This week, at the Quebec National Assembly, the Commission de la culture et des communications is looking at the future of the media, a key issue for the vitality of democracy. The commission seeks the opinion of various media companies and other stakeholders on ways to ensure the survival of media outlets in Quebec and to assess how the government can support it.
Discussions are fuelled by a recent development in the media crisis: the risk of losing the six newspapers owned by Groupe Capitales Médias (GCM).
Although GCM’s situation is already very worrisome, it ought to be a cause for even greater concern.
The Canadian Media Guild (the Guild), which represents 180 workers at The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne among its 5,000 members Canada-wide, is alarmed about the impact of GCM’s situation on the journalists, photographers, news editors, translators and other news professionals working within the news agency’s French service.
Already hit by several rounds of layoffs in recent years, The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne’s newsroom could suffer from losing the revenue from GCM.
The impact of this loss could also be felt in the newsroom of several other Quebec media outlets.
This domino effect hasn’t been discussed much throughout the debate.
GCM subscribes to The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne which, by virtue of its role as a news agency that is over a century old, is a major source of content for many media outlets and organizations throughout Quebec. It acts as a critical part of the news ecosystem by providing hard-to-replace information and services to its subscriber base, whose resources have been shrinking year after year.
The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne provides written and audio content—and lots of it—to such organizations as La Presse, Le Devoir, Radio-Canada/CBC, Cogeco, Journal Métro,Les Affaires, the Huffington Post and L’actualité.
It also maintains an event calendar and informs its client outlets of its coverage plans.
The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne’s services enable these outlets to cover different topics and produce original investigative reporting.
GCM’s closure would be a disaster for the people of Saguenay, Québec, Trois-Rivières, Granby, Sherbrooke, Gatineau and their neighbouring regions. The closure would also impact The Canadian Press/ La Presse canadienne and all of its subscribers.
Quebecor has expressed interest in acquiring GCM. The Canadian Media Guild is concerned about the impact this acquisition would have on The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne’s newsroom and on the news ecosystem.
Quebecor unsubscribed from The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne many years ago. In interviews with various media outlets, its President and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau announced his intention to also cancel GCM newspapers’ subscription to the news agency.
The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne’s French service is in a precarious situation, which may cause this pillar of Quebec’s news media to become weakened or lost altogether.
Just this year, Vice Media’s Quebec bureau was shut down. And the media crisis is very real.
Possible solutions exist and will be examined by the commission this week.
The Canadian Media Guild supports several of the initiatives that have been put forward. We support any measure designed to promote original journalism and to protect or even rebuild newsrooms suffering from a lack of revenue. We wish to emphasize that given the crucial role it plays in the news ecosystem, The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne should have access to any measure that is implemented.
The work done by journalists and news professionals at The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne is absolutely critical for Quebecers and all Canadians. Our communities need reliable and rigorous journalism—this is work that’s crucial to their cultural and democratic vitality.
For over 100 years, The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne has been one of the country’s most trusted news services. We must do our utmost to avoid harming the organization’s work and the importance it has for all of us.
Quality journalism is essential to the development of our communities and the functioning of our democracies.
Jean Philippe Angers, President of The Canadian Press / La Presse canadienne Branch’s Quebec Unit, Canadian Media Guild
Karen Wirsig, Staff Representative, Canadian Media Guild