CHEK TV to fade to black

It was too good to be true. The employees’/union group trying to buy CHEK TV Victoria from Canwest has been turned down, by Canwest. I can’t follow the financial logic of the move; Canwest was quite happy to sell a couple of its stations for a dollar just to get them off their books. The Aspers continue to show no loyalty or dedication to their properties or the communities they serve other than that of  the bottom line. I’m reading The Uncrowned King by Kenneth Whyte, the early days of  William Randolph Hearst. Despite Heatst’s yellow journalism reputation, Whyte argues convincingly that Hearst was a passionate, committed proprietor who cared about the news and its readers. The Aspers should read it; among other things, Hearst’s newspapers made money.

Vancouver Sun, August 28 2009

We like local, bad news

For centuries media have been criticized for being negative and obsessed about our local area (and for centuries people have bought news that is negative and local.) Thanks to J-source for citing a U of Missouri psychological study that says, guess what: we are hard-wired to prefer negative, local news. Thus, even though crime rates  have been coming down for decades and we’ve never been safer, a local shooting gets the front page. Doesn’t mean we need to give in to our baser urges, though; we can still demand broader and more international news., August 27 2009

It’s the debt, not the Net

Readers’ Digest continues with its debt problems, being one of the many US publications in bankruptcy, and in its latest move swapping debt for equity (i.e. ownership), of the venerable magazine. Only affects US magazine, but again illustrates that the biggest problem with most North  American publications is not the ad slump (which they’ve ridden through many times before) but the huge debt overhang they have, usually from reckless moves ten years ago to get into “convergence”, one of the worst business strategies of the new century. The Net isn’t killing them, it’s the debt.

Christian Science Monitor, August 18 2009

Huge victory for freedom of the press

The Globe reports that the Quebec Court of Appeal judges unanimously overturned a lower court ruling preventing La Press from reporting about talks to recoup federal money paid out in the sponsorship scandal. This bodes well for the Globe itself, which will argue against a similar lower court ruling in Ontario on the same issue.

Mr. Justice Allan Hilton wrote that “banning journalists from using confidential information would seriously limit, if not crush, their ability to probe and gather information. Such reasoning would have made impossible journalistic investigations such the one that uncovered the dubious management of the sponsorship program.”

Globe and Mail, August 14 2009

CP adds new editorial service

Canadian Press has been busy figuring out how to expand its range of services beyond the  distribution of stories to its paying members (a significant issue since Canwest left.) Today it announced centralized design, editing and production services to newspapers in Canada and the US, based on an Australian model that has had some success down under and in the UK. Their home page lists a range of other services they provide, such as photography, media monitoring and news release distribution. Still no news on a major effort to overhaul the news collective and make it more economically viable.

CP news release, August 13 2009

Another ray of hope: employees pony up to save CHEK TV

Staff at Victoria’s CHEK TV have put up $500,000, including $22,000 from Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, to keep the station afloat for the next three years. Unfortunately, they’re only at 25 per cent of the budget they need to carry out their plan, and they’re looking for business support in Victoria. Here’s hoping they’re successful; if not, it’s literally lights out by the end of August.

Victoria Times Colonist, August 12 2009

Ray of hope for US newspaper ads

And therefore for US newspapers per se, and hopefully for Canadian ones as well (though Canada’s newspapers have more debt issues than revenue issues.) Ad Age reports that the slide in newspaper ad revenue is coming to an end, and advertising is expected to rise 2.4 per cent next year. It’s not much, but it might reflect that the US economy is coming out of a recession, which historically has always dragged ad revenues down.

Sorry, haters of traditional media: Newspapers’ slide is going to end.

Ad age, August 7 2009

Foreign buyers for Canwest?

CTV reports that Canwest is in discussion with the feds and CRTC to discuss some of the rules regarding ownership of Canadian media, one of which is that Canadian media has to be owned by Canadians. Later on in the story we learn that there are three vulture/venture funds/investors looking to take over Canwest, in whole or in part. Turns out two of them are American. Wouldn’t that be a Hobson’s choice: let Canada’s biggest media chain go under, or sell it to the Americans.

CTV, August 10 2009

Buyer for Boston Globe rumored

A number of media outlets are reporting an offer for the Boston Globe by vulture/venture fund Platinum Equity, for $35 million cash and the assumption of $59 million in pension liabilities. This on an asset purchased by the New York Times for $1.2 billion, a billion dollar loss. Wonder if this is the kind of grim news the Aspers/Peladeau would get if they try to sell their newspapers in Canada (although the crunch here has been less severe.)

LA Times, August 7 2009

Lawyers criticize copyright consultation

Intellectual property lawyers share my criticism of the current consultation phase of proposed new copyright laws: this is the third bill in the past four years, there has been international pressure since 1996, why can’t the government just put its proposal forward? It’s going to be controversial regardless of which direction it takes, but surely the time for consultation is over, and copyright holders like me need to know our rights in the age of digital theft of intellectual property (you’ve probably figured out my biases by that statement.)

Law Times, August 4 2009