Thursday, 13 January 2011

History Television CRTC licence renewal

(Warning - this post is of interest mainly to Canadians, and contains opinion)

Are you happy with Canada's History Television channel? If not, or if so, you have a rare chance to express your opinions to the CRTC at a time when it is especially open to viewers' comments.

Shaw Media, the company behind specialty cable channel History Television (previously History Television Canada) has submitted documentation for renewal of its licence. This is part of a broader process for licence renewal of many channels.  A public comment period is now open, with submissions due before January 28, 2011 in advance of public hearings starting on April 4, 2011. The process is described at where you can also find links to information from the company.

As part of the process the company is seeking a reduction of its Canadian programming expenditure (CPE) requirement from 40% to 29%.

In its submission the company addresses a comment from CRTC staff that "past complaints have been filed against the History Network in regards to the broadcasting of certain programs that did not meet its nature of service definition.”

The company responds that it invests heavily in original productions, commissioning approximately 100-120 new hours of Canadian programming each year and pointing to series such as Finding the Fallen, and Ancestors in the Attic, the two part miniseries Battlefield Quebec and specials such as The Last Soldier, Storming Juno and Death or Canada.

It also comments that in airing programs such as M*A*S*H  and Ice Road Truckers it strives to offer programming that is both entertaining and provides some relevant historical significance.

I have reviewed the material in the company submission and its earlier reports, the History Television website, and considered my own viewing experience. Comments have to be based mainly on history as there is little in the document that reflects new initiatives, other than a promise of a History Project.

My views are the following:

1. History Television is a highly profitable business. In 2009 it had total income of $49,692,444, higher than in any of the previous four years. Total expenditures were $22,428,203, lower than in any of the previous four years. Advertising revenue alone more than covered the total expenditures. Operating margin exceeded 50%, up from 32% in 2005.

2. History Television relies largely on US produced and themed content. A one day sample, starting at 6am on Tuesday 11 January 2011, had 17 hours out of 24 with US themed programs. That fosters US hegemony. The programming offered contains little Canadian content and fails to reflect the diverse origins of Canadians and its conditions of licence which require "a special emphasis on documentary and dramatic programs related to Canada’s past."

Even if substantially enhanced Canadian content is unaffordable, which given the profitability is highly questionable, there is no lack of other international content to draw on, from Who Do You Think You Are? now produced in the UK, Ireland and Australia as well as the US, to numerous BBC productions, such as A History of the World drawing on 100 objects from British museums, which, with imagination, could be augmented with Canadian content.

3. History Television programming emphasizes military and action themes, and largely fails to reflect other aspects (political, literature, music, art, science, technology) of Canada's (and the world's) history.

4. History Television already has one of the lowest CPE requirements amongst channels in its category (termed Category A .) In proposing to invest even less on Canadian programming on the channel the company is falling further behind in nurturing and supporting Canadian historical research and media production. The proposal to require a group CPE, rather than individual station requirements, will be to the detriment of those interested in Canadian historical programming.

5. History Television's licence virtually precludes the development of any competitive channel. However, much of the programming now on History Television could also be shown on other channels. The Commission has an obligation to ensure Canadians with an interest in history, content creators and viewers, receive the maximum possible benefit from programming from the one licensee in the history niche.

In summary, History Television is a profitable speciality channel now well into its second decade of operation. It should be providing a higher level of benefits to Canada's historical interest community.

The above may become an intervention to the CRTC; comments appreciated.


DWP said...

Excellent! Please intervene.

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to get not only individuals but affected organizations like Canadian historians, teachers, authors, Veteran, Monarchist Group, the Ministry of Culture, historical re-enactors, Canadian Film, Writers and Art/CGI Guilds?

Are there any more links or petitions like this?

Why are you Canadians literally paying someone to tell you only Americans count?

HEY, at least stand up for yourselves as Canadians in the present.