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Opinion

US Superbowl commercials or local news – what’s more important to you?

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Do you know that prior to 2 years ago, you couldn’t watch the Superbowl complete with those amazing Superbowl commercials in Canada.  Before that, you had to wait, maybe catch them online, or the next morning on a local newscast.  I know, it seems like ancient history.  In our thirst for entertainment and information that is widely available “on demand”, we are testing the limits of a terrestrial television system designed decades ago.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of Bell Media/CTV and the NFL as it relates to the CRTC’s decision to exempt the Superbowl broadcast from the rules of “simultaneous substitution”.  Called ‘sim-sub’ for short, it is the practice of blocking of US commercials on Canadian TV channels and in their place substituting national and local Canadian commercials. It’s been around since the rise of cable delivery in our country as a way to protect the exclusive licenses that Canadian TV companies have when they purchase the rights to a US network program and air it in Canada. These revenues help offset the cost of local news operations which generally are resource-heavy, low-margin, and in some cases, heavily subsidized programs.

In 2016 the CRTC made an exception to the sim-sub rules, allowing cable & satellite companies to dispense with the practice for Superbowl. Only the Superbowl. Why? Because the CRTC received tons of complaints for years from people who wanted to watch the big budget US Superbowl ads but couldn’t because the Canadian broadcast was full of ads for Tim Horton’s. You know what I mean.

This is in the news now because the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case being made by CTV and its parent company Bell Media, along with the NFL.  They make very good points relative to policy and regulations around this long-standing practice. They negotiated a long term deal with the NFL based on buying the “exclusive rights” to the game and paid big money.  And then the CRTC changed the rules.

Here’s some background.  The Canadian TV system works, complete with its local newscasts and Cancon rules worked because for years, revenue was generated and profits derived largely by purchasing Canadian rights to first-run US network programs and broadcasting them, generally in primetime, in “simulcast” with the originating US station.  You know… you think you’re watching Lucifer on FOX 28 KAYU only to realize you’re watching CTV when a commercial break comes on.  You’re a bit confused, then the show ends and suddenly you’re watching FOX 28 again.  No, it’s not you.  It’s the system.  This practice protects the Canadian TV station’s exclusive rights by blocking all other signals and inserting the Canadian channel over top of them.

Still with me? Ok… now in the case of the Superbowl, the system changed with no apparent warning.

The Superbowl is widely watched, but its for the commercials, as evidenced by the many complaints the CRTC received every year. In their zeal to satisfy the masses and quell the complaints, the Commission in effect  sacrificed CTV’s exclusive right to broadcast the game in Canada, and killed their ability to recoup the massive rights fees they’ve paid.   

What happened next? The Superbowl arrived on a variety of US cable channels, complete with the must-see commercials. And CTV, the only company that actually paid for the exclusive rights to broadcast the program in Canada, was out of luck.  The Superbowl was featured on a number of channels and CTV’s audience took a beating. The value of their commercials went down considerably.  Why? Because of the US channels with the high-budget US ads. The tsunami of production value, A-list talent and of course, those Budweiser horses proved irresistible.

So off they all go to the Supreme Court to sort it out.  Bell Media will surely argue that the loss of revenue from a show like Superbowl directly impacts the funds available to create local newscasts, pay staff, and generate profit for shareholders.

Bell said in a statement it is pleased that the Supreme Court will hear the appeal:

“We look forward to advancing our argument that a broad range of Canadian creators, producers, advertisers and businesses have been negatively impacted by the original decision.”

So what do you think? Is watching US commercials in the Superbowl more important than preserving the regulatory framework that protects our local over-the-air TV system across the country? Because the two really are inextricably linked. By eroding the ability for a Canadian program rights-holder to recoup their investment, as the CRTC did by  making an exemption of Simsub rules for Superbowl broadcasts, it strikes right to the heart of funds available to produce local news programming.

So now the greater question is just how important is local TV in today’s world of digital communication, on demand viewing, tablets, phones, PVR’s, and social media? Audiences and revenues for local Canadian TV stations have been under increasing pressure for years, and few cities realize this more than Red Deer.

While not related to Superbowl advertising, the one local TV station here closed its doors and quit broadcasting in 2009. When it closed, I’m told by a former Commissioner that not a squeak was heard at the CRTC from this local community- not a letter or comment. So was the station even missed? Many will remember (or not) when it was for a short period of time called E! Entertainment, all in an effort to find inexpensive programming.  Ultimately it didn’t work.   CKRD, RDTV, E!, CHCA- it had many aliases, but ultimately struggled to drive enough revenue to continue operating.  That was 9 years ago, and many of the factors that led to its closure have only accelerated since then.

Do you watch local TV news from the remaining stations in Edmonton and Calgary? Are these institutions still important, or would we all rather just watch US commercials and US TV shows and say goodbye to the notion of local TV news programming here in Canada? How have your habits changed? Do you care? Because you really can’t have it both ways for very long.

Lloyd Lewis is President of Todayville, INC.  He was VP/GM of CTV Edmonton from 2005-2015 and GM of RDTV Red Deer from 1997 to 2000. He worked in the local television industry for 35 years. 

President Todayville Inc., Former VP/GM CTV Edmonton, Honorary Lieutenant Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Past Board Member United Way of Alberta Capital Region, Musician, Photographer.

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City of Red Deer

Hazlett Lake may be the greatest opportunity lost for the city of Red Deer

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Hazlett Lake

This opinion piece was submitted by Garfield Marks.

In cities around the world, man made lakes have been an economic diversification, city saviour, a tourist destination, and/or heat issue solution. Let us look at examples I found on google.

In 2000, when Jasmin Imamović became mayor of Tuzla, it was a dilapidated, swampy mining settlement short on prospects. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s third-largest city had suffered badly in the Bosnian war, and from recessions, low wages and exodus of people since. Solution was a man made lake.
Tuzla’s economy has also changed massively. The tourism and service industries are now its biggest sectors – a sharp change of direction for a city previously known for its coal plants and smoke-filled skies.
Other cities are also trying to boost their profile by artificially creating “natural” tourist attractions. The UAE’s Palm Jumeirah and The World, some of the world’s largest artificial islands, are an extreme example; a rather more considered effort is Barcelona’s beach at Barceloneta, created as part of the city’s facelift for the 1992 Olympic Games.
The beach, the Catalan capital’s largest, is credited with catapulting Barcelona into the top ranks of European travel destinations: the yearly number of visitors staying in hotels in the city rose from 1.7 million in 1990 to 8.9 million in 2017.
Amsterdam has also tried the fake beach approach, incorporating housing.
The Serpentine (also known as the Serpentine River) is a 40-acre (16 ha) recreational lake in Hyde Park, London, England was a venue for the men’s and women’s triathlon and marathon swimming events in the London 2012 Olympics
In Alberta; Echo Dale, the largest of Medicine Hat’s parks, is located a short distance west of .Medicine Hat… The park has two man-made lakes:
Henderson Lake Park is one of Lethbridge’s premier parks featuring a 24 hectare man made lake, mature trees and groves, gardens, picnic shelters, and recreational properties.

Red Deer has Hazlett Lake in a prime spot by Hwy 2, great for tourism, 100 acres for recreational activities, 2 miles of shoreline for beaches, locate the Aquatic Centre there and you would have a premier tourist destination and residents could have a staycation..
We would not have to spend millions building a man made lake, we have the real thing.

 

SO:

Why did the city after discussing with a few members of the Red Deer Naturalists think that leaving such an opportunity  dormant, was a good economical idea?  Why not make some beaches? Why not develop this tourist attraction possibility? Incorporate the new Aquatic Centre.Why just build housing?
While other cities are investing millions in building artificial lakes, we are building homes to hide our very own natural lake.
A lot of words have been written about our state of affairs in Red Deer. The fall-out from a depressed economy, being in a bust portion of a boom-bust cycle. Talk of diversifying our economy away from our continued reliance on the energy sector.  Words are not actions, and it is worrisome. Is it fear or lack of vision that impedes us from following up on the words?
No matter how we dress it up, Red Deer is stagnant with growth at about 1% over 3 years, after population loss. Blame the economy, the stars or any number of reasons but it could have been different. Lethbridge is now more populated than Red Deer and Lethbridge is growing in this economy. Lethbridge invested and is still investing in areas appealing to young families including recreational facilities. Lethbridge has a history of investing in facilities to encourage growth, education and tourism. They turned a man made slough into Henderson Lake Park and has never looked back.
Red Deer has a greater opportunity in having a real natural lake. Will Red Deer build a park? NO, they will  plan on houses, and apartment buildings that may never get built, unless we go into a boom portion of the boom-bust cycle. This is the simplistic, easiest and safest plan with a low return on investment. It ignores the high-profile location and possibilities of the lake, but it has less risk. A wall of residences will be built to hide the lake from Hwy 2.
Remember, Hazlett Lake is a natural lake that covers a surface area of 0.45 km2 (0.17 mi2), has an average depth of 3 meters (10 feet). Hazlett Lake has a total shore line of 4 kilometers (2 miles).  It is 108.8 acres in size. Located in the north-west sector of Red Deer.

Red Deer has seen mass exodus of population over the years before seeing a very modest growth of about 1% over 3 years. The handling of Hazlett Lake or lack of vision for Hazlett Lake may be an example. How many Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and pay $10 parking to sit and swim in a lake? We have a lake but we wouldn’t think of building a beach anywhere along the 2 mile coastline. Let Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and spend their money there.
Lethbridge took a man-made slough and created Henderson Lake Park, a highly regarded tourist attraction. We will put a trail around our lake. Red Deer residents can go to Sylvan Lake to go to a beach.
We have several planned neighbourhoods that are sitting undeveloped or unfilled so this residential development they are proposing for Hazlett Lake, may never get built. What is the draw? We are creating new neighbourhoods, faster than we are growing, why?
Why not look at how we can invite growth to fill the empty lots we have now? Every town and city has lots for sale but how many have a lake, a natural lake with 4 kms. of shoreline?
We have an opportunity here with Hazlett Lake to create something, a destination, an attraction, will we let it slip through our fingers? Apparently it may be too late. Thanks city hall.

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City of Red Deer

Goulet-Jones says City’s new Environmental Master Plan means higher taxes and an assault on energy sector

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This opinion piece was submitted by Calvin Goblet-Jones

City Council Unanimously Rejects reason by approving a severely flawed Environmental Master Plan.

I honestly can not believe every councillor voted in favour of this document, I am severely disappointed in our Council Today.
Make no mistake, this document deserves to be put through the shredder.  There are a few good elements of the $150,000 document such as strengthening our inner city forests however the document is nothing more than a glimpse into a future of higher taxes, bans and a continued assault on our energy sector by a council who says they support energy.
Of course the document is full of buzzwords and flowery language but this document rejects the benefits of our local energy sector.  Instead of looking towards cheap natural gas as an energy source they look to failed renewable energy projects that you and I will pay heavily for.  The Document wants to limit Red Deers energy consumption, wants to limit your personal fuel consumption, and wants to ban ban ban.  The document wants to ban wood fires, wants to heavily regulate vehicles, and wants to shift all the vehicles the city owns to be electric which will cost taxpayers heavily.
Quickly, take a look at Action 20, they don’t mention a ban outright but they mention open air burning, wood burning and vehicles as part of their “action plan” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to interpret what they mean.

Look at Focus Area 1.2.2.3 where they want to limit consumer energy consumption and how they reject our local cheap, economy supporting fossil fuels.

Shame on Council for Unanimously approving this document.
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july, 2019

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