Bell to Carry Seven Independent Community TV Channels by 2012

Ottawa (March 11, 2011) In a landmark ruling announced last week, Bell has been asked to carry Canada’s seven independent community TV channels as part of its basic service. These seven are among 43 local channels the CRTC has asked Bell to carry following the upgrade of customer set-top boxes from MPEG2 to MPEG4, which should be complete by September of 2012.

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) is delighted with this decision. Catherine Edwards, spokesperson, said, “This is the first decision that the CRTC has made since 2002 to encourage the distribution of truly community-based television programming services.”

While there were once approximately 300 cable-administered “community channels” available to Canadians in most communities having over 10,000 residents, that has changed in the last decade. Edwards explained, “The content on those channels has been both professionalized and regionalized. Staff produce most of it, often with no input from the community. They’re no longer public-access platforms. Even worse, the majority of the production studios in rural areas have been closed. On many of these channels, Canadians are seeing the same “community” content province-wide, distributed from big hubs like Toronto”.

By contrast, independent community television channels are owned and administered by communities themselves, but there are currently only seven in Canada. They are located in: St. Andrews, NB; Telile, NS; Leamington, ON; Neepawa, MB; Valemount, BC; Chetwynd, BC; and Hay River, NWT. There are relatively few because independent community channels can’t apply to any of the government or industry-managed production funds available to the public and private sectors. “It’s a shame,” said Edwards. “The Broadcasting Act states that our broadcasting system should consist of public, private, and community elements, yet the community element is routinely left out when it comes to funding and distribution.”

“The few independent community channels that have managed to make a go of it rely on bingos, advertising, sales of their DVDs, bake sales—you name, they do it,” said Edwards. “But the CRTC’s ruling on Bell carriage will make a big difference. Once they’re on satellite, residents of other remote communities nearby will be able to enjoy a channel that originates in their own region for the first time. We’re pleased that the CRTC has recognized the important role the community sector can play in meeting Canadians’ need for local content”.

Contacts: Catherine Edwards, CACTUS (819) 772-2862