Tag Archives: media ownership

The new convergence utopia: Who owns what in Canadian media

A little under three years ago, I published a post with a chart of Canada’s media giants and what they own. Now that the CRTC has given a green light to a major acquisition by one of them, I thought it was a good time to revisit and update that chart.

The following represents who will own what once all the various deals go through, including related deals for asset acquisitions involving Corus, Shaw and Pattison Group.

UPDATE: I’ve moved the chart to this page, where I will be keeping it updated.

The convergence utopia

An updated chart can be found here.

It probably doesn’t matter to most people that Bell Canada’s parent company BCE announced on Friday that it was buying 100% of CTV. Bell already owned 15% of it, and had previously acquired CTV back in 2000 as part of a similar convergence play.

Ah, convergence. It’s been the buzzword in the big media companies for the past decade or so, with all the acquisitions that have taken place. Bell, a phone company, started up a satellite TV service, a DSL Internet service, and got into the broadcasting game in one giant swoop by acquiring CTV the first time, along with a growing number of TV specialty channels.

Rogers, which had a head start on the convergence business being a broadcaster, cable provider and wireless company, added a baseball team, other cable and wireless providers, and broadcasting assets including the sloppy seconds of the CTV/CHUM acquisition.

Quebecor, once a commercial printer and newspaper owner, bought a TV network, a cable and Internet service provider, and an entire newspaper chain.

Canwest, once a small television broadcaster, built up a national television network, bought a high-profile newspaper chain and a media company with a truckload of specialty channels. Now it in turn (minus the newspapers) has been bought up by Shaw, a cable provider that acquired a satellite TV provider.

With Shaw’s acquisition of Canwest and Bell’s acquisition of CTV, a pattern is emerging where each of the corporate empires has a TV provider, a wireless service, an Internet service, a national broadcast network, TV specialty channels, and maybe some radio and print assets on the side.

Shaw Quebecor Bell* Rogers
TV network Global TVA, Sun TV CTV, A Channel CityTV/OMNI
TV provider Shaw Cable/Shaw Direct Videotron cable/Illico Bell TV, Bell Fibe TV Rogers Cable
Internet Shaw Internet Videotron Bell Internet Rogers Internet
Wireless (Coming in 2011) Videotron wireless Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile Canada Rogers Wireless, Fido, Chatr
Home phone Shaw cable VOIP Videotron cable VOIP Bell Canada Rogers home phone
Newspapers None Sun Media, Osprey Media Globe and Mail (15%) None
Other print None TVA Publications Report on Business Magazine Rogers Publishing (including l’Actualité, Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Canadian Business)
Specialty TV DejaView, Fox Sports World Canada, Global Reality, MovieTime, Mystery TV, TVtropolis, BBC Canada, BBC Kids, Discovery Health Canada, DIY Network, Food Network Canada, History Television, HGTV Canada, IFC Canada, National Geographic Channel Canada, Showcase/Action/Diva, Slice** LCN, Argent, addiktv, Yoopa, Les idées de ma maison, Prise 2, The Cave (51%) Business News Network, Comedy Network, CTV News Channel, TSN/TSN2, RDS, RIS, ESPN Classic, Discovery Channel (and related networks), BookTelevision, Bravo!, CP24, Comedy Gold (80.1%), FashionTelevision, MuchMusic (and related networks), Space, Star! Biography Channel, G4 Canada (66.67%), OLN, Rogers Sportsnet, Setanta Sports Canada (53.33%), The Shopping Channel
Radio None** None CHUM radio network (about 35 stations including CKGM Team 990 in Montreal) About 50 stations
Online publications None Canoe.ca Sympatico.ca 12 assets, including sweetspot.ca
Other TVA Films, Archambault, Super Club Videotron The Source Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Centre

*For the purpose of this chart, we’ll assume that the Bell purchase of CTVglobemedia goes through as advertised.

**Many people point to the Shaw family’s control of Corus Entertainment to suggest that Corus is unofficially a subsidiary of Shaw Communications. But if you think that way, you can add a bunch of specialty channels and radio stations to the Shaw column.

Filling the holes

Rather than worry too much about a telecommunications company wanting to spend billions on media assets when just about all media assets are falling in value, the business world is wondering: What’s next? Where is the next big acquisition or merger that puts a fifth column on that table?

Telus is the big name on everyone’s lips, because they have the audacity to just be a telecom company at the moment and therefore have a “content gap”. But Telus says they won’t get in this game.

Besides, there are other options. Just connect the dots as you like:


  • Telus (wireless, home phone, TV, Internet)
  • EastLink (cable, Internet)



Telecom and broadcasting

There’s also plenty of regional telecom companies, small newspaper publishers, book publishers and specialty TV channel owners that can be scooped up and disappear into the large conglomerates.

How this screws us over

“Today our three largest cable competitors are fully integrated and clearly we are not prepared to buy our content from our competitors”

That quote comes from a conference call that Bell had shortly after announcing the deal to buy CTV. The basic premise behind this deal isn’t that CTV is going to make Bell a lot of money by being a profitable business unit, but rather that CTV’s content will be a bargaining chip to get people to use Bell’s services.

Recently, Rogers launched a new TV channel called Sportsnet One. Even though it’s only available on Rogers cable (it hasn’t negotiated carriage on the other providers yet), Rogers decided to move Toronto Blue Jays games to Sportsnet One in order to get people to subscribe to the new channel. Since Rogers owns the baseball team, the television channel and the cable provider that carries it, it’s the ultimate convergence play.

And it’s royally screwing over Blue Jays fans.

Analysts don’t think Bell will be using blackmail to get people to switch over to its services. But they could. Want to watch NHL games on your mobile phone? You can’t unless you’re with Bell. Want TVA shows on demand? You can’t unless you have Videotron illico. Anything these companies can buy exclusive rights for, they will do it. The only things keeping them from forcing you to subscribe to a particular telecom in order to get some content are the CRTC (which doesn’t regulate mobile or online content) and business models that see more profits in maximum exposure than short-sighted consumer blackmail.

It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for one of these companies to pull some move that, like Sportsnet One, requires using a particular service to get something that used to be widely available. And if one company does that (and it’s successful), the others would probably follow. We could be a couple of years away from a country where you need to buy redundant services in order to get the content you want.

Save our local TV from … us?

Remember that “Save Local TV” campaign by the broadcasters who wanted us to convince the CRTC to force the cable and satellite companies to give money to TV broadcasters? And the corresponding “Stop the TV Tax” campaign from the cable and satellite companies to pressure the CRTC the other way? Well, since that campaign, Shaw took control of Global TV and BCE is about to take control of CTV. Quebecor, which owns both TVA and Videotron, didn’t participate in either campaign.

Bill Brioux remembers those campaigns, and is particularly pissed that a TV network with a “broken business model” just sold for billions.

They’re still arguing against each other at the moment, but how long can we expect that to last?

And there’s other concerns too. John Bowman points out that there’s little incentive to invest in quality broadcast equipment. And Iain Marlow suggests this may make it easier for the government to relax foreign ownership restrictions.

This kind of stuff will come up at the CRTC hearings into the takeover, though I’m doubtful that the commission will put up a major roadblock to it, despite opposition from opponents to media concentration.

It won’t work … or maybe it will

The biggest negative opinion about this deal is the simple argument that CTV won’t be a profitable venture for Bell any more than it was a decade ago. That’s what David Olive says, it’s what Howard Bernstein says, and Torstar (which sells its stake in CTV) is playing this up as a win for them, as is the Globe and Mail, which is breaking off (mostly) from the empire.

To be fair, some like the Globe’s Derek DeCloet believe this might make sense, pointing out that the price isn’t as ridiculously high as it was 10 years ago. Other analysts agree.

One of those sides will be proven right in a few years. Let’s hope, for the sake of consumer choice and healthy corporate competition, that bigger isn’t better.

Cogeco’s self-serving plan for Quebec radio

Three months after announcing a deal to buy Corus Quebec’s radio stations (with the exception of CKRS in Saguenay, which has been sold to an independent group including Guy Carbonneau), Cogeco and the CRTC yesterday both released Cogeco’s proposal for how it will run those stations.

Among the highlights:

Cogeco News

In addition to the above, Cogeco is talking big about creating a “news agency” that would serve all its stations (I guess they mean something bigger than Corus Nouvelles). Here’s what they say in their press release:

The news agency that COGECO proposes to set up will play a key role in enriching local information and will provide a complement to the other information sources available in Quebec. All of the stations of the COGECO group as well as independent stations in the regions and community stations will be asked to contribute to the content available through the agency. In return, they will be able to select the most relevant news for their respective listening audiences and produce their own news bulletins locally.

Pooling resources through the news agency, which will be coordinated by FM 98.5, will create a full information source available 24/7 – because news happens nights and weekends, too.

Furthermore, sharing information resources will allow regional stations CHLN-FM Trois-Rivieres, CHLT-FM Sherbrooke and CJRC-FM Gatineau, which will remain predominantly spoken-word radio services but will now primarily target men between the ages of 25 and 54, to devote their resources to producing local shows. Most significantly, this means the return of local public affairs programming in the morning and at noon, as well as locally produced news bulletins.

Finally, a night-time show and a weekend morning public affairs show will be produced and offered to all stations of the group. Community stations and independent stations in the regions will also have the benefit of these new resources and information content.

“We want to put information radio in Quebec back on top,” commented Mr. Lachance. “Since COGECO is a business that is close to its people, it is a natural fit for us to make local information and local interest content the heart of our strategy. The decision to include independent stations in the regions and community stations in the agency aligns with that, and we think this is great news for radio in Quebec.”

Unless I’ve misunderstood, this sounds a lot like what the TV networks have done to local television stations. They still produce local newscasts locally (well, except Global), but many of the stories they produce are prepackaged by the national network. Without the resources and staff to put together a full newscast, the local stations are forced to use these prepackaged reports, even if they’re local stories from local newscast hundreds of kilometres away that have little interest to their communities.

And Cogeco is trying to sell this as a good thing for local radio.

Of course, if the alternative is no news at all, or a straight rebroadcast of a Montreal signal, I guess it is good news.

Let us cheat, but only where we get rich

Cogeco doesn’t try to hide the fact that its request to keep its stations in Montreal is all about money. Rythme FM is the No. 1 station in Montreal, 98.5 has the most popular morning show, and CKOI also does very well here.

Their excuse for wanting to keep all these money-generating stations? They’re throwing out a bunch:

98.5 is special: “The proposed exception affects only FM 98.5 in Montreal’s French-language radio market and would allow COGECO to operate three French-language FM radio stations, each in its own niche.”

Are Rythme FM and CKOI so different that they qualify as their “own niches”? And the exception applies equally to them. Nothing stops Cogeco from keeping 98.5 and selling Rythme FM or CKOI. It’s selling both stations from those networks in Quebec City and shutting down CKOI’s sister station in Sherbrooke.

It saves the French language: “The distinctiveness of the bilingual Montreal market and the importance of keeping talk radio like FM 98.5 strong in order to ensure the sustainability of French-language spoken-word radio in Quebec justify our request for an exception”

I have no idea what bilingualism has to do with this, nor how “the distinctiveness of the bilingual Montreal market” somehow means it makes sense to concentrate ownership. I don’t know whether 98.5 is profitable. If it is, they can sell it to someone who will keep the talk radio format. If it isn’t, there’s no guarantee Cogeco won’t change the format and make it a music station or something else that’s cheaper to produce.

It helps the regions financially: “Without that exception, it will be next to impossible for COGECO to indefinitely support regional spoken-word radio stations that have been running heavy deficits for many years.”

That’s an argument for converting CKOY in Sherbrooke from a station to a retransmitter, but what does it have to do with Montreal? Does Cogeco expect us to believe that if we give them an exception to media concentration rules that they’ll subsidize money-losing regional stations indefinitely?

It helps the regions with programming: “The limited exception sought by COGECO would breathe new life into stations in the regions by providing them links to strong programming sources – to FM 98.5 primarily, for information and public affairs, and to CKAC-AM for sports and CKOI-FM for its expertise and music content.”

Again with the distraction. CKAC has nothing to do with the exception, since it’s an AM station. And as for CKOI, you just said you’re selling its sister station in Quebec City and shutting down its sister station in Sherbrooke. If Montreal-based programming would save these stations, why do you insist on getting rid of them?

We should include anglo stations too: “… a very high number of francophone listeners tune in to English-language music stations.”

Sure. CHOM and CJFM get a lot of francophones listening to them. But so does CFQR, which you’ll recall is one of the stations you’re buying. Add in the anglo stations, and Cogeco wants to own five of the 13 commercial radio stations in the city, and four of the eight commercial FM (mainstream) music stations. This doesn’t support their argument very well.

Straight-up bullshit: “Our plan is without a doubt the best opportunity to increase diversity of voices across Quebec that the broadcasting system has seen in many years.”

You’re buying a former competitor. Don’t pretend it’s the opposite of what it is.

Ooh, money!

Oh, and that last part they mentioned about “an exceptional contribution of 9% of the total transaction value, an amount of $7.2 million, to various organizations and initiatives to support the radio system”? Sounds kind of generous, doesn’t it?

It’s CRTC policy that when a broadcaster is sold, the buyer proposes a “tangible benefits” package of 10% of the purchase price to contribute positively to the development of the broadcasting system. The money doesn’t go to the CRTC, but to organizations that support independent productions and other good things.

You math majors might notice that their 9% proposal is less than the 10% CRTC policy. In other words, it’s another exception they’re asking for, one that they’re selling to the public as a generous donation on their part.

What the CRTC should do

Cogeco hasn’t made anywhere near a solid case for keeping three FM stations in the Montreal market. It’s selling or shutting down Rythme FM and CKOI-branded stations elsewhere in Quebec, and freely admits its only motivation for wanting to keep these stations here is money. The CRTC should order Cogeco to sell one of the FM stations in Montreal, and let someone who isn’t Cogeco or Astral Media take a shot at making money from commercial francophone radio in Montreal.

Cogeco’s point about the unprofitability of regional stations is a good one, but giving the company what it wants in Montreal won’t suddenly make those stations profitable (even with all the big talk about a news agency they promise). It will at best simply delay their eventual decision to either sell or shut down those regional stations.

In Quebec City, Cogeco’s plan to sell two stations would put it in compliance with CRTC guidelines. No problem there.

In Sherbrooke, Cogeco is presenting its plan as a “win-win-win”, proving it doesn’t give a crap about local radio. The CRTC should order Cogeco to find a buyer for CKOY. Corus found a buyer for CKRS in Saguenay, and those Quebec City stations are going to someone. I’m willing to bet there’s interest in CKOY if it’s on the block for cheap. If Cogeco is interested in having a CKAC retransmitter in Sherbrooke, it can apply for a new license on a vacant frequency.

The CRTC will hold a hearing on Sept. 28 at 9am at Le Nouvel Hotel (1740 René-Lévesque W., corner Saint-Mathieu) to consider the application.

UPDATE (Aug. 6): Cogeco VP Richard Lachance does interviews with Infopresse and Paul Arcand explaining the plan, saying the new news service will create about a dozen jobs (including reporters in the federal and provincial legislatures), and there’s no Plan B if the CRTC decides it doesn’t like Cogeco’s plan.

Trente, meanwhile, takes another look at the plan, referencing this blog post.

Irvings’ media monopoly in NB takes a sad step (UPDATED)

UPDATE (June 8): The Telegraph-Journal responds. See below.

The media concentration outrage of the week (Hitler comparisons and all) concerns Matt McCann, an intern at the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal who wrote an article about teachers’ reaction to the University of New Brunswick giving an honorary degree to premier Shawn Graham.

You’d think such a thing would be a conflict of interest, an academic institution presenting an honour to the man responsible for the government that funds them, but apparently UNB does this as a matter of routine.

The story made the front page. It included quotes from professors and students (none of which were anonymous) who were upset at the move. It quoted a university spokesperson who explained the policy and made counter-arguments, as well as a note saying that Graham’s office did not wish to comment. In all, a fairly standard newspaper political conflict story, and a pretty good one for an intern.

After the story was published, the newspaper fired him.

According to McCann, he was told his story was “seriously unbalanced and severely underplayed the university’s side of the story” and that “the newspaper has worked hard to establish a good relationship with UNB and that I had damaged that relationship”. The newspaper refused to give its side to the CBC, so we have only McCann’s word on this.

On Saturday, the Telegraph-Journal, which had refused to comment because it was a “personnel issue” (a policy many companies have to avoid lawsuits and such), decided that policy has a scandal-annoyance exception clause to it, and published an unsigned Page 3 story with an inflammatory headline that falsely accuses the CBC. (Thanks Josh) In it, the paper said McCann was fired because he misspelled a name, got a title wrong (his “university secretary” was actually a “university secretary” … wait, what?), and didn’t correctly list the premier’s degrees. It also repeats that that McCann didn’t “adequately portray” both sides of the story and “did not seem to fully grasp the seriousness” of his errors.


Are we to believe that the Telegraph-Journal has such absolute integrity that minor factual errors lead to immediate dismissal? If it was, why haven’t the errors been corrected on the original story online? Is balance in stories so important that a 149-word rebuttal to a 368-word argument is so outrageously biased it constitutes an error in judgment? (And just what part of the university’s argument did McCann leave out of his story?) Shall we go through Telegraph-Journal stories with minor factual errors and where the word counts of both sides of an argument don’t exactly match and demand those journalists be fired too?

This isn’t just wrong, it’s cartoonishly-evil wrong. The kind of stuff you see on TV and scream “that wouldn’t actually happen in real life.” It’s so bad, in fact, that Premier Graham took pity on the kid and asked for his CV. Even Graham, who the newspaper considered the victim of McCann’s “reckless” reporting, thought the punishment was too severe.

This is an abhorrent act and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms. Other than the minor factual errors, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that story.

A little context is necessary here: The Telegraph-Journal is owned by the Irving family, a very powerful family that owns almost all news media in New Brunswick (the exceptions are a Transcon-owned community paper, L’Acadie Nouvelle and sister francophone media, bureaus of Global Halifax and CTV Halifax, CBC/RadCan stations, private radio music stations and small community publications). Of note is the fact that outside of CBC New Brunswick, there hasn’t been any original reporting of this story. Not only is this kind of monopoly unique in Canada, but unlike Canwest or CTVglobemedia, the Irvings also have non-media corporate interests, including big-money forestry and oil businesses. Their media holdings have been repeatedly accused of being soft on the Irving empire.

And now a young reporter has been dismissed because he made the premier look bad.

New Brunswick needs a media revolution. The Irvings’ control over the province needs to be pried off with a crowbar.

Ownership mothership

CBC media ownership network map

CBC media ownership network map

The CBC has played with cool new technology from IBM to create a network map of media ownership in Canada as part of a special section dealing with the future of television.

While it does look cool, it’s not particularly useful for understanding media ownership. For one, large corporations are represented by tiny dots, and the network looks a lot more incestuous than it should because of things like CPAC (which is financed by all Canadian cable and satellite providers) and other joint ownership situations.

That data behind it, however, are publicly available and can be used to create other visualizations. Making the size of the dots proportional to gross yearly revenue might make it more interesting.

Debt crisis hurts HugeMediaCorps

After Canwest announced it was cutting jobs and CTV announced it was cutting jobs, Rogers is now announcing it is cutting jobs, about 100 of them, including staff at Maclean’s, Sportsnet and CityTV.

You know what these three megacorporations have in common? They all thought they could get rich by acquiring other media companies.

Canwest was still paying off the debt it took on when it bought the Southam newspaper chain (which includes my employer, The Gazette) when it decided it needed more cable channels and acquired Alliance Atlantis. This gave them channels including Showcase.

Bell Canada responded to Canwest’s consolidation by planning a megacorporation of its own. Bell acquired CTV and the Globe and Mail and eventually most of CHUM’s assets. In exchange for the latter, BCE sold shares in the company to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Torstar and the Thomson family, and BellGlobeMedia became CTVglobemedia.

A lot of Rogers’s acquisitions have been in the form of CTV’s sloppy seconds (oh wait, can I not use those words?). This includes Sportsnet, which CTV had to dump when it acquired TSN, and City TV ($375 million), which CTV had to dump when it acquired CHUM. It also acquired the Blue Jays, Fido, as well as specialty TV networks and radio stations within the past decade.

I’m no financial expert, and I don’t have a very clear idea of the balance sheets of these three companies, but this is a really bad time to have debt, especially risky debt (say, holding a bunch of assets in an industry that might disappear entirely in 10 years). The economic downturn that the mortgage debt crisis precipitated is certainly affecting these companies and worrying their management, but I think the debt problem is more significant here than the advertising or subscription revenue problems.

Perhaps this might serve as a warning that consolidation isn’t always the best way to go.

Or perhaps not.

UPDATE (Dec. 9): The New York Times, which I can only assume got the idea from this blog post, has a similar analysis of U.S. newspapers (though in that case, it was taking on debt to acquire other newspapers that got them into trouble).

CRTC roundup: new rules for converging newsrooms

The CRTC has given final approval for the “Journalistic Independence Code” proposed by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a self-regulation body of Canada’s private broadcasters.

The code is designed to replace CRTC rules about the independence of TV and newspaper newsrooms, which affect Canada’s three largest private TV broadcasters:

  • Global TV (owned by Canwest which also owns a newspaper chain including the National Post and The Gazette – which includes me)
  • CTV (owned by CTVglobemedia which also owns the Globe and Mail)
  • TVA (owned by Quebecor Media which also owns the Sun chain, 24 Hours/Heures and the Journal de Montréal)

Currently, the CRTC has rules that the television newsrooms and the newsrooms of affiliated newspapers cannot be mixed or merged. They must be completely independent of one another.

As if to underscore how bureaucratic everything is at the CRTC and CBSC, only three of the ten points in the code actually deal with rules for broadcasters. The rest deal with how the code itself should be administered.

The new rules are:

  • There must be completely independent “news management and presentation structures”
  • Decisions about journalistic content must be made “solely by that broadcaster”
  • TV news managers may not sit on newspaper editorial boards and vice versa (but news managers may “sit on committees or bodies intended to co-ordinate the use of newsgathering resources”)

The CRTC’s rules on cross-media ownership date back to 2001, when Quebecor Media bought Videotron, which then owned TVA. The transaction meant that Quebecor would own the largest private television network in Quebec, the largest newspaper (the Journal de Montréal) and the largest cable TV company. The CRTC decided that some journalistic rules would need to be in place to protect the diversity of voices in the newsroom.

Those rules were just as vague as the new ones proposed. Newsrooms and news management decisions must be separate.

Though they sound simple, the application of those rules is all about interpretation. For example, while newspapers and TV stations can’t decide on the other’s coverage, nothing prevents the parent company of both from dictating news. In fact, under the new rules, nothing discourages TV stations and newspapers from “co-ordinating newsgathering resources.” This could mean, for example, having TV journalists file both TV packages and newspaper articles on stories that have video, and having newspaper journalists file texts to both newspaper and TV on stories that don’t.

Journalist unions, who also protested the original Quebecor takeover, also spoke out during hearings about this code, saying it didn’t do enough to really separate newsrooms. But it seems the CRTC thinks it’s enough for them, and with the new code approved it is allowing networks to modify their licenses to remove the original rules (TVA was first off the bat)

We’ll see over the coming years how many loopholes can be found to cut down costs and introduce “efficiencies” by reducing “duplication” in the two media.

UPDATE (Nov. 25): TVA’s union has objected to the request to use the new rules, saying it threatens journalistic independence.

In other news

Oh, and Pauline Marois is flapping her gums again about creating a Quebec CRTC, further needlessly duplicating government institutions and burning through our tax dollars.

TVA hates Lagacé

I’ve always admired Patrick Lagacé. The way he works hard, the way he does his homework before putting together insightful commentary (instead of knee-jerk reactions), his hair, and the fact he puts me on his blogroll.

But more importantly, I admire the impact he has. Like being able to piss off the entire management team at TVA.

Yesterday, La Presse published a really long letter signed by four executives at TVA which accuses Lagacé of not checking his facts in a recent column about the network burying embarrassing news about itself and friends of owner Quebecor.

As Lagacé mentions at the end of the column, TVA is suing Gesca and Lagacé personally for his previous remarks on this issue.

For the benefit of those who don’t want to read the long letter, or whose French is rusty, here’s TVA’s main points:

  1. TVA’s news coverage is dictated by TVA, not Quebecor. Quebecor has no control. No control my ass. You don’t get to own the media unless you can tell it what to do occasionally. Obviously TVA decides what the day-to-day news is going to be, but don’t tell me there isn’t some middle manager who knows he’s more likely to get a promotion and less likely to be fired if he suppresses bad news and promotes good news. Just look at its collusion cooperation with Quebecor-owned Journal de Montréal or Quebecor-owned Videotron.
  2. TVA did, in fact, allow clips critical of TVA to be aired, contrary to Lagacé’s insinuations. OK, sure. I’ll concede that point, though Lagacé got his information from Le Soleil, which got a quote from TVA saying they can decide what to air and what not to air. But stories can be buried without being totally eliminated. Newspapers do it all the time: putting good news on A1 or A2, while leaving bad news to a brief at the back of the business section.
  3. TVA didn’t talk about 15 job cuts at TVA Québec because it was a non-story, and it was really four job cuts, and only one in news. As Lagacé mentions, it was still 15 job cuts at a regional station, whether or not some people stayed on part-time in another role.
  4. Lagacé made no attempt to contact TVA before his article was published to check these facts. Lagacé says he tried to contact Quebecor but got no response.

Left unmentioned by both parties is that Lagacé used to be part of the Quebecor family when he worked for the Journal and blogged for Canoe. To say there’s bad blood between the two might be considered an understatement.

But, of course, Quebecor doesn’t control TVA. So this silly conspiracy theory has no basis, right?

Journalist, criticize thyself

This is why people don’t trust the media anymore: La Presse says TVA isn’t covering the Journal de Québec situation fairly, because both are owned by Quebecor.

There’s this thing with the media that’s always annoyed me:

  1. Journalists love to talk about their industry with other journalists
  2. People love reading about the media (within reason, of course)
  3. Journalists are hesitant to write about matters that are “in the family” (owned by the same company) or within the media outlet itself, whether because of paranoid self-censorship or orders from upper management not to pursue a story
  4. Journalists and their media outlets will never talk about their competition, unless it’s to report something bad about them, in which case they go all out.

La Presse isn’t immune to this. Neither is The Gazette (the paper I work for), nor any other media outlet I can think of. And the larger the corporate empire, the worse the problem gets.

Why can’t they be more honest about themselves? Giving a union boss criticizing a platform to criticize you makes you look bad, but denying that union boss a voice makes you look worse.

Remember: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

The CRTC does something

Everyone’s falling over themselves talking about the CRTC’s new rules for media ownership, saying it’s about time the regulatory commission did something.

The new rules basically come down to three limits:

  1. The same company can’t own a newspaper (daily, paid local paper), radio station and TV station in the same market
  2. The same company can’t acquire TV stations that would give it a 45% or more audience share in a market
  3. The same company cannot control all broadcast distribution systems (cable and satellite TV) in the same market

Enough exceptions have been made already that nobody is affected right now. These include:

  1. The CBC/Radio-Canada and other public broadcasters
  2. Companies who grow their audience market share to over 45% with existing properties
  3. The National Post and Globe and Mail, which are considered “national newspapers”

You can see the CRTC’s press release and a public notice outlining the well-thought-out rationale for the decisions they made and those they decided against.

Go nuts, Quebecor

A second, related decision which isn’t getting so much attention is a loosening of restrictions on news gathering. Previously, Quebecor was forced to separate news gathering divisions in its print and television properties. Reporters for TVA and the Journal de Montréal couldn’t so much as talk to each other.

The problem with that restriction is two-fold. First of all, other media like CanWest and CTVglobemedia had lesser restrictions which only required them to manage the news outlets separately. Second, the Internet has forced the CRTC to realize that the medium is irrelevant. Newspaper reporters are shooting video, and TV reporters are writing text. The lines between media are blurring.

So the CRTC has decided to harmonize its rules to the looser CTV/Canwest system, which restricts news management but not news gathering directly. Management of one outlet cannot be involved with managing the other. The reporters themselves, however, are unaffected.

This will come as welcome news to Quebecor, who can now take frame grabs from TVA to fill Journal de Québec pages have more flexibility in its media management.

Rogers TQS?

TQS - Le mouton rouge de la télé!

La Presse has a rumour (and CBC/CP rewrites that rumour) that Rogers is going to be buying the Montreal and Quebec City TQS stations, while Radio Nord (which already owns TQS stations in Outaouais and Abitibi) would buy stations in outlying regions.

Rogers won’t comment and Radio Nord denies they’re buying the stations.

I suppose it makes sense. Rogers owns what’s left of Citytv, a network without a station in Canada’s second-largest city. (I can just imagine the kind of outcry we’d have if they tried to convert TQS into an anglophone City station.) And if they are buying TQS out, chances are it would be for a significant discount.

TQS’s creditor protection lasts until Thursday.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, at Le Devoir, Paul Cochon looks at the blame game, and wonders why Quebecor (which owns TVA) isn’t being blamed in the same way Radio-Canada and the CRTC are.

UPDATE (Jan. 16): TQS gets its extension, and now has until Feb. 29 to decide what to do with itself. Meanwhile, Steve Proulx doesn’t think La Presse’s “scoop” is any more than idle speculation, and he thinks the CRTC is more to blame for TQS’s troubles than Radio-Canada.