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Canadian Heritage Funds Community-Based TV News as Part of Local Journalism Initiative

Non-profit community-owned television will be part of the new Local Journalism Initiative for Underserved Communities, announced by the Department of Canadian Heritage on May 22nd, 2019 by the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.

Seven media organizations have been chosen to be Administrative Organizations which will disperse the funding, including CACTUS and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec, which represents not-for-profit community TV in Quebec.

The funding is especially welcome news for the sector. After several years of meetings with the federal government regarding the continuing relevance of community media to Canadian democracy, the Local Journalism Initiative is the first federal funding program that reaffirms the sector's importance in the digital environment.

CACTUS has been championing a multimedia and multi-platform vision for community media for a decade, believing that community media is vital to ensure that there are robust, visible, accessible, and moderated platforms for community dialogue on all platforms. CACTUS and Fédération members include licensed organizations whose content is distributed free to air, on cable, on satellite, and on the Internet, as well as unlicensed not-for-profit corporations that distribute video content over the internet and on community channels run by cable companies such as Rogers, Shaw and Videotron.

Funding under the Local Journalism Initiative will enable CACTUS and the Fédération to place professional journalists in communities underserved by other media across Canada. The journalists will co-ordinate teams of citizens and local organizations to produce news and local information, building news production capacity in these undeserved communities for the long haul.

The content produced by the journalists under the Local Journalism Initiative will also be available to media outlets across the country free of charge under a Creative Commons License.

Details with be released in upcoming weeks. For more information about the Canadian Heritage Local Journalism Initiative, click here.

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CACTUS Conducts Research into Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Video Game Applications for Civic Engagement

CACTUS founder and Executive Director Cathy Edwards is conducting research at Emerson College's "Engagement Lab" in Boston into civic appications for virtual reality, augmented reality, and video games.

Edwards said "Newer, more immersive and interactive audio-visual technologies are becoming available and we want to find out how they can be leveraged for civic engagement... Put another way, how effective are these technologies as community media?"

Community media has historically pushed the boundaries of community engagement through media, whether through interactive formats such as call-in shows, involvement of studio audience, on-site presence at community events with mobile production units, or just because community members can directly participate in production. Edwards thinks the time has come to see what the new technologies can do: "Video games engage viewer agency. You can't just watch something... you have to make choices to be part of the story. This opens up the possibility of developing empathy for others, experiencing different sorts of situations. Playing games is also a great way to learn how complex systems work, whether structural or engineering systems, electoral systems, or biological systems. Moving around within a game testing the boundary helps you learn in a way you can't watching a linear video."

Virtual reality enables viewers to immerse themselves in an alternate reality. Edwards says that VR, like games, can create more empathy than traditional video. "When you really seem to be in a place, and you can move within the space, it's harder to distance yourself from something. You see what it's really like."

CACTUS hopes to have tutorials available for its members and other not-for-profit institutions to learn to leverage the potential of the new technologies. Former community TV stations in the US, and some community media centres in Canada--such as CACTUS member Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre in Toronto--are already teaching and using these new tools.

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Heritage Committee Recommends Policy and Financial Support for Community Media

On June 5th, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage concluded its study on "Media and Local Communities" with the publication of a report entitled "Disruption, Change and Churning in Canada's Media Landscape".

Section 2.6.1 deals with community TV. After discussing the data presented by CACTUS and the Fedetvc, this section concludes by endorsing the call by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre form "greater recognition of all independent, not-for-profit community media “from both a policy and a funding perspective. The PIAC also believes that a study should be conducted to develop a national community media strategy. This strategy would include resources for training and financial support for community media."

In the section about the CRTC, Recommendation 9 states:

"The Committee recommends that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission review its policy framework for local and community television to determine its impact on funding for the community television sector."

Click here for the full report.

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CACTUS Partners with Public Libraries in Submission to ISED's "Innovation Agenda" Consultation

In parallel to the DigiCanCon consultation conducted by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Industry, Science and Economic Development (ISED, formerly Industry Canada) conducted an "Innovation Agenda" consultation in late 2016 and early 2017.

CACTUS partnered with the Ontario Library Association, The British Columbia Library Association, and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations in making a submission requesting support for community media organizations and public library maker spaces to teach digital skills, and in particular coding and video game production as a form of community media. This means that in the same way that community members have been able to learn traditional media production such as TV and radio while creating locally expressive content, they will be able to learn to design and create video games that explore local issues, express local culture and foster dialogue about community issues.

Video games are well positioned to foster dialogue because they can model complex systems and encourage players to consider issues from multiple points of view. Games require players to exercise agency and make choices within games, engaging their empathy in a way that other media including TV and radio cannot, except in directly interactive formats such as studio programs or call-ins.

The initial ISED consultation was open-ended, encouraging comments on a broad range of issues. CACTUS' submission with its public library partners was re-submitted in July as a formal funding proposal under ISED's CanCode program.

Click here to read our submission.

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Petition Supporting Community Media Presented by Over 20 MPs

A petition supporting community media that was first presented and endorsed at the World Forum on Free Media in Montreal in August of 2016, gathered steam and was presented by over 20 members of parliament either in the House before it broke for the Christmas break, when it reconvened in early February, or directly to the Heritage Minister.

The petition was supported by MPs from all parties, including Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc, and the Conservatives.

Here is the text of the petition:

"We, the undersigned Canadian residents, acknowledge:

That the Broadcasting Act stipulates that the community, private and public elements of the Canadian broadcasting system should complement one another to ensure that a range of local, regional and national programming is available to Canadians.
That it is the policy of the CRTC that “the community channel should be primarily of a public service nature, facilitating self-expression through free and open access by
members of the community”.
That community media can effectively serve small communities, neighbourhoods and alternative voices not served by public and private media.
That digital convergence places new challenges on individuals, organizations, and communities to express themselves, to be heard, and to be visible.
Therefore we ask the government to enable a network of community-operated media centres to ensure

the survival of community TV
the availability of local media in towns and neighbourhoods not served by public or private media
all Canadian residents have access to multi-platform media skills training and content distribution in the digital economy."

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