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BCE/Bell Globemedia Group

Overview

This profile considers Bell Globemedia and its former parent Bell Canada Enterprises, the Canadian telecommunications giant.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • the group
  • the Globe
  • studies

Introduction

Toronto-based Bell Globemedia - which as of 2004 was 70% owned by telecommunications giant Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), 30% by Thomson - encompasses a national newspaper, a leading ISP, multimedia interests and a national commercial television network.

For an Australian equivalent think of the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), Bigpond and the Nine television network under the control of Telstra. In Spain the dominant telecommunications group Telefonica has expanded by buying Netherlands-based video and film production/distribution house Endemol.

In December 2005 BCE sold most of its stake in Bell Globemedia, for C$1.3 billion, reducing its holding to 20% from 68.5 percent. Torstar and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan agreed to take 20% stakes, paying C$283 million. Woodbridge, the Thomson family holding company, is to increase its stake in Bell Globemedia to 40% from 31.5%, paying C$120 million.

In October 2006 BCE announced that it would dissolve and convert its Bell Canada telecommunications unit into Canada's largest income trust.

The group

Bell Globemedia encompasses -

  • CTV, Canada's largest commercial television network (including 18 wholly-owned stations reaching over 80% of the Canadian market), in competition with CanWest's network
  • the Globe & Mail, the nation's largest national newspaper
  • specialty cable channels CTV Newsnet, the Comedy Network, Discovery Channel, Outdoor Life Network, and Report on Business Television (50%)
  • national ISP Sympatico-Lycos, with around a third of online users.

The group has 4,000 employees and annual revenue of C$4.3 billion. BCE controls 70.1%; while Thomson interests have the rest of the equity. It competes with CanWest (broadcast and newspapers) and Rogers (cable, broadcast and magazines).

BCE is Canada's 14th-largest enterprise by revenue and in 2001 was 1st by profit. Around 80% of its revenues and 90% of profits are attributable to its Bell Canada arm.

A chronology of the group is here.

The following page provides an indication of BCE and Bell Globemedia holdings.

The Globe

The Toronto Globe & Mail was founded in 1936 when George McCullagh merged the Mail & Empire and the Globe.

The Globe had been established by George Brown (1818-1880) in 1844 with the support of a group of Reform Liberals. Initially a party organ, it became more independent during the following decade and expanded its readership outside Toronto. The competing Mail was established in 1872 as a Conservative party journal, absorbing The Empire in 1895. In 1900 The Mail & Empire claimed a circulation of 61,720 compared with the Globe's 69,545. The latter badged itself as "Canada's National Newspaper" and aggressively sought upmarket readers across Canada. In 1936 the Globe was acquired by financier George McCullagh (1905-1952) and merged with the Mail & Empire. McCullagh acquired the Toronto Telegram in 1948, becoming the journal of record.

In 1955 the paper was sold to Montreal financier R. Howard Webster, becoming the centrepiece of FP Publications in 1965 when Webster's publishing interests merged with those of John Sifton, Richard Malone and Max Bell. The Sifton family owned titles such as the Winnipeg Free Press and Saskatoon Daily Star.

In 1980 the Globe & Mail was acquired by Thomson as part of the FP deal. Circulation as of 1999 was around 356,000, with a national edition printed at sites across Canada.

Studies

For CTV see Susan Gittins' CTV - The Television Wars (Toronto: Stoddart 2001). For the Thomsons see the separate profile.

For Bell Canada's early history see Robert Collins's A Voice from Afar, The History of Telecommunications in Canada (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson 1977) and E B Ogle's Long Distance Please: The Story of the TransCanada Telephone System (Toronto: Collins 1979). That account is carried forward in Pa Bell: A Jean de Grandpré & the Meteoric Rise of Bell Canada Enterprises (Toronto: Random 1992) by Lawrence Surtees.

Insights into 'convergence' and regulation in Canada are provided by Robert Babe's excellent Telecommunications in Canada: Technology, Industry & Government (Toronto: Uni of Toronto Press 1990) and the slighter Building an Industry: History of Cable Television in Canada (Lawrencetown Beach: Pottersfield Press 2000) by insider Ken Easton.

Richard Doyle's Hurley-Burley: A Time At The Globe (Toronto: Macmillan Canada 1990) and David Hayes' Power & Influence: The Globe & Mail and the News Revolution (Toronto: Key Porter 1992) deal with the Globe. Ego and Ink: The Inside Story of Canada's National Newspaper War (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart 2004) by Chris Cobb covers Conrad Black's establishment of the National Post, its acquisition by the Aspers and battle with the Globe.

Douglas Fetherling's The Rise of the Canadian Newspaper (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1990), Minko Sotiron's From Politics To Profit: The Commercialization of Canadian Daily Newspapers, 1890-1920 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Uni Press 1997) and Paul Rutherford's The Making of the Canadian Media (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson 1978).