Media Concentration: Read All About It

Think the surprise announcement in early December from BCE Inc., Ken Thomson's Woodbridge Co. Ltd., Torstar Corp., and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan regarding Bell Globemedia's ownership structure was exciting? Expect 2006 to deliver even more activity in Canadian media circles. The Bell Globemedia deal sees BCE substantially reduce its stake in the multimedia company that's home to such mega-brands as CTV and The Globe and Mail. Meanwhile, Torstar, traditionally a competitor to Bell Globemedia, gets 20%.

Some analysts speculate BCE will ultimately sell off its minority holdings altogether, while others suggest Torstar only got involved in the deal to segue into television, and will eventually hand over its stake in The Globe and Mail to Thomson, in exchange for a bigger piece of the CTV pie. UBS Securities Canada analyst Jeff Fan predicts linking Torstar's community papers with TV could be the first step toward creating a major national media company to rival CanWest Global Communications Corp.

Nothing will happen before the middle of 2006, though, the earliest the Bell Globemedia transaction is expected to go through. Christopher Waddell, a journalism professor at Carleton University, expects renewed public debate media concentration. “It's difficult to know what will happen,” he says, “[but] it is a bit of an oligopoly.” A senate study of the media, led by Senator Joan Fraser, former editor-in-chief of the Montreal Gazette, is due to be released in 2006, too.