Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Fall Of A Once Great Television Station - CHCH TV

With sadness I learned of the recent bankruptcy of CHCH TV in Hamilton, Ontario. I grew up watching the station. Every Sunday afternoon, I think, my parents and I would watch Tiny Talent Time with Bill Lawrence, who also had a children’s TV show. It also had the Party Game, several call-in shows, Smith & Smith and the Red Green Show (an outgrowth of Smith & Smith), which started at CHCH before eventually moving to CBC. My favorite was the Hilarious House Of Frankenstein with Billy Van, which although I wasn’t a child when it ran, it was still fun to watch.

CHCH was founded in 1954 as am affiliate of the CBC. It dropped its affiliation in 1961 and became an independent station. The heyday of the station was in 1960s and 1970s, when most of the shows I mentioned, were produced.

The station lost its independence in 1990 when it was bought by Western International Communications or WIC. WIC in turn was bought by CANWEST Global in 2000. The next year CHCH was rebranded CH. It was rebranded again in 2007 as E. Less than two years later CANWEST looked at either closing the station or selling it. It was acquired by Channel Zero and reverted to being called CHCH. It basically became a news and movie network, plus some American tv shows.

At the time of its bankruptcy on December 11, 2015, it was reported that the station had been profitable up until about 2012. Then it began losing national advertising revenue, although local advertising remained steady, and the federal Local Programming Improvement Fund. Also it is very costly to produce local news.

To me CHCH began going slowly downhill in the 1990s when it started to cease producing great local shows of regional and national interest. I quit regularly watching it years ago, except occasionally for the news, which was very informative, but not great. It became ho hum tv.

If the station can survive and make a comeback, which I genuinely feel it can, it needs to distinguish itself from the other stations out there.  One way is to look at what led to its success in the past and made it must see tv. To me that was producing great shows that can be sold to other markets, as well as continuing to produce local and regional news. There they might want to look into expanding beyond Hamilton, Halton, Niagara and Brantford to perhaps include all of Southwestern Ontario. It also needs to inject some zest and some fun to it, which I feel it has lacked for many years now.

I wish them well and hope they’ll be around to celebrate their 70th anniversary on the air.