It’s not surprising that Canwest announced this week that it will drop its noon newscast at its Global Toronto station, on top of the cancellation of the morning newscast announced last fall. Just last week, the company announced it lost $33M in the quarter ending November 30, 2008.
In the meantime, Canwest has gone and asked the CRTC to loosen restrictions on integrating its TV and newspaper newsrooms designed to maintain diversity of editorial voices from news sources owned by a single company.
After Canwest’s purchase of the Hollinger newspaper chain in 2000, the CRTC bought the company’s argument that it needed to grow and cross media lines to be “competitive.” And Canwest didn’t stop there. Around that time, it also bought up a bunch of local TV stations to create a second TV network, now called E! And last year, Canwest got permission from the CRTC to buy 13 specialty channels from the former Alliance Atlantis with the help of U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Canwest Global juggernaut now owns: the country’s biggest chain of 13 daily newspapers (including the Vancouver Sun and Province, the Ottawa Citizen, the Montreal Gazette and the National Post) and two freebie newspapers; the Global TV and E! networks (14 local stations); CW Television (a total of 21 specialties) and the canada.com website. It has paid dearly for expanding its holdings, so dearly that the company is being crippled by debt repayments and – to come back to where we started – has cut more than 1,000 jobs in the last 12 months.
Now, as local reporting is being whittled away across the company, Canwest is seeking more deregulation from the CRTC. It wants to be able to combine its TV and newspaper newsrooms, despite the fact that all the centralization in the world is unlikely to save Canwest from its debt load.
Where does this leave the public? Ask the people of Hamilton, Ontario. Under Canwest, local TV station CHCH (now part of the E! network) lost 30 minutes of its noon-hour show and suffered a loss in newsgathering capacity. To help pay for the buying sprees.
Hamilton, a city of more than 500,000 people, has no other local TV station. The CBC has floated a plan to establish a local radio station, but that plan is stalled for lack of public funding.
Ironically, there is one area of growth for Canwest in Hamilton. Over at “Canwest Editorial Services,” they’re hiring, despite or because of the company’s financial tough times. You see, it’s all non-union. These employees don’t provide local news to Hamilton. They produce the pages for Canwest newspapers across the country. Taking jobs out of some communities, and news out of others: that’s Canwest’s latest record. Why should anyone, especially our regulator, support any more breaks for this company?