As part of their obligatory year-end coverage, reporters at QMI Agency, the newswire arm of Quebecor Media Inc., went looking for the top business person of the year. Lo and behold, after conducting a poll, they found none other than their own boss: Quebecor Chairman and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. But while the optics of cheering on the guy who signs your cheques looks more than a little odd, there’s no question Péladeau put his stamp on the Canadian media and telecommunications scene in 2010.
In September, Vidéotron Ltée, the cable TV and Internet subsidiary of Quebecor Inc., launched a wireless network to take on the established giants in the industry: Telus, BCE and Rogers Communications (which owns this magazine.) The venture is off to a steady, albeit slow, start. In its first three months of operation, the wireless division added 492 new subscribers a day, according to reports, shy of the 675 analysts had predicted.
Quebecor also scored approval from regulators to launch a new Canada-wide conservative news channel called Sun TV News, otherwise dubbed Fox News North. The channel is sure to amplify an already testy battle between Péladeau and the state-owned CBC. The Quebecor chief was in court this fall as part of his $700,000 defamation lawsuit against an executive with the CBC’s French-language arm who, in 2007, called Péladeau a “thug” or “bum,” depending on the translation. Péladeau’s lawyers have argued the judge in the case is biased against their client and called for a new trial.
But there were also accusations Péladeau has fashioned reporters at his news organizations into an army of “Quebecor soldiers” ordered to promote the corporation’s interests. Last month at a media conference, one of the 250 employees at Quebecor’s Le Journal de Montreal, who have been locked out since early 2009, told attendees that editors dictated stories about Péladeau’s run-in with the CBC to him. He said the practice is widespread. He didn’t say whether it extends to Person of the Year stories as well.