Slash and burn at A Channel

A channel

It turns out CTV isn’t quite done with the cutbacks at its secondary broadcast network. After announcing it wouldn’t renew licenses for two southern Ontario stations, the axe has come down on 118 jobs at other stations across the network, including 34 in Ottawa/Pembroke, 18 in Victoria, 24 in Barrie, Ont., and more (42 by my math) in London, representing about 28% of the workforce.

As a result, various local programming is being cancelled. Barrie and London are cutting their morning programs, and like Global Quebec will be re-running their nightly newscasts in the morning.

In Victoria, the morning show will be replaced by “cameras … in the C-FAX 1070 radio station starting tomorrow to broadcast its morning show from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.”

In Ottawa, it’s the reverse. The evening and weekend newscasts will be cancelled.

They can do this and still keep their broadcasting licenses because of a loophole in the CRTC’s local programming rules. It says stations have to air a certain minimum amount of locally-produced programming every week, but it doesn’t say that it has to produce that much, so stations can get away with producing an hour and a half of news and replaying it at 6am, and that counts as three hours of programming.

A Channel has never really made money. And since its acquisition by CTV it’s basically been a dumping ground for second-rate U.S. shows that won’t fit on the main network’s schedule. (The irony is that CTV never wanted the network. They were more interested in acquiring CHUM’s specialty channels and would offload A Channel onto Rogers. But the CRTC intervened and said they had to give away Citytv instead. Had this not happened, we might be looking at massive layoffs at Citytv right now.)

The union has issued a news release blaming CTV for turning its back on small communities, while also drinking its Kool-Aid that the whole problem is because cable companies are making money and not handing it over to CTV (as opposed to, say, CTV spending millions to acquire U.S. programming that could be spent on original programming).

UPDATE (March 12): the Ottawa Citizen looks inside the cuts at A Channel in Ottawa.

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