Friday, October 02, 2009

Remember This For Later


Sometime tonight, CKX-TV in Brandon, Manitoba will stop transmitting.

The sale of the local CTV affiliate to Bluepoint Investments fell through yesterday. The new buyer, who was acquiring the operation lock, stock and barrel for $1.00, couldn’t reach an agreement with Canadian Satellite providers to carry its signal.

In a communication, CTV President Ivan Fecan said, "Brandon, like many of our smaller stations, is not carried by satellite companies, who say they don't have room for all of Canada's local TV stations, while finding plenty of room for foreign channels."

More on the delicious irony of that in a moment.

For now, the sad reality is that a station that has served its 124,000, mostly rural, customers for 54 years and employs 39 people will be no more.

A brand new $150 million fund to support local programming won’t help.

A sudden doubling and tripling of ratings for the new CTV season won’t help.

A CRTC ruling allowing CTV to fit even more commercials into those awesomely successful new shows won’t help.

Even Jim Shaw, a man with far deeper pockets than Bluepoint, couldn’t help --- and he was the first to back out of a similar dollar sale last June.

Despite his massive cable empire, Jim knew the economic reality of Brandon and all our other struggling local markets. Most of the customers are rural. And the only way to get a package of TV channels to them is via satellite.


What satellite company serves Brandon?


Who owns Expressvu?

Why its the same company, CTV-Bell-GlobeMedia-Teachers-Pension-Plan-Whatever-Else, that owns CTV.


Wait a minute!?!

Am I telling you that while CTV is leading the Canadian broadcaster charge for more Public funding and carriage fees from each and every television watching household to “Save Local Television”, one of its own stations is going under because another division of the self same company doesn’t care if it goes broke, and the guys who run the whole operation don’t care either because they’re still making hundreds of millions of dollars in profit?


But wait. There’s more. There’ll be blood shooting out of your eyes before I’m done here!

God, I feel so Glenn Beck right now!

Last month, Expressvu began charging its customers another $1.50 a month to cover its contribution to that aforementioned fund to save local television. Even though they don’t carry most of the stations that are in trouble, and their non-carriage is one of the major reasons why those stations are struggling.

Ergo, their customers are paying for services they don’t get and couldn’t if they wanted to!

And the ones who live in Brandon are being charged for services that aren’t even there!

Since I used to subscribe to Expressvu, I happen to know that they have room for several VOD Porn channels. And apparently those are of more value than the 10 or 20 that would keep hundreds of local Canadian TV employees working and hundreds of thousands of Canadians informed with regard to what is going on in their small cities and towns.

I guess it’s better that Canadian Tax dollars and subscriber fees be paid to purchase Quaaludes and Champagne in Woodland Hills, California than to inform a Manitoba farmer that they’ll be frost on Saturday night so you better get the crops in.

But Expressvu makes way too much money selling Porn to bother with the needs of Brandon or any other Canadian city. And since Ivan Fecan shares in some of that money, he’d obviously rather the folks in Brandon were jerking off instead of knowing what went on in City Council.

And seriously, if you were running the company and wanted to depict yourself as the saviour of Canadian TV, wouldn’t you argue for the replacement of one  Anal Intruders channel to make room for your own affiliate before blaming phantom outside agitators?

But Mr. Fecan didn’t. That’s why  he said, “Foreign channels” and not “Masturbation movies”.

And what he meant was “American channels” not Al-Jazeera, Telemundo or the BBC.

Mr. Fecan has a way with words, or at least fuzzing any mention that his channels carry the exact same stuff as those bad-for-Canada “foreign channels”.


By happenstance, I made a gas and burger stop in Brandon on the day Blueprint bought CKX. It was headline news in the local paper, with quotes from the mayor, local business people and the new owners about how great this was for the city. Not only had jobs and local pride been rescued, but Blueprint was promising it would follow the “Go Local” mantra that has been the philosophy of successful small TV stations around the world.

They were promising many hours of local news, locally produced programming to serve the agricultural base of nearby communities and maybe even broadcast home games of the city’s beloved hockey team, the Brandon Wheat Kings.

These were all things CTV had the money to do, but had decided to squeeze in some more “CSI” clones from one of those foreign devils channels instead. Clones which CTV could then second and third window throughout their conglomerate owned specialty channels to maximize profits and reduce the need to produce any local content --- funny how the black line items in that CTV conglomerate’s budget get shared around the company while the red line ones don’t.

But then, they’ve got you paying for those, don’t they?

As usual, the jobs lost in Brandon, and Red Deer earlier this summer, plus the personal indebtedness of everybody who kicked in to save their jobs at the local Global affiliate in Victoria, can be laid directly at the feet of the CRTC.

The Federal Government’s very own Heritage Committee, after hearing from the very same group of Usual Suspects who had pleaded the very same “Save Local TV” case before the CRTC many times, specifically asked the CRTC to take the profits and losses of the ENTIRE holdings of the broadcasters into account when devising a solution.

Later, the Heritage Minister himself publicly reminded them that their job was to look after the needs of the Canadian Public – which would include the 124,000 people about to be without a local TV station in Brandon.

But the CRTC ignored all that and did what they always do. Only this time, they just didn’t bend over for the Broadcasters, they showed them where to put the umbrella.

So tons more money was earmarked to be taken from satellite companies and cablecos with no guarantees from broadcasters that they’d keep local stations open in return or create one more minute of local programming or news.

And the broadcasters took that money without mentioning that the real problem wasn’t that people weren’t watching or were watching something else, it was that they couldn’t see local programming even if they wanted to.

Would it be too hard to tell Expressvu that if they want a semi-monopoly on Satellite TV in this country, they have to serve the whole country?

We do that with Air Canada, requiring them to provide feeder service from smaller spots on the map for the protective perks they’re given. We require people to pay for Public schools even if they don’t have kids, and to support health care even if they never get sick.

For all the breaks we give broadcasters and those operating our Broadcast Delivery systems, is it to much to expect access to local television in return?

And maybe some honesty from everybody instead of all the corporate games.

One last thought for Ivan Fecan.

Replace some of that speech of yours a little and you’d get…

"This Canadian TV show, like many of our series, is not carried by CTV, who say they don't have room for all of Canada's local production, while finding plenty of room for foreign product."

Now you know how the creatives in this country feel.

Not nice when the shoe’s on the other foot, is it?

You think you, us and the BDU guys might all be further ahead if we worked on that?

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