CALGARY — Shaw Communications Inc. took a swipe at rival Telus Corp. on Thursday as it made its final pitch to a regulatory panel weighing its $2-billion purchase of the broadcasting assets of Canwest Global Communications.
Telus has long been concerned that Shaw (TSX:SJR.B) may hog Canwest content for itself. But Shaw’s top brass told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission earlier this week that it has no such plans.
On Wednesday, a Telus (TSX:T) executive said Shaw’s assurances did not offer any solace that the Calgary-based cable and Internet giant won’t find other ways to put itself at an unfair advantage to competitors, and urged special safeguards.
“Telus’ efforts to unduly disadvantage Shaw through this process should be dismissed as unacceptable regulatory gamesmanship,” Ken Stein, Shaw’s head of regulatory affairs, told the panel Thursday.
The current rules are adequate, Stein said. But if the CRTC feels there is a need to change them, those rules should apply to everyone.
“Any other approach in our view would be discriminatory and would cause competitive inequity,” he said.
Later, Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said Telus’ motivations are “competitive in nature.”
“The more that our arms are tied behind our backs, the better off they’re going to be,” he said.
Also Thursday, Shaw bumped up the benefits its deal would bring to the Canadian broadcast system if it goes through.
Originally, Shaw proposed to spend $24 million on programming of “national interest,” but Bissonnette told the panel Thursday that amount has been increased to $79 million.
The company is also committing more investment toward new local morning newscasts in various Canadian cities and satellite delivery to areas without digital transmission, among other things.
If the acquisition is approved, Shaw will get 11 local Global TV stations across Canada and a group of specialty channels, including Showcase, MovieTime and HGTV.
It also gets the broadcast rights to a variety of Canadian TV shows, as well as valuable agreements with U.S. networks.
Weighed down by debt, Canwest (TSXV:CGS) filed for creditor protection last fall. It sold its newspaper assets in a separate transaction earlier this year.
The CRTC is expected to issue its decision 35 days after the hearings wrap up.