stations, also known as E! Quebec and E! Ontario, from Canwest Global to Channel Zero.

That decision follows a public hearing on Aug. 24, where neither broadcaster was asked to appear and no third parties intervened.

Channel Zero has worked closely with the CRTC to ensure it meets all the conditions for the license handovers, including striking a recent agreement with around 120 unionized employees at CHCH on key pension and benefits plans to replace those contained in the current deal with Canwest Global.

Debt-laden Canwest Global put its five E!-branded TV stations on the auction block earlier this year to unload costs during a steep TV ad downturn. A Canwest Global spokesman said a greenlight from the CRTC will be followed by completion over the weekend of the acquisition, which is valued at $12.

The two broadcasters have had operational teams working closely to ensure a seamless transition of the E!-branded local TV stations to new formats at some point after midnight on Aug. 31, when the current licenses for CHCH-TV and CJNT-TV expire.

Both stations are expected to jettison expensive US network series in favour of an all-news format in Hamilton during daytime, and movies and music videos at night, while the Montreal station is to air both original foreign movies and multicultural music videos introduced by multicultural hosts.

From Playback Daily