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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.


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.


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.


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.


"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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


CACTUS asks CRTC to reject Shaw takeover of community owned cable cooperative

The deadline for intervening in Shaw's attempt to takeover Campbell River Television was today. CRTV is one of Canada's few remaining community owned cable cooperatives. The takeover has split the community and called into question how non-commercial media organizations are regulated.

Amidst accusations of regulatory non-compliance and possible illegality, intervenors from across Canada have been demanding that the takeover be stopped.

What follows is the CACTUS submission.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Re: Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-1187-9
Shaw Cablesystems Application to buy CRTV (Campbell River Television)

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.1 In preparing this intervention, CACTUS consulted members of the “Save CRTV” committee in Campbell River, and draws on the expertise of:

Catherine Edwards, who has travelled the globe researching models of community-access television during the shooting of the documentary series My TV, Your TV, Our TV.

Michael Lithgow, whose masters thesis developed a framework for assessing the effectiveness of community access television channels.

Members of the Community Media Education Society and Independent
Community TV of Vancouver, who have for ten years tenaciously continued to operate an independent community TV corporation despite enormous legislative and financial difficulties.

The Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec, the professional association representing 40 independent community television channels in Quebec.