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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Media Convergence à la canadienne

Some preliminary thoughts on the purchase of Canada's largest and most successful commercial broadcaster CTV by Bell.

This creates a whole new set of complications and opportunities in the Canadian media landscape. Although the purchase still depends on gaining the approval of the regulatory agency, the CRTC, a few facts are emerging:  

The two main commercial networks in English Canada are now owned by multi-platform media organizations which were once telcoms: CanWest Global is owned by Shaw and Bell now owns CTV. 

Financially, this means that the profits from 50 or more specialty channels (more than $1 billion a year) can go directly to Global and CTV to stanch the bleeding in their news divisions thus insuring their profitability. They will have more money than God to do what they do best - buy more American programming.

That could leave the CBC with a unique opportunity to reduce its fixation on entertainment programming and sports to return to its mandate to provide programming that is “informative, enlightening and entertaining.” (CBC mandate 1991).

As of last Friday, there are no pure broadcasters left in English Canada except for the CBC.

The CBC is in danger of being perceived as out of this league. It may claim otherwise but it simply cannot compete with these two giant multi-platform entities. So the moment of existential truth is bearing down on the CBC like a freight train...Shaw and Bell will buy more popular US programming and at the same time, create apps to drive traffic away from other broadcasters, especially the CBC.

At the same time, the Toronto Globe and Mail has been sold by CTV back to its original owners, the Thomson family. But in so doing the newspaper appears for the moment to be without the "benefit" of  traditional broadcast partner. Might the CBC be a realistic partner in terms of demographics and audience, even if the Globe has been slagging the public broadcaster for years? Still, business can always find a way to let bygones be bygones...

Both the Globe and the public broadcaster appear suddenly vulnerable by the Bell purchase of CTV.

How does the Globe distribute its product on other platforms? And if the value of old media was based in the concept of scarcity, how can the Globe turn its product based on scarcity into abundance without another partner? Can the CBC still be considered a player in this new media landscape? With the recent departure of Richard Stursburg, the prime creator of entertainment programming at the CBC, what options are now available to the public broadcaster to bolster its diminished reputation? 

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. I thought the Ceeb already had an agreement of sorts with the National Post to *share*. Hard to be cozy with two papers.

    Were you being ironic when you said that all this new revenue from being a multi-platform entity will stop the bleeding in the news divisions? How so? A company dedicated to profits will simply maintain the current policy of news programming being, at best, revenue neutral. We'll be lucky if news doesn't get worse.