We are heartened to see the CBC's renewed commitment to increasing local radio service in under-served regions like Hamilton, but the work is not over yet.
By Sonja Macdonald
Published February 02, 2011
On February 1, 2011, CBC/Radio Canada released its strategic direction for the next five years. One of the central commitments of the Everyone, Every way plan is to expand and deepen CBC's regional presence in Canada by 2015. This is something that is long overdue.
One of the key elements of the plan is to establish new local radio stations in under-served areas of the country. This is potentially great news for Hamilton as it build on previous local efforts to increase the presence of the national broadcaster in our community.
Here is some of the background to this issue. Although we are the ninth largest urban area in Canada, we have no local service from the CBC, despite our region's contribution of more than $20 million per annum in tax dollars towards the public broadcasters budget.
Similarly-sized cities, like Winnipeg and Quebec City, have a greater number of local TV and radio stations than Hamilton, and both of these cities are also home to local CBC radio and television stations, whereas Hamilton has none.
The public broadcaster is aware of this, and in its 2005 Regional Strategy, CBC articulated its commitment to establishing new radio stations in several communities, with Hamilton as a priority region.
Within this context, beginning in 2004, the Centre for Community Study (CCS) launched the Hamilton Media Project. A central pillar of the project has been engagement with the public broadcaster including advocating for a CBC radio presence in the region.
Through a focused effort that includes research, community engagement, meetings with executives from the public broadcaster, presentations before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (2007), and submissions to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC), the CCS has argued that Hamilton is the most underserved community in terms of media in general in Canada and specifically in terms of CBC.
One goal of the Media Project is to urge the CBC to seek out solutions to this under-service, including securing a local frequency for a local CBC radio station.
Due to our proximity to Canada's largest media market, Toronto, frequencies are scarce. Therefore, the public broadcaster should consider a creative solution including the possibility of partnering with either McMaster University or Mohawk College to share their community/campus stations to provide a local CBC radio service.
Over the last two years, the precariousness of local commercial media has been exposed, with the demise of the CanWest Media Empire and the closure of local television stations across the country. Although we in Hamilton were saved the fate of losing our only local TV station, there is still a monopoly situation that exists in both talk radio and TV here.
As such, there is limited diversity of opinion in public affairs being presented by commercial media and little attention given to our many cultural gems, such as our world-renowned music scene.
The connection to our national public broadcaster is not just about local media diversity, but also about bringing Hamilton stories to the national stage. This is why it is imperative that Hamilton should be the priority locale for CBC's regional expansion of new radio stations.
Certainly we are heartened to see the CBC's renewed commitment to increasing local radio service in under-served regions, but the work is not over yet.
An early report suggests that Hamilton may be in line for a new micro news website to cover local issues. However, given the long-standing under-service to Hamilton, one of Canada's larger cities, CBC should also be establishing a local radio station.
Our community needs to rally now and make our voices heard with the leadership at the public broadcaster. All Hamilton residents who are interested in this issue can have their say in two ways. First you can communicate your views about CBC's overall 5-year strategy at CBC's online consultations.
Alternatively, if you would like to make a specific comment about CBC in Hamilton, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The CCS will compile all comments and send them to CBC President Hubert Lacroix and Kirstine Stewart, Executive Vice President of English Services.
For more information on the Hamilton Media Project visit the Centre for Community Study website.
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