Saturday, October 13, 2007
Fredericton Train Station -Mary Keith to show up in Fredericton with little money bag to fix the roof???
Victor appeared in front of the Senate in 2005. I also made a presentation. You can read what I had to say by clicking below.
All that was said in the small room is in there.
Click below -
Here's Victor Mlodecki presenation-
THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS
DIEPPE, Friday, April 22, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 12:46 p.m. to examine the current state of Canadian media industries; emerging trends and developments in these industries; the media's role, rights and responsibilities in Canadian society; and current and appropriate future policies relating thereto.
Senator Joan Fraser (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, welcome again to our meetings in Dieppe and Moncton.
(French follows -- The Chairman: Pour ceux qui...)
(Après anglais – continuing with the Chairman)
Pour ceux qui ne le savaient pas encore, le comité sénatorial des Transports et des Communications est ici pour poursuivre son étude des médias canadiens d’information et du rôle que l’État devrait jouer pour aider les médias à demeurer vigoureux, indépendants et diversifiés dans le contexte des bouleversements qui ont touché ce domaine au cours des dernières années, notamment la mondialisation, les changements technologiques, la convergence et la concentration de la propriété.
(Anglais suit – continuing with the Chairman -- Thus far, we have had a day and a half of extremely interesting hearings in New Brunswick. )
(Following French -- continuing with the Chairman)
Thus far, we have had a day and a half of extremely interesting hearings in New Brunswick.
This afternoon, we are pleased to welcome Mr. Victor Mlodecki, Vice-President and General Manager of Brunswick News.
Thank you very much for joining us. We are obviously waiting with great interest to hear what you have to tell us. The floor is yours, sir.
Mr. Victor Mlodecki, Vice-President and General Manager, Brunswick News Inc.: In my opening remarks, senators, I propose to highlight BNI’s operations. I will describe our operating philosophy and address the issue of editorial policy, which I understand is of interest to the committee and in the context of ownership concentration.
READ MORE INSIDE!!!!
I then propose to speak to some of the topics outlined in the list of questions forwarded to me by committee clerk, Mr. Heyde, and I would then be pleased to respond to questions from the committee.
Let me first outline my experience in the industry. I have been in the newspaper business for over 30 years. I spent 13 years with Thomson Newspapers as a daily newspaper publisher in three cities, and at the time I left Thomson Newspapers, I was a vice president and chief operating officer of the eastern division, which consisted of 22 daily newspapers. After leaving Thomson, I owned and operated two weekly newspapers in eastern Ontario, which I subsequently sold. I have been in New Brunswick since 1998. In that time, I have been publisher of, in order, the Fredericton Gleaner, the Saint John Times Globe, the Telegraph-Journal and the Moncton Times & Transcript. In my present capacity, I am responsible for the activities of the companies and publications listed in the attachment to our brief.
Brunswick News is a privately held New Brunswick corporation with its head office in Saint John, New Brunswick. All of the common shares of BNI are held by Otter Brook Holdings, a private holding company incorporated in New Brunswick, all of the common shares of which are wholly owned and controlled by James K. Irving, Arthur L. Irving and John E. Irving.
The group consists of three daily newspapers, six English language weeklies, six French language weeklies, an urban weekly with an addition for each of the three major cities, a web site associated with the newspapers, a career web site and Acadian Broadcasting, which has four radio stations. All of the print titles and three of the radio stations are located in New Brunswick. The fourth radio station is in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.
A key element of BNI’s group strategy has been to extend the benefits of its size through significant capital investment in its various print properties. Without the benefit of scale, many of these local publications would not exist or would not be of the quality that BNI ownership has permitted. For example, by consolidating all of its printing operations at one production site, BNI has been able to introduce state-of-the-art printing equipment and is now able to produce more extensive colour publications. One of the challenges from an operational perspective is to maintain profitability in order to support ongoing capital investment of this type in a sector which is suffering from declining readership.
The publishers of BNI’s newspapers operate under general philosophical guidelines, which leave editorial content, the day-to-day news coverage and management of the news coverage entirely in the hands of individual publishers. The BNI operating philosophy can be summed up as follows: BNI newspapers strive to be the most trusted, respected and accurate source of information in the New Brunswick communities that they serve. Our newspapers reflect broad, mainstream values of the citizens of New Brunswick. Our newspapers treat people with dignity and respect. What we print will be accordance with the standards of our communities, which we recognize will evolve and change over time. BNI newspapers will cover the news as impartially as possible without fear or favour. We will expose wrong-doing, duplicity or the misuse of power, public or private. We are committed to the principles of truth, fairness and accuracy. When mistakes are made, we will admit them and we will correct them promptly. Our newspapers’ duty is to serve their readers and New Brunswickers at large and operate on a financially sustainable basis.
For a publisher, the key elements emerging from this operating philosophy is to produce good, respectable newspapers that serve their communities according to the highest journalistic standards, and that each publisher has the freedom to interpret this guidance in the manner most appropriate to his or her community.
A quick review of the Telegraph-Journal, the Times & Transcript and the Daily Gleaner will quickly reveal that the three newspapers have a different approach to news coverage, overall content and the presentation of the news. Often, readers will observe the newspapers taking opposing positions in editorials. Each newspaper reflects the needs of its community it serves.
Such reviews illustrate the BNI operating philosophy in action. Editorial decisions are taken by individual media outlets. Editorials are written by editors. The publishers, managers and editors are responsible for providing content that will attract readers while ensuring the highest standards of journalism and integrity.
One key element should be noted for its positive impact on the quality of our newspapers. BNI has made it clear to the publishers that these operations are considered as long-term investments designed to deliver quality media products to the communities they serve. In practical terms, this means that BNI newspapers have more editorial resources and more newshole than similar-size newspapers elsewhere in Canada and the United States.
BNI’s commitment to quality journalism and professionalism as well as our commitment to the development of professionals with an appreciation for regional and local issues is significant. Most recently, BNI demonstrated this support with a gift of $2 million to launch the Irving Chair in Journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton and the Roméo LeBlanc Chair in Journalism sponsored by BNI at the Université de Moncton.
BNI’s commitment to the communities it serves is evident from the many local initiatives undertaken by our group, some of which are set out in our brief. As an example of our philosophy being responsive to the needs of communities, we have launched new French publications where none existed before. The two editions of L’Etoile, La Republique and the Hebdo Chaleur together employ 24 people and have a total circulation of approximately 51,000. Recent capital investments and other improvements at our smaller properties, including the Woodstock Bugle, the Grand Falls Cataracte, Victoria Star, the Madawaska Journal and Miramichi Leader and Leader Weekend total almost $900,000.
Before dealing specifically with media cross-ownership and the Canadian regulatory framework, I would like to address the general issue of quality and availability of news to Canadians. BNI shares the view that has been expressed in these hearings by several other witnesses that the technological evolution of the past decade has vastly expanded the diversity of sources of news information, the number of sources as well as the amount of news that can be accessed. The supply of news information and the sources of that supply have grown tremendously. Whether it is newspapers, magazines, Internet-based media or any of the multiple means of accessing broadband channels -- off air, digital, satellite, Internet-based radio and television -- Canadians now have unprecedented access to more news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether your screening mechanism is by issue, by language, culture, geography or any of the hundreds of different slices of news that is available, Canadians do not have a lack of information. The sheer abundance of choices available to consumers is astounding.
As the committee has heard, technological advances and the abundant supply of information has also triggered some side effects. The market has fragmented and to some extent, there has been a decline in some media of traditional coverage of truly “local” news. These technological advances may also have contributed to the overall decline in newspaper readership. For newspapers, audience fragmentation poses a significant challenge because of the heavy reliance on advertising revenue. A newspapers must have readers so that it can deliver customers to advertisers. To attract readers, a newspaper must provide sufficient value that people will choose to spend their money and their time on subscribing.
At BNI, we believe that one way of retaining the interest of our readers is to provide them with a perspective on news that they may not get elsewhere. The means giving them more truly regional and local news than they will get from alternative print or electronic media outlets. By retaining their interest, we are able to continue to attract advertisers to our newspapers and generate the revenue needed to keep newspapers going.
Our strategy combined with our ability to realize cost savings by virtue of our scale allows us to keep newspapers alive in communities where a stand-alone offering might not otherwise make economic sense. It allows BNI to keep investing in these communities. It allows BNI to contribute to maintaining a diversity of voices and sources of news throughout the area we serve.
From both a policy and a business perspective, BNI does not believe that cross-media ownership or even single-media ownership concentration is an issue. Canadians have been well served by the policy framework that is in today and new regulation is not required. As I understand it, the senate committee mandate is, in part, to ascertain whether the concentration of media ownership, particularly the cross-ownership of different media, limits the diversity of opinion and is bad for the Canadian public. BNI shares the views of some who have appeared before the committee that there is no evidence that would justify interfering with what many in the world would consider a success story. We should not lightly interfere with the delicate balance we have achieved with the two regulators, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau and supportive government policy.
The explosion of information sources available today -- from newspapers, paid and free and alternative, to TV and cable channels, to specialty publications, to direct mail, to the Internet and the bulletin board at the local Laundromat -- gives the public so many choices that media companies which do not provide value to their customers will weaken and eventually fail.
Contrary to firms operating in many other sectors of the economy, the cost for consumers to switch their news source when they are unhappy with their current provider is virtually nothing. Canadians today are very well served by the market.
In conclusion, Brunswick News believes that the media model is alive and well in Atlantic Canada today. It is regulated by the hard laws of the marketplace and is a battle for long-term survival as information sources continue to proliferate and young readers are attracted to electronic information sources.
Senator Tkachuk: Thank you very much.
You talked about admitting to mistakes. What was the last mistake that one of your newspapers admitted to?
Mr. Mlodecki: We admit to mistakes several times a week. We make our corrections usually in our newspapers on page 2 and if we make actual errors, we rush to correct them.
Senator Tkachuk: Right. Would they be errors of grammar or errors of fact or would they be errors of the story itself or a hurt that you imposed on someone about which they were not able to fight back?
Mr. Mlodecki: We always correct errors of fact.
Senator Tkachuk: We heard this morning from Marie-Linda Lord, a professor at the University of Moncton. She was quite critical of what she considered the monopoly that is exercised by the Irving family on the daily newspapers here in New Brunswick. I had asked her whether there was ever intervention by the Competition Bureau. Have you ever had to make application to the Competition Bureau or has the Competition Bureau ever notified the Irving family that they were concerned about the magnitude of ownership that the family has in the province of New Brunswick?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
Senator Tkachuk: They have written no letter, anything?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
Senator Tkachuk: You talked about standards and the exposure of wrong-doings and duplicity and the misuse of power. How do you cover the businesses that are owned by the Irving family outside of the media?
Mr. Mlodecki: Just like any other business.
Senator Tkachuk: The testimony of Ms. Lord, if I am not mistaken, and maybe others is that there is a sort of a hidden fear that reporters who report on Irving holdings will be dealt with. Has anybody ever been fired from one of your newspapers because of a story on one of the Irving businesses?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
Senator Tkachuk: It has never happened?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
Senator Tkachuk: Do you do any stories on the Irving businesses?
Mr. Mlodecki: We do a lot of stories on the Irving businesses. It is hard to produce a newspaper in New Brunswick without running across an Irving business.
Senator Tkachuk: Are they positive stories, negative stories?
Mr. Mlodecki: It depends on the circumstance.
Senator Tkachuk: Yes. I am just trying to figure out how you would cover that. Like, would a reporter not say to the editor, “Okay, how do you want me to cover this?” Do you cover them in the same way and are you confident that you cover them in the same way? I am not from here, so I am just asking the questions because I want to know.
Mr. Mlodecki: I understand. The guiding principle in the story on an Irving business would be, what do our readers want to know, not what the Irvings want to be said.
Senator Tkachuk: Are there any stories about what you want to know or what the reporter wants to know? The reader does not know what he wants to know because he does not know what is going on, but would there be a time when the reporter may want to know something that he believes the reader may want to know? He does not know for sure.
Mr. Mlodecki: We have a good sense of what is important to our readers and what is not important to our readers.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Mr. Mlodecki. It is good to meet you in person. I always seen your name in the paper. Well, I guess we have met, but not to talk on substantial things like this.
One could ask a thousand questions, but I think that I would like to zero in on page 7 of this report in a follow-up to Professor Lord’s presentation this morning. It is on the record that I was very troubled by that. I felt very sad. I wanted to ask you about the new French language weeklies where none existed before. This caught my eye in your presentation as being something quite significant, that perhaps you were indeed expanding the written media to people who did not have it, so I just wondered how it came about that you did develop these weeklies where none existed before and developed them in French.
Mr. Mlodecki: There were a number of areas in the Province of New Brunswick where the population was predominantly francophone and there were no publications. We became interested in French publications after we purchased the Madawaska in Edmundston, and prior to that, we had a publication called L’Etoile in Kent County, which was predominantly franchophone. Most of these publications were successful and we saw a market opportunity, so that we identified other areas in New Brunswick which might be similarly served. We were able to put a second edition into the Madawaska area with a weekly paper called La Republique and then we had a second edition of L’Etoile for the area of Dieppe, Shediac and Cap Ouellette, again predominantly francophone. We have an English newspaper in Bathurst, but outside of Bathurst, the area is predominantly francophone, so we have recently established another newspaper there, La Hebdo Chaleur. We see market opportunities for areas that are not being addressed and we provide publications for these areas.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Are these free publications, the new ones you have just described?
Mr. Mlodecki: Three of them are free, one is a paid publication.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I am going to just jump from point to point, although I want to end up by asking about the whole theory of providing an ombudsman. But before I do that, I want to ask you something that is quite sensitive vis-à-vis this morning. Have you been aware before this presentation this morning of anything negative in regard to the announcement of the opening and commencement of the Roméo LeBlanc Chair of Journalism at the Université de Moncton?
Mr. Mlodecki: There were some radio and television reports in which Ms. Lord was very critical of the donation.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Has there been any response from the university to that or was it strictly the position of the professor?
Mr. Mlodecki: I believe it is strictly the position of the professor. I believe the university was quite pleased to get the donation.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: May I ask you a question with regard to students in journalism? I believe they have about 20 a year, something in that order. We cannot talk about the future because we cannot know the numbers, but I wondered to date, let us say over the last several years, to what extent to either students during their summer employment or graduates looked to Brunswick News for career opportunities?
Mr. Mlodecki: The students would love to work at Brunswick News because that generally means that they do not have to leave the province. Journalism is a funny trade, you know. Most of us in the profession have lived in numerous cities, generally because there is one newspaper per community. But to be able to go to school in New Brunswick and get a journalism degree, it would be great if you could stay in New Brunswick and practise your profession.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I do not know that that is answering the question. I was wondering, not in terms of specific numbers, but I am just wondering you have any idea of the number of students who do pursue careers here. And journalism course in both universities, I believe, is very new, but have you any good career stories to tell us about students graduating, let us say from the University of Moncton, and going to Brunswick news?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, but there are a number of graduates from St. Thomas University that are working at our newspapers right now.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: As summer students or full time?
Mr. Mlodecki: Full time.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: But none from the University of Moncton yet?
Mr. Mlodecki: I cannot be definite about that. I am not sure where all of our journalists have received their degrees.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: The concept of an ombudsman has been mentioned at different hearings across the land. In view of some of the criticism and controversy during these hearings, has Brunswick News ever had a person in such a capacity, and if so, why or why not?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, we do not have an ombudsman at this time. I am familiar with the concept, and it is generally a position that exists at larger metropolitan newspapers. While our newspapers are large for New Brunswick, in the scale of the metropolitan newspapers, we are not that big. It is a concept that we re-examine at various times, but we have not seen a pressing need for it at this point.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Do you get many letters that you would refer to such a person if that person existed; in other words, complaints against the papers?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, we do not get a lot of complaints against the papers and then what complaints we do receive, we treat very seriously and, of course, we talk to the people and try and find what the basis of their complaint is.
Senator Munson: Good after, sir. Your company seems to have an insatiable appetite. I do not know how many weeklies there are left in this province, but do you have more plans for expansion or would you like to have them all?
Mr. Mlodecki: We do not have a number in mind of what we want. We look at the market opportunities as they present themselves. There are many weekly newspapers in this province that we do not own yet and certainly have no intention of owning. For example, in the City of Moncton, there is Journal de Dieppe. We have no interest in that. In Riverview, there is the County Chronicle and we have no interest in that. There is the Monitor in Shediac and we have no interest in that.
Senator Munson: What is your corporate philosophy in buying out a lot of the strategic weeklies that are in every part of the province?
Mr. Mlodecki: The weeklies are important to us, but the important factor is what kind of a distribution system they have. The flyer business is becoming more and more important to newspapers and we have a distribution system now that covers approximately 90 per cent of the province. That is more of our goal than acquiring individual weeklies: We like the distribution systems.
Senator Munson: In the last two days, we have heard testimony, for example, “Nobody messes with the Irvings,” “Owners interfere in editorial policy,” “Writers exercise self-censorship,” “New Brunswick is a fiefdom of the Irvings, a feudal estate,” “predatory pricing.” When you hear that kind of criticism, what is your immediate reaction?
Mr. Mlodecki: It is not true.
Senator Munson: Could you elaborate a bit more?
Mr. Mlodecki: Well, all of the items that you have just listed there, as you listed them, I checked, no, that does not happen, no, that does not happen and, no, that does not happen. If you want to discuss any of those individually in depth, I am certainly willing to do that.
Senator Munson: Could you tell me how your strategy worked in purchasing, for example, the Bugle-Observer? We heard testimony about your company’s ownership of the shopper, bringing ad prices down in the shopper, and this gentleman, at a particular point, felt that he was basically forced to sell his newspaper.
Mr. Mlodecki: Well, I disagree. Let me tell you how that market situation developed. And it predated me, so I am going on what I have heard about this. There was a shopper that started up in opposition to Mr. Henley a couple of years before I came to New Brunswick. They were being printed at the Gleaner on a contract basis. They fell behind in paying their printing bill and Brunswick News acquired the shopper at that time.
Senator Munson: You own the printing presses?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes. They operated that newspaper. I arrived in 1998 and I continued to operate that newspaper. I forget exactly what year, but a couple of years later, Mr. Henley started a newspaper in Fredericton. I assume it was in response to a competitive situation in Woodstock. I spoke to Mr. Henley probably in 2000 and asked him if he would be interested in selling his newspapers and he was eager to sell them, but it did take another two years to negotiate a price.
Senator Munson: That was it?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
Senator Munson: The picture he painted yesterday did not quite sound that way.
Mr. Mlodecki: What picture did he paint?
Senator Munson: Well, you did not pay attention to the testimony.
Mr. Mlodecki: I was not here.
The Chairman: It is reported in your papers, sir.
Mr. Mlodecki: Well, I read that, but it was not the full extent of the testimony, was it?
Senator Munson: I accept your point of view.
Why did all these respected columnists leave your newspapers, people like the late Dalton Camp and others who felt that they were not being given enough...
Mr. Mlodecki: Enough what?
Senator Munson: Well, in a sense, freedom of discussion, freedom of the press, free to write what they want to write, free to say what they want to say.
Mr. Mlodecki: That is not why they left.
Senator Munson: Well, the copyright aspect, that is part of freedom of speech.
Mr. Mlodecki: I disagree. That is a technical issue about being able to reuse copy after it has appeared for one insertion. The copyright agreement is common in the industry.
Senator Munson: I have some information here that in the fall of 1972, that there was some sort of labour management dispute and some words have been attributed to you: “In situations like this, I believe the best policy is to fire them all, the good, the bad, the guilty, the innocent, and sort it out afterwards”? No?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
Senator Munson: Well, some information has been given to me along that line. You say you have not said those words in terms of you management style?
Mr. Mlodecki: I have not said those words.
The Chairman: In the Woodstock situation, you did not cut prices for ads in your shopper in order to undercut Mr. Henley’s paper?
Mr. Mlodecki: Shopper pricing is based on a different model than the newspaper pricing. The shopper’s cost of operation is a good deal less than a run-control service paper.
The Chairman: But did the prices that you were charging remain stable through that period or were they reduced?
Mr. Mlodecki: Prices change from week to week and for different elements of the newspapers, different prices are charged. You know, even in our dailies when we are selling special editions, the pricing is different than the pricing for ROP advertising.
The Chairman: But you would have a sense of the general level.
Mr. Mlodecki: In every competitive situation, you will find that people will make offers to people to switch their advertising, but it happens on both sides of the street.
The Chairman: We also heard what was identified as hearsay testimony, although the person who recounted it seemed to think it was credible, that in another situation, the publisher of a give-away, I believe, to do with car sales was told that he could not place it in Irving-owned convenience stores at Irving-owned gas stations unless it was printed on Irving-owned presses and, I believe, using Irving-produced newsprint. Will you comment on that?
Mr. Mlodecki: That is false.
The Chairman: No combination of any of those elements would ever or has ever occurred?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, no. First of all, I do not control what is put on newsstands in Irving Mainways and the newsprint business is a completely separate business from the publishing business. None of that is true. It is preposterous.
The Chairman: Completely separate?
Mr. Mlodecki: Absolutely.
The Chairman: Are you asking me to believe that Irving-produced newspapers do not use Irving-produced paper?
Mr. Mlodecki: Not right now we do not. We use (inaudible) water.
The Chairman: Do you really?
Mr. Mlodecki: Irving does not produce newsprint any more.
The Chairman: Well, I am out of date. Then that is a good reason for you not to be using your own newsprint. When did you stop producing newsprint?
Mr. Mlodecki: Late January.
The Chairman: Oh, so I am not that out of date.
Mr. Mlodecki: No, you are not.
The Chairman: Why did the company get out of the television business?
Mr. Mlodecki: I do not know. That predates me by a number of years. I do not know the circumstances.
The Chairman: Do you know if it was directed or urged to do so by any of the regulatory authorities?
Mr. Mlodecki: I have no knowledge of that.
The Chairman: I wonder if you could look into it and let us know, please.
Mr. Mlodecki: I could.
The Chairman: That would be very helpful.
Fundamentally, how big is too big in the media business? I assume nobody would think it was appropriate, for example, for one corporation to own all the media outlets in the world. Moving back down from there, where would appropriate limits lie?
Mr. Mlodecki: The prime directive of almost every North American business is growth, and the media business I do not think is any different in that respect than other businesses. I cannot quantify what is too big and I could not imagine our company growing to be too big.
The Chairman: Within a given market, and let us assume for the moment that New Brunswick is the market. How big is too big?
Mr. Mlodecki: We could own every single print outlet in New Brunswick and people would still have access to news from other sources and have access to advertising from other sources.
The Chairman: Do you want to own every single print outlet?
Mr. Mlodecki: No. In fact, I just listed, I think, three or four newspapers.
The Chairman: Three.
Mr. Mlodecki: Three in Moncton alone that I have absolutely no interest in purchasing. There is a group called Ossekeag Publishing that has five different publications around St. John. We are not interested in them at all. There is a newspaper being produced in an area of Fredericton called St. Mary’s that I have no interest in at all.
I should just clarify the point that I made or go back to a point that I made earlier. The newspapers are nice, but it is the distribution systems that are important to me. That is the future of the business in many respects, you know. Over the next 20 years, we are going to manage our transition from newsprint to the web. That is what we are doing. But the corollary component that is becoming very, very important in our business is the distribution of flyers to households. Interestingly, you know, five years ago, I would receive several calls a month from customers saying, “Do not put those flyers in my newspaper. I do not want them. I just throw them out.” It has been a couple of years since I have received a call like that now. People like to sit down on Saturday morning with their 20 or 25 colour catalogues of things that they can buy that week.
The Chairman: The transition to the web, which you are certainly not the first person to predict, still is going to require the delivery of news, of words. It is a different form of delivering that content. But if you are doing a transition to the web and your principal interest is in delivering flyers, what do you plan to put on your web sites in 20 years?
Mr. Mlodecki: Information. Our website has millions of unique viewers every month. If you look at the large, global portals like AOL or Yahoo, they have incredible numbers of people using their systems. In our communities, we are number one. We are the largest accessed component on the webs in our communities. The information that we now have in our newspapers will eventually fully migrate to the web. It is there now. All of our local news is accessible on the web.
The Chairman: And the ads?
Mr. Mlodecki: Not yet. The business model for the web is still in transition. Now, some people are using PDF files of the entire page so that you can get it and some people are selling separate advertising on the web. The universal business model has not been developed yet.
The Chairman: Obviously, I have not yet consulted your website but will do so.
Senator Tkachuk: I want to get back to Senator Fraser’s question on monopoly and when is one considered a monopoly. If one has 50 per cent of the marketplace, maybe not, although in some U.S. cities of U.S. states, that is a problem. How much of the newspaper market do your newspapers have in the province of New Brunswick? What is the total percentage, both in advertising dollars and distribution?
Mr. Mlodecki: I would not be able to quantify that, but I can tell you that from an advertising point of view, we will be the largest. Across the north, daily newspapers in their local communities are generally the –
Senator Tkachuk: But in this province, of the dailies, for example, are there any other dailies besides the ones you own?
Mr. Mlodecki: L’Acadie Nouvelle, The Globe and Mail is distributed here, The National Post.
Senator Tkachuk: Not outside of New Brunswick; in this marketplace.
Mr. Mlodecki: We own the three English-language daily newspapers.
Senator Tkachuk: So, would you consider that a monopoly?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
Senator Tkachuk: Only because of newspapers outside of the province or because of the electronic media?
Mr. Mlodecki: Well, let us look at each city in isolation. What is different in the situation in Moncton, where we own the daily newspaper, than in Windsor, where CanWest owns the daily newspaper?
Senator Tkachuk: It is not that I did not ask the same questions of the others in the other markets.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
Senator Tkachuk: What we are trying to do is at least get a frame of reference for the news media in the country, so I am not picking on you. These questions are not just to you alone.
Mr. Mlodecki: I understand.
Senator Tkachuk: The only people who support monopolies are the people who already have one, right?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, but we do not have one.
Senator Tkachuk: And, of course, the people who do not have one would like to have one. So, it has nothing to one with the other. I am just asking. You do have a monopoly in the newspaper business in this province.
Mr. Mlodecki: No, we do not. We have what I would refer to as a “dominant market position.”
Senator Tkachuk: How much would that be; about 80 per cent of the market?
Mr. Mlodecki: I could not quantify it, but let me just deal with that dominant market position. The barriers of entry into the newspaper business are next to nothing. Anybody can start a newspaper. All they need is a computer.
Senator Tkachuk: Yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: It is not like it was 25 years ago where you would have to invest millions of dollars in linotypes and presses before you could produce a newspaper. You literally can buy a $1,000 computer with some software and be in the business of producing newspapers.
Senator Tkachuk: I understand that. I am just saying that there is a monopoly here. What about television and radio? Should it be easier for people to get into the marketplace? Should it be easier to start up a radio station or a TV station than it already is? Should CRTC regard the radio and TV in much the same way they regard newspapers, which is hands off in terms of the marketplace? “We do not want to have anything to do with the regulation except maybe to conduct how the airwaves are sold off?” Would that be good for this country and would it be good for this province?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, I think so.
Senator Tkachuk: You obviously are not the dominant player in that business.
Mr. Mlodecki: Well, no, but --
Senator Tkachuk: Because others, who are dominant players, do not. They, of course, want more regulations.
Mr. Mlodecki: We own radio stations.
Senator Tkachuk: Yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: But what we are talking about is how involved the government should be in allowing new businesses to start. In the newspaper business, you can start a newspaper anywhere you want.
Senator Tkachuk: I know you have not been with the Irving family for a long time, but they are quite a conglomerate and very successful. I admire their success. I am not sure if the media business is their most profitable business or not their most profitable business, but how does it rank on the hierarchy compared to their other businesses? Is it as profitable a player as, say, the gas business, the refining business, or do you know?
Mr. Mlodecki: I do not know.
Senator Tkachuk: It just seems strange that they are in this business when they are all in those other businesses. Would they have gotten into this business to control what was being said about themselves? Would that have been a bit of impetus for them to get into the media business?
Mr. Mlodecki: I would not venture a guess at that, but I will just tell you that newspapers in their own right are very good and very profitable businesses.
Senator Tkachuk: Why do you not have more competition in the daily newspaper business if it is so profitable? It seems to me that if it was profitable, which I believe it is, too, that someone would start up somewhere to compete against you daily.
Mr. Mlodecki: They do. They set up on a regular basis. The trend in the industry is that people do not start daily newspapers any more. They start weekly newspapers that are associated with distribution systems because a lot of the advertising dollars have migrated from ROP advertising into flyers and that is where the business is growing the fastest.
Senator Tkachuk: Right, the distribution business. I have just one more question. I was interested in what you said about the web and the Internet. Who is your major carrier of cable here? Is it Rogers?
Mr. Mlodecki: Rogers does.
Senator Tkachuk: Are there a lot of satellite customers as well?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
Senator Tkachuk: They are monopolies, really.
Mr. Mlodecki: I would think that they are competitors.
Senator Tkachuk: If you were going to be selling your product, you have to send it through the wires. People have to own cable, right?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
Senator Tkachuk: And they get to charge. Are you afraid that one day they may actually charge you for using that cable?
Senator Tkachuk: Well, the customer has got to pay for cable.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
Senator Tkachuk: I pay for TV and I pay for Internet. Why would I not pay for Internet services, too? There is only one way for me to get your newspaper on the Internet and it just comes on the wire.
Mr. Mlodecki: You will not be able to access the local news on our website unless you are a subscriber. We charge for our copy.
Senator Tkachuk: But they will also be the distributor. You are the distributor not.
Mr. Mlodecki: Distributor of what?
Senator Tkachuk: Of your own newspapers. You have your own distribution channels, right?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, we do.
Senator Tkachuk: You will not be the distributor of your newspaper. It will go through another newspaper; i.e., the satellite or via the Internet.
Mr. Mlodecki: Okay, right.
Senator Tkachuk: So you are going to have to fight for position on that Internet, too, right? In the end, someone else is going to be distributing your product. Do you fear a monopoly there?
Mr. Mlodecki: It is not a circumstance that I have given a lot of thought to. Quite frankly, it has not occurred to me up until this point.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Getting back to New Brunswick specifically, I have two questions, one about the concept of “the New Brunswick newspaper,” and other one is related to a bilingual society, which we have here in New Brunswick.
I have been led to think of the Telegraph-Journal as “the New Brunswick newspaper.” As a reader, I buy almost day the Times & Transcript and I subscribe to the Gleaner because I like to keep in touch with Fredericton. It keeps me linked. I think I would be happier if there was one paper in this province that maybe had the Fredericton section, the Saint John section, the New Brunswick section and an overall section because I find the papers so different and not many people would buy the number of papers that I buy or look at. I do not profess to read them all. Quite often, on the weekends, I do. You are smart businesspeople. Have you considered this concept. Perhaps you could expand on that a bit.
In the Moncton Times, we seem to have very little coverage, relatively speaking, of the coverage, not as much as in Fredericton or things in the capital city, including the legislature. In the capital city, except for the piece from le Centre communautaire de Sainte-Anne, you do not see much about Moncton/Dieppe, the Acadian coast. Saint John, of course, has, in my opinion, the best coverage of national and international news, but very little about the rest of the province apart from the odd article. I just wondered, in this mandate of yours of being “the News Brunswick paper,” whether you have ever thought of combining them and having a really good paper that all citizens of New Brunswick, given that we are not that many, could read and, therefore, really share each other communities, share each other’s news and grow together.
Mr. Mlodecki: It is a concept that we have looked at. If you take the province of New Brunswick, with our 750,000 population, we are about three-quarters as big as Calgary.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: Calgary has a daily newspaper and, of course, it has the Toronto Sun. But the strength and the appeal of newspapers today is primarily in local news coverage. We want to know what is happening down the block and what is happening in city hall and readers are not that interested in finding out what is going on in a city that is an hour and a half away.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: That is the reality?
Mr. Mlodecki: That is the situation in New Brunswick today.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: That is why you keep these distinct papers?
Mr. Mlodecki: That is right.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: My other question pertains to the unique society in New Brunswick and to those that are trying to play a very positive and significant role in building that society, and, sadly, in view of the kind of comments that we have heard over the last couple of days about divisions, although I am not sure is that is the right word. I will have to do a lot of reflecting. Have you ever thought of making your papers not totally bilingual, but really recreating a balance in terms of the two languages and the several cultures of this province, of doing an experiment, if you will, of having French in the newspapers? You do have some French, I know, in the Gleaner and occasionally maybe something in the Times & Transcript. I rarely see it. But as a leader and builder of this society, have you thought of that, of doing a paper which has some French, some English?
Mr. Mlodecki: We recognize the dual nature of the province with the francophone and anglophone populations. I have not seen a model in North America where a bilingual newspaper in one copy has worked. Recognition of this as the reality in the province had led to us expanding our French-language publications the way we have in the last few years.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Has anyone ever asked you or suggested that you should try that, for instance, here in Moncton? I do not mean to single out Moncton especially. I think of the province as a whole. No one has asked you to do it or to try it?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, nobody has, but it is something that we have discussed many times, but we cannot see it work.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: You said in your preamble to your answer that you had not seen an example where it worked. Can you give examples in Canada where it has been tried? I will limit myself to Canada.
Mr. Mlodecki: Well, there are a couple of small examples that I am familiar with. The Cataracte, when we bought if from Mr. Henley, was written half in English and half in French.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Oh, I did not know.
Mr. Mlodecki: And a small newspaper that I was associated within the 1970s in Penetanguishene, Ontario. was also half English and half French. But they really are neither fish, nor fowl. I think the population groups would much rather be addressed completely in the language that they want to be.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Thank you.
The Chairman: You remind me of an anecdote. Years ago, when I was at the Gazette, something or other happened where it seemed to us appropriate to write an editorial in French, which was not part of our practice. It is an English-language newspaper and has been for 180 years or so. Before that, it was bilingual, before that it was French. Anyway, we published an editorial in French and that morning, I got an absolutely panicked phone call from a friend of mine, who was the director of Le Devoir, an excellent, but always struggling French-language paper, and he said, “You are not moving into the French market, are you?”, because he did not need any more competitors, given the precarious financial position he was in. I do not know how directly pertinent that is to the concerns of Brunswick News, but I have never forgotten it.’
Senator Trenholme Counsell: But if I might just add, I do not see it as being applicable to New Brunswick, but on the other hand, tell us about the period of time when your newspaper was bilingual. When was that?
The Chairman: That was, if memory serves, from about 1790 to about 1830. Senator Munson.
Senator Munson: Sir, how do the printing press or presses work here? Does everybody have to come to you to have their paper printed or can they go somewhere else or do you control that, too?
Mr. Mlodecki: You mean the newspapers that we own?
Senator Munson: The newspapers you own and say, L’Acadie Nouvelle, or whatever other weeklies. Where do they go to get printed?
Mr. Mlodecki: We print the Campbellton Tribune, which is not one of our newspapers. We do a very limited amount of job printing. Our newspapers, yes, they have to be printed on our presses.
Senator Munson: That makes sense, but L’Acadie Nouvelle, you do not know where they –
Mr. Mlodecki: They have their own press.
Senator Munson: I have some technical questions. You own four radio stations and you list them in your brief: CHWV, 13 employees, CHSJ, 13, CHTD, six, CKBW in Nova Scotia, 17. Do you have any idea how many work in the news business?
Mr. Mlodecki: It would be about seven or eight. That is off the top of my head.
Senator Munson: How would that compare to, say, 20 years ago: a constant, an increase, a decrease?
Mr. Mlodecki: The radio business has changed a lot of over the last 20 years. My recollection of radio stations from 20 years ago is that they would not have had significantly more staff than they have now, but if you go back 30 or 35 years ago, yes, they did. They had a lot more staff than they do now.
Senator Munson: The reason I ask that question is that in testimony in Halifax we had desperate pleas from people in radio who feel that radio owners are ignoring the news in their community. I would just like to get your opinion of that in New Brunswick there is only one or two radio stations and one person has to read the news, run over to the police station, pick up the newspapers, read it again; that there is not that intensity that there was in the old days of news gathering that happened in private radio stations.
Mr. Mlodecki: In many respects, the era of “scoop” journalism is over. Having large staffs so that you can get the news first is of limited today. The electronic media always gets the news first. And with radio stations, you can use the wires, you can use the local media to find your news. The other thing is that the marketplace is not demanding that kind of service from the radio stations any more. If there was a real demand for local news on radio stations, somebody would be filling that role and they are not.
Senator Munson: I believe that competition makes for better journalism, whether radio or newspaper or television.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
Senator Munson: For example, there was a time in Ottawa when there were six different private radio networks. That no longer happens. I know there was a down side in AM radio and people were losing money and FM emerged and so on, and there has been argument for a whole new talk format, but I guess I would argue that there is a place for news on the radio. People get their news first in the morning and they like to have original content. It seems to me that radio people are getting their content from picking up a newspaper and rewriting it...your newspaper.
Mr. Mlodecki: In many cases, that is true.
Senator Munson: Page six of your brief, paragraph five, you talked about, “One key element should be noted for its positive impact on the quality of our newspapers: BNI has made it clear to publishers that these operations are considered long-term investments”, and so on. And you say, “In practical terms, this means that BNI newspapers have editorial resources and a size of newshole that are more generous than similar-size newspapers elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.” Do you have any figures of how you are more generous?
Mr. Mlodecki: The industry standard is that daily newspapers will run 40 per cent advertising. Our newspapers range from 34 to 37 per cent advertising, so that means that we provide more news.
Senator Munson: Do you have any views on existing foreign ownership restrictions? Should they be changed or are you satisfied or does this question really apply to New Brunswick?
Mr. Mlodecki: I do not think it applies to New Brunswick. Foreign ownership is not a pressing matter to us.
Senator Munson: In your view, is freedom of the press something that belongs to the press or media or does that freedom of speech belong to the individual citizen?
Mr. Mlodecki: Freedom of the press belongs to everybody.
Senator Munson: You do have a sense of humour, right?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
Senator Munson: That is the first time I have seen you smile since you sat down. I am from New Brunswick, too. You should not be afraid of me. My dad was from Alma and my mother is from Baie Verte and my wife is an Acadian.
Mr. Mlodecki: I am not afraid of you.
Senator Munson: Well, that is good. I just wanted to make sure on Friday afternoon that you have a sense of humour. Thanks very much.
The Chairman: You have listed numbers of total employees, which is very useful, at the various papers and at the various other media operations, but I wonder if you could break out for us the number of people you have in the news or editorial departments. If you cannot do it write now, that is fine.
Mr. Mlodecki: In New Brunswick, we have over 150 journalists, including the weeklies.
The Chairman: Way over 150 or a few over 150?
Mr. Mlodecki: A few over 150.
The Chairman: The majority of them would be in the dailies, I assume?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, they would.
The Chairman: Yes. Just a breakdown between the dailies and everybody else would be handy.
Mr. Mlodecki: Between 105 and 110 are in the dailies.
The Chairman: We heard yesterday how in Moncton in recent years it had gone from 17 to 34, which is a gratifying trend for anybody who comes out of journalism.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, that is right.
The Chairman: You talked about barriers to entry to the newspaper business.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: For sure, lots of lots of people can buy a computer. Putting it up on the web is one thing. Anybody can do a blog, practically, but if want to have something approaching a conventional newspaper as it is currently envisaged, you have to print it and you have to distribute it. Do you print any competitors’ papers?
Mr. Mlodecki: What is a competitor? The only non-BNI regular publication that we print is the Campbellton Tribune, which is an independent.
The Chairman: Yes. Would you print one? If I moved to town and decided to start a paper, would you print it?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
The Chairman: So I would basically have to find a press?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, you would have to find a printer and there are lots of them around.
The Chairman: Would you distribute it?
Mr. Mlodecki: No.
The Chairman: We talked about profit levels. What in your view is an appropriate profit target for a daily newspaper and for a weekly newspaper?
Mr. Mlodecki: In my experience at the various newspapers companies that I have worked at, an acceptable profit level for newspapers is in the mid-twenties. I have seen newspapers out of New Brunswick that have had profit ratios over 50 per cent.
The Chairman: You are not instructing your various publishers to reach 50 per cent?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, that would have a cost on quality.
The Chairman: No kidding.
You also said that nobody ever got fired for writing something critical of an Irving company, but we heard testimony yesterday that it has been publicly reported that one journalist, Mr. Mike Parker, I believe his name is, did lose his job very soon after writing critical material and after his publication was, I believe, purchased by Brunswick News.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, I heard that. It just does not make any sense because, you know, he is a writer and his material has to go through an editor and if we did not want to publish it, we would not have published it. But the fact of the matter is, his losing his job has absolutely nothing to do with that column. Actually, I thought the column was pretty good. We bought those publications, Here publications, and, you know, they were perennial money losers. And to keep them in the same business model that they were losing money in for all those years does not make sense. So, what we have done is that we have eliminated staff writing positions and replaced them with correspondents and freelancers.
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: He got caught in that fallout; nothing to do with the column.
The Chairman: So, if he were to present himself and say, “I will do you the column on a freelance basis,” you think that would be perfectly okay?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, that would be fine.
The Chairman: I was very interested by the statement of operating philosophy on editorial freedom on page five, the four-point statement you had outlined, and I had a couple of questions about that. How many of the people who work for you are aware of this operating philosophy?
Mr. Mlodecki: The publishers are.
The Chairman: It is not a public document? There are and have been media companies who have similar statements which are made available to the people who actually produce the news.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes. Now, this has been a work in progress and we are getting it to the point where we think it is exactly what we wanted to say, and it may in the near future be rolled out to the entire newspapers.
The Chairman: Including the actual reporters? Obviously, what I am driving at here is the repeated comments we have heard in the past day and a half about self-censorship, people who are further down the food chain than you are and who believe that it is just not acceptable in one way or another to cover Irving companies or to say anything critical about Irving companies.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, yes. We do all the time.
The Chairman: Sir, I do not read your newspapers 365 days a year.
Mr. Mlodecki: I understand.
The Chairman: I am talking about the kind of perception that has been reported to us. From other contexts, I can tell you that this perception arises very easily and is very difficult to eradicate, and that is why I was so interested in this statement.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: I am very encouraged to hear you say that are actually contemplating rolling it out to everybody.
Mr. Mlodecki: As we are. As I said, this has been a work in progress, you know. It has taken us a number of years to get it to the point where we are comfortable with it and now that we are comfortable with it, I envision that we will, if not post it in the lobby, at least people aware of it.
The Chairman: Distribute it.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: Put it up on the web, distribute it, give it to everybody who gets hired. Why not?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: Publish it in your newspapers once a year or once a month.
The other thing that occurs to me to wonder, as you were doing so, whether you would consider inserting a specific point to state that BNI News, BNI media, will cover Irving-owned operations in exactly the same way as they cover anything else.
Mr. Mlodecki: That would be treating them differently from any other business in the community. We already cover that area, I think, by saying that we will...
The Chairman: You have a line, “BNI newspapers will cover the news as impartially as possible without fear or favour,” and, presumably, that could be interpreted to mean what I just suggested. Some might prefer more direct clarity.
Mr. Mlodecki: But it would be dealing with Irving businesses differently from any other, which would be against our philosophy.
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: The Irving businesses are just like any other business.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I am going to sound like a lobbyist, but you people do not repeat yourselves very often; and twice in this document you talk about declining readership. I am not going to ask you for numbers. We have discussed that a lot in our hearings all across the country. But I wondered if anyone had ever asked you or whether you had ever given consideration to putting free newspapers in the schools of New Brunswick. I do not mean in the office or in the staffroom. I mean in the libraries of our schools.
Mr. Mlodecki: We have an arrangement with the province where we deliver a thousand newspapers a day to the schools of New Brunswick.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I did not know that, so I am interested. When you say you deliver them to the schools, are they delivered locally by a papergirl or boy? Are they subscriptions?
Mr. Mlodecki: It depends where the school is located. We have made an arrangement with the province that for a highly discounted rate, we will provide a thousand newspapers to the school system in New Brunswick every day. They are delivered to individual schools, whether by a driver, a carrier or however.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: What you are saying is different from what I asked. You said a “highly discounted rate” and I said “free.”
Mr. Mlodecki: It is almost free.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I did not know this.
Would a thousand schools cover most of the schools in the province?
Mr. Mlodecki: All of the schools.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Do you send them to schools in both systems? We have two education systems in the province.
Mr. Mlodecki: I would not be able to verify that 100 per cent. I would have to look at that.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Thank you.
The Chairman: Do you speak French, Mr. Mlodecki?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, I do not.
The Chairman: Does anybody in charge of your French language publications at head office, reporting to you, speak French?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, our publisher, Hermel Volpe in Madawaska, our publisher of L’Etoile, Richard Thibeau, our publisher of La Chaleur –
The Chairman: I would assume at the local level, people running the French language media would speak French.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: What I am driving at is that when corporate strategy is being set and corporate decisions are being made --
Mr. Mlodecki: Those publishers report directly to me.
The Chairman: We have heard testimony from L’Acadie Nouvelle in particular as well as from some other people that there is considerable concern about your arrival in the French language weekly market, that this is eroding their advertising base, that there is concern that, in a sense, you are targeting them. Can you respond to that?
Mr. Mlodecki: As I stated earlier, we identified opportunities where French language publications would be viable and we acted on those opportunities. L’Acadie Nouvelle had the same opportunity to identify and act on those opportunities at the same time we did. They chose not to whereas we did. And all of those publications are viable, profitable publications today.
The Chairman: Given the importance of L’Acadia Nouvelle in the Acadian community, as you contemplate the future, do you feel any sense of responsibility at all to avoid damaging them? I am not talking about normal, healthy competition here. I am talking about an institution that has significant community importance. Does that enter at all into your calculations?
Mr. Mlodecki: I was a little disturbed by the testimony that I heard from L’Acadie Nouvelle. It sounds to me that they do not want Brunswick News to have a monopoly so that they can have a French monopoly, which I do not think is correct.
The Chairman: There are a couple of other points arising out of testimony that we heard yesterday and that I actually undertook to follow up with you. One involves policy about letters to the editor: First, is there a common policy on letters to the editor; and, second, do you set it or, if not, do you have any idea how it works in the various papers?
Mr. Mlodecki: Each newspaper has its own letters policy, but it is generally guided by principles of reasonableness, you know. If somebody has written a hundred letters to the editor, it is highly unlikely that 80 will be printed in the next six months.
The Chairman: Is it publicly understood what quotas there might be, how frequently you are likely to get into the paper?
Mr. Mlodecki: Do we have a listing of a quota for the number of letters to the editor you can write? No, no. And we generally take each letter on its own merit, but, you know, when you start getting up into the realm that you are writing 20 letters to the editor, you are generally writing on the same topic.
The Chairman: It is just a matter of clarity so that people understand the context into which they are sending their recommendations.
Mr. Mlodecki: We try to find every possible reason to run the letter rather than find reasons not to run the letter.
The Chairman: Another element that was raised had to do with a film called Forbidden Forest.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: I have not watched it yet, although I do have a tape of it, but it has to do, as I understand it, with environmental practices of forestry companies. And what was suggested to us was that there was a systematic decision by Irving-owned publications not to cover this film.
Mr. Mlodecki: There was an article written on that film and there was also an announcement of the day it was playing. It was covered.
The Chairman: It was covered, but not wildly extensively.
Let me come back to the French language market. Would you consider launching a French-language daily?
Mr. Mlodecki: I have no aversion to publishing a French- language daily, but there is not room in New Brunswick to launch another French-language daily right now.
The Chairman: It is not in the foreseeable future on your desk?
Mr. Mlodecki: That is right.
The Chairman: We also heard testimony about common content in the weeklies. I was very impressed in your brief, although I think some of this was portions that you did not read out in your presentation, but you have a nice long list of bureaus, including correspondents in Ottawa for both the Telegraph-Journal and the Times & Transcript and the Daily Gleaner.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, that is right.
The Chairman: For a company with a total number of readers that your papers have, that is better than some larger ones I could name. But that is dailies. We did hear that you have a lot more common content in the weeklies than you have in the dailies and that, in particular, there was, at least for a period, a common editorial in the weeklies. Can you comment on that? Can you explain how that all works?
Mr. Mlodecki: I am unaware of any common editorial in the weeklies. I am not saying that it has not happened because I do not read every single issue of the weeklies that we produce. If that was the case, I would ask the publishers to stop that immediately.
The Chairman: It seemed to me it was rather counterproductive from a pure marketing sense in that if you have a local weekly, you want it to be local.
Mr. Mlodecki: Absolutely.
The Chairman: You do not want it to be centralized. But do they share other content?
Mr. Mlodecki: They buy similar content from CP called “The Toolbox” and they may share some syndicated features, but it would not be very often that they would share actual news stories. I am not saying that there is not a news story that crosses community boundaries that they would share resources on, but as a rule, they do not.
The Chairman: There are no directives from head office: “You will have one hockey correspondent,” or one whatever?
Mr. Mlodecki: No. In that respect, we are a very decentralized organization. The publishers very much call the shots on their sites.
The Chairman: Does each of the weeklies have its own publisher?
Mr. Mlodecki: Some publishers run two weeklies.
The Chairman: I know you are going to think, “God forbid,” but if the Government of Canada were to bring back a policy discouraging cross-ownership of media --
Mr. Mlodecki: God forbid.
The Chairman: Well, you have made that perfectly plain. Nonetheless, if that were to happen, which would be more interesting to you, radio or print?
Mr. Mlodecki: To stay in business?
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: Print.
The Chairman: And within print, dailies or weeklies?
Mr. Mlodecki: That is a more difficult question to answer because, in terms of revenue growth, many daily newspapers are capped in what they can do in their markets. Weeklies, from a revenue point of view, are more efficient in that respect. But from the point of view of what I like in the business, which is to inform people, I would stay with the daily model.
The Chairman: Yes, that is interesting. You feel that way in spite of what you said earlier about 20 years from now, it is all going to be on the web?
Mr. Mlodecki: It is true. I am not going to be in the business 20 years from now.
The Chairman: Me either.
Do you charge now for your Internet subscriptions?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, for the local content.
The Chairman: Is it like a lot of other people who you can call up the site, get a bit of a teaser, but if they want more, they have to pay? Do they have to be subscribers?
Mr. Mlodecki: Well, you will get a lot of news on there anyway, a lot of the features, a lot of the Canadian press feeds, even the crosswords.
The Chairman: Not there, yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, but if you want the local news from Moncton or Saint John or Fredericton, then you have to be a subscriber to the newspapers.
The Chairman: So, you actually must be subscribing to the print?
Mr. Mlodecki: Exactly.
The Chairman: You do not sell separate subscriptions to the Internet?
Mr. Mlodecki: No, we do not. what happens with that subscription, if you are in Florida and you want to have access to the web, we will sell you the subscription to the newspaper, but you donate your newspaper copy to the newspaper in education program.
The Chairman: This is for ABC reasons, I assume?
Mr. Mlodecki: I would hope that we are a little more altruistic than that. The idea of us giving newspapers for educational purposes has value to us. The newspapers that are listed on ABC as NIE copies are usually discounted in value by advertisers.
Senator Munson: What is your view of Canadian Press these days as a national news service? Is it instrumental to cohesive presentation of a picture across the country and is it important to your newspapers?
Mr. Mlodecki: Absolutely. It is doing a fine job. As a matter of fact, when I became the publisher of the Saint John newspapers, they were no longer members of Canadian Press and I brought them back into the Canadian Press.
Senator Munson: That is really good to hear.
You mentioned to Senator Fraser that Canadians have been well served by the policy framework that is in place today and new regulation is not required. So, you are just saying to us to keep our political noses out of your business and we will all do just fine in New Brunswick, right?
Mr. Mlodecki: I might have stated it a little more politely than that, but, yes.
Senator Munson: There. See, you are smiling. Thank you.
Senator Tkachuk: So are you, Jim.
The Chairman: Well, he makes us all smile all the time.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I am from Sackville and I do not understand why you have not bought the Sackville Tribune Post, not that I want you to or need you to, but I do not understand. You are probably not going to give me the answer.
Mr. Mlodecki: Oh, absolutely, I will. The Sackville Tribune Post was owned by the Amherst Daily News and they were sold to Transcontintental, I think, a couple of years ago or a year ago. The Sackville newspaper has little interest to me because we already have a distribution system in that community.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: That is a terrible thing to say. I was just beginning to think you were okay and now you say that.
Mr. Mlodecki: I stand corrected.
The Chairman: You are already on the record. What matters is the distribution system. You said it several times.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Oh, it is so special there. You better come and meet us.
Mr. Mlodecki: It is a wonderful community. I go there often.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I will take you to Mel’s for a cup of coffee.
Mr. Mlodecki: That is a great place.
The Chairman: My last question comes back to our initial mandate, which is public policy. You do not want changes in the current CRTC Competition Act regime. Foreign ownership rules are not relevant to you. Are there any other elements of public policy that you would like to see change or are there any elements of present public policy that you consider really important, that you consider pillars of the Canadian fabric with which we should not meddle?
Mr. Mlodecki: I think the framework and structure that we have today is working well. I do not see a reason to change it.
The Chairman: Mr. Mlodecki, we thank you very much for your time and your information. We look forward to receiving an explanation about the television that I referred to.
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: While you are at it, would you let us know approximately how many hits you get on your website?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, we get 5 million page views a month, over 1 million unique users a month.
The Chairman: And those would be mostly with the dailies?
Mr. Mlodecki: That is hits to our website.
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. Mlodecki: Where they go once they hit our website –
The Chairman: Once they are there, you are not sure?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes.
The Chairman: Does Jamie Irving report to you?
Mr. Mlodecki: Yes, he does.
The Chairman: Everybody who has appeared before us has said that. I have not had the pleasure.
The committee adjourned.
THANK GOD FOR CBC!!!!
If New Brunswick didn't have CBC? We wouldn't have a clue the going ons in this Province.
The Irving's lawyers must be working hard in Ottawa to cut the Staff at CBC in Ottawa?
Sure wouldn't surprise me that Senator Irving lawyer Joe Day must be lobbying for the cuts?
Who truly knows?
CBC might not run a good radio talk show but they sure cover the main news in New Brunswick. < Sorry I just had to add that one >
Flyer distributor struggles to stay in business
Last Updated: Friday, October 12, 2007 | 11:15 AM AT
A court battle between an Irving-owned newspaper and one of its former publishers has shed light on the efforts of a small flyer distribution company trying to get off the ground in Bathurst, N.B.
Gary Winsor has been publishing Infosac sporadically since August but he says he has found it hard to compete with lower advertising rates offered by Irving-owned NB Distributors Co. Ltd.
"It started out quite well, but then in the past couple weeks, it's been getting a lot more difficult," Winsor told CBC News.
Infosac creates weekly four-page flyers of local advertisements but Winsor said his company is losing advertisers as they switch to the Irving-owned competition because of discounts it offers.
I hope the people of Woodstock support their new paper. I heard that some former Journalists who were let go by the Irvings are ready to cover this story in the National Media.
You see? If you were to write a critical story of the Irvings? You would be let go from the Irving Empire.
Since they own all the newspapers in New Brunswick? These journalists were force to leave New Brunswick.
Now that the Irvings are in the limelight for their old Germany style of searching people homes?
These reporters will write a story in the National Media.
IT'S PAY BACK TIME!!!
TRULY STAY TUNE!!!