Major GTA Newspapers Under Investigation For Alleged Anti-Competitive Behaviour

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Two major media companies in the GTA are under investigation for alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The Competition Bureau recently confirmed that officials executed search warrants at the Toronto-based Postmedia and Torstar/Metroland headquarters on Monday.

In response to news reports and questions from the media, I can confirm that the Competition Bureau is investigating alleged anti-competitive conduct contrary to the conspiracy provisions of the Competition Act," John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition, said in a statement.

"The Bureau is also examining this matter under the merger provisions of the Act. Investigators with the Bureau are currently gathering evidence to determine the facts relating to the alleged conspiracy. There is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time and no charges have been laid."

The investigation is related to a Torstar (which operates Metroland) and Postmedia deal that involved them swapping—and subsequently shutting down—a number of smaller newspapers. The deal, which the companies announced in November 2017, involved the exchange of over 40 papers, many of which were discontinued.

The deal involved Postmedia acquiring 22 of Torstar's community newspaper properties and two free commuter daily newspapers and Torstar acquiring 15 of Postmedia's community newspaper properties and two free commuter daily newspapers.

Postmedia referred to it as a "non-cash transaction," saying the properties had similar fair values.

"This transaction allows Postmedia to focus on strategic areas and core products, and allows us to continue with a suite of community-based products, in a deeply disrupted industry," said Paul Godfrey, executive chairman and CEO, Postmedia, in a statement.

The following papers exchanged hands:

  • Belleville News
  • Brant News
  • Central Hastings News
  • Exeter Times-Advocate
  • (and the Exeter Weekender)
  • Frontenac Gazette
  • Kanata Kourier-Standard
  • Kingston Heritage
  • Meaford Express
  • Metro Ottawa
  • Metro Winnipeg
  • Nepean/Barrhaven News
  • Norfolk News
  • Orleans News
  • Ottawa East News
  • Ottawa South News
  • Ottawa West News
  • Our London
  • Quinte West News
  • St. Lawrence News
  • St. Mary's Journal-Argus
  • (and the St. Mary's Weekender)
  • St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News
  • Stittsville News
  • Stratford City Gazette
  • West Carleton Review
  • 24 Hours Toronto
  • 24 Hours Vancouver
  • Barrie Examiner
  • Bradford Times
  • Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin
  • Fort Erie Times
  • Innisfil Examiner
  • Inport News (Port Colborne)
  • Niagara Advance
  • Niagara Falls Review
  • Northumberland Today
  • Orillia Packet & Times
  • Pelham News
  • Peterborough Examiner
  • St. Catharines Standard
  • Thorold Niagara News
  • Welland Tribune

Thirty-six of the swapped papers were subsequently closed.

Postmedia is denying anti-competitive behaviour, but says it is cooperating with the investigation.

"Today, the Competition Bureau executed a search warrant with respect to the November 27, 2017 community newspapers transaction," Postmedia said in a statement.

"Postmedia is strongly of the view that there has been no contravention of the Competition Act with respect to this matter and Postmedia is cooperating with the Competition Bureau in connection with their investigation."

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