Union contests sale of radio stations to Quebecor

Canadian Press, Thursday 9 January 2003

MONTREAL—Federal regulators should prevent Quebecor Media from taking over seven Quebec radio stations, says the union representing the workers at the stations.

The radio will become in fact one more tentacle of the octopus that Quebecor Media has become, Gilles Mathieu, a spokesman for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said in a statement Thursday.

The union has tabled a brief with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which has to review the purchase of six AM and one FM radio station by Quebecor Media, a unit of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B).

Quebecor broadcasting subsidiary TVA snapped up the stations from Astral Media Inc. They were among 19 French-language stations in Quebec and New Brunswick that Astral bought from Telemedia Communications Inc. for $225 million in 2001.

The CRTC approved that deal but the Competition Bureau contested it, prompting Astral to abandon its fight with the bureau last September and sell off the seven stations to TVA, the leading television broadcaster in Quebec, for $12.75 million.

They are considered small assets except for CKAC, a leading Montreal AM station.

Mathieu said the union is concerned about media concentration in Montreal and about the fate of CKAC's newsroom when the station is combined with TVA and its all-news LCN network.

To allow this acquisition will bring about the death of radio as a distinct source of general information and its transformation into a branch of television, Mathieu said.

Besides TVA, Quebecor Media owns Videotron, the leading cable TV distributor in Quebec, and the Sun Media newspaper chain across Canada.

It also owns Le Journal de Montreal, the biggest-selling newspaper in Quebec.

The provincial Caisse de depot pension fund manager owns 45 per cent of Quebecor Media.