Monday, April 20, 2009

A question for the Heritage Committee

Pierre Karl Péladeau, President and CEO of Québecor and Québecor Media Inc. is scheduled to appear before the Canadian Heritage Committee on Monday afternoon along with other Quebecor executives. The timely topic for the day (and week), the "Evolution of the television industry in Canada and its impact on local communities," given current issues in the broadcast industry (Quebecor is the owner of TVA). It has been reported that Mr. Peladeau has personally lobbied the Prime Minister for financial assistance for Quebecor recently:
...the message that immediate help is needed has been taken directly to 24 Sussex Drive. Both CanWest CEO Leonard Asper and Quebecor’s Pierre-Karl Péladeau, have personally met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of their companies in recent weeks.
We don't yet know what form of assistance, if any, is being contemplated by the Harper government for private broadcasters and whether they dare go ahead while ignoring CBC, but ad buys from the feds or a "fee for carriage" for companies like TVA are among the commonly discussed options.

Given that using public moneys have been floated by the Conservatives and sought by private broadcasters like Quebecor/TVA, it would seem appropriate then that the Heritage Committee attempt to have Mr. Peladeau reconcile Quebecor's seeking public assistance from the taxpayer with Mr. Peladeau's simultaneous pursuit of purchasing the Montreal Canadiens, as reported at the end of last week: "Big names mull joining forces in bid for Canadiens."
A shared passion for the Montreal Canadiens is making for strange bedfellows in Quebec business circles, as a consortium made up of pop star Céline Dion, Seagram heir Stephen Bronfman and Quebecor Inc. boss Pierre Karl Péladeau is considering a joint bid for the storied NHL team, financial sources report.
This trio of potential buyers is said to be contemplating a dedicated pay-TV channel in Quebec that would carry Habs games and other hockey-related content as one way to increase revenues from the team.
A reported purchase price floated Friday is between $400-450 million. While Peladeau looks to be part of a larger purchase group, the optics are not good from the vantage point of the Canadian taxpayer who is being asked to provide funding for his company on the one hand while he pursues a high profile purchase of the Montreal Canadiens on the other. A situation that deserves a little clarity.