November 30, 2021
Tasked by the CRTC to provide more detail about hiring journalists with the windfall $13 million local expression funding it would prise from the hands of Global News, yesterday Rogers filed the following with the Commission:
- The headline is that City-TV stations in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg will double their “journalist” headcount (plus an additional 12 non journalists) to beef up news coverage capacity at those four stations.
- This is in addition to the commitment Rogers previously made in its merger application to hire 6 Indigenous journalists (one in each major market) to cover First Nations, Métis and Inuit issues and;
- Hire two western-based journalists to cover Parliament Hill.
Rogers is willing to make these commitments as a condition of merger approval until their station licenses expire in 2023 but wish to keep their powder dry on anything further, pending the CRTC’s upcoming licensing hearings.
The additional reporters will increase news gathering capacity in each coverage area and Rogers has committed to broadcasting 12 news specials in each of the four western City-TV markets, every year.
The precise number of the “doubled” newsroom staffing is unknown thanks to Rogers claiming “competitive confidentiality” which the CRTC has granted in posting a redacted version of Rogers’ submission.
The CRTC’s reflexive shielding of the most mundane “competitive” information has been going on for years and does the regulator no credit.
Without a doubt, all of City-TV’s competitors (including Bell CTV and Global) know exactly how many videographers and reporters are employed by their rivals. It’s hard to keep something like that secret without demanding that journalists appear masked on air.
How all of that stacks up against the 162 television salaries (estimating $80,000 each) you can fit into $13 million is something we will have to keep guessing at. Depending on what Rogers means by “journalist” my wild guess is 95 new hires in total.
However, Rogers has also read the room on the impact of the $13 million de-funding of Global News.
Upon being asked by the CRTC to pitch a revised “tangible benefits” package — a long standing requirement of merger approvals, pegged at 10% of the value of the transferred assets— Rogers proposed an exemption to the standard expectation to target film production funds, in favour of local news:
“Rogers has proposed an exception be made to this allocation [of 40% of the $26 Million package to Certified Independent Film Production Funds] and request that [$8,518,400] be redirected to the Independent Local News Fund (ILNF) as a lump sum payment upon close of the transaction.”
If approved, this transfer would partially mitigate the $13 million switch in local expression funding from Global News to City TV while leaving the shortfall in the hands of the Commission’s review of the ILNF funding envelope.