Montreal-based media company Québecor is examining whether to purchase the regional newspapers operated by the financially troubled Groupe Capitales Médias chain, according to local news reports.
On Wednesday, TVA Nouvelles, part of the Québecor media group — which also operates the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec — reported that Québecor is in discussions to purchase Groupe Capitales Médias newspapers.
While La Presse initially reported Cogeco was also interested in some of the newspapers, the media company claims to have had “no discussion” with Groupe Capitales Médias.
“We do not know where this false report came from,” said Cogeco spokesperson Nancy Bouffard on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Groupe Capitales Médias president Martin Cauchon has told the company’s employees all options will be examined to ensure the company’s daily newspapers — and jobs — will continue in the long term.
On Wednesday, the Presse Canadienne obtained an internal memo signed by Cauchon telling employees management had been forced to tighten its spending because of a lack of cash.
In a letter posted Thursday, Cauchon said he remains confident the company’s newspapers are here to stay.
In his letter, Cauchon said the business model used by Groupe Capitales Médias had been called into question by Facebook, and Google is landing 80 per cent of all online advertising in Canada. Despite that, he wrote, the company’s platforms are reaching 4.5 million unique visitors a month.
Cauchon also wrote that people have to realize news gathering has a cost that has to be paid or the public will find itself at the mercy of those who have the means to present information favouring them to the detriment of the public interest.
The Legault government opened the door to providing an emergency aid package for Groupe Capitales Médias even as it begins legislative committee hearings on the future of news media in the province. Premier François Legault said on Wednesday talks had already begun with the company, noting it seemed there was an urgency in the case of Groupe Capitales Médias, which had already received government funding two years ago.
At a press conference on Thursday morning, representatives for the Quebec Liberals denounced the potential purchase, with Acadia MP Christine St-Pierre saying she feared the move would diminish diversity in the press. Meanwhile, Verdun MP Isabelle Melançon said she prefers Quebec citizens having access to several different types of media outlets, rather than one uniform conglomerate of outlets.
“An informed society is a free society that remains democratic,” she said.
Melançon lamented the passivity of the Legault government, saying the provincial government had been aware of the difficult situation at Groupe Capitales Médias since April, but still chose to do nothing.
The daily newspapers operated by Groupe Capitales Médias are Le Soleil in Quebec City, Le Droit in Ottawa-Gatineau, Le Nouvelliste in Trois-Rivières, La Tribune in Sherbrooke, La Voix de l’Est in Granby and Le Quotidien and Le Progrès weekend in Saguenay.