Closure of 36 newspapers ‘dark day for local journalism’
A deal between Postmedia and TorStar to swap a total of 41 daily and weekly newspapers then shut most of them down is a “dark day for local journalism,” says CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon.
Postmedia will close 23 of the 24 publications it takes over, putting 244 people out of work by mid-January. Torstar will, effective immediately, shut down 13 of the 17 newspapers it acquired from Postmedia and lay off 46 staff.
The deal that will see 36 titles close — all but two of them in Ontario — is a “deathblow to local newspaper competition in many communities,” said O’Hanlon. “It’s bad for local journalism and bad for municipal democracy.”
O’Hanlon said it’s “outrageous that such a sweeping and damaging deal is legal and shows once again why the Competition Act needs to be beefed up.”
In a news release, CWA Canada called on the federal government to take urgent action to save local news coverage.
CWA Canada represents workers at the Peterborough Examiner, which will continue to operate under TorStar ownership, and at Northumberland Today, one of the three dailies that will shut down immediately.
Postmedia will close free commuter dailies Metro Winnipeg and Metro Ottawa; the company owns other papers in both cities. (CWA Canada has members at The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun.)
Except for the Exeter Times-Advocate/Weekender, Postmedia plans to close all of the community papers it acquired. They include:
Brant News, Belleville News, Central Hastings News, Frontenac Gazette, Kingston Heritage, Kanata Kourier-Standard, Nepean/Barrhaven News, Orleans News, Ottawa East News, Ottawa South News, Ottawa West News, Stittsville News, West Carleton Review, Quinte West News, St. Lawrence News, Our London, St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News, St. Mary’s Journal Argus, Stratford City Gazette, Norfolk News, and Meaford Express.
Of the 17 newspapers Torstar acquired in the swap, only four dailies will survive: St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and Peterborough Examiner.
Along with Northumberland Today, the Barrie Examiner, Orillia Packet & Times, free commuter dailies 24Hours Toronto and 24Hours Vancouver are dead.
The weekly papers closing include Bradford Times, Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin, Fort Erie Times, Innisfil Examiner, Niagara Advance, Pelham News, Inport News (Port Colborne) and Thorold Niagara News.
Postmedia Network’s trade with Torstar of 41 community newspapers — with 36 of them reportedly to be closed, throwing 290 out of work — has prompted much Eastern media outrage.
That’s because it went down in Ontario, which is the centre of the Canadian media universe. These same sorts of community newspaper trades and closures have been going on for years in B.C. almost unnoticed nationally, resulting in dozens of lucrative local monopolies for Black Press and Glacier Media.
Postmedia’s observation that its trade with Torstar is “not subject to the merger notification provisions of the Competition Act and no regulatory clearance is required to close the transaction” points up the weakness in federal oversight of media takeovers, which is practically nil.
But since when is such brazenly anti-competitive behaviour not subject to regulatory review? Maybe not in advance, but surely it can be reviewed and, in fact, the Competition Bureau said Monday it would review the deal. Buying and then closing your competition used to be illegal. Postmedia, which is 98-percent owned by U.S. hedge funds, may have finally overplayed its hand in exploiting Canadian regulatory laxity and then bragging about it – The Tyee
Canadian media is a lot like a game of musical chairs. We dance around in circles trying to do an increasingly thankless job, and then every other month the music stops and a lot of good players find themselves out of the game without any rhyme or reason. You hardly get time to mourn for your colleagues or lament that the industry has come to this before the music returns and the madness begins again.
This is the game that everyone plays no matter if you’re working in TV or tech, but there is an especially hellish quality to it for anyone still invested in print. “Every newspaper reader that dies leaves no heir,” it is said, which makes “deliver[ing] cost synergies” a quixotic quest at best.
But some media conglomerates still dare to dream that impossible dream, and that’s where we find ourselves today. After months of negotiations, Postmedia and Torstar have swapped ownership of a bunch of community newspapers, seemingly for the express purpose of closing most of them. Of the 41 papers changing hands in this cashless transaction [think: hockey trade with no draft picks ‘cause there’s no future], only six will remain in operation when all is said and done. Almost 300 people will lose their job. The closures overwhelmingly impact smaller community newspapers –Drew Brown, Vice
The phropetic brilliance of Postmedia boss Paul Godfrey...three years ago
Even the darlings of new media such as Buzzfeed are struggling as online business models shrink ad revenues faster than record growth in audiences – Tom Foremski, ZDNet
Union accuses Corus of punishing newly unionized workers
The union representing a new group of unionized employees at Corus Entertainment has filed a complaint with the federal labour board, alleging the media company has broken labour laws by scaling back employees’ benefits immediately after they voted in favour of unionizing — and before a new collective agreement has been negotiated.
In its March complaint to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, the Canadian Media Guild – a local of media union CWA Canada – alleges Corus penalized the group of 48 workers for voting in favour of unionizing “in an effort to turn employees against the union” and “intimidated individual employees for expressing their views on unionization.”
The Guild claims Corus — which provides specialty TV channels and owns Global News and nearly 40 radio stations in Canada — has engaged in “unfair labour practices,” including reducing employees’ vision care benefits, revoking the employees’ parking passes and terminating their ability to contribute to a group RRSP.
Sean FitzPatrick, legal counsel for the Guild, said the union had been negotiating with Corus until recently when the two sides reached an impasse over wages and benefits. The union has now created a webpage to draw attention to the dispute.
“They just won’t respect that people have a right to choose to be represented by a union,” FitzPatrick said in an interview. “That seems to be what the senior management are not digesting well” – continue reading the article at iPolitics.ca
Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan expound on violence, alienation and the electronic envelope on CBC in 1968
The last few weeks have been a bloodbath for several digital media companies. The blame fell on the usual suspects: Google and Facebook are commanding more of people's attention and advertising dollars, which leaves little room for anyone else. This is true, but it's also not the complete picture.
The reality is that there's no single villain, nor a magic formula for success in a world in which the internet and smartphones changed everything. Media companies young and old are still coming to terms with this reality and must brace themselves for the possibility that they may fail even if they do everything right – Shera Ovide, Bloomberg
Among the titles absorbed by Meredith Corp., the publishing and broadcast company that is acquiring Time Inc. in a $2.8 billion deal, are popular U.K. magazines NME and Uncut. NME, a staple of the British music scene since its founding as New Musical Express in 1952 — and the first U.K. publication to feature a singles chart — was sold to IPC in 1963. In 2001, Time Inc. bought IPC and in 2015, NME changed from a paid subscription/newsstand model to free distribution throughout the UK – Variety
Meredith Corp.’s $2.8 billion agreement to purchase publisher Time Inc. won’t curtail the media company’s broadcast station appetite, chair and CEO Stephen Lacy said on a conference call with analysts to announce the deal.
Meredith now owns 17 broadcast stations, but the Time deal also adds another key aspect to Meredith’s business – TV content.
The company’s decline is readily apparent – but if the billionaire brothers’ other interests are a guide, their investment will be about more than money.
What’s concerning about the Kochs’ interest, according to Alexander, is not that they are conservative. Time’s founder, Henry Luce, was conservative. What Alexander is worried about is a much more recent affliction of the Republican party: its systematic denial of the science underlying climate change and how that presaged a larger skepticism of science and facts in general – Lucia Graves, The Guardian UK
Who are the Koch brothers?
Seasoned media veteran Rupert Murdoch, in reaching out to possible acquirers of his non-news and sports video assets, has recognized a new truth of the digital economy: unless you control the distribution, you are inherently at a disadvantage. With access to global audiences now controlled by a select few tech players, the balance of power resides with the digital operators that currently command audience engagement, either via social apps or through early mover advantage in digital subscription services.
For the rest, consolidation is now key to survival, as is access to differentiated content. Both traditional video content providers and Telcos currently find themselves entering into a bidding war to acquire premium video assets from a player that has seemingly chosen to become super niche and opted out of being a full-service video content provider.
2017 could finally see the first time a big player in TV and film buckle under the pressure of disruption from Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD), unleashed a decade ago by Netflix’s pivot into streaming video, and makes the hard business choice of selling premium assets before its value starts to erode – Midia Research
Corus is creating brand synergies between Global TV News and its News-Talk radio stations in Ontario. The company is now using the slogan "Global News Radio" on CHML 900 in Hamilton, CFPL 980 in London, and AM 640 (CFMJ) in Toronto. It is expected that the re-brand will be rolled out nationally ASAP.
Norma Elizabeth Browne, co-founder of CFCP Radio Ltd., died Nov. 21, at the Views at St Joseph’s in the Comox Valley. In 1959, she and her late husband Billy Browne Jr. (formerly of station CJOR in Vancouver and son of well-known radio pioneer William J. Browne) started the chain of stations that included CFPA Port Alice, CFNI Port Hardy, CFWB Campbell River, CHQB Powell River, and CFCP in the Comox Valley. Norma E. Browne took over management of CFCP Radio Ltd. following the death of her husband in early 1990. In 2005 she decided to retire and sold the company. CFCP’s assets are now owned by Vista Broadcast Group.