A Channels chop local morning and weekend news shows

CTVglobemedia insists the cost-cutting and closures reflect local TV markets decreasing sustainability - and are not strategically timed prior to upcoming license renewal hearings.

CTVglobemedia on Tuesday made good on its promise to cut costs at its A Channel stations by chopping 118 jobs, or 28% of the workforce.

As part of an ongoing restructuring of the secondary conventional TV stations, CTVgm will also cancel the 6 am to 9 am morning shows produced in Victoria, London and Barrie, and the 6 pm, 11 pm and weekend newscasts produced in Ottawa.

And as previously announced, CTVgm will make additional job cuts when it shutters existing A-branded stations in Wingham and Wheatley in southwestern Ontario, as well as a rebroadcaster in Windsor. Its CKX-TV station in Manitoba is also preparing to close.

CTVgm acquired seven A Channel stations in 2007 in Ontario, western Canada and the Maritimes as part of a larger deal for then-rival Chum.

But in an internal memo to CTV employees Friday, the broadcaster said it has so far failed to make the A Channels profitable despite rising viewership, owing to a continuing ad revenue downturn made worse by the current recession.

‘We simply can’t monetize our success. We are doing everything we can to hang on to conventional television, but as we continue to stress, the conventional model is now broken,’ Paul Sparkes, EVP of corporate affairs at CTVgm said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sparkes reiterated that the solution to the A Channel woes will come if the CRTC introduces a fee-for-carriage arrangement with domestic cable and satellite TV carriers, though the regulator already has turned down the proposal on two occasions.

CTVgm last Friday estimated its conventional TV stations, which include the main CTV network, will lose up to $100 million in 2009 owing to the current economic downturn.

CTVgm officials insists the latest job cuts do not aim to force the CRTC’s hand on issues like fee-for-carriage and distant signals retransmissions during upcoming license renewal hearings. Instead, the broadcaster insists the cost-cutting and closures at the A Channels reflect local TV markets that increasingly cannot sustain viewership and ad revenues as the conventional TV pie shrinks in size.

CTVgm officials insist the cuts at the A channels could well have been made back when they lost money in the former CHUM fold, and would likely have come anyway when Canada completes a planned digital TV transition in 2011.

It’s only the current recession, which has put a squeeze on ad expenditures, that has forced CTVgm to make the abruptly A channel cuts now, the broadcaster argued Tuesday.

From Playback Daily