Gord Martineau's promo for new CityNews Channel
My recent story on this published in J-souce.ca
The abrupt closing of CityNews Channel Thursday May 30 came
at an inopportune time for news consumers in the Greater Toronto Area, observers
say, because it happened while appetites for local news coverage are stronger
then usual, thanks to the continuing scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford and the
alleged video showing him smoking crack cocaine.
knew I could tune there when something was happening and they’d be on it, so
that is a big loss,” Harris said, referring to CityNews Channel’s live
broadcasts from Toronto city hall.
Thursday morning at 9 o’clock, the channel has been airing only an audio feed
of the Roger’s-owned flagship Toronto radio station 680 News, plus weather and
images from local traffic cameras.
a statement released last week, the president of broadcast at Rogers, Scott
Moore, blamed shifts in global advertising and in viewer habits for the
decision to shutter CityNews Channel. More than 60 full time jobs were lost,
including some employees at OMNI Television.
Harris’ view, Rogers launched CityNews Channel with the best of intentions, in
October 2011, intending to compete in the local news niche with long
established Cable Pulse 24, owned by Bell Media.
would assume they launched it thinking there was a void, thinking that people
wanted a choice from CP24,” Harris said. “And even though they were doing a
decent job of it, in the end, when you are monetizing that, and looking at the
entire health of your company, it didn’t turn out as rosy as they would have
CityNews Channel could leverage the respected Citytv brand, including high-profile
news personalities Gord Martineau, Kathryn Humphreys, Avery Haines and Cynthia
Mulligan, it was CP24’s feed that was usually playing on television sets in
most bars, waiting rooms, restaurants and gyms around the city.
Channel even offered its programming in high definition a year before CP24
started to, but that wasn’t enough to make viewers change the channel.
are creatures of habit and if people don’t have to change, sometimes they won’t
change,” Harris explained. “If CP24 is on that boxed TV that’s chained to the
wall, it’s going to take somebody actively changing the channel. What people say and what people do in
terms of their viewership or reading habits, is often quite different.”
a Tweet two days after he announced the demise of CityNews Channel, Rogers’
exec Moore said they thought they were better then CP24 but “too many other issues got in the way
issue that he might have been referring to, was the revenue from subscribers. Financial
statements filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications
Commission tell a stark story that the accountants at Rogers couldn’t ignore: CityNews
Channel drew 1,525,017 subscribers in 2012, compared with CP24’s 3,033,805.
CityNews Channel showed a 2012 loss of $3,926,995 compared with CP24’s profit
all of CityNews Channel’s expenses went to production and salaries
($4,200,456), proving Harris’ theory that while people say they want local
news, it costs media companies a ton of money to provide it.
always scream that they want local news, but do they actually watch it and are
they willing to pay for it, that’s the dilemma for the industry,” Harris said, suggesting
that if the Rob Ford scandal had happened when CityNews Channel launched,
things might have been different.
the decision was made in the upper echelons long before bombs starting going
off at city hall,” Harris said.
financial woes may also stem from the kind of broadcasting licence which the
CRTC granted to Rogers: CityNews Channel was approved as a Category B (meaning optional),
specialty local channel, seen only on Rogers cable and also on Shaw and Cogeco
in southern Ontario. The CP24 licence is a Category A (meaning mandatory) national
service on basic cable, and on direct to home satellite. Rogers had to carry CP24 but Bell did not carry
the CityNews Channel.
Channel earned just $304,716 in 2012 from subscribers, while Bell earned about
$3.5 million in 2012 from both its satellite and cable customers.
2012 CRTC Financial Summaries
much of the fallout from Rogers announcement has been focused on the shuttering
of CityNews Channel, the company last week also cut its OMNI television programming
in Alberta, and cancelled its Toronto-based English language nightly South
Asian news program.
news host Angie Seth was among the casualties of the layoffs. In a Tweet May
30, Seth thanked viewers for “welcoming me into your homes” and promised to be
“back on the air somewhere soon.”
Retired OMNI news editor Jules Elder
sees the retrenching at
OMNI as a “blow for diversity television in Canada.”
who spent 15 years at OMNI in Toronto as a news producer, considered OMNI a
“leader”. Now he is worried that Canada’s large South Asian community has lost
a vital outlet to tell their own stories properly.
mainstream media doesn’t cover the issues affecting the communities very well,
unless it is a crisis like crime, but the other important things that happen in
these communities don’t get covered,” Elder said. “And many times when an attempt is made to tell those stories
it’s distorted because people don’t understand those communities” the way OMNI
journalists do, Elder explained.
Rogers has pledged to continue doing news in four other languages this isn’t
the first time this year the company has made major changes in its ethnic programming.
In January, 2013, Rogers re-launched its OMNI 2 channel in Ontario as an
all-ethnic channel with “an increased focus on content geared towards the Asian
and South Asian communities,” according to a Rogers news release at the time.
An online petition was launched that month, after OMNI cut
its nightly Portuguese language news program.
Elder, ethnic-oriented news programming is important not only to tell diverse
stories, but also to cover the mainstream issues of the day in a way that is
relevant to the OMNI audience.