Cogeco says TQS files for bankruptcy

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TORONTO -- Canadian cable and broadcaster Cogeco Inc. said Tuesday that Television Quatre Saisons, the Quebec private French-language TV network in which it has a controlling stake, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Montreal-based Cogeco said it obtained a 30-day order from the Quebec Superior Court to attempt a financial restructuring with the help of key stakeholders.

Cogeco has a controlling 60% stake in the private French-language broadcaster, while rival broadcaster CTVglobemedia has a 40% minority holding.

The decision to secure bankruptcy protection follows Cogeco in August announcing it had retained CIBC World Markets to consider "strategic options" for TQS, which has about 650 employees.

Cogeco said at the time that the Quebec TV advertising market was going through "choppy waters."

Cogeco Inc. president and CEO Louis Audet said Tuesday that the latest move was taken as the Quebec advertising market continued to erode in the face of competition from upstart cable channels, and from the Internet.

"TQS is a victim of circumstances beyond its control," Audet said in a statement.

He added operations at TQS will continue until the Quebec Superior Court order expires Jan. 17.

Without being specific on concessions he seeks, Audet urged TQS stakeholders to "seize the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments to save Francophone general interest television" before the initial court order expires.

TQS faces stiff competition in Quebec from TV market leaders TVA Group and Radio-Canada, the public broadcaster.

If it survives its current financial straits, TQS faces a license renewal hearing in September 2008.
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