On Saturday, May 23, 2009, a rally was held in front of the A Channel studios next to the Downtown Nanaimo Library calling on the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to allow local stations like A Channel to charge cable companies such as Shaw Communications Inc for the right to carry their programming. At present, Shaw takes A Channel’s signal for free and sells it to their subscribers as part of their regular television packages. A Channel’s only revenue stream is advertising, and during the current recession, all forms of advertising are in sharp decline. This model is being repeated all across Canada and many local stations are threatened with closure as a result. Until now the CRTC has sided with the cable companies who say their subscription rates will go up if they have to pay for local programming. No doubt, but the price cable viewers are paying for their subscriptions is increasing steadily anyway. If local stations like A Channel are forced to close, there will be no reduction in your monthly cable bill, just a grievous loss of local content on your screen.
Shaw pays the foreign satellite networks for their signals but not the local TV stations in their own backyard. Is that fair? I’ve seen how A Channel (owned by CTV) operates having been interviewed by them several times and I know from personal experience that they are very interested in local issues. The Vancouver-based CBC is unable to cover events in Nanaimo and our city is seldom mentioned outside the weather reports. Shaw’s own local news coverage is in no way comparable with that of A Channel. I think this is an important issue for Nanaimo residents, and many community leaders and politicians were at the Saturday rally to show their support for local television.
First, these local channels are available via rabbit ears.
Second, the cable companies are required by the CRTC to include the local channels in their basic cable packages. The rates for basic cable are regulated by the CRTC.
Third, over-the-air stations are allowed to air about 12 minutes of commericials per hour; specialty channels can only air about 8 minutes per hour.
Four, there is very little local programming on these stations other than the suppertime and late evening news. Some stations do have the news at lunchtime. The A-Channel in Victoria missed airing the voting results on election night. Instead, it chose to air US programs.
There is nothing local about this campaign. It all comes from Toronto.