Thursday, November 19, 2020

Media profits keep going up . . . so why the layoffs?

Canadians keep getting swindled by Big Media left, right and center . . . er, centre. They keep telling us they are dying and need government aid, so we keep giving it to them. Their profits go up as a result, and yet it’s still not enough, so they keep laying people off. Call me crazy, but I’ve got proof.

Postmedia just gave notice of 16 layoffs at its Vancouver Sun-Province newspaper(s). It’s about the only union operation among the 15 major dailies it owns across the country, which is why it has to give notice. The others shoes will no doubt drop soon. That’s on top of layoffs it made a couple of months ago. But here’s the thing. We just gave Postmedia more than $40 million in Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy funding (CEWS). Doesn’t that mean we are subsidizing their payroll? Plus they got $4.5 million in tax credits from Ottawa as part of the ongoing $595 million news media bailout. And they got another $700,000 in bailout money from Quebec. At least that’s the total up to Aug. 31, when Postmedia’s fiscal year ended. Here’s a summary from its annual report.

That made its profits the best they’ve been in years. Its operating earnings (before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) went up 37 percent from the year earlier to $67.7 million. Of course, that’s not the way its newspapers report the story. Other news media are occasionally more honest.  I try to read the financial reports required by stock market regulators. They can’t lie on those and get away with it. Here are last year’s results.

Then there's Rogers, which just axed its morning TV shows and laid off staff at its radio stations. Its profits rose 4% last year to $6.2 billion (with a b), which would place it 150th among world economies by GDP. It makes a 41.2% profit margin.

Its profits pale in comparison to those of Bell, however, which topped $10 billion in earnings last year. Its profit margin is now up to 42.2%. Yet some would have you believe that Big Media in Canada are dying and need more and more government assistance. The next media bailout is already in motion. It will be for entertainment media, and it could be worth billions. Bill C-10 is on the order paper. It will regulate the Internet for the first time in Canada and raise an estimated $800 million yearly by charging you tax on your Netflix or other foreign-owned streaming services. Next may be a so-called “link tax” that will pay publishers every time Facebook or Google posts a link to one of their news stories. 

I had an idea to fix Canada’s news media – stop sending bailout money south to New Jersey hedge funds. A petition to this effect was even started by Edmonton resident Margaret Ormrod, but the government’s reponse makes it pretty clear that ain’t going to happen.

Can anything stop Canada's media giants? Apparently not even the truth can.

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