North Vancouver threatens action as Shaw TV ends its live council broadcasts
Shaw TV is killing its live council broadcasts in several Metro Vancouver municipalities, including across the North Shore.
While the service was quietly cancelled in both West Vancouver and North Vancouver district last week, the City of North Vancouver is appealing to higher powers like the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the court of public opinion to save the live programming.
At Monday’s city council meeting, councillors railed against Shaw’s move to cancel the live TV coverage and voted unanimously to invite Shaw executives to come before council and defend the decision in a live Shaw-televised debate.
“Shaw cable should explain why they’re doing this,” Mayor Darrell Mussatto said. “Come before us on a public TV night so they can explain to the public why they’re not going to show us on live TV. I think it’s absolutely wrong.”
Should the telecom accept the invite, they’ll have to hurry as their next live city council broadcast on Oct. 15 is already slated to be their last.
Shaw will also cancel its live council coverage in both Burnaby and New Westminster on that day.
In a letter to the North Vancouver city clerk dated Sept. 7, Shaw TV’s program manager Jacob Gish cited “scheduling conflicts” for the company’s decision to end the live broadcasts, which previously showed one live meeting of each North Shore council per month on Channel 4.
Mussatto said he doesn’t believe scheduling conflicts are the cable company’s real motive.
“This is unacceptable,” he said. “They’re just doing it for profit.”
The mayor characterized the move as part of a long, ongoing erosion of local coverage at the station.
“Most of us will remember that Shaw cable used to have quite a presence here on Pemberton Avenue in North Vancouver,” Mussatto said, referring to the Shaw studio that closed down in 2005. “And I remember very clearly at that time they came and said, ‘We want your support. We’re going to continue to support you and your community, we’re just not going to have the studio here,” he continued.
“Now look what’s happened. Now they’re saying no live broadcasts, at least, on one of the three nights that they show it. That’s wrong. That’s absolutely wrong. And we have to make it known in no uncertain terms that it’s unacceptable to the city for them to make this decision.”
In exchange for the live Monday evening broadcast, Shaw offered the city its choice of two later time slots: Monday night at 11 p.m. or Tuesday at noon.
Initially council was poised to accept the Tuesday afternoon time slot, albeit with resignation. But an amendment tabled by Coun. Craig Keating and approved by all of council rejected either choice in favour of fighting to save the live coverage.
“I just don’t think we should be giving Shaw an out on this,” Keating said. “I agree with Councillor [Don] Bell’s comments about the fact that Shaw gets to use our streets; they get to dig it up whenever time they need because they need to put in their equipment.”
He was referring to earlier comments from Coun. Bell, who told council he believes Shaw is reneging on its duties to the community while reaping all the benefits the municipality gives in exchange, such as service licences and priority access to municipal infrastructure.
“It’s part of their responsibility — certainly their community responsibility if not a legal responsibility — in terms of the privileges they’re given with their licence to run the services they do,” Bell said.
“If they’ve got a problem, tell us what the problem is,” he added. “This is a responsibility that they have and should not shirk”
In the District of North Vancouver, Shaw TV has already aired its last live council broadcast, cancelling the service on Sept. 10. According to district spokeswoman Jeanine Bratina, the district has no current plans to oppose the cancellation.
Likewise in West Vancouver, where acting spokeswoman Donna Powers told The Outlook that Shaw recently notified the district its last live council broadcast in July was its last, period.
West Vancouver’s council rebroadcast date is also changing on Oct. 31 — from 9 p.m. Tuesday to noon on Friday — in a move that’s causing concern for at least one West Vancouver councillor.
“It’s too bad,” Coun. Bill Soprovich told The Outlook. “On Friday at noon there’s not many people home.
“To switch to Friday at noon, why even bother?” he added.
The meetings of all three North Shore councils will remain available live on each municipality’s website, but that’s little consolation for many North Shore residents, according to Soprovich.
“Many older people don’t use a computer at all,” he said. “They watch it on the television.”
Shaw Communications did not respond to The Outlook’s requests for interviews before press time.