Three representatives of the Canadian Media Guild urged the committee on government agencies to “put the Ontario into TVOntario” in hearings held yesterday at Queen’s Park.
The CMG’s TVO branch president David Hawkins was accompanied by national president Lise Lareau and the Guild’s coordinator for policy and communications, Karen Wirsig.
The committee chose to examine TVOntario at the request of Progressive Conservative MPP Bob Runciman, who has criticized the broadcaster for closing its Queen’s Park bureau and for “less and less coverage” of Ontario politics overall on TV.
“There’s a real lack of appreciation of what’s transpiring in this place (Queen’s Park). That’s the role TVO should be filling,” Runciman told TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde, who was accompanied by Chief Operating Officer Lee Robock and board chair Peter O’Brian, both of whom remained silent throughout the 90-minute question-and-answer period.
De Wilde emphasized web-based initiatives such as Civics 101 and educational programming geared to kids, acknowledging that TVO is now broadcasting 500 hours of in-house programming, down from 700 three years ago.
De Wilde told NDP MPP Andrea Horwath that TVO is committed to in-house “content” production, and is always looking at how to increase the impact of TVO programming such as The Agenda on the Road. “It’s been a real long time since TVO had the means to get out there,” she said about the show’s plans to produce 5 segments in different parts of the province.
TVO’s operating allocation went from $30 million to $37.5 million as of April 1. Both Lareau and Hawkins told committee members that there’s capacity and a desire among employees to do more TV programming.
“No one should forget that the power of television is to take you to places you haven’t been before and to introduce you to ideas and subjects that you never knew interested you,” Hawkins told the committee. “TV is the platform that inspires the other platforms. Every media organization uses their television productions to drive traffic online.”
Lareau said TVO is more important now than ever, “because the private sector is doing less and less”, due mostly to media consolidation. “With less local and regional information, TVO has an important role in developing provincial issues, instead of waiting for things to become major issues before dealing with them.”
Lareau told the committee that in brainstorming sessions earlier this year, Guild members discussed many ideas for new programs that are not being done elsewhere, including shows about the environment, arts and culture, provincial politics and a program by and for youth.
The committee will issue a report with recommendations for TVO management in the coming months. The Guild will keep you updated on any developments.
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