the ‘A’ channels, which have struggled tremendously over the last several years, require assistance to continue to maintain their current programming levels. They also require investment to be broadcast in high definition, which will improve ‘A’ channel programming quality and allow for HD simulcasting. Together these investments will help ensure that ‘A’ channel local programming can be sustained and can remain available to these communities.
The same hearing included an appearance from Randy Goulden, the Executive Director of the Yorkton Film Festival in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Goulden extolled the virtues of a Bell – CTV merger for local CTV channels:
CTV’s local television stations are a great part of the Canadian broadcasting system. They provide invaluable promotion and publicity of our initiatives and our programs, raising our profile to a level we would not have the opportunity to enjoy without their support. The Yorkton Film Festival supports CTV’s acquisition by Bell as it will make CTV a stronger company and that, I believe, will enable organizations like mine to continue to grow.
Just over a year later, Bell now says the Yorkton station is potentially on the chopping block. As the CRTC conducts hearings on the Local Programming Improvement Fund and the Supreme Court of Canada holds its hearing on the fee-for-carriage, Bell says that “we won’t continue to fund chronically unprofitable stations, tiny stations in tiny little towns.” Yorkton is on that list, along with at least five other stations (which Bell says could grow to 10 stations if the LPIF shrinks). Bell promised to keep the A channel stations operational for three years during the regulatory process, but no similar promises were made for local CTV channels. In other words, the owner may have changed, but the game remains the same – use threats to close local channels as the basis for demanding additional revenues through regulation.