CRTC Community TV Hearing Opens with a New Plan

Ottawa (April 28/2010) The CRTC hearing into the future of community television opened Monday with a proposal by the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) to create community-owned and –operated multi-media channels with the funding collected from cable subscribers for "local expression".

The 15-minute opening remarks by CACTUS summarized the ways in which the current policy for community television has failed throughout much of Canada, leading to widespread channel closures and the domination of programming by cable company staff. The presentation went on to call for the creation of a new Community-Access Media Fund to which communities could apply to run their own channels, and for over-the-air frequencies.

"We’re very pleased with the reception we got. Chairman von Finckenstein acknowledged our calls for more transparency when he offered the release of additional financial data about cable-operated community channels by May 7th," said Catherine Edwards, the spokesperson for CACTUS. "We also appreciated the obvious preparedness of the Commissioners, their detailed questions, and the time they took to explore our proposal."

Seven Commissioners questioned the CACTUS panel for more than two hours.

Currently, cable operators in systems having over 20,000 subscribers are required to spend 2% of their gross revenues on the provision of a community channel for public use. This amounted to more than $120,000,000 last year. Audits obtained by CACTUS from the CRTC under Access to Information requests revealed that more than 70% of the content on such channels are produced by cable company staff, and that much of the remaining 30%— although reported as made by community members—may in fact be made by cable staff. Under the CACTUS proposal, the $120,000,000 would be redirected to 250 multi-media training and broadcasting hubs across Canada, to be operated by communities.

"We’re very happy that the CRTC is taking these issues seriously," said Edwards.

Contact: Catherine Edwards, (819) 772-2862