Media casualties continue at 24 hours, Torstar, CTVglobemedia as Black Press posts big loss

The media casualties just don’t seem to be ending. Today, Sean Holman revealed on his Web site that he lost his job as the legislative columnist for the Vancouver commuter paper 24 hours.

Holman attributed this to “downsizing”. He is the second political voice to leave the paper, which also let go of  conservative columnist Erin Airton a while ago. Bill Tieleman is still writing a left-of-centre column for 24 hours, which is owned by Quebecor Inc.

(For more on the 24 hours cuts, see the Toronto Sun Family blog.)

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star announced yesterday that it was laying off 60 unionized staff and managers, mostly in advertising. Last month, the paper’s parent company, Torstar Corp., reported a $180.5-million annual loss.

Some of those Torstar losses are attributable to the company’s investment in B.C.-based Black Press, which owns several local community papers, including the WestEnder, the North Shore Outlook, the Richmond Review, and the Tri-Cities News.

Torstar has previously reported that it holds almost 20 percent of Black Press. In its most recent financial report, Torstar reported that it lost $26.3 million from its investment in Black Press last year.

If you multiply the Torstar loss  by five (because Torstar holds nearly 20 percent), this suggests that privately owned Black Press lost $131.5 million last year.

Black Press, which is based in Victoria,  prints the Vancouver commuter paper Metro, which Torstar owns  in partnership  with the Swedish company Metro International.

The electronic media have also been hit hard by the recession. On March 3, CTVglobemedia announced the elimination of 118 positions at company-owned A stations in Victoria, London, Barrie, and Ottawa. This represented approximately 28 percent of the A stations' overall staff count.

"We simply can't monetize our success,” executive vice-president Paul Sparkes said in the news release. “We are doing everything we can to hang on to conventional television, but as we continue to stress, the conventional model is now broken.”

Television advertising has migrated up the dial to specialty channels, which also generate fees from cable subscribers. CTVglobemedia has claimed that conventional stations also require these  “fee-for-carriage” payments to survive, but so far, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has not gone along with its wishes.




Mar 10, 2009 at 12:12pm

Interesting to note in the Torstar earnings report that Torstar's share of Black's operational loss is $4.9M (extrapolates to $24.5M), while the rest is apparently a writedown of the value of his big-city U.S. dailies -- apparently the majority of the operating loss is also in those papers as opposed to his Canadian papers.

Signal Hill

May 6, 2009 at 3:58pm

Whatever the major component of the loss, whether an impairment loss of the Akron, OH paper or the disintegration of the US economy in general, the fact remains that Black Press's damage control is not restricted to its holdings across the line. Despite reports that BP's Canadian publications - more than 150 of them - are surviving, staff layoffs and other cost-cutting measures continue to cast a very dark cloud over operations at the Victoria head office and throughout the chain.
It is only logical that money-losing interests will drain cash from financially healthier operations within any company.
And this apparent cash drain has had significant impact on BP's markets such as Victoria.
In the past six months, layoffs in Victoria alone have included sales, production and editorial staff and even a senior vice-president. Line personnel have been and continue to be in the crosshairs of senior management - with the result that those remaining are expected to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources.
Cancellation of the editorial internship program - a longstanding opprotunity for journalism students to get their feet wet in the business - withdrawal from several sponsorhip opportunities and an inability or unwillingness to cover community events due to space limitations or bad decision making have only further reduced the company's public profile.
And that's a shame.