TVO’s tower in London set to fall due to cuts

By Hank Daniszewski, The London Free Press

London-Fanshawe NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong

London-Fanshawe NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong

A move by TVO to shut down eight transmitters across Ontario, including ones in London, Chatham and Windsor, is drawing fire from critics.

The transmitter of the government-owned television network in Toronto is the only one that will be spared, and that irks London-Fanshawe NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong.

“London-area kids are just as deserving as Toronto kids when it comes to receiving publicly funded educational programming,” she said.

TVO said shutting down the transmitters July 31 will eliminate seven tower-maintenance jobs and save the network about $1 million a year.

“TVO has to make tough choices about where to allocate resources in order to move forward with the strategic priorities of digital learning and high-quality current-affairs journalism, as well as cover inflationary pressures,” said chief executive Lisa de Wilde in a release.

TVO also says that 99 per cent of Ontarians will still have access to its programming through cable, satellite or online through the network’s website.

Sarah Campbell, the NDP’s culture critic, said the TVO decision comes at time when more Ontario residents are cancelling cable and satellite service.

Poor families cannot afford cable or broadband Internet and some elderly people are reluctant to find TVO programming online, Armstrong said.

“Many families and vulnerable seniors living on fixed incomes in London are struggling financially, and taking away access to informative and quality educational programming is a real blow to them.”

Ian Morrison, a spokesperson for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said TVO gets about $30 million in annual government funding and even cutting off one per cent still affects more than 100,000 people.

The transmitter cuts could also affect TVO’s public fundraising that supplements government subsidies, he said.

TVO provides unique non-commercial programming and should not behave like a telecom or commercial broadcaster, Morrison said.

“If you’re a private broadcaster, you wouldn’t care about elderly or poor people. That’s a business decision. But a public broadcaster should deliver programming to all citizens.”