Thursday, May 21, 2009

OPEN HOUSE

open house

Once again I'm overwhelmed by the response to something I've written.

Bill Brioux, DMc, Cunningham, Michael Geist and Inside the CBC, thanks so much for the links and kind words for the post below this one. Your readers have been flooding over here in an obvious endorsement of their trust in your opinions.

Just one thing – and don’t take this personally, because I know it’s accepted web-speak -- aren’t you getting as tired as I am of every passionate dissertation on something being called a “rant”?

Similarly, I don’t have a lot of “anger” in my life. Especially since I gave up Golf. Plenty of righteous indignation to be sure. But the thought of climbing on top of a water tower with a sniper rifle or picking up somebody’s kids after school never crosses my mind.

Like the Geriatric industry, which continues to terrify Seniors more than assist them with terms like “Dementia” and “Panic buttons”, we’ve got to find more appropriate terms to describe people simply speaking out on the things they believe in.

The Internet may have started with a bunch of unable-to-get-a-date geeks sharing their frustrations at “The Well”, but we need to evolve beyond our Neanderthal ancestry and its rituals.

And to you thousands of new faces peeking in at the Legion, if you didn’t get here via one of the above links, do check them out. There are a million interesting voices in this naked industry and I’m merely one of them.

But if you feel the way I feel about local television in Canada, I’d also like you to think about doing something else…

In their campaign for “Carriage Fees” or ‘saving Canadian broadcasting from drowning’, as they’d like to more positively package it, CTV is holding several Open Houses at their local stations this weekend.

I’m going.

And if you’re a Canadian writer, director, producer or performer (or just anybody who wants to see better television here) you should go too.

This issue is far too important to allow the PR flacks and Marketing people to re-focus the discussion into some narrow, constricted pen where Ivan Fecan and Leonard Asper can make doe-eyes at you like calves about to become veal if the public doesn’t pay their ransom.

“Please save us – Pull-eeeeze! It’s only 50 cents a month ------- for now.”

As the in-camera CRTC minutes addressed in the last post revealed -- despite their multitude of black lines -- there are many pro-active measures our networks could be making to save themselves before they need to beg for your money.

tv studio 1950

If you live in Toronto, local CTV affiliate CFTO’s Open House is Saturday from 11 am - 3 pm (401 & McCowan). It’s easy to spot from the highway and I’m sure they’ll put an inflatable Gorilla on the roof to go along with the BBQ’d weenies they’re cooking up for the kiddies.

This is CTV’s chance to introduce you to some of their local stars. Their website includes a subtle reminder to bring your camera.

But it should also be an opportunity for the thousands of local TV industry and creative types to ask CTV execs why they fill their ‘A’ Channel shelf space with “Supernanny” and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” instead of Canadian programming that couldn’t help but be more original and just might have some international resale value that would put cash in CTV’s pocket.

Perhaps some of you Arts Community executives who speak so eloquently to the deaf ears of the CRTC would like a chance to share those sentiments with viewers who don’t understand why they get so little for what they pay on their cable and tax bills.

Maybe some of the hundreds of people recently laid off by CTV will turn up too and remind the public that CTV’s parent company actually earned millions last year and most of those smiling guys in Golf togs and VP name tags even received bonuses while their staffs were turned into the street so the orchestrated begging for your cash could begin.

And hey, if you’re a member of the GTA Tamil Community – THESE are the actual people who might get your message out. Come talk to them on Saturday so the rest of the city can finally get down the street to buy groceries.

Look, I’m not trying to cause trouble here. And I’m not going to formally organize any kind of protest. You should be there simply because it matters to you.

I’m just saying that if we really are in danger of losing television as we know it, then maybe we all ought to share our opinions. And the public needs to hear more than one side of the argument.

Hey, Jim Shaw, maybe you could take the afternoon off from happily castrating bulls and CRTC Commissioners and head on down to CTV Calgary to let the public know what kind of improvements they can expect once you buy the ‘E’ affiliates in Red Deer and Kelowna.

C’mon, Dude, you know you want to. You must be tired of watching those poor kids in Winnipeg twist in the wind. Just give ‘em enough money to keep CanWest ahead of the bank for another week and I’ll bet you’ll finally have your own network.

Konrad von Finckenstein! Looking for an excuse to get out of another boring Saturday lunch at Michel Arpin’s Book Club?

CTV Ottawa’s Open House runs from 10 am – 1 pm. They’re promising to show you “What it takes to run a local TV station”. Maybe you can even meet local GM Louis Douville and listen to a live version of the plea he makes for his right to not have any competition at all here.

Norm Bolen, you live in Ottawa now! Surely you can tear some of your CFTPA members away from their Beavertails to offer an alternate opinion. Buddy, I know better than most just how awesome you can be with a bullhorn.

OurGang4

In Regina, their open house is Saturday from noon – 4 pm and they’ve already promised the “CTV Balloon” will be flying proudly atop the station to help you find it. They’re also saying a display of “historical materials” from their last 50 years will be on view.

Gee, I wonder if that will include the awesome locally produced “Our Gang Club” I loved when I grew up there.

Now there was a show that couldn’t have cost more than a hundred bucks an episode, repurposing cheap material from another generation into a show that kept 10 year olds glued to the TV and completely up to date on the goings on in their town.

Maybe some of you folks in Regina can ask why they don’t make even a cheap local kids show anymore or why so many of the program feeds you watch include local ads from Pizza Parlours and Auto Body shops you can’t patronize because they’re two provinces away in Windsor.

Is nobody in the booming Saskatchewan economy buying ads in Regina or is it just cheaper for CTV to forego all that and send you the Windsor feed?

And Tony in Windsor – Mi Fratello - stop trying to re-think mama’s recipe for calzone. There might be another reason those thousands of people CTV says are watching your ads aren’t coming in for a taste.

From coast-to-coast-to-coast, if your local station is an ‘A’ Channel, just go in and give those folks a hug. They don’t deserve the way they’re being treated by CTV or like still having to run “America’s Funniest Home Videos” any more than you do.

I could go on. But the point is, go here to find out what your local station is up to and attend.

Maybe instead of signing another pointless petition, you could also just phone your local MP and ask them to attend as well.

What better way to find out what the people really feel.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jim, two great posts that everyone at the CRTC should read. The one underlying theme in both is that much of the information, especially financial data, needed to make sense of the TV industry is not only hidden from view, it is effectively unavailable to anyone, including the CRTC.

I would start with full public disclosure of the revenues and expenditures of all the major private broadcast groups. In the transcripts you posted it is claimed that the A channels have never made a profit, yet there has never been any data available to verify this and are they really claiming that this year with Dancing with the Stars and Lost in their schedule, they don't make a profit? Included in the full disclosure would be the compensation of anyone making more than $100,000 per year, appropriate for companies using publicly owned frequencies and government regulated; I think it would shock many in the industry how many millionaires attend CRTC hearings.

Barry Kiefl

Anonymous said...

Jim, two great posts that everyone at the CRTC should read. The one underlying theme in both is that much of the information, especially financial data, needed to make sense of the TV industry is not only hidden from view, it is effectively unavailable to anyone, including the CRTC.

I would start with full public disclosure of the revenues and expenditures of all the major private broadcast groups. In the transcripts you posted it is claimed that the A channels have never made a profit, yet there has never been any data available to verify this and are they really claiming that this year with Dancing with the Stars and Lost in their schedule, they don't make a profit? Included in the full disclosure would be the compensation of anyone making more than $100,000 per year, appropriate for companies using publicly owned frequencies and government regulated; I think it would shock many in the industry how many millionaires attend CRTC hearings.

Barry Kiefl

wcdixon said...

Nice rant!!

Erm...I mean, nice passionate dissertation!!

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that people are concentrating on how companies like CTV can make money via traditional methods. Certainly, its a splendid idea (and I fully support it) to have more local/artistic content....but its not going to save local TV.

What we're seeing is a marketing revolution driving the media. Firms have slowly come to realize that traditional forms of advertising do not work anymore (TV advertising- i.e. interuption marketing, is a great example). The stats show that our attention/retention of the information they've been feeding us via advertisements have been on the decline for years.

Now, those same advertisers have realized that the most effective marketing is actually a fraction of the price. Its word-of-mouth marketing generated by largely social media.

The end result is advertisers are not paying for commercials anymore. Their budgets have changed due to the recession and they're concentrating on the next great advertising scheme (which just so happens to be web-based largely).

On top of that, we throw in the evolution towards PVRs that allow people to skip commercials. Computers are now able to download all of the latest shows off the internet for free and broadcast them onto modern plasma/lcd televisions as well.

So we can scream and cry all we want about local news, local TV etc. but its all coming to a stage of evolution. CTV, if they're interested in saving their company, needs to move things on-line quickly and find new ways of generating marketing revenue that way.

Charging consumers for their 'cable costs' is a dying business model (even for cable companies). It scares me that its CTV's last resort- it might save them in the short term but people's willingness to pay for cable has been decreasing for the last 2-3 years and its only going to accelerate.

sam said...

hey good idea to charge cable companies...only if they receive a portion of the revenue from the advertisement they carry spreading the word for the local tv station.
right now local cable companies produce 100 times more local
community programs.."not news"
thank the tv stations.
news is not community programs..it is
done for revenue income only
from local firms.