Writers’ Union Pleased with US Decision to Block Publishing Merger

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is pleased with the US Federal Court decision to halt the proposed sale of Simon & Schuster, one of the “Big Five” publishers, to fellow multinational Penguin Random House. When the sale was first announced in early 2021, TWUC joined international partners in calling for a review of the sale with a focus on the implications for concentration and competition in the publishing market. Both large firms operate Canadian publishing programs, and currently compete for the work of Canadian authors.

“The creation of a foreign-owned mega-publisher in our domestic market can only be harmful to Canadian authors,” said TWUC Chair, Rhea Tregebov. “We depend on a robust Canadian-owned sector competing well with regulated multinationals. That’s how you get a diverse marketplace for Canadian-authored books. Allowing further consolidation and concentration at the top upends the whole project, especially if the consolidated firms are unregulated around competition.”

TWUC notes past sales and mergers between large firms in Canada have been completed seemingly against existing federal policy about publishing ownership and operations, which has weakened the regulatory framework in place to encourage domestic production. And while such deals often promise greater opportunity for Canadian authors, experience indicates otherwise. Authors in Canada have seen unchecked income-decline in the era of publishing concentration.

“We don’t want to see any publisher depart the Canadian market, especially if they currently engage in the development of Canadian-authored lists” added TWUC CEO, John Degen. “This proposed sale would have been a de facto departure. Simon & Schuster Canada is an important buyer for the works of Canadian authors. We prefer to see them independent and unabsorbed.”

Penguin Random House’s German-owned parent company, Bertelsmann, has indicated it will appeal the US ruling. TWUC will continue to press its concerns about competition in the Canadian publishing marketplace to the Department of Canadian Heritage and Canada’s Competition Bureau.

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The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,600 members strong, TWUC advocates on behalf of writers’ collective interests, and delivers value to members through advocacy, community, and information. TWUC believes in a thriving, diverse Canadian culture that values and supports writers.

For additional information:
John Degen, Chief Executive Officer
The Writers’ Union of Canada

Rhea Tregebov, Chair
The Writers’ Union of Canada

Date: November 1, 2022