CTV Television Stations in AlbertaThis fall three of four television networks in Canada are expanding their local newscasts in Alberta. First out of the gate is CTV. On August 29, 2011, they rebranded their A Channels across Canada and ACCESS TV in Alberta under the banner of CTV Two. The debut of the new channel was strategically timed to coincide with the launch of the network in high definition. They converted ACCESS from analog to digital none too soon. As of September 1, the digital conversion of all over the air television stations in Canada mandated by the CRTC, and thus the digital conversion of ACCESS, made it impossible for viewers without a cable provider to receive the station’s signal over the air.

Available from coast-to-coast, CTV Two features a mix of drama, comedy and reality programming and spotlights day-to-day life in local communities in Vancouver/Victoria, Toronto/Barrie, Ottawa, London, Windsor and Atlantic Canada. CTV Two Alberta, will retain its mandate as Alberta’s educational broadcaster with 50% of its schedule dedicated to commercial-free educational programming in addition to the hour long news magazine Alberta Primetime launched in March 2009 that continues to airs live weekday at 7:00pm and repeat at 11:00pm and 11:00am weekdays. The show is co-hosted by Jennifer Martin and Michael Higgins and produced by Michael Higgins.

Two weeks later, on September 12, CTV added an hour of local news to the front end of their regular 6:00pm newscasts at 5:00pm and 5:30pm. In Edmonton, Carrie Doll anchors the new 5:00pm segment, Daryl McIntyre the 5:30pm and they both anchor the regular newscast from 6:00 to 7:00pm. Stephanie Prues is the producer of all three newscasts. In Calgary, Jocelyn Laidlaw anchors the new 5:30pm segment and Ian White the 5:30pm and Tara Nelson the 6:00 to 7:00pm newscast and Jeremy Schrader produces the 5:00pm segment, Ian White the 5:30pm and Pat Krauskopf the 6:00pm. CTV Calgary has already been producing 5:00pm and 5:30pm segments preceding their 6:00pm newscasts for years.

CTV Morning LiveThese expansions are but a warm up for a launch of CTV’s new three and a half hour weekday local newscast CTV Morning Live across Canada, including Calgary and CTV Morning Live Edmonton scheduled to air from 5:30 to 9:00am weekdays starting on October 17. In response, CityTV’s Breakfast Television in Edmonton and Calgary added an additional half hour at the front end of their three hour weekday morning local news program. It will now air starting at 5:30am. When CTV Morning Live is launched, many Albertans will have the choice of watching any one of three weekday morning newscasts on Global, CTV and Citytv and, potentially, benefit from increased opportunities for news coverage of local community events on local television newscasts.

This addition to the local news scene in Edmonton will have Rob Williams anchor the early morning newscast. Williams has spent almost as much time behind the camera as in front. After graduating from the Columbia Academy of Radio and Television Arts in Edmonton in 1991, he began his broadcasting career as an announcer at Key 83 radio in Wainwright.  Then it was off to CJCY and CHAT radio in Medicine Hat for another two years. In 1995, Rob moved from radio to television when he anchored the nightly news at CHAT TV in Medicine Hat for the next five years. In 2000, he moved to Edmonton to host CFRN/CTV Edmonton’s Noon News.  Along with reporting, he also anchored the weekend news. Soon after, he moved into his current role of CTV Edmonton’s senior news producer. On October 17, he will step in front of the camera again.

His co-host for the Edmonton newscast is Dez Melenka who joined the CTV Edmonton team in March 2006. She is presently lead anchor for the newly expanded Canada AM and reports on consumer related issues for the 6 p.m. newscast. Born in Edmonton, Melenka grew up in Gibbons, and graduated with honours from NAIT’s Radio and Television Arts program. The hosts will be joined by weather specialist Craig Larkins and traffic specialist Melissa Dominelli who will also be doing the community event announcements. The producer of CTV Morning Live Edmonton has yet to announced. David Fisher, CTV Edmonton’s Promotions Manager, reports that by the time the expansion is complete the head count in their newsroom will be close to 100 personnel, including on-air, editorial, production, technical and support staff.

AT CTV Calgary, the new weekday morning show also set to launch on October 17, will be anchored by Jefferson Humphries and Aisling Tomei. As the co-hosts of CTV Morning Live in Calgary, Humphreys and Tomei already are well-known personalities amongst viewers in Calgary. Humphreys makes the move to the morning show from the supper hour newscast, where the native Albertan has been anchoring and reporting live, often from community events. Before that, Humphries was the co-host of Alberta Primetime and based in Edmonton.

Joining Humphreys as co-host, Tomei comes full circle to CTV, having started her broadcast career with CTV Lethbridge when she was known as Aisling Slattery. Born in Ireland, Tomei was raised in Calgary. Her interest in journalism began when she served as a contributor for the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald while in high school. Humphreys and Tomei are joined on CTV Morning Live by weather specialist Todd Gallant, and traffic specialist Pearl Tsang, who reports on what’s happening on the city streets during rush hour. Born and raised in Calgary, Gallant recently came to CTV Calgary News where he is Weather Anchor. Also a recognizable CTV personality, Tsang hosts the CTV Calgary’s In Touch segments, tracking down the city’s hottest events and key community-oriented fundraisers and activities. The producer of CTV Morning Live Calgary has yet to be announced. The size of their newsroom will be around the size of Edmonton’s.

I watched the inaugural 5:00pm and 5:30pm weekday newscast in Edmonton on September 12 to see how the newscast was put together. For the most part, the stories presented in the two new half hour newscasts were repeated at 6:00pm. In the first half hour newscast, Carrie Doll was joined by Laura Lowe, the Consumer Watch reporter and they by Carmen Leibel, the Your Heath reporter — her first appearance since returning from maternity leave. In the second new half hour newscast, Daryl McIntyre was joined by reporters Kevin Armstrong (politics), Sean Amato (reporter), Jessica Earle (weekend anchor) Adam Cook (sports) and Graham Neil (entertainment). At 6:00pm, Carrie Doll and Daryl McIntrye co-hosted the regular dinner hour newscast.

The majority of the stories covered in the two preceding half hour segments were repeated again during the 6:00 to 7:00pm newscast, with the addition of additional footage, different camera angles, longer takes of the same shot, or interviews by the people involved. For example, the big news story of the day was the search for the little 3 year old boy from Sparwood, BC who had been kidnapped a few days earlier. A lengthy interview with the missing boy’s father appeared on the 6:00pm newscast, an interview that wasn’t included when the story was aired in the earlier newscasts. The end of the newscast had Adam Cook reporting for a full five minutes on the latest sports news just before the signoff.

My impression was that the first half hour aired softer news (consumer and health) skewed more towards a female audience and that over the two hour period steadily skewed towards harder news (crime and sports),  more likely of particular interest to male viewers. Whether this transition from a female to male skew was deliberate, based on market research, or the result of the newscast having the same producer for all segments, and whether the stories will be always be repeated throughout each segment remains to be seen. It was the first of many more two hour newscasts to come and no doubt, CTV Edmonton will be getting feedback from their viewers to help them guide the evolution of program.

The treatment of one story surprised me more than any other. During the 6:00pm newscast, they aired a relatively lengthy profile of Alison Redford, a candidate for the leadership of the Alberta PC Party. In the same newscast they made a short announcement that Raj Sherman had been elected as the new leader of the Alberta Liberal Party over the weekedn and aired about a ten second clip of him standing at a podium while the voice over of the reporter ran. Instead, of interviewing Sherman, they interviewed an administrator from the Liberal party who talked about the problems they had with their new online voting system.

It seemed odd to me that a candidate for the leadership of a political party would get a three minute profile shot at numerous locations –- which would have required a lot of time and effort to shoot, mic and light each piece — while the newly elected leader of another political party, especially someone who has been such a newsmaker in Alberta, would get such short shift. Not even an interview after he won the leadership by a landslide which would have required no additional effort, lighting, set up or multiple locations. This observation is not motivated by a particular political preference, I was happy to see that CTV was profiling the only woman in the race. The reporter asked the right questions that clearly revealed Redford’s stance on important issues. My mother reports that as a result of CTV’s profile on Redford, she’s thinking about voting PC.

My hope is the all candidates and political parties vying for the job of running the Alberta government will be given equal treatment by CTV and all the other news stations in Alberta. Otherwise, instead of reporting the news, they will unduly influence the democratic process. I am sure that this is not their intention.

Next month, I’ll post my take on Global TV’s new Sunday Morning Newscast that launched in Edmonton on September 11, 2011 and the Calgary edition that launched some years ago.