Thursday, March 5, 2009

The fight to save local news is on

People are fighting back to save their local news.

First, the employees and community of Hamilton got together in a move to buy CHCH in the Canwest firesale and return it to local ownership. It's a wonderful effort I'll write much more about later.

Now at least one city council is stepping up to sound the alarm. Not surprisingly, it's Windsor, which knows what it's like to lose a station (CBC in 1991 -- it returned in 1994). Now it's losing CTV's A Channel at the end of August. And because of the government-CBC budget dispute, there’s concern about the future of the CBC in Windsor too.

Last night, Windsor City Council adopted a resolution that calls on Council and the Mayor to petition the CRTC and the government to do a comprehensive review of the crisis in conventional TV and do what it takes to focus on policies that will guarantee Canadian media content in markets such as Windsor.

Here’s what it says:

Whereas the citizens of Windsor and Essex County want and deserve a strong local and Canadian television presence; and
Whereas Windsor-Essex is located with 1000 yards of a major American media shadow; and
Whereas Windsor-Essex is a unique region with regards to the impact of local issues and how they have profound provincial and national impact in areas such as the U.S. Canadian border, International Trade and the Auto Industry, to name a few; and
Whereas the CRTC has announced that later this year a review of the crisis in conventional television will take place;
Therefore, be it resolved that Council and the Mayor, for the City of Windsor, Ontario, petition the CRTC and the Government of Canada to undertake the following:

Without further delay, immediately commence a comprehensive review of the crisis in conventional television; and
That this review look at all policy framework with the intent of creating new, and/or enhancing existing policies in order to guarantee Canadian media content in unique markets such as Windsor-Essex, by way of special designations, recognizing the close proximity of major U.S. media; and
During this review, interim measures be immediately instituted in order to protect markets such as Windsor-Essex, and any other media markets, currently at risk of not having their broadcast license renewed by the current license holders.

Percy Hatfield, a former CBC Windsor reporter, is now a Windsor councillor and just happens to be at a meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities this week. Let’s hope he spreads his Windsor zeal to every community in this country.

5 comments:

  1. Glad no lock out until 2014March 5, 2009 at 7:44 PM

    This would be a great time for the CBC to do a south western Ontario newscast based in Windsor serving Windsor, London and the rest of the "A" areas that CTV has abandoned.

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  2. I agree. CBET should have a London news bureau, and they should take over CBLN.

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  3. Television advertising fell 5.6% in the fourth quarter of 2008 and may decline has happened already with TQS, where the new owner – the only bidder for the Quebec conventional broadcaster – bought the station and last year was given permission by the CRTC to gut local news, When Skelly was part of Torstar’s bid in 2003 to try and win a station license for Southern Ontario (that went to Craig Media’s ill-fated Toronto One, now the lightly-viewed SUN TV), she remembers being told then by local companies “we can not afford to advertise on our local station because the broadcasters have priced us out of the market,” she said.
    Doris, there is a new option under way with the employees of CHCH. Their are looking to take over the licensing, programming, and all things CH. If this happens then Canwest's plans to cut back on local television won't matter here. The group of employees is looking to raise 500,000 from the community in various avenues. The fundraiser is looking to raise funds to help in their goal of going to the CRTC and hopefully bringing CHCH home. I don't believe any of us want our news cut to just 30 minutes at 6. So the new plan by the employees appears to be the only other option available to us. If we hope to maintain and improve the current coverage we have of our area, then I think we need to try and back the plan put forth by Donna Skelly that would see CHCH run by a community board. CHCH employees are trying to have it become a community station again, take it away from the media empires that don't care about 'local' and only care about their specialty stations No argument from me.

    But you can't garner enough advertising dollars to pay for news without the American programs. It costs more to produce Canadian sitcoms and dramas (which are often horrible) than it does to purchase U.S. programming that draws larger audiences. That's just economics.

    I'm not trying to make a value judgement. Given the choice I would prefer a channel with all Canadian programming that is equal in production values to U.S. programming. Especially if it includes mostly local programming.

    CHCH produces less than 40 hours each week of local news and other programming. That's about a day and a half out of seven days! And they still can't bring in enough advertising dollars to make a profit. Tell me how anyone can produce more local programming at the same production standards CHCH currently offers without losing money?

    It's strange that for many years there have been groups pushing to bring a second commercial broadcast station to the area. And now we face losing the only one that we have.

    Do you ever watch community cable like Cable 14? That's a model of fully locally produced content. Obviously the production standards aren't as high. Would you accept a plan that would offer more funding for them instead of this community controlled model Donna Skelly is proposing?

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  4. I am very concerned about the possibility of
    losing our local news from CTV Ottawa. It has
    already been cut out in the morning so we don't
    get local news only twice a day now. What can
    I as a local consumer of this telecast do?

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  5. I think it is important to have a local tv news program and it would be a great loss to any city to not have local advertizing and community sponsers

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Thanks for commenting! Just to let you know, I will remove comments that are unrelated to the post or include personal attacks on anyone.