A TV channel in Quebec owned by Quebecor was shut down and the reason given was clear; competing to be profitable against an ever growing state broadcaster was just too difficult, so Quebecor is closing down their business channel, Argent.
Julie Tremblay, President and CEO of Quebecor Media put it bluntly in a statement on the company website.
"When the government sends hundreds of millions of dollars to the public broadcaster, closing Argent illustrates the difficulties faced by private broadcasters in a rapidly changing industry.”
Quebecor is no slouch in the Quebec market. They dominate in TV and used to in magazines and newspapers. The most recent ratings from March 30 to April 3 show that seven of the top ten shows in Quebec were on a Quebecor network.
But the entire media model is changing. Private broadcasters see changes in viewing habits and perhaps more importantly – in ad buying habits. Millions of dollars per year are evaporating from TV ad buys as businesses, local and national, spend elsewhere.
Quebecor and Argent had to deal with this reality but CBC is immune, especially under this current government. Justin’s Liberals promised an extra $150 million per year for the state broadcaster, which is much more than the Conservatives ever cut.
The $1.1 billion per year the CBC gets isn’t available to private broadcasters. There are funds to pay for Canadian content creation, funds we pay through taxes or levies placed on cable companies who pass the cost on to us, but the majority of even that funding is sucked up by CBC.
Those in private broadcasting have argued the CBC uses their huge subsidy to unfairly compete and it’s true.
Recently CBC hired former Globe and Mail reporter turned Twitter executive Steve Ladurantaye who’s joining them to head up their digital push. Of course CBC should have a website but they now have a whole division of reporters whose sole job is to write stories for the web competing not only with newspapers but web news sites like The Rebel or Press Progress, National Observer, Buzzfeed.
Where in their mandate does it say CBC should be doing this? It doesn’t.
Yet again CBC uses their $1.1 billion subsidy to undermine competitors. Today it’s Argent, one day it will be your local newspaper, your local TV or radio station and eventually people might realize the damage CBC’s subsidy inflicts on Canadian news.