(Ottawa) Discussions are taking place between Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Canada Post to try to find a solution to the distribution of local newspapers, his office confirmed Friday. The mayor of Longueuil, Catherine Fournier, had questioned him the day before in an interview at The Press so that the state company distributes them free of charge due to the disappearance of Publisac.
“Minister Duclos is discussing with Canada Post, an independent Crown corporation, to find solutions for the distribution of local newspapers,” indicated his press secretary, Olivier Pilon.
He would not say whether the Minister of Public Services and Procurement had requested a cost analysis. However, he recalled that the federal government has already implemented concrete measures to help the media which suffer from “the domination of digital platforms over advertising space” such as the adoption of Online News Act (C-18), the Canada Periodical Fund and the Local Journalism Initiative.
Mayor Fournier presented a plan to promote local media, the first course of action of which is to appeal to Minister Duclos for the free distribution of weeklies by Canada Post.
Transcontinental announced in November the end of Publisac, the main distribution vehicle for Courrier du Sud in Longueuil and many other weeklies throughout Quebec. Its delivery must stop between February and May, depending on the region. This decision completely disrupts their business model.
The newspapers of the JCL Group, which covers the northern suburbs of Montreal, will all be distributed by mail starting next week.
“It’s excessively expensive. It’s overpriced,” exclaims its director, Pierre-Marc Langlois, in an interview.
This service costs $140 per 1,000 copies, three to four times more expensive than Publisac. This represents an additional expense of hundreds of thousands of dollars. “For a single market in Sainte-Thérèse, it is a decision of $200,000 in additional expenses that I took this year to ensure that my news continues to be distributed to the citizens of the MRC,” explains- he.
A project with the city of Mirabel allows it to finance the distribution of another weekly in this sector. The municipality buys a page every week to publish its own content, whether city-organized activities or public service announcements.
Les Éditions Nordiques, owners of four weeklies in the Charlevoix and Côte-Nord regions, will lose one million in revenue from 1er may. The company had its own peddlers who distributed both its newspapers and Publisac.
“What is coming in the coming months will be decisive for the future of local media in all regions,” predicts its president, Simon Brisson.
He made the decision to stop printing the newspaper The Charlevoisian so that it is entirely on the web, but not all weeklies can afford this. Advertising sold online does not pay enough. And without these newspapers, local news would not be covered. TVA cut its regional theaters a few months ago and “even Radio-Canada no longer came on site to cover the recent floods,” he notes.
The president of Hebdos Québec, Benoit Chartier, has already met with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, to request annual aid of 10 million which would be used to absorb the additional cost of distribution by Canada Post for the 120 newspapers that ‘it represents.
He made the same request in Quebec to the Minister of Culture and Communications, Mathieu Lacombe, and to the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon. He says he received a mixed reception on both Parliament Hill.
The solution proposed by Mayor Fournier appears to lack realism. “Of course, being distributed free of charge throughout Quebec would be an ideal world,” he admits. But I still remain realistic. The federal government already with all the help it has given us…”
We want a price that is more similar to what we had when we used the old Transcontinental network with Publisac which was around $40 to $50 for 1000 (copies).
Pierre-Marc Langlois, director of the JCL Group
A motion unanimously adopted by the National Assembly in December asked the federal government to review Canada Post’s pricing for the distribution of printed media. The Bloc Québécois is also demanding a preferential rate comparable to the amount paid by local newspapers for distribution by Publisac.
“Ottawa cannot simply sit idly by in the face of the slaughter predicted for these newspapers which are witnesses to regional and local life,” declared the Bloc spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement, Julie Vignola, in a press release on Friday. “More than ever, it is urgent that he lend a hand to our media. »
However, Canada Post is also in the red. Its latest annual report shows a loss in revenue of $548 million before taxes. The state-owned company did not respond to questions from The Press Friday.