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CRTC Audits Reveal Widespread Abuse of the "Community Channel"

CACTUS has obtained copies of audits done by the CRTC for selected cable community channels for one week in each of the years 2002 through 2005. We are pleased to note that in the exchange of letters between CRTC staff and cable companies, the Commission expresses concern about minimum levels of access by the public, that promotional messages not exceed two minutes per clock hour, and that there be accurate log-keeping.

CACTUS is nonetheless concerned at the CRTC’s findings:

2002 Audit (April 21-27)

  • Eleven of the 13 systems audited (including Shaw, Cogeco, Access, Eastlink, and Rogers), could not be evaluated because of missing tapes, tape malfunctions, and inconsistencies between logs and tapes. For example, promotional messages played inside programs were often not logged.

  • The auditor notes for Rogers Toronto, “The producer is often classified as “volunteers”, however, when the credits are examined, there is often no mention of volunteers, but regular producers and stations managers.”

  • Also for Rogers in Toronto: OHL hockey contained 24 promotions in one episode and 41 in another, none of which were recorded in the logs.

  • For Rogers Guelph, the auditor writes: “An hour long show called On Line with Rogers, classified as “A” (local), answers viewers’ question while at the same time is similar to an hour long promo of their services.”

  • Rogers in Guelph classified 14 programs as “access programming” which the auditor determined were produced by staff.

  • Cogeco in Kingston classified promos for Cogeco and for MTV as “access programming”.

2003 Audit (May 25-31)

  • The audited systems fared slightly better, although inconsistent logs, missing videotapes and a failure to classify programs as “access” or “licensee produced” was still the norm rather than the exception (including Access, Eastlink, Cogeco, and Rogers).

  • Of the 4 of 8 systems that could be evaluated, Eastlink in Aylesford, NS reported only 16% access programming.

  • Eastlink in Summerside, PEI, classified programs it had obtained from Rogers as “access programming”.

  • Shaw’s Calgary system claimed the segments in its daily newswheel as “access programming” although the auditor notes that there are no volunteer names in the credits.

  • Shaw Burnaby did not classify its programs.

  • Shaw Lethbridge claimed Rogers and Canadian Prostate Cancer Network programs as local programming.

  • Rogers in St. Thomas failed to respond to the Commission’s request for logs.

2004 Audit (April 18-24)

  • Again only half of the audited systems could be evaluated because of logging inconsistencies.

  • Rogers was routinely in non-compliance with both the two-minute per hour maximum for promotions (sometimes exceeding this maximum by as much as 7 minutes) and often doubled the 15-second limit for sponsorship messages.

  • Rogers in Ottawa classified the professionally hosted and produced studio program Talk Ottawa as access programming, “unassisted by the licensee”.

  • Cogeco in Peterboroguh claimed as “local programming” a program that was produced in a different township.

  • Eastlink in Halifax and Sydney, NS reported no access programming, made no distinction between local and regional programming, double-counted some programs as local programming in both licence areas, and played double the length of promotions permitted per hour each day of the audit.

  • Persona in Sudbury claimed its news segments were “access programming” although the auditor notes that there is “no evidence that the producer is not employed by Persona.”

  • Persona in Sudbury played double the amount of allowed promotions each day of the audit and promoted services other than broadcasting.

The auditor for 2004 notes “There does not appear to be any promotion of community access on any of the channels monitored.

2005 Audit Week (April 24-30)

  • Eastlink in Halifax and Sydney classified the same series as access programming in both licence areas.

  • Persona in Sudbury again claimed that its news program was “access”. Persona states in correspondence with the Commission that “community individuals, groups and organizations promote and share their activities and information either by requesting coverage in a segment or an interview”.

  • Persona was again found to be using its community channel to advertise non-broadcasting services, which the company attributed to a “traffic error”.

  • Although Rogers Ottawa classified 64.4% of its schedule as “access programming”, the auditor notes that “access programs” include OHL Hockey, Ottawa Citizen Business Television, and Decorative Paintner, which feature community groups but do not identify the party provided access. When requested by the CRTC to provide the names of the producing parties, Rogers did not respond.

  • Commenting on Shaw Vancouver, the auditor raises questions about multi-segment programs such as The Express and Studio 4, in which segments are claimed as “access” when no volunteer names appear in the credits.

The auditor concludes: “Although Rogers and Shaw may be in compliance with access regulations statistically, their definitions of access are questionable.

Given the inconsistencies in logging and reporting, multiple instances of non-compliance with both access expectations and the level of commercialization of their channels, and the apparent failure of the country’s largest cable companies to address the same violations year after year, CACTUS is surprised that the CRTC ceased auditing cable community channels in 2005, and waited five more years to hold a public hearing.

We also believe that the public has a right to know what has been happening with subscriber fees spent on “community expression” since 2005. It is within the CRTC’s power to request BDU community programming logs for the most recent programming year, and we believe they should be made available for public scrutiny in time for the hearings.

We therefore submitted a final request to the Secretary General of the CRTC on March 2nd, 2010, to request these logs from the BDUs, under section 28 of the BDU regulations, and to make them public on the CRTC’s web site. On April 6th, we received a letter denying this request, on the grounds that “logistical challenges and third-party privacy issues do not make this feasible at this time.”

We would respectfully ask, if not now, in the context of a policy review, then when? Transparency and accountability are fundamental to the creation of broadcasting policy that serves the public interest.

The community-owned and operated solution proposed by CACTUS would answer the needs for both transparcency and accountability, by putting the funds for “community expression” collected from cable subscribers directly in the hands of communities, which would file annual reports on amounts and genres of programming, as well as parties provided access.

Click on the links below to review the full audits provided to CACTUS by the CRTC:

2002 Audit
2003 Audit
2004 Audit
2005 Audit


Only 19 Distinct Cable Community Services in English Canada

CRTC public notice 2009-661 states that there are 139 cable-run community television channels in Canada. It posted the list of the companies that run them and where they are located shortly before the February 1st dead-line for written submissions to the community TV policy review.

According to an on-line analysis done by CACTUS in January of 2010 of programming schedules posted for these companies and communities, of those 139, 110 are English-language programmings services. Of those 110, only 19 have programming schedules that are "distinct" from one another: that is, more than 50% of the programming schedule is produced locally. The remaining services replay more than 50% of their programming from larger centres.

A table summarizing our findings can be found here.

It's important to note that even if a programming service is "distinct" and is mostly produced locally, the programming is not necessarily produced by the community itself. Statistically, it is more likely to be produced by cable company staff. According to cable company data collected by the CRTC, only 27% of the programming on cable community channels are reported to be produced by community residents. The rest is produced by staff or acquired from other sources. Several systems are playing commercial radio throughout much of their morning schedules (Shaw's Western channels, for example), or third-party programs such as the Armed Forces News.

Furthermore, CACTUS believes that the 27% 'access programming' claimed by cable companies is probably high. Reports of cable companies claiming 'access programming' when community members are simply invited onto programs as guests or are interviewed in a segment are widespread.

Our review of the web sites of the company's largest cable companies supported the view that the majority of programming is staff-produced. The producer contact names given are usually staff names, and employee lists include paid hosts, reporters, and producers.

Before the community sector was deregulated in 1997, the cable staff of community TV channels were usually called "co-ordinators", "facilitators", or "community animators". Their role in supporting the community to produce content for itself was clear.

In the 1980s, CRTC documents reported the existence of 294 distinct community TV channels in Canada. That number has been steadily declining, probably because of the zone-based approach to cable licensing that has been adopted by the CRTC, which has allowed cable service areas to be consolidated.

The good news is, that for no new cost, and by leveraging the power of communities to program for themselves once more, hyper-local community content can once more be created by every community... coast to coast.

Click here for the CACTUS proposal for 21st-Century Community Broadcasting at NO NEW COST.


21st Century Community Broadcasting at NO NEW COST

CACTUS unveils its plan for 21st century broadcasting, at NO NEW COST. For a quick summary, financials, and FAQs, see 21st-Century Community Broadcasting at NO NEW COST.

For more background, see A New Vision for Community TV, on the Navigation bar to the left.


Support Community Media Now!

The dead-line for public comment for the CRTC public notice of consultation 2009-661 is now closed.

Thank you for everyone who took the time to support the call for a return to community access in our country--and more specifically--to the vision of community media access production and distribution centres in every town, run by communities themselves.

Over 2000 of you supported this message, whether by endorsing the CACTUS campaign letter and requests, or by adding your own comments and experiences where you live.

There may be other ways that you can help and increase the chance that the dream of open access for everyone and in every community can become a reality as we approach the hearings, so stay tuned!



CACTUS Requests Basic Information to Be Made Available to Public about Community TV

Since the notice of the CRTC policy review of the community TV sector was posted on October 22nd, CACTUS has been trying to stimulate genuine debate about the future of the sector that would include input from a broad cross-section of Canadians.

The two major stumbling block have been:

1) The lack of information in the public notice itself. All it says about the current community TV channels on cable is that there are 139 in the country: nothing about where they are, who runs them, nor how much access programming they do.

CACTUS has now submitted six different Access to Information request trying to find out whether the sector is living up to its current policy mandate. The CRTC required cable operators to keep logs of the number of hours of access programming that they do, the titles of the programs, and the names of parties provided access, to enable the Commission to monitor performance. We were therefore surprised that none of this information had been offered in the public notice, but even more surprised when the CRTC informed us that since 1990, it has never once asked cable operators to see this information. We were puzzled, as we had heard anecdotally that various cable companies had been audited over the years for compliance.

Since cable companies are required to keep these logs for 12 months, our latest request to the CRTC is that they ask for these most recent logs to be made available before the hearings, to enabel Canadians to objectively assess whether the goals of the community TV policy as stated in public notice 2009-661 are being met. We are still waiting to hear.

2) The failure of publicity for the hearings themselves. We wrote and requested the CRTC four times to ask that community channels themselves be required to run neutral notices to inform the public that the review is going on. We finally found out that the CRTC had passed on our request to cable companies, but only Rogers replied. Unfortunately, Rogers' proposed wording for this notice is highly prejudicial. It does not refer to the channel's access mandate, and repeatedly refers to the channel as "Rogers TV", as if it is part of Rogers' business brand, rather than a public service.

As neither of these issues has been addressed, we remain deeply concerned that most Canadians will not have the information they need to participate meaningfully in hearings that will decide the future of the one part of broadcasting system over which they are meant to have direct input and control.


CACTUS Weights In on Fee for Carriage and the Digital Transition

CACTUS participated in both hearings regarding the value-for-signal hearings (both the CRTC's own deliberations in November as well as the government-ordered collection of Canadian public feedback that occurred in December).

We had three messages:

1) We supported the principal of broadcasting distribution undertakings (cable, satellite, your phone company) compensating over-the-air broadcasters for their content. (Up until now, cable companies like Rogers and Shaw pay specialty channels such as Discovery and US channels like PBS for the right to include them in cable service tiers, but not Canadian over-the-air channels such as CTV or the CBC.) We supported this concept provided that over-the-air community TV channels are included. The rationale for paying for Canadian over-the-air services is to help finance local content. Since the community sector is cabable of generating more volume of local content than any other, it is logical and fair.

2) We proposed that there by reserved and protected over-the-air frequencies for community use through the transition to digital. The community sector currently is not being taken into account in the digital allotment plan and may not be able to get on air in larger urban areas without specific set-asides.

3) Since the community sector is interested to acquire transmission equipment that might fall into disuse if public and private sector broadcasters pull out of smaller communities after the transition to digital, we proposed that community license-holders could continue to maintain transmitters for remote signals from the public and private sectors so that these communities can continue to receive free over-the-air TV. Many smaller communities across the country already offer this service to residents.

Click here for the transcript the Nov. 25th CACTUS presentation.

Click here for the transcript of the Dec. 7 CACTUS presentation.

In both cases, use Edit->Find "CACTUS" to scroll down to our presentation.


CACTUS Gets Press in MediaCaster and TechMedia Reports

The CRTC public notice has been posted for the community television review. You can read it at:


As with most policy reviews, the Commission poses specific questions. We will be posting an analysis of what the questions mean this week and next, as it's not always obvious, even if you are familiar with previous hearings and the minutiae of CRTC policy.

In the mean time, the press for the hearings has begun. CACTUS was quoted in both MediaCaster last week at:


and (incorrectly) by TechMedia Report at:


(CACTUS spokesperson, Cathy Edwards, did not in fact propose that boards of independent community TV channels should be appointed by municipalities or locally elected officials, although municipality representation and support will be important.)

If you have press contacts that could give exposure to CACTUS' proposals for a revitalized independent community television sector, please contact us (see the About page). We need to encourage as many individual Canadians and community organizations that have used community channels to publicize their activities and events to intervene with their views at the hearings.



Knight Commission Presents Report to FCC Head: Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy

The widely respected Knight Commission presented its report "Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy" to the FCC on Oct. 2, 2009.

The report closely echoes CACTUS' own proposals "Community Media and Technology Centres" to enable citizens to actively participate in public discourse. Like CACTUS, the report writers suggest that these centres could be built on to existing facilities central to communities, such as libraries.

The report also recommends public financial support for these centres, and that access to information and to the means of PRODUCING information is as important to the healthy functioning of communities as "clean air, safe streets, good schools, and public health".

For the full report, see http://www.knightcomm.org/


Tyee Publishes Story on W2 Multimedia Access Centre in Vancouver

They Tyee on-line newspaper recently published the following story about Vancouver's new W2 multimedia-access centre.

A New Vision for Community TV
Centres like Vancouver's W2 promise a more democratic way to create televised media.

By Steve Anderson and Michael Lithgow, 2 Oct 2009, TheTyee.ca

Giving citizens access to digital tools.

TV is dying. What will replace it?

The Net Reboots Cinema
How long until films are wired straight into our minds?

How We Can Reinvent TV
The web now allows us to bypass the studios. At last, artists will run the shows.

Unbeknownst to most Canadians, cable companies and local community groups have been wrestling for control over community channel assets: the community groups want space on the TV dial and production resources; the cable companies want to call the shots, control the programming, and move their community channels in the direction of commercial television. Approximately $80 million collected annually from Canadians and earmarked for community programming, is at stake.

Meanwhile, the digital revolution is transforming citizens into media producers and every home computer into a virtual television station. In such a radically altered media environment, the question remains: what will community TV be in the 21st century?

Community television is a throwback to a time when cable technology was new and the web was not yet born. It allowed anyone to create a program that could be seen on cable. Community television was the YouTube of its day; but things have changed. Downloading and streaming have precipitated a complicated restructuring of the television industry, brought on in part by new viewing habits. Traditional TV now seems to be on the wane.

But there are some things that are harder for the Internet to replace. Most television takes more than one person to make. The Internet cannot replace the studio space, hands-on training and possibilities for in-person collaboration and mentorship that community television allowed for. And it won't replace the sense of place provided by a community production studio; a space where people can gather, work, learn and create together.

We are at a critical moment when traditional media ownership is more concentrated than ever, and yet we have perhaps the most participatory medium in history at our fingertips. As such, citizens need access to media literacy, knowledge and media production skills more than ever before. And Community Media Centres -- modeled on the idea of recreation centres and local libraries -- may be a crucial piece of the digital divide puzzle.

The physical rendering of the Internet

The Internet has become an engine of innovation, choice and free expression because it is a relatively open platform for citizen engagement and free enterprise. This open platform facilitates free association and collaboration, which then produces exciting projects like Wikipedia, Firefox, and citizen-powered events like ChangeCamp.

As noted in previous columns, various projects in the "terrestrial" world are integrating web practices and values like transparency, openness and participatory decision making, into their work. The new push by groups in many cities to revamp community media centres looks to be part of this larger process of physically rendering the Internet.

Community Media Centres are attracting interest because they are in many ways, a physical mirror image of the Internet. If nothing else, Community Media Centres are an open platform for citizen collaborations of all types. Take a look at the description of soon-to-be launched W2 Community Media Centre in Vancouver:

"W2 will bring together hybrid art forms, community art practices, individual human development and community cultural development in a single environment. It will be home to a diverse grouping of Vancouver arts and community service organizations offering developmental programs in writing, radio and television production, painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, video and cross-media."

Like the Internet, W2 will allow community members to engage at a level with which they are comfortable, and to freely develop their own ambitions and capacities. The Internet is nothing if not an online space where intrinsic motivation and open communication encourage and enable personal and collective exploration, collaboration and creativity. Community Media Centres could be the offline world equivalent of this open space, or rather a site where the offline and online can effortlessly merge. They are, in a sense, the next phase of social media, bringing to life the collaborative potential of the Internet in physical production spaces that mirror the complicated technological capacities of commercial studios.

Allocating community funds to communities

This fall, the CRTC will reconsider the role of community television in Canada. And they will ask Canadians what should happen with community channel policy. CACTUS (the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations), an innovative group based in Ottawa, is putting forward a proposal for community channel money to be used to create community media centres across the country.

CACTUS is proposing that a portion of the $80 million allocated to community channels be used to create a fund that community groups can apply to set up community media centres. The centres will provide training, equipment and may even acquire community broadcast licenses for radio or television. They would offer facilities for sound recording, television production, web design, broadband streaming and share resources with other community organizations that specialize in communications, for example, community newspapers, libraries, and theatres.

The best part of the plan is that this money is already being spent by cable companies. With CACTUS's proposal, Canadians won't have to pay another dime -- the media centre proposal will tap into funding that is already available.

The offline web

With the popularization of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before people figured out that online practices and values can have a place in our offline world. The beginning of what might be a long bleed of practices and values to the terrestrial may have begun with growing interest in participatory events. But why stop there?

As the desire for open systems and practices gains momentum, we can look to these and other hubs of open collaboration as an exciting new social nexus. A network of networks, you might say, much like the Internet.

Michael Lithgow is the co-founder of CACTUS, research associate at OpenMedia.ca, and a long-time community television advocate and organizer from Vancouver now living in Montreal. He was one of the founding directors of ICTV on the West Coast, former member of the Cue Up collective at Video In. He is currently a PhD student at Carleton University.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for OpenMedia.ca. He is a contributing author of Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media and has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times, Common Ground, Rabble.ca and Adbusters.


"La Television des Iles" Crippled Before It Hits the Air

The latest just in from Les Iles de la Madeleine:

"La Television des Iles" is the first instance in Canada of an independent "community programming service" that qualifies and was awarded the 5% cable levy in the absence of a cable-company operated community channel. Eastlink Cable had committed to paying the new channel the levy until the announcement of 2009-544 on the 31 August, which exempts systems under 20,000 subscribers from seeking licenses, and by extension, from obligations for local expression. The previous limit had been 6,000, and before that 2,000. The change is presumably part of the CRTC's drift toward increasing deregulation, and an example of how the fate of community television continues to be determined by cable industry market conditions and regulations. Here's the original in French:

"Îles-de-la-Madeleine, 9 septembre 2009 – Diffusion communautaire des Îles réagit à la décision du CRTC 2009-544 rendu public le 8 septembre 2009 qui énonce une nouvelle ordonnance d’exemption pour les entreprises terrestres de distribution de radiodiffusion desservant moins de 20 000 abonnés. Les câblodistributeurs ne sont donc plus tenus de consacrer 5% de leurs revenus nets à la programmation canadienne depuis le 31 août 2009.

Suite à cette nouvelle réglementation du CRTC, le câblodistributeur Eastlink a décidé de se retirer du projet de relance de la télévision communautaire des Îles réduisant considérablement son budget de fonctionnement annuel.

Par conséquent, Diffusion communautaire des Îles se voit dans l’obligation d’annuler le lancement officiel de la programmation prévu ce soir à la Galerie Bar Spectacle les Pas Perdus. Au cours des prochaines semaines, le conseil d’administration évaluera les différentes options possibles concernant le manque à gagner et même l’avenir de TVI, la télévision des Îles."


Bugle Observer Publishes Story on Rogers Takeovers

Lights, camera, no action

Published Tuesday September 22nd, 2009

Digital upgrades in Carleton County impact local programming on Rogers Cable

By Katelin Dean

After 10 years, the final hymn has been sung – at least from local church television broadcasts.

Bingo balls will fly no longer in the NBCC-Woodstock TV studio. Rogers Cable upgrades have forced the popular Tuesday game to assimilate with Rotary Bingo out of Fredericton. PHOTO BY KATELIN DEANThe lens cap is on and the balls have dropped for Valley TV Bingo. The broadcast, which had been airing out of the studio in NBCC-Woodstock, will now combine with Fredericton's Rotary Bingo. Rogers Cable has upgraded their system to digital.

"We rebuilt the entire cable network," Rogers manager of public affairs and communications Christiane Vaillancourt said.

She said they put in fibre optic lines to allow for high-speed Internet, provincial local phone calls and an enhanced digital cable package for most of Carleton County.

Because of the upgrade, serving areas had to be combined. This means Valley TV Bingo, church services from the Woodstock Wesleyan and Woodstock Baptist churches, NBCC Woodstock Journalism's Community College News and the Kinsmen's Christmas Telethon are either eliminated or have to make other arrangements with Rogers.

"We're bending backwards to offer programming solutions free of charge," Vaillancourt said.

A meeting took place between Rogers representatives and the groups effected by the change.

"It was certainly a shock when they told us we were done," said Carmen Nicholson of Valley TV Bingo.

Nicholson has been running TV Bingo since October 1994.

Despite working out a deal with Rotary Bingo in Fredericton – who had been airing at the same time as Valley TV Bingo – she said she's still disappointed.

"It's not going to be the same," Nicholson lamented.

Bingo players will still be able to buy there cards from the same locations and play at the same time. The money raised from this area will stay in this area. The difference is that Nicholson will no longer host the show.

"It's going to have an effect," she said. "They (the viewers) like the local connection."

"I've met so many great people," she continued.

Anger was the first emotion Nicholson experienced upon learning the news. She said she now just feels sad.

"It's been such a big part of my life," Nicholson said. "I'm going to miss it."

TV bingo will continue to be played Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. Church services on Sunday afternoons, however, will not.

Woodstock Baptist Church Pastor Leonard Cousins said he's sad for shut-ins who regularly watched the service on television.

"It's a loss to the community on many levels," Cousins said.

Unlike some of the other effected organizations, little is being done to keep church services on the air.

Vaillancourt said Rogers can't represent one faith over another on the station.

In the meeting, it was suggested by Rogers to get together with other denominations and rotate church services, Cousins said.

"We would have to get together with every church from Fredericton to Plaster Rock," Cousins said. "It's improbable to get everyone together."

The Baptist Church is currently looking into ways to broadcast their service online.

Cousins said he suspects many of the people who watch the service on television are shut-ins.

"I assume most viewers would be seniors who are less likely to have computer access," Cousins said.

"I felt sad for shut-ins when I heard the news," he continued.

Unlike the church services, the Community College News will continue to air in some form.

"This shift will have no impact on the curriculum," said television journalism instructor Paul Squires.

"I'm really happy Rogers is making arrangements to continue to air the program."

Squires said he's not entirely sure how it's all going to work as of now, but they are working together.

Arrangements for the annual Kinsmen Christmas Telethon have also been made so the annual program will run, said Vaillancourt.

Vaillancourt said everyone involved in the meeting understood the changes.

"They seemed pleased about reaching a greater audience," she said.

"We're very excited about the products and service we're bringing to the Woodstock area," Vaillancourt concluded.


CBC and St. Croix Courier Pick Up Story of Community TV Channels in New Brunswick Threatened by Rogers

Rogers has announced that it will be terminating 3 community programming services in the southwest corner of New Brunswick before the end of the year. Nine communities have been operating the community channel on Rogers (and formerly Fundy Cable) for upwards of 17 years, although never with financial support from either cable company. Rogers is expected ultimately to replace the individual services of these nine communities with a single feed from one of its larger regional centres, probably Fredericton or Saint John.

Patrick Watt of St. Andrews Community TV will be assisting these communities to either:

a) incorporate as "community television corporations", which will entitle them to at least 4 hours per week on the Rogers-operated channel.

b) apply to the CRTC to carry on a "community programming service", which will mean that Rogers must carry them on a digital channel.

c) apply to the CRTC for a low-power over-the-air license, which would mean that residents in these communities could see the channel for free. These channels would also have must-carry status on Rogers' basic tier.

These three options were enabled by CRTC policy 2002-61 and are currently available to any community group in Canada. Few groups have taken advantage of the 2002 policy because of a lack of viable funding options (with the exception of groups in Quebec, who have access to Quebec Ministry of Culture funding).

The CBC ran a televised story about the situation in southwest New Brunswick last week. You can see it on YouTube at:


The NB newspaper the St. Croix Courier also reported on the situation. The text of the story follows:

Future of community channels in limbo


ST. GEORGE – The future of the community channels which serve the St. George and St. Stephen areas is in jeopardy.
In eastern Charlotte this would mean the end of the annual Christmas telethon live broadcast the Pennfield Lions Club and raises money for needy families.
The problem is that Rogers Communications is putting fibre optic cable into Charlotte County in order to deliver HDTV and the company says it would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue local television broadcasts.
Currently there are community stations operating out of St. George and St. Stephen while the volunteers who work on the St. Andrews Community Channel saw the writing on the wall some time ago so they now have their own broadcast licence.
Patrick Watt, who is a volunteer with the St. Andrew Community Channel CHCT, said they are one of some 15 independent community channels with a licence in Canada and probably the only one within the Rogers cable system that the company would have to deal with.
“This should not affect us too much because we have a licence. In St. George and St. Stephen their channels don’t have licences so it is quite easy for Rogers to say they are done.
“Under CRTC regulations, any community can start its own community television station on cable or you can have an over-the-air broadcast which requires cable to carry the station. You get the best of both worlds when you get a UHF channel as we have.”
He said Fundy Cable at one time gave their support to these stations but Rogers simply is not.
“At one time staff from Fundy Cable used to come to the stations from Saint John and Fredericton and would help train local volunteers. It is just a different corporate world today.
“I have dumped a lot of effort and heart into this. I started in community television with Fundy Cable when I was 16 years old – that’s 23 years ago.”
Watt said it will be a shame if St. George and St. Stephen lose their community channels. CHCT would like to involve all Charlotte communities so that local TV shows and event coverage could continue to be watched all over the county.
“We want to keep community TV alive because we think it’s really important. It would ignite all kinds of opportunities. I can foresee it to be a very wonderful thing.”
If the communities could pool their resources, said Watt, and produce programs county-wide it is likely more people would watch CHCT and get involved.
With today’s technology, people in St. Stephen or St. George could go to their community access centre, or even their home computer, and upload their videos to the station’s server then, once it was approved, it could be shown on CHCT-TV.
“It is a very attainable vision we have. We proposed to the CRTC that CHCT be carried across the county when the new digital cable
comes to town.
“That is done in Nova Scotia at a community station in Cape Breton. They do a really good job getting support from their local channel there and are being carried by three or four different cable systems. “We approached Rogers for county-wide coverage and hope to work with them to make it happen for CHCT-TV. Their new digital cable system originates in St. Andrews so it is almost just the flick of a switch to make it happen.”
If that was done, he said, the Christmas telethon, for instance, could be broadcast all across the county not just in eastern Charlotte. The telethon then could potentially raise much more money for many more families.
“Fifteen years ago, there were 300 cable TV stations in Canada. Today there are now 200 and of these, only about 100 are truly public access channels. Sadly, these 100 stations serve towns of less than 10,000 people therefore only ten per cent of Canadians have access to public access TV.”
If CHCT served the whole of Charlotte County, said Watt, it would
also appeal to more local advertisers. This, in turn, would allow CHCT to upgrade their transmitter then they could extend programming to the islands of Deer Island, Campobello and Grand Manan as well.
“The possibilities are endless and to me it is very exciting. We would like public support for this idea. It is a known fact that many people kept their cable to play bingo. If you take that off, a lot of people are likely to switch to satellite.”


CACTUS Shares Implementation Plan for a Revitalized Community Sector with CRTC Staff

CACTUS member Cathy Edwards, Robin Jackson (the ex-executive director of the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund) and Patrick Watt met with CRTC officials on September 3rd to outline CACTUS' proposal to revitalize the community tier by creating a new community-access license class and an accompanying Community-Access Media Fund to support the new license holders. CRTC staff listened attentively and asked lots of questions. We hope that this information-sharing session will help shape the framework of the upcoming hearings by educating CRTC staffers about what the sector can accomplish if given the right tools.

Table of Contents

a) Status of Community-Access Programming in Canada

b) CACTUS Position in Upcoming Policy Review

c) Action Plan if a New Community-Access Media Fund is Created

a) Status of Community-Access Programming in Canada

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were over 300 community-access television channels across Canada, by which the Canadian public (both individuals and groups) had direct access to the airwaves. Most were operated and/or distributed by cable companies. Since the cable industry enjoyed 80% penetration at that time, community TV was “accessible” to most Canadians both as producers and viewers. A few community channels operated over-the-air, in remote areas that were not cost-effective for cable, such as in Valemont, B.C.

In 2009, although there are still about 200 “community channels” in operation country-wide, CACTUS estimates that just over 100 of those, or 1/3 the original number, are genuinely “community-access”; that is, enabling individuals and groups within communities to make programs and messages for themselves. These include:

 The ~45 members of Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec (Fedetvc). Some of the Fedetvc members manage community channels on behalf of a cable operator by contract. Others are independent non-profit community TV corporations that supply programming for part of the playback week of a local cable company. The future of many of these groups are uncertain both because their sources of financing are fragile and because they depend on cable companies for distribution. Many have had to pursue commercial-like models in recent years to survive. As a result, many are functioning below capacity as far as their ability to do outreach in the community.

 The ~33 channels operated by Access Communications (a cable co-operative) throughout Saskatchewan (approximately half of the cabled communities in Saskatchewan).

 The ~19 channels operated by Westman Cable (a cable co-operative) in western Manitoba (accessible to a minority of communities in Manitoba, with just over 26,000 member households).

 Five of the low-power OTA license holders, located in British Columbia, Ontario, NTW and New Brunswick. (The other low-power OTA license holders do not enable access by the community at large.)

 Seven organizations in New Brunswick that operate community channels on behalf of Rogers.

 An indeterminate number of smaller private cable companies (mostly members of the CCSA) that still enable community access, such as SeaSide in Nova Scotia. Cable companies vary widely in their attitudes toward enabling access... even from one town to the next within the same company, so it's difficult to arrive at an exact total.)

Approximately 90% of these channels are located in communities having fewer than 10,000 people (see Appendix A). So, while approximately 1/3 of the original 300+ community TV channels still do access production, they are accessible to less than 10% of Canada’s population. (They tend to be in communities small enough to be of little commercial interest to BDUs.)

Another 1/3 of the original number have been closed down or regionalized. For example, while Vancouver used to have 12 regional offices, these have been consolidated to a single downtown location. While New Brunswick used to have over 30 individual studios, today there are only six.

The remaining 1/3 are in the hands of cable companies that are no longer positively disposed toward community access. Control of content is in the hands of cable staff, although a few (in areas served by Rogers, for example) still allow volunteers to provide free labour as technicians.

In addition, the cable industry as a whole has lost market share, and is now subscribed to by only about 60% of Canadian households. Since telephone and satellite companies rarely contribute directly to community-access production, this is a further loss to the community sector.

So, access to a local community television channel has become a privilege enjoyed by a minority of Canadians. It is no longer a basic service accessible to all.

How do we reverse this trend?

b) CACTUS Position in Upcoming Policy Review

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) is an association of individual Canadians, community groups and associations, OTA license holders, cable co-ops and others who are concerned about the loss of access to community channels by Canadians.

During the community sector review, CACTUS’ main requests will be:

1) The creation of a non-profit and non-commercial community-ACCESS license class. License holders will commit to 80% community-access productions. Equipment, training, and air-time will be offered to the community free of charge.

2) The creation of a Community-Access Media Fund (CAMF) to which holders of community-access licenses will be able apply. CACTUS will suggest that this fund be created primarily from the cable levy currently being spent by cable companies that no longer offer production access to their communities.

3) Holders of community-access licenses who apply to CAMF will be encouraged to set up platform-independent access production centres that might simultaneously hold OTA radio and television licenses, webstream, and have must-carry status on the services of all locally available BDUs. They will be encouraged to pool community resources; for example, maintaining offices in local community centres, libraries or theatres, so that the community can “one-stop-shop” to get their messages out. This diversified infrastructure will both promote efficiency and enable communities to modernize and use technologies for local communication to best advantage into the future.

If these requests become a reality, and a Community-Access Media Fund is created as a result of the upcoming hearings, how will the sector be revived?


Depending on the size of the proposed Community-Access Media Fund, access can be extended to more or to fewer Canadians.

Here are two budget outlines, one for a small community (10-30,000) and one for a larger community (over 30,000). Extremely small communities (< 10,000) might maintain only a camera or camera and edit suite, and relay footage to a larger centre , while the largest cities (over 500,000) might have two-three separate access centres.

The goal is that as many Canadians as possible should be able to travel to a community-access production facility within 30 minutes on public transportation.

Small Community (10-30,000, of which there are 85 in Canada)

Startup Costs
Control room
Edit suite
ENG kit
Mobile (van with portable cameras)
Studio and control room
Voiceover booth
Internet lab (3 computers, modem, network) $6,000
Office equipment and furniture $2,000
Transmission equipment $60,000
Total $392,000
Yearly Operational Costs
3 staff (manager, community outreach co-ordinator/trainer, technician) $160,000
Repairs (parts, not labour) $10,000
Materials (e.g. videotape, office supplies) $30,000
Rent or mortgage, building maintenance $25,000
Total $230,000

Larger Community (> 30,000... of which there are 86 in Canada)

Startup Costs
Control room
Edit suites
ENG kits
Mobile (specialized vehicle, committed equipment, CCUs etc.)
$12,000 per
$10,000 per

Control room and studio
Voiceover booth
Internet lab (5 computers, modem, network) $10,000
Office equipment and furniture $6,000
Transmission equipment $100,000
Total ~ $500,000

Yearly Operational Costs
5-8 staff (manager, community outreach co-ordinator/trainer(s), technician) $3-500,000
Repairs (not including labour) $10,000
Materials (e.g. videotape, office supplies) $40,000
Rent or mortgage, building maintenance $25- $50,000
Total $400-600,000

Proposed Fund Size, # Channels that Could Be Maintained

Community-Access Media Fund Size # of Channels

(includes yearly operating costs)
(0.5 % cable gross revenues in 2008)  45/86 cities > 30,000
 20/85 communities 10-30,000
 Fund management ($500,000)
 National association that would provide the leadership to rebuild sector (CACTUS or equivalent) $1,000,000
(1% of cable gross revenues in 2008)  80/86 cities > 30,000
 80/85 communities 10-30,000
 Fund management ($500,000)
 National association ($1,000,000)
(1.5% cable gross revenues in 2008)  86/86 cities > 30,000
 85/85 communities 10-30,000
 Fund management ($500,000)
 National association ($1,000,000)
 ENG kits, edit suites, part-time staff support for additional communities < 10,000
 Special project grants, long-term infrastructure and equipment upgrades
 Additional neighbourhood offices in cities > 500,000
(2% of cable gross revenues in 2008) Not necessary at this time.
> $120,000,000
(2% BDU revenues, including satellite and Telcos) Not necessary at this time.
>> $120,000,000
(2% BDU revenues, including satellite, Telcos, and ISPs ) Not necessary at this time.


CAMF would establish long-term targets to distribute funds evenly throughout the regions, with proportionately more in smaller communities since:

 Minimum staffing, equipment and facilities are necessary to get on air in the smallest communities, and

 The sharing of common resources becomes more efficient in larger population centres.


 The long-term size of the fund is determined by estimates of on-going operational costs and not startup costs, and

 publicity and community education about the existence of the fund, how to apply for licenses, and how to operate access television channels will take time (not all within a single calendar year)

the CAMF strategy will be to:

 Upgrade facilities and establish adequate staffing at existing independent community TV organizations (including enabling the transition to holding OTA licenses for those currently on cable only, and the transition to digital and HD where appropriate).

 Establish a minimum number of access production centres in each region in the first year (at least one large and one small), which can become models and training centres to enable nearby communities to get up and running in subsequent years.

The following scenario is an example, assuming that CAMF is created from 1.5% of the existing BDU levy, or $90,000,000:

Year 1:

Infrastructure grants and upgrades to existing independent community-access television organizations (approximately 60 total, including members of the Fedetvc in Quebec, but not including cable co-operatives, which already have access to the cable levy):

Estimate per channel

 General equipment upgrades (could include digital and/or HD) $100,000
 Addition of OTA transmission equipment $100,000
 Addition of Internet access terminals,
webstreaming, on-line program archives $20,000
 Addition of radio broadcasting for communities that want it $20,000



Supplement staffing for existing 60 (non cable-coop) channels: $15,000,000

Fund and national association: $1,500,000

New channel startups, including year 1 operational costs:
36 small, 36 large $59,100,000

Total Year 1: $90,000,000

Year 2:

Operational costs for 43 existing large channels >30,000 $21,500,000
(not including cable co-ops):

Operational costs for 93 existing small channels (<30,000) $21,390,000

Fund and national association: $1,500,000

New channel startups, including year 2 operational costs:
28 small, 28 large $45,610,000

Total Year 2: $90,000,000

Year 3:

Operational costs for 71 existing large channels >30,000 $35,500,000
(not including cable co-ops):

Operational costs for 121 existing small channels (<30,000) $27,830,000

Fund and national association: $1,500,000

New channel startups, including year 3 operational costs:
14 small, 14 large $22,820,000

4 additional neighbourhood offices in cities > 500,000 $2,350,000

Total Year 3: $90,000,000

And so on. In year 4, the remaining additional neighbourhood offices in cities > 500,000 would be complete and attention would be shifted to setting up additional outreach facilities in communities < 10,000 that are not within easy reach of a facility serving 10-30,000.

In actual fact, the setup rate in the first year of the fund might be slower than projected, due to the need for promotion and education about the purpose and availability of the fund monies. A more realistic estimate is that by the end of year 5, the fund would be mainly dispensing operational monies, monitoring performance of existing channels, and setting up additional outreach facilities in communities < 10,000 that are not within easy reach of a facility serving 10-30,000.

(CACTUS or equivalent)

 Publicizing the availability of funding for community groups to set up access production centres.

 Supporting community groups in license application process.

 Assisting the CRTC in assessing applications, since an application in the new community-access license class would trigger eligibility for funding from CAMF. For example, while the CRTC would assess technical criteria that affect other sectors and license holders such as transmission range, protocols, and standards, CACTUS might assess the strength of the application from the point of view of involvement and support by a broad cross-section of community stakeholders, and the knowledge and understanding by the applicant community of the role and responsibility of a community-access channel.

 Supporting community groups in funding application process; for example, assistance in preparing realistic budgets (assessment from licensing process would be automatically forwarded to the fund).

 Providing technical and organizational guidance to community groups setting up new as well as existing channels; for example, who to hire, what equipment to buy, how to engage the community in production.

 Creating, pooling and distributing training materials for production centre staff, community producers, and volunteers.

 Lobbying for the community sector.

 Program sharing via a web site and archives, tape bicycling if appropraite, and (long term) supporting an application for a national public-access channel to share programming.

 Web site maintenance to share educational materials, member news and progress.

 Liaising with CAMF to achieve long-term growth targets in the community-access sector.

The board of directors for CACTUS would consist of member channel staff and community producers. Therefore, CACTUS advocates for the immediate needs of those working and volunteering within the sector.


CAMF would:

 Have final responsibility for assessing applications by would-be grantees.

 Administer grant monies.

 Monitor that applicants fulfill grant requirements (such as used to be done by the CRTC for cable community channels). Regular reporting would be required not only about programming volumes, genres, and numbers of individuals and community organizations that participate, but also about projects that:
- Benefit the community in concrete, measurable terms.
- Stimulate community debate on important issues.
- Capture and promote local culture or history.
- Involve previously excluded groups.
- Approach the use of media from new or alternative perspectives.

 Ensure that long-term regional targets for community-access are met.

The board of directors for CAMF would consist of a range of organizations with both a stake in the expression of local cultural identity as well as expertise to offer the sector, such as:

 National association (CACTUS) or community-access representative
 Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec
 Canadian Association of Media Education Organizations (CAMEO)
 Federation of Canadian Municipalities/Fédération canadienne des municipalités (FCM)
 Independent Media Arts Association/L’Alliance des arts médiatiques indépendants (IMAA)
 Educational sector (for example, a campus television channel such as NuTV in Calgary)
 A representative of the new media sector (Canadian Interactive Alliance/Alliance interactive canadienne)
 Aboriginal community
 Diversity/ethno-cultural community
 Accounting
 Governance
 Lawyer
Therefore, it will be the Fund’s responsibility to make sure that no regions or major sectors within Canadian society are excluded from access to community production facilities.

The genius of the community-access sector is that a relatively small investment in infrastructure, equipment and training staff can result in large volumes of locally relevant and vital programming. This is possible due to the production multiplier effect of volunteers.

You need a minimal professional staff (trained in both production techniques and community facilitation) to set professional standards, to assist and co-ordinate community volunteers, and to practice outreach to sectors of the community that are often overlooked. Once these individuals are in place and begin to work with a community, a community-access television channel can produce about ten times the volume of programming that could be produced by full-time paid staff alone.

For example, prior to 1997-25 and the changeover in format that occurred throughout Shaw systems, 6 staff and 200 volunteers at Shaw Cable 10 in Calgary produced between 35 and 40 hours of new programming every week, in every genre, from children’s programming, to sports, to seniors, to news magazine, to short fiction, to phone-in programming on a range of topics from the stock market to tax tips. Much of this programming was live and interactive.

Similar ratios are possible at smaller channels. For example, the three-person staff suggested for communities of 10-30,000 might facilitate the community to produce 15-20 hours per week. The smallest communities, with only a camera and edit suite and one part-time staff person (studio), might produce 2-3 hours, which they would probably relay for playback to a medium-size centre, or pool programming with other equally small communities on a single channel.

If access production centres can be re-established in the 86 Canadian communities with populations > 30,000 and the 85 communities with populations between 10,000 and 30,000, those communities will be able to produce between 100,000 and 200,000 hours of new LOCAL production per year, more than all that is produced by the country’s private and public broadcasters combined.

While this production multiplier does work, volume of production should not be the only determinant of channel success, however. With increasingly fractured audiences who can find what they want to watch when they want to watch on a wide selection of channels, most community channels worldwide consider their programming a success if local audiences tune in a few times a week to important local issues, or niche programming aimed at them (children, for example).

There has been an intense focus recently on the possible loss of local news services from communities across the country. Questions have been directed at the community-access sector and its ability to fill these niche. The community-access sector can fill the need for locally relevant programming. Whether a particular community elects to produce in a traditional “news hour” format is unpredictable, however.

It’s important to remember that the traditional news format is expensive and resource-intensive because it’s made up of many short clips, each of which represents a separate shoot somewhere in the community, followed by intensive editing. It’s a big-city paradigm in which viewers can’t be expected to know the subjects of stories, and are assumed to want no more than a minute or two on several different topics rather than an in-depth look at any one.

Community-access volunteers tend to prefer to produce longer, more in-depth stories about topics of personal and community interest. Their smaller town audiences, who often know the protagonists, tend to want more too. So, instead of sending a crew to a football game, and editing just 3 minutes of highlights as part of a “news hour”, a volunteer crew is more likely to air the whole game, and the community is likely to want to watch it, because their kids are in it. Similarly, instead of interviewing a local politician and editing just a couple of key comments on an issue that may or may not affect most residents, community volunteers are more likely to engage that politician in studio for a full half hour on a local issue that affects everyone, perhaps inviting the audience to call in.

So, while a daily high-impact news format is not a common format on community-access TV channels world-wide, what audiences typically get is more: more variety and more depth.

It is, however, common for community-access television channels to produce weekly or bi-weekly news magazine programs, with slightly longer more in-depth segments. They may be updated with new stories as they come in from the community. These variety formats are often co-ordinated by channel staff, as they require input from and collaboration among multiple volunteers and community organizations.


Because distribution technologies keep changing, it’s important that money for local expression be put into multi-platform access production centres that:

 Leverage existing community resources. For example, they may be located in libraries, community centres, or theatres... places where the community meets and from which community events can easily be broadcast or webcast.

 Are platform-independent. They may simultaneously hold an over-the-air radio and television license, webstream, and have must-carry status on the services of all locally-available BDUs. They should be universally accessible to residents both as audiences and as producers.

This investment in infrastructure rather than in a single technology ensures that community-access production centres will remain current as new technologies come on line in the future.

It also means that the best communication strategies can be designed to assist the community to get its messages out... not confined to a single platform, but efficiently leveraging all. For example, a local band or an election debate presented in a theatre or community centre could be simultaneously videotaped and recorded for broadcast by radio and TV, webstreamed, and available on the services of the local cable operator or regional satellite feed.


CRTC policy 2002-61 was important in creating a new low-power broadcast license class for communities. With the new Community-Media Access Fund, this ability to reach communities free, over the air, can be expanded.

This is particularly important in an environment in which more and more private and public broadcasters are considering abandoning transmission towers and equipment during the transition to digital.

CACTUS sees several possibilities and has several questions/suggestions/requests for the CRTC:

1) It is the intention of CACTUS that new community-access production centres that apply to CAMF must hold over-the-air licenses, to ensure that their signals are universally accessible to their communities.

2) This can happen in several ways. Several of the current OTA license holders, such as St. Andrews and Hay River have set up analog transmission equipment for less than $20,000, by using lesser known brands of equipment, buying second-hand, and utilizing existing structures such as buildings rather than stand-alone towers. Others, depending on geography, geographical spread of the population, and existing towers and infrastructure, have had to pay as much as $100,000 for transmission equipment to get on air.

Depending on the size of CAMF, there are several possibilities for OTA low-power transmission:

 Dual analog digital television sets will continue to be available for some years. If funding is insufficient, communities that are currently transmitting analog signals could be allowed to continue to do so. (This is the policy that has been adopted for rural areas in several other Western countries, including the UK and some Scandinavian countries.) New license holders could be encouraged to purchase digital equipment or given the choice (since analog equipment is currently available second hand at a discount).

 If the private and public broadcasters are allowed to discontinue over-the-air service in communities < 300,000 as they have asked, could the CRTC request as compensation for these communities that the towers and equipment no longer being used be given to new community license holders?

 As outlined by the Canadian Media Guild, it is probably not necessary that smaller communities upgrade to HD in the short term. Existing community-access organizations could continue to use standard definition equipment for the life of that equipment, and upgrade gradually. New license holders would be encouraged to purchase HD equipment, budgets permitting (since HD models are often no more expensive than standard-definition equipment).

3) Some local frequencies for radio and television broadcast must be retained for community use, and not auctioned for use by wireless services.
Appendix A:
Existing Access Television Channels by Group and Population

> 30,000 10-30,000 < 10,000
Quebec Federation Montreal
Châteauguay Dolbeau-Mistassini
Thetford Mines
Victoriaville Mont-Joli
Vallee de la Matapedia (Amqui)
Havre St-Pierre
Les Escoumins
Cap-aux-Meules Îles-de-la-Madeleine
Low-Power OTA Leamington, ON Telile, NS Ash Creek, BC
Hay River, NWT
St. Andrews, NB
Valemount, BC
Chetwynd, BC
Westman Cable, (MT) Brandon Boissevain
Gilbert Plains
Ste. Rose du Lac
Swan River
Access Communications (SK) Regina Biggar
Emerald Park
La Ronge
Meadow Lake
The Battlefords
White City
ICTV, Vancouver Vancouver (lower east side)
Community groups operating a community-access channel on behalf of Rogers in New Brunswick Chipman
St. Stephen
St. George
Grand Manan Island

Appendix B:

The Community-Access Media Fund (CAMF) would be a not-for- profit funding organization that would distribute funding to community-access licensees for their operations. It would provide funding for new distribution technologies, community outreach and other special projects. The Fund would be responsible to collect information and statistics to monitor the performance of licensees.
The mission of the Fund would be:
 To support community-access media centres that enable Canadians to use multiple technologies for local expression, including both traditional media such as television and radio, as well as new media such as the Internet, wireless technologies and other new digital platforms.

 To give communities the tools they need to effectively communicate among residents, community organizations, and policy-makers on issues of common concern, to better their communities, and to celebrate and reflect local culture.

 To enable community-media centres in Canada to reflect the diversity of the communities they serves.

 To solicit and distribute contributions/grants and other forms of support to community-access media centres for operations, production, training, distribution, and other purposes that support the aims of community-access production and distribution in Canada.

 To develop community media as an integral part of the Canadian media fabric.

1. Priorities of the Fund

Assistance would initially be made available for the following priorities. (As the needs of community-access media centres change over time, so will the program priorities of the Community-Access Media Fund.):

 Operational Costs
Operational costs of community-access media centres, including routine maintenance of production and distribution equipment for multiple platforms (TV, radio, Internet, etc.), staff, facilities, production costs.

Applicants would be encouraged to show:

 How they will leverage existing community resources to achieve maximum visibility, accessibility, and efficiency, such as locating themselves in community centres, libraries, secondary schools or media colleges.

 How they will solicit involvement with a diverse cross-section of the community, including community organizations, Aboriginal, ethnically diverse groups, persons with disabilities, official language minority groups (where applicable), educational institutions, local businesses, the municipality, provincial and federal elected representatives, artistic and cultural groups.

 Grants for New Community-Access Media Centres
Start-up costs for new media centres, including licensing, production and transmission equipment, facilities, hiring.

 Technological Upgrades for Existing Centres
 Upgrades of production equipment, including migration to digital and HD as appropriate (pending CRTC policy directives and industry changes such as the continued availability of analog reception equipment).

 Addition of new production and distribution platforms, such as radio, Internet, wireless, over-the-air.

 On-going Leadership and Education within the Community Sector
On-going leadership and education to the community-access sector would be carried out by a new national association (CACTUS or equivalent); for example, identification of underserved areas to develop new access-media centres, assistance to would-be licensees, technical and organizational asistance to new licensees, the organizational of professional events, the development of educational materials, common archives of programming, etc. The Fund would provide funding to this association.

 Special Project Funding
Development monies to be made available for special projects, such as the on-going monitoring of distribution technology, and research to determine the best ways to engage sectors of the population that have been overlooked in the past.

 Other Responsibilities of the Fund
The Fund would collect information and statistics on the performance of the community-access media centres. Licensees would be required to submit to the Fund on an annual basis the following information:
 Number of hours of programming produced, by genre.
 Platforms used to produce and distribute programming.
 Number of community producers, volunteers, and organizations involved in the media centre.
 Projects having high impact, such as those which:
- Benefit the community in concrete, measurable terms.
- Stimulate community debate on important issues.
- Capture and promote local culture or history.
- Involve previously excluded groups.

2. Funding

 Community-access media has fallen behind in this country due in part, to the lack of funding available to enable community groups to apply for their own licenses. Since facilitating local expression and Canadian culture is one of the licensing requirements of the BDU sector, it is recommended that funding for these initiatives should come from the BDU 5% levy.

 While the major funding should come from the BDU 5%, the Fund would seek other sources of funding to supplement this amount. It would investigate charitable status so that it could issue tax receipts for donations made by the public and pursue grants from foundations. National government and non-governmental organization sponsorships would be sought. Government grants would be solicited for various special projects.

 The Fund would encourage the community-access media centres themselves to collaborate with municipalities, local businesses, and educational institutions. It would reward applications by communities that have made efforts to diversity financing.

3. Governance
 The organization would be federally incorporated as not for profit. Charitable status would be investigated.
 The Board of Directors would ensure accountability and transparent decision –making, allowing input from stakeholders.
 Those in charge of making decisions would not have any affiliation with any potential funding recipient to avoid conflict of interest.
 The Board of Directors would be comprised of 10 to 12 voting individuals, including representatives from the following organizations:
- National association (CACTUS) or community-access representative
- Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec
- Canadian Association of Media Education Organizations (CAMEO)
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities/Fédération canadienne des municipalités (FCM)
- Independent Media Arts Association/L’Alliance des arts médiatiques indépendants (IMAA)
- Educational sector (for example, a campus television channel such as NuTV in Calgary)
- A representative of the new media sector (Canadian Interactive Alliance/Alliance interactive canadienne)
- Aboriginal community
- Diversity/ethno-cultural community
- Accounting
- Governance
- Lawyer

 The Fund’s Board members would serve on a fixed term, rotating system, without remuneration
 Board members would be nominated and/or elected by the bodies named. For example, CAMEO would designate the media literacy reprentative. IMAA would designate a film or video artist representative.
 The Board would be responsible for ensuring effective management of the Fund, creating policies and practices regarding fund distribution, oversight of finances, strategic planning.
 The Board would establish effective and efficient processes to appraise applications objectively.
 The Board would be a policy Board; it would not manage the Corporation.
 The Corporation and the Board would be governed by its by-laws.
 Annual general meetings would be held at which time financial statements and annual reports would be made available and directors would be elected to the Board.


CACTUS Presents to Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

During the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage emergency meetings this summer on local programming, CACTUS members Cathy Edwards and Michael Lithgow made the following presentation (also available in video at http://www2.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeHome.aspx?Cmte=CHPC&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=2 (click on May 13th):

"The Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) is building a bilingual national membership of independent community television channels, cable co-op community television channels, some private cable companies that still practice community-access television, and the public who uses and watches them. We are an association that believes in citizen access to the airwaves... that is, that individual members of the public should be able to participate in the broadcast system.

The Broadcast Act specifies that Canada’s broadcasting system should enable a diversity of voices to be heard, and that there should be as broad-based access to it. The economic crisis has also focussed attention on the scarcity of local programming. The latter problem is not new, however. Both CBC and private broadcasters have been cutting back on production and shutting channels in smaller population centres for years. Over the same period, BDUs have progressively regionalized and professionalized community television production, resulting also in station closures and fewer hours of local programming.

This is a great pity, as it is the community sector that has the greatest capacity to address all three needs:

 For diversity
 For access by as many Canadians as possible
 For local programming and expression.

It is impossible to have more diversity and more broad-based access than to enable every Canadian, every organization in civil society, and every community to be a producer. This has been the genius of the Canadian community-access model, a brainchild of the National Film Board. It was enabled in the early 1970s by the introduction of portable video recorders and the presence of cable television in communities across the country. This model has been copied world-wide, and today is a robust part of the broadcasting systems of more than 30 nations, including the majority of Western democracies. Most have recognized community broadcasting as a third tier, which funtions according to a different paradigm than public and private broadcasting. Most recently, the European Union has recognized the tier formally, and recommended members to adopt financial and legislative supporting structures for the community tier as a way to promote inclusion and vital multicultural dialogue.

Meanwhile, here in the cradle of the community-access movement, the sector that has the most potential to respond to our crisis in local programming has been gutted by successive rounds of CRTC legislation and misuse of community channel funds by the country’s biggest cable operators:

 The damage began in 1997, when community television was officially deregulated. Funding to the sector was cut from 5% to 2% in larger markets to make way for the Canadian Television Fund, and cable operators were given the choice whether to have a community channel at all. Most opted to keep the 2% rather than give it up to the CTF, but began to look at the channels as potential revenue sources.

 Responding to pressure by cable companies, the CRTC relaxed rules against advertising on the channels. Many of the programs are thinly disguised vehicles for product promotion, often for national and international companies, not even local ones.

 The public in many centres such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg have been kicked off the channels, in favour of professionally produced formats that mimic commercial production. For example, in Calgary, where I worked as the Volunteer Co-ordinator from 1993 to 97, 400 volunteers and a half dozen staff produced over 35 hours of new production per week, in every conceivable genre, from mobile sports, to seniors and kids programs, to live arts and entertainment, to local issues and phone-in debates. After the channel was professionalized, production was reduced to one hour or less of news per day.

 Studios in smaller communities have been closed. Where Vancouver once had 12 regional offices giving access to 1200 volunteers, there is now one, in Shaw’s corporate tower downtown. Where New Brunswick once had 30 studios spread around the province, today Rogers offers only 6. Not only are cable operators closing studios on their own initiative without repercussion from the CRTC, but the CRTC is promoting the closures by allowing mergers of service areas.

 In 2002, in response to public outcry, the CRTC revised its 1997 policy, and introduced the requirement that cable community channels air 30-50% of “access production” (a far cry from the channels being 100% at the disposition of their communities, but better than nothing), and should offer training and equipment to the public. Most of the big cable BDUs simply ignore these rules because there has been no monitoring nor disciplinary action by the CRTC.

 The 2002 policy also introduced the idea that community groups should be able to apply for over-the-air licenses for community television, but there was no funding formula offered, and fewer than 10 community groups in English Canada have stepped up to the plate, mostly surviving on bingos and advertising. Approximately 40 independent community television corporations in Quebec have managed to survive on grants from the Quebec Ministry of Culture and sponsorship, but most are producing below capacity because of funding shortages.

 The 2002 policy also introduced the idea that if a cable operator was not providing community programming in the spirit of CRTC policy, that another organization within the community could apply for the 2-5% cable levy. Several such applications have been made, where cable operators are flagrantly violating access requirements, but they have always been turned down. As a double whammy, the low-power license holders who are offering access programming, cannot apply for the levy.

 Despite the CRTC commitment to hold a hearing into the community television sector this fall, recent CRTC rulings continue to damage this sector. In December, the CRTC ruled in a closed hearing in less than ten minutes that Shaw could buy the Campbell River TV Association, one of the last remaining cable co-operatives in English Canada, which had been providing community programming on Vancouver Island for over 50 years.

 Distinctions between cable license classes may be removed, resulting in less funding for community television in small communities (a reduction from 5% to 2% of cable gross revenues). This change was proposed in 2009-176, whose dead-line for interventions was this Monday.

 When concerned parties contact the CRTC to understand the impact of new regulations, CRTC staff themselves often seem unaware how changes affect the sector. There should be an Ombudsman’s Office for the Community Tier monitoring the coherency of decisions and policies.

So, CACTUS would like to alert the Standing Committee that we fear that the CRTC lacks the willpower and political backing to make the structural changes necessary. The loss to Canada is that the one sector that could best respond to the current crisis in local programming has been successively undermined. But how is the sector different?

 Because the community-access model employs volunteers, a typical community channel can produce 5-10 times as much programming as a professional channel. Any public or BDU-funding given to the sector acts as seed money, which is multiplied in the hands of the community to produce programming for the community. The current drift toward regionalization and commercialization of community channels by cable companies has meant that the same economic factors limiting local production in the public and private tiers have come into play in the community tier. This process needs to be reversed to get production back into communities, to leverage the economic and creative genius of the community-access model.

 Because program ideas come from the community itself, the community can produce programs tailored to its own needs. Better communication between local government, residents, businesses, and community organizations leads to better infrastructure development and better promotion of local events and culture.

 Participation in television production, which is still the medium by which most Canadians derive information and entertainment, develops a more engaged and critically aware populace, more able to deal with complex challenges as we move forward.

What would CACTUS like the Standing Committee to do?

To revitalize the community television sector so that it can play its part in fulfilling the diversity and access requirements of the Broadcast Act, the $80,000,000 being spent yearly by cable companies on so-called “community programming”, as identified by the Lincoln Report, Our Cultural Sovereignty, needs to be liberated to independently run community channels that are accessible to all, representative of their communities, and present in those communities. While cable companies may once have been the obvious trustee for community-access production, the era of the small cable company who was a close partner with the community is gone.

At a time when cable operators buy commercial TV stations for a dollar and may soon buy commercial TV networks, it is also disquieting that those same BDUs are gatekeepers for the issues that can be discussed on our community channels, the one—at least potentially—truly free grassroots window in the broadcasting system. This tier, when functioning as it was designed, is an essential safety valve for our democracies.

What will CACTUS pledge to do if this happens?


During the ten years that community television has languished in Canada, it has made great advances around the world. With the adoption of small high-definition camcorders and computer editing suites, access centres in other countries are producing programs that are indistinguishable from professional content, except in ways that we view as an advantage: they are local, they are fresh, they take risks and showcase real people taking stands about local issues.

Not only has the video production technology changed, the distribution platforms have of course also changed. The most advanced community access centres in the world are platform-independent. They offer residents free training and equipment for not only video and radio production, but also web design and computer skills. They are housed in live theatres, libraries, and community centres, so that residents can “one-stop” shop to get their messages out. The resulting productions have must-carry status on all platforms, including over-the-air, cable, satellite, and Internet.

If community access centres of this kind can be adequately funded from the existing BDU levy or from new sources, CACTUS has the expertise to lead the tier to provide this level of service and to fill the gaps in local programming. Where Canada once led the world in the use of new technologies at the local level, we would do so again.

Thank you for your time."


CACTUS submission to the CRTC on community media and new media broadcasting

Today was the deadline for submission to the CRTC for the CRTC's public consultation on new media broadcasting in Canada. What follows in CACTUS' submission, responding to concerns about how regulating new media broadcasting might effect community television.

The Canadian Association of Community Television User Groups and Stations (CACTUS)
830 Cite des Jeunes, #6

(819) 772-2862

Friday, December 5, 2008

Re: Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-11
Canadian Broadcasting in New Media

Dears Sirs and Mesdames,

1) I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS), which is building a bilingual national membership of independent community television channels, cable co-op community television channels, some (typically smaller) private cable companies that still practice community access television, and the public who uses and watch them.

2) I would like to state that I am not a “new media” expert in the sense of understanding the current state of the technology, bandwidth available in different parts of the country, the likelihood of this bandwidth to increase in the near-to-long-term, or how likely it is that this bandwidth will be sufficient to support, for example, streaming of live HD video. Therefore, I will state certain assumptions that underlie my arguments, knowing that they may change over time.

3) While I am not a new media expert from a technology point of view, I am nonetheless--and most of CACTUS members are--experts in thinking about policy-making with respect to the democratic use of media platforms. My comments are therefore made from the point of view that the Internet, as with other distribution platforms before it, should be structured in as democratic a fashion as possible with respect to the ability of individual Canadians to access content created by others, as well as to make available their own content for sharing with other Canadians and internationally.


4) While traditional television media (since CACTUS’ main interest is in the production and distribution of audio-visual materials) was limited in terms of the number of distribution channels, and much of the current regulatory environment was a response to the fact that few channels were available, and therefore that the allocation and use of those few channels were important public policy interests, I am making the assumption that the Internet as a platform for the distribution of audio-visual materials is not limited. Traditional television “broadcasting” was one-to-many because of the nature of the technology. The exception was community television, which broke down this paradigm by enabling the viewers of television also to be producers, and by enabling interactive participative formats such as mobile productions or phone-in formats in which the public could directly participate in a live broadcast. The Internet is, by its nature one-to-one. Any individual can access the platform and publish content, and any individual can choose among theoretically unlimited sources of content.


5) The thrust of 2008-11 seems to be primarily one of making new definitions of broadcasting that can be applied to new media, with the longer-term goal of using these definitions to shape policy. I would caution against this approach, in that the definitions may need to evolve over time to enable policy, not the other way around. I welcome the discussion of definitions, because they help to clarify issues, but advise that CRTC commissioners should keep their eyes firmly on the long-term objectives of the Broadcasting Act and of the needs for democratic debate and participation, and remain ready to revise definitions as needed as conditions change in the unfolding new media universe. Policy-makers and regulators could easily trap themselves, Canadians, and the potential of new media by committing prematurely to certain definitions now, and feeling they can’t be revoked or re-examined later.

6) That being said, at this point in time, I think it is a mistake to use the term “broadcasting” at all when referring to the distribution of audio-visual materials over the Internet. In this, and in response to Q.1, I disagree with paragraph 22 in the Commission’s policy posting. I think shifting the idea of “broadcasting” to the Internet, in the long term, will foster an unequitable and undemocratic use of the Internet. It favours the idea that conditions should be set up now to enable traditional television “broadcasters” to survive in this new environment, even if the strengths of that new environment have to be compromised or limited to allow them to survive.

7) The term “broadcasting” (as opposed to “niche-casting”, for example), arose because of the one-to-many nature of traditional over-the-air analog distribution of television programming. While there were certain efficiencies to this kind of production and consumption of audio-visual materials, there were also serious drawbacks, to which the Internet is not prey.

8) The Internet, by its nature is about the ultimate niche-caste. Anyone can produce and distribute content for the price of server space with an ISP. Anyone can access content from almost anywhere in the world. The Internet’s great freedom and flexibility should not be warped in any way whatsoever to favour the “broadcast” many-to-one, captive audience model.

9) There is no need for “broadcasters” in new media. All that are needed are content producers. In the new environment, independent producers can directly distribute their own content, without gate-keeping by a traditional “broadcaster”, or by the second level of traditional gatekeepers—BDUs--who decide what “broadcasters” to offer in service packages.

10) The only sense in which there will be a need or niche for the organizations that we used to think of as “broadcasters” in the new media environment is their role as providers of content of a certain kind and quality. For example, there will continue to be marketing and branding advantages to larger production houses in that viewers surfing the web for content are more likely to sample and to be able to find new programs from existing and known production houses (at known web sites) than to be able to locate new producers. In this, however, there will be no difference between larger independent producers with the capacity to build a track record producing many programs and what we used to call “broadcasters”. In the new media environment, there will be just producers and viewers. Larger producers with track records will enjoy advantages of economies of scale and branding, that’s all.

11) In the same way, entities that distribute content (not necessarily the content producers) who specialize in certain topic areas will enjoy advantages. e.g. Known distributors of quality children’s programming will have advantages over independent producers, again because of marketing and brand advantages. Parents looking for quality children’s programming are more likely to go to known names from whom they have purchased before than to search the web sites of small independents.

12) So, in this sense, there will be the potential for gate-keeping from the point of view of marketing power (unknown independents will continue to benefit from teaming together in larger units so that their content can be found), but the distinction between content producers and content distributors will be fluid at best. The role of the “broadcaster” as traditionally understood is gone. Broadcasting organizations that hope to survive need to redefine themselves as content providers or content distributors, to fit the new environment, not the other way around.

13) Therefore, in answer to Q.1 and Q.2, I also disagree with the Commission’s paragraph 23, in which it seeks to distinguish between traditional “broadcasters” and “individual Canadians producing in an individual capacity”. The only old definition that holds in the new environment has to do with genres of programming. The programs, whether they be dramas, series, or kids’ shows, will continue to survive (or seem to be so far). The Commission needs to focus its regulation on the quantity, quality and accessibility of these key cultural genres of programming just as it has done in the past, not with definitions that draw arbitrary lines between different kinds of producers of that content, lines which increasingly do not exist.

14) ISPs should be viewed in the same category as BDUs. They provide a pipeline through which audio-visual content can flow. They make profits from charging the public access to this pipe-line. They assume none of the risks nor costs of content production. The pipe-line would have no value if there were no content.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Net Neutrality (Section IV, Q. 14)

15) Net neutrality must be preserved at all costs. By this, I mean that to preserve the seemingly magical level new playing field for content producers that we call the “Internet”, ISPs should never be able to privilege the passage of certain kinds of content (video or otherwise) over others. These decisions need to be left to the users of the system. For example, a video downloaded from CNN should never have speed priority over a video downloaded from U-Tube. If 1000 people download one video from CNN for every video downloaded from U-Tube, and this means that CNN overall is getting more use of available bandwidth, that’s OK because that decision is not made by CNN in a boardroom making a private deal with the ISP; it’s a decision made by 1000 different users who elected to download the CNN video. The system must be driven by the demand side, not the supply side.

16) My assumption that there is unlimited bandwidth, may of course, turn out not to be true. It may be that given Canada’s population, if everyone wanted to download (or watch live streamed) movies at HD quality every night of the week, that we would have bottlenecks. However, as long as the demand-side runs the system, things will remain in equilibrium. For example, customers dissatisfied with live streaming of HD may say to themselves, “It breaks up, and it costs a lot because it exceeds my monthly Megabyte download quota. I’m just going to download the non-HD format, or download overnight and watch it tomorrow.” It is legitimate for ISPs to charge more for heavy downloads and thereby allocate scarce resources (thereby leaving the final allocation decision in the hands of consumers), but it would not be legitimate for ISPs to negotiate a deal with a Hollywood studio to reserve say 50% of bandwidth exclusively for HD movie nights, while all other Internet users of every content genre have to compete for the rest. HD may or may not prove viable on the Internet. It should have to prove itself as a format, in open competition with all the other types of content that use the Internet for delivery.

17) I make this comment about HD because of conversations I have had recently with community television channels around the world. One would think, on the surface, that with the introduction of digital and satellite television, that there should be more space available for public-interest and community channels. However, while there is more bandwidth, this does not necessarily translate into more channels and thereby more diversity. In many countries, traditional broadcasters are not simply using existing transmitters and switching over from an analog to a digital-encoded signal as an individual corporate decision. In many countries, governments are giving control of digital transmission to monopolies or near-monopolies. Every traditional broadcaster then has to negotiate space on the new monopoly-controlled systems of digital transmission towers. They are asking for more bandwidth per channel (enough for HD), meaning that the space available for different channels is actually less, not more in many instances, than in traditional analog broadcasting. Community and smaller broadcasters are often finding themselves left out, and left to fight political battles for space against overwhelmingly larger organizations.

18) In order to draw a line between “professional” and “non-professional” broadcasting, there has been a trend in traditional broadcasting to continually raise the bar on what is acceptable from a technical “quality” point of view, from VHS, to U-matic, to Beta, and now HD. Not meeting the current quality standard has been used as a way to keep many smaller producers off the air over the years (even though people have been happily watching television ever since it achieved VHS quality). I would caution the Commission against any structuring of the Internet that would assign traditional “broadcasting” organizations any kind of bandwidth advantages in the new media environment. They should be left to compete openly, and new technologies also must compete and demonstrate that people really want them through choices in pricing. The environment itself must not be warped or limited.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Canadian Content (Section III – Q.8)

19) For the moment, and assuming the level playing field environment of an Internet that is content-neutral and has unlimited capacity, the old CanCon rules with respect to the amount that a given organization (traditionally, a “broadcaster”) should produce that is Canadian versus non-Canadian no longer apply. Where there are no borders and no limits on channel capacity, CTV or Global is just a citizen of the world, with the same options for producing and publishing content on the Internet as any other individual Canadian.

20) CanCon policies therefore should shift their focus in new media mostly to funding support. That is, in a environment where anyone can find any program at any time, you can’t make Canadians seek out Canadian content, but you can make sure that Canadian content is available in genres that are:

a) considered culturally important, such as local programming, news, social and political debate, educational programming for children, drama.

b) expensive to produce given the continuing relatively small market of Canadian viewers. For example, it’s not necessary to provide financial support to bloggers, in general. Anyone with a digital camera and a computer can produce a decent blog. As long as some categories of audio-visual programming remain expensive to produce, however, funding support will be needed.

21) Because ISPs (as noted in the “Definition” section above), will be functioning like BDUs in the distribution of such culturally key video genres, and are charging the public fees for access to a pipeline that will flood them with non-Canadian content, and that that pipeline has no value without content, and that the ISP assumes none of costs nor the risks of that content production, it is reasonable to apply a similar tax on ISPs to that currently charged to BDUs for the production of Canadian content in culturally important categories. In this, I agree with the assessment done by Eli Noam.

22) I do not feel that this needs to be a separate “new media” fund if the genres to be distributed are traditional linear audio-visual streams. ISPs should be asked to contribute similar percentages of the gross revenues they accrue from video distribution to existing funds such as the CTF and to the community programming sector.

23) As they are now, these funds should be available to content producers who can produce in these culturally key genres. As you are seeing, there is no place for “broadcasters” per se in this new system. Their place and raison d’etre was on “broadcast technologies”. To compete in the new media environment, they exist only as content producers (or content distributors).

24) To continue on from my own paragraph 19, the only situation in which CanCon rules as far as percentages of production carried out or distributed by a given organization should be required to be Canadian is if we find over time that the marketing advantages of key “brands” of program distributors (e.g. a known brand like Global that in the future decides to sell programming on-line) means that everyone is shopping for programs from a few key web sites who have the resources and algorithms to make sure they are favoured by search engines. If we find in practice, that such key distributors favour non-Canadian content, some kind of percentage rules might have to be applied. Hopefully this will not happen, but this is a situation that will need to be reviewed over time.


25) My comments with respect to the role of community broadcasters follow from my comments on CanCon in general. As a culturally significant category of programming as identified by the Broadcasting Act, funding support needs to continue to be provided for community-access production centres, but this funding does not need to distinguish between distribution via traditional means (television) and the Internet. ISPs, like BDUs, should contribute production funds to this sector.

26) Already, the most advanced community-access production centres around the world are platform-independent. That is, they typically hold at least one community radio and television license, they often provide free access to the Internet and free training for individuals, small business, and NGOs to design web sites, and they may even embody live theatre or other facilities. What is important is that there is funding support so that these centres can exist, in local communities where all Canadians can access them easily. Such access centres enable Canadians to develop messages and a voice that they can then share with other citizens in their own community, across Canada, or around the world.

27) As CACTUS has reiterated at other CRTC hearings, production and operational support for community access centres is THE most efficient use of public funds for generating Canadian content, because the use of volunteers acts as a multiplier. A relatively small pool of equipment and training staff is shared and skills are disseminated throughout the community. Throughout the history of community television in Canada, 5 or 6 paid staff and the volunteers they enable in a community have routinely been able to produce as much as 35-40 hours of new local television production per week, in every imaginable genre.

28) With the advent of small but high-quality digital cameras that are much less reliant on artificial lighting, most of the old technical quality distinctions between “community TV” and “professional TV” have ceased to exist. The same production technologies are available to individual Canadians, and this is one reason why there should be no distinction between “professional” and “non-professional” production from the point of view of the Commission. For more than 30 years now, community television policy has refuted this distinction. The popularity of sites like “You-Tube” underscore this point.

29) There are occasionally comments made that with these cheaper production technologies and the availability of distribution outlets like “You-Tube”, that community access production centres are no longer required. Nothing could be further from the truth. The popularity of “You-Tube” demonstrates that even without proper funding, individuals will find a way to self-publish video. What “You-Tube” lacks, however, is the teaching and critical community-development platform that are provided by community access centres. Content quality, ultimately is driven by message, not by picture and audio quality. For a healthy democracy at a national level, and for healthy communities, there needs to be a physical meeting place in communities where people can discuss and design media together, and learn to make sophisticated media messages that can effectively reach both those in their own communities, across Canada, and around the world.

30) Both the production centres, and accessibility by citizens to all distribution platforms (including conventional television, the Internet, and whatever we dream up tomorrow) continue to be critical.


31) I have been sympathetic to the Commission’s recent claims to want to “simplify and stream-line regulation” in order to meet the goals of the Broadcasting Act.

32) At the same time, I believe, as Richard Ward of the CMES articulates in his submission to this process, that for the free market to function effectively, it must be effectively regulated to keep it free. The stronger the media companies and interests involved, possibly the stronger this regulation needs to be. Not “strong” in the sense of complex or invasive, but strong in the sense of forward-looking, coherent and fair.

33) At the diversity hearings (and also in this process), the Commission has raised the issue of cross-media ownership, and editorial independence of newsrooms.

34) It is my view that the kind of complex (and probably unenforceable) rules that would have to be introduced to guarantee editorial independence of newsrooms owned by the same media organization have been necessitated as a second level of regulation because the Commission did not do its job at the first level… in limiting media concentration and control of the airwaves in the first place.

35) In a truly competitive media marketplace, I would cheer small news organizations that reused the same content on Internet, in newspapers and on affiliated radio and television channels. Why not? Makes sense. Saves money. This exact strategy is used at the multi-platform community access centres I described in paragraph 26. Someone walking into a community access centre who has an important message is encouraged to simultaneously tape a radio and TV program, in front of a live studio audience, and perhaps post a blog about it afterwards. People want to maximize and leverage the reach of their messages, in the most efficient way.

36) This kind of cross-fertilization among newsrooms would not have represented a threat to diversity if the organizations in question were relatively small. It’s only that too much concentration has been allowed to happen, that the newsroom collaboration represents an additional threat.

37) In the same way, because BDUs have been allowed to concentrate too much, smaller content providers such as the Weather Network and others come to you demanding Category 1 license protection. They rightly describe a situation in which their business model depends on carriage by just 3 or 4 massive BDUs, and that they therefore have no bargaining power when they sit down to negotiate. So, they come to you for protection and regulation, which would not have been required if you were doing the job of maintaining a diverse and free market among BDUs in the first place.

38) So, I suggest to you that the best way to simplify regulation is to keep the market free in the first place, so that you’re not playing catch-up later with impossiblly powerful media entities and Byzantinely complex policies.

39) With respect to the Internet, this means you must keep it a level playing field at all costs. Maintain net neutrality. Keep the public in control of choices, and do not disfigure it to maintain an outmoded notion of what constitutes “broadcasting” and “broadcasters”. Let them compete with every individual out there holding a video camera. Let’s keep the “new” media environment genuinely “new” and FREE.