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Media casualties continue at 24 hours, Torstar, CTVglobemedia as Black Press posts big loss

Media casualties continue at 24 hours, Torstar, CTVglobemedia as Black Press posts big loss

By: Charlie Smith

The media casualties just don’t seem to be ending. Today, Sean Holman revealed on his Web site that he lost his job as the legislative columnist for the Vancouver commuter paper 24 hours.

Holman attributed this to “downsizing”. He is the second political voice to leave the paper, which also let go of conservative columnist Erin Airton a while ago. Bill Tieleman is still writing a left-of-centre column for 24 hours, which is owned by Quebecor Inc.

(For more on the 24 hours cuts, see the Toronto Sun Family blog.)

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star announced yesterday that it was laying off 60 unionized staff and managers, mostly in advertising. Last month, the paper’s parent company, Torstar Corp., reported a $180.5-million annual loss.

Some of those Torstar losses are attributable to the company’s investment in B.C.-based Black Press, which owns several local community papers, including the WestEnder, the North Shore Outlook, the Richmond Review, and the Tri-Cities News.

Torstar has previously reported that it holds almost 20 percent of Black Press. In its most recent financial report, Torstar reported that it lost $26.3 million from its investment in Black Press last year.

If you multiply the Torstar loss by five (because Torstar holds nearly 20 percent), this suggests that privately owned Black Press lost $131.5 million last year.

Black Press, which is based in Victoria, prints the Vancouver commuter paper Metro, which Torstar owns in partnership with the Swedish company Metro International.

The electronic media have also been hit hard by the recession. On March 3, CTVglobemedia announced the elimination of 118 positions at company-owned A stations in Victoria, London, Barrie, and Ottawa. This represented approximately 28 percent of the A stations' overall staff count.

"We simply can't monetize our success,” executive vice-president Paul Sparkes said in the news release. “We are doing everything we can to hang on to conventional television, but as we continue to stress, the conventional model is now broken.”

Television advertising has migrated up the dial to specialty channels, which also generate fees from cable subscribers. CTVglobemedia has claimed that conventional stations also require these “fee-for-carriage” payments to survive, but so far, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has not gone along with its wishes.

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