Updated April 21 with new details. See also this Gazette story.
You’d think that Global couldn’t go any further in centralizing the production of their regional newscasts. As it is, stations like Montreal have their control rooms in hubs thousands of kilometres away. All that’s left are the newsroom, the journalists, some ad sales and marketing people, and a small green studio with a desk and an anchor.
But they’ve managed to find a way to take it even further. On Thursday, Shaw Media announced that in eastern and central Canada, late-night and weekend newscasts will be done out of Toronto. Like what they did with control rooms, now even the anchors will produce multiple newscasts for different regional markets in one shift.
It’s part of what Global News boss Troy Reeb describes as a move to “a story-centric production model and that means moving past some of the traditional ways we’ve produced television newscasts.” In other words, the focus is on having local people work on the content, while saving as much money as possible on the container for that content.
This won’t be the first time Global has had people from Toronto do local news. Evening news weather man Anthony Farnell is based in Toronto, a fact that’s never made obvious to viewers.
But it’s odd that Global thinks that local anchors aren’t important. After all, they’re not just pretty faces that sit at their desks until they’re ready to go on air: They’re writing scripts and checking up on local news, work that presumably would need to be taken up by someone else if the anchors are taken out of their jobs.
In Montreal, the jobs affected would be those of late-night anchor Elysia Bryan-Baynes and weekend anchor Peter Anthony Holder. Bryan-Baynes is staying on as a reporter, but Holder, who’s technically a freelancer, is out of a job this fall.
Also gone are morning co-host Richard Dagenais, morning show associate producer Gloria Henriquez, and morning show control-room director Jim Connell. Connell is already gone, the others leave May 15.
Connell says he plans to return to freelancing. The others either declined to comment or didn’t respond when I asked them to.
“While we can’t comment on specific individuals, many of the impacted studio positions will be converted to field reporting which should help provide more local content not only for the late and weekend shows but for online and mobile,” Reeb told me.
Montreal station manager Karen Macdonald referred comment to national PR in Toronto.
Reeb put the cuts at less than 30 nationwide, which suggests maybe four or five on average per market affected.
No changes are planned for the evening newscast at 6pm, which will still be anchored locally, or for the weekly interview show Focus Montreal.
And on the plus side, the late-night news will be extended to an hour from the current half-hour when the change happens sometime over the summer. Late weeknight newscasts in New Brunswick and Halifax are also being extended to an hour.
National segments in local morning shows
The other major change is centralizing content for the local morning shows. Shaw promised to create local morning shows as part of its acquisition of Global in 2010. That promise included $5 million of total funding for Montreal’s morning show until 2016-17.
While the morning shows will still be three hours, still feature local anchors and still be produced locally, segments that are the same in different regions will be produced on a national level.
“Each half hour, an eight-minute segment covering national and international content will be produced centrally and will air in all shows. This is approximately equal to the amount of national content covered currently in each local show. Again, the goal is to eliminate the duplication that occurs when multiple anchor teams in multiple studios discuss the same trending stories, and to focus our local newsrooms on distinct, local content.”
I’m not sure how true it is that eight minutes each half-hour is of non-local content. There’s entertainment and sports news, sure, but in Montreal at least most of the morning show’s time is spent on local headlines and in-studio interviews.
This change is expected to roll out by the end of May.
The Global News 1 model
The strategy of centralizing news production and leaving local news to local journalists is nothing new. CTV makes use of its media empire to put business news from BNN and sports news from TSN on its newscasts. City TV’s local morning shows have sports updates from Sportsnet, personalized for each market.
But Global is taking it a step further with outsourced anchoring, giving us something a bit closer to what they have planned for their Global News 1 project. Submitted to the CRTC in September, the plan is to have news feeds for each market contain a mix of local and national news without requiring their own control rooms.
Global is still waiting for the CRTC to process and publish its application for the unique all-news service.
UPDATE (April 15): The Canadian Union of Public Employees has sent out a press release decrying the loss of local programming on Global Montreal. The statement says that the morning show will also be anchored out of Toronto, which contradicts the information I have above. I checked with Global, and a spokesperson responded by calling CUPE’s statement “inaccurate and misleading.” The way I describe the situation above is correct, Global says.
April 16: CUPE has sent out a correction, claiming it was given incorrect information from management the first time. The two stories are now consistent.
June 7: Dagenais was heard on the air doing the weekend morning newscasts on CJAD.
Nex thing you know the local newscast will just be a ticker at the bottom of the screen just the national newscast. Like on Canada AM.
Except CTV doesn’t try to claim Canada AM as local programming.
What Global is putting in place here is the next step towards eliminating the concept of local stations entirely. It limits local “content” to stories created by reporters in the field, which is (not surprisingly) edited on systems that store the content centrally and not locally – natch.
Love it or hate it, this is one of the very likely futures of broadcasting in Canada unless something really big changed. With regional differences diminished to the bare minimum, it reduces the local channels to basically a transmitter and small amount of office space, and that’s it. The process eliminates the expensive parts of local based personalities, community contact, or even interaction of any sort with the plebs that are going to watch your station. It’s only simsub that even really keeps the transmitter a necessity. I wouldn’t be shocked to see local stations applying for reductions in power to make it cheaper to operate OTA at the minimum levels required to trigger the simsub and that would be it.
Global is getting there before Bell Media, but you can bet the same discussions are being held on all sides. It’s a very short step from here to replacing local TV with regionalized feeds for cable and sat distribution, patching in local news updates and weather over an otherwise national signal. Crull’s last call to ban the US networks from distribution was an attempt to render the simsub rules moot and likely to make local transmitters redundant. When 80-90% of your viewers get your signal via cable or similar, it’s easy to picture getting rid of the transmitter costs (and everything related to it) and perhaps moving everything but a couple of editing bays down the 401. Newsroom set? Local anchors? Locally produced content? Are you kidding me? You just don’t need it.
The end is nigh…
The gutting of local stations. This stuff needs to be addressed by the CRTC.
I can’t get all doom and gloom about this.
The only reason Global is moving to remote newscasts is because nobody is watching their late show. Fewer than 8,000 Montrealers watch their 6 p.m. newscast, and I cannot imagine that their late news has anywhere near that audience.
The time to spend money and build up an audience was decades ago. Global didn’t, and won’t, so it might as well blow it up and start over.
Global did spend quite a bit of money in the late 1990s after the station launched. But they couldn’t take away market share from CFCF 12 fast enough, so they eventually cut back.
Global’s Weekend show would often pull in 20 thousand plus viewers with Peter Anthony Holder. The late night week cast about half that.
I’m confused. So they will have one anchor do something like 16 different shows in the course of 1 day, some for 2 stations at the same time in the same time zone or are they going to get more than one anchor to do these multiple shows in Toronto?
I’ve asked Global about the specifics of how this will work. I’m waiting to hear back.
CD, it’s actually pretty easy. You have to remember that most anchor scripts are only a few minute long total. They only introduce the stories as they run. As there would be no chance for “interaction” or live standups, it’s pretty much all canned content. So 30 seconds anchor, 1 minute 30 story, repeat 20 times to fill a half hour show with commercials.
The result? The anchor has no more than 10 minutes to read for a local newscast – if each one is entirely unique. Now, if each one has a local section up front of say, 5 stories, and the rest is national stuff, you only have to do that part once. The result is that an anchor could read all of their parts for a dozen or so newscasts in an hour or two total. Assembling the newscasts after that isn’t really big work anymore, chop of the pieces and order them in scheduler, and you are done.
So one anchor could very well front all of the newcasts without any problem.
Steve, regardless of the mechanics of how it will work, if you think they got 8,000 viewers before, I’d be surprised if in the new world they get 5,000 viewers. I like the rest, won;t be watching this “local” sub-par presentation.
Reminiscent of the old Saturday Night Live sketch where Dan Aykroyd covered deejay duties at the AM station, FM station and news broadcaster.
I agree with your comments about the importance of anchors in the community. There has always been a special connection between Montreal and CFCF/CTV anchors like Andrew Marquis, Bill Haugland and Mutsumi Takahashi. However, at this point rather than a traditional network model which will always be subject to cost pressures and ratings, would it be more efficient and effective to create an independent local (bilingual) webcast to compete against CFCF?
With all due respect to CFCF, the demographic watching news in the traditional way must be shifting and if one of the goals of a local newscast is to sell advertising time, a centrally controlled product may not appeal to local merchants.
We need local casts, but I was surprised to hear how important the internet is. Mitch Melnick said that TSN690 is the most online listened to station of all the TSN radio outlet’s. including Toronto.
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SO YOU LET PETER ANTHONY HOLDER GO AY. GOODBYE GLOBAL NEWS. HELLO CBC AND CTV.