Thunder Bay TV stations surviving on life insurance cash, shutdowns looming



By Tania Kohut
National Online Journalist
Global News

January 29, 2016


Thunder Bay, Ont., could see both its local TV stations sign off for the final time Sept. 1.

The stations are currently in the red and running on funds from life insurance policies, not revenue, Don Caron, vice president and general manager of Thunder Bay Electronics told a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CTRC) panel in Gatineau, Que., Wednesday.
“The reason that we’re still in business and that we’re still operating is the fact that we unfortunately had a general manager and an owner who passed away in the last year and the company had fairly significant life policies on them,” Caron said.

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  1. Why should broadcasting be a protected industry? History is littered with industries / companies that were hugely successful until they crashed.

    Remember Blockbuster? How about Woodward’s or Woolco? Pan-Am? Compaq?

    If a business model no longer makes financial sense, your options are A: change the model, or B: close the door and walk away. Enough of the whining about how difficult it is to compete and how broadcasters need special government subsidization in order to survive. If Thunder Bay (or Victoria, or any other market) can’t support a TV station, so be it. Shut it down and move on. This principle applies to every avenue of business, and TV, with their failed business model, shouldn’t be immune.

  2. Worked in Thunder Bay years ago. Made a lot of great friends. The cable company added CHCH from Hamilton. The owner of the Thunder Bay tv stations had CHCH taken off cable shortly after being added. Local tv stations should have been sold in the early 1990s before the internet and satellite tv.

  3. Media concentration by HF Dougall and CHFD Ltd. in that city has been always been an issue. Along with the CHCH removal, Global was continuously blocked from cable in the city throughout the 80s and 90s, even when they promised to staff a regional news desk, all because Mr. Dougall was very protective of his media empire. His holdings also included a printing company that published a local TV listings magazine that effectively blocked TV Guide from publishing a Thunder Bay and area edition. And it wasn’t just media. Rumours abounded for years that the reason the city was never home to Red Lobster was that he purchased the franchise rights for the city, but refused to build one, or allow someone else to because he also owned a number of privately owned restaurants and did not want the competition.

    Fraser Dougall, for all his faults, did value loyalty, especially in his staff. I have many friends who have worked at the radio and TV stations controlled by the Dougall Family for years, decades in some cases. If you weren’t working for the man, the perception was he was a heartless bastard who only cared about money and screwing the competition. If you worked for him, and showed your loyalty, he took care of you. My heart goes out to the people currently working there. There are obviously going to be some big changes in the next few months, and I don’t think its going to be pretty.

  4. They have been allowed to milk private profits from the public airwaves for decades. Now they have the cajones to ask taxpayers to not only allow them to continue using a public asset but to pay them for the privilege. Who’s to say that some of their misfortune isn’t due to mismanagement? My suggestion is that they turn in their broadcast license asap.

  5. Private broadcasters aren’t asking for taxpayer money. They are asking for a share of the money cable operators already take in from subscribers. Local TV stations have never received any money from cable operators for use of their broadcast signals. It is the function and duty of government to protect cultural industries. Now private broadcasters need to run a business and live within their means. Fair is fair, if cable companies are using a signal, surely they should pony up a small portion of what they are collecting to support a Canadian cultural industry.


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