MASSE IN THE NEWS: 'Our fight ... to win'; Fans, dignitaries rally to protest demise of A-Channel

'Our fight ... to win'; Fans, dignitaries rally to protest demise of A-Channel

Police had to close off a section of Ouellette Avenue Saturday afternoon to accommodate hundreds of A-Channel fans and supporters who rallied against CTV's recent decision to close the Windsor TV station by August.

A who's-who of local political and labour leaders were among those gathered in front of the downtown offices of Windsor's only private TV broadcaster, all vowing to fight the parent company's decision.

"We're prepared to fight for our community ... because that's the Windsor way," said Mayor Eddie Francis.

"We believe in the importance of our community and in the right to tell our story."

Participants were urged to lobby the CRTC, the federal broadcast regulator, which is holding hearings on licence renewals for private conventional television stations. Citing ongoing revenue losses, the CTV Globemedia network announced Feb. 25 it would not renew several smaller-market licences, including CHWI-TV Windsor and CKNX-TV Wingham.

"No licences for CTV without Windsor included," Ontario International Trade Minister and Windsor West MPP Sandra Pupatello said to cheers at the rally, organized on short notice by local activist Kyle Parent using Facebook and word-of-mouth.

Among those on hand to protest CTV's decision were Windsor MPs Joe Comartin and Brian Masse and a number of city councillors, as well as CAW national president Ken Lewenza and other labour and community leaders.

"It's so vital for us to get local news and vital for community identity -- it's why I got off my duff to come down here," said George Brooks, armed with a sign professing Windsor's love for A-Channel.

Pupatello said she is urging the CRTC to hold broadcast licence hearings in Windsor, and she vowed to be at the April 27 hearings in Ottawa.

"They've always been there for us, now it's time for us to be there for them," Pupatello told the crowd.

Even before then, the House of Commons committee on heritage begins hearings March 25 on a study into the future of Canadian television and "the impact of the economic crisis on the industry in our local communities."

Masse, the NDP's industry, automotive and border critic, said A-Channel not only informs the rest of Canada about Windsor affairs, but it also "gives a footprint of Canada back to the U.S.," by drawing American viewers because of its location.

Comartin said if the station is allowed to close, Windsorites "are going to see what happens elsewhere, we're not going to see ourselves."

"When it comes to local news, a variety of local media is important," said Francis.

Since opening in 1993, Windsor's A-channel has never made a profit, said regional station manager Don Mumford. Its successive parent company owners, however, first Baton, then CHUM and finally CTV, have traditionally always had healthy bottom lines, and the CRTC expected those licence holders to support the smaller markets, he said. But last year, for the first time, conventional TV companies began losing money.

"That's what created the crisis," said Mumford.

Masse told the rally that if CTV can spend "$800 million for junk food American TV," then the CRTC should make it keep its Windsor operation open.

"This is our fight ... to win," he said.

The loudest cheers were reserved for longtime news anchor Jim Crichton, who thanked viewers for attending the rally and vowed that the station's staff would "remain cheerful and keep on working" until the end.

Jamie Manning, 19, said A-Channel's voice is needed because "Detroit has such a strong draw on us." Both teens waved pickets reading "Save Jim."