Friday, July 17, 2009

Watertown, New York Gets No Respect

Like many people, I first heard about Watertown, New York when the late Harry Chapin infamously said that he "had spent a week there one afternoon" on his Greatest Stories Live album.

Then when I moved to Ottawa in 1991 I discovered the PBS affiliate eminated from Watertown. Before being renamed WPBS it was known as WNPE-16 Watertown/WNPI-18 Norwood. I watched the channel occasionally as I have always occasionally watched PBS. It had a nice small town charm to it. It's not WGBH here in Boston but had its own little niche.

That niche was found in Canada. Although most of its viewers are located in upstate New York most of the money it raised during its pledge drives were from Canada in places like Ottawa, Kingston and Pembroke. Because of this WPBS geared a lot of its programming to its Canadian viewers. It even plays both national anthems when it signs off.

Well, Rogers Cable will no longer feed Watertown's PBS station into homes in Eastern Ontario effective August 18th. These Canadian viewers will get their PBS from Detroit.

Given that PBS from Watertown has been a fixture in Eastern Ontario since 1971 you would think that Rogers would have notified WPBS of its decision. Nope. WPBS found out about Rogers' decision courtesy of an e-mail from a viewer. That's pretty lame on the part of Rogers. Advising WPBS of their decision is the least they could have done.

I mean the slogan of WPBS is "The Two Nation Station." No Canadian viewers means no WPBS.

Rogers argues that its viewers like PBS but want a PBS affiliate that has a stronger signal. That's where Detroit Public Television comes into the picture.

For its part, WPBS is urging viewers to contact Rogers Cable in the hope it will reconsider the decision. Good luck though. Rogers has a virtual monopoly on cable TV in Canada. As such it thinks it can acts how it wants without consideration to viewer demand.

Now one might argue that in the grand scheme of things PBS isn't that important. If the programming on PBS is so good it should be able to survive in the private sector. But who really wants to be known as the person who killed Big Bird? I didn't think so.

So let's look at it another way. Let's look at this particular PBS station. If WPBS is taken off Canadian airwaves then WPBS would probably turn to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by extension the federal government for help. It's a better deal for the American taxpayer if WPBS continues broadcasting in Canada and paid for primarily by Canadian viewers.

Then everyone, be they American or Canadian, can enjoy a week's worth of WPBS in one afternoon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


PLEASE join the following Facebook group if you can:

And PLEASE spread the word to all supporters--on both sides of the border.

I have just started this group, so am very, very open to any and all suggestions and input.

Thanks so much.