History of Télévision Quatre-Saisons (TQS)
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) expressed its interest in the establishment of a third French language commercial television service in the Province of Quebec, but without issuing a call for applications.
The CRTC indicated that it was prepared to receive licence applications in order to authorize a third commercial television service in the Province of Quebec
Licences were granted to Télé Inter-Cité Québec Ltée to operate TV stations in Montreal and in Quebec City, as well as for a third French language television network. However, this project never saw the light of day.
On November 15, the CRTC launched another call for licence applications with a view towards the operation of a new French language private TV broadcasting company but only in the Montreal area.
The CRTC held a public hearing on May 13 in Montreal, in order to examine two competing projects submitted respectively by the duo Cogeco inc. (60.3%) and (Moffat Communications Ltd. 39.7%), as well as by the Réseau de télévision Quatre-Saisons inc.
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.
On Sunday, September 7, at 17:25, TQS, under the presidency of Jean Pouliot, launched its first broadcast signals onto the Quebec television scene, while the first complete edition of the Grand Journal was anchored by Pascale Nadeau and Stéphane Boisjoli. The opening gala was broadcast live from Place des Arts. TQS sought to be an urban, modern, visual and contemporary television broadcaster.
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.
On January 19, the CVFS-TV Val d’Or station affiliated with the TQS network.
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.
In September, the CFTF-TV Rivière-du-Loup station affiliated with the TQS network.
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.
100 limites, a program featuring the group of comedians Les Bleus poudre achieved a stunning success, introducing an entirely new concept onto Quebec’s airwaves. The concept was simple: make fun of current events by presenting a bogus newscast, which was called NATM (les nouvelles après tout le monde — the last ones with the news). At first, the program was broadcast daily, but later became a weekly staple.
TQS suffered heavy operating losses. The CFCF Group inc., owners of Télévision Quatre-Saisons and headed by Adrien Pouliot, decided in November 1995 to try to secure control over TVA, in order to combine the two operations and benefit from potential economies of scale.
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.
In June 1996, the Groupe Vidéotron Ltée made an offer to buy 97% of CFCF inc. shares, which included TQS. A public hearing was held on December 2 to consider this application.
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.
Another TQS innovation was born with the broadcast of a daily program called La fin du monde est à sept heures (The world ends at seven o/clock) , starring Marc Labrèche. Current affairs was treated in a seriously humorous, sometimes irreverent fashion on the show.
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
In order to stand out on Quebec’s television scene, TQS adopted a black sheep as its logo.
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.
A new company, Productions Point-Final was created in June to meet the production needs of TQS inc. By this means, the network planned to develop new program concepts and exercise control over the property rights.
TQS experienced exceptional growth of its market share that went from 12.2 in the fall 1999 to 14.1 one year later.
On July 5, the CRTC approved the acquisition of Group Vidéotron Ltée by Quebecor inc., through its subsidiary Quebecor Média inc., but the acquisition was conditional on Quebecor selling off TQS to a third party.
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 December 18, faced with major financial difficulties, the TQS network sought and obtained an order from the Superior Court of Québec under the provisions of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. This order protected TQS and its subsidiaries during a 30-day period from all legal proceedings initiated by any of its creditors, and enabled TQS to restructure its activities, which included the option of selling TQS to any buyers interested in pursuing the network's mission. At the time, TQS counted some 649 employees.
On March 11, the Superior Court of Quebec approved the buyout proposal for TQS made by Remstar Corporation, a Montreal company involved in the production and distribution of Québec and foreign films. Remstar’s proposal was the one that had been accepted by Cogeco and CTV/Globemedia shareholders, from amongst the three proposals that had been received from potential buyers.
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.
In August 2009, TQS changed its name and its logo to "V". The new name was meant to reflect the French-language network's new entertainment focus: "vedettes" (stars), "vitesse" (speed), "voyages" (trips), and "vice ou vérité" (vices or truths).
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:
- 1987-1989: On grandit ensemble! (We grow together!)
- 1995-1997: Allumée! (Lit up!)
- 1997-2007: Le mouton noir de la télé (The Black Sheep of Television)
- 2007: Parce que vous êtes.différent! (Because you are different!)
- 2008-2009: Le mouton noir de la télé (The Black Sheep of Television)
- 2009: Laissez-nous vous divertir! (Let yourself be entertained!) to coincide with the rebranding to "V" on August 31, 2009.
As of the fall of 2010, the V network stopped producing its own newscasts and subcontracted the latter to a firm known as Info 3, a subsidiary of Trio Orange, which was also behind the program Voir on Télé Québec. Info 3 employed about 15 full-time employees across the Province of Quebec to produce a daily 30-minute newscast, which was called V Express and aired at 7:00 in the morning on all V stations. The head of V, Maxime Rémillard, explained this decision in that news was not part of their business strategy, because according to him, there was an overabundance of information being offered in the Quebec market.
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.
On May 30, the Federal Court of Appeal unanimously rejected an appeal filed by Remstar Corporation, the controlling shareholder of V, against a decision rendered by the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), thereby upholding the CIRB's decision, dated September 14, 2009 and confirmed on July 9, 2010, to the effect that Remstar was unambiguously the employer during the layoffs that took place at TQS in April 2008.
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.