CanWest looks to invest in McMaster


ONtv may soon be asked “What's on at McMaster?”

CanWest Global Communications Corp., currently awaiting approval to purchase CHCH (now ONtv) television in Hamilton, has pledged $1 million to McMaster for scholarships and research endowments. The gift is part of a $14-million investment in Hamilton by the company in an attempt to return CHCH to its former prestige.

“This wasn't even on the radar screen. We certainly were not expecting it,” said Lorna Somers, director of McMaster's “Changing Tomorrow Today” campaign. “We are delighted at the prospect of it. We feel we have several areas of strength and interests which help foster this relationship from both sides.”

The announcement came after the company made public its application to the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) seeking permission to acquire the television holdings of Western International Communications Ltd., which includes CHCH. A decision is expected by June.

As a provision of the sale, CanWest is making a substantial investment in the community. The company plans to invest $9 million in news, public affairs and entertainment projects that will refocus the station on the “under-served” Hamilton region, stretching from Oakville through the Niagara Peninsula. The donation to McMaster is part of an investment geared to the cultural and educational infrastructure of the City of Hamilton.

“CanWest is determined to re-invent and rebuild CHCH into a strong, distinctive regional voice providing local viewers with a clear alternative that is sensitive to their needs,” said Leonard Asper, CanWest's president and chief executive officer, in a written statement. “We intend to restore CHCH to its historic roots by making it a leader in the Hamilton community.”

CanWest has also set aside money to develop a series on health care issues in Canada. It will rely heavily upon the research and expertise of McMaster's Faculty of Health Sciences.