We’re in an age of media decline. Last week I posted my thoughts about what’s gone wrong with Canadian newspapers. But local TV in Canada is also losing viewers at an alarming rate.
This week the CRTC was told that fully half of our local stations could be gone within the next four years.
Local stations have seen their revenues decline by 25% since 2010 or around the last time the major nets were able to wring some local subsidies out of the cable providers and the public purse.
Since then, cord-cutting has become even more prevalent and a substantial portion of Millennials have never bothered to tether themselves to a cable at all.
More and more of us are getting our news online as well.
But news and information is not the only reason people tune in to a local TV station. They’re looking for a reflection of the community in which they live, maybe even a take on national and international affairs that comes from a perspective that reflects who they are themselves.
And you don’t see much of that anymore.
As a kid, I remember our local weatherman, who also hosted a morning kids show doing the weather in a madras shirt and shorts during the summer months and standing outside in a parka in the winter.
News desks were trucked to the rotunda of the Legislature or chute side of the rodeo where the entire newscast would go out with gawkers standing around watching.
These days it’s all green screen sets and silk suits. Everybody’s got the latest effects packages and slickly edited video. It’s your local news but it looks the same no matter where you live.
Yeah, there might be some forced jocularity among the hosts and regular commentators. But little if any of that reflects the interactions you have on a daily basis with your friends and neighbors. And overall the mood is stiff and formal. We’re on TV. We have to behave.
And mostly we have to behave in the way the people on the big city newscasts behave.
Nobody’s going to get offended or challenged or be at risk of seeing anything spontaneously “local”.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could begin to see ourselves as we are? Isn’t there a chance doing that might make more of us tune in to see what was going on?
I spent a year on Australia’s Gold Coast. Basically it’s vacation central for the country. A place where you’ll encounter real Australians relaxed and just being who they are.
And every now and then, those people end up on the local news. On both sides of the news desk.
Now, you’ll need a bit of a language lesson to follow what follows below, so here are the basics …
A stubbies and singlets party is basically drinking with scantily clad women.
A Servo is a place where you get gas or maybe a bowl of noodles after hours.
Pluggers are a pair of thongs.
A bit suss translates as “a little suspicious”.
And Mootdanger means, er … okay it’s a combination of Crazy and another “C” word although I’m not sure which one comes first in this instance.
All I’m saying is — if Canadian newscasters allowed a few more of their interviews to be as open and honest and unabashedly reflective of the local character as this, they might have a bigger audience.
First published on Legion of Decency.