Posted by deano on August 3, 2011
(The following article in no way endorses or encourages support for the political characters mentioned. As a matter of fact, anyone who knows me also knows my thoughts and opinions about our elected officials – they work for us and we need to keep reminding them of that.)
Politicians are always anxious to connect with the public. Either to garner votes, gather up campaign workers or grab some cash to cover their campaign expenses. Barrack Obama proved the value of social media in his bid to be the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party and then for his run for the top spot as President of the United States. Pressing the flesh by shaking hands and kissing babies at parking lot rallies still has value in getting the word out but social media allows politicians to connect with grass-roots community supporters. In today’s environment a political candidate ignoring the reach of social media is similar to when Nixon didn’t grasp the value of television and took a beating from Kennedy during the famous presidential debate broadcast on national TV networks in 1960.
The latest to jump into the social media pool is Gary Mar, a long-time politician from Alberta. Mar is running for the leadership spot of the Alberta PC party. Mar has been the first of the leadership candidates to step up to the social media plate swinging an iPad App. He isn’t the first politician in Alberta to use an iPhone App in a campaign though. Naheed Nenshi attracted a lot of press coverage for his use of social media which included an iPhone App in the campaign for his current job as Mayor of Calgary Alberta.
The Gary Mar iPhone App works on an iPad but since it is designed for the smaller size of the Apple mobile phone it doesn’t use up the full screen on the tablet. The app integrates Mar’s various other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook along with access to his YouTube channel. Simple, clean and to the point, the app is well designed and works. A BlackBerry version of his app is also available. What stands out is the strong branding elements of the Gary Mar leadership campaign.
In case you haven’t picked up on this, politicians aren’t just people. They are products that need a strong brand presence and promotion just like cars, breakfast cereal or other goods. Selling a politician to the public requires a marketing campaign every bit as focused and aggressive as any other product’s public messaging. Making use of social media and leveraging the reach of the online community makes sense for business so why not politicians.
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Posted by deano on January 3, 2011
A new year and time for my annual predictions slash wish list…
1. Net Neutrality takes a beating…
In 2010 we saw actions on the part of large internet service providers that set the stage to put limits on a free and open access internet. In 2011 expect to see more aggressive moves on the part of internet service providers to set caps on usage and even limit access to particular sites. Some of this will be prompted in Canada by the vertical integration of media companies that we saw in 2010. The move to actually censor internet content will come from federal governments in the interest of national security and safety of its citizens. The FCC in the US and the CRTC in Canada will declare the internet as a ‘broadcast’ medium thus bringing what is currently an unregulated platform under some form of regulation and subject to legislation. By 2012 you will need a government issued license to have a website.
2. Web video becomes mainstream…
Video viewing on the internet will increase but delivering long form premium content such as news and entertainment programming designed for the web will become more popular. The adoption by a non-geek audience is the major influencing factor. Along with mainstream content being delivered in bundled packages similar to cable television, unique offerings from independent content creators will increase, giving rise to a whole new segment of the production industry. In particular there will be a focus on local and hyper-local news coverage.
3. Apple iPad will maintain it’s momentum…
Not a genius prediction but 2011 will see little in the way of non-Apple iPad tablets penetrating the market. The iPad is almost perfect for the tasks it’s designed for and the market of users it’s aimed at. So far Windows tablets just don’t get it. Android or even Chrome based tablets might make a small dent but maybe not until 2012 since Apple has too much of a head start on the competition in this area.
4. Facebook will continue to dominate…
Another no brainer but even though it’s reaching a saturation point, Facebook will continue to grow in subscribers. More to the point though is in how subscribers will use what has become the number one social networking site. More time spent on Facebook by subscribers can be expected with limits on who they friend and how much personal information they share out. BTW: MySpace will teeter on the verge of non-existence but will be bought up by some outfit like Google or Microsoft or even Apple thus breathing new life into a social network that has fallen behind thanks to poor management.
5. Internet access declared a utility by some communities…
Smaller communities will realize that the need to be connected to the internet is important to retaining business and citizens. Since large internet service providers don’t see the profit margin in providing services to smaller communities when compared to population dense urban centres they will be reluctant to provide high-speed services to these smaller communities thus creating a digital divide. In 2010 there were some towns in North America and the UK who have taken on the task of providing their citizens with high-speed internet as a utility along with power, water and other essential services. Expect to see more municipalities taking on the role of internet service provider with the outcome being a head-to-head competitive battle with the major providers over residence and business subscribers.
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Posted by deano on September 16, 2010
The local TV station in Red Deer, Alberta shut down in August 2009 after their parent company Canwest-Global failed to find a buyer for the specialty network they were part of. At its peak as a local TV station, RDTV (aka CHCA-TV) employed over one-hundred people. In less than two years, Canwest-Global had reduced staffing to less than ten. Where did these people go and what was the negative economic impact to the region as a result?
Local TV stations have been facing cutbacks and outright elimination at an accelerating rate during the past five years. This not only limits access to local news and events but has a strong negative effect on the local economy. It’s simple: stations close and people lose their jobs. Their contribution to the health of the local economy is reduced and the small businesses in the area suffer. Add to that, the loss of tax revenue for the local town or city.
There is a local TV model being promoted by Corus Audio & Advertising Services Ltd (owned by Shaw Communications) which delivers local content from a central location to a network of targeted communities and offers up advertising for local and regional businesses. Where it stops being local is in the actual production process. The Corus model makes use of production facilities somewhere in British Columbia with the broadcast signal branded and promoted as being local to the communities which receive the signal. This provides no new jobs in the communities and the dollars paid out by local advertisers leave the area. A similar model is being used by the Weather Network in providing local forecasts on cable and satellite TV along with national programing. Mostly national and not much local. They currently have an application submission into the CRTC for review.
This model appears to be an attempt to bring local TV back to life and fill the gap created by the large broadcast networks moving to non-local content but it isn’t truly local or reflective of the communities we call home. The only true local TV is content produced locally by the people of the community. The MyLocal1/Corus channel and similar models can be called local but they aren’t.
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Posted by deano on September 10, 2010
Paul Harris, a local business owner and sustainability advocate, is running for a seat on The City of Red Deer council. In the true spirit of social media Paul is making use of Facebook to seek input from the community. Here’s what I posted on the Paul Harris (For Red Deer City Council) discussion page on local arts and culture:
While at the recent Fiestaval, I was reminded of how diverse Red Deer’s culture is. A yearly event is a great way to share but what we really could benefit from is a community access TV channel which would give all the citizens an opportunity to showcase their activities on a regular basis.
What does the City have to do with a TV station? By using the web and new media technology it wouldn’t be that hard to do and the Public Library would be a likely venue for a true community access TV channel. One way to feature the unique and special qualities of Red Deer is to show the people of the community to the entire world through the magic of the internet.
Don’t forget, Red Deer is the third largest city in Alberta (behind Calgary and Edmonton) but we do not have a broadcast TV station. And with the current trend in Canadian broadcast media moving towards bigger is better, we probably never will.
With new media delivered via the web growing in popularity it only makes sense that we start taking some steps toward supporting local news on a locally owned community TV internet channel. This is being done in other locales, why not here?
(Disclosure: I have some involvement with RDTV.ca, a web based commercial venture through freelance video reporting but feel that a true community access TV channel would not have advertising or professional journalists reporting on events and producing program content.)
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Posted by deano on September 10, 2010
In a move which surprised many of the Canadian media observers, BCE (aka Bell) just bought 100% of CTV. Although they owned a small amount of the CTVGlobemedia shares it was always speculated that Bell’s competitor, Rogers Communication would be the winner in the media wars currently being waged in Canada. The major communications companies are consolidating their control over media production and distribution which is reminiscent of the stranglehold the Hollywood studios had in the last century, of the motion picture business. Rogers is not out of the game completely since they own CityTV but compared to Bell owning CTV they come out in at best in third place, most likely fourth.
Quebecor Media owns much if not all of the Quebec telecom and media market, Shaw is in the final phase of adding Canwest-Global to their broad communications empire, Rogers owns CityTV and now Bell owns CTV. One journalist pointed out that Telus, the only other major Canadian tele-com, is left out in the cold. There are smaller regional networks out there but none that would elevate Telus to the level held by their cohorts. The last major broadcast network is the CBC and even though it is a federal government entity it might not be too surprising to have the government set them free in order to divest themselves of a chronic money loser. Strange things are happening in the world of Canadian media and this wouldn’t be all that out of line. The real big winner in this deal is Bell and no doubt the ghost of Ted Rogers is turning over in his grave at having his legacy missing a great opportunity. Sorry guys, ya snooze – ya lose!
On a side-note, CTVGlovemedia announced today that they are selling all but 15% of their ownership of the Globe and Mail, a venerable Canadian newspaper steeped in history, to Woodbridge Co. Ltd., the holding company of the Toronto-based Thomson family. In a move some say makes sense to support Bell’s consolidation of their broadcast assets it may be that they see the writing on the wall and are jettisoning a dying media platform.
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Posted by deano on September 8, 2010
There is a lot of chatter going on within the broadcast industry regarding Quebecor Media’s announcement of the SunTV News network. Quebecor is asking the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission for a three-year specialty channel cable license to replace the current over-the-air Sun TV station in Toronto with a national channel. SunTV News network is affiliated with the Sun Newspaper chain, also owned by Quebecor. They intend to broadcast a straight talk and news format which some have called a Fox News North.
Fox News in the US is well known for it’s right-wing, ultra conservative commentary on the news. The same right-wing approach is expected from the fledgling SunTV network given that Kory Teneycke, Quebecor’s Media vice-president and promoter of the new operation, is a former communications director to Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper. There are many speaking out against the channel based on Teneycke’s relationship with Harper who is the leader of Canada’s Conservative party. There is speculation that SunTV will become a mouthpiece and P.R. platform for Harper’s Torys. Does Canada need a right-wing conservative broadcast TV channel? Why not? In a land that values freedom of speech it’s only fair that the conservatives have their opportunity to stand on a soapbox and preach their message. Freedom of speech is very important, whether you agree with the message or not. But below the surface there is another story that has a totally different take on freedom of speech.
SunTV News network has asked the CRTC to grant it special consideration by fast tracking the approval process to make the network a mandatory channel on cable and satellite feeds. Why the rapid move to bypass the lineup all other channels must undergo? The executives of SunTV claim that they can only survive financially if given special treatment. If they don’t have immediate access to a large market they can’t attract the advertising dollars required to pay the bills. Some critics claim that expecting special treatment is unrealistic and if the channel can not survive the normal market pressures of being in broadcasting then they don’t deserve to be in the business. Other critics even go so far as to charge Prime Minister Harper of exerting political influence on the CRTC to give SunTV News network the free lunch they are asking for.
There are reports that pressure has been put on CRTC Commission Chair Konrad von Finckenstein to resign before his term ends in 2012. While at the same time Michel Arpin, former CRTC Vice-Chairman Broadcasting, had his request to renew his term denied. The name at the top of the list to succeed Arpin is Luc Lavoie, former spokesperson for Brian Mulroney and former executive vice-president at Quebecor. Currently the position is still vacant and it is expected that it will remain that way even with a critical ruling coming up regarding Shaw taking over Canwest-Global. Don’t forget this is all about freedom of speech. But how free and open will our speech be if the the media industry is controlled by the government and owned by companies who maintain a monopoly on the creation and distribution of news.
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Posted by deano on September 3, 2010
In January of this year, the CRTC announced plans for an increase in rural broadband internet service and the telco’s reply was ‘rural broadband is nice but who’s going to pay for it?’. Well it looks like the CRTC has found a way to fund a broadband internet roll-out to non-urban customers by using subscriber fees that the phone companies were counting on for their own benefit. The CRTC has approved a plan for the deployment of broadband Internet service to 287 rural and remote communities using funds from ‘deferral accounts‘ which will also be used to provide a rebate to urban phone customers.
What are ‘deferral accounts’? In 2002, the CRTC allowed phone companies to charge above their normally regulated price caps so that new competitors entering the market for home phones — primarily cable companies such as Rogers and Vidéotron — could undercut them. The extra charges went into deferral accounts, which over the years amounted to $1.6 billion. Phone companies were allowed to draw on these accounts to lower the wholesale rates they charged competitors such as Primus and Yak to access their networks.
According to this article in Broadcaster Magazine, “The large telephone companies will use funds that have accumulated in their deferral accounts to pay for these initiatives. . . Telus Communications Company will connect 159 communities in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.”. The telco’s have responded to the order with extreme unhappiness and maybe even a little surprise. Along with the CRTC allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars from the deferral fund, the federal regulator is setting the technical standard for rural broadband as well.
This isn’t sitting well with companies like Bell who would prefer to use their wireless HSPA+ technology versus the DSL system mandated by the CRTC. HSPA+ is the preferred choice of carriers such as Bell because it is an easy and low-cost enhancement to their existing 3G networks and although in some tests it offers a higher speed when compared to DSL and even WiMax it falls short in two critical areas. Since it shares the same network infrastructure as heavily populated 3G networks, HSPA+ suffers from slow and inconsistent speeds in actual use. In order to manage this traffic, carriers making use of HSPA+ must implement 5Gb data limits per user. These usage caps are not required for WiMax or DSL which have proven to be successful in rural as well as urban use.
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Posted by deano on August 28, 2010
There was a tweet that came across my feed the other day that asked the question:
What would people think of #Rogers buying #CTV? #crtc
My immediate response was:
Don’t let this bad thing happen! RT What would people think of #Rogers buying #CTV? #crtc
Here’s a richer description of why it’s a bad thing.
Back in the early days of motion pictures, in what is referred to as the golden age of Hollywood, there where eight studios who essentially owned the movie industry in the US. These studios created the films with writers, directors, producers and actors who they employed as staff. They owned the film processing and laboratories. They created the prints and distributed them through the theaters that they also owned. In a nutshell, they managed the entire process of movie making from beginning to end: design, creation, manufacturing and distribution.
It was good for the studios and their financial position but was it good for the industry? Independent film makers and non-studio owned theaters where at a severe disadvantage and struggled to bring their stories to the public. The creative talent within this studio managed system of production often voiced their dissatisfaction with the repressive regime they toiled under. The US Department of Justice also thought there was something wrong with a studio controlled oligopoly and sued the major Hollywood studios with unfair trade practices in 1938 and won a decree in 1940 which set out the changes the studios were required to implement. By 1943 it was determined that the studios had not met the conditions set out in the decree and the top eight studios where sued again by the US DOJ. By 1948 as a result of the lawsuit, there was a major change in how the studios conducted business including their relinquishing ownership of theaters across the country. The stranglehold of the Hollywood studios on the North American film industry ended and a new era of independent and alternative film making emerged.
There is no denying that some great movies were made during the golden age of Hollywood. Classics that still impress to this day. Incredible actors, writers and technology which many still view with awe. The flaw with the studio system was in the absolute total control a few people exercised over an entire industry. Decisions were made with their benefit in mind and at a detriment to any who opposed them. In pursuit of profit illegal activities merged with standard operational practice and the business of making movies became a dictatorship which stifled creativity and freedom of thought.
There were specific business practices which formed the basis of the charges against the studios which wouldn’t apply if Rogers owned CTV but the overall vertical integration and total control and ownership of the process would exist. If Rogers added the national broadcaster to their assets they would effectively be in total control of media from beginning to end: content creation, production and distribution. That would be good for Rogers but bad for the rest of the industry, specifically the independent content creators and us, the consumers of media. Many people bash the CRTC but it would be the only organization in a position to keep Rogers from taking control of our media.
Note: Rogers owning CTV may or may not be purely hypothetical but a reality we can’t overlook is Shaw owning Canwest-Global. It may be measured on a smaller scale but it maps out with the same end-to-end ownership of the media and the entertainment business in Canada.
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Posted by deano on August 27, 2010
Today the CRTC released their latest policy on community access TV following the hearings last spring when the people involved with this valuable resource, including CACTUS, community groups and cable companies, presented their opinions on the existing practices along with proposals for change. One of the quantifiable items at stake in this often divisive battle is the $120 million dollars a year which is collected from subscribers and given back to cable companies to fund community access to studios, equipment, technical expertise and air time.
In recent years the cable-co’s across Canada have been eliminating community access and putting in its place, professional journalists. This replaces local TV coverage with a regional network which is being funded by a redirection of the $120 million dollars worth of subscriber fees intended for community TV initiatives.
The CRTC announced in this latest policy paper that cable companies will be required to improve reporting of community access activities by 2012 and provide 50% of air time on the cable channel to community developed programming by 2014. Although this is an increase from 30% in the current policy most cable-co’s provide less but no one knows for certain since the existing reporting obligations aren’t being met and the definition of community access programming is subject to various interpretations.
Here in Central Alberta cable has a low penetration rate with satellite TV service taking the lead as the provider of choice in over 55% of the homes in the region so community access via cable has a limited reach anyway. What the CRTC should do is give the money collected in the levy, estimated to be $120 million this year alone, to community groups as outlined in the CACTUS model and mandate that the programming be included in the basic packages offered by cable, satellite and IPTV. Building out a web based video service should also be included in this plan.
Sidebar: Given the current political wind blowing through the CRTC hallways, they might not even be around in 2014. Then what?
CPAC coverage of the CRTC hearings on community access TV. The dates to watch are April 27 through to May 7.
CACTUS (Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations) which proposes a detailed model for community TV making use of the reallocated $120 million dollar levy.
OpenMedia “To advance and support a media communications system in Canada that adheres to the principles of access, choice, diversity, innovation and openness.” Here’s their take on the latest CRTC policy.
CRTC’s policy framework for community television 2002
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Posted by deano on August 25, 2010
On Saturday last week I was in our local Penhold grocery store picking up a few items and stumbled across a jackpot. We believe in shopping local whenever we can and you should too. Take my word for it, shopping local pays off – big time! Not only do you support the local economy but you will find treasures not found elsewhere.
Tim Horton’s is a Canadian institution and I wouldn’t dare argue with anyone on that point. I am a big fan of their coffee but occasionally stray off the path in pursuit of a better doughnut. Krispy-Kreme lured me with their golden glazed charms but I always felt guilty and went back to Timmie’s. After all, I am a proud patriot and eating some other country’s deep fried dough just didn’t seem right.
Years ago in Red Deer we had an alternative to Timmie’s – Robin’s Doughnuts. Robin’s coffee was not near as potent as Tim’s but on the other hand Robin’s doughnuts were the best. Baked on site and always fresh and huge. One night I got to watch them pump chocolate sauce into chocolate doughnuts. They were so full of chocolaty goodness they almost burst. I bought two of those works of art right then and there. And I ate them right then and there. Savoring every bite till I almost burst. The other guy’s doughnuts fell into second place and then a horrible thing happened. Robin’s Doughnuts went into receivership and closed it’s doors forever. Oh well, back to Timmie’s.
Then another bad news doughnut story came my way. Timmie’s was pulling the bakeries out of their stores in favour of shipping in frozen lumps of dough from who knows where. Outsourced doughnuts! Red Deer looked like it was fast becoming a doughnut wasteland. Cinnamon buns from Glen’s on Gasoline alley were the height of sweet and gooey but they just weren’t doughnuts. We still went to Timmie’s for the coffee but I had to eat two doughnuts at each visit in a weak attempt to fill the void Robin’s closing created. Then I discovered the perfect doughnut in my small-town grocery store, 1st Choice Foods.
I knew these folks did baking in their Red Deer store and brought the goods out to Penhold every day but this was the first time I saw these beauties. Bavarian creme doughnuts so round and firm, the package could barely contain them. Six in a pack – a good round number. The bottom of the package showed puddles of dried chocolate icing, a good sign. Creme was oozing from the golden dough, another clue to their doughnuty excellence. I picked them up muttering, “Come on boys, you’re coming home with me.”. Did they taste every bit as good as they looked? Yes! Doughnut nirvana at long last.
The next time I go to Timmie’s, it’s coffee to go from the drive through and then we’ll sit in the Jeep and enjoy the co-mingling of coffee and doughnut perfection. It pays to shop local!
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