Updated with a correction about stations being offered to participate.
After being tight-lipped about it for months, Shaw Media has made the first announcement about its plan for a new national news channel called Global News 1, first mentioned in a CRTC filing in June.
In a press release issued Monday, Shaw Media says it has submitted its application for the new all-news channel to the CRTC (which hasn’t published it yet, so we don’t have details). The timing is deliberate, coming just after the commission concluded its Let’s Talk TV hearing. Reeb said the submission was made several weeks ago, but Shaw wanted to wait until the proceeding was over to respect that process.
Shaw explains its unique blend of national and local news this way:
Global News 1 will feature a national newsfeed bookended by local news segments tailored specifically for each of the markets it serves. Using next-generation technology, the service will be framed by a continuous data feed of hyper-local headlines and community events. With the ability to cover live, breaking news at the local, regional or national level, Global News 1 will be like no other service on the dial.
Shaw says that each of the 12 markets with owned-and-operated Global stations (Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Saint John, Halifax) will have its own feed, but there will also be eight additional communities getting “local newsrooms” — places with “either no local television news or limited competition”:
- Fort McMurray, Alta.
- Red Deer, Alta.
- Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
- Niagara, Ont.
- Mississauga, Ont.
- Ottawa, Ont.
- Quebec City, Que.
- Charlottetown, P.E.I.
And on top of that, “Shaw Media is also proposing to open the channel to eight small-market, independent broadcasters who would have the opportunity to add their own local content to the service and retain all local advertising in their markets.”
Troy Reeb, senior vice-president of Global News, tells me these stations are:
- CKPG in Prince George, B.C. (Jim Pattison Group) — City affiliate
- CFJC in Kamloops, B.C. (Jim Pattison Group) — City affiliate
- CHAT in Medicine Hat, Alta. (Jim Pattison Group) — City affiliate
- CKSA/CITL in Lloydminster, Alta./Sask. (Newcap) — CBC and CTV affiliates, respectively
- CHFD in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Dougall Media) — already a Global affiliate
- CHEX in Peterborough, Ont. (Corus) — CBC affiliate
- CKWS in Kingston, Ont. (Corus) — CBC affiliate
- CJON in St. John’s, N.L. (NTV)
(An earlier version of this post also listed CHEK in Victoria, B.C. Reeb actually referred to CHEX, the Corus station. CHEK is not on the list because it competes directly with Global B.C.)
Reeb specifies that there has been no discussion with these stations. Rather, the offer is being made because Global does not want to compete with them. “We didn’t want to threaten any of the small stations that are already struggling,” he said. “We didn’t want to go in and say hey we’re going to open up a competitor. We’re looking for a solution not just for us but for the system overall.”
Assuming it adds all of these stations, that would mean up to 28 different markets getting a hybrid national/local news channel.
Notably absent from this list is CJBN, a station owned by Shaw (but separate from Shaw Media, its acquisition predated the Global purchase) in Kenora, Ont. Its tiny market and limited local programming means it doesn’t have the resources to contribute to this service, Reeb said.
Reeb told me that, if the proposal is approved, Global would add about 100 journalists across the country, between those working at the regional newsrooms and those working nationally. This would mean about a half-dozen people working in each regional newsroom.
A lot of moving parts
Though this isn’t the first time someone has tried coordinating local and national newscasts (remember Canada Now?), this takes it to a much higher level. As Reeb explained, when there’s nothing breaking on the national, regional or local level, local news would be about 3-4 minutes at the top and bottom of the hour, bookending the national feed.
But when things happen, that can all be changed. The local feed can break away to cover a mayor’s press conference. The Ontario feeds could break away to cover events at Queen’s Park.
Though the decisions on what the local feeds would broadcast would ideally be made locally, Reeb said that realistically they would be more of a joint decision between the local and national staff.
There are “a lot of moving pieces,” he said.
Shaw credits its new automated control room technology for making this possible. Reeb envisions an environment where reporters can edit and file their stories from the field, and even anchor local segments remotely. Stories wouldn’t have to wait for local newscasts, but could be inserted into local feeds once they’re done.
“We’re not a prisoner to the scheduled nature of television,” Reeb explained.
I asked if we could expect local news at all hours of the day. Reeb said yes, adding that he wants to get “away from the idea of scheduling reporters around production and toward scheduling reporters around news.” That sounds easier said than done, of course.
Global comes back to Quebec City
Bringing an anglo newsroom to Quebec City will be a welcome development. Global Montreal started as Global Quebec, and launched after what was then Canwest purchased a Quebec City television station and added retransmitters in Montreal and Sherbrooke. The Quebec City transmitter still carries the callsign CKMI-DT, with the Montreal one as CKMI-DT-1, even though the Montreal transmitter is considered the main one for licensing purposes.
Aside from a National Assembly bureau (a reporter and cameraman at most) for each of CBC, CTV and Global, there is no English television presence in Quebec City, or anywhere outside of driving distance of Montreal and Ottawa.
Anglos in Quebec’s regions have had to settle for a single radio service, CBC Radio One’s Quebec City station, to serve them. If this new Quebec City newsroom decides to serve the province instead of just the local market, that will be a welcome sight for these anglos.
Similarly, other markets proposed here are welcome additions. Charlottetown has only a CBC station based there, though CTV and Global have bureaus. Ottawa has retransmitters of CHCH in Hamilton and City in Toronto, but only CBC and Bell Media (CTV/CTV2) operate local stations there in English.
Red Deer is another market with a history. It was served by CHCA-TV, a station that was part of Canwest’s secondary E! network, until it was shut down in 2009, ending a 52-year run. That took away the only remaining local station in Red Deer, which is now served by retransmitters of the Edmonton stations.
Satellite will get national feed
Global News 1 is an interesting idea for a format, but it comes with some issues. First of all, how do you carry such a service on Canada’s two national direct-to-home satellite services, one of which is owned by Shaw? Does it add up to 28 new high-definition feeds? Or one national feed? Or pick and choose among the more popular ones?
Reeb said the two satellite services would get a national feed of Global News 1, without local programming.
For the other feeds, Reeb confirmed that Shaw will be asking to provide local advertising along with local news. The application states that Shaw is committing to provide 10.5 hours of local programming in small markets and 21 hours in large markets, which is 50% more than current CRTC requirements for conventional television stations.
The application is for a Category C service, which thanks to a decision last December would get automatic carriage on digital TV providers across the country. How it would be packaged and priced would depend on the provider.
Launch in fiscal 2016
When this service could get off the ground is up in the air, mainly because Shaw has no control over the CRTC process. But Reeb said that they are prepared to launch in the 2016 fiscal year if CRTC approval comes in a reasonable time frame.
See also: Global News story about the new service, including interview with Reeb.