Thursday, October 7, 2010
Stop Simulcasting Now!
Lunch last week with a casual acquaintance who started teasing me by asking: "Oh, is there a new Canadian TV season."
I knew exactly what she was saying. Like everybody else I become fixated on the dozens of new American series and I tend to neglect the Canadian ones.
But it's not my fault.
I blame simulcasting.
Before simulcasting Canadian TV was far more vibrant and competitive.
These days the commercial networks try to simulcast all their American product and I can't blame them.
Simulcasting was a device invented some 25 years ago to stem the flow of Canadian advertising dollars to border U.S. stations and it's been mighty effect.
Before simulcasting Buffalo stations raked in some $25 million a year in advertising from Canadian companies.
These days you'd be hard pressed to find a single Canadian ad on any of the Buffalo outlets.
Simulcasting became possible as more of us in southern Ontario switched to cable.
Under CRTC guidelines Canadian TV stations and networks can direct local cable companies to black out the incoming U.S. signal and substitute a Canadian one of the program being carried is the same.
When you switch on CBS's WIVB in Buffalo to catch CSI you may be completely unaware you are actually watching CTV's signal from Toronto.
You're paying enormous cable bills for services you often aren't receiving because most Buffalo affiliates are being simulcast by one Canadian network or another right through prime time.
By this trick CSI and all other U.S. series simulcast on U.S. stations get a double rating.
There's no way Canadian series can compete, no way.
Before simulcasting Canadian networks certainly stockpiled American fare.
But they would instead prerelease their U.S. shows a few days before the American release date.
Under that system Canadian viewers got two chances to see a new episode of something like St. Elsewhere or Executive Suite.
Simulcasting may reap big bucks for the Canadian networks but it has threatened their programming independence as well as a lot of their identity.
Why not restrict each network to eight hours of simulcasting a week and encourage them to counterprogram more imaginiatively in other time slots?
The winners would be the viewers who are getting ripped off by this simulcasting scam.