What a Fool Gets Suckered Into

It has recently come to the attention of many, through ads being aired on CTV, CBC and Global television stations, that local TV is under threat by cable companies.

Why? Because the cable companies won’t give them money. How horrible.

Their solution? Have the government force the cable companies to pay them and regulate cable rates. Funny how that works, they want more money for them and more regulation for the cable companies.

These companies are treating this like a grassroots campaign, which it isn’t. “Save Local TV” they call it, and the question remains: Why does local TV need saving and what does that have to do with CTV, CBC and Global?

CTV is the only local station we have in Sudbury, which is pretty pathetic. Only 10 per cent of CTV content can be defined as local, and that is the two and a half hours of local news we get each day, and we share our local news with all of Northern Ontario. In comparison Toronto has three local stations (actually seven but only three seem to be participating in this campaign), and those three broadcast only eight per cent local content, all of which is news.

There is also the issue with the amount of local news that is actually local. According to a recent unscientific study by one guy watching his local newscast, the local news has only 32 per cent local news.

What these stations are broadcasting that isn’t “local” is national content, most of which is streamed in from the United States (with the exception of CBC which broadcast almost entirely Canadian content). Kind of a loose definition of “local” isn’t it?

So the idea of local TV being threatened is really kind of an odd thought especially considering these stations are barely local, all they really have to make them local is news and TV Bingo. Not that news isn’t important, however in the absence of TV news, radio and print will fill the void, and we will still have the national newscast.

Their argument is people already pay for local stations as part of their cable package, only the cable companies don’t give these stations the money. That seems to be bullshit as there is no reason they shouldn’t be paid by the cable company right? Except everyone in the area has free access to those same channels over the air. It’s not HD or anything but considering the only issue is local content which isn’t that impressive in terms of quality (in terms of the actual video, not production value), so who really cares?

CTV, CBC and Global need to realize, their main audience is not watching on cable (I suspect, I am not sure about this), primarily because of all the speciality channels. If you are watching local news there is a good chance you are watching it on air, which you get for free just by having a TV. Cable customers aren’t paying for local stations, they’re paying for cable exclusives like 24-hour news, speciality channels, and American channels.

This feels like nothing more than a cash grab.

However according to this campaign message, the cable companies say they can pay the local stations this money, however they will pass the extra cost onto the consumer. I suggest they do that and see how many people stick with cable. They have competition now in satellite, and the Internet, both can easily replace the cable companies.

Another alternative, those stations should simply cut off the cable companies and see how many people complain. I think few will. They can still get their local stations, only they will have to switch to their antenna every time they do, and they will have little reason to.

Local stations are saying they are having trouble making ends meet with ad revenue, and without the fees from the cable companies, they will have to shut down stations. Well that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering they have been doing pretty good so far and have waited so long to do something about it. What’s changed? Plus, the three stations owned by Rogers seem to be doing just fine. However that could be because Rogers is also a cable company and is therefore evil. Also, what about the CBC? They get most of their money from the government, why are they in trouble? It makes no sense.

I guess what I am trying to get at is, if there is a problem, the free market will deal with it. Government intervention is only necessary in cases of antitrust and fraud, and cable doesn’t fall under that category. If they are really having financial problems perhaps they should look into new business models instead of forcing other companies to give them money. Perhaps they can look into receiving ad revenue from online sources. I download a TV show for free from their website with ads and they get revenue from those advertisers, and no your current online solution doesn’t count because it sucks.

I don’t have cable. I watch so little TV I have no need, it just isn’t worth the money. If the cable companies are suddenly required to pay television stations, will I need to as well? I doubt it, but it’s an interesting thought. Why give it away for free to some and not others?

Finally, I have this theory regarding troubled yet necessary industries, specifically journalism. I think we will reach a point where professional journalism just disappears. Suddenly the public sees a world without full-time professional journalists and they realize how important journalism is. New demand sees a sudden resurgence and a larger, more stable market. This theory could apply to local newscasts as well if they are really necessary, but I don’t think they are.

If someone can explain why the government needs to intervene in this issue, then by all means explain it to me because CTV, CBC and Global have been doing a very lousy job.


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