February 12, 2015 4 years 1 month ago

UPDATED: Employees believe Sun News about to go dark as sale to Zoomer falls through

TORONTO – Employees at Sun News believe they are soon to be the recipients of some very hard news. According to several sources, many staffers have become convinced that the last day of operations will be this Friday, February 13th because a deal for the sale of the channel has fallen through.

As first reported by Cartt.ca in December, ZoomerMedia held an exclusive negotiating window with Quebecor Media, the owner of Sun News, to buy the struggling TV channel and it was hoped that the company controlled and run by Moses Znaimer would keep it afloat.

ZoomerMedia owns TV brands VisionTV, One: Body, Mind & Spirit, JoyTV and HopeTV; radio brands AM740 ZoomerRadio and The New Classical 96.3 FM; as well as Zoomer Magazine and other digital brands.

Negotiations, however, have soured (according to media blog Canadaland, over severance packages for Sun News executives) and sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations and who asked for anonymity said a final offer was given to Zoomer by QMI last week with a deadline of this Friday. While Zoomer is interested in the channel, it is either unwilling or unable to meet QMI’s price, which is not known.

(UPDATE: Quebecor VP Communications Veronique Mercier e-mailed us Friday morning to say the Canadaland allegation about severance packages is "absolutely untrue".)

The sale is “not happening” said one source with direct knowledge of Zoomer’s deliberations.

No one from ZoomerMedia returned our calls or e-mails requesting further information.

Selling the troubled TV channel (which has lost tens of millions of dollars since its launch and which started its life as a broadcast station but has since turned into a news and opinion specialty channel, and has been beset by viewer complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council) would seem to fit with QMI’s recent moves which has seen the company retrench its media operations back to its home province. It purchased a number of magazines from Montreal-based Transcontinental late last year and in October, it sold its chain of Sun newspapers to Postmedia in a $316 million deal, while holding onto its papers in Quebec. That deal, which did not include the TV station, has not yet closed as it awaits Competition Bureau approval.

As for the mood inside Sun News. It’s bleak. Not only are the rumours swirling, upper management is not communicating with employees at all about what is or isn’t going on. There have been no announcements, no e-mails, no explanations, no assurances coming from any of the people in charge, one employee told Cartt.ca on Wednesday.

 "I fully expect to hear about our being let go on the radio driving to work."

“It’s an incredibly black mood in here now because nobody is saying anything and management has been mostly absent,” that employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Cartt.ca. “Everyone is thinking Friday is it.”

Since the announced purchase of the newspaper group, the TV channel’s future has been up in the air because that sale called for Sun News to stop using the branding within a year – and it’s unlikely the new owners will share editorial resources with the station the way the Toronto Sun newspaper currently does.

Since that October announcement though, the employee told us, “there have been no announcements, no meetings, no e-mails or information. Nothing… It makes for a really lousy work environment in here because we’re completely in the dark. Nobody has told any of the staff what is going on.

“It’s a very stressful and depressing environment to be in. I fully expect to hear about our being let go on the radio driving to work,” added the employee.

We called and e-mailed Quebecor for comment on the fact employees believe the channel is about to close to give the parent company a chance to allay such fears. “It is our policy not to comment on rumors or speculations about the company's asset. Therefore I will not be able to respond to your demands,” was the one line e-mailed to us by QMI VP public affairs Martin Tremblay.

There is one worker still showing optimism, however. We contacted The Arena host Michael Coren by email and asked him specifically about the fear that the channel will be shuttered as of Friday. “I will be at work on Tuesday morning after a well-deserved long weekend,” he wrote.