By Harvey Oberfeld
Keeping It Real…
September 29th, 2014
The CRTC should study VERY carefully Shaw’s proposal for a 24-hour national news channel.
It could be the largest TROJAN HORSE to ever make its way into the Canadian broadcasting world …with an impact on local news programming more devastating than all the previous CRTC give-aways allowed Canadian television networks, in terms of the amount of news programming on local network channels.
The CRTC MUST ask some very KEY questions about Shaw’s 24-hour national proposal! Especially about what Shaw and Global’s LONG-TERM plans are for local television news on their EXISTING network stations.
Shaw has applied to launch a 24-hour NATIONAL news station coast to coast … with LOCAL news content given priority in each market on that channel, with national news stories following as well.
The new station would be a national version of BC 1 … the 24 -hour news station carried on Shaw media stations in BC (but interestingly, still NOT carried/offered on cable by rival Telus).
At first glance, the idea of ANOTHER 24-hour news channel may seemed great!
After all, at a time when so many cable network/television giants have been slashing news programming hours, content and quality … wailing about their financial losses in providing news programming … what could be better than ADDING another news channel … bringing Canadians together, while featuring an emphasis on local news and issues.
But I’m a cynical chap …who has long railed against the way BIG MEDIA’s bean counters have almost DESTROYED local television news across the nation … giving us the cheapest police blotter tabloid crud, press conference/rally offerings and lots of promotional fluff, often done … even in “major” markets … by youngsters hired in the big markets because they’re cheaper than experienced journalists and can be easily pushed around/intimidated by managers.
And with so many recent heave-hos, buyouts, retirements and even their best senior investigative reporter quitting last week at Shaw’s Global Vancouver station, the future for their severely sagging ratings does not look very bright. With so many of them gone, who is going to stand up or speak out internally against the decline in meaningful stories or interesting investigative exposees? No one.
So why such interest by Shaw in creating a 24-hour NATIONAL news station?
I suspect it’s a Trojan Horse.
If the CRTC allows Shaw’s application for a 24-hour national news channel … they MUST make it CLEAR this will NOT be a licence to get rid of their local news content on their existing network stations in each market!!!!!
Because I suspect THAT’S the ultimate Shaw plan: move Global local news shows over to the 24-hour channel and then ask the CRTC to accept that ”Canadian content” rules should be calculated IN TOTALITY of the two stations … in other words, give their existing network stations “CanCon” CREDITS for hours of Canadian programming carried on the 24 News channel.
That could FREE UP Shaw’s local network stations to carry MORE US PROGRAMMING than they now do … replacing their Noon News, their Early News and even their NEWSHOUR … on their main channel with more American shows.
There’s no doubt in my mind that would bring MILLIONS in extra advertising revenues to Shaw for their local network channels… while diminishing and marginalising even more their news content, shunting it off to a “side” channel that fewer would likely choose to subscribe to or may not even be able to get.
So while Shaw talks about expanding their news footprint, I worry their long term plan is to further deteriorate and sideline it, while continuing to let the quality slide.
In fact, I hear in the latest contract negotiations taking place in Vancouver, Shaw are even trying to be able to include “Shaw media content” for as much as 40 per cent of their Vancouver station’s news programming. In other words, imagine them pumping “stories” done by Shaw cable volunteers or part-timers or even promotional Shaw in-house production “features” onto the Newshour and other Global news shows. If you think the content/quality of “news” shows have gone downhill in recent years …you haven’t seen ANYTHING compared to what I believe that would do!
And with so many new, inexperienced and perhaps more easily-intimated younger staffers now, Shaw may even be gambling most won’t be willing to “walk the line” to stop this “Shaw media content” push … even though I suspect allowing it could lead to many of them being laid off or put on part time hours down the road.
However, my biggest fear, based on my observations of the CRTC over MANY years, is that the Commission will give in to Canadian media BIG BUSINESS demands … and Shaw’s national channel won’t get the controls it MUST have to prevent the further deterioration of local news on existing channels.
The CRTC should remind themselves the airwaves belong to ALL CANADIANS … not just the BIG MEDIA CORPORATIONS!!!
Providing Canadian content and QUALITY NEWS PROGRAMMING should NOT be regarded as charity: it’s a SMALL PRICE for the corporations to pay in return for the BILLIONS in profits they make from OUR airwaves and cable licences.
The CRTC MUST GUARD AGAINST any Shaw Trojan Horse possibilities.
If they do licence a new 24-hour Global national news channel, the CRTC MUST IMPOSE strict RULES to also keep local news on LOCAL network stations … and prevent local news from becoming even more diminished.
Harvey, I really appreciate your experience, your insight, and your opinions and fully respect you as a reporter and your contributions over the years in helping shape Canadian media. But can you please just once write a story that doesn’t blame everything on the “youngsters”? It’s unfortunately been a common thread in your posts as of late on Puget Sound. As I’m sure you’re aware it’s a REALLY tough industry to get into and find liveable work in right now, and we’re doing our best. We are given very little money to live on and work with, there are fewer and fewer positions available, and we’re expected to essentially be renaissance men/women to make it. Yet a lot of us still dedicate ourselves fully to our jobs and do the best we’re able to – despite a lot of pressure from above and a lot of flack from industry vets. I apologise if you’re drawing on a few encounters in your experience, but please show a bit of respect for the future of the industry.
Please re-read this post! Where did I “blame everything” on the youngsters? To the contrary, the DANGERI warn against as posed by Shaw’s plan lies with all the old men (and women) at Shaw in suits … and all the old men (and women) in suits at the CRTC… if it is indeed a Trojan Horse plan to sideline news so they can increase US programming their main channels. The youngsters in this case would be the victims and possibly, by reading my warning, they will realize the dangers posed to them by giving into the plans and demands of Shaw management …you know, those older folks, who almost anyone on here would agree, have lessened the quality of their news products. And that shows in their ratings!
Shaw is doing exactly what Chorus is doing. (Shaw is the majority share holder of Chorus), Look no further than CKNW in Vancouver. To hell with quality broadcasting. Do it as cheaply as possible, and saturate the airwaves with endless commercials. All to satisfy the ‘suits’ in Toronto. Sad…
I think you’re missing the point of Harvey’s rants…. it’s not the “youngsters” that make him catatonic, it’s Corporate Media who first fire the seasoned vets, and then hire the youngsters for a fraction of the cost. And of course the youngster runs to fill the position. I would! In fact, who wouldn’t? But doesn’t it gall you, as a “youngster” that you will never be able to buy a house and feed family, nor get your teeth fixed on what these slime balls are paying? Ever. Just so you can work in the business you love? And while you are working away for peanuts, with no benefits, your employer is constantly, and I mean constantly trying to find a way to eliminate your position. Hence Harvey’s Trojan Horse analogy.
When I first read about the Shaw proposal, I thought it was great news, although I did wonder what the heck the country needed another news channel for. It takes an old pro like Harvey to expose it for what it really is! Or at least what it probably is. Sadly, he’s probably right!
Hey, I’m not a Luddite. I get it: people don’t sit down at 6 o’clock and watch the news as much as they used to, AND that includes me, btw. I can’t recall the last time I did. It’s been a long time.
As it happens, I was on the radio side, not TV. I point this out because whenever I mentioned watching the TV news the night before, I would say, “I was watching Tony last night and he was saying….” No last name needed; no call letters. Everyone listening knew who I was talking about because he OWNED the evening news. You might say, “And we all know why, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda”. Dismiss the concept if you will, but Tony Parsons was able to pay the mortgage on a (no doubt very nice) house, and I`ll bet you so was everyone else associated with the show…. full-time, no contract employees who had good pay and benefits. And here`s the thing: the companies he work for made T O N S of money anyway!!!
Don’t kid yourself… the stations didn’t drop their rates to reflect their dropping audiences for their newscasts. They still make money. But for today’s Corporate Media, it isn’t ENOUGH!!!
Anyway, massromantic, Harvey can and will no doubt speak for himself, much better than I ever could, but I feel better now.
Nevertheless, I would ask that you compare Netflx ‘ net profit last year, compared to any one of the big telcoms like Bell. There are about 3 million people in Canada who subscribe to Netflix, and I guarantee you everyone of them is happy with the service. Is there one person you know personally, EVEN ONE PERSON who is happy with Bell, Shaw, etc? That person doesn’t exist.
The other ugly reality is that with the excising of the older, experienced staff, the “youngsters” have very few people to learn from. Sure, it’s great that they’re coming from BCIT with a headful of theoretical knowledge and a command of the basics, but they have fewer opportunities to gain the essential institutional knowledge base from those who have finely honed their craft. The amount of hard-earned knowledge that has disappeared continues to grow, knowledge that ranges from technique and execution, to personal contacts and local connections, to understanding the history, context and subtext of a story that can only come from years of being in the trenches and dealing with it every day.
Oh, and for Massromantic, Harv’s not blaming you, he’s simply pointing out today’s reality. And this thing about “showing respect for the future of the industry” — sadly, like so many young people, you probably don’t understand the fact that you have to earn respect, it’s not something that you just ‘get’ simply because you breathe oxygen or walk upright.
Oh I fully understand the concept of earning respect. Believe me. I just don’t want that ability cut off just by walking through the door is all. We already know we have a lot in front of us to overcome and constantly being pushed around and being undercut and not being given the proper opportunities does not help.
It certainly does gall me that I will NEVER be able to buy a house, probably won’t be able to start a family, and that I will make a fraction of what those before me made while doing a lot more work that I have to basically feel out for myself because you’re right – those with the experience and the hard-earned knowledge are sadly cut out. It frustrates me every day. How is this industry supposed to grow, how are we supposed to create the new Tony Parsons and Harvey Oberfelds with the conditions we’re given?
My point is that I just feel whenever one of Harvey’s posts come up on Puget Sound there is a rallying cry for how youngsters are a problem in the growing media landscape. Look at any of the posts, look at any of the comment sections. We ARE tired of being pushed around and being paid less and being forced to take on more than we can handle. But how are we supposed to change anything? We’re constantly reminded that we’re replaceable, and there’s not much of a back up system for us. I don’t like this Shaw thing either, not one bit. It’s not a good sign for the future, that’s for sure….
And thank you for your reply Harvey, I appreciate it!
Great discussion! Please understand, massromantic, YOU are NOT the problem! What Anonymous, Willy and I …and no doubt many others … are trying to do is sound the alarms and expose what the corporate brass, suits and beancounters have done to OUR (and that includes YOU) beloved industry. Of course, we NEED young inductees into the club … but I believe what we decry is the crud they make YOU do almost all the time now …so seldom giving you the time and resources to do GREAT stuff … and the elimination (to save money!) of middle-aged and older mentors to help YOU develop and write and interview better.