Good morning, Madam Chair and members of Parliament.
My name is Wendy Freeman and I am the president of CTV News.
With me today are my colleagues Richard Gray, vice-president and general manager of radio and TV, Ottawa and Pembroke, and national head of CTV Two News; Kevin Goldstein, vice-president of regulatory affairs, content and distribution; and Pierre Rodrigue, vice-president, industry relations.
Every day, CTV News plays an important role in ensuring Canadians are informed about local and regional issues on our television and digital platforms. We are Canada's largest private television operator, with 31 local stations, some of which have been in operation for over 50 years. We are present in markets of all sizes, with 12 markets where we are the only local television news voice, markets such as Dawson Creek and Terrace in British Columbia; Prince Albert and Yorkton in Saskatchewan; London and Kitchener in Ontario; and Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Ratings tell us that the news these stations provide is of critical importance to Canadians. When a local news event breaks, we are there, with boots on the ground in each of our markets, to give viewers immediate information on what's happening, such as, for example, a boil water advisory in a community or a safe place to go in times of a natural disaster, such as the Calgary flood. These are but two examples of many. As such, the long-term viability of these stations across CTV and our competitors is vital to our communities and our country.
Unfortunately, our success in connecting and reflecting local communities does not necessarily translate into financial viability. Last broadcast year, all but five of our television stations lost money. In the previous year, 20 of our stations lost money. The trend is not in our favour. It's not just our stations. Local stations across the country are buckling under extreme financial pressure.
Despite these challenges—and this is a very important point I would like to make, given the topics this committee is studying—we are proud there has been no erosion in the amount of local news hours that each one of our stations provides to their respective communities. We are extremely proud of the role we play in providing local news in communities across the country.
In fact, for many years we have provided more local programming than the regulated minima in many of the markets we serve. For example, in Saskatoon, where we are required by regulation to provide only seven hours per week, we in fact air 32. In Winnipeg, we do 31.5. In Atlantic Canada, we air 18.5. Our local reporters and anchors, such as Sarah Plowman, a reporter in Winnipeg, and Tara Nelson, our anchor in Calgary, are an integral part of their communities.
But the amount of local news that we currently provide is not sustainable going forward. There is really no debate: local television is in a permanent structural decline. In fact, since 2011, advertising revenue generated by private conventional TV broadcasting stations has decreased by $325 million and $91 million at Bell Media stations alone.
Without a doubt, delivering local news is a costly undertaking. Changes are needed, and that is why, at the CRTC's recent hearing on local and community television, we made a proposal to reallocate existing money in the system and create a fund that provides an incentive to invest in local news. A previous but now defunct fund, the LPIF, was a lifeline for local TV stations, allowing many of them to keep their doors open.