TQS off news hook for now

New owners allowed to cut news coverage

TORONTO -- At Television Quatre Saisions, less news is good news -- at least for the bottom line.

Canada's TV watchdog on Thursday ruled that the new owners of the struggling Quebec broadcaster can drastically reduce news coverage for three years until they return to financial health.

But the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission imposed strict conditions as they approved the TQS takeover by Quebec movie distributor Remstar Corp., which includes an eventual bolstering of local and provincial news coverage by 2011.

"In this case, we have taken into account TQS' precarious financial situation and will allow, as a short-term measure and on an exceptional basis, a reduced amount of local news," the CRTC said in its decision.

Remstar's original plan to rescue TQS from bankruptcy included the elimination of the TQS news division, with the loss of 250 jobs.

The CRTC ruling on TQS' news coverage, which follows recent public hearings, will be read carefully by rival broadcasters as they are similarly obligated to provide local news coverage as part of their conditions of license.