: Toronto’s Citytv is a local media pioneer that hasn’t been copied nearly enough in the rest of the world.
I’ve never figured out why. Is it because it’s Canadian and nobody noticed? Naw. Or is it because Citytv wasn’t afraid to come out from behind its wall and talk to people long before anybody else thought of it?
Citytv is media at a human level. And that’s rare.
I’ve been singing that melody in conversations with other media folk lately: Media are institutions: stone monoliths with stentorian names — The Times, The Guardian, National Broadcasting…. The web (and weblogs) cut media down to size: to a human level. They level the playing field. They force big media to look eye-to-eye with their public. They start the conversation.
Citytv did it first. Years ago, the genius behind the station, Moses Znaimer, put a booth on the side of his building on perpetually hip Queen Street West with a video camera and called it the Speaker’s Corner: Put in a loon (a buck), talk to the camera, and it might end up on TV. The people speak. Citytv listens. The people speak. Citytv makes them stars.
It makes great TV. They used to pepper the videos throughout the day. Now they make a show out of it every Saturday night. Go to the site and click on the weather whiners on the right column or on the preview of this week’s show. It’s great stuff.
Citytv calls this the original reality show. It’s also the original vlog.
Citytv also put its studio on street-level — eye-level — long before Today did it. This morning, I ran by at 6:15 a.m. and saw a Korean bell choir inside klanging away. The weather lady was outside doing a live report. I moved to run the other way and the security guy motioned me on to run into the shot. It’s OK. It’s reality.
CityTV now has a local 24-hour news channel and they cleverly borrowed from Bloomberg TV by cramming the screen with useful information: The video feed is only a quarter of the real estate. Elsewhere you always see a four-day forecast (which certainly beats waiting 20 minutes for the weatherman in your market to read the weather… and if you blink, you miss it) and traffic video and headlines and stick tickers and sports scores and entertainment calendars. This is useful TV.
I briefly consulted to an effort to start a local TV news network and I tried to get them to learn from Citytv. I wanted to hear from the people with Speaker’s Corners all over the state. And — also long before Today returned to the street — I wanted to put the studio in a storefront in a mall (since that is now America’s downtown). Didn’t happen. Too bad. It would still make good TV. It makes great TV in Canada still.