History of Télévision Quatre-Saisons (TQS)
The Cogeco/Moffat duo proposed to operate TV stations in Montreal and another one in Quebec City, as well as to create a TV broadcasting network made up of these two stations.
The Réseau Quatre-Saisons also proposed to operate TV stations in Montreal and another one in Quebec City. The Réseau Quatre-Saisons was controlled at 66% by CFCF Inc., which in turn was ultimately controlled by Jean A. Pouliot.
One of the fundamental characteristics of both competing projects was the fact that they planned to delegate all the production of local programming to independent producers, except for the news and public affairs programs, which would represent the greater part of the production activities of the proposed TV stations.
On September 6, the CRTC announced that it had approved the application of the Réseau de télévision Quatre-Saisons inc. (TQS). TQS was authorized to operate a French language TV station in Montreal with an effective radiated power of 566,000 watts on Channel 35, but it was denied the application to operate a TV station in Quebec City.
In the evening, there was a major fireworks display on Mont-Royal to mark the official launch of the new network, while the first Director of Programming, Guy Fournier, proudly wore a feathered cap like a grand Indian Chief.
The group Rock et Belles Oreilles was taken on by TQS and went on to transform comedy programming in the Province of Quebec.
On September 7, the TQS network then consisted of the corporate stations CFJP-TV Montréal and CFAP-TV Québec, as well as the affiliated stations CFKM-TV Trois-Rivières, CFKS-TV Sherbrooke, CFGS-TV Hull/Gatineau and CFRS-TV Jonquière-Saguenay.
After one year of operations, TQS posted a deficit of between $12 and $15 million. But, in the fall of 1987, the BBM surveys revealed that Quatre-Saisons was beginning to win over a significant part of the Montreal market.
Meanwhile, for the first time in the history of Quebec television, TQS launched a soap opera broadcast daily, from Monday to Friday. This serial drama La maison Deschênes was centred around various intrigues that took place in the world of high fashion. From 1987 to 1989, Télévision Quatre-Saisons broadcast 389 episodes of La maison Deschênes. Amongst the numerous actors who participated in this series, were Léo Ilial and Andrée Lachapelle.
Michèle Richard, who hosted Garden Party, became known as “Queen of TQS”.However, the following year, a quarrel with her co-host Serge Laprade put an end to her reign.
A legal battle ensued during which the company Cogeco petitioned the Courts to submit the transaction to a shareholder vote and to attempt to block the CFCF plan.. A major period of uncertainty and doubt thus began for TQS personnel.
Always the innovative player, TQS launched a Sunday evening program starring the comedian Jean-Marc Parent, a very average antihero that the general public just loved. The comedian had agreed to host the show, on the condition that he would be given carte blanche. This "one man show" was given the biggest budget in the history of TQS. A mere four weeks was all that was needed for the comedian-host to surpass the one million TV viewer benchmark. Indeed, the ratings surveys revealed that 1,625,000 people were watching this new TV improvisation phenomenon. He had also received permission from TQS to not comply with commercial formats, and to stay on the air past the time that his program had been scheduled to end.
On February 27, the CRTC approved the application of Vidéotron Ltée to acquire CF Cable TV inc. and its subsidiaries, on the condition however that Vidéotron agreed to sell the Réseau de télévision Quatre-Saisons inc.
On August 22, the CRTC authorized the transfer of control over TQS to a consortium made up of Quebecor inc., Cancom, Cogeco and the affiliates of TQS. In the CRTC's opinion, Quebecor’s arrival onto the Quebec television landscape created a new dynamic for TQS, not only thanks to its solid financial resources, but also due to the similarity of these two companies’ cultures with regard to their dedication to staying very close to the general public and mirroring the routine of everyday life.
Designed initially to mark an advertising campaign to support the season launch, the Black Sheep was such a success that it emerged as the personification of TQS, its rallying symbol, its logo and its raison d’être. From an animal with a pejorative connotation, it became a good-natured symbol with which the general public identified.
On December 7, the CRTC approved the transfer of TQS to a company held by Cogeco inc. (60%) and Bell Globemedia inc. (40%). At the same time, the CRTC approved the transfer to TQS of the assets of the TV stations affiliated with the TQS network, and to the French language network of the Societé Radio-Canada the assets of the SRC affiliates that were owned by Cogeco (namely, CFKM-TV and CKTM-TV Trois-Rivières, CFKS-TV and CKSH-TV Sherbrooke, CFRS-TV and CKTV-TV Chicoutimi/Jonquière and the transmitter CKTV-TV-1 Saint-Fulgence).
The TQS network earned a market share of 16.1% amongst 18-49 year olds, a 45% increase over four years.
On March 20, the CRTC authorized the temporary transfer of the management of TQS to Remstar Corporation, until September 20, 2008. Remstar was a company controlled by Julien and Maxime Rémillard.
On April 23, TQS announced the layoff of 270 employees and the closing of its newsroom.
On May 22, TQS creditors approved the plan of arrangement put forward by Remstar. This arrangement was then approved by the Superior Court of Québec on June 4.
On June 26, the CRTC approved the sale of TQS to Remstar, but required the continuation of some news broadcasts on all the stations in the network, in Montreal, Quebec City, Saguenay, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières.
Beginning in 1997, TQS branded itself as le mouton noir de la télé, or "the black sheep of television". Over the years it has used a certain number of slogans:
In view of TQS's poor financial shape, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) had agreed to grant a licence to V, in 2008, and reduced its requirements in terms of news broadcasts. The Commission thus obliged V to broadcast a mere two hours of news per week plus 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays.
Since 2008, V's financial situation had improved, and management announced that V was expected to generate a profit in 2010.
By comparison, the late TQS had turned a profit only three times in 18 years, namely, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Remstar had argued that at the time of the layoffs, it had not yet acquired TQS and was thus an interim manager. Indeed, it felt that is was not bound by the collective agreements and had no particular responsibility vis-à-vis the laid-off employees. The latter were, in their opinion, creditors of the network and, in this capacity, were entitled to less than 15% of their indemnities and pay equity adjustments.
According to the CIRB decision, Remstar was required to pay the severance pay stipulated in the collective agreement, namely, some $6 million to the former TQS employees. The company had acquired the TQS network in 2008 and then closed all its news rooms, thereby letting go some 340 people.
Written by Yvon Chouinard - August, 2008