(Montreal) Several dozen people gathered in Rimouski on Saturday morning to denounce the decline in regional media coverage in Bas-Saint-Laurent.
Citizens, elected officials and journalists spoke of the “media desert” the region could soon face. The latest cut in information occurred on November 2, when TVA Group laid off 80% of the staff at the Rimouski station.
Although the TVA employees union was the catalyst for the rally, provincial President Carl Beaudoin reiterated that power is now in the hands of the people.
It is up to the people to stand up for the enforcement of their rights, the loss of local reporting and the loss of regional information that is the lifeblood of democracy.
Carl Beaudoin, President of CUPE 687
He emphasizes that it is not just on TVA’s side, as 19 media companies have disappeared in Bas-Saint-Laurent in the last fifteen years.
Mr Beaudouin finds the citizen mobilization on Saturday morning “warming the heart” because people from all “social, political” backgrounds were present, he notes.
“The most important thing is that we are not forgotten week after week, so that the world remembers that sooner or later local information is in danger,” he said.
On the side of local elected officials, in addition to the loss of jobs, we are also concerned about the future of regional information.
“We are already geographically distant, and if, on top of that, fewer people talk about us, that will be very bad news. Democracy requires media,” said Matane-Matapédia MP Pascal Bérubé during the rally.
For Rimouski Mayor Guy Caron, the TVA announcement is the second major blow this year after Bell Media’s.
In the regions we really need regional information to have a reflection of the community. […] It is a democratic element that we are currently losing because we need this media to help us as elected officials be accountable to the people.
Guy Caron, mayor of Rimouski
Mr. Caron, who worked as a journalist for local radio and newspapers in Rimouski in the 1980s, emphasizes that the regional media landscape has completely changed.
“We had three radios […] and two televisions that provided information, (up to) three weekly newspapers, a daily newspaper… All of that no longer exists,” he laments.
He remembers that in 1990, when Radio-Canada closed the regional station, thousands of people mobilized at the Rimouski Colisée to protest the closure of CJBRT. He, and Carl Beaudoin, hopes to see the same civic enthusiasm this time. “It took 20 years before we could get a newscast (from Radio-Canada), but we got it,” says Mr. Caron.
The elected official reiterates that the provincial and federal governments must act to support the media and also the regions, which, in his opinion, are neglected in several areas and at the mercy of the decisions of large private companies.
Insecurity among employees
At TVA Rimouski, six employees remain: four journalists and two cameramen, to cover the entire Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie region. Before there were almost thirty.
There is a great sense of insecurity among the employees of the TVA group in Rimouski, as La Presse Canadienne observed among some of them. 23 people will lose their jobs. Across Quebec, 547 employees were laid off.
If the TVA Group has indicated in a press release that those affected will receive a notice of termination with at least 16 weeks’ notice, the employees do not know how long and how they will continue to work, since the end of the employment relationship is not necessary for them. still communicating. The transition of most activities to a “production center” in Quebec – as the group plans – is still a big unknown.
Another meeting will take place on Monday in Mauricie. In Trois-Rivières, around 70% of the workforce or 25 jobs will be cut at the TVA station.
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