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CRTC Must BEWARE of a Shaw Trojan Horse

September 29th, 2014 · 16 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

(Response: This issue was discussed on the Jim Goddard report on Talk Digital Radio here to listen.)

Tags: British Columbia · Media · National

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 r // Sep 29, 2014 at 10:08 am

    reduced to the lowest they can legally go?
    death by 1000 newspaper cuts.

    1k+ for some FOI requests.
    news with ad banners
    intern reporters.
    robo cameras.
    save CBC!

  • 2 D.M. Johnston // Sep 29, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least. personally I find the Shaw organization very distasteful indeed.

    What is interesting that the original owners of Delta cable had such contempt for Shaw that made it all but impossible for Shaw to buy the independent cable network in Delta.

    I’m with R – save the CBC!

  • 3 Barry // Sep 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Slightly off topic.

    The practice of substituting Canadian commercials for US commercials brings in lots of revenue. However what kind of “Canadian” TV industry do we have today? Copies of US shows like ET or crappy reality shows. Aside from the CBC and some other isolated examples, not much.

    I’d love to see the CRTC bring the hammer down. Time to say that this practice is going to tied directly to the amount of revenues spent on Canadian programming, and if a station doesn’t come up snuff, then the practice is stopped for that station until it complies.

    But that would require a commission with the gonads to tell Shaw et all these are the public airwaves, to be used for public good and not your private piggy bank.

  • 4 e.a.f. // Sep 29, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I agree with this post! Shaw is something to be beware of. Of course Shaw is several steps ahead of the CRTC. They’re like magicians. They show you one thing with one hand and then surprise, its the other thing all along.

    What ought to be of some concern is, should Shaw sell their business to off shore interests, who have no interest in providing real news to Canadians, just their views of how the world should be.

    Shaw should be denied their application. They’re a cable company, internet company, telephone company. Now a news station 24/7, ya right. The world according to Shaw.

    We don’t need more 24/7 news stations, most just repeat the same stuff over and over and over. Put some money into CBC news and lets find out what is really going on in our country and the world.

    (Response: I wouldn’t deny the application: more news stations are good …as long as it isn’t a trick to push their news onto a “siding” where it can rot and increase their US program load, advertising, on their main stations. h.o.)

  • 5 morry // Sep 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Seems this is more like a posse riding to Ottawa to lasso themselves a way to merger everything News into one corral.

  • 6 Rasterman // Sep 29, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    We need more information on what those crazy celebrities and Royals are doing and what about those Pandas how are they doing? There are no news stations anymore. BCTV was the last of them.
    To quote a colleague when asked if she missed working in TV news? She missed when she was working in it. Its not about the young inexperienced reporters as much as it the lazy and willing to settle for less managers in broadcasting. They should demand more from their newsrooms but don’t support good journalism because it’s hard work!
    They understand mediocrity very well and it helps Friday come just that much sooner. They don’t even watch their own shows. When the 5 o’clock whistle blows they’re out the door.

    (Response: I don’t agree that most newsroom managers are lazy or just willing to accept less. Yes, some may be tired and old and just taking the money without fighting anymore; but others are young enough and motivated enough to still have a lot of drive. But they can only work with what they’re given .. in terms of staffing and resources. The BIG problem is at News HQ … likely back East, where the bosses think viewers will accept police blotter blather and lots of fluff, which is cheaper to do than investigative work or seriously researched issues … and have accordingly set the parameters designed to fill the new “mandate”. And when the viewers tune out …the bosses blame the fractured market, internet etc … even though news shows that still provide quality are not losing viewers. h.o)

  • 7 L.J.M // Sep 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I don’t trust Shaw at all!!
    Had a mass exit of news room staff in Edmonton a few months ago. Think they saw the writing on the wall.
    I had 4 timeshift channels for years. Came home one day and they were no longer available. Called Shaw to find out why. Customer Service Rep told me that I had those channels for all the years that I did for FREE!! Shaw does not give anything away for FREE!! If I want those channels back they want to charge me $5.00 more per month.
    Why do I stay with Shaw? It’s the devil you know.

    (Response: I have no problem that they are running a business and I pay for timeshift channels myself. But they should not be allowed at the CRTC to separate their two worlds: news and general programming. They go hand in hand: news may not make as much money as dramas or reality shows (although I’d bet the Newshour makes millions!) but they must not be allowed to abdicate their responsibility to provide QUALITY news programming on their main channels and just milk our airwaves for $$ by putting up more US programming. h.o)

  • 8 John's Aghast // Sep 29, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Speaking of ‘News’, any idea what’s happening with the Mt. Polley cleanup? Or what’s happening with Chrispy’s Mission to India?

  • 9 13 // Sep 29, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    At some point you have to ask is the old car worth keeping. The shaw group has all but decimated the news programs. If shaw does what you predict and uses the 24 to ditch the local news hour and the rest of the news as it is what have we lost. Would the end of the news hour not give CTV a better stronger product. OR if you think the crtc can make shaw promise to keep local news outlets functioning why not ask the crtc to make shaw bring the quality news shows back.

    (Response: Competition is best…keeps them on their toes. The CRTC can order things like the number of hours of Canadian content or news …but quality is VERY subjective. And the brass could/would probably argue more people WANT to see police blotter crud than serious news stories on issues or politics etc. In fact, I have found the most popular local news in the US is what I would call the worst …LOTS of crime and fluff … but then I have also noticed how DUMB most of those who watch that are when it comes to local, state or American issues … let alone anything going on elsewhere in the world, except where the US has troops. But I believe its the RESPONSIBILITY of station/network owners to give us quality news …in return for the BILLIONS they take in from tv the rest of the time. h.o)

  • 10 Marge // Sep 30, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Not sure where to post this but it shows just how “charitable” CKNW actually is with its Orphan funding – an article well worth reading.

    (Response: Fascinating read. Glad Norm is keeping it real by watching/exposing what’s going on in the media: too precious few are doing that these days. h.o)

  • 11 Clarence // Sep 30, 2014 at 8:25 am

    You know what concerns me the most with all this deterioration in news quality is the effect it has on the public. Those of us who know to follow the money and have a grasp of power are being starved of information. Those who are younger or uninitiated are left with a rosy view of the society they live in and its institutions. Even though BC is larger than it has ever been – with more money, people and activity than ever before it SEEMS less controversial. I think mainly because of the fact those in the newsrooms aren’t digging (or allowed to dig) and the aversion about controversy more people these days seems to have. Controversy – created, reported on, or uncovered by local news is what has allowed so much to improve over the last decades.

    If it were up to me, quality controversy would be demanded by the public and understood by news directors as what people are really tuning in for. We all need it so we can together improve our lot and ensure those in power know that there is little point in trying to PR spin their activities and think they can get away with it. Theses people spent years building up defences against quality reporting so these days it is easy sailing. This isn’t the time to ease off on journalistic rigor.

    (Response: The lack of digging is more and more discernible in what we are getting. Funny thing is …when stations DO give us investigative stuff, it’s often riveting, important and well received. I believe THAT’S how you get loyal followers and higher ratings. But, of course, to do that kind of reporting, you require reporters who have good ideas to pursue, CAN do it and then they must be given the time and resources to go after the story or stories. h.o)

  • 12 BMCQ // Sep 30, 2014 at 9:12 am


    I have not been here long and quite frankly you have had me “Lighting My Hair On Fire” a time or two!!!!

    I must admit however you have provided H.O. and his faithful Bloggers some very interesting Food for Thought with the piece I just quickly read.

    After reading the Orphans Fund Piece I am once again “Lighting My Hair On Fire”!!!!! This time in concern for what the piece shows us how CKNW/Corus Administer the Fund!

    Absolutely incredible that NW/Corus Management would do what I think they have done, using Administration Fees that quite frankly appear to be totally unsupportable/justified for managing the Orphans ?Fund!!

    Without a closer read one could conclude that they are taking money right out of the hands of “The Children”” WOW!!

    Later today I will read in more detail but I am not optimistic that it will get any better. As a matter of fact I am expecting to be even more concerned with the move by Corus.

    Thank you to both you and Norm, whoever he is.

    It may be quite some time before I thank you/compliment you here so enjoy it while you can!!!

    Thanks again!

    (Response: Highly recommend Norm’s blog, Northern Lights. By the way, if CKNW has different information on the topic, would be happy to publish it here. h.o)

  • 13 rasterman // Oct 1, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Shaw protested vehemently when forced to pay into a Production Fund for Canadian Productions.
    We as consumers were charged that industry fee on our monthly bills. They simply aren’t good corporate citizens.

    (Response: That makes me even more suspicious of their motives! h.o)

  • 14 Crankypants // Oct 3, 2014 at 1:58 am

    It is hard to say what Shaw’s endgame is but I have noticed that BC1 seems to have cut back on original programing. Normally at 1am they broadcast BC1 News but now seem to be re-running the 6pm Global newscast. Scanning forward on the guide one will only get replays of Global National or the news hour final until the morning news takes over.

    Was the idea to create BC1 a mistake or is it still trying to see what is a viable concept? Only time will tell.

  • 15 Ara Hepburn // Oct 4, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Another excellent article as usual. We too think Shaw’s motive are highly suspect.
    They donate heavily to Harper so it would seem to be propaganda tv and the bottom line.
    Everyone has noticed the long expensive ads that CAPP is running on Shaw networks? That will ensure media bias as Shaw won’t bite the hand….. Notice how they are not reporting that Mt Polley is still leaking tailings pond material?
    And what’s with the horrible new red-haired girl with the screechy voice and hideous laugh… very grating and off putting. Very easy to change the channel to avoid the voice pollution. Just because you ‘want’ to work in tv doesn’t mean you are qualified. A decent voice is one of the requirements. I am sure she is a nice woman… she just isn’t ‘voice’ material. Being ‘new’ she is cheap labour cost.

    (Response: I actually hope I’m wrong and that Shaw’s proposal would be a true expansion of news programming. But seeing what they’ve done to Global News in Vancouver, I’m skeptical. So I have forwarded a copy of my blog to the CRTC so they cannot ever say there were not made aware of the Trojan Horse before them. if or when Shaw comes back with the strategy I’ve outlined. h.o)

  • 16 Larry Bennnett // Oct 4, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    The latest chestnut from the solons at cityhall, states that e-cigarettes are to be treated with the same disdain that is held for cigarettes (tobacco), and that they duly expect the parks board and SkyTrain to follow their dictats. But it seems to me that these devises are meant to help those who are addicted to tobacco, …quit. Now I am not saying that this is not in need of study, but they are new to the scene, and I have yet to hear city hall comment on the perceived evils of marijuana or cocaine smoking that occurs in practically every alley in the Downtown area. In fact, at the annual smoke-in at ye olde courthouse, the police keep a low profile, and indeed, do nothing – even when it was illegal.

    (Response: I suspect that if regular cigarette, cigar and pipe smokers ever held a smoke-in a park or public plaza, Vision would have bylaw enforcement officers there writing up tickets for all who showed up. In fact, maybe some intrepid working reporter ..who doesn’t mind waiting five months for a response … should ask City Hall how many smoking bylaw infractions have been issued …and have ANY of them been for toking up a dooby? h.o)