Here's some of the Star's coverage on yesterday's announcements regarding TVOntario.
This is the lede of our main story by Robert Benzie and Steve Rennie:
The Ontario government is modernizing and revamping TVOntario, but the spectre of advertising now looms over the province's public broadcaster.
And this is from my pulpware column:
Despite all the hoopla yesterday, it's still not clear what the future holds for TVOntario, its employees or its viewers.
One thing did emerge: $25.4 million over two years to digitize a network, get into "multi-platform'' distribution, retrain staff and overhaul programming — all by September 2007 — is not a lot of money.
PBS, for example, is spending some $1.2 billion (U.S.) to go digital. It can cost a single local station $2 million (again, U.S.) to digitize its transmission.
Considering that TVO is already cash-strapped — limping along on a $45 million base operating grant from taxpayers and another $7 or $8 million from members — much is expected from so little.
So little in fact that, in many ways, I think TVO will be worse off than it is now.
Oh, and by the way, I am hearing that although the Liberal government-appointed TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde is the one stickhandling this ''strategic review,'' it really began under the Conservative-appointed (and Ernie Eves lady) Isabel Bassett's aegis. As someone put it to me, "It was Isabel's vision.''
Well, I am glad somebosy had vision because most TVO staffers -- including its uppermost programmers -- were kept completely in the dark.
Which brings me to this from my column:
But why cancel Studio 2, the flagship current affairs show, especially when its ratings have never been better?
It reaches about 1 million viewers a week and attracts a four or five per cent share of the adult (over 35) audience every night at 8 p.m., a very competitive time slot.
Exec producer Doug Grant said he learned the show's fate from reading my blog — then was fired at 10:30 a.m. yesterday.
"There was so little communication,'' he says of the entire "strategic review.''
"It comes as a shock. But on the other hand we had a good run."
Studio 2 will be replaced by The Agenda, to be hosted by Studio 2's Steve Paikin.
"The Agenda will be a more focused current affairs show," said de Wilde. "It will be providing more in-depth analysis. More in-depth interviews. More debates. More panels. It will be out in the community more."
All of which caught Paikin's soon-to-be-former co-host, Paula Todd, who met and married Grant at Studio 2, by surprise.
"There are so many young journalists here; I am trying not to cry in front of them," she told me. "I feel unbelievably grateful to still have (the interview show) Person 2 Person. So I am not complaining. I am much more worried about other people. Everybody's crying.''
It's still puzzling as to why the show was cancelled since there is nothing about it that is inconsistent with the new mandate. In fact, at yesterday's all-staff meeting with de Wilde, the first she ever held, one courageous Studio 2er asked why the show was being axed. (And by the way, I think rumours of government interference because the show wasn't pro-McGuinty enough are a lot of hooey.) Why not just tweak it a bit to make it more about citizenship and less about arts or business?
Here's what I am hearing, and it makes for an interesting theory. After Paikin gained national prominence for his cool and deft moderation of the party leaders debate during last winter's federal election, he was able to write his own ticket. Offers were pouring in. The choice for de Wilde was simple: lose the rising star Paikin or lose Studio 2. Indeed, the timing of the development of The Agenda -- as well de Wilde's absence from the Studio 2 premises -- all kind of coincides with the afterglow of Paikin's star turn during the election debate.
Anyway, this whole strategic review thingie raises more questions than it answers. TVO staffers will be having smaller meetings today where they're supposed to get answers. But, if I were them, I wouldn't be holding my breath. It's going to be a long summer.