Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ask Shaw for Community TV Channel(s)

Shaw Cable/Telephone/Internet Broadband company is one of the businesses located in Mt. Pleasant. You can see a building with their name of it on Great Northern Way near the VCC Clark Sky Train Station.

Shaw is really pushing to get subscribers for the digital service. I looked at what they offer, but all I saw was more and more channels of the same to me irrelevant stuff. I decided to call their number and put in my request for community TV channels. The place to talk about this turns out to be by calling their 1-800-950-7429 and choosing the options for cable service and change or order new service. A woman on the line took my request, said she'd pass it on, and said if enough people asked for that, they might offer it. Here's what I asked for:

Community TV channels.

As someone who is very interested in local events and issues, I have long wished that Vancouver was like other major cities in having dedicated cable channels for community TV programming. Years ago Vancouver had a community TV production facility and at least one dedicated cable channel, but subsequent cable company owners dumped that service in the interest of using those channels to make more money. There is some "community" programming on Shaw Channel 4, because community program access is mandated by the CRTC, but very little of it comes from the community video production companies (Vancouver now has 6 of them, I've heard), and it's only half an hour at a time, and editorially controlled by Shaw.

Now that digital TV is coming in, there is the possibility to offer way more channels than anybody could ever watch. What this means is that "narrowcasting" - content for smaller segments of the audience, is going to be much more important. If you have some of those hundreds of channels for community programming, you can have a meaningful share of the audience for a skilled amateur production about iris gardening or speeches from a conference or storytelling or bicycle repair.

Shaw Channel 4 is supposedly a community channel - they have some shows of their own that cover people in the community, and because of a court case they also now allow little half-hour blocks scattered here and there for the work of local community TV production groups that are not part of Shaw. You will see Shaw's disclaimer before each of these segments airs, saying that they are forced by the CRTC to offer this time.

But there are at least six well-established independent television production companies in this town. They go to all sorts of events and videotape them, and I really love to watch these things. Right now, I have to watch online or go to a special screening if I want to watch, for example, the keynote speakers from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Convention, or panelists from the Where's the Money in the Media? event held at Vivo in May (both recorded by Working TV). I would like to be able to turn on the TV any time of day and see local community events and ideas.

In a related trend, community video groups have joined up with the W2 project and will be putting a multimedia centre into the old Woodwards building on Hastings Street, downtown, where members of the public will be able to video events and get production training.

What is most lacking is to get the channel space for community people to air their work.

Why don't you phone up Shaw, too, and ask for some community TV channels? You dial 1-800-950-7429 and press 1 for English (or choose Chinese), 1 for residential service, and then 1 to order or change your service. Tell them what you want, and let's see if we can get it.


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  2. I have MTS TV in Winnipeg, this have no community channel like Shaw TV channel 9.