Saturday, May 23, 2009
Saving local TV
The Big A
London, ON, March 2009
They held a big rally in London today in support of local television, part of a national campaign to raise awareness of the dire state of the industry, and to get the government off its keister in helping the industry survive.
Of course I want to have a vibrant local media landscape. The thought of a city the size of London - 350,000 - without its own major broadcast television station boggles my mind. It's unthinkable that we might be so ill-served, yet that's clearly where we're headed unless something changes both drastically and soon.
At the same time, I admit I'm somewhat ambivalent about this particular effort. CTV, the parent company of our local station, has mobilized all of its properties to build support for changes to the regulatory environment in Canada that would make it easier for them to make money from local television operations. According to the conventional broadcast conglomerates that dominate the market, they simply can't make money the way things currently are.
Fair enough, and I'm glad they've decided to give it a shot. But I think I would have had more sympathy for their plight if they had raised the alarm before pulling the plug on the majority of their local programming.
The cynic in me feels hundreds of community-minded folks jammed ourselves into a downtown courtyard today to support an organization that's already given up on this city. I think I'd have been more inclined to join the fray if the media organizations - and not just this one, but all of them - committed to reinvesting their profits from a changed environment back into the communities they serve. If I knew they'd be creating jobs and building a foundation for the long haul, I'd feel a whole lot better about waving a flag.
As it is, I suspect they'll quietly walk away from their operations as soon as the opportunity presents itself, because business ultimately trumps community when the remotely located leaders of these conglomerates rarely visit the communities they supposedly serve. For now, it smacks of a PR campaign that targets the CRTC (aka the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the regulatory dinosaur-agency that dictates who does what in Canadian media and more often than not mucks it up) and accomplishes little to restore what's already been taken away from the communities these conglomerates supposedly serve.
Your turn: What happens when a major city loses its major media? What then?
About this photo: This sign hangs over the now-abandoned remote studio that our local 'A' affiliate used to operate out of the Covent Garden Market. Ironically, this is where the rally was held. Today's rally notwithstanding, I'm not sure how much longer this sign - or the station itself - will be there. For more sign-related fun, head over here.
Update - May 30, 2009: Online editor Dan Brown ran a snippet from this entry on May 30th as part of his weekly Best of the blogs feature in the London Free Press. Thanks Dan!