Sunday, December 13, 2015

What is going on at CHCH?

Seriously? Has Channel 11 finally gone off the rails? This is the station that gave Canada The Party Game, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, Tiny Talent Time, The Great Debate, The Party Game, Smith and Smith (which spawned The Red Green Show) ...and became the Canadian home of what used to be known as the WWF. Several celebrities got their start on the station including polka maestro Walter Ostanek and actor Martin Short.

Now CHCH has filed for bankruptcy, and has been stripped of virtually ALL of its programming. The all-day news. Sportsline. Square Off. And the evening news is now just half an hour. What's even more bizarre is that the news division was actually outsourced and not owned by Channel Zero (which owns Bloomberg Canada, Rewind, Silver Screen Classics and three "adult" channels). Some people have been there for 35 years and were told, pack up your belongings and go home.

Last year, the station celebrated 60 years on the air. But I suspected something might be up in the air for quite some time. Sometimes, it would run commercials that were weeks out of date - such as a Boxing Day sale in March.

It ran a commercial for itself , selling ads real cheap. You had to buy them in a block of a hundred, but it worked out to just $99 per pop. When networks in Canada sell prime time ads for a hundred thousand for a thirty second commercial, a business model like CHCH's is just not sustainable.

To see one of the most innovative stations in the country go to the trash heap in such a short period of time is sad. It was bad when it was an affiliate of E! Now it has nothing going for it except history.

A sidebar, if CHCH shuts down all together then the transmitter which is currently a dual stick with "Yes TV" (owned by Crossroads Ministries) will become the sole problem of the latter. The station is technically separate from 100 Huntley Street but it would be interesting to see if it decided to keep it running or just become a cable-only entity, like the late Sun News Network was forced to do when it was told to shut down its transmitters in Toronto, Hamilton, London and Ottawa (and that was nearly four years before SNN went off the air for good). It costs $30,000 per month just for the power for the stick, never mind tuning it up to make sure it still works.

The only other option is the model CHEK in Victoria has - the station is owned by its employees. That model has worked out just fine - and it can work here. It won't be easy. But it would be a big loss of ego if Hamilton lost its only commercial station. I can't say I've watched the channel lately because it is too much focused on local news and gives lip service to national and international events. But I'm still crossing my fingers.

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