LPIF Hearing Winds Up

The Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF) was created by the CRTC in 2008 to stimulate more local TV programming in 'markets' having fewer than 1 million people.

As far back as the 2002 Lincoln Report, "Our Cultural Sovereignty" (initiated by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage), a fund had been recommended that would stimulate more TV AND radio content, at the "community, local, and regional levels". However, when the CRTC asked the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to design eligibility criteria for the fund in 2008, community broadcasters were not invited to the consultation (and are not members of the CAB). Eligibility criteria were subsequently defined that stated that the fund was only available for "conventional broadcasters" (i.e. those in the public and private sectors) and that a qualifying station must establish "local presence" by producing at least 5 hours of "local news" per week and by the employment of local professional journalists.

The CRTC is currently reviewing the LPIF. CACTUS spokesperson Cathy Edwards appeared before the CRTC last week, making the case that community broadcasters have in fact the most true "local presence" (almost 100% of what they produce is typically made for the local market) and that funding community broadcasters would stimulate content at a rate six times greater than funding 'conventional broadcasters', since a community production on average costs just one sixth what it costs a public or private broadcaster to produce, thanks to the multiplier effect of volunteer labour.

We went to some length to describe how community broadcasters--while they typically don't produce a daily 'newscast' consisting of short segments--in fact produce more in depth content in all the same genres typically produced by a conventional broadcaster: politics, local affairs, arts and culture, sports, health, and so on.

We asked that commmunity TV licence holders be eligible for the LPIF at 1/6 the rate of a conventional broadcaster in recognition of our more efficient production model, and also of the fact that most current community licence holders are active in markets considerably smaller than 1 million.

Other questions under consideration by the Commissioners were:

- whether to keep the fund at all. Cable and satellite companies have to pay into it at a rate of 1.5% of their revenues, yielding a total of just over 100 million per year. All the large cable and satellite companies except Bell consequently want to see the LPIF discontinued.

- whether CBC local stations should continue to be eligible. CBC stations received roughly 40% of the Fund in its first year of operations. Some argue that the CBC already receives funding from Parliament, and that therefore Parliament should make up any shortfalls. Given heavy cuts to the CBC announced in the most recent budget, however, many feel the CBC should continue to be eligible for the LPIF.

- whether recipients should be automatically awarded funding for meeting the minimum eligibility criteria, or whether funding should recognize incremental additions to the amount of local programming created in a market by a particular broadcaster in each year

- whether the LPIF is still necessary given that many of the private broadcasters whose local stations were under threat of closure in 2008 due to the economic downturn have now been purchased by cable and satellite companies with deep enough pockets to continue to fund them without specific incentives or the LPIF.

If you'd like to see CACTUS' written brief, it can be found in our Resources section here:

CACTUS LPIF Submission

If you'd like to see what we said at the oral hearing and what questions the Commissioners asked us, the full hearing is available in CPAC's Video-on-Demand service here:

CACTUS April 18th Presentation Before CRTC

(We are second, after Crossroads Television, roughly 44 minutes in.)

On May 2nd, we filed our final comments, including endorsement a set of principles for the LPIF which was signed by ten other industry groups:

LPIF Principles

Let us know what you think!