Wednesday, October 7, 2009

 

THE FAMILY JEWELS

Doubtless the numbers-crunchers from Portage Avenue, through Bay Street, Rue de la Gauchetiere, and all the way to Wall Street are poring over the entrails of the now bankrupt Canwest Media Company. Reality dictates there is not here anymore in Canada a knight in shinning armour ready to rescue this failed media empire.

Though the failure of Canwest Media, its parent company crushed under a $4-billion debt, may signal the greatest media sell-off in Canadian history, the takers are likely few; if any. Judging by its incessant whining about tethering on the verge of poverty, CTV-Globe Media, is obviously not poised to rescue neither the Global Television Network, nor its newspaper empire; even though the "National Post" competes directly against the "Globe and Mail" and would be an obvious candidate for closure.

Sun Media also of Toronto is wholly-owned by Quebecor of Montreal and that publisher's global empire isn't quite as frisky as during the halcyon days of Pierre Peladeau. Though Power Corporation also in Montreal has the financial resources to rescue all of the Canwest assets, and its enormously profitable Great-West Life Assurance division is headquartered in the Asper family's Winnipeg homestead. Power Corp. has been cutting back on media holdings and pleading mercy for its money losing "La Presse" newspaper of Montreal.

This is not Global Television's first bankruptcy, but surely it is its most spectacular and it may shake Canada's national media to their vary core. Surely not quite what its founders, Al Bruner, a former Detroit big band singer, and Peter Hill his business partner had in mind when Global signed-on as Canada's third English TV network on January 6, 1974. Sadly, their fate foretold of the future for Global. Three months into the first year of operations, Bruner and Hill were bankrupt. That's when Izzy Asper, the Winnipeg millionaire owner of small independent CKND-TV bought the Global name, franchise and network.

Blame the regulator, the CRTC, for licensing a total of six conventional networks (Three English: CBC - CTV - Global / Three French: SRC - TVA - V) in a country of less than 35 million people; and then further failing to monitor adequately their increasing dependence on American imported programs to make ends meet. Public hearings scheduled to get underway in just a few weeks into the so-called "fee for carriage" demands of the television broadcasters may be a blessed opportunity for the CRTC to mend the errors of its past.

As for the Canwest holdings, newspapers and television alike: The scavengers of this cut-throat media business; aided by the bankers and money managers who hold much of the company's now near worthless assets; will pick-out the best. The rest will be dissolved. Canadian culture will be further diminished and impoverished in the name of the greedy.

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