The local TV station in Red Deer, Alberta shut down in August 2009 after their parent company Canwest-Global failed to find a buyer for the specialty network they were part of. At its peak as a local TV station, RDTV (aka CHCA-TV) employed over one-hundred people. In less than two years, Canwest-Global had reduced staffing to less than ten. Where did these people go and what was the negative economic impact to the region as a result?
Local TV stations have been facing cutbacks and outright elimination at an accelerating rate during the past five years. This not only limits access to local news and events but has a strong negative effect on the local economy. It’s simple: stations close and people lose their jobs. Their contribution to the health of the local economy is reduced and the small businesses in the area suffer. Add to that, the loss of tax revenue for the local town or city.
There is a local TV model being promoted by Corus Audio & Advertising Services Ltd (owned by Shaw Communications) which delivers local content from a central location to a network of targeted communities and offers up advertising for local and regional businesses. Where it stops being local is in the actual production process. The Corus model makes use of production facilities somewhere in British Columbia with the broadcast signal branded and promoted as being local to the communities which receive the signal. This provides no new jobs in the communities and the dollars paid out by local advertisers leave the area. A similar model is being used by the Weather Network in providing local forecasts on cable and satellite TV along with national programing. Mostly national and not much local. They currently have an application submission into the CRTC for review.
This model appears to be an attempt to bring local TV back to life and fill the gap created by the large broadcast networks moving to non-local content but it isn’t truly local or reflective of the communities we call home. The only true local TV is content produced locally by the people of the community. The MyLocal1/Corus channel and similar models can be called local but they aren’t.