Channel 8 News Turmoil: 1968

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Channel 8 News Turmoil: 1968

Postby cart_machine » Thu Aug 01, 2019 5:02 am

There was a time when BCTV's News Hour didn't take over television sets at 6 p.m. throughout the Lower Mainland.

Let's go back to 1968. Alan Fotheringham tore apart channel 8's news coverage in his Sun column of July 26th. By October, Cameron Bell had arrived to run the Channel 8 newsroom and then proceeded to build a newscast that took the sand out of CBUT's Hourglass.


It is a fact—conceded—that most Canadians by now have pretty well given up on the potential of private TV in this country. The performance of so many commercial channels has confirmed the definition of TV as chewing gum for the eyes. Still, the granting of a public licence in a medium that can operate only on so many airwaves carries certain obligations. The question here is whether CHAN-TV, the private company given a franchise to serve the Vancouver population, is fulfilling those obligations.
CHAN-TV will be releasing shortly its schedule of programs for the fall season. The schedule will confirm that Channel 8 has given up even the pretence of other years that it is providing some public affairs and local programs to justify the hour after hour beaming of canned, American, (and heavily money-making) shows. Pipeline, the daily opinion and talk-back show by Mark Raines, has been canned. This Week, the public affairs show, has been canned. The skimpy news coverage of the local scene has been cut back even further. There is talk of repeating, at 7:30 a.m., the 11 p.m. news of the previous evening which is already just a rehash, with a different announcer, of the 6 p.m. news. Channel 8, in fact, has no news coverage after 4 p.m. each day—or on weekends. It has one (1) reporter, Stu Blakely, who skims the city every day, from city council to lost children, attempting to give the appearance of TV coverage of the third largest city in Canada.
Ron Morrier's Good Morning, the usual bland gossip with the housewives, has been larded out to 1 1/2 hours every day. There is Jean Cannem's hour show every morning for the girls and a half-hour kids' show. That—with Windfall—is the total local production of the station—unless you wish to keep a straight face and consider All-Star Wrestling. The death toll is increasing. News Director Andy Marquis has just quit—and has not been replaced. Blakely fills in. Producer Brian Workman has just quit. Barry Cramer, the p.r. man, just quit—a part-time has announcer is taking his place. Gordon Miller, a top man in graphic arts, has quit.
The station now has four producers, but there's scarcely enough work to keep them busy. There's the suspicion among other TV people that they're all being kept only because letting some of them go would confirm that the station is faking it in local production.
All this is the more puzzling because Channel 8 boss Ray Peters has just been elected president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. You'd think he would be concerned with setting an example to his colleagues. It's puzzling because Channel 8 was one of the early screamers that Canadian stations be allowed to convert to color. The CHAN-TV transmitters and the tape and film facilities were converted but only to accept color programs. Because it will not spend the money to produce color, it has lost to the CTV network both People in Conflict and Magistrate's Court—the two locally produced potboilers that allowed Peters to claim recently that his station employed 1,500 "actors" annually—those 1,500 being the walk-ons who filed through these melodramas.
It is puzzling because CHAN-TV—which also has Channel 6, Victoria (with an even lower budget)—makes substantial profits; something like $300,000 net in the last six-month statement is what I hear. Famous Players tried to buy it. Radio tycoon Frank Griffiths wants to buy it. It is perhaps not so puzzling that Channel 8 is releasing its fall program now: it is safe. Its licence renewal to 1970 has just been granted. Where, in all this, is this vaunted new regulatory body, the Canadian Radio-Television Commission, which is supposed to be setting such tough standards and drastic penalties? Lord Thomson, with his usual barefaced cynicism, once announced that getting a private TV franchise was like "being granted a licence to print your own money." Channel 8 seems to be pushing this philosophy to its insulting limit. Granted permission to use public airwaves by a public body, it is pretending to serve this market of 1 million people with a reporting and public affairs staff that would not suffice on a weekly paper in Keremeos.
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