Trudeau/CRTC Allow Broadcasters to Shred the Critical Fabric of the Nation: Local TV News

It’s not what it used to be: the choice of stories that get covered are often irrelevant to many viewers; the caliber of research/journalism/writing has been diminished; and, because of the lack of experienced journalists now hired to do the job, the quality of questioning … or lack thereof … is often just an embarrassment.

Not the best way to counter the biggest dilemma facing television news in BC, across Canada, the US and, indeed, the world: instantly available Internet news sources; massive social media; and, easy availability of hundreds more TV channels from which to choose.

Although broadcasters in Canada hide their ratings from the public, I have no doubt local TV News viewership is down.

But, perhaps some of this has been done and/or allowed to happen quite deliberately?

Broadcasters … especially private corporately-owned and managed TV corporations … have been cutting back on their local news offerings for years now: cutting staff numbers; canceling news shows; hiring inexperienced, poor reporters/writers; and, slashing budgets …. making it all but impossible for those still surviving news operations to offer up any more than the bare basics.

And private radio stations, programming, staffs … and news coverage/reporting/questioning across the country … have also been slashed.

Saving the broadcast corporations billions of dollars … to sweeten their bottom lines, pump up share prices and reward shareholders.

And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his government and the CRTC have all fallen for it!

In fact, the Liberal government and the CRTC have facilitated the shredding of local TV news programs/reporting/staffing across the country for years now …. I believe, grievously hurting the fabric of our nation.

In February, Bell Canada Enterprises announced it would “sell 45 of its 103 radio stations and will end weekday noon newscasts on all CTV stations except in Toronto. It also announced cuts to weekend newscasts, evening programs and BNN Bloomberg daytime programming,” the Toronto Star reported.

Federal Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge noted at the time that, for years, federal governments had allowed BCE “to consolidate media and buy up local TV and radio assets in exchange for a commitment to maintain these services.”

“In the past decade, when acquisitions were allowed by these big companies, it came with a promise,” St-Onge said. “Today, they backed away from that promise,” the CBC reported.

But BCE is not alone in slashing for cash.

In February as well, the Globe and Mail reported TVA, owned by Quebecor, would be “laying off roughly one-third of its workforce …. slash 547 jobs, including 300 positions in in-house production, 98 operations positions and 149 positions in other departments.”

Last June, Canadian Press reported “BCE Inc. announced it would close or sell nine radio stations and slash six per cent of Bell Media‚Äôs workforce in response to unfavourable policy and regulatory conditions.”

In October, Rogers Communications announced to total closure of CityNews Ottawa radio station after the company, CP said, also “began offering voluntary departure packages to some employees in July as it worked to integrate with Shaw Communications Inc. after the closure of its $26-billion purchase of the carrier.”

And, also in October, Corus Entertainment revealed it had cut 15% of its workforce over the year.

The Trudeau government has “harumphed” about the cuts and closures but neither the feds nor the CRTC have done anything to stop them and preserve these important threads that weave together the communities that make up the fabric of our nation.

I submit that private broadcasters should be required to treat their news components as a REQUIRED appendage tied to their licences to operate other more profitable aspects of their operations: prime-time network programming; their dozens of specialty channels; wireless operations; telecommunications; and, even share ownerships of outside enterprises like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

Local TV and radio news …. NOT national news programs … is where MOST Canadians still turn every day to find out what’s happening in their cities, their region, their province … and, sometimes, even their neighbourhoods.

In Canada, a country stretching 7,560 kilometres across six time zones, it is utterly impossible … and even ridiculous … for Trudeau/Liberal government/CRTC and Canada’s broadcasters to even pretend that regional “inserts” or even a once-a-day one-hour newscast (covering local, regional, provincial, national, international news, weather, sports) serves the nation sufficiently.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre “has called on the prime minister to claw back some of his government’s federal grants to media companies,” CTV reported.

But there’s no sign so far of any ACTION proposed by either Trudeau or Poilievre to stop further deterioration/holes in Canada’s local news fabric.

And long-term, that will hurt Canadian communities and the very nature of our nation a lot more than some of the higher-profile issues now in the “news”.

Harv Oberfeld

(Follow @harveyoberfeld on “X” for FREE First Alerts to new postings on this Blog.)

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