Saturday, March 14, 2009
Windsor Stands Behind Local News
Windsor is a great city suffering under the weight of great hardship. The Rose City is Ground Zero for the current recession. It was feeling the sting before the rest of the country even knew it was in a downturn. It will still be suffering when the inevitable recovery is well underway. But Windsor will survive because it's a scrappy town that rallies behind its own. And on a sunny late winter Saturday afternoon, it put its arms around its local television station. When CTVglobemedia announced it would not be renewing its licence in Windsor, it probably knew the city wouldn't give up its local news station without a fight. Well, the fight is on.
With the station set to shut its doors for good on August 31st, about 300 people turned up for a rally in front of 'A' Windsor. There were enough people that Windsor police had to block the main drag, Ouellette, (that's OH-let, not OO-let, if you're an out-of-towner!) as speakers ranging from MP's and MPP's to labour leaders to the Mayor to affected 'A' staffers each took their turn at the microphone. It was a good old-fashioned union-style pep rally, and it's something they know how to do right in Windsor. They're fighters, and they're ready to fight the CRTC, CTV, and anybody else who tries to take away their TV station. They've had enough taken away from them in the past few years, and even though many of the people who came know first-hand about the pain of layoffs, they were determined to do what it takes to keep their station operating. They have the backing of their municipal, provincial and federal representatives. They're in this together. Ontario's Economic Development Minister, and MPP for Windsor West, Sandra Pupatello said the message to the CRTC must be clear: “No licences for CTV without Windsor included!" And there was a roar from the crowd.
Pupatello vowed to be there when CTV seeks the renewal of most of its other licences on April 27th. On March 25th, the Commons Heritage Committee will also be holding hearings with the CRTC on the future of of local Canadian television. Clearly the crisis has finally grabbed the attention of the broadcast regulator. But the CRTC is notoriously slow to act, and the owners are equally slow to adapt. It appears virtually certain that 'A' Windsor will not be a CTV-owned property at the end of August. It may well be that the station does shut down, but if the CRTC is serious about the need for local programming, it will invite new, ideally smaller ownership, and provide the tools necessary to allow that enterprise to turn a profit.
The people who turned out for the rally don't much care HOW it happens, only that somebody in authority does right by Windsor, and creates the conditions that will LET it happen. Mayor Eddie Francis summed up the mood of the city, and got one of the biggest cheers of the day when he said “we’re prepared to fight for our community… because that’s the Windsor way.”
Windsor's way is to battle through hardship, and find solutions. The CRTC and the mega-media giants like CTVglobemedia would do well to follow that model.