Meet The Canadian Press’s new owners

Three of Canada’s largest media companies will take over The Canadian Press, a move the CBC says “will complete the 93-year-old news agency’s transformation from newspaper co-operative to for-profit corporation.”

Square Victoria Communications Group (publisher of La Press), Torstar Corporation (publisher of Toronto Star) and Globe and Mail publisher CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. — all long-time members of The Canadian Press — have jointly invested in a new for-profit entity, Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., which will take over operations of the news agency. The co-op’s board will be replaced by a board made up of two reps per owner, including Globe publisher Phillip Crawley, Star publisher John Cruickshank and Guy Grevier, publisher of La Presse

The deal was announced just before a federally-mandated deadline of November 30.

The new structure announcement comes after a year of speculation about the fate of the news agency, after it announced it was seeking reorganization to meet $34.4-million in pension obligations. Some media analysts have worried about the impact privatization would have on the organization and its ability to serve Canadian news consumers.

Writing for J-Source earlier this summer, j-prof Kelly Toughill dubbed CP “Canada’s most innovative news organization,” adding that “The non-profit cooperative has led the way in Canada in adapting to the Internet. It was one of the first to embrace multimedia reporting, handing its journalists video cameras when many newspapers were still struggling to post text to the web. Its sale could free it to be even more flexible and creative, or force it into a corporate mold that kills its tradition of innovation.”

“More recently,” Toughill continues, “the Canadian Press has moved into niche marketing, setting up its news feed so that it can service tiny clients who are interested in just one subset of a subject. This niche journalism may be the future of media, as users move toward organizations and news feeds that are tailored to their particular interests.”

“This is a great evolution and modernizes the structure to catch up to the innovations we have done in areas such as web, mobile and video,” said President Eric Morrison in a CP press release. “The new structure will create the financial strength we need to grow. Our core mission remains unchanged – informing Canadians and giving them news on any platform they want, when they want it.”

Under the new structure, the release reports, “CP will maintain the editorial independence for which it is renowned. Decisions about what news and information it distributes will continue to be guided by the bedrock principles of newsworthiness, reliability, accuracy and objectivity.” For all its members, CP claims it will be business as usual.

“My colleagues and I in the investment group are proud to be assuming ownership of this vital Canadian institution,” said Crawley in the release — who CP calls “a driving force behind the transaction in his capacity as publisher of The Globe and Mail.” Crawley continues: “We will be upholding a very fine tradition and will take the organization into a bright future with excellent business prospects.”

A Globe story reports on its parent company’s new investment:

“The Canadian Press now faces the challenge of finding new ways to make money in an increasingly competitive media environment. Currently, about one-third of CP’s revenue comes from newspaper operations. Other subscribers to the service include radio and television broadcasters, websites and other digital content, government offices and commercial operations such as financial institutions.

“CP suffered a blow to its business in the past three years, as two prominent members left the co-operative. In 2009, Sun Media Corp. announced it would cease its subscription, effective this past summer. That followed CanWest Global Communications Corp.’s decision in 2007 to leave CP and launch its own news service — now called Postmedia News following the sale of the newspapers to Postmedia Network Inc. earlier this year. Other wire services have felt similar pressures in recent years — Associated Press, for example, has seen its newspaper subscribers object to the cost of accessing the news service, and has lost members as media organizations ran into financial difficulties. The Canadian Press has an exclusive deal to distribute AP content in Canada.”