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  • The Importance of Local Television

    As Canadians, we have been lucky to have a television broadcasting system that is second to none anywhere in the world: more choice, more options, more channels. In recent weeks and months, there has been a great deal of discussion about the future of the industry, especially “local television.” The sad truth is that advertiser-supported mass media such as we’ve come to know it becoming a thing of the past, and without additional sources of revenue, there is a very good chance that these local channels will disappear. We live in unprecedented times.

    One misconception that I hear often is that channels like CTV Edmonton are no longer relevant in the era of internet and a 500 channel universe, but this simply is not true. A Decima Research Poll released today shows that more Canadians turned to their television for news than they did five years ago, with 52% saying they tune in the same amount and 27% indicating they watch more news on television than they did 5 years ago. It is a fact that the most-watched program in Edmonton is “CTV News at Six” with Daryl McIntrye and Carrie Doll - period. In fact, if you combine the audiences of CTV (142,000), Global (106,000), and CBC (6,800) there is more than a quarter of a million adult viewers watching a local newscast on a conventional television station everyday in this city. That’s a very large number. Think of this way – if you’ve ever shared the experience of being at a concert or a hockey game at Rexall Place with a full, screaming crowd, you’ll know how powerful that experience is. Now think in terms of our audiences for local television newscasts each night. Except it’s the equivalent of more than 15 sold out Rexall Places – all experiencing at the same time, the news of the day.

    The same Decima survey also suggests that 36% of respondents said they got more news from websites of established media outlets than they did 5 years ago. The reason is very simple. They trust brands like CTV News and as we offer our product on more and more platforms, consumers will continue to follow. For 55 years, this station and others like it have diligently chronicled the daily evolution of our city; the good, the bad, and at times, the very ugly.

    Let’s face it, the accurate reporting of news is critical - a news report can change the course of someone’s life, alter a business’s future, damage the career of a public official, or tell someone’s personal story at a tragic or touching time in their life. This is one of the reasons that this type of programming is so expensive to produce. It takes considerable experience and technical resources. The editorial and technical staff must deal with the daily pressure of reporting on events, often controversial or highly-emotional. The production process is complex. You must have footage. You must have sound. And it has to be balanced and factual. A demonstration can be shot to look large, small, violent, or peaceful depending on the photographer’s perspective. Our role is to capture it with the right balance. And then editors need to distill all of this into a consumable, understandable package. To coordinate this daily ritual of capturing, editing, writing and delivering a smooth news broadcast each day takes a great deal of expertise and experience.

    At CTV Edmonton we have 33 staff members who deal directly with the editorial and news gathering component of our operation. They have a combined 334 years of experience covering the news in this city alone! And the 8 Full Time ENG shooters have 128 collective years of recording the audio/visual history of this region in a balanced and fair manner. This editorial group understands the issues, understands the history behind the issues, and as a result of their daily work, so do most Edmontonians.

    Another thing I’ve learned from my 28 year career in local television, regardless of the city I have lived in, (Red Deer, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Calgary and now Edmonton), is that local television provides a phenomenal level of community service. I personally have had the privilege of serving as Chair of the United Way Campaign in Central Alberta (1997) and currently serve on the General Campaign Cabinet in Edmonton as a Director at Large. I am a member of the Edmonton Mayor’s Task Force on Community Safety, and serve proudly on the Foundation Board of Red Deer College and the CTV Good Neighbour Fund. The staff and managers I work with contribute in a similar fashion. Our anchors and reporters volunteer countless hours as well, helping to promote and MC events throughout our broadcast region. We contribute well in excess of $2.5 million annually in free advertising to help these groups achieve their fund-raising goals. To every one of these events, we bring cameras and we bring a mass audience, and use this medium to help our community work together, to be stronger and healthier. To lose a valued resource like this in a local community would be devastating.

    So, what is the problem? In Canada, local television has only one form of revenue– advertising. As audiences shift and evolve with an abundance of new technologies and choice, advertising dollars have shifted as well. This migration of advertising revenue has been taking place for a long time, but has reached a critical point in recent years. Also in Canada, we have higher regulatory expectations than other countries. This increases the costs associated with producing our product, and, at the same time, we lack the legal protections that exist in the rest of the western world.

    For instance, our local signals continue to be supplied for free to cable and satellite providers, who in turn package them and sell them to consumers. One particular damaging practice is the selling of a “time-shifting” package, where for an extra monthly fee your provider gives you the ability to watch local stations from across Canada. While popular with viewers, the reality is that significant audience flows away from CTV Edmonton to watch the same program on a CTV station from a different time zone. Other countries do not allow this because of the damage and confusion it creates. CTV Edmonton loses significant audience during the prime time hours as a result of this. It contributes directly to a decrease in revenue for this station. We do not authorize this practice, nor are we compensated for it. While the CRTC has asked the industry to negotiate with cable and satellite companies for compensation, these negotiations have been unsuccessful.

    Local stations like CTV Edmonton do not receive any compensation from cable and satellite companies. We believe the time has come that local television must share in this pool, just as all other channels on your cable and satellite systems do.

    Naturally, cable and satellite companies do not like this idea, and have said they will pass any costs associated with fee for carriage directly to consumers. Our industry believes there is enough money already collected from consumers, and the role of the CRTC in this must be to help rebalance the revenue structures within these two regulated industries. .Cable and satellite companies have become very powerful forces in recent years. These industries had combined profits last year that were in excess of $1.8 billion. By contrast, profits of conventional television during the same period were $6 million. It’s worth noting that these profits were recorded before the recession, and this year it is safe to say that conventional television is no longer profitable, and without profit, business does not exist.

    It appears that our industry is being heard. This past Thursday, the CRTC issued a release saying they will “…. work with the industry to find a systemic and structural solution to the challenges facing conventional broadcasters…”. A follow-up proceeding will be launched this summer, and will culminate in a public hearing in the fall. The scope of the proceeding will include, among other things “…a way of providing revenue support for the conventional television stations by: investigating alternative support mechanisms for local programming; protecting the integrity of Canadian broadcaster signals; and exploring a mechanism for establishing, through negotiation, the fair market value for the signals of conventional television stations distributed by cable and satellite companies”.

    If you are concerned about the future of local television, you should contact your Member of Parliament and/or send a note to the Minister of Heritage, James Moore. You can find all of the necessary links at www.ctvedmonton.ca. Simply click on the “SaveLocal” link. Also, please bring your family and join us this Saturday, May 23rd at CTV for an open house between the hours of 9 AM and 2 PM. Meet our on air staff and learn about local news, and increase your overall understanding of an industry that contributes immensely to the greater good of our community.

    -- Lloyd Lewis
    Vice President and General Manager
    CTV Edmonton and Access Television

  • #2
    ^I am very skeptical about this industry-lead lobbying initiative. Although I am all for saving our local CTV station, I think this is more of a media ploy than anything, since Bell Globemedia owns CTV, and has their own brand of satellite service. Isn't this hypocritical?
    Last edited by GreenSPACE; 21-05-2009, 10:01 AM. Reason: spelling
    www.decl.org

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    • #3
      Make all news objective and factually accurate, stop with the FUD, get better programs, and put it all in HD. I'm not going to go out of my way to save something that does little for me.
      "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" - Blaise Pascal

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      • #4
        What's tv? Ooooh I'll look it up on the internet!

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        • #5
          Give me David Gerow and CBC news @ 6 and I'll be happy.

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          • #6
            TV

            not sure where everybody gets their info from on the web but the factual stuff is usually provided by journalists and news organizations and then scalped by bloggers... if you want opinion then the web is great but for news and information our society still relies on TV, radio and print for facts.
            i certainly believed the internet is the dominant medium but it has its flaws and needs regulation... like other media...

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            • #7
              Originally posted by GreenSPACE View Post
              ^I am very skeptical about this industry-lead lobbying initiative. Although I am all for saving our local CTV station, I think this is more of a media ploy than anything, since Bell Globemedia owns CTV, and has their own brand of satellite service. Isn't this hypocritical?
              Even if they own both, what is to stop them shutting down local TV stations they own? If it doesn't provide enough revenue through advertising to cover the costs, it serves no purpose for the business model.

              The model needs to change - with the impact of PVR's (TELUS are giving me a free one), something has to be done, or before we know it, there will be no local TV.

              PS. No I can't just live on cbc Edmonton - I don't like it / find it amature looking. CTV and Global both add a lot to our community IMO, it's good to have the competition between them.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by 6foothotdog View Post
                not sure where everybody gets their info from on the web but the factual stuff is usually provided by journalists and news organizations and then scalped by bloggers... if you want opinion then the web is great but for news and information our society still relies on TV, radio and print for facts.
                i certainly believed the internet is the dominant medium but it has its flaws and needs regulation... like other media...
                Actually, it generally goes the other way. The news affiliate services will touch on a story but the blogosphere is where people can find the 'meat' of the stories including more current facts or rumours.

                "The same Decima survey also suggests that 36% of respondents said they got more news from websites of established media outlets than they did 5 years ago. The reason is very simple. They trust brands like CTV News and as we offer our product on more and more platforms, consumers will continue to follow. For 55 years, this station and others like it have diligently chronicled the daily evolution of our city; the good, the bad, and at times, the very ugly."

                The only reason people turn to the mainstream sites is because many people head to google news or a similar home page news front. Look at google results for news and they don't even include any independent news sites anymore. It leads to all commercial outlets like ctv, canoe, canada.com (global), and cbc.

                Google is culling people to have to resort to using mainstream sites. The news is no different than anything else picked up elsewhere, so really, they're just regurgitating the same crap over and over.

                I like CFRN. I don't like CTV however. Too biased, not informative enough and completely useless. I can pick out 10 other sites where I can get the same information without the extra added 'spin'.

                CFRN is local and should be rescued, but not through this massive campaign where you guys are basically fighting your own head company.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The importance of local television

                  I don't think that anyone is disputing the need for local television. However, there are some points that I would like you to address.

                  You state that the only source of revenue you have open is advertising. I would imagine that being broadcast on cable and satellite has helped this over the many years they have been an option. If you were to go to an advertiser and state that you are in 1000 homes (or some equally bizarre number) that you broadcast to over the public airwaves, you wouldn't sell much ad space. The cable and satellite universe has helped your advertising in that time.

                  If the cable and satellite providers were to drop you from their line-ups entirely, you would receive a lot less in advertising revenue. It would probably drive you to bankruptcy. There may be a large enough cry from the general public to start broadcasting you again, but then the people would be the ones that would really have to take up your cause - not because you told them to - but because they felt they were losing something of value.

                  You mention time shifting as something that has taken away from your bottom line as fewer people are watching your shows as they can watch them earlier. I can honestly say that I time shift as your programming is not being broadcast in HD. I do watch the evening news with Carrie and Daryl each night, but when viewing a non-hd show on an hd tv, it gets very difficult to watch. As soon as the news is over, I switch to the hd channels and enjoy the television I own.

                  Prior to hd, I time shifted during the Superbowl to watch the US commercials. This also brings up another very annoying piece that you, the local stations, were responsible for. It seems that according to the CRTC, if a show is being broadcast on a local station and a cable station at the same time, the local station could impose its broadcast signal on the cable channel, giving the local station two channels on the dial for that time period. This was to prevent the local station from losing viewer to the US ads on the US station. This has caused huge issues as the shows seem to start at slightly different times making viewers view the start of a program twice, miss the ending of a show when the change-back happens at the end of the time period, or missing the start of the next show when the previous show goes long. Somehow, we have had to put up with that annoying bit of crud, and now you ask for our help to get you more money.

                  Could you speak to those points as opposed to giving us stats from a Decima poll. As it has been said, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Tell us how you are going to provide us with a quality product and maybe we will listen to your plea.

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                  • #10
                    My problem with local television is that beyond the news and some commercials, there really isn't any local content. There are plenty of events occuring in this city that could make for an interesting 'live' show of some type that are regularly reduced to 30 second news bites.

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                    • #11
                      Local programs (other than news) probably don't attract as much advertising dollars as your typical news bulletins. Hence why they are either not made by the local broadcasters anymore (Profitline, Wired, Alberta This Week), or they are farmed out to independent producers (Cowboy TV, Energy TV).

                      But maybe this campaign could encourage local broadcasters to not only maintain or increase local news coverage, but expand their slate of local programming outside the morning/noon/6pm/11pm timeslots.

                      I think this whole problem could have been largely avoided a long time ago if the CRTC did not allow cable or satellite companies to carry US conventional television stations (I am talking about ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX - not CNN, A&E, Spike TV, etc). I can't think of any other country where it allows its own conventional TV stations to compete for eyeballs with foreign conventional TV stations. I think the removal of these channels on our cable lineup could also be a carrot for CTV and Global, on the condition that they make HD broadcasting of their networks available to a certain percentage of the viewing public.
                      Last edited by ED1; 22-05-2009, 11:21 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Good morning - thanks for all of the comments – here are some answers.

                        Q: "You state that the only source of revenue you have open is advertising. I would imagine that being broadcast on cable and satellite has helped this over the many years they have been an option. If you were to go to an advertiser and state that you are in 1000 homes (or some equally bizarre number) that you broadcast to over the public airwaves, you wouldn't sell much ad space. The cable and satellite universe has helped your advertising in that time.

                        A: If you go back in history, the introduction of cable, and then DTH satellite actually eroded audiences for local tv stations by introducing competition that did not exist prior to that. Everyone will agree that the diverse programming that was suddenly available was in most cases quite welcome, but nonetheless, from an industry perspective, this started the fragmentation of audiences that over time has contributed to the challenges we face today. BDU's are required to give priority to the carriage to Canadian Services, and in particular local Canadian stations, as they should These stations employ Canadians, contribute to the well-being of our economy and our community. Distant signal do not. It's worth noting that in the early days of cable, a low position on the cable dial held far more value than it does today where viewers regularly move throughout the channels.

                        Yes, being on cable and satellite is critical to conventional stations, just as it is to other Canadian specialty services. Few people receive OTA (over the air) stations like ours via rabbit ears anymore. But to be clear, cable and DTH did create significant fragmentation of audiences and the regulatory model that was built around one revenue source: mass advertising, began to change - back in the 70's..

                        Q: CFRN is local and should be rescued, but not through this massive campaign where you guys are basically fighting your own head company.

                        A: I assume you are referring to Bell, which is a minority shareholder of CTV Globemedia (15%). This is not a fight with Bell any more than it is with any company that distributes our local signals.

                        Q: You mention time shifting as something that has taken away from your bottom line as fewer people are watching your shows as they can watch them earlier. I can honestly say that I time shift as your programming is not being broadcast in HD. I do watch the evening news with Carrie and Daryl each night, but when viewing a non-hd show on an hd tv, it gets very difficult to watch. As soon as the news is over, I switch to the hd channels and enjoy the television I own.

                        A: I completely understand this, and CAN’T WAIT until we broadcast in HD. As you know, the industry is required to make the switch to digital (DH) by August of 2011, but some markets are already changing, in CTV's case, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. Edmonton will begin broadcasting in HD well before the 2011 deadline. One of the challenges that we face though is the overall conversion of the 14 transmitters that we have throughout Northern Alberta region. And this is just in Northern Alberta. We have hundreds of these transmitters across Canada, most built in the 1950's. The costs to convert these transmitters are astronomical, and given what is a limited audience, there is no "business case" for this. At recent CRTC hearings, we proposed a hybrid solution that would see us convert transmitters in the most populated areas. This would reduce the affected audience to approximately 1% who would still not receive us OTA. The CRTC has suggested this would NOT be favourable in their view. I'm not sure any business would invest significant capital to reach 1% of their audience. In a regulated industry like broadcasting, we have to take this into consideration when we appear next year before the CRTC to apply for what will be a 7 year license term. This is a terrific example of the challenges we need to find better solutions for before any company will consider OTA television as a viable industry to be involved it. Hopefully we'll find industry solutions that work for today.

                        Q: Prior to hd, I time shifted during the Superbowl to watch the US commercials. This also brings up another very annoying piece that you, the local stations, were responsible for. It seems that according to the CRTC, if a show is being broadcast on a local station and a cable station at the same time, the local station could impose its broadcast signal on the cable channel, giving the local station two channels on the dial for that time period. This was to prevent the local station from losing viewer to the US ads on the US station. This has caused huge issues as the shows seem to start at slightly different times making viewers view the start of a program twice, miss the ending of a show when the change-back happens at the end of the time period, or missing the start of the next show when the previous show goes long. Somehow, we have had to put up with that annoying bit of crud, and now you ask for our help to get you more money.


                        A: Companies like CTV have to purchase the rights to the programs we broadcast (with some broad exceptions such as local news, which we own) from the companies that produce and own the copyrights to these programs or series. These rights, when negotiated are generally "exclusive" to the buyer, and to a specific region, in this case, Canada. As part of this regulated environment we are in, cable companies are obligated to protect us as the rights-holder by ensuring that our broadcast is truly exclusive, just like we’ve paid for. The system they use is called a “Simulcast”, whereby the local station is placed overtop of the foreign signal when we broadcast a show that we’ve bought the rights to, at the same time.


                        We believe that the rights should be protected regardless of whether or not we run a program at the same time as an American originating station. If we post-release a program, there are probably 5 or 6 different foreign channels you can watch the show on, prior to our broadcast, rendering our broadcast virtually worthless. Non-simultaneous protection of our rights would allow us to far better program our stations because we would not have to always line up with the US broadcast in order to simply enjoy the benefits of the exclusive rights we have paid for. You cannot ignore the rights of the rights holder as much as it is an inconvenience to protect them. The system for cutting in and out of simulcasts can be clunky, especially if a program is live, and happens to go overtime. I appreciate that this is very confusing and at times frustrating to viewers, but it is a key part of the overall system. Without the protection that simulcasts provide, we lose massive audience to the broadcast we own the rights to, to an American Network that sold them to us in the first place. And the beneficiary is the cable company. So, we have simulcast – it’s the only mechanism that’s available.

                        It is very important to remember that the profits earned from the advertising we sell into the most popular shows on Canadian Television (like the Superbowl or CSI or Lost) fund everything else. As mass-advertising has fragmented, the profits earned from these top shows has declined and this trickle down effect puts pressure on all of the programming that those profits traditionally support – namely Canadian Content and local news.

                        By regulation, 60% of our overall programming must qualify as Canadian content. And traditionally, this programming is not profitable because of the high costs associated with making it, combined with the relatively small audience available in Canada from which we generate advertising revenue. Now, in Canada there are funds that help Independent production companies produce Canadian programming, because it is generally not a profitable business on its own. We as broadcasters, along with cable and satellite providers, and various levels of government through tax credits, contribute funding to help subsidize the production of these shows. As broadcasters, we also pay the Producers for the rights to broadcast these programs, and unfortunately, the overall investment does not generate profit.

                        It is important to understand that certain parts of our overall schedule make profit and certain parts don't. The profitable shows have always offset the losses of the non-profitable shows, and at the end of the year, there is profit left over for shareholders and owners, just like any other private enterprise. What has happened over the past number of years is that the profits from the best shows are no longer sufficient to cover the losses that occur to produce un-profitable shows like local news. This is why we say the system is broken. The concept that as broadcasters, we can only earn revenue through the sale of advertising, was developed in the '50's, and has not changed.

                        Speaking of "time-shifting" for a moment, CTV in Edmonton loses 36% of its audience to the viewing of the same programs on CTV stations originating in other time zones. This is a huge number, and dramatically impacts our bottom line. If someone was taking your product (TV stations) and then selling that product to 36% of your customers (viewers), without any right do so, or compensation, you would eventually have to take some type of action.

                        Consider that if you have a product that is successful (viewing of local news has remained consistent for many years), but you can no longer sufficiently monetize the success due to some of the factors I’ve presented, ie, an outdated regulatory model built in the days of only 2 or 3 OTA channels and no cable or DTH, then the business that produces the product will have no choice but to quit making it. This is a huge area of concern to the OTA TV industry. The CRTC has asked us to negotiate with cable and satellite for compensation, but negotiations have not been successful.


                        In my view, the demise of local television is a very real possibility, and it would have fundamental negative consequences. Local TV is the most powerful mass communication device ever invented. While evolving and changing, it has a powerful voice in local communities and should not have to rely solely on the proceeds of an advertising market that for years has been changing dramatically from the days this concept was first created.

                        I hope all of you might take the time to come to the station tomorrow on Stony Plain Road (184 St) between 9 and 2 PM and see the resources required to produce local news programming, meet the people who work here and learn more about this industry ...

                        Thanks for taking the time to read my comments and contribute to this discussion.

                        Best regards,
                        Lloyd Lewis,
                        VP/GM, CTV Edmonton / Access Television

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          On this item ...
                          " ...My problem with local television is that beyond the news and some commercials, there really isn't any local content. There are plenty of events occuring in this city that could make for an interesting 'live' show of some type that are regularly reduced to 30 second news bites...."

                          Good point, and same arguments hold true. Local programming is very expensive, and outside of general news programming, most local shows touch a niche audience and the advertising revenue that can be made from teh broadcast of the show comes no where near the costs associated with producing it.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            [QUOTE=ED1;193110]I think this whole problem could have been largely avoided a long time ago if the CRTC did not allow cable or satellite companies to carry US conventional television stations (I am talking about ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX - not CNN, A&E, Spike TV, etc). I can't think of any other country where it allows its own conventional TV stations to compete for eyeballs with foreign conventional TV stations. I think the removal of these channels on our cable lineup could also be a carrot for CTV and Global,QUOTE]

                            What was the CRTC's reasoning for allowing American channels like ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX to be broadcast in Canada? I don't really see the benefit. We don't need to see American local news. And the rest of the programming (CSI, Law & Order, etc., etc.) can be bought by CTV and Global. CTV and Global can then put the profits into local news and other Canadian shows. When I've travelled to the U.S., I don't recall ever seeing a Canadian channel being broadcast. And the U.S. already dominates Canadian movie theatres, so why let them broadcast directly into Canada and right into our living rooms? And if we didn't have the American channels up here, we wouldn't need to do those annoying simulcasts that clip off the ending or beginning of shows. Everybody could just watch Canadian channels and prop up the Canadian economy more. And maybe if we got rid of those American channels the cable companies would have room for more smaller market local TV stations.

                            And why is my cable bill so expensive? I pay them all that money but if I phone up Shaw I'm on hold forever or they say I can leave my number and they'll phone me back sometime in the next few hours. What if I'm not home in the next few hours? Shaw definitely needs to improve it's customer service.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Thanks Lloyd for taking the time to respond to those of us who posed questions and comments. At least you are willing to discuss the issues and work to find a solution we are all happy with.

                              I suppose you are fervently hoping that hulu doesn't get to Canada anytime soon.

                              Comment

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