CanWest Global Communications is to form Canada's third national free-TV network after this week securing regulatory approval of its $545m purchase of the prinicpal TV assets of WIC Western International Communications.

CanWest will now combine the new assets with stations in two key markets - Hamilton, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia - where it already holds licenses. The new network will be Canada's third largest and the second largest private operation after CTV. Public broadcaster CBC is the largest.

Competition for product in the Canadian TV sector is set to intensify after the move, although critics of the decision argue that CanWest's success is directly attributed to its concentration on US programming.

TV regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was swayed by CanWest's commitment to increasing the hours of Canadian drama and documentaries it programs during prime time. CanWest also made a pledge of $57m in broadcast-oriented philanthropy, including gifts to arts and academic institutions.