Canada-wide

CACTUS Offers Workshop at People's Social Forum Aug. 22

CACTUS will be offering a workshop entitled "Reclaiming Our Community TV Channels" at the Peoples’ Social Forum (PSF) in Ottawa on Friday August 22nd. CACTUS has also been invited to participate in a panel hosted by rabble.ca about how independent media can be used to support social movements, and by Communicatons Workers of America (Canada) about funding models for alternative media.

In case you haven't heard of the PSF, its web site describes it as "a critical public space aimed at fostering activist involvement of individuals and civil society organizations that want to transform Canada as it exists today. It is a space for social movements to meet and converge, for the free expression of alternative ideas and grassroots exchanges. Social justice, Original Peoples rights, sustainable development, international solidarity and participatory democracy are at the centre of its concerns." Ten thousand people are expected to participate and the keynote address will be given by Naomi Klein.

CACTUS hopes to both network with other community and alternative media, but also with environmental, First Nations, and social justice organizations about how community media can help them get their messages out.

For more information about the PSF, see:

People's Social Forum 2014.

Attendees are being billetted with Ottawa residents.

Entry for the whole forum is only $20.

CACTUS' workshop will be offered from 1 - 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

The rabble.ca panel, which will be moderated by Judy Rebick and in which CACTUS is taking part, will be offered immediately following at 2:45 p.m. (more information here):

Rabble.ca-hosted "Media and the Movements"

The CWA panel regarding community media funding will be immediately following the rabble.ca panel at 4:30.

For the Alternative Media Assembly being held on Saturday, August 23rd, CACTUS has made a proposal that we hope other groups will endorse and help us develop: to develop an updated policy for community media in Canada, that reflects the realities of digital production and distribution.

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Canadian Heritage Funds Community-Based TV News as Part of Local Journalism Initiative

Non-profit community-owned television will be part of the new Local Journalism Initiative for Underserved Communities, announced by the Department of Canadian Heritage on May 22nd, 2019 by the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.

Seven media organizations have been chosen to be Administrative Organizations which will disperse the funding, including CACTUS and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec, which represents not-for-profit community TV in Quebec.

The funding is especially welcome news for the sector. After several years of meetings with the federal government regarding the continuing relevance of community media to Canadian democracy, the Local Journalism Initiative is the first federal funding program that reaffirms the sector's importance in the digital environment.

CACTUS has been championing a multimedia and multi-platform vision for community media for a decade, believing that community media is vital to ensure that there are robust, visible, accessible, and moderated platforms for community dialogue on all platforms. CACTUS and Fédération members include licensed organizations whose content is distributed free to air, on cable, on satellite, and on the Internet, as well as unlicensed not-for-profit corporations that distribute video content over the internet and on community channels run by cable companies such as Rogers, Shaw and Videotron.

Funding under the Local Journalism Initiative will enable CACTUS and the Fédération to place professional journalists in communities underserved by other media across Canada. The journalists will co-ordinate teams of citizens and local organizations to produce news and local information, building news production capacity in these undeserved communities for the long haul.

The content produced by the journalists under the Local Journalism Initiative will also be available to media outlets across the country free of charge under a Creative Commons License.

Details with be released in upcoming weeks. For more information about the Canadian Heritage Local Journalism Initiative, click here.

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CACTUS Conducts Research into Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Video Game Applications for Civic Engagement

CACTUS founder and Executive Director Cathy Edwards is conducting research at Emerson College's "Engagement Lab" in Boston into civic appications for virtual reality, augmented reality, and video games.

Edwards said "Newer, more immersive and interactive audio-visual technologies are becoming available and we want to find out how they can be leveraged for civic engagement... Put another way, how effective are these technologies as community media?"

Community media has historically pushed the boundaries of community engagement through media, whether through interactive formats such as call-in shows, involvement of studio audience, on-site presence at community events with mobile production units, or just because community members can directly participate in production. Edwards thinks the time has come to see what the new technologies can do: "Video games engage viewer agency. You can't just watch something... you have to make choices to be part of the story. This opens up the possibility of developing empathy for others, experiencing different sorts of situations. Playing games is also a great way to learn how complex systems work, whether structural or engineering systems, electoral systems, or biological systems. Moving around within a game testing the boundary helps you learn in a way you can't watching a linear video."

Virtual reality enables viewers to immerse themselves in an alternate reality. Edwards says that VR, like games, can create more empathy than traditional video. "When you really seem to be in a place, and you can move within the space, it's harder to distance yourself from something. You see what it's really like."

CACTUS hopes to have tutorials available for its members and other not-for-profit institutions to learn to leverage the potential of the new technologies. Former community TV stations in the US, and some community media centres in Canada--such as CACTUS member Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre in Toronto--are already teaching and using these new tools.

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Heritage Committee Recommends Policy and Financial Support for Community Media

On June 5th, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage concluded its study on "Media and Local Communities" with the publication of a report entitled "Disruption, Change and Churning in Canada's Media Landscape".

Section 2.6.1 deals with community TV. After discussing the data presented by CACTUS and the Fedetvc, this section concludes by endorsing the call by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre form "greater recognition of all independent, not-for-profit community media “from both a policy and a funding perspective. The PIAC also believes that a study should be conducted to develop a national community media strategy. This strategy would include resources for training and financial support for community media."

In the section about the CRTC, Recommendation 9 states:

"The Committee recommends that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission review its policy framework for local and community television to determine its impact on funding for the community television sector."

Click here for the full report.

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Petition Supporting Community Media Presented by Over 20 MPs

A petition supporting community media that was first presented and endorsed at the World Forum on Free Media in Montreal in August of 2016, gathered steam and was presented by over 20 members of parliament either in the House before it broke for the Christmas break, when it reconvened in early February, or directly to the Heritage Minister.

The petition was supported by MPs from all parties, including Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc, and the Conservatives.

Here is the text of the petition:

"We, the undersigned Canadian residents, acknowledge:

That the Broadcasting Act stipulates that the community, private and public elements of the Canadian broadcasting system should complement one another to ensure that a range of local, regional and national programming is available to Canadians.
That it is the policy of the CRTC that “the community channel should be primarily of a public service nature, facilitating self-expression through free and open access by
members of the community”.
That community media can effectively serve small communities, neighbourhoods and alternative voices not served by public and private media.
That digital convergence places new challenges on individuals, organizations, and communities to express themselves, to be heard, and to be visible.
Therefore we ask the government to enable a network of community-operated media centres to ensure

the survival of community TV
the availability of local media in towns and neighbourhoods not served by public or private media
all Canadian residents have access to multi-platform media skills training and content distribution in the digital economy."

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"The Shattered Mirror" and "Canadian Content in a Digital World" Ignore Community Media

Two reports were recently published concerning Canadian media: "The Shattered Mirror" by the Public Policy Forum regarding news and "Canadian Content in the Digital World" by Ipsos Reid, under contract from Canadian Heritage. The latter report deals more generally with Canadian content production in the dynamic digital environment. Canadian Heritage also provided some of the funding for "The Shattered Mirror".

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec (la Fédération) agree with the reports' main observations: increasing media concentration among ownership groups, falling revenues from traditional news resulting in less regional content, and the rise of social media as sources of news and information of questionable credibility.

However, if 'Information is as vital to democracy as pure air, safe streets, good schools and public health', as states The Shattered Mirror' (CACTUS cited the same 2009 Knight Foundation report in our submission to DigiCanCon), we are surprised and disappointed to find no mention of community TV and media and their long-understood contribution to democratic local expression and civic journalism.

For 50 years, community TV and media have ensured a participative and democratic media landscape, and a local information offering that has all but disappeared from the big media groups, not to mention our role in enabling emerging and established journalists and creators to learn new skills and test ideas on low-risk local platforms. Community media are the 'farm teams' that drive our creative industries.

If civic journalism is marching rapidly 'to the precipice' as The Shattered Mirror states, it is a disservice to the reports' readers that the alternative offered by our members goes unmentioned. Our members, along with those of the National Community Radio Association, the Association des radios communautaires du Québec and the Association des radios communautaires du Canada include almost 200 CRTC-licensed entities, in addition to 50 incorporated but unlicensed production groups that contribute what little civic journalism remains on the community stations of cable companies, such as Rogers TV, Shaw TV and TVCogeco.

Community media are stated in the Broadcasting Act as constituting one of three pillars of our system. Canada is widely credited with having invented the institution. As a nation we figured out 50 years ago that our geography is too vast and our population too dispersed to serve everyone with public- and private-sector news bureaux. We have TV stations in Valemount, British Columbia (population 1400) and in Wikwemikong First Nation in Ontario, and a newly launched radio station in Baie Verte, Newfoundland. It's a lesson we seem to have forgotten. Canada has always had a small and fragile media economy, dependent on government support. Community media are our secret weapon.

In any process of taking stock of our media resouces moving forward, how was it possible therefore to ignore a whole sector? The public- and private-sector broadcasters that everyone agrees are not filling the gaps were certainly mentioned.

Unlike online-only platforms that are the subject of 'fake news' concerns captured in the two reports, community broadcasters are licensed, and directed by trained journalists who catalyze, guide and curate content in communities that would otherwise have no voice. And we do this for 1/10th the cost of the public and private sectors. Put another way, for every federal dollar spent on the public or private sector, we can produce 10 times as much or serve 10 times as many communities, while fulfilling civic engagement and creative incubation roles for our media industries to boot.

We note that the Ipsos Reid report captures ideas from roundtables held across the country to which our members were not invited, overseen by an 'expert advisory panel' from which our sector was excluded.

If the report-writers had considered our written submissions, they would have seen that we proposed an Option C (community), alongside the Options A and B proposed in "The Shattered Mirror". It's a system that's already in place, functional, but under-funded and in jeopardy of losing the remainder of its financing if the disastrous recommendations of CRTC 2016-224 go into effect in September (a danger mentioned only in passing in "The Shattered Mirror"). Option C for COMMUNITY is efficient, realistic, and sustainable, compared to propping up the broken private system that is front and centre in the reports. Bandaids, like the CRTC's redirection of almost the entire national budget for community media to private news, are not the answer. Reinforcing community media—rather than destroying it—would fulfill many of the objectives identified in these reports.

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CACTUS Submission to "Canadian Content in a Digital World" Consultation

CACTUS has flagged to both the Heritage department and to the Heritage Minister its concern that neither the national association itself nor any one of its members was invited to any of the roundtables in the "Canadian Content in a Digital World" consultation.

CACTUS was also concerned that the 12-member "expert advisory committee" identified on the DigiCanCon web site at www.CanadianContentConsultations.ca are drawn from community media organizations.

Given that community media comprises over 200 entities licensed by the CRTC and constitute one of three sectors comprising the Broadcasting system as defined under the 1990 Broadcasting Act, this exclusion is disconcerting.

All Canadians and organization are however welcome to upload files as part of the consultation. To read CACTUS' submission, click here.

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CACTUS was also concerned that the 12-member "expert advisory committee" identified on the DigiCanCon web site at www.CanadianC

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) and partners are hosting four events to help Canadians participate in the “Canadian Content in a Digital World” consultation being conducted by the Minister of Heritage, culminating with a live TV and web program called “Medi@cracy” on November 20th.

The first event was offered in partnership with Regent Park Focus, a youth multimedia arts centre in Toronto on November 2nd as part of Media Literacy Day. The event solicited answers to the Heritage Minister's questions from the point of view of digital media literacy.

On Thursday November 17th, CACTUS member TriCitiesTV will host a second opportunity for the public to weigh in at the Vancouver Public Library, in the context of Media Democracy Day.

On Sunday November 20th, CACTUS, in association with the Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec, Ricochet, and St. Andrews Community TV will present a live stream and broadcast in which viewers can answer the Heritage Minister's questions by phone and Twitter. The program will be broadcast on Bell ExpressVu and streamed.

Finally, on Tuesday, November 22nd, CACTUS' Executive Director Cathy Edwards will help moderate a focus group being presented by Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) to answer the same questions. The focus group will be held over lunch at the Department of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, and will enable WCT member and non-members to consider the questions as women working in telecommunications.

CACTUS believes the Heritage Minister's consultation is timely. Other groups are considering how Canadians access content in the digital world as well: the need for digital media literacy to make the most of the content available, to what extent digital platforms are democratizing media, and whether there are equal opportunities in digital media industries.

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CACTUS Asks CRTC to Reconsider Community and Local TV Decision

CACTUS has written to ask the CRTC to reconsider its community and local TV decision, based on the number of erroneous statements in the decision and its setting aside of the testimony by the very communities the policy is meant to serve.

Click here to read the request.

The policy will go into effect in September of 2017 unless enough Canadians complain to the CRTC, federal MPs, and to the Heritage Minister.

To support the request, fax the CRTC Secretary General at (819) 994-0218. The policy goes into effect in September of 2017.

To e-mail to your federal MP, most MP e-mails have the form firstname.lastname@parl.gc.ca. You can check here.

To e-mail the Heritage Minister, use Melanie.Joly@parl.gc.ca.

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CRTC DEFERS ACTION ON CABLE COMMUNITY TV COMPLAINTS... AGAIN

Ottawa (August 3, 2016) According to a letter received by the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS), the CRTC has deferred consideration of almost 60 complaints against community TV channels operated by Eastlink, Cogeco, Shaw and Rogers until their cable license renewals this fall. The complaints were filed by CACTUS in partnership with community groups in March and April, 2016. Data regarding local and community-access programming produced by cable community channels was also placed on the public record of the CRTC's recent community and local TV hearing, and can be viewed online at www.comtv.org. The channels either fail to air adequate local content (generally 60% of the program schedule) or adequate citizen-generated content (generally 50% of the schedule)—or both. The deferral is the latest in a series of CRTC failures to enforce community channel policy:

Under Access to Information requests, CACTUS discovered that CRTC audits of community channels from 2002 to 2005 revealed that the majority of cable companies did not air enough local and access content. No remedial action was taken.

CACTUS filed data during the 2010 community TV policy review showing that only 19 of more than 100 cable community channels met the 60% local threshold. The rest shared programming across multiple cable systems.

After inviting CACTUS to produce an 170-page analysis of cable community channels logs in 2011, revealing widespread non-compliance with CRTC policy, the Commission itself refused to consider the data. CACTUS received a 4-page letter from CRTC staff stating “In most cases, BDUs meet the minimum requirements regarding the broadcast of access and local programming.” Staff refused to share the basis for this conclusion.

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