Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rita Trichur, "CanWest serves notice to leave CP," Toronto Sar, June 29, 2006.

CanWest Global Communications Corp., the owner of big-city dailies from Vancouver to Montreal, gave formal notice yesterday that it may pull out of Canadian Press, the country's national news service.

The Winnipeg-based broadcaster and newspaper publisher gave notice under CP rules that require members of the co-operative to give a year's notice by the end of June if they want to leave by the following summer.

However, CanWest remains free to change its mind about withdrawing at any time over the next 12 months. In the meantime, the remaining ownership groups within CP say they're fully committed to the co-operative.

CanWest Global owns the National Post and 74 per cent of CanWest MediaWorks, the country's largest newspaper group that includes dailies such as the Vancouver Sun, the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen and The Gazette in Montreal. The other 26 per cent is held by the CanWest MediaWorks Income Fund.

Scott Anderson, vice-president of editorial for CanWest MediaWorks Publications, said the company gave notice to CP to keep its options open.

"One of the things we want to do is look at our own news service and what we might do to invest in it, grow it and make it a much better provider for our readers than it is now," Anderson said in an interview.

Paul Knox, chairman of Ryerson University's School of Journalism, said CanWest still faces the challenge of being comprehensive in its national news coverage if it leaves CP.

"One difficulty with the CanWest News Service is probably that it's in between — it's neither local nor totally national in terms of its comprehensiveness," he said.

Tony Burman, editor-in-chief of CBC News, reaffirmed the public broadcaster's commitment to CP.

"The Canadian Press is a very important organization in this country at a time when these institutions matter to us all," he said. "I think that anything that undermines CP is something that is regrettable and CBC, as well as other organizations, I'm sure will work towards trying to keep CP very strong."

Established in 1917, CP employs 300 people and distributes news from bureaus across Canada and abroad.

The company has also provided a French-language service since 1951 and Broadcast News Ltd., a division of CP, provides news to TV and radio stations.

CanWest's financial contribution of $4.6 million annually is less than 10 per cent of CP's expected revenue of about $48 million this year.

CP president Eric Morrison said it would be better for Canada if CanWest stayed in CP because the co-operative provides an independent source of information for all Canadians. "Having said that, CP is not at risk if they continue on this course that this allows them to go on."
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