Last Wednesday, as if to show it is still daddy, the CRTC denied CBC’s application to reformat its rural-themed specialty channel Bold–something CBC went ahead and did two years ago.
A license for the service was granted in 2000 for what CBC then called Land and Sea. It was supposed to be a service for rural folks, aimed at older Canadians 25-54-years-old who lived in the sticks.
Like a lot of specialty channels aimed at city slickers, it was pitched with big plans to create all kinds of new programming along the lines of the licence agreement.
Okay, now you can laugh.
Land and Sea was pretty much at sea on the specialty tier. It was rebranded Country Canada and still Canadians looked past it like it was a hitchhiker with pets.
In 2007, CBC informed the Commission it was going to spice up its sleepy (and ignored) rural channel. Their big plan was to call it bold so people would think it was bold. (Surely a memo went out saying, “Make it bold!” and the rest is history.) The same deep thinking that went into having a guy stand and do the news went into calling something bold that wasn’t anything close to bold.
Anyway, in the tried and true Canadian broadcasting tradition where forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission, in 2008, the CBC went ahead and called the thing Bold. They sent out shiny new press kits. They assured the CRTC that it wasn`t really bold, it was just as dull as when it was Land and Sea or Country Canada. The four viewers in the country who noticed were confused for hours.
All CBC wanted really was to rebrand their loser station into something that could bring in more of those fee-for-carriage nickels and dimes. They hoped to sell Bold like a detergent, even if it didn’t exactly wash.
The goal, if anything, was make it less bold, to water it down and make the content requirements as wishy-washy as every other broadcaster who owns a bunch of these audience repellent, not-so-special specialty channels. They even call it bold with a lower case b in case anybody thought it was too bold. With PPM data on the horizon, they should have changed the name to TSN for as many months as that would have flown under the radar.
They admitted to the CRTC that the original rural format was a flop when they pressed for change in November of 2008. While the channel was originally intended to develop and commission original programming, it never achieved the penetration and revenue projections required. Their back up plan then, as outlined in their application, was to toss anything that smelled rural on the bold heap and rerun it all into the earth. Bold would be like a compost heap of old, recycled CBC shows. How rural is that?
Trouble was, CBC’s rural shelves have been bare since Don Messer fiddled through his last Jubilee. They finally threw in the towel and asked the CRTC to completely let them off the hook and just allow them to program any old crap (except for a teeny, tiny 10% deemed minty-fresh “rural.”).
The CRTC wondered if approving the amendment would allow bold to morph into a general interest specialty service. D-uh! Meanwhile, Quebecor’s QMI–which hates the CBC–filed an intervention arguing that the channel was already in violation of its original licensing mandate. Bell said maybe Bold should be dropped from (gulp) mandatory carriage. The Commission looked at Bold’s Dec., 2009 schedule full of old CBC sitcoms and dramas and concluded it was urban by a country mile. People already have Bravo, Showcase and The Comedy Network if they want to see hours and hours of recycled programs, concluded the Commission.
So they denied CBC’s bid to take the country out of bold and gave them 30 days to retype and resubmit. What we wonder here at TVFMF is:
WHAT ABOUT ALL THESE OTHER BOGUS, FLIP-FLOP, WHATEVER SELLS THIS WEEK SPECIALTY CHANNELS?? Why punish CBC when CTV, Global and Rogers change formats faster than Facebook? When Lonestar rode into digi-Dodge, it found a lot of folks who missed Bonanza. Pretty soon, though, wall-to wall Eddie Murphy flicks and a name change to Movietime. CTV couldn’t dump Talk fast enough once they did their deal for MTV. Prime was going to be for seniors; now it’s where old sitcoms not carried by TVLand go to die on TVTropolis.
Drive-In was a cheesy little CHUM creation filled with fun Kung-Fu and Blacksploitation Grind house flicks; now it is the opposite of that, art house import brand Sundance.
Sextv used to feature more stiff members than the Parliamentary channel. Now, as W Movies, it is one of three dozen channels where, on any given night, you can gather the kitties for Sleepless in Seattle.
Will this bold decision mean a new tougher line for all format flippers? Or, given the whole fee-for-carriage, cable customer impact fight ahead, could we just maybe throw all these boring rerun channels into a pot and let the market decide? You know, a la carte? Now that would be bold.
UPDATE: John Doyle kicks this around like a soccer ball this week at the Globe and Mail, pointing out that Wayne Rostad is still available to sort out Country Canada.