Sun Media set to sell Ontario Farmer

Long-running weekly ag journal Ontario Farmer is among the titles on the block in Sun Media’s planned sell-off of its English-language Canadian newspapers.

Sun Media, Canada’s biggest newspaper publisher and an arm of Montreal media and telecom giant Quebecor, announced Monday it plans to sell all 175 of its English-language daily and weekly newspapers and specialty titles to Toronto-based Postmedia for about $316 million.

Ontario Farmer, billed as the province’s only weekly farm publication, has operated since 1968 and today has a circulation of about 28,000 copies. Sun Media has operated the paper since 1988, when it took control of the Bowes Publishers chain.

London-based Ontario Farmer’s assets also include specialty farm periodicals such as Ontario Dairy Farmer, Ontario Hog Farmer, Ontario Beef Farmer, Western Dairy Farmer and Corn/Soy/Wheat Handbook.

Other Sun Media assets in the proposed Postmedia deal are mainly in Ontario, but also include 38 daily and weekly papers in Alberta, nine weeklies and a daily in Manitoba plus the Winkler, Man.-based Prairie Farmer, three community weekly titles in northeastern Saskatchewan and the free daily 24 Hours in Vancouver.

“This acquisition brings together an impressive stable of brands that collectively create a stronger Canadian media platform that is better positioned to compete against foreign-based digital offerings and offers a greater range of choices to our readers,” Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey said Monday in a release.

Postmedia, which owns the National Post and nine major English-language Canadian dailies, plans to continue to operate the Sun Media major dailies “side by side with our existing properties in markets with multiple brands,” he said.

Postmedia and Sun Media said Monday they “will seek all necessary regulatory approvals” for the sale. Canada’s federal Competition Bureau confirmed Monday the proposed deal will be reviewed.

Media ownership concentration may raise certain “public interest concerns,” John Pecman, the bureau’s commissioner of competition, said in a release.

However, he added, the bureau’s federal mandate is only “to review mergers exclusively to determine whether they are likely to result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition.” — Network

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