French broadcast regulator, the Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA), announced today that it plans to investigate the proposed merger of Vivendi, Canal Plus and Seagram.
The CSA said it "plans to examine all the consequences of this operation on the audiovisual and programme-making industries." It will take into account shareholding structures and the separation of broadcast and production functions as required by French law.
It will also look at whether Canal Plus will maintain its financial backing for French film and TV. Canal Plus is the biggest backer of film in France. The new grouping said that it will absorb most of the Canal Plus group's assets, but maintain the Paris stockmarket listing for the Canal Plus French channel in which it will hold a maximum of 49% in accordance with French law. The Vivendi Universal group will similarly maintain holdings in production outfits such as Les Films Alain Sarde at a maximum of 49%.
The CSA probe, expected to be the first of many at European, US and Canadian levels, comes despite a careful and extensive campaign to inform French ministers prior to the bid announcement. Ministers informed included those for communications and finance and the prime minister's office.