Analysis of Submissions to 2009-661

By Richard Ward
Community Media Education Society

In the comments listed on the CRTC web site under the current review of community television policy (CRTC 2009-661), groups supporting CACTUS include ACTRA; the Directors' Guild; CTV; Canwest; the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union; the Canadian Conference for the Arts; the Independent Media Arts Alliance; the National Community Radio Association; and NUTV in Calgary. MultiMedia Centre support comes from the City of Burnaby, Metro Vancouver, the Canadian Media Guild, the Documentary Organization of Canada, OpenMedia, the Canadian Library Association and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

Altogether 3,007 people responded to the CRTC of whom 2,670 are published on the website. Four single comments are actually large collections of letters: 2510 generally supporting the CACTUS model. A quick look at the first 50 letters in comment #3002 (which alone has 2,080 letters) demonstrates diversity of ideas comparable to most of the letters published individually by the CRTC.
Comment #2973 is an 18-signature petition on behalf of the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec. Counting these responses individually gives a total of 3,103 supporting CACTUS and the Fédération, compared to 2,714 supporting Rogers. The only sure conclsion is that many people feel strongly about their community channel.

Ontario is heavily represented with 1,972 comments, about 60% of the national total. Quebec with 441 and New Brunswick with 250 letters are next in number. There are 486 comments from BC. Alberta is fifth with 151.

Among letters listed individually by the CRTC 1,284 support the current Rogers channel of which 155 are from Mississauga alone, with a further 149 from Toronto. Looking at other BDUs, Cogeco was supported by 473 letters and Shaw had 219. Comment #2024 points out many of the Mississauga letters were aggressively backgrounded by Rogers Mississauga, and the office document enclosed is in fact echoed in many of the Rogers support letters.

33 people wrote in to support the over-the-air model of CFTV in Leamington, Ontario. A further eight wrote in to praise Telile over-the-air broadcasting from Isle Madame, Nova Scotia.

In these comments generally BDUs no longer claim to offer a channel where people produce and control their own information. Of the Rogers support letters on the CRTC site, 636 are from guests on shows while only 75 are from producers and, of those, 32 self-identify as Rogers employees. For Cogeco the figures are 335 guests and 35 producers, ten of whom are staff. Shaw contrasts 175 guests versus 12 producers.

Looking a little deeper at the CRTC published comments, the largest category, 617 comments, simply likes having a local channel. Access is the theme for 315; being able to deliver information to the immediate neighbourhood: 213. 231 letters speak enthusiastically about volunteering as reporters or technicians, or interns from school and university media programs. 219 charities benefit from community TV, several by running TV bingo. Arts, sports, youth, multicultural and small business promotion add a further 516 comments. Of course many letters touch on several topics and choosing the main one is subjective, so these figures can all be seen as minimums. One letter from Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, makes the familiar remark that there would have been even more letters if the CRTC website was easier to navigate.

Council meetings are central for 98 writers. Revenue -- how the channel can be funded -- is the main theme for 77 letters. 130 writers say the community channel is important for access to government. In these three categories slightly over half of the letters come from people working in the public sphere: 39 from representatives at the provincial level, 9 from MPs and 107 from city officials.