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Sign. Minute Muffler

Forced support

There have been some questions and, dare I say, complaints about the satellite companies blacking out shows and cable providers simulcasting channels so viewers are forced to watch their program on a local signal.  Is this some kind of Canadian propaganda?  “You can watch whatever channel you like as long as it’s ours”?

It’s actually similar to the practice of blackout areas for major sporting events.  People who live near the activity can’t watch it on TV.  They have to pay to see it live or watch it after the game is over.  It ensures local support for the industry.

But this isn’t the CFL or the NHL.  It’s CSI and NCIS.  Why should a Canadian regulatory board tell viewers which signal they should be watching?

Maybe the better question is what’s the difference?

It’s the same show at the same time.  The difference is the commercial content.  Instead of seeing the commercials from Detroit or Minneapolis or wherever the American channel’s signal originated, viewers are seeing Thunder Bay’s local ads.

But why worry about the commercials anyway?  They’re not exactly a priority.  You don’t turn on the TV to watch commercials.  Your goal is the show.  So what if you’re missing out on the cool million-dollar Super Bowl commercials and ads for, say, Furniture King.  They’re online anyway long before the ref even flips the coin.  (The Super Bowl ones, not Furniture King.)

So now you’re forced to watch local commercials for some pet/mattress/car mart.

And why is this an important distinction?  These are your local businesses, your neighbours, who are paying to promote their livelihood.  They need every opportunity to have their image seen in their community in order to succeed.  They’ve paid for television airtime in their region.  Don’t they deserve the protection that comes from a simulcast or a channel blackout?

Then there’s the TV station itself.  Your taxes and cable bills do not “pay” for it.  In fact, the income from advertisers allows it to produce your local news each night.  So protecting them protects the station’s bottom line too.

Big deal.  No loss.

Except Global Winnipeg or CTV in Toronto isn’t going to send reporters to cover the Bordercats games, the Miles with the Giant Marathon, or the weekly city council meetings.  So without local television, a large percentage of your local news and sports – not to mention the weather – wouldn’t see the light of day.

Of course, there are other sources.  But tell that to the dozens of local non-profit organizations who don’t have funds for an advertising budget.  They receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in production and airtime each year that are donated by local TV stations.  Would they get the same media support from a Toronto network?

So without the odd blackout or simulcast to ruin your night of dedicated commercial-watching, a lot of people in cities like Thunder Bay would lose.

But at least you’d see the Super Bowl ads.  Once a year.


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