Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Bell Media and the senseless slaughter of local news

As the voters in the last election demonstrated, hell hath no fury like a Canadian scorned.
That is why the Big Giant Heads at Bell Media are getting a snootful of anger over the firing of popular radio and television hosts across Canada.
And so they should, the rat bastards.
In our neighborhood, what was once called the Ottawa Valley, viewers unleashed a can of whoopass over the Internet yesterday over the firing of Carol Anne Meehan, the long-time anchor of CTV Ottawa's supper hour program.
Carol Anne has been at the station once called CJOH-TV for 27 years. She's a survivor who managed to keep going through the shooting death of sportscaster Brian Smith and the tragic death of her own husband Greg Etue. She survived through the terrible deaths of Bill Paterson, Leigh Chapple and CTV stalwart and community booster Max Keeping.
She's even survived Graham Richardson, a two-toned sidekick with less personality than Harry Reasoner, if that is at all possible.
Yesterday, Carol Anne and Carolyn Waldo, the Canadian Gold Medalist who subbed-in for sports, were both given three days to decide whether they would stick around. They were given the option of taking lesser jobs presumably ladling soup in the cafeteria.
Both opted out of the Bell bundle.
Carol Anne told the Ottawa Sun yesterday that she could barely speak when told the news. She was too upset to even say goodbye to colleagues. She went to her office, picked up the photos of her children and left the building, after being treated about as well as Charlie Sheen would be by an ex-lover.
The scuppering of long time talent is nothing more than nickels and dimes for Bell Media, a company that conducts itself like pre-ghost Scrooge at Christmas time. It is a heartless beast, the kind of company that makes us all ashamed to be Canadian, one that scoops up little companies, and tears them apart as a Great White Shark would do a swimmer.
To be fair, Bell Media warned us all that perfectly coiffed heads would roll if the CRTC didn't let it pick our pockets just a little more to make us pay for local programming,  The company has made good on that promise over the past couple of years by eliminating key jobs at radio and television stations.
But we weren't prepared for yesterday.
It's as if Bell Media wanted to show how completely bereft of humanity it could be. If this were the Hunger Games, Carol Anne was our Katniss Everdeen.
Bell would say, what's up with that? Canadians lose their jobs all the time at companies that are highly profitable. Banks get rid of tellers, manufacturers get rid of widget makers and high tech gets rid of what they consider expendable talent. And we are sad for these folks because they may be our relatives or favorite customer service people.
But the media is different.
They get us through tragedies, and help us make sense of the world around us.
When people like Carol Anne are sent to slaughter, it's personal for us.
Radio personalities like Rick Gibbons and Steve Madely (did he jump or was he pushed after 51 years?) at CFRA get us through our lunch hours, and help us get up in the morning. We welcome them into our homes and cars and offices. They become friends to shut-ins and the elderly.
Every night for two and a half decades, we ate supper with Carol Anne Meehan. We met her at countless fundraisers where she always had a warm smile and something nice to say.
We walked along with her on her difficult journey after she endured tragedy in the newsroom and within her own family. We marvelled how she could have such a busy job and raise two fine youngsters. She never complained, she was always there in the chair.
Bell Media took those people away from us yesterday, and put them down like sad cows at an abattoir.
It was a senseless slaughter, and people are angry and some will rise up and change the channel.
But that's not the solution. Bell Media wants us to drift away from local news.
Why? Because local programming may be right and good, but it doesn't make them any money.
They want us to watch HBO and Crave.
It's called Pay television for a reason.
If we want to hit Bell hard, we need to be strategic.
We need to punch them right in the digital box and Smart Phone where they live.
We need to say goodbye to Bell Fibe and to Bell phone services and say yes to smaller independent providers. We need to urge the CRTC to open up the market.
In the end, it probably won't matter much.
Thanks to its monopoly, Bell will still make money.
And Carol Anne and Carolyn will still be out of jobs.
All we can do is wish them well.
And tell Bell Media to stuff its HDMI cables where the sun don't shine.

Sign this online petition asking Bell to reconsider. 

1 comment:

  1. I do not always agree with you BUT this time I do!!!, I just purchase a Roku box to watch on line tv . Why would I watch CTV Ottawa anymore...years ago I installed tv towers and satellite dishes, over 200 channel to watch, but the first thing my customer asks me " can I still get cjoh news at 6pm? I get all the tv in the world but I still want my local news from a local person......I will never forget that, until now....Frank