The Press is detached from Power Corporation and becomes an independent, non-profit (NPO), thus opening the door to philanthropic donations, government support and a tax system that is more advantageous, while taking cover from the potential buyers.
The president of the newspaper of the rue Saint-Laurent, Pierre-Elliott Levasseur, announced on Tuesday “to ensure its development (The Press) will evolve in a structure not-for-profit will become the sole shareholder of The Press“.
“This is the best of both worlds,” assured Mr. Levasseur at a press conference following a meeting with the employees.
Citing the latest federal budget, which provides for “exploring new models to enable the media to receive donations and philanthropic support,” Mr. Levasseur has been argued that it was necessary to present a “new business model” such that the constant invocation of the federal minister of Heritage, Mélanie Joly, because”there is not a donor, there is not a person in the community who will (…) give money to The Press , which is owned by Power Corporation”.
Power Corporation is therefore removed as a shareholder from everyday life, but not without giving him the means to take its flight; as well, the conglomerate will pay a contribution of $ 50 million to the new entity and to assume fully the obligations placed on pension.
However, he assured Mr. Levasseur, readers will see no difference : “The Press is going to continue to defend the same values that she has championed in the last 50 years : The Press has always defended the interests of Quebec and will continue to defend the interests of Quebec”, he said adding that no layoffs were foreseen and that the journalists, columnists, editorial writers, and patrons of the newsroom will remain in position.
Consolidated financial secrets
Mr. Levasseur and the editor of the daily, Guy Crevier, however, have not wanted to reveal the extent of the shortfall of the employees retirement system.
They explained that another pension plan will be put in place by the new structure, and that the retirees will continue to receive their pension fund insured by Power, that active employees will receive on retirement two cheques, a plan owned by Power and the other of the new regime, and that future employees will contribute exclusively to the regime of NPOS.
Although the actual results of The Press remains secret — amalgamated with several other entities, under the heading “other subsidiaries” in the results of Power corp — Guy Crevier has, however, required to address some of the data speculation that have circulated in the past : “All the figures that are developed by our competitors about the state of our losses, there is a lot of folklore in it,” he said. According to him, reveal her results would put the company in a competitive disadvantage in the face of “competitors” giant like Quebecor and Bell.
Trust and transparency
However, this could change with the new structure. The NPO will be overseen by a “social trust” which will become the sole shareholder of The Press.
This approach satisfies the four unions at the company. Their spokesman, Charles Side, has also welcomed “welcomed” the announcement “to the extent that this structure continues to ensure the independence of the information and the maintenance of jobs”, the assurances provided by senior management on Tuesday.
But above all, the opportunity is unprecedented for the union members to obtain the financial information it has been demanding for years : “Any social utility trust should have a practice of transparency in economic management and collaborative if not participatory and, therefore, the employees want to have a place on the board of directors.”
The approach has also as side-effect of putting an end to the speculation that ran for several years on a possible sale of the newspaper.
“I don’t see how someone can buy a non-profit organization”, has dropped a Guy Crevier about it.
One of the potential buyers, the business man and shareholder of Power Corporation, Graeme Roustan, required Power Corporation that it will divest itself of this asset due to the losses that are associated with it. He said he was even ready to buy The Press, to make the paid subscription and start again to publish a paper version.
Joined by The canadian Press, Mr. Roustan said by way of e-mail that the decision to transform The Press and not put it on the market “indicates to me that it loses so much money that nobody will buy it”.
The NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SHOULD take a vote
The daily Press will need the cooperation of all the elected members of the national Assembly before it can turn into a non-profit organization.
The quebec government had approved it has 51 years of the purchase of The Press by the Desmarais family through a private act. A new bill must now invalidate the old, if possible before the end of the parliamentary session on 15 June.
The prime minister Philippe Couillard believes that an early adoption is possible, but “the collaboration of the opposition parties will be necessary.”
All the elected members of the national Assembly have hailed the transformation of The Press Tuesday, in so far as it preserves the quality and diversity of information in Quebec. “There was no concern on the future of the journal with this proposal”, believes Mr. Couillard.
According to him, it is necessary to continue to support the media in its transition to digital, as its government has started to do it for a year. In the last budget, the government Couillard has announced an aid of $ 64.7 million $ in the form of a tax credit to support the digital transition of the press.
Mr. Couillard is reluctant, however, to go further, in order to preserve the independence of newspapers. “I would be very, very careful before we establish a rule by which the governments or the political parties would be seen as being directly at the source of the funding of the media.”
The leader of the Parti québécois, Jean-François Lisée has also argued in favor of the survival of the media, provided they are all treated fairly. “I want the government to have a program of assistance to the media who do no winner, no loser, that everyone is on the same footing. I don’t want a particular treatment for a particular media.”
François Bonnardel, member of parliament for the Coalition avenir Québec, recognizes that “the media are in crisis,” and that their situation is “extremely difficult”. According to him, the government must look at this situation and follow with attention the new model that The Press will develop. “It may be a single model, which will make may be small one day.”
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, member of parliament for Québec solidaire, see a good eye the fact that The Press is moving away from “big economic interests”. “It is not uninteresting to try new business models in the media world, because obviously the current model has lead in the wing.” Patricia Cloutier