VICTORIA - Last week's British Columbia election would have been an excellent opportunity for Victoria's 'A' Channel to demonstrate the importance of local television, but the station ran big American shows instead.
Parent company CTV is part of a Help Save Local Television campaign that's appealing to the public to pressure federal regulators to allow them to start charging cable companies to carry their signal.
“The future of local television broadcasting, including your station, is at stake,” according to CTV's campaign website. “Local news is the foundation of the Canadian broadcasting system. If we cut local roots, we lose something invaluable as a nation. At CTV and ‘A’, we want to see local television continue to strengthen our communities.”
So what kind of coverage did 'A' Channel Victoria provide on election night?
As the polls closed, according to the schedule on the station's website for the day, they showed Reaper: To Sprong With Love. At 8 p.m., when other stations were beginning to report results, it was American Idol, followed by Fringe: There's More Than One of Everything. Finally, at 10 p.m., they broadcast the popular Dancing With The Stars.
'A' Channel reporters provided feeds to the Vancouver CTV affiliate. It did not, however, provide the in-depth coverage focused on Vancouver Island and Victoria races that it did in 2005.
Station manager Jim Blundell did not return phone messages left before or after election night. Nor was anyone immediately available at CTV's head office in Toronto.
The television stations are “giving us a lousier and cheaper product,” said blogger and retired broadcaster Harvey Oberfeld. “The television stations, private TV, are using their financial problems to slash wherever they can.”
The campaign is more likely motivated by broadcasters' desire to make money than it is by any commitment to local television, he said. “It's an outrageous over-hyped campaign.”
The federal regulator, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, should hold the stations to the local programming commitments they made when they won their licenses, he said.
Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.