Media Monday Edmonton: After 40 years, what’s next for Global Edmonton?

It was forty years ago today that Global Edmonton first went on the air. Then known as “Independent Television” or ITV, the channel was founded by Dr. Charles Allard. Through a series of acquisitions, the channel joined the Global family on September 4, 2000, and is today owned by Shaw Media. Over the years, Global Edmonton has been a big part of the lives of many Edmontonians, and indeed Canadians around the country. As Global Edmonton looks back on 40 years, I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask about what’s next.

Tim & Michael
Global Edmonton GM Tim Spelliscy & News Director Michael Fulmes, photo courtesy of Global Edmonton

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael Fulmes, News Director for Global Edmonton, to do just that. Michael is an industry veteran, starting his career in 1978 with CKCK Television in Regina. He joined Global Edmonton in the 2000s, first as Managing Editor before settling into his current role. In 2011, Michael was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from RTNDA Canada.

I wanted to know what Michael thought of the ever-changing media landscape. Without skipping a beat, he told me “this is the most dynamic, exciting time since the industry began!” And what about Global Edmonton’s place in that dynamic landscape? “We’re no longer broadcasters, we’re distributors of news and information,” he said, noting that the organization is now multi-platform, with a big emphasis on online content.

The future of the six o’clock news

That said, Michael made it clear that he doesn’t see conventional TV going away anytime soon. But surely the six o’clock news is dying, I suggested. Michael countered that with high ratings and great advertising demand, the flagship newscast is doing just fine. “Based on our metrics, Global Edmonton is number one in all newscasts in all demos,” he said. As for the six o’clock news, he said he doesn’t foresee the audience diminishing greatly, but did admit “there is some drifting.”

ITV red logo
This is the logo I grew up with

Global Edmonton is committed to ensuring the six o’clock news remains number one, Michael said, but added “we have to be adaptable.” He cited the 24/7 demand for news as one factor, and an increasing array of platform and technology choices as another. “Gone are the days that the viewer tunes into a regular schedule,” he declared. “We have to recognize our viewers are moving very fast.”

The future of news production

Given the emphasis that Global Edmonton is placing on online content production today, I asked Michael why it took so long for television channels to embrace online video. “We were slow in bringing video to the web,” he agreed. But they’ve turned the ship around completely, in Michael’s view. “I’m blown away,” he said. “For example, we have the largest number of Facebook followers now, it’s a testament to our online efforts.”

Is there room for Instagram, Snapchat, and other future services to play a role in Global Edmonton’s news distribution? “Absolutely,” Michael said. “We have to find new ways to follow [our audience], but respect the fact that our future is with local.”

Like other television channels, Global Edmonton has increasingly made use of new technologies like video from mobile phones, Google Earth, Skype, and others. “It’s because put in the right context, it’s the right thing to do,” Michael said. “That and the quality of those things has become so much better.” He added that techniques like the jump cut have also become more accepted over time.

The future of local news

Throughout our conversation, Michael mentioned the importance of local coverage. He turned to ITV’s founding to help explain. “It wasn’t just about launching an independent TV channel,” he said. “It was about connecting with the community and servicing that community.” Michael believes that connecting with the community for forty years gives Global Edmonton an edge against potential upstarts. “The more experience, the more you’ve done, the better able you are to move forward,” he said.

ITV original logo
The original ITV logo

That’s not to say it’ll be easy. “What’s difficult is staying connected with the community because they’re moving so fast!” He also mentioned the shift in attitudes toward brands. “The younger people of today don’t devote that brand loyalty the same way their parents did,” Michael said.

The irony of their name notwithstanding, Michael was clear about what it’ll take for Global Edmonton to compete in the future. “What’s going to distinguish us from everybody else is our ability to stay local and to cover our community.”

The future of Global Edmonton

I asked him to prognosticate about Global Edmonton over the next forty years. In the near-term, he said 4K video “is coming” but suggested it doesn’t make sense to rush out and buy a compatible TV today. “No one is producing content for it yet,” he said. But he knows technology will march forward. “It’s going so fast, it doesn’t surprise anybody anymore.”

Looking further ahead, Michael was thoughtful. “I have no doubt that Global Edmonton will be around for years to come,” he said. “But it’ll be a different monster.” It’s hard to predict the future, but when pressed, Michael suggested communication will be omnipresent, giving us the opportunity to “exchange communication at a moment’s notice.”

Even though the technology will change, Michael is confident that Global Edmonton will have a place in Edmonton’s future. “We are journalists because we have an insatiable curiosity, and our viewers have an insatiable appetite for news and information,” he said. “Whether you’re a reader, listener, watcher – we’re content providers and will continue to be.”