Montreal, -Quebecor Media Inc. has to add radio to its TV and newspaper assets so it can remain competitive against other multimedia giants, the company's chief executive told federal regulators on Monday.
Pierre Karl Peladeau says that even though the much-touted convergence model seems to be in retreat elsewhere, Quebecor wants to push it even further by opening four FM stations in Quebec and buying seven existing stations to supplement its broadcasting and publishing interests.
At the start of hearings on Quebecor's application for radio licences in Quebec, Peladeau told commissioners of the CRTC that he sees convergence as just another word for integration, a term common in other industrial sectors.
He compared it to Donohue, the successful paper company formerly controlled by Quebecor that combined paper, pulp and lumber production.
"As far as we're concerned at Quebecor, it's more a question of integrating its various platforms rather than convergence, a term which has never been really defined anyway," Peladeau said in an interview following his presentation to the CRTC.
"I think each of the components has benefitted from the presence of its brothers and sister companies, and improved their profitability or their visibility."
The FM stations aimed at baby boomers would be run by Quebecor Media's 91-per-cent owned subsidiary TVA Inc., the province's most-watched TV broadcaster with 36 per cent of the ratings.
CRTC chairman Charles Dalfen however asked some pointed questions about Quebecor's dominance in French-language markets in Quebec.
Besides TVA, Quebecor Media already owns Quebec's largest-circulation newspaper Le Journal de Montreal, the dominant cable TV company Videotron and Internet sites. It also dominates magazine publishing and even music through its production, promotion and distribution activities.
This media dominance is being contested by a major union before the CRTC, concerned about integration of news sources and a lack of options for advertisers. Later on in the three weeks of hearings, Quebecor will have to defend its acquisition of seven existing TV stations from Astral Media.
Peladeau told the hearing that Quebec is culturally in a unique and vulnerable position, where media concentration has in fact helped produce vibrant French-language programming.
"It differentiates us from the rest of Canada where U.S. programs have the upper hand."
Quebecor Media is controlled by Quebecor Inc., of which Pierre Karl and brother Eric Peladeau have the majority of voting rights. Quebecor World, the world's largest printer and also controlled by Quebecor Inc., reported Monday a whopping profit of $279.3 million US in 2002.
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