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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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"The Shattered Mirror" and "Canadian Content in a Digital World" Ignore Community Media

Two reports were recently published concerning Canadian media: "The Shattered Mirror" by the Public Policy Forum regarding news and "Canadian Content in the Digital World" by Ipsos Reid, under contract from Canadian Heritage. The latter report deals more generally with Canadian content production in the dynamic digital environment. Canadian Heritage also provided some of the funding for "The Shattered Mirror".

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec (la Fédération) agree with the reports' main observations: increasing media concentration among ownership groups, falling revenues from traditional news resulting in less regional content, and the rise of social media as sources of news and information of questionable credibility.

However, if 'Information is as vital to democracy as pure air, safe streets, good schools and public health', as states The Shattered Mirror' (CACTUS cited the same 2009 Knight Foundation report in our submission to DigiCanCon), we are surprised and disappointed to find no mention of community TV and media and their long-understood contribution to democratic local expression and civic journalism.

For 50 years, community TV and media have ensured a participative and democratic media landscape, and a local information offering that has all but disappeared from the big media groups, not to mention our role in enabling emerging and established journalists and creators to learn new skills and test ideas on low-risk local platforms. Community media are the 'farm teams' that drive our creative industries.

If civic journalism is marching rapidly 'to the precipice' as The Shattered Mirror states, it is a disservice to the reports' readers that the alternative offered by our members goes unmentioned. Our members, along with those of the National Community Radio Association, the Association des radios communautaires du Québec and the Association des radios communautaires du Canada include almost 200 CRTC-licensed entities, in addition to 50 incorporated but unlicensed production groups that contribute what little civic journalism remains on the community stations of cable companies, such as Rogers TV, Shaw TV and TVCogeco.

Community media are stated in the Broadcasting Act as constituting one of three pillars of our system. Canada is widely credited with having invented the institution. As a nation we figured out 50 years ago that our geography is too vast and our population too dispersed to serve everyone with public- and private-sector news bureaux. We have TV stations in Valemount, British Columbia (population 1400) and in Wikwemikong First Nation in Ontario, and a newly launched radio station in Baie Verte, Newfoundland. It's a lesson we seem to have forgotten. Canada has always had a small and fragile media economy, dependent on government support. Community media are our secret weapon.

In any process of taking stock of our media resouces moving forward, how was it possible therefore to ignore a whole sector? The public- and private-sector broadcasters that everyone agrees are not filling the gaps were certainly mentioned.

Unlike online-only platforms that are the subject of 'fake news' concerns captured in the two reports, community broadcasters are licensed, and directed by trained journalists who catalyze, guide and curate content in communities that would otherwise have no voice. And we do this for 1/10th the cost of the public and private sectors. Put another way, for every federal dollar spent on the public or private sector, we can produce 10 times as much or serve 10 times as many communities, while fulfilling civic engagement and creative incubation roles for our media industries to boot.

We note that the Ipsos Reid report captures ideas from roundtables held across the country to which our members were not invited, overseen by an 'expert advisory panel' from which our sector was excluded.

If the report-writers had considered our written submissions, they would have seen that we proposed an Option C (community), alongside the Options A and B proposed in "The Shattered Mirror". It's a system that's already in place, functional, but under-funded and in jeopardy of losing the remainder of its financing if the disastrous recommendations of CRTC 2016-224 go into effect in September (a danger mentioned only in passing in "The Shattered Mirror"). Option C for COMMUNITY is efficient, realistic, and sustainable, compared to propping up the broken private system that is front and centre in the reports. Bandaids, like the CRTC's redirection of almost the entire national budget for community media to private news, are not the answer. Reinforcing community media—rather than destroying it—would fulfill many of the objectives identified in these reports.

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CACTUS Submission to "Canadian Content in a Digital World" Consultation

CACTUS has flagged to both the Heritage department and to the Heritage Minister its concern that neither the national association itself nor any one of its members was invited to any of the roundtables in the "Canadian Content in a Digital World" consultation.

CACTUS was also concerned that the 12-member "expert advisory committee" identified on the DigiCanCon web site at www.CanadianContentConsultations.ca are drawn from community media organizations.

Given that community media comprises over 200 entities licensed by the CRTC and constitute one of three sectors comprising the Broadcasting system as defined under the 1990 Broadcasting Act, this exclusion is disconcerting.

All Canadians and organization are however welcome to upload files as part of the consultation. To read CACTUS' submission, click here.

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CACTUS was also concerned that the 12-member "expert advisory committee" identified on the DigiCanCon web site at www.CanadianC

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) and partners are hosting four events to help Canadians participate in the “Canadian Content in a Digital World” consultation being conducted by the Minister of Heritage, culminating with a live TV and web program called “Medi@cracy” on November 20th.

The first event was offered in partnership with Regent Park Focus, a youth multimedia arts centre in Toronto on November 2nd as part of Media Literacy Day. The event solicited answers to the Heritage Minister's questions from the point of view of digital media literacy.

On Thursday November 17th, CACTUS member TriCitiesTV will host a second opportunity for the public to weigh in at the Vancouver Public Library, in the context of Media Democracy Day.

On Sunday November 20th, CACTUS, in association with the Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec, Ricochet, and St. Andrews Community TV will present a live stream and broadcast in which viewers can answer the Heritage Minister's questions by phone and Twitter. The program will be broadcast on Bell ExpressVu and streamed.

Finally, on Tuesday, November 22nd, CACTUS' Executive Director Cathy Edwards will help moderate a focus group being presented by Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) to answer the same questions. The focus group will be held over lunch at the Department of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, and will enable WCT member and non-members to consider the questions as women working in telecommunications.

CACTUS believes the Heritage Minister's consultation is timely. Other groups are considering how Canadians access content in the digital world as well: the need for digital media literacy to make the most of the content available, to what extent digital platforms are democratizing media, and whether there are equal opportunities in digital media industries.

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CACTUS Participates in "Media Math" Consultation by the Public Policy Forum

CACTUS and its members participated in two of the roundtable discussions held by the Public Policy forum in connection with the study it conducted entitled "Media Math:
Democracy, News & Public Policy in Canada", instigated and in part commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

In addition to participating in the roundtables, CACTUS submitted written answers to the questions posed by the Public Policy Forum in its "Media Math" discussion paper.

To see what we submitted, click here:

CACTUS Written Submission to "Media Math" study

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CACTUS Asks CRTC to Reconsider Community and Local TV Decision

CACTUS has written to ask the CRTC to reconsider its community and local TV decision, based on the number of erroneous statements in the decision and its setting aside of the testimony by the very communities the policy is meant to serve.

Click here to read the request.

The policy will go into effect in September of 2017 unless enough Canadians complain to the CRTC, federal MPs, and to the Heritage Minister.

To support the request, fax the CRTC Secretary General at (819) 994-0218. The policy goes into effect in September of 2017.

To e-mail to your federal MP, most MP e-mails have the form firstname.lastname@parl.gc.ca. You can check here.

To e-mail the Heritage Minister, use Melanie.Joly@parl.gc.ca.

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CRTC DEFERS ACTION ON CABLE COMMUNITY TV COMPLAINTS... AGAIN

Ottawa (August 3, 2016) According to a letter received by the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS), the CRTC has deferred consideration of almost 60 complaints against community TV channels operated by Eastlink, Cogeco, Shaw and Rogers until their cable license renewals this fall. The complaints were filed by CACTUS in partnership with community groups in March and April, 2016. Data regarding local and community-access programming produced by cable community channels was also placed on the public record of the CRTC's recent community and local TV hearing, and can be viewed online at www.comtv.org. The channels either fail to air adequate local content (generally 60% of the program schedule) or adequate citizen-generated content (generally 50% of the schedule)—or both. The deferral is the latest in a series of CRTC failures to enforce community channel policy:

Under Access to Information requests, CACTUS discovered that CRTC audits of community channels from 2002 to 2005 revealed that the majority of cable companies did not air enough local and access content. No remedial action was taken.

CACTUS filed data during the 2010 community TV policy review showing that only 19 of more than 100 cable community channels met the 60% local threshold. The rest shared programming across multiple cable systems.

After inviting CACTUS to produce an 170-page analysis of cable community channels logs in 2011, revealing widespread non-compliance with CRTC policy, the Commission itself refused to consider the data. CACTUS received a 4-page letter from CRTC staff stating “In most cases, BDUs meet the minimum requirements regarding the broadcast of access and local programming.” Staff refused to share the basis for this conclusion.

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New "Community and Local TV" Policy Deals Death Blow to Community TV

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CACTUS Proposal to Revitalize Community TV in Canada as Part of Multimedia Digital Vision

CACTUS made a detailed submission to the CRTC's review of local and community TV on Tuesday, January 5th.

After consulting with its members, researchers, and community media practitioners from all media at the Community Media Convergence in November (radio, online, and gaming groups as well as traditional community TV), CACTUS filed an updated version of the proposal it made first in 2010: to use funding collected from Canadian subscribers from cable, IPTV, and satellite subscribers for "local expression" to fund multimedia training, production, and distribution centres that would bring back meaningful access to broadcasting and content creation to more than 90% of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

CACTUS' spokesperson Catherine Edwards: "We're satisfied that this idea has had a chance to circulate among community media practitioners beyond our own members. We've consulted public libraries, community radio stations, former CAP sites, community online media, First Nations groups, and the gaming community. Everyone agrees: stable operational funding needs to be found to support community media in the digital environment. Community TV (audio-visual content however distributed) in particular has been neglected for more than a decade, and the upcoming CRTC hearings are a chance to rectify this situation. Furthermore, the proposal takes into account the growing role of new media, and how best to make sure Canadians have the access to skills training, equipment and production support that they need to participate in the digital economy and in the wider culture we share on digital platforms."

To read CACTUS' intervention, click the files below:

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Community Media Convergence Ramps Up to Welcome Visitors to Ottawa

CACTUS is helping to organize and host the Community Media Convergenge at Carleton Univeristy which kicks off next weekend. The following article is cross-posted from the web site of the conference at www.ComMediaConverge.ca:

(Ottawa) Nov. 11, 2015 With less than two weeks to go, things are heating up in the community media world, with the first ever gathering of community media practitioners from all sectors (community TV, community radio, community online media such as The Media Co-op and gamers) at Carleton University Nov. 22-24th.

The conference features two days of panels about everything from “Social Media: Is it Community Media and How Do We Leverage It?” to “Community Media 3.0: Games and Interactivity?” The third day is a policy development forum, where attendees will have the opportunity to help shape a policy proposal to support community media in the digital environment.

Speakers include grandfathers of our broadcasting system such as:

Clifford Lincoln, author of Our Cultural Sovereignty: The Second Century of Broadcasting
Florian Sauvageau, author of the 1986 Report on the Task Force on Broadcasting
... to the new generation of bloggers and podcasters, including Mark Blevis, Victoria Fenner of rabble.
... and gaming organizations such as Dames Making Games and the Hand Eye Society.
Conference goers will be able to check out the latest from technology companies in the Tech Fair and watch the best community media the country has to offer in the evening Media Festival.

The conference is timely, and organizers hope it will help inform the CRTC's on-going review of its community TV policy, which is 40 years old and lags behind the reality of the digital distribution and creation of content.

For more information, contact Jess Wind at (613) 883-0698 or Jess@ComMediaConverge.ca. Student and single-day pricing is available. The evening Media Festival is by donation. If you can't be part of the action in Ottawa, follow the stream at www.ComMediaConverge.ca.

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ComMedia 2015 Invites CRTC to Community Media Conference

CACTUS alerted the CRTC to the fact that it was planning to organize the first national digital community media conference in the fall of 2014, with the hopes that both CRTC staff and commissioners would be able to attend, contribute to panels, and get to know the frequently overlooked sector of the broadcasting system that they regulate.

It was on the CRTC's three-year work plan that it would review community TV policy, and CACTUS' intent in liaising with the CRTC as soon as it had 'hatched' the idea for the conference was to make sure that all parties could maximally benefit from the research, best practices, and policy alternatives that might arise from this first coast-to-coast meeting of community media practitioners on all platforms.

In February of 2015, the CRTC announced following its recently completed "Let's Talk TV" process that it would shortly review community TV policy in the broader context of its policies for local conventional television.

Concerned, CACTUS requested a meeting with CRTC staff to:

  • renew our invitation to participate in the community media conference
  • discuss the timing of the proposed review
  • express our concern that the needs of the community TV sector might be sidelined in favour of the needs of larger interests and owners of conventional broadcasting networks.

When the CRTC met with CACTUS in late May, CACTUS learned that the community TV policy review notice might be posted before the end of summer, possibly precluding CRTC staff and Commissioners from participating, and precluding any of the research, practitioner knowledge and experience from shaping the CRTC's understanding of the sector and the policy review framework.

CACTUS therefore submitted the following formal request to delay a community TV policy review until after the conference, allowing the CRTC to participate fully, in a collegial fashion with media researchers and practitioners.

CACTUS request to delay hearing until after community media conference.

Since this letter was sent, several other conference organizers, research collaborators, sponsors, and concerned citizens have echoed CACTUS' request that the CRTC give its full support to the conference, and not squander the unprecedented opportunity to renew our country's commitment to and understanding of community media in the digital environment. You can read some of their letters below.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).
Clifford Lincoln
La Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec
The Canadian Media Guild
David Skinner, York University
Deepak Sahasrabuhde, Manager, Newwest.tv
Dr. Michael Lithgow, University of McGill.
Kirsten Kozolanka, Carleton University
CWA-Canada
Community Media Education Society
Professor Robert Hackett, Simon Fraser University

If you would like to encourage the CRTC to participate in and support the conference, you can either fax your comments to (819) 994-0218, or use the comments form on the CRTC web site. If you use the comment form, you can either type directly into the box on the form, or upload a separate document (for example, a letter on organizational letterhead).

Your voice is important to ensure that there are as many stakeholders at the table for this historic pan-media meeting, policy-makers especially!

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