NEWSPAPER OWNERSHIP IN
AN OVERVIEW OF THE DAVEY COMMITTEE AND
KENT COMMISSION STUDIES
Political and Social Affairs Division
17 December 1999
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. The Davey Report (1970)
The Kent Commission (1981)
1. Key Findings
2. Key Conclusions and
a. Ownership and Divestment
b. Editorial Independence
Tax Breaks and Investment Incentives
d. The Press Rights Panel
3. Reaction to
the Kent Committee Report
NEWSPAPER OWNERSHIP IN CANADA: AN
OVERVIEW OF THE
DAVEY COMMITTEE AND KENT COMMISSION STUDIES
The last fifty years have been a
period of considerable change and adaptation for the Canadian newspaper industry. In the
1950s and 1960s, there was a widespread tendency toward merger and monopoly fuelled by
increased competition for advertising revenues. In parallel, the rapid penetration of
television into Canadian homes prompted newspapers to adapt by introducing more background
stories, features and visual images. Most notable for the industry during this period,
however, was the gradual concentration of newspaper ownership, which prompted an overall
decline in competition in the Canadian market.(1)
In 1911, there were 143 daily newspapers
in Canada; there have never been as many since. Closures in towns, small cities and
eventually larger cities have created numerous "one paper" communities. For this
reason, the concentration of newspaper ownership in Canada has twice been the focus of a
high-level study: in 1970, the Senate tabled a report by the Special Senate Committee on
Mass Media (the Davey Report), and in 1981 the subject was reviewed by the Royal
Commission on Newspapers (the Kent Commission). The reports of both studies asked whether
a more concentrated newspaper industry unreasonably restricts the availability of diverse
viewpoints on given issues, and both examined whether excessive concentration in this area
is a threat to the quality and characteristics of Canadian journalism, particularly the
availability of Canadian content.
This document presents an overview of key
aspects of these two reports as well as their principal recommendations related to
newspaper ownership. A chronology of newspaper industry events and issues since 1970 is
A. The Davey Report (1970)
In 1969, Senator Keith Davey, an
advertising executive and Liberal party publicist with a strong personal and professional
interest in news media, persuaded the Senate to establish a special committee to
investigate the mass media in Canada, particularly with respect to their influence and
concentration of ownership. Although the report dealt with all media, it focused
extensively on print journalism, an industry previously unregulated by the federal
"What matters," explained the
Committees report, "is the fact that control of the media is passing into fewer
and fewer hands, and that experts agree that this trend is likely to continue and perhaps
accelerate" (Vol. 1: 6). The Committee held that "this country should no longer
tolerate a situation where the public interest in so vital a field as information [is]
dependent on the greed or goodwill of an extremely privileged group of businessmen"
(Vol. 1: 67).
A major recommendation of the Davey Report
was for the establishment of a Press Ownership Review Board that would have the power to
approve or reject mergers between, or acquisitions of, newspapers and periodicals. It was
to use one basic guideline: "all transactions that increase concentration of
ownership in the mass media are undesirable and contrary to the public interest - unless
shown to be otherwise" (italics in original; Vol. 1: 71).
The Report recognized three types of
concentration: newspaper chains, mixed-media holding companies and conglomerates with some
media holdings. However, even though the potential existed for some review of mixed-media
concentration involving magazines and newspapers, the proposed Review Board would have
been limited primarily to the examination of print media ownership (both dailies and
In describing the criteria for the
proposed Review Board, the Davey Report noted that they would be "of a fairly
subjective nature" (Vol. 1: 72), but that beyond this broad guideline "it would
be up to the Board to define its own criteria of the public interest." To this end,
any definitions of the public interest were to "include consideration of (a) whether
the proposed merger would lengthen the odds on the survival of a newspaper that might
otherwise die; and (b) what would likely happen to the editorial character of the
newspaper to be purchased, in view of the publishers past performance
relation to the profits they [would] generate" (italics in original; Vol.
Despite the Davey Reports emphasis
on the risks of concentrated newspaper ownership, the issue was largely ignored by the
government of the day. Because some publishers were worried that the government would take
action, however, provincial councils were established in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta in
the early 1970s, followed by councils in the Atlantic provinces and British Columbia in
According to some industry analysts,
however, these bodies are merely "pale shadows" of what the Davey Report
envisioned (Miller, 1998: 43). None has drafted a comprehensive code-of-conduct for the
press and most do not undertake their own investigations, instead dealing with public
complaints on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, none plays a proactive role in training,
research or development and very little effort is made to use these associations to
establish a dialogue between the press and the public.
On 9 May 1990, two decades years after the
tabling of the Report of the Special Committee of the Senate on Mass Media, Senator Keith
Davey again spoke in the Senate on the question of media concentration in Canada. He
observed that the Committee had focused on three major concerns: concentration, quality
and Canadian cultural survival. "Our first and primary concern
concentration of media ownership, especially the concentration of print ownership. Here
the situation, Im sorry to say, in the last 20 years has gone from bad to
" (The Senate, Debates, 9 May 1990: 1589). To support this claim,
Senator Davey cited group ownership of daily newspapers, noting that, between 1970 and
1989, media concentration had increased from 45% to 57%. Notwithstanding the growth and
influence of television, he argued that "print still orders societys agenda.
True, it is television which defines how we respond to those items on the agenda, but it
is still print which lines them up."
B. The Kent Commission (1981)
In the years following the release of
the Davey Report, the Committees forecast of increased newspaper concentration in
the Canadian market became a reality. Numerous closings of newspapers took place in Quebec
(Montréal-Matin, Montreal Star), Quebec City (LAction
and Chronicle-Telegraph), Winnipeg (The Tribune owned by Southam), and
Ottawa (the Journal, owned by Thomson). Meanwhile, Thomson merged its newspapers in
Victoria into a single daily, the Times-Colonist.
The Winnipeg and Ottawa closings (both on
27 August 1980) eliminated direct competition between Canadas two largest newspaper
groups in those cities and prompted the federal government to appoint a Royal Commission
on Newspapers, with Tom Kent, a former newspaper editor, civil servant and academic as
chair. Created by an order-in-council within a week of the closings, the Kent Commission
was the first Canadian inquiry directly concerned with the nature of the newspaper
industry. The Commission collected a vast amount of information on newspapers and
journalism in Canada and its nine-volume report remains to this day a key guide to the
structure and operation of Canadas newspaper sector.
1. Key Findings
Because it was the feeling of the Kent
commissioners that Canadas newspaper industry had drifted into a situation that was
"clearly and directly contrary to the public interest," a series of studies were
undertaken to examine the:
- extent of ownership across Canada;
- responsibility of the newspaper industry to the public;
- how the newspaper industry carried on business,
- functioning of the newsroom;
- Canadian news service agencies;
- quality of public affairs reporting;
- quality of journalism;
- industrys performance as a whole; and
- future of the newspaper industry.
The Commission did not mince words in its
discussion of the extent of newspaper ownership in Canada. It opened its report by
stating: "Concentration engulfs Canadian daily newspaper publishing. Three chains
control nine-tenths of French-language daily newspaper circulation, while three other
chains control two-thirds of English-language circulation" (1981: 1). The Commission
analyzed many of the economic reasons that had prompted such a high level of monopoly and
concentration in the Canadian newspaper industry. In doing so, it recognized that
"chain operation produce good newspapers and bad ones" and that there were
differences between the chains. It also conceded that "some arguments, chiefly with
respect to financial stability, can be made for chain newspapers" (1980: 177). It
could find little justification, however, for cross-ownership; that is, the ownership of
newspaper chains by conglomerates with major interests in other sectors.(2)
With respect to the responsibility of
the newspaper industry to the public, the Commission concluded that the
professions primary responsibility was "searching out and reporting the
truth." As the Commission explained, there was a spectrum of opinion among management
and ownership, at one end of which was the concept of the newspaper as a business and at
the other end of which was the concept of the social responsibility of the press to seek
and report the truth. The Commission further concluded that journalists place social
responsibility foremost and that the reading public is generally satisfied with the state
of their newspapers.
The reports examination of how the
newspaper industry carried on business looked at the relationship between the nature
of ownership and the owners view of the newspapers duty to the public, and the
extent to which ownership affected the percentage of newspaper income reinvested in
editorial content. The Commission concluded that most conglomerate owners tended to spend
a smaller percentage of their newspaper income on editorial content.
The Commissions study of the functioning
of the newsroom assessed how, and the system within which, journalists were working.
The report was critical of the system and suggested that it was driving good journalists
out of the profession because of inadequate pay, failing to train newsroom managers
properly, and sometimes prioritizing economic considerations at the expense of responsible
With respect to the Canadian news
service agencies, the Commission concluded that the Canadian Press was functioning
well within the constraints placed upon it by its member newspapers. These constraints
included: insufficient funding, lack of staff, an inadequate emphasis on investigative
journalism, inadequate French-language service, insufficient foreign coverage, and a lack
of direction from management. The report generally praised smaller news services such as
Southam, United Press Canada and Thomson, but was unsure that they would survive in the
wake of so many newspaper closures and mergers.
In the area of public affairs reporting,
the Commission concluded that, in general, the public believed that the quality of
political journalism had declined and that diverse interests were not as well represented
as they had previously been.
The Commission also discussed some methods
whereby the quality of journalism might be improved. It recommended press councils,
ombudsmen, schools of journalism, and professional development programs for journalists
and concluded that a stronger public desire for good quality journalism had arisen since
the time of the Davey Report in 1970.
Finally, the Commission concluded that the
growth of electronic publishing and telecommunication information systems and the rapid
development of the electronic media could present a critical problem for the future of
the newspaper industry. It called for both the newspaper industry and Canada as a
whole to develop adequate programs for taking advantage of developments in electronic news
2. Key Conclusions and Recommendations
In the final analysis, the authors of
the Kent Commission Report argued that "industrial conglomerates produce poor
newspapers"(1980: 177). They further noted that: "The press, which assumes a
licence to criticize every other institution, is the least open of any to criticism of its
[and] is singularly reluctant not only to accept criticism and
acknowledge error, but even to justify its own conduct when it believes itself to be in
the right" (1980: 175). With these considerations in mind, the Commission
proposed several recommendations designed to rectify this situation.
a. Ownership and Divestment
In the area of ownership and
divestment, the Commission proposed legislation to:
- prohibit the expansion of existing chains owning or
controlling five or more daily newspapers;
- prohibit any future chain from acquiring more than five
- prevent a conglomerate from purchasing a daily newspaper by
prohibiting purchases where the value of the purchasers non-newspaper assets
exceeded the value of the newspaper;
- prohibit ownership of newspapers and radio or television
stations where 50% or more of the radio/television market was within the papers
- require the break-up of regional monopolies, such as that
of the Irving family in New Brunswick, by prohibiting the ownership of two or more
newspapers having 75% or more of the circulation, in one language, in a defined
- prohibit ownership of both a daily newspaper published in
more than one province and any other daily newspaper (thus requiring Thomson to sell
either the Globe and Mail or all of its other newspapers);
- allow a minimum of five and a maximum of ten years from
proclamation of the legislation for divestiture of newspapers whose ownership became
illegal on proclamation;
- create an administrative agency (the Press Rights Panel)
which would apply the ownership and divestiture rules and have the power, in certain
areas, to permit exceptions to them;
- allow a minimum of five and a maximum of seven years for
any subsequent divesting order made by the Press Right Panel;
- require any paper intending to close down to publish notice
of that intention and thereafter not to close down until after the expiration of a defined
- prohibit the sale of assets of any paper intending to close
operation until the ownership had satisfied the Press Rights Panel that there was no
economically viable offer that would allow the paper to continue as a going concern.
b. Editorial Independence
The Commission proposed that all daily
papers other than those qualifying as "individual" papers should employ their
managing editors under a written contract guaranteeing their editorial independence from
the newspaper publisher.(3) This contract would give the
managing editor (acting within the budget set by the owner) full responsibility for:
- editorial policy within the parameters of the
newspapers principles and objectives as set out in the contract;
- editorial expenses;
- the content of the newspaper (excluding advertising); and
- labour relations, including the hiring and firing of
The proposed contract would also have
given the managing editor the right to comment adversely on the activities of the owners
and any associates, and prohibited the proprietor from attempting to override the managing
editors judgement as to what could be published.
c. Tax Breaks and Investment Incentives
The Commission proposed that tax
breaks be offered to:
- investors seeking to start newspapers;
- investors seeking to acquire newspapers made available
through a divestiture order;
- investors seeking to acquire newspapers facing closure; and
- newspapers meeting a defined ratio of editorial to
non-editorial expenditures, with surcharges imposed on newspapers that failed to meet such
The Commission also proposed that grants
be offered to Canadian wire services in order to encourage the expansion of Canadian and
d. The Press Rights Panel
Echoing the Davey Reports vision
of a Press Ownership Review Board, the Commission proposed a Press Right Panel to oversee
the Canadian newspaper industry. This Panel would have been an independent agency
reporting to Parliament through the Minister of Justice, and would have had the powers of
a superior court of record. As such, it would have been empowered to determine whether any
proposed purchase of a newspaper or creation of a new newspaper was permissible or whether
divestiture was necessary.
3. Reaction to the Kent Committee Report
Reactions to the recommendations of
the Kent Royal Commission on Newspapers were vociferous in many circles. In particular,
newspaper publishers were vehemently opposed to the creation of the proposed Press Rights
Council, suggesting that this would merely pave the way for government control of a free
press. Furthermore, many attacked the Commissions methodology, particularly because
it had not answered a basic question: "Are chain-owned monopoly newspapers worse than
the old individually owned competitive newspapers?"(Desbarats, 1996: 79). Given this
fundamental flaw, the Kent Commissions report soon faded from the public eye.
Though some recommendations did reach the
stage of draft legislation under the Liberal government of Prime Minister Trudeau, most of
these disappeared because of strong opposition in the House and the election of Prime
Minister Mulroneys Conservative government in 1984. The only notable exception was a
1982 government instruction to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications
Commission (CRTC) to deny new broadcasting licences or renewals to applicants who owned
daily newspapers in the same market. This directive, however, allowed for exceptions
"in the public interest"; in the course of its enactment - until its withdrawal
by the Mulroney government this exception was applied to nearly every case heard by
Both the Davey Report and the Kent
Commission examined a question that goes far beyond the issue of newspaper ownership in
Canada. Throughout the 1990s, monopoly ownership and the concentration of ownership into
fewer and fewer hands have increased in all communications sectors. This situation, which
is hardly unique to Canada, is partly the result of economic circumstances that prioritize
reduced competition and therefore risk in order to increase profit margins.
It is also partly due to societal and government reluctance to intervene in the operation
of the free market economy and the so-called "free press." However, as the Kent
Commission noted in its 1981 report:
In a country that has allowed so many
newspapers to be owned by a few conglomerates, freedom of the press means, in itself, only
that enormous influence without responsibility is conferred on a handful of people. For
the heads of such organizations to justify their position by appealing to the principle of
freedom of the press is offensive to intellectual honesty. (1981: 217)
Thus, the ongoing trend toward
concentration and chain ownership means that the link between newspaper ownership and
content continues to require clarification. At the same time, given that previous federal
studies particularly the Kent Commission were largely undermined by a lack
of reliable quantitative data, any new examination of this matter would require
substantive research. Indeed, without a stronger grasp of the complex array of economic,
social, cultural and technological factors that make up todays communications media,
it would be difficult for todays policy makers to determine whether federal
intervention in newspaper ownership would be warranted.
1970 - The Report
of the Special Senate Committee on Mass Media (the Davey Committee)
- Toronto Telegram closed. Toronto Sun established.
- Quebec City LAction closed.
- Edmonton Sun established.
1978 - Montréal Matin closed.
1979 - Montreal Star closed.
1980 - Thomson acquired control of FP Publications.
1980 - Thomson acquired remaining outstanding shares of FP.
1980 - Thomson bought one-third ownership of The Gazette (Montreal) from
1980 - Thomson sold Calgary Albertan to the Toronto Sun. Albertan
reappeared as Calgary Sun.
1980 - Thomson merged Victoria Times and Victoria Colonist to form Victoria
Thomson closed Ottawa Journal.
Southam closed Winnipeg Tribune.
Southam acquired sole ownership of Vancouver
Sun and Vancouver Province by buying out Thomson.
Southam acquired sole ownership of The
Gazette by buying out Thomson.
Thomson closed FP News Services.
1980 - Royal Commission on Newspapers (the Kent Commission) established.
1981 - Charges laid against Thomson Newspapers and Southam Inc. under the Combines
Investigation Act alleging, among other matters, breaches of s. 33 through merger or
August 1981 - Royal Commission on Newspapers Report released.
May 1982 - In an address at the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism, the
Minister responsible for the Kent Commission, the Honourable James Fleming, set out the
governments position on the newspaper industry.
May 1982 to 10 June 1982 - Many newspaper publishers and editorial writers criticized the
announced government policy on the newspaper industry as interfering with freedom of the
June 1982 - Tom Kent, former chairman of the Royal Commission on Newspapers, criticized
the governments policy on the newspaper industry for not dealing effectively with
existing conglomerate ownership of the media.
July 1982 - The Governor in Council issued a direction under s. 22(1)(a)(iii) of the Broadcasting
Act that the CRTC not grant new or renew broadcasting licences to applicants who
already owned a daily newspaper in the same market area. The CRTC could, however, grant a
licence in such circumstances if the over-riding public interest so dictated.
September 1982 - In an address to the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Daily Newspaper
Publishers Association in Vancouver, the Minister responsible for the Kent
Commission, the Honourable James Fleming, reiterated the governments policy on the
newspaper industry first unveiled on 25 May 1982. He said legislation was being prepared
and would be mentioned in the next Throne Speech.
January 1983 - The establishment of a Press Council was announced in Halifax by 10
publishers of daily newspapers in the Atlantic region. Press Councils already existed in
Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
February and 1 March 1983 - The CRTC held public hearings on 15 February 1983 in
Fredericton, New Brunswick, and on 1 March 1983 in Hull, Quebec, pursuant to the direction
issued to it on 29 July 1982. It considered the cross-media ownership issue in studying
broadcasting licence renewal applications from St. John, Campbellton and Moncton, New
Brunswick (Irving interests), Belleville, Ontario (Thomson interests), and London and
Wingham, Ontario (London Free Press Printing Company).
March 1983 - In an interview, Gordon Fisher, President of Southam, stated that
proposed federal legislation restricting concentrated media ownership could lead his
company to reconsider its corporate policy against newspaper acquisitions outside Canada.
May 1983 - The CRTC held a public hearing in Calgary, Alberta, pursuant to the direction
issued to it on 29 July 1982, to consider the cross-media ownership issue in studying
broadcasting licence renewal applications from Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge
(Maclean-Hunter, Selkirk Communications and Southam interests).
June 1983 - A Press Council was established in British Columbia. It is made up of a
Chairman, four representatives of daily, weekly and community newspapers, and four
representatives from outside the newspaper industry.
July 1983 - The Honourable James Fleming, the Minister responsible for the
implementation of the Kent Commission recommendations, released a proposed Daily Newspaper
Act which contained the following major provisions:
No one would be able to control newspapers with an aggregate of more than 20% of all daily
circulation this legislation would not have retroactive effect.
Any non-media company acquiring or establishing a daily newspaper would have to
demonstrate to the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission that any such newspaper would be
managed independently of the non-media companys other interests.
A 52-member Canadian Daily Newspaper Advisory Council representative of publishers,
journalists and the general public in all regions of Canada would be established to
complement existing provincial press councils and to report periodically on the state of
the newspaper industry in Canada.
A five-year matching grant program would be set up to enable daily newspapers to establish
out-of-province and foreign bureaux.
and 17 August 7 September 1983 - Having completed its public hearings on cross-media
ownership, the CRTC rendered decisions renewing broadcast licences held by Irving
interests, Thomson interests, the London Free Press Printing Company, MacLean-Hunter, and
Selkirk Communications and Southam interests.
December 1983 - Charges against Thomson Newspapers and Southam Inc. under the Combines
Investigation Act provisions on mergers and monopolistic conduct were dismissed by Mr.
Justice Anderson of the Ontario Supreme Court.
December 1983 - In an interview, Consumer and Corporate Affairs Minister Judy Erola stated
that a national voluntary press council and tougher competition legislation would
accomplish many of the goals set out in the proposed Daily Newspaper Act (with which the
government would probably not proceed).
February 1984 - The Crown decided not to appeal the dismissal of charges against Thomson
Newspapers and Southam Inc.
March 1984 - Bill C-226, a Private Members bill entitled the Daily Newspaper Act,
received first reading in the House of Commons under the sponsorship of the
Honourable James Fleming.
April 1984 - Bill C-226 was talked out after second reading debate.
May 1984 - At a meeting of the Ontario Press Council, Judy Erola, federal Minister of
Consumer and Corporate Affairs, promised that the government would treat Canadas
newspaper industry "as it would any other with regard to concentration of
July 194 - The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the federal Cabinet was within its
rights to tell the CRTC to refuse renewal of broadcast licences to station owners who
controlled newspapers in the same market.
August 1984 - All English-language newspapers in Ontario agreed to join the Ontario Press
Council to deal with public complaints about newspapers in the province.
November 1984 - In a Globe and Mail interview, Tom Kent, Chair of the Royal
Commission on Newspapers referred to his 1981 report addressing the concentration of
ownership in the Canadian newspaper industry as an "autopsy" and conceded that
the report was effectively dead.
January 1985 - United Press Canada Ltd., the sole competitor of the Canadian Press news
service, announced that it would close on 31 January after being sold to its rival.
August 1985 - A $220-million share swap took place between Southam Inc. and Torstar Corp.,
constituting a partial merger and further concentration of major players in Canadas
April 1986 - Further concentration in the Canadian media was prevented when the CRTC
rejected a bid by Power Corp. of Canada - the owner of four French-language newspapers -
for Télé-Metropole Inc. - the operator of Quebecs TVA television network - on the
grounds that the company would thereby gain too much influence over the Quebec media.
May 1987 - Hollinger Inc., widened its hold on newspapers by taking control of Unimedia
Inc., a Montreal-based publisher of dailies in Quebec City, Ottawa and Chicoutimi, Quebec.
May 1987 - The Parti Québécois called for a law imposing Quebec ownership on the
Unimedia Inc. purchase by Hollinger Inc..
October 1987 - Southam Inc., purchased Brabant Newspapers Ltd., publisher of eight weekly
newspapers in the greater Hamilton and St. Catharines areas.
September 1988 - Conservative MP Minister Sinclair Stevens, alleging that newspapers were
being used as "cash cows" to finance other acquisitions, called for a renewed
investigation of newspaper ownership in Canada.
May 1990 - The House of Commons Communications Committee voted unanimously to hold
hearings to examine the effect of corporate concentration on the Canadian print media
following Southam Inc.s takeover of several suburban weekly newspapers in the
June 1990 - Southam Inc. and Torstar Corp.s five-year old corporate share
alliance was terminated, fuelling speculation among industry analysts that the newspaper
concentration issue could be resolved.
November 1990 - The federal Bureau of Competition Policy began consideration of an
application under the merger provisions of the Competition Act regarding Southam
Inc.s acquisition of two Vancouver-area community weeklies in a region where it
already owned two daily newspapers. The Director concluded that the acquisition of two
community newspapers had resulted in a substantial lessening of competition in the print
retail advertising markets served by these papers.
June 1992 - The federal Competition Tribunal rejected submissions that Southam
Inc.s 1990 purchase of the Vancouver Courier and the North Shore News
had created a stranglehold on advertising in that region, thereby overturning an earlier
decision that instructed Southam Inc. to divest itself of these acquisitions.
December 1992 - The federal Competition Tribunal ruled that Southam Inc. must sell
either the North Shore News or Real Estate Weekly, a 14-edition chain of
real estate papers, arguing that common ownership of these newspapers lessened competition
in the print real estate advertising market in Vancouvers North Shore area.
1993 - Hollinger made a 22.5% investment in Southam Inc. (diluted to 18.7% in March). The
Competition Bureau reviewed the transaction to determine whether there was a substantial
prevention/lessening of competition in any market. The Director concluded that the
transaction would not increase the degree of overlap between Southam Inc. and Hollinger in
any geographic area or market in Canada.
May 1996 - The Director of the Competition Bureau, George Addy, appearing before the
Standing Committee on Industry, discussed the difficulty of applying the Competition
Act to issues such as editorial control and diversity of opinion. He explained:
"the Kent Commission recognized that it had to be done through special legislation.
The United Kingdom has adopted special legislation dealing with the acquisition of
interests in newspapers, and so on. As far as Im concerned, under the Act, my
responsibility covers the various aspects of competition. I am not allowed to go beyond
May 1996 - Conrad Blacks acquisition of 20 dailies from Southam Inc. boosted his
ownership of Canadian newspapers to 58, representing nearly 41% of Canadas total
daily newspaper circulation.
June 1996 - In a House of Commons Statement, Mr. Jim Jordan (Leeds-Grenville, Lib.),
referred to 23 May 1996 as "black Friday in the Canadian newspaper business. He said:
"I am sure there is a rational explanation for the current rules controlling
newspaper ownership in Canada, but if the rules continue to allow Canadian newspapers and
their ownership to fall into fewer and fewer hands
October 1996 - Southam Inc. purchased seven east-coast newspapers from Thompson Corp,
giving Southam a coast-to-coast newspaper presence and Southam-Hollinger control over 59
of Canadas 109 daily newspapers. The east-coast dailies were: the St. Johns
Telegram, and the Corner Brook Western Star in Newfoundland, the New Glasgow
News, the Truro News and Sydney Cape Breton Post in Nova Scotia, and the
Charlottetown Guardian in P.E.I.
December 1996 - The Council of Canadians launched a court challenge of the federal
Competition Bureaus decision to allow Conrad Black to take over Southam Inc., the
largest newspaper publisher in Canada.
December 1996 - The Council of Canadians bid to overturn Conrad Blacks
takeover of Southam Inc. was rejected. Federal Court Justice Bud Cullen ruled that the
Council of Canadians had missed a 30-day period to appeal the federal Competition
Bureaus approval of the Hollinger Group purchase.
February 1997 - The Canadian Press announced that it would be undergoing changes that the
board of directors called a "strong new direction" for a service that had nearly
been killed in late 1996 when some members, led by newspaper giant Southam Inc., had
planned to drop out of CP because of concerns over costs and service cuts.
February 1997 - The Federal Court of Appeal set a date for the Council of Canadians in its
effort to overturn the takeover of Southam Inc. newspapers by Hollinger Inc. The appeal,
set for 9 April, challenged the courts 15 December 1996 ruling.
April 1997 - A challenge to Hollinger Inc.s takeover of the Southam Inc. newspaper
group was dismissed by the Federal Court of Appeal. Maude Barlow, the chairperson of the
Council of Canadians, said the courts are closed to further challenges of the Hollinger
deal. "Not only has our government refused to deal with it
but our courts
wont hear it. Canadians should be very disturbed about this."
April 1997 - Hollinger Inc. offered to buy out the minority shareholders of Southam Inc.
for $922.7 million. Hollinger also revealed its plan to buy the Halifax Daily News
for an undisclosed amount.
June 1997 - Southam Inc. announced that it would be publishing a national newspaper within
one year. Don Babick, president of Southam, said the chain was examining what the new
daily should look like and was continuing to assess its financial prospects.
April 1998 - Conrad Black announced his new national newspaper, which aimed to go
head-to-head with the Globe and Mail, would be launched in September.
April 1998 - Sun Media Corp. announced that it was looking into expanding into the radio
and television media. According to Paul Godfrey, president of Sun Media, the company was
examining options for competing against Southam Inc.s new national paper. Godfrey
hoped the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) would loosen
its rules regarding radio ownership, thereby allowing Sun Media to move into this market.
May 1998 - Southam Inc. bought seven Vancouver Island newspapers owned by Thomson
Corp. Included were two daily newspapers, the Victoria Times-Colonist and the Nanaimo
Daily News, and five community papers (the Campbell River Courier/Islander, the
Duncan Citizen, the Harbor City Star, the Parksville Morning Sun and
the Cowichan Lake News). The papers were sold because they were not making enough
money, according to Stuart Garner, president and chief executive officer of Thomson
May 1998 - Southam Inc. announced that it had acquired Saturday Night Magazine from
a subsidiary of Hollinger. Saturday Night would no longer be distributed with the Globe
and Mail, but would instead be distributed along with Southams new national
July 1998 - In one of the biggest deals in Canadian newspaper history, Southam Inc.
acquired Sun Medias 80% interest in the Financial Post. In return, Sun Media
acquired the Hamilton Spectator, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, the Cambridge
Reporter and the Guelph Mercury. With the addition of the Financial Post to
its roster, Southam for the first time owned newspapers in each of the major Canadian
July 1998 - Hollinger International Inc., announced that it intended to become a leading
provider of Internet commerce and content. "We see it as a huge opportunity and the
astronomical increases in flows of cash on the Internet
are very enticing to
us," said Conrad Black.
October 1998 - Southam Inc. launched the National Post, a new national daily.
October 1998 - Torstar announced plans to buy Sun Media, the owner of tabloid dailies in
Ontario and Alberta. Critics of the deal claimed it would definitely lessen competition,
effectively putting control of Canadas newspapers into even fewer hands. "The
test for us is whether a merger will substantially lessen competition," explained Jim
Bocking, spokesperson for the Competition Bureau.
December 1998 - In a bid to control the Sun Media Corp., Montreals Quebecor beat
Torstar with an offer of $983 million, thereby becoming a national chain. Quebecors
25.4% control of the countrys daily circulation was now second only to the
Southam-Hollinger chain, with 40.7%.
December 1998 - Experts claimed that the lack of foreign ownership was leading to a
concentration of ownership in the Canadian newspaper industry because the Canadian Tax
Act - which provides a tax deduction for advertising if a newspaper is less than 25%
foreign-owned - discouraged foreign newspaper publishers from owning Canadian newspapers.
Heritage Minister Sheila Copps stated that she was not prepared to change ownership laws.
"Those who would like to open up restrictions on foreign ownership would like to have
only one media industry for the world, and I dont think thats healthy for
anybody," Copps explained. "I think its important that we have diversity
May 1999 - Thomson Corp. sold eight B.C. newspapers to Horizon Operations, adding to
the Chicago-based companys 45 daily and weekly newspapers. Although American-owned,
Horizon indicated that it would set up its head office in Kelowna in the near future.
October 1999 - Following allegations by the Council of Canadians that Southam Inc. was
threatening to withdraw from the Canadian Press, Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps
asked the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to examine the impact of newspaper
ownership on the future of the Canadian Press news service.
(1) For the purposes of this discussion, concentration
of newspaper ownership refers to group ownership of properties within
the same medium.
(2) For the purposes
of this discussion, cross-ownership refers to the ownership of
various types of communications media, whether print or electronic, by
one owner, typically in one community or region.
(3) Individual papers
were defined as papers owned by proprietors for whom newspaper assets
represented 50% or more of their business assets.