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CRTC Must BEWARE of a Shaw Trojan Horse

September 29th, 2014 · 10 Comments

The CRTC should study VERY carefully Shaw’s proposal for a 24-hour national news channel.

It could be the largest TROJAN HORSE to ever make its way into the Canadian broadcasting world …with an impact on local news programming more devastating than all the previous CRTC give-aways allowed Canadian television networks, in terms of the amount of  news programming on local network channels.

The CRTC MUST ask some very KEY questions about Shaw’s 24-hour national proposal!  Especially about what Shaw and Global’s LONG-TERM plans are for local television news on their EXISTING network stations.

Shaw has applied to launch a 24-hour  NATIONAL news station coast to coast … with LOCAL news content given priority in each market on that channel, with national news stories following as well.

The new station would be a national version of BC 1 … the 24 -hour news station carried on Shaw media stations in BC (but interestingly, still NOT carried/offered on cable by rival Telus).

At first glance, the idea of ANOTHER 24-hour news channel may seemed great!

After all, at a time when so many cable network/television giants have been slashing news programming hours, content and quality … wailing about their financial losses in providing news programming … what could be better than ADDING another news channel … bringing Canadians together, while featuring an emphasis on local news and issues.

But I’m a cynical chap …who has long railed against the way BIG MEDIA’s bean counters have almost DESTROYED local television news across the nation … giving us the cheapest police blotter tabloid crud,  press conference/rally offerings and lots of promotional fluff,  often done … even in “major” markets … by youngsters hired in the big markets because they’re cheaper than experienced journalists and can be easily pushed around/intimidated by managers.

And with so many recent heave-hos, buyouts, retirements and even their best senior investigative reporter quitting last week at Shaw’s  Global Vancouver station, the future for their severely sagging ratings does not look very bright. With so many of them gone, who is going to stand up or speak out internally against the decline in meaningful stories or interesting investigative exposees?  No one.

So why such interest by Shaw in creating a 24-hour NATIONAL news station?

I suspect it’s a Trojan Horse.

If the CRTC allows Shaw’s application for a 24-hour national news channel … they MUST make it CLEAR this will NOT be a licence to get rid of their local news content on their existing network stations in each market!!!!!

Because I suspect THAT’S the ultimate Shaw plan:  move Global local news shows over to the 24-hour channel and then ask the CRTC to accept that  ”Canadian content” rules should be calculated IN TOTALITY  of the two stations …  in other words, give their existing network stations “CanCon” CREDITS  for hours of Canadian programming carried on the 24 News channel.

That could FREE UP Shaw’s local network stations to carry MORE US PROGRAMMING than they now do … replacing their Noon News, their Early News and even their NEWSHOUR … on their main channel with more American shows.

There’s no doubt in my mind that would bring MILLIONS in extra advertising revenues to Shaw for their local network channels… while diminishing and marginalising even more their news content, shunting it off to a “side” channel that  fewer would likely choose to subscribe to or may not even be able to get.

So while Shaw talks about expanding their news footprint, I worry their long term plan is to further deteriorate and sideline it, while continuing to let the quality slide.

In fact, I hear in the latest contract  negotiations taking place in Vancouver, Shaw are even trying to be able to include “Shaw media content” for as much as 40 per cent of  their Vancouver station’s news programming.  In other words, imagine them pumping “stories” done by Shaw cable volunteers or part-timers or even promotional Shaw in-house production “features” onto the Newshour and other Global news shows. If you think the content/quality of “news” shows have gone downhill in recent years …you haven’t seen ANYTHING compared to what I believe that would do!

And with so many new, inexperienced and perhaps more easily-intimated younger staffers now, Shaw may even be gambling most won’t be willing to “walk the line”  to stop this “Shaw media content” push … even though I suspect allowing it could lead to many of them being laid off or put on part time hours down the road.

However, my biggest fear,  based on my observations of the CRTC over MANY years,  is that the Commission will give in  to Canadian media BIG BUSINESS demands … and Shaw’s national channel won’t get the controls it MUST have to prevent the further  deterioration of local news on existing channels.

The CRTC should remind themselves the airwaves belong to ALL CANADIANS … not just the BIG MEDIA CORPORATIONS!!!

Providing Canadian content and QUALITY NEWS PROGRAMMING should NOT be regarded as charity: it’s a SMALL PRICE for the corporations to pay in return for the BILLIONS in profits they make from OUR airwaves and cable licences.

The CRTC MUST GUARD AGAINST any Shaw Trojan Horse possibilities.

If they do licence a new 24-hour Global national news channel, the CRTC MUST IMPOSE strict RULES to also keep local news on LOCAL network stations … and prevent local news from becoming even more diminished.

Harv Oberfeld

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→ 10 CommentsTags: British Columbia · Media · National

COPE Proposal To Tax Vacant Houses CAN Work!

September 23rd, 2014 · 50 Comments

COPE Mayoral candidate Meena Wong may be onto something … not just for Vancouver, but for all of BC.

Wong has suggested vacant homes be subject to an extra tax … to discourage speculation by people who buy housing as investments (mostly in the land they occupy)  and then just leave them empty and deteriorating until they can hopefully  unload them at a large profit.

Of course, the proposal has raised a lot of questions, objections and skepticism … especially from those with vested interests in real estate, investment deals and votes from those profiting from the current system.

But it CAN work!

In fact, not only in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland … and not only VACANT properties but for all homes/condos etc. owner by absentee outsiders throughout the province, bringing MUCH NEEDED additional revenues to many towns and cities and even rural communities throughout BC.

There are already other jurisdictions in North America where “outsiders” who buy or invest in properties pay HIGHER municipal taxes … not only for unoccupied single-family homes, but even townhouses and apartment condos.

And the benefits to locals are much better than under BC’s Home Owners’ grant program.

Just take a look at Florida.

Any snowbird who owns property in Florida or any investor who buys property in Florida or any regular visitor who has friends living in Florida is very likely well aware of the “Homestead Exemption” tax law.

In effect for more than  years, it gives Florida long-term  full time residents a BREAK on their municipal taxes; or, as snowbirds and other non-resident property owners prefer to describe it … IMPOSES HIGHER MUNICIPAL TAXES on “outsiders”.

From Wikipedia, here are some details of how it works:

“Reduction of Ad Valorem Property Tax

The Great Depression began in 1929 causing reforms in ad valorem property taxes in Florida. As the Depression deepened, many Florida property owners found themselves unable to pay their property taxes and in serious danger of losing their homes. In response to this serious problem, State Representative Dwight Rogers of Fort Lauderdale in 1933 proposed and successfully passed legislation to place the $5,000 Homestead Exemption Amendment on the state ballot. Florida’s voters overwhelmingly approved the Homestead Exemption Amendment in 1934 (Article X, Section 7, as it was numbered before the 1968 Florida Constitutional re-write). The initial Homestead Exemption sought to ease the burden on homeowners by exempting property taxes on the first $5,000 of a homeowner’s residence. The exemption was increased by the Florida Legislature by statute to $10,000 during the 1960s, although this was not incorporated into the constitution. By Constitutional amendment adopted by a landslide in 1980, the exemption was increased to $25,000. On Jan. 29, 2008, voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution raising this exemption to $50,000.

Florida property tax homestead exemption reduces the value of a home for assessment of property taxes by $50,000, so a home that was actually worth $100,000 would be taxed as though it was worth only $50,000. However, the second $25,000 of homestead coverage does not apply to the school portion of property taxes—and only applies to the third $25,000 of a property’s total just value (i.e., that portion of a property’s value between $50,000-$75,000).

Additionally, the Florida homestead exemption caps the rate at which property assessments may be increased annually. Though millage rates may be changed, the assessed value a house with a homestead exemption can be increased by is fixed. This is the result of the “Save Our Homes” Amendment to the Florida Constitution which was passed by voters in 1992, and went into effect in 1995. The amendment caps the increase of the assessed value of a home with a homestead exemption to the lesser of 3% or the rate of inflation. This means that if an owner had a homestead exemption on a home valued at $100,000 in 1995, and the exemption was still valid in 2005, the most the home could be assessed at is approximately $126,000. For comparison, records of the Florida Association of Realtors show the median price of a single family home during the same time increasing 138% from $86,000 in 1995, to $205,000 in 2005.

Homestead exemptions are only available on an individual’s primary home. Therefore, this exemption does not apply to businesses, rental property, second homes, homeowners claiming permanent residency-based exemptions or tax credits in other states, or homes with owners that do not claim Florida as their primary residence. Because of the “portability” provision of the January 2008 constitutional amendment, a homesteaded owner may now move up to $500,000 of the “Save Our Homes” benefit from one Florida home to the next. [4] However, acquiring a house that had a homestead exemption does not entitle the buyer to retain the low tax rate enjoyed by the previous homesteaded resident, as homestead exemptions cannot be inherited or purchased.

Supporters of the “Save Our Homes” Amendment contend that it allows long term residents with a fixed income to be able to afford to stay in their homes without being driven out by tax increases as their property value increases. Detractors argue that it creates an unfair system of taxation in which first time home buyers, new residents, seasonal residents, and businesses are burdened with more than their share of taxes while homesteaders are trapped in their own homes, often unable to move without doubling their tax rate.

Under Florida law, the homestead exemption is only available to US citizens, permanent resident aliens, or others who are legally able to form the intent to remain permanently under immigration laws.”

And that’s a STATE law … not just where it is imposed by local municipal authorities, and it applies to residential properties owned by both permanent resident newcomers and outsider owners, even if they live in the property several months a year.

The Homestead provision has allowed MANY Florida residents to live in areas where HUGE rises in land values and taxes over the decades would have made it difficult and even impossible for them to hold on.

Nor has it stopped a SINGLE snowbird or northerner or investor from scooping up Florida homes and condos by the hundreds of thousands each year … despite the “extra” tax burden.

In addition, just TRY to let your home or condo in Florida deteriorate or show evidence of even MINOR violations of Municipal Bylaws and  an army of Inspectors, armed with their dreaded Red tags, are ready to descend on your unit and affix the tag, ORDERING any infraction  be fixed WITHIN  DAYS  … or else!  Not the several months or years it takes here. Fines are quite large and mount by the DAY  … forcing even reluctant owners to effect repairs ASAP or face property liens.

Why couldn’t a version of those carrots and sticks work in BC?????

A Vancouver or BC Homesteaders Bylaw or Act could be an updated and improved  version of the current Home Owner Grant … but with much greater value, since it would be offset by absentee owners paying substantially more.  And just as easily applied, with owners certifying their eligibility

It could help many British Columbians keep their homes and assist young people to buy them.

Too socialist?

Believe me, Florida is NO socialist society!

But not even the staunchest Republican candidates for any office … even Tea Party types … would EVER propose getting rid of the Homestead laws that benefit Floridians over “outsiders”.

An idea DEFINITELY worth examining … if politicians have the guts to stand up to the outsiders and the real estate lobby.

Harv Oberfeld

→ 50 CommentsTags: British Columbia