by Harvey Oberfeld
July 31, 2017
Shaw Community Stations Closing: CRTC Puts Profits ONCE MORE Ahead of Public Interest
Saturday I watched a really terrific baseball game on television! And, No, it did not feature the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees or San Francisco Giants.
The Vancouver Canadians went up against the Tri-City Dust Devils from Washington state … and WE won 5-4 in a real nail-biter … that was broadcast LIVE on Vancouver Shaw Cable 4.
The Vancouver Canadians’ season is far from over … but Shaw will not broadcast any games after Aug 12 … because the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission in Ottawa/Gatineau is allowing Shaw to SHUT DOWN their community stations in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary.
The public will lose a lot more than just baseball broadcasts.
For example, in Vancouver Shaw Cable 4 has regularly broadcast municipal council meetings, but now it will be MUCH easier for municipal politicians to officials in Vancouver and other municipalities to work literally out of sight, in the shadows rather than under tv lights that allow citizens to WATCH and KNOW much more that goes on … including decisions on many, many issues not covered in the “major” media.
Gone too will be all the community discussion programs; full length interviews with movers and shakers on municipal, regional, provincial issues; public access television; coverage of the arts; and all kinds of other high-tech, local cultural and sporting events (hockey too!) and detailed coverage of festivals, parades and a whole myriad of activities for shut-ins and others unable to get out and attend personally.
You can read the WHOLE Shaw Cable 4 program list here: https://www.shaw.ca/ShawTV/Vancouver/Shows/.
What will replace it?
The CRTC … in its wisdom, actually its stupidity … bought into pitch by Corus Entertainment (the latest owners of Shaw Media) that it wanted to reduce “duplication of coverage”. http://www.vancouversun.com/shaw+stations+calgary+edmonton+vancouver+closing/13326462/story.html
What a crock! Duplication?
Corus’ Global TV in Vancouver has NEVER come even close to mirroring the extent of local events, culture, community issues or municipal or regional political issues or activities now given a voice on Shaw Cable 4.
“Last year, the CRTC’s review of local and community TV gave television providers like Shaw the flexibility to shift their required contribution to local programming in large markets from community channels to local news stations. As a result, Global News — owned by media company Corus Entertainment, which acquired Shaw’s portfolio of conventional and specialty television stations in 2016 — will receive $10 million annually in funds redirected from the Shaw TV operations. The funds will be used to bolster local coverage and enable more reporting of grassroots, community-focused stories, said Global News spokesperson Rishma Govani,” The Vancouver Sun reported when Shaw announced it would kill Vancouver Shaw Cable 4.
Please don’t laugh.
Anyone who has listened to what Corus did to another media property it acquired, CKNW, won’t be expecting much from Global’s enhanced local coverage: who do they even have in their reporting roster these days who can even research, investigate, report, chase political stories, deep issues, the arts and high tech … unless there’s a firetruck, ambulance, charity race, pet animal or press conference involved?
Wouldn’t surprise me at all if Corus corporate programming, management officials, accountants and even legal officials were already trying to find ways to take much of that $10 million and divert it to finance/support other operations … or just keep it in the bank, boosting their bottom line.
I really hope I am wrong … and that local MEANINGFUL coverage will be boosted this Fall … to the FULL $10 Million worth … but I worry Corus is just playing the CRTC … and will do little to keep their promises.
But let’s keep it real: the CRTC is fooling itself and/or taking Canadians for fools if they think the regular channels will do anything CLOSE to what Shaw community cable stations have done in granting expression and coverage of local events, discussion and sports.
And this latest deterioration of Canadian television occurs at a time when reports that show ANNUALLY, while Shaw is still losing subscribers (wonder why!) its revenues have been UP double digit … and PROFITS are still STRONG:
“The Calgary-based company said it earned $147 million in its latest quarter as revenue grew 13 per cent compared with a year ago, boosted by its Freedom Mobile wireless business,” reported News 1130 in April.
“The profit amounted to 30 cents per share for the quarter ended Feb. 28 compared with a profit of $164 million or 32 cents per share in the same quarter last year.
“Shaw, which sold its Shaw Media subsidiary in April 2016, said its profit from continuing operations totalled $147 million in what was its second quarter, up from $116 million a year ago. Revenue increased to $1.30 billion, compared with $1.15 billion in the same quarter last year,” the story said.
You can read that full report here: http://www.news1130.com/2017/04/12/shaw-communications-profit-down-from-year-ago-wireless-business-boosts-revenue/.
Yet, Shaw Cable 4 in Vancouver …. that has as its motto “Your local Voice” will go off air mid-August.
And notice, NONE of the federal political parties … or YOUR MP … are doing ANYTHING … or even raised loud voices about this! Too afraid of alienating the corporate media?
Shaw cable stations in smaller markets … including Victoria, Kelowna, Saskatoon and Winnipeg will continue to operate … for now.
But with such a weak CRTC that clearly never watch what passes for local “news” now on Shaw/Corus stations … radio and TV … I’m not hopeful we’ve seen the last of the slaughtering local community news and programming on the butcher block to protect and increase profits. .