Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Help Save Local Television! Cough-cough!

CTV wants you to contact your local MP in order to save local television from the greedy cable and satellite companies.

"I agree that cable and satellite companies should pay for the signals they distribute." That's an email that you can send to you local MP with a carbon copy being sent to Heritage Minister James Moore, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and CTV.

I used to work for a broadcast company several years ago. I enjoyed my time working in Toronto and if I could do it again, I would. I would just prefer 9-5 working shifts. That's not usually possible in 24 hour television.

I won't talk about my former employer. That would be unethical and perhaps illegal due to confidentiality requirements. However, with all these media mergers, I'm not sure if I can avoid it.

If you have a cable or satellite package that allows you to get television stations that come from most major cities in Canada, you will notice that on many of the local stations, the programming is the same. For example on CTV, one will see the exact same programs aired at exactly the same time in Ontario on different stations such as Toronto, Kitchener, Ottawa, and Sudbury. The only thing different is the supper-time and late evening news programs. During the day, when you are watching Oprah, you will notice that each segment airs at exactly the same time. The only difference is when the commercials come on, local spots are inserted. The master control room, where programs and commercials are aired, comes from Toronto. One master control operator can operate all the stations for Ontario. Thanks to automation, the programs and commercials go to air without the operator lifting a finger. He or she does have an important job when the automation fails. That doesn't usually happen.

Many years ago when I lived in northern Ontario, there were the local CTV stations in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, and Timmins which had their own daytime programming and each one aired their own news programs. That was in the era when the rabbit ears ruled the earth and everyone was happy to get two television stations plus the French Radio Canada which no one watched except for the Montreal Canadiens hockey games. CBC English in Ontario usually aired the Toronto Maple Leafs. What's new? During the expansion of cable and satellite television, CTV consolidated the news programs and converted the news centres into news bureaus for a regional suppertime and late evening program coming from Sudbury. All other local programming was dropped. Remember the commercials in most of Ontario are now aired from Toronto.

CTV and I assume other private broadcasters want cable and satellite companies to pay to provide local over the air stations on their services. This seems interesting except as I mentioned previously, CTV has gutted local programming over the years that there is very little of it to maintain.

Do I think private broadcasters deserve fair compensation? Yes, I do. Do I think they deserve to receive money from the cable and satellite companies this time? No, I don't. If I remember correctly from my time working at the broadcast company, cable/satellite-only stations such as TSN and Showcase are allowed to air eight minutes of commercials every hour. Note: promotions for Canadian shows do not count as commercial time. Over the air stations are allowed to air about 12 minutes of commercials every hour. The CRTC licencing requirements will be different for each station. The over the air stations can air an extra four minutes of commercials every hour. Private broadcasters want the cable and satellite companies to pay an extra charge for providing these stations to their customers. As we all know...

...we, the customers, pay in the end.

For information: http://savelocal.ctv.ca/


Jennifer Smith said...

The sad fact is, Canadian conventional broadcasters are mere merchants of American culture. They produce next to nothing (quick! name two original Canadian prime-time shows currently airing on either CTV or Global), and yet they make millions simply by re-selling U.S. product to Canadians.

But I'd be happy to let CTV and Global have their fee for carriage - IF they were forced to give up simultaneous substitution, which allows them to 'double-dip' by showing you their commercials whether you're watching your U.S. show on CTV or NBC.

Get rid of simsub, force them to actually compete directly with U.S. stations, and I can guarantee you'd see a dramatic increase in Canadian content because they would suddenly need something to distinguish themselves from their American competitors.

Dave said...

CTV has make huge profits for years via mostly US programming and very little in Canadian production out side of news and a little bit of sports. Look at when CTV had the rights to the worlds series back in 92 & 93 all they did was take the CBS feed even though a Canadian team was in the World Series.

Most private broadcasters eliminated all local production outside of news when the CRTC allowed the news to be counted towards their local production quota.

CTV also has a huge stable of profitable speciality channels which repeat a lot of the programming the CTV airs on its regular TV channel.

If the cable/satellite companies pass on any fees to watch local channels will the service providers let us pick which channels we want? Global & CTV will not be on my list.

How will this impact conventional TV channels from outside of your local market? In the US you cannot import channels from outside your local broadcast area. I for one enjoy the US west coast feeds I have access to. I get to see the whole program as opposed to missing the several seconds that Global & CTV always seem to chop off when coming back to a show from a break.

I watched the hard hitting link to an interview with a CTV VP provided by Mr Fagstein.
Here’s what I got out of it the cable satellite companies just re-broadcast CTV’s programming, there fore are evil. No mention of how CTV just rebroadcasts US TV. The VP also mentioned the perils of bringing in out of market signals, time shifting a feature I greatly enjoy.

Why don’t some of the profitable specialty channels he subsidize the mother ship?

CTV Toronto CFTO has just gone HD for their news casts. Unlike most Canadian news in HD, CTV field cameras are also HD not just 16 x 9 SD like CBC and City are providing. The only SD signals left on CFTO is when they go live from the field since the micro-wave at sat truck are still HD. Also some pool video is still in SD.

Most newscast shooting in 16×9 only frame for 4×3

The news is still in 4×3 on the SD feed and 16×9 on the HD signal. I wonder why the English language stations CTV, CBC, City who have 16 x9 newscaster only show us 4×3 in HD. Radio Canada shows a 16×9 picture on its SD feed

This upgrade cost millions of dollars to a broadcaster who is crying the blues. Oh yeah CFTO also has a helicopter but that is still sending signals back in SD.

If CTV was hurting - they wouldn’t buy Idol. So I’m not buying it… CTV is worth billions. Ivan Fecan doesn't need another mansion.

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget who owns CTV: Bell, TorStar, the Thomson family & the Ont. Teachers Pension fund. I lose track of how many billions they have under account.

Jennifer Smith said...

"Why don’t some of the profitable specialty channels he subsidize the mother ship?"But that's not how business works, silly! You're supposed to compartmentalize your corporate hegemony and then jettison the divisions that aren't showing sufficient profit. Just like picking the peas out of your stew!

We are so very screwed.

Skinny Dipper said...

Remember the 1970's TV comedy, WKRP in Cincinatti, about a radio station. Disc Jockey Dr. Johnny Fever had an interesting conversation with Mrs. Carlson, the owner of the station. She mentioned something like, "It's not the pluses and minuses that matter; it's where you place them that counts."

Dr. Fever replied, "I understand. WKRP is designed not to make money."

I don't want to compare today's situation with the private Canadian TV broadcast companies to that of the fictional WKRP. I do think CTV and Canwest are moving some of their pluses and minuses around for their own advantage and trying to garner public sympathy for their situation.

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