Despite all this, it may take years, but Bell will eventually get its way.
Fake News Right?
When the news broke last Friday that Bell Media had made an application to the CRTC (federal government) to be given the right to eliminate all local news programming on CTV stations, I thought it was fake news. Somebody’s reporting must be wrong I thought.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Bell really did that. On the same day it laid off 1,300 workers at its radio and TV stations, shut down six stations and said it would sell three others, it filed the paperwork with the CRTC to end local news programming in Canada.
That takes a lot of balls.
It says it only wants the “flexibility” to start eliminating local news. It doesn’t really intend to do it right away. Instead, it just wants the ability to do it.
If I had the “flexibility” to walk into a car dealership and trade my old Infiniti in for a new one at no cost I sure would. Flexibility is a good thing to have apparently.
We all know if Bell gets that flexibility, the days of local news in Canada on CTV stations are numbered. They may be anyway.
Let’s hope the CRTC tells Bell to stuff it.
The government should remind Bell in 2021 it had revenues of around $23.5 billion. It should ask Bell how it can even suggest cutting local news programming when it paid its CEO $13.59 million last year.
Here’s the problem though. We’ve seen this movie play out before in radio many years ago.
FM radio stations started going to the CRTC in the early 1990’s asking for a reduction in the amount of local news and public affairs they needed to provide each week. Sound familiar?
They would ask for a large cut, saying they could no longer cover the expensive costs of delivering that much coverage. The CRTC would rarely agree to the full request, but meet the radio station somewhere in the middle. Five or ten years later, the radio station would be back with a similar request and there would be a similar result.
25-years later there was virtually no local news on FM stations across Canada. It was death by a thousand cuts.
I see something similar happening here. It won’t happen overnight, but it will start happening.
That three-hour morning local TV news show will become 90-minutes. Two hours of news programming from 5:00-7:00pm on most CTV stations will become one hour. Who needs that late-night local newscast around 11:30pm anymore? Most people are asleep by then anyway. It will be gone too.
Drip, drip, drip. In a few years we’ll look around and there will be no local news left on CTV stations in Canada. That’s what flexibility will do.
Let’s hope Global and CBC are still around, but don’t bet on it.
Bell is the Bad Guy
Bell says its news operations lost $40 million in revenue last year. I would like to see a full audit on that statement to see if it’s true, but even if it is, it’s common in any business with various revenue streams for some parts of the business to do better than others. Some make money, some lose money and some break even.
Local news programming hasn’t been a money-maker for years and there’s nothing wrong with that, when it’s part of a huge company with annual revenues of over $23 billion.
Bell, how is your wireless business doing these days with some of the highest cell phone rates in the western world?
I’m concerned about what the future of media in this country looks like. Postmedia and its weekly newspapers are on the ropes and the largest private TV network in the country wants to eliminate it local news and programming. What will the media landscape look like if Postmedia closes its doors and CTV gets it way?
Let’s hope others survive, because I’m not sure how we’ll find out about local stories like natural disasters and major government decisions. How will we get election results?
I’ve never been a fan of the CRTC, but right now Bell looks like a much bigger villain. I know who I’m cheering for. With Bell going full heel, is there a more hated company in Canada?
With summer here, I plan to take a break from blog writing and be back in September. Enjoy your summer!