The possible merger between Postmedia and the Toronto Star—two ideologically polar media organizations now engaged in non-binding discussions—will diminish a diversity of opinions in Canada’s legacy media, asserts an industry veteran.
“The people working on mergers like this tend to sell them as a positive point, but, in fact, they never are. What they mean for media is less diversity of viewpoints and they’re going to mean layoffs,” Matthew Hays, a media studies teacher at Marianopolis College and Concordia University in Montreal, told True North.
By circulation, the Toronto Star jockeys with the Globe and Mail for highest countrywide circulation, while the Postmedia network comprises more than 130 brands, including the National Post, Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, and others that enjoy majority market share in small- and mid-sized cities.
Hays, also a veteran arts critic who spent more than a decade as the now-defunct Montreal Mirror’s associate editor, says past instances of news media conglomeration diminished the range of perspectives publications presented.
But Hays contends job cuts in the legacy media have a similar outcome because the breadth of news coverage rises and falls with tan outlet’s capacity to produce news.
That may very well be an outcome of the potential Postmedia-Toronto Star transaction.
In a press release, Postmedia’s president and CEO Andrew MacLeod said “the existential threat” facing the news industry is the catalyst for a possible merger between two unlikely bedfellows.
“The core rationale for the proposed merger is to create a new entity with reduced debt, national digital scale to compete with the global technology giants and economies of scale in the business model,” McLeod said in the statement.
“The news media industry in Canada and around the world is under existential threat, new models are urgently required. Scale, reach and efficiency are all prerequisites for future success and to compete with the global technology platforms.”
The press release claims all publications would retain editorial independences, should the transition become fully realized —the Star, for example, would be owned by a new company called Toronto Star Inc.—and that new entity would “provide the best opportunity to ensure strong news media coverage for Canadians from coast to coast”—although it didn’t explain how.
“Whatever barrier the new owners say they’re going to put up to stop this from meaning less diversity is just cosmetic,” Hays said. “It will mean less diversity of opinion and fewer jobs.”
Under the proposed ownership structure of the as-yet-unnamed entity, Nordstar Capital control 50% of voting interest and 44% of the economic interest, the press release said, while Postmedia would have 50% and 56%, respectively.
Nordstar would have a 65% stake in the Toronto Star, and Star publisher Jordan Bitove would retain his position in addition to becoming the new entity’s chairman, while MacLeod would be its CEO.