Transcontinental Inc. says it will end the publication of 20 weekly newspapers in Quebec, resulting in the layoff of about 80 employees.
The newspapers, for the most part, will be integrated with other publications it holds in the same regions, Transcontinental said Wednesday.
Jennifer McCaughey, a spokeswoman for Transcontinental, said some jobs were saved because some publications will merge staff.
“The goal is to create an expanded team for the title that is being kept in order to provide more in-depth and editorial content,” McCaughey said.
The Montreal-based printing company announcement comes as the federal Competition Bureau approved the sale of 14 community newspapers out of 33 that were put up for sale by Transcontinental. Of the 14 sold, three will continue to be published as weekly papers and 11 will be published online only.
The Competition Bureau required the sale as part of a $75-million deal last year in which Transcontinental acquired 74 weekly newspapers and their websites from Quebecor's Sun Media Corp.
All but one of the 19 papers that couldn't find buyers will be closed. Transcontinental is also closing two of its own weekly publications, bringing the total number of closures to 20.
In June, the Competition Bureau said that 33 weekly papers — 11 newspapers that had been launched or acquired by Transcontinental in the past few years and 22 Sun Media community newspapers, most of which had also been introduced since 2010 — needed to be sold to help preserve advertising competition in local Quebec markets.
'Some communities will be disappointed'
Commissioner of Competition John Pecman said the watchdog is satisfied that 14 newspapers will be sold.
"However, I understand that some communities will be disappointed that no acceptable buyer was found for their community newspapers or that they are going to lose the paper edition of their newspaper," he said in a statement.
"I remain convinced that the Bureau has done everything in its power to test the market to determine if there was a possible alternative to Transcontinental owing all the papers. Unfortunately, in some cases like this one, where many newspapers are in financial distress owing to the ongoing transformation of the community newspaper industry, the market dictates that there are limited alternatives."
Gilles Gagné, a freelance journalist in the Gaspé, works for two independent media outlets that use both print and web. He said many readers, especially older people, will not be able to follow their local paper's switch to digital.
"The number of information sources will diminish, and with that, the service to the population," Gagné said.
Transcontinental publishes more than 30 magazines including Canadian Living and Elle Canada, as well as books and flyers. It also has a network of community newspapers in the Atlantic provinces and online portals such as AutoGo.ca and JobGo.ca, and is the owner of the Metro weekday daily in Montreal and co-owner of Metro Halifax.
Quebecor Media operates Quebec's largest daily newspaper Le Journal de Montreal, Le Journal de Quebec, the 24 Heures free daily, the QMI news agency and Sun Media Corp. which is Canada's largest newspaper publisher.