Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Save Local What Now?

Editor, Times & Transcript,

CTV might have a case to make in some of the communities it serves, but it has a lot of gall asking people in Moncton to join in its "save local television" campaign.

The network has a minimal presence in New Brunswick and offers 'local' news only from its station in Halifax, 300 kilometers away and in another province. Its political commentators know little about the New Brunswick environment and appear to care less. We do not have 'local' news from CTV here in Moncton and haven't for a very long time.

For this, we are being asked to 'save local news' by having our cable companies pay them a fee - a cost that would in short order be transferred to viewers. And while CTV says the company receives "absolutely nothing in return for our signal", they forget to mention that the CRTC requires the cable company to carry the signal, and consumers to subscribe to it, contributing greatly to their advertising revenue.

CTV also neglects to mention the cause of its current financial difficulties. The current arrangement worked very well for them for many years. What changed was that CTVglobemedia was involved in a series of acquisitions over the last few years, including a $2.3 billion takeover by Bell Canada Enterprises and an announced $1.7 billion bid to take over CHUM, the owner of CITY-TV and A-Channel. Now the company can't pay its debts and we, the consumers, are effectively being asked to pay for their consolidation of Canadian media under single ownership.

You won't see any of this on the http://savelocal.ctv.ca/ website, of course. True to its roots as the news organization that sent two of its most high-profile reporters, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallen, to the Senate as Conservative politicians, CTV does not allow readers to post comments on the site and does not link to - or even mention - any opposition to its proposal. Its presentation of this issue, like its news, is intolerably one-sided.

Here's a better idea to save local broadcasting: return the ownership of local broadcast licenses to local owners. The current licensing arrangement is perfectly profitable if you are not gambling in the stock market or playing politics, and it would be nice to see local news here in New Brunswick instead of the out-of-province fare we have been given in its stead.