Wednesday, November 17, 2010
No Telethon of Stars in 2010
Back in the 1980s, a TV network like CTV was an association of private local television stations. Now, it is the network that owns and controls the local stations. In the name of “branding” every sign of individuality has been eliminated, right down to the call letters. In most markets, the only local programming left now are the newscasts. Back in the day, CFCF was a huge entity. Programming was controlled locally and was aimed directly at the Montreal market. And yes, there was quite a bit of local programming available.
The Telethon of Stars was by far the high point of the year for CFCF. It was a gigantic local television event that usually took place at the start of each December. What made the show all the more amazing was its bilingual format. Clearly you needed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible in order to raise funds, and so the entire show was held in both official languages. It seemed like a true reflection of how most people really got along in Montreal. Linguistic divisions were set aside for at least one weekend a year and the show was always a big success. They even managed to get some big names up to Montreal to perform. It was a big, big deal...
The telethon expanded to include TQS in the mid-1980s, and that gave them a wider reach throughout the province. Unfortunately, it would also lead to the demise of the bilingual broadcast. Starting in 1994, the annual show would continue, but in French only. From then on, English viewers would be relegated to what would primarily be a movie marathon. They made all kinds of excuses about why the telethon could no longer be bilingual, but the truth was that it was an obvious political decision.
By the time the new "V" decided to dump the event, year-long fundraising, the Internet and marketing diseases as if they were fast food made the relevance of one specific yearly show less important. 2009 saw the return of the bilingual telethon - sort of. It only lasted a few hours, and unlike the seamless flow of decades past, this time it came across as very awkward. Call it inevitable, but the end of the yearly telethon is another sad turning point in Montreal English television history. A very symbolic one.