Ottawa media cutbacks: No story at 11 – Metro US

Ottawa media cutbacks: No story at 11

The latest bad economic news in Ottawa is that henceforth, there will be less reporting of that news.

A News Ottawa announced this week that it was eliminating its evening and weekend newscasts, and 34 jobs. In all, 118 people were sacked here and at affiliated stations.

The 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts in Ottawa have been replaced with reruns of Twice in a Lifetime and Comedy Now!, respectively.

Local information programming on the station is not quite dead, just limping badly.

A News’ Pembroke operation, the only television presence in the Ottawa Valley, was effectively shuttered, throwing 10 people out of work and leaving the region served by one local videographer and one ads sales rep.

The station is owned by CTVglobemedia, as is local competitor CJOH. And, as the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union pointed out in a press release, the company made commitments to local programming when they bought it.

“CTV’s licence approval by the CRTC was partly based on the selling pitch that bigger is better — that the larger corporations would be able to nurture and protect the smaller stations,” said Peter Murdoch, the CEP’s VP Media. “Yet, at the first sign of bad times, it is the small communities and channels that pay the price. What happened to those promises?”

The short answer is the recession happened. Local and national media have already weathered a beating, and broadcasters are lobbying the CTRC to reduce their local programming obligations and replace lost ad revenue with fees from the cable companies.

This month, the Ottawa Citizen shrank its format by an inch, while assuring readers, “In most cases, there is no loss of content at all.” Now smaller to serve you more affordably.

Who picks up the slack? Some see the Internet as both the problem and the solution for print and broadcast media. So far, it’s not happening. Many bloggers, for example, do great work, but most don’t have the resources to do actual news gathering.

The bad news is that with fewer journalists reporting on our community, we’re all a little worse informed and a little less connected.

– Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; ottawaletters@metronews.ca.

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