Sun Media whacks 400 more jobs

Will the last one left please turn out the lights? You kind of wonder how much longer the Sun newspaper chain will last, or how long Quebecor shareholders tell Pierre Karl Peladeau to stop with expensive, political moneylosers like Sun TV.

Nov. 29 2011, The Globe and Mail

– The Globe and Mail

Media conglomerate Quebecor Inc. is eliminating 400 jobs from its far-flung Sun Media division, Canada’s biggest newspaper publisher with dailies and weeklies across the country, a union official said Monday.

It was on Twitter where talk first emerged that the Montreal-based multimedia giant would be cutting at Sun Media, which has dozens of papers, free commuter publications and numerous weeklies in Ontario, Quebec and other provinces.

Paul Morse – president of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, which represents workers at the Toronto Sun as well as several other Quebecor newspapers – said the cuts follow a round of buyouts at the Toronto Sun last week.

Mr. Morse said about 400 jobs are on the block, roughly half of which are to be eliminated through buyouts. About 100 employees will be laid off and another 100 or so positions will be done away with through attrition, he added.

Quebecor’s executive suite was confirming nothing, however.

“I do not wish to make any comment at the moment,” Serge Sasseville, Quebecor vice-president of corporate and institutional affairs, said in an e-mail.

One Twitter user said 20 employees had lost their jobs at the Calgary Sun newspaper, with more cuts coming in rural Alberta.

An anonymous poster on a blog for employees and former employees of the Sun chain, Toronto Sun Family, said there had been 27 layoffs in Edmonton, though the poster said they were not certain about the location.

Like other media companies, Quebecor has been squeezed by the slowing economy, which has hurt advertising revenues and eroded the company’s profits.

In its most recent quarter, the Montreal multimedia giant controlled by the Peladeau family reported a near 69 per cent drop in earnings. With a big chunk of its assets in Ontario and Quebec, the company has been particularly vulnerable to the slowdown in the manufacturing economy of central Canada.

“There have been several layoffs at the Toronto Sun, where they are shipping pre-press work offshore to India,” Mr. Morse said. A number of non-union jobs at the Toronto Sun have also been cut, he added.

The Quebecor media conglomerate owns Sun papers in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa, as well as numerous other properties including the London Free Press and Kingston Whig-Standard. It launched the Sun News 24-hour news channel last year.

In Ontario, where Quebecor bought the former Osprey chain of small papers in 2007, Sun Media owns dailies from Barrie and Peterborough to Sudbury, Welland and Woodstock Sun Media also runs free commuter dailies from Montreal to Vancouver and French-language papers Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec, along with websites and numerous other businesses.

The Sun chain’s last big round of layoffs came just before Christmas in 2008, with 600 jobs cut.

Pierre Karl Peladeau’s Quebecor Inc. is a holding company with more than 15,700 employees and a nearly 55 per cent stake in Quebecor Media Inc.

Quebecor media owns Sun Media, French-language broadcaster TVA Group Inc. , the Vidéotron cable TV operator in Quebec, the Canoe website and other properties.

Earlier this month, Quebecor reported a profit attributable to shareholders of $26.1-million, or 40 cents per diluted share, on $1.01-billion in revenue, down from $83-million, or $1.28 per diluted share, a year ago on $969.9-million in revenue.

However despite the overall gain in revenue, news media revenue at Quebecor slipped slightly to $235.2-million in the quarter, down from $238.5-million a year ago.

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Sun News Network doing OK

Sun TV News network is drawing about 12,000 viewers an hour, about the same as BNN, but way behind CTV (40,000) and CBC (70,000). While Sun is trying to position this as better than they expected they would be at this time, it still isn’t very good. True, it isn’t offered by all providers, but on the other hand Quebecor is providing it free in Toronto, skewing the numbers a bit more. The big test will be to see how many people are willing to pay for it when it is available across the country. Given the dire straits of Sun newspapers, it will be a tough challenge to try to market that style of news on an all news cable channel.

PKP versus CBC: who’s cheering?

Interesting post from the Globe and Mail describing “war” between media giants Quebecor, led by Pierre Karl Peladeau, and the national broadcaster, the CBC. Turns out Sunmedia doesn’t like the state supported broadcaster (even though it strived mightily for state support to inflict Sun TV on every cable customer). As often happens, the “war” is heavily effected by Quebec’s infernal, eternal debate between nationalists and federalists. As the final comment puts it so eloquently, “this is the kind of war you wish both sides could lose.”

Globe and Mail, Nov. 22 2010

Sun takes CBC to court over FOI

The Sun chain is having fun with the CBC, taking it to court over the latter’s failure to comply with federal Freedom of Information laws. Funny how the media, like CBC, espouse open information from government, but behave like too many bureaucracies in preferring to withhold it. Let’s hear it for the Sun, which is actually doing something important for a change.

Toronto Sun, Sept. 15 2010

Sun “expands” by firing three reporters

For al the blah blah coming out about a Fox North right wing television channel that will be foisted onto us as part of a basic  cable package, the Sun quietly let go three experienced reporters from Ottawa. The ongoing CanWest soap opera has overshadowed the fact that the Sun chain is far more vulnerable, essentially being propped up by Videotron cable. I wonder how long Quebecor shareholders are going to support a money losing newspaper chain as part of the company.

J-Source, June 18 2010

Tories whack CBC

And this time they might have a good reason. The Toronto Sun reports that CBC’s pollster is straying into giving political advice to the national broadcaster, whose president happens to be a prominent Liberal fundraiser. This one should be fun; it feeds the long-held Conservative belief that the CBC is a pack of effete, liberal, eastern snobs, while it shows the Liberals trying to write off the Tories as gun-toting Sarah Palin supporters. Let the games begin.

Toronto Sun April 23 2010

Sun centralizes its regional papers

Came across a bleak site called Toronto  Sun Family, which these days seems to be monitoring the last reflexive efforts of the Sun chain and its community newspapers to survive. The latest seems to be regionalizing pagination and editing for some of the Ontario community papers. Take a look at the last comment of three that describes the Sun organization chart of the future, including its Indian operations.

Toronto Sun Family, March 31 2009