Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Casualty In The Local TV Wars

Turns out those ads saying Local TV was in deep trouble are coming true.
The first casualty in the Local TV Wars is Citytv's CityNews at 5, an early bird version of the suppertime news.
It was cancelled by the new owner of Citytv, Rogers Media Television.
And veteran anchor Anne Mroczkowski and at least 60 other news staffers across the Citytv weblet were hastily pink slipped.
Gone is the highly respected senior producer Michael Robins who put CP24 on the air.
Also gone: excellent veteran producer Bob Lawlor who headed Breakfast Television.
Citytv is shutting down completely its newcasts at Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton stations.
But didn't Rogers obtain these licenses from the CRTC with the promise to continue local coverage?
Sources tell me the cost cutting move was needed because of revenues falling during a long recession as well as a general slide in ratings for local TV newscasts.
The irony is the war of ads finds Rogers allied with other cable casters in trying to stop competitors CTV, Global and CBC from gaining additional revenues by charging some costs to cable carriers.
Of course all this would not have happened at Citytv save for the abrupt sale of CHUMcity in 2007--most of its radio stations and cable channels from MuchMusic to FashionTelevision went to CTV.
But the CRTC balked when CTV also moved to gobble up the Citytv stations arguing CTV already had CFTO and Barrie's A Channel in the Toronto market and a third standard outlet would be monopolistic.
At one time the local newscasts were huge money spinners for the stations. But the addition of so many more cable channels has whittled away at the ratings supremacy of local TV news.
And once mighty stations like Hamilton's CHCH which reaches all cable TV subscribers in Ontario are under the gun. Canwest recently sold CHCH to a local consortium which has moved the station back to its roots: as a movie channel.
When Rogers Media Television came in and bought Citytv there was the understanding layoffs might follow to pay the huge purchasing cost.
Without its cable empire to back it up Citytv is a mere shell of past grandeur when co-founder Moses Znaimer reigned supreme as an innovative programmer.
It was Moses who took out the desks and had anchors meandering all over the newsroom. And it was Moses who gave Citytv such a presence in covering community news.
Breakfast Television and CityLine continue and so will CityNews at Six and CityNews at Night.
And as they say before each commercial please stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Good recap, though CHUM never owned BBC Canada. - AJ

Jason Paris said...

Just a clarification, BBC Canada has always been Alliance Atlantis-owned, which is now CanWest Global. Never CHUM-City or CTV Globemedia.