Friday, February 23, 2024

CTV Cuts 4,800 Across Canada

CTV blames the federal government for the 4,800 cuts and the loss of noon hour and weekend news shows. They received $40 million from the federal government just last year. They cited uncertainty in the regulatory system. What they wanted was to get out of the news business for the network except for Toronto while holding onto their licenses across the country. To be clear, the company is reporting hundreds of millions of profit in the last quarter and an increase in dividend for the 20th straight year.

Last year, CTV gutted their evening news broadcast and cut reporters in London, Washington, Los Angeles and in Ottawa. In Winnipeg they shuttered AM radio station 1290 which was presenting comedy and titled Funny. It was ranked last in the ratings. No radio stations lost this time in Manitoba but 45 sold across the country. More on that later on.

Now, CTV isn't the only one making cuts. CBC and Global have also cut. Newspapers as well like Toronto Star. Postmedia too which includes Winnipeg's Sun newspaper. The cuts in Winnipeg are such that they don't send a reporter to cover the Jets or Bombers when they are out of town. Is it is no wonder teams hire their own reporters now?

Some critics are saying that Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 which try to get online companies like Facebook and Google to pay into a system that supports journalism are to blame. Google will pay $100 million and Facebook has opted out and blocked Canadian media. Assuming a new Conservative government ends these bills and dissolves the the CBC and allows CTV, Global and others to drop all news in favour of U.S. programming, what will we actually have in Canada? In all likelihood, no Canadian programming at all in news, sports, music, drama, comedy or weather. 

It is highly probable that the Canadian companies would ask to be sold to U.S. or international players since their argument is their is no economic basis for anything Canadian to exist. Is Canada economically not viable? In our quest to have products from all over the world in Canada including cultural, does this mean Canada really produce anything that Canadians and the rest of the world wouldn't like?

It should be pointed out that all over the world, digital giants are changing every cultural industry. Companies are merging over and over again, often to the detriment of workers, other industries and countries themselves. Monopolies have been broken up over the decades because by their very nature they are not competitive. In some cases they are anti-democratic. There likely would not have been an Internet as we know if AT&T had not been broken up.

CTV wants out of the news business. In two years they have cut nearly 10,000 workers. If capitalism can't be part of the grand bargain of providing a public service then government has no choice but to intervene. It goes back to the point above about whether there is a business case for Canada's very existence. And if there is, what is the consensus on that?

For the government, the question is how to support journalism without it becoming state journalism? If it is radio or TV, listen to or watch it. The advertisers will support it without you having to pay for it. If you can afford it, subscribe to a newspaper or magazine. The government can support directly or indirectly. Directly, by money to media or indirectly by tax supports to advertisers to buy ads locally.

Winnipeg is lucky in that it has one of the last large independent newspapers in the country in the Free Press. They have at least one reporter travel with the Jets and the Bombers which is now unusual in Canada. Sadly, they don't have an Ottawa-based journalist now. The Winnipeg Sun makes it a two newspaper town. The city has a digital news service with There are a number of ethnic newspapers. CJOB remains largely a news, sports and information station. CBC Radio and Television have fair sized newsrooms. CTV has quite a few reporters in Winnipeg although they no longer cover sports or have a national correspondent. Global and City have smaller units but do their part on covering the city. And let's not forget the APTN News team based in Winnipeg. The Athletic has a Winnipeg-based NHL reporter.

The podcasts from sports to news such as Illegal Curve, Hustler's Winnipeg Sportscast, The Great Canadian Talk Show are covering Winnipeg in detail. All of those reporters once worked in radio in Winnipeg. There are a few music podcasts as well. And Tik Tok has a few influencers out there who cover things in the city.

However, where do young people get their news? When it comes to local stuff, it seems probably Tik Tok. Or other social media such as Discord, Telegram, Instagram or many others. Those social media sites can be hit and miss and for those that do have news in them, they probably source it from other news gatherers and only do a little research themselves on it or express an opinion on it. While this is useful and interesting, it may put you in algorithm that reinforces that point of view.  It is hard to know what is true since deep fakes in music, politics seem to be first tested out on social media. And now AI has got everyone scared since it can cause outright harm equivalent to shouting fire in a crowded movie theatre.

CTV's cuts hurt when the level of talent, loss of regional and international correspondents and variety of areas journalists cover is taken into consideration. I like a number of choices for news and information. But how do we ensure Canadian voices get heard and how do you monetize it? Most of the industrialized nations have some form of public broadcasting support. Even NPR and PBS in the U.S. receive over a billion in direct federal support through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The support rises if the 100% tax-free savings donors get from their donations by the U.S. government is counted. Even Manitobans donating to Prairie Public (Manitoba) receive a tax deduction although many other jurisdictions of Canada have lost that ability. About 1/4 of Prairie Public's budget comes from Manitoba. 

The Conservatives under Pierre Poilievre have said they want to end the CBC. They haven't indicated if they support a PBS Canada model either. If they end all public support for CBC, for news of any kind, it is possible we see most if not all radio and TV collapse in Canada? In comparison to 20 other industrial countries, Canada ranks near the bottom for public broadcasting as well as cultural spending. Ending public broadcasting would put Canada below the U.S. is spending.
This could politically backfire for the Conservatives if Canadian media groups become absorbed by U.S. or international interests who might not want to spend money on hockey broadcasts or Canadian Olympic coverage. This isn't a wildly speculative thought. If Bell Media is angling to be sold outside of Canada decisions will be made outside of Canada. ABC/ESPN and Turner  do not cover as much of hockey as Canadian channels do. What happens when there are no Canadian channels? I can't imagine that would be too popular in Canada. 

Bell Media and CTV have to figure out how to turn things around. Becoming a pure play streaming company to escape Canadian regulation seems doubtful if even big companies like Paramount can't make money at it. Seems radio and TV and cable are more profitable by far. And Bell Media knows this because they keep increasing the dividend each year.

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