Wednesday, April 11, 2007

F-Channel

The following post is sent to us by anonymous reader, and we are grateful for permission to publish it here. You won't read this in the London Free Press.

News is out that Rogers Communications has acquired CFPL A-Channel, London’s TV station. A few things are worth noting. The station has been acquired and sold many times. This is not because various corporations think they can turn a profit from the station. CFPL hasn’t been profitable for ages.

Corporations like Rogers, CHUM and Baton, have acquired CFPL because it’s always lumped into a sale along with bigger, more valuable TV stations that actually make money. In the world of Canadian broadcasting, CFPL is like the annoying young child of an attractive single parent. Marry the parent and you’re stuck with the kid. A kid you really don’t want. This kid is no young pup either. He’s old enough to live on his own but never got a job and still relies on the parent for cash on demand. Occasionally he sells his own blood for extra pocket money.

Commenting on the various parent companies in a recent Free Press article, station manager Don Mumford said “In each instance we have always benefited from ownership change. It has brought new vision and new resources.” In other words, mommy has a new boyfriend and I’ll get to soak him for some more cash!

This is echoed by Ian Morrison from The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting who says "The A-Channels are not making money … if they want to make it make money, they're going to have to cut costs. And cut costs means less quality and less quantity of news.”

He’s not alone. Sunni Boot, president and CEO of ZenithOptimedia: “I don't really see the stations taking off.” There’s more from Scott Stewart, an account director with Toronto-based Genesis Media: “I don't understand how a third-tier station like this will be able to really compete out there."

That’s the current state of affairs at CFPL. Each new owner is faced with a money losing operation. Rather than produce quality programs and new revenue streams, management depends on “new resources” from new owners. This provides little hope of any fiscal independence.

In the wake of bad management and nepotism, CFPL has been rendered impotent. One of the few remaining managers with the authority to improve programming, long time employee Don Mumford has supervised the castration with a steady hand. Curiously, Mumford admitted to the Free Press that his new parent company Rogers isn’t sharing future plans with him. “A-Channel London station manager Donald Mumford says he had no information on any changes planned by Rogers.”

The truth is CFPL’s management has positioned the station to do little more than suck cash from its parent company. The station isn’t competitive, and ratings and revenue are declining. Rather than innovate under pressure, “local” programming is getting worse. For example, what’s local, or even Canadian about the news segment “Health and Home”? It’s a classic example of cut-and-paste “journalism.” Much of the content originates from US sources and there is very little effort to offer any local context. Many nights Rogers’ newscast “First Local” makes CFPL look amateurish, at a fraction of the cost.

CFPL’s failed attempts to make cost-effective “journalism” tarnishes the reputation of all the hard working staff who built CFPL into the internationally recognized news leader it once was. Plus, it can no longer effectively serve the community as a training ground for Fanshawe College students who once had the chance to work beside leading journalists.

If Rogers is serious about making the station relevant, more resources won't help. Creativity and innovation will.

2 comments:

matt said...

Hopefully they will gas the A-channel and roll whatever useful bits there are into the rogers umbrella. my one regret about going to bell satellite was missing the occasionally quirky but oddly compelling programming on Cable 10. We really only need one local channel . If rogers were smart they would allow the local stations a great deal of autonomy and they would also terminate all high priced talent (on air and managerial) immediately and replace them with some strivers from the community. I would much rather watch something truly local with low production values (think CITY TV circa 1979) than something local with a fake veneer or professionalism, which just comes off looking, er, fake.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I agree whole-heartedly with your well-written and thoughtful essay. CFPL-TV just hasn't been the same since it was taken over by CHUM Television. It's become the often imitating, always duplicating orphan waif of CITY-TV. Maybe it's because we're in the Forest City, or maybe the personalities sometimes come off as being wooden, but CITY-TV's format just doesn't gel in London.

Don't get me wrong--I enjoy watching CITY-TV; its news programming and personalities are great. It's just that their format works well in Toronto, a huge, hip, multi-cultural, multi-ethnical city which always has something going on. Trying to duplicate that format in staid, boring London, ehh, not so much. I do hope for the best, though, for the "A Channel"; it does have great potential, all in all. If a group of creative and innovative people were to take over the station, and go down the road less travelled, avoiding the easy route of reality shows and rebroadcasting CITY-TV programmes, then I would wish them well, and hope for them all the best.