April 22nd Dead-line for Montrealers to Endorse Vision of Citizen-Centred Media

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Ottawa (April 14, 2014) Montrealers have one more week to support a refreshing vision of truly citizen-centred TV and media. The CRTC is considering an application by a group calling itself Independent Community TV (ICTV) Montreal, to replace the all-professional Videotron MAtv brand with a community channel that really would be run by and for the community. The group’s plan is not just for a traditional TV-only platform but for a multimedia training and distribution hub at the centre of a network of neighbourhood locations. Montrealers of all stripes could access the latest in digital media equipment and training. The bold plan would encourage bilingual content where the public could contribute either as producers or as ‘viewers’ at home or on the go, uploading text, audio or video in an evolving conversation about their city. Sabine Friesinger, the spokesperson for the group of academics, journalists and community groups elaborated, “The discussion of the day could be the arts, politics, the environment, urban renewal, or whatever the community brings to the table.”

The budget to offer these rich media training and delivery services already exists. Montreal cable subscribers pay an average of more than $1 on every cable bill for ‘community TV’, but Videotron’s MAtv channel offers virtually no training or access to the general public nor any content for anglophones, Aboriginals, third-language and ethnic communities. Few Montrealers watch the channel, according to BBMs published by the CRTC in 2010.

CRTC policy states that if the cable company is not offering access to the public (at least 45% of the air time, training, and equitable access to all community members) a not-for-profit group can apply to run the channel using the cable budget.

Gretchen King, Secretary of CKUT, the community radio station at McGill University, said, “The $6-10 million that Videotron is spending on MAtv is more than enough to fund a dynamic multicultural community channel that would reflect all the energy and creativity of this fantastic city.”

Laith Marouf, former Executive Director of Concordia University TV and Equity Commissioner for the National Community Radio Association, said, “If Videotron is not willing to represent minority groups and to accurately reflect our city, then another group should administer this licence.”

Catherine Edwards of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) observed, “The Quebec election demonstrates that we don’t want to become Italy, where a few tycoons not only run the province but also control the media. In other countries, community media is managed by the community, as a balance to political and corporate media power. The time has come for the business community to let go of Canada’s community media sector so that it can fulfill its potential.”

It appears that this won’t happen without a fight. Quebecor issued ICTV with a “cease-and-desist” order on March 17th. The letter threatened legal action if ICTV didn’t remove statements from its web site and social media concerning MAtv. While Quebecor has not yet followed through on the threat, its action underscores the need for community media that is free from corporate influence.

Montrealers and others who would like to comment on the application are encouraged to weigh in before April 22nd. The application is available in English and French here. For help uploading comments to the CRTC’s web site for the proceeding, contact CACTUS.

Contact: Catherine Edwards (819) 772-2862 or (819) 456-2237