Timing is everything, and don’t the networks know it. Can it be a coincidence that Canwest and CTV have chosen the same few days to complain about losing so much money that massive job cuts are absolutely the only way out? In today’s roundup of announcements, CTV says it’s cutting 118 jobs in its A Channel newsrooms in Ottawa, London and Barrie, in addition to closing stations in Windsor and Wingham, Ontario (announced last week).
This happens to be the very day the CRTC planned to go public with the networks’ various license applications – the submissions in which they tell Canadians what they intend to do in exchange for access to our public airwaves. This is when all the pre-CRTC hearing lobbying begins. What better way to make your case that you need new relaxed rules than to eliminate service to the public and lay people off?
Only last Friday, CTV’s chief executive officer Ivan Fecan said the company would at least try to make a go of it with the A Channels. “We’re merely trying to keep the As open until regulatory restructuring for the entire sector can take place. While we welcome the new, year-long CRTC process and while we can’t guarantee the survival of the As until that time, together we will do our best.”
What changed in three days? Perhaps a peak at other broadcasters’ filings? Why do more than your competitors? A cursory read of the hundreds of pages that we all have to read in less than a month is eyeopening.
For example, we learned today that even though Canwest is abandoning at least five local markets, it wants more breaks. It wants to do fewer hours of local television on the stations it decides are profitable enough to keep. And it wants permission from the CRTC to be able to continue to do simultaneous substitution of lucrative U.S. shows (of course!) and get “priority carriage” on cable and satellite…but it doesn’t want to have to bother actually being a broadcaster. It’s asking for these privileges even if it doesn’t send out its signal free over-the-air – just directly to cable and satellite.
Not only is this an attack on local television, it’s an attack on free television. Oh, and did we remind you how horrible it is for conventional broadcasters right now? We trust the CRTC will demand to see those numbers, station by station, and release them to the public.