“The Commission heard the message, loud and clear, that local media is vital for Canadians and Canadian communities,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Strong and independent local news is intrinsic to our democracy and it is the duty of large broadcasters to deliver it.”
The CRTC decision to allow VIs to re-direct existing financial support for community programming to local newscasts in large cities, or to similar community programming in smaller centres is not an ideal solution to the financial crisis in local news, said Dias, but the measures deserve public support.
The CRTC’s condition that VIs can’t re-purpose these funds unless they commit to keeping their stations open is a major victory for many Canadian urban communities; specifically it may save CTV2 stations that are on the short list to go dark in Halifax, Barrie, London and Ottawa.
“In light of this CRTC decision Unifor fully expects the VIs to keep those stations on air,” said Dias.
“We are also very encouraged to see the CRTC adopt a local news expenditure requirement, which Unifor pushed for during CRTC hearings, “said Howard Law, Director of Unifor’s media sector which represents over 12,000 Canadian media workers.
“We expect the expenditure requirements to mean an end to the annual ritual of layoffs of local TV staff who put local news on the air. That is what we expect from the big media companies holding those licenses.”
Unifor also applauds the creation of an INLF focussed on the small market independent stations that were also on that short list.
The CRTC’s fleshing out of regulatory definitions of local programming is long overdue and welcome. Unifor remains concerned that there are still too many “expectations” and not enough “binding conditions” of license, allowing licencees to continue to engage in “expectation evasion” rather than hard and fast commitments to staffing of local TV stations.