Among Canadian media insiders, rumours have been circulating for several days that a consortium with international backing has launched a bid to assume control of Regina-based prairie dog magazine and its sister publication Planet S in Saskatoon.
Over the last few years, one Toronto-based analyst observed in an off-the-record interview, there’s been a swirl of activity in Saskatchewan’s media marketplace as businesses rush to capitalize on the province’s resource and commodity-fueled boom. “Honestly, I’ve lost track of how many publications have sprung up,” he confessed. “There’s three or four associated with the Fine Lifestyles brand, all catering to upscale Reginans and Saskatonians eager to spend their way to social respectability. Then there’s Pink, Verb, City Slicker, and a new free Canada-wide daily called Metro is expected to hit the streets any day now. And of course last fall Post Media launched its own faux alt weeklies QC in Regina and Bridges in Saskatoon.
“The broadcasting sector has seen similar expansionary growth,” the analyst added. “Believing there’s money to be made in Saskatchewan, City and Sun TV have both established a presence in the province in the last year.”
In the wake of BHP Billiton’s failed $39 billion takeover of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan in 2010, and the proposed $6.1 billion takeover of Viterra Inc. by Swiss commodities golaith Glencore, the news that two of Saskatchewan’s most venerable media outlets are in play is creating major buzz, said the analyst.
Cooperatively owned, both magazines will soon celebrate milestone anniversaries. In September, Planet S turns ten, while next February prairie dog will mark its 20th anniversary as Regina’s self-styled “independent voice.”
Covetous of that indie cred, media consortiums in other North American cities have been gobbling up alt-weeklies. “The fundamentals here are a little different,” the analyst noted. “As far as alt-markets go, Regina and Saskatoon, although growing, are still fairly small. There’s a pretty stubborn conservative streak among residents in the two cities too that doesn’t cotton too kindly to voices from the so-called ‘looney left’ when it comes to issues like the environment, the arts, sustainable urban planning, social justice, and whatnot.”
Still, given the long history of the magazines in Saskatchewan, and the role they’ve traditionally played in advancing progressive causes, the analyst suspects that should a takeover attempt be mounted, the Saskatchewan government will be watching closely. “In the case of Potash Corp. and Viterra, premier Brad Wall laid out very clear guidelines, saying that before he would sign off on any takeover it would have to be evaluated to determine if it provided a net benefit to Saskatchewan and Canada. Given the importance of media in our information age, I’d expect the Sask. Party government to take a similar stance with prairie dog and Planet S.”
We’ll have more on this story as it unfolds.