Scott Thompson and the folks at Hamilton’s AM900 CHML had me on Monday to talk about CHCH’s black Christmas. You can listen to that conversation here. The CHCH house cleaning was, if anything, an even hotter topic when we spoke again on Wednesday.
I’ve been a frequent guest on ‘CH over the years, first with Mark Hebscher and Donna Skelly on Square Off (which was called something else originally) and more recently on Morning Live with Bob Cowan and Annette Hamm. I always enjoyed these experiences and was treated first class by the producers and others involved.
I suspect, from various reports this week (especially this departing zinger from Hebscher) that ‘CH was more fun for guests than employees in recent months, if not years.
I have no insider track on this story, but it does seem as though the folks at Channel Zero have done a neat end-run around Unifor by shutting the news division, gassing half the staff and re-opening again days later. Interesting to see how union reps such as Skelly are not part of the new ‘CH.
My take is that Channel Zero simply did not have the deep pockets and business savvy to sustain a broadcast outlet in this uncertain era of shrinking ad revenues and growing Internet competition. With media giants such as Bell laying off hundreds (albeit after a positive financial report), what chance does a company called Zero?
Besides, the Zero gang never seemed that invested in content beyond their large commitment to news. CHCH had little impact in prime time with throwaways such as Heart of Texas or–as a friend’s mom coined it–The Stinkertons. Even the religious broadcaster up the street–YesTV–was more in the game, scooping proven cast-offs such as American Idol and Jeopardy.
Scott asks how or if CHCH can survive. I’m not sure about that. Even if you could buy the station for a dollar, new owners had better be prepared to deal with debt and on-going operational costs–two things even the big media players are desperately trying to shed.
Dedicated people and plenty of pluck kept Hamilton in the TV business, and all involved should be proud of its distinct 60+ year heritage. Any plan to sustain a broadcast business on the western edge of Canada’s most competitive TV market, however, will have to look beyond the old ad revenue model. A visionary or two at the top might help, too.
It would be hard to imagine neighbouring Brampton having its own TV station. What would be the content? City counselors slamming doors and hiding? Shots of tax money going down drains? Yet Brampton is now a larger city than Hamilton. CHCH made Hamilton seem bigger and more interesting. That’s what a TV identity can do for a community. It’s little comfort, however, for plenty of hard-working folks who just lost their jobs.