Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) Inc. is getting back into the content business by agreeing to buy the CTV television network for $3.2 billion.
The television assets are currently owned by CTVglobemedia Inc., which in turn is held by BCE, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, Torstar Corp. and the Woodbridge Co. Ltd. If the deal is approved, BCE would buy out the other owners and get 100 per cent of CTV. Meanwhile, The Globe and Mail newspaper, currently part of CTVglobemedia, would be spun off into a different company. Woodbridge is owned by the David Thomson, who is also chairman of Thomson Reuters Corp. Thomson’s father, who died in 2006, is Ken Thomson, who is the son of the late Canadian media tycoon Roy Thomson, who once controlled a large chain of Canadian newspapers including The Globe and Mail.
In 2000, BCE acquired a controlling interest in The Globe and Mail from Thomson Corp., combined it with CTV and named it Bell Globemedia Interactive. BCE later diluted its ownership by selling parts to Teachers and Torstar, the holding company that owns the Toronto Star newspaper and other publishers, including the Harlequin romance books.
The combination of telecommunications and media firms has been a bugbear for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission which regulates facilities-based carriers, radio and television stations. Other firms, such as Rogers Communications Inc., also own television and radio stations, plus wired and wireless networks.
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During a hearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, CRTC chairman Konrad von Fickenstein said the rules for broadcasters and carriers should be the same because of firms such as Bell and Rogers who control TV stations and the networks over which content is delivered. Bell’s acquisition of CTV helps bear out von Fickenstein’s argument but the fact remains, firms such as Globalive do not operate broadcasting companies.