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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.


Television Providers Petition CRTC to Offer Community Channels Divided by Language

Prior to 2006, there was only ever one 'community channel' in a given neighbourhood. In 2006, Rogers petitioned the CRTC to divide its Ottawa community channels along linguistic lines. Other cable and satellite TV providers have been following Rogers' lead lately, a worry trend that takes Canadian 'community TV' ever further from its roots and more and more a copy of what's already available on commercial local TV.

But why?

The CRTC expects cable and satellite television service providers to spend 5% of their revenues on Canadian production. If they elect to offer a 'community channel' in a given licence area, they are allowed to retain between 1.5 and 2% of the 5% for the operation of the channel. The remainder flows to the Canada Media and other production funds that support professional production nationally.

Almost all cable and satellite companies have elected to operate a community channel given this choice, because it gives them some control over how a portion of their contribution to Canadian production is spent, and enables them to leverage local branding and advertising.

In 2006, Rogers proposed to the CRTC to offer two community channels in Ottawa: one programmed exclusively in French and the other in English. Prior to that time, there had always been two community channels in Ottawa, one in the east and one in the west, because the city had been divided into two cable service areas. However, anglophones and francophone volunteers and community producers were welcome at both facilities, and each aired a mix of content, depending on the programs being made at any given time. There was usually more anglophone programming produced from the western studio location on Richmond Rd. (one-time Ottawa Cablevision, and then Maclean Hunter) and more francophone programming produced in the east of town (the one-time Skyline channel), reflective of where most anglophones and francophones lived. Each facility was supported with 2% of the revenues collected from cable subscribers in that half of town.

Anglophones and francophones, as well as other minority and special interest groups mingled at both facilities, cross-fertilizing one another's ideas and contributing to a vibrant mix of programming that reflected the neighbourhoods where they lived.

Rogers' proposal to the CRTC was that it could better serve anglophones and francophones if it were allowed to retain 4% of the revenues collected in the whole city for community programming, of which 2% would support an anglophone community channel headquartered in West Ottawa, and 2% would support a francophone community channel headquartered in East Ottawa.

The CRTC accepted Rogers' argument. When the CRTC's community TV policy was reviewed in 2010, Rogers' one-time special case was made a permananet part of policy, paving the way for other broadcast distribution undertakings (or BDUs, which include cable, satellite, and other TV service delivery companies) to apply to the CRTC to be allowed to do the same thing. In the fall of 2013, Bell petitioned the CRTC to be allowed to retain 4% of its revenues in Ottawa and Montreal in order to offer two separate community channels. In the fall of 2013, Videotron petitioned the CRTC to be allowed to retain 4% of its revenues in Montreal (one of the largest licence areas in Canada) in order to operate two separate community channels. In January, Rogers petitioned the CRTC to be allowed to retain 4% of its revenues in Fredericton and Saint John in order to offer two separate linguistically divided community channels in those cities.

Aside from the flawed principale of separating communities on community media--when the point of having community media is to bring them together (not to mention third-language groups... where do they go?) --CACTUS has also intervened in each of these proceedings to point out that these companies' rationale for needing double the money to operate two community channels doesn't hold water.

In the private system, yes. If you wanted to program two channels in two different languages, you might need double the money, particularly if you produced the programming from two separate programming facilities. (In each of the instances noted above, the company in question has not proposed to create a second programming facility, only to offer additional programming in the second language from the same production facility.) However, under a community model, it is the volunteers who produce the programming, not staff. If you have a budget of a million dollars to train and support a population of say 1 million people to make programming, it doesn't cost more if 500,000 of those people happen to be English, and 500,000 happen to be French. It's still the same total number of people you need to train and assist during the production process. You just need to hire bilingual staff, which isn't hard in the bilingual cities where BDUs have felt there is a case to offer two community channels.

The fact that the BDUs can make these arguments and the CRTC accepts them over and over is discouraging, because it underscores the fact that not only do the BDUs really have no concept of what community media is about (or perhaps more fairly, they've lost it over the last 15 years), but the CRTC doesn't seem to either.

If you're interested to read CACTUS interventions against these divided community channels, click the links below. If you live in the communities affected by these applications, we encourage you to contact your regional CRTC Commissioner to voice your concerns.

Bell's Application to Retain 4% of Revenues for Dual Community Channels in Ottawa and Montreal.

CRTC Commissioner for Ontario: Raj Shoan (416) 954-6269
CRTC Commissioner for Quebec: vacant 514-283-6607

Videotron's Application to Retain 4% of Revenues for Dual Community Channels in Montreal.

CRTC Commissioner for Quebec: vacant 514-283-6607

Roger's Application to Retain 4% of Revenues for Dual Community Channels in Fredericton and Saint John.

CRTC Commissioner for the Atlantic: Elizabeth A. Duncan
(902) 426-2644


US Ruling Threatens Community Media

A US appeals court has thrown out the concept of net neutrality, which had heretofore ensured that different kinds of Internet traffic are given equal access to bandwidth, and had prevented Internet providers from charging different rates to different kinds of traffic.

The US ruling sets a dangerous precedent that could threaten the long-term health of community media, as more and more people acquire information and entertainment on-line.

Click here for the full Wall Street Journal article.

People often ask, "Why do you need community TV channels anymore with the Interent? You've got YouTube."

There are lots of answers to this question:

  • You have to give up your copyright on many services such as YouTube, and they are being more and more commercialized. The community doesn't own or control them.
  • YouTube doesn't aggregate local audiences, and isn't live.
  • YouTube doesn't provide training and media literacy skills and equipment access for people who are not already media-savvy.
  • YouTube doesn't provide meeting places in the community for people to make media together and debate the issues that are important to them. YouTube doesn't facilitate the 'process' of community media, which is as if not more important than making the media content available to share with others afterwards.

The US ruling highlights another problem, however, which is that regardless of the platform of the day by which community media content is distributed, it will always need protection to make sure that it is accessible to everyone in the community. It may be a struggle for access to space on cable and satellite for community content today, but that struggle will just be repeated on new media platforms if Internet providers can privilege their own content and make community media expensive to download or block access completely.

Click here if you would like to sign a RootsAction.org petition to oppose the ruling.


Participate in CRTC's "Let's Talk TV" Conversation with Canadians

The CRTC is hosting a public consultation called "Let's Talk TV", to consult the general public about how it thinks the broadcasting system should evolve in the digital and multi-platform environment.

The consultation will have several stages. Before Christmas, it was very free form. Canadians were encouraged to post informal comments on the CRTC's web site, in response to questions in three categories, including programming content as well as technological access to services.

Groups and organizations were also encouraged to host "Flash Conferences" examining the same questions. These conferences could be informal get-togethers in people's houses, coffee shops, a townhall, a teleconference or web consultation. CACTUS held a "Flash Conference" in January. Our report can be found on the CRTC web site, along with the reports of other groups and organizations. (Click the link below, and then click "Flash Conference Reports" in the middle column where it says "Get Up to Speed on the Conversation.)

Flash Conference Reports

Here's what the CRTC's report on stage I had to say about community and local programming:

"Support for community programming also varies. Some call into question the relevance of community channels as well as the quality of the programming they broadcast and whether the Community channel has become nothing more than a promotional tool for BDUs. Others openly support their raison d’être as well as the support they give to volunteers and members of the community in terms of a professional environment to develop and produce their programming.In certain regions of Quebec (such as Trois-Rivières and Chandler) and Ontario (such as North Bay), the need for a strong and well-funded community channel providing locally reflective and relevant programming receives much support. This support comes from individuals, the creative community and other institutions such as parish churches. Some participants argue that local commercial network rebroadcasting transmitters provide little news or information relevant to their communities – a gap that is filled by community television. Others identify cultural, democratic and economic need for a strong community television sector."

The CRTC has now moved into stage 2. It is posing a specific series of questions asking you to make choices about price versus value. To complete the CRTC's "Let's Talk TV Choicebook", click here and complete the questionnaire by March 14th:

Let's Talk TV Choicebook

We encourage you to participate, especially if you missed the first round. It's important for community channel to be kept front and centre in the CRTC's agenda, as well as for thoughtful TV-viewing Canadians such as yourselves to weigh in on the full spectrum of questions regarding the future of our broadcasting system.

The CRTC says there will be an oral hearing in the fall of 2014.


Citizen Group Challenges Videotron for Community TV Licence in Montreal

On September 5th, Videotron proposed to the CRTC that it be allowed to spend between $6 and $10 million to fund a second community TV channel for Montreal, to be programmed exclusively in English. The money would be taken from the Canada Media Fund, which is used by independent professional producers to fund high-quality drama and documentaries... programs like Murdoch Myseteries, Rookie Blue, and the Listener.

The channel would be called MYtv, a clone to Videotron's existing MAtv service. The company is currently in violation of its licence requirements to "reflect the official languages, ethnic and Aboriginal composition of the community" with the exclusively French MAtv service.

The professional production community is naturally concerned, given that the new channel would drain scarce resources that would otherwise have supported the production of programming that could be seen nation-wide.

A citizen group has proposed a third solution, that would meet the needs of both Montreal's minority communities AND the professional production community. The Steering Committee for an Independent Community Channel (ICTV) for Montreal, is challenging Videotron for its basic licence to administer the community channel. Current CRTC policy states that if a cable company is not meeting its licence requirements, a community-based undertaking can have it, along with the 2% of that cable company's revenues from the licence area to support it.

Click here to see ICTV's complaint against Videotron, and licence application (scroll down the list of Part 1 applications until you find 2013-1746-2 and double-click it).

ICTV Application

A zip file will open on your computer showing a list of documents.

The key one (containing the complaint against Videotron and the description of ICTV's vision for community media in Montreal) is in the document called:

DM#2058002 - 2013-1746-2 - APP - DOC5-Rev - Appendix 1A - Supplementary Brief - ICTV-TVCI Montreal

If you live in the Montreal area and would like to support ICTV's application (and corroborate the fact that Videotron is in non-compliance with its MAtv licence), please contact CACTUS at (819) 772-2862.

ICTV's application has been garnering a lot of press. To read it, click Community TV in the News on the navigation bar to the left.


CACTUS Meets End-of-First-Year Targets for Trillium Foundation

CACTUS filed its end-of-year report for the first year in a two-year grant by the Ontario Trillium Foundation to promote digital broadcasting opportunities to communities across Ontario.

CACTUS had committed to engage at least 6 communities in the process of setting up a digital media centre by the end of year 1 of its grant, and 15 communities by the end of year 2.

Work during the first year focussed on a) salvaging broadcasting transmission equipment being decommissioned by both TVO and the CBC for use by communities and b) reaching out to municipalities, bands, and communities across Ontario about the potential of digital technologies for broadcasting to improve local communications.

Eighty-seven communities secured former TVO broadcast towers, and one community in Ontario has acquired a former CBC TV transmitter to date. Community groups in the following areas so far are exploring the potential for a digital community media centre to improve increase access to media skills training and local content (some using former TVO and CBC equipment):

  • Toronto
  • Manitoulin Island
  • Sandy Lake First Nations
  • North Bay
  • Ottawa-Maniwaki
  • Parry Sound

We look forward to working with these groups throughout the coming year, and in welcoming others to the process as our outreach to communities across the province continues.

For more information on the Ontario Trillium Foundation and its granting programs, click here.


US Public-Access, Government, and Educational Channels Create Free National Network

(reprinted from PRLOG of Jan. 6, 2013)

Do America's struggling families deserve free TV for life?

A group of small-market broadcasters think so.

Octave Network Television has entered the media marketplace as a no-fee hdtv service provider, offering dozens of public, government and community access channels free of charge to every U.S, citizen.

8ctave's network combines the strength of hundreds of small-market, noncommercial, student-run, government, public-sourced and community access broadcast stations from across the country. Many of these 'tiny towers' are grossly underfunded, underpowered or unavailable without digital 'rabbit ear' antennas.

Public broadcasters are a vital part of national media, connecting communities, serving the public trust and acting as key components to national security through use of the FCC's Emergency Alert System, which informs and instructs the public during a crisis.

Now enters Octave, a startup bent on 'Powering Public Access' with streaming TV technology, broadcasting to millions of Americans via Roku and other internet TV receivers.

Roku is the largest streaming TV box in America, credited with creating the popular Netflix video on-demand service. Devices like Roku contain the nuts and bolts that enable Octave's free HD offerings, with units costing less than $50.

In addition to on-demand content delivery, Octave channels broadcast in TV's traditional linear format. Octave looks like 'regular' TV because it is, combining the strength and character of America's Public Access broadcasters into a nationwide network with more potential carriers than ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX combined.

According to Octave founder Edward Balboa, you need "a lot of Davids" to take on a Goliath, a role relished by the unknown recently dubbed 'The Rocky Balboa of Broadcasting.' He says folks often mistake Octave for a music channel, but that an Octave's true description isn't so do-ray-mi.

"A true 'Octave' is defined as the distance between two matching frequencies, in our case frequencies used to transmit and receive information. An Octave's bridge 'breaks' when two frequencies either don't match or are too far apart to talk to each other."

Although Octave is a for-profit corporation, Balboa doesn't seem to run it like one. He freely gives away affiliate broadcast channels to every city, public school, qualifying church and charity in America, and refuses to siphon funds from government programs to do it.

Coining his free HD service 'Obamacable' may just be a term of endearment from its founder, but Edward's public telly-vision appears to be bigger than Big Bird. He says that 8ctave gives hundreds of independent stations the ability to operate on a level playing field, speak to a nationwide audience and protect the public by using the government-mandated EAS system more effectively.

"Octaves are what allow us to see, hear and experience the world around us. Octave Television offers a free, unbiased HDTV service that allows complete participation in our democracy, solving problems together as an informed population. We'll never grow, learn, thrive or understand each other until every American can freely communicate."

Communities wishing to add their voice to 8ctave Public Access may make channel inquiries via email to programming@octavetv.com.

For pictures, actualities and interviews please contact:

Edward Balboa
8ctave Network Television
213-787-3904 / 213-444-3180


Hagensborg, BC: 2nd Community to Salvage CBC Equipment to Maintain Free Service

Hagensborg, BC is the second community that CACTUS is aware of that has salvaged CBC equipment in order to maintain CBC TV free to air. “The story of television in the Bella Coola Valley is one of community perserverence and ingenuity” says John Morton of the Hagensborg TV Society. “We rebroadcast 6 television signals and 3 radio channels using a community-owned transmission tower” he says. “The CRTC at first refused to licence our system back in the 1970s, because the CBC had reported that it was technically impossible to have TV reception in the Bella Coola Valley. This was a surprise to those of us who had witnessed--among other events--the moon landing in 1969!”

Hagensborg is one of over 600 communities that was slated to lose free over-the-air CBC and Radio Canada service on July 31st of last year, the date the CBC turned off its analog over-the-air transmission network, and began retiring equipment. The Hagensborg TV Society offered the CBC a nominal amount for the analog transmitter, receivers, modulators and amplifiers, which would likely have been scrapped. “The community is really delighted to have been able to re-establish over-the-air service. Many in our community can't afford satellite TV. Although there are some costs to maintain the tower and pay downlink fees for the channels we want, it works out to only about 60$ per household per year, which is really affordable."

Hagensborg is a community of about 300 households, located in the Bella Coola Valley near the coast of BC. Catherine Edwards of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations said, “There was no reason for any community to lose existing services because of the digital transition. What was missing was a clear communications package about the transition ahead of time from government and from the CBC, explaining how communities could maintain the equipment if the CBC pulled out. As far as we are aware, the only communities that have acquired CBC equipment and ‘turned the CBC back on’ since the July 31st cut-off date are well established societies like this one. BC has an amazing history of TV societies and community-based ISPs that offer their communities everything from highspeed wireless Internet, to remote television and radio services, to local TV and radio content.”


Neepawa Community TV Available on MTS Manitoba-Wide

Neepawa Community TV can now be seen across on Manitoba on MTS Ultimate TV, in addition to its prior distribution over the air within the town of Neepawa, and on the Westman Cable network.

The MTS Ultimate TV service is growing thanks to the expansion of MTS’s fibre-to-the-home network, the MTS FiON Network. Since 2010, MTS has launched the MTS FiON Network in Selkirk, Steinbach, Dauphin, Thompson, The Pas, Neepawa, Carberry, Minnedosa, Killarney, and select areas of Winnipeg. More communities are being added as we write, which will bring NACTV to an even wider audience.

“MTS is proud to provide Neepawa Access TV to subscribers throughout Manitoba,” said Greg McLaren, Manager of MTS TV Content.

Ivan Traill, the manager of the Neepawa community channel, is delighted. "Many ex-Neepawa residents that have moved to Winnipeg can now see us, and they're thrilled that they can see our sporting and other events. They're even getting together to watch them!"

CACTUS is delighted too. "It's essential that community TV channels be available on whatever platform residents obtain TV service, so that the whole community can share the content."


CACTUS Requests Commission Decision on Cable Audit Findings

As many of you know, CRTC staff elected to audit selected cable community channels for a week in March of 2011, in response to data provided by CACTUS that suggested that many cable licence areas fail to meet both the access and local programming thresholds specified in regulations. Shaw, Rogers, Videotron, Cogeco and Eastlink were asked to provide their programming logs to the CRTC for a week and to answer a series of questions about their programming.

Their responses were forwarded to CACTUS in the summer of 2011 for our comment. After a six-week review, we filed a 70-page analysis of the logs to the CRTC at the end of 2011.

In June of 2012, CRTC staff sent CACTUS a letter that acknowledged some issues with cable community channels, but offered a differing interpretation of what constitutes an "access program", which led staff to different conclusions regarding cable company compliance with the 2010 community channel policy.

CACTUS filed a request with the Commission today for clarification, and for a formal Commission decision regarding the 2011 audit. We will keep you updated in the new year.

For more information about the issues that require clarification, and to see our letter, click here.


New Code of Access Best Practices for BDU-Owned Community Channels

As you may be aware, the new community TV policy announced by the CRTC in September of 2010 (CRTC 2010-622) announced that an "industry working group" would be established to create of Code of Access Best Practices to guide cable operators in the administration of cable community channels.

CACTUS objected (as did the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec--the Fédétvc) that the "industry working group" included five representatives of cable companies, and none from the general public these channels are meant to serve. In response to our complaint, the "working group" was told it must "consult" both the Fédétvc and CACTUS regarding the contents of the Code. The extent of this consultation was that the working group sent us a copy of their draft code. We and the Fédétvc submitted separate but similar comments to the effect that the Code gives cable companies too broad a scope to reject particular programming ideas on grounds such as "community values" and "public taste" (as determined by who?)

The working group ignored our comments, and submitted its draft Code to the CRTC. The CRTC posted the document for public comment in September of 2011. Since our comments had been ignored, both CACTUS and the Fédétvc resubmitted our comments as part of this public process. Finally, another year later, the Code of Best Practices was announced on September 7, 2012. Although the Code is largely the document proposed by the cable industry working group, it does include two new sections about dispute resolution and copyright (the latter echoing almost verbatim CACTUS' suggestions):

  1. If disputes arise about access between producers and any broadcast distribution undertaking (BDU) and it cannot be resolved by the parties, a third-party arbitrator agreeable to both parties is to be appointed. Any expenses related to the arbitration are to be borne by the BDU.

    While we approve the availability of an occasional arbitration process―-and although community advisory committees that might be involved in the day-to-day operation of cable and other BDU community channels are suggested in 2010-622—-there is still no requirement that BDUs establish such committees, which might have day-to-day input into access practices..

  2. The copyright for access programs stays with community producers, regardless of how much assistance they receive from BDUs. BDUs can play the program within the licenced area, but the community producer may sell or exploit the program on any other platform they wish.

This is a fundamental and important shift. While back in the day it was relatively easy for volunteers to propose program ideas and to produce them with cable company assistance, it was always the cable company that retained copyright. Over time, as cable company staff took more and more control over community channel content, this led to a perception that it was volunteers who assisted cable company staff to make programs, and not the other way around. The new Code asserts the opposite: that insofar as the 50% of the programming schedule that is meant to be community-access at least, it is the BDU that assists community members to get their ideas to the small screen.

This ruling shows that while CACTUS has been largely ignored to date by the federal regulator regarding the inappropriateness of for-profit corporations controlling what should be a community-managed resource, it does demonstrate that when an issue tightly corresponds to a political hot button of the day (copyright), you can get results.

The problem, of course, is that the Code as written gives too much latitude to BDUs to decline particular programming ideas in the first place, so a given program proposed by a given community member may never get made at all.

There's no question that this is a moral victory, but it remains to be seen whether it is a practical one. To read the CRTC's decision and the full text of the new Code (the Code is Appendix 1 to the decision), see:

Code of Access Best Practices.

Let us know what you think of the new Code and how it is likely to affect you. (All members can comment on any article.)


CACTUS Contributes Fresh Ideas to CBC Licence Renewal Hearing

CACTUS participated in both the written and oral phases of the CBC licence renewal process. Although commenting on the role of the public broadcaster would normally not fall within our mandate, we decided to participate because CACTUS' Executive Director Catherine Edwards and Karen Wirsig of the Canadian Media Guild had co-authored and presented a paper in the spring at the Journalism Strategies conference at McGill regarding models by which public and community broadcasters could collaborate to improve local media. The paper proposes models by which more quality and quantity of local content could be created in an austere financial environment. It responds to statements in the CBC's 2015 strategy document "Everyone, Everyway" in which the CBC commits to maximize its presence in the regions by entering into new partnerships and using new technologies. Examples of such partnership could include:

  • sharing of transmission infrastructure (our recent campaign to salvage CBC towers and transmitters for communities)

  • sharing of facilities in an affiliate relationship (e.g. local volunteer-production as well as CBC network content within a shared schedule, or two separate licences working out of a shared facility)
  • sharing of content, possibly by uploading to a central server for CBC regional news outlets to access

The paper proposes the establishment of a fund to encourage such partnerships, which was endorsed in the CMG's presentation before the CRTC.

These ideas were also suggested independently as part of the Payette report, which recommended that Telequebec source content from Quebec community broadcasters.

While individual CBC journalists and staff assisted at the conference in the spring, and CACTUS and the CMG have sent copies of the presentation to the CBC, no formal response has yet been received from the Corporation. We did, however, receive endorsements for the idea from OpenMedia and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre at the CBC licence renewal hearing, and in the document "Reimagine CBC", the product of months of public consultation conducted by OpenMedia in partnership with Leadnow.ca and Gen Why. Recommendation 4 out of 5 in this document is "Collaborate with the right partners, who have deep roots in the community." The document cites Karen's and Cathy's paper, as well as CACTUS' campaign to encourage the CBC to offer its decommissioned towers and transmitters to communities to repurpose.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss these ideas directly with the CBC in the months ahead.

Cathy's and Karen's paper is available on our web site here: Public and Community Partnerships to Improve Local Media.

You can read the "Reimagine CBC" document here.

The transcript from the CBC hearing in which a new fund to develop public-community partnerships was proposed can be found: here (search for "CACTUS").


Hay River, NWT First Community to Acquire CBC Transmission Equipment So Far

Despite the barrage of more than 2200 letters to the CBC and the CRTC in the summer requesting that CBC towers and transmitters slated for decommissioning be offered to communities first, the CRTC imposed no special conditions on the national broadcaster prior to shutting off free-to-air CBC and Radio-Canada service on July 31st.

Communities were told that they could apply directly to the CBC for transmitters, and to a third-party (Capital Networks) managing the sale of the CBC's tower sites. Although the dead-line for requesting towers was October 9th, only a handful of communities have yet received a reply from the CBC. Those that have have been declined except for one. Gary Hoffman of the Hay River TV Society in the NWT managed to acquire both the CBC English, CBC French, and APTN transmitters and has restored all three services to his community. The transmitters were donated by the CBC free of charge.

In the case of Maniwaki, Quebec and various rural sites in Manitoba, however, several communities have been informed that they didn't make it past the first stage in the commercial bid process. One group bid on several remote sites, offering the CBC thousands of dollars per tower, but was still declined. The group had been told that many of the towers have revenues associated with them. Space may be leased on the towers by third parties for another 5 or 10 years...

... which once again raises the question, why is the CBC getting rid of them?


More than 2000 Canadians Ask CBC to Consult Them Before Shutting Down Transmission Sites

More than 2000 individual Canadians, community organizations, MPs and municipalities have written to the CRTC to ask that they be consulted about what happens to CBC transmission sites in their communities.

In response to federal cuts, the CBC and Radio-Canada announced in April that they plan to switch off more than 623 analog transmitters on July 31, 2012. Canadians outside major cities and provincial and territorial capitals will lose free access to the CBC and Radio-Canada over the air using bunny ears or rooftop antennae.

(Click here to see whether you will be affected.)

Getting the CBC and Radio-Canada’s signals to all Canadians living in communities of at least 500 people was a major policy goal in the 1970s to link the country coast to coast. This transmission infrastructure is worth millions and has already been paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Rather than being scrapped, it could be maintained by communities themselves. The transmitters and towers can be used not just to continue free TV service, but also to set up local wireless Internet or mobile service, or a community TV or radio service.

The CRTC Consultation: 2012-0509-7

The CRTC has begun a public consultation on the CBC’s plan. CACTUS urged town and band councils, community colleges, community media groups and concerned citizens to ask the CRTC and CBC before the June 18th dead line to make the transmission equipment available for local use.

Of the more than 2200 individuals and groups that responded, 1549 live in or near large urban centres where CBC service will continue. They empathized with their rural countrymates and urged that CBC infrastructure be offered to communities slated to lose service.

Of the 619 respondents from communities that are slated for service loss, the table that follows shows where they live and the location of the CBC transmitter that serves them. Of the 623 analog transmission sites that the CBC proposes to shut down, communities intervened regarding 216 of them. They asked that the infrastructure be offered to communities to maintain, that they be upgraded to digital, or that CBC TV service be multiplexed with an existing digital transmitter that is operational in the community.

The CBC's Response to Date

Despite this overwhelming willingness of Canadians to work with the CBC to keep their TV signals free, the CBC has stated that it is not planning to consult affected communities and wants “fair market value” for its equipment, even if communities are willing to maintain it. In one instance (Penticton), a school board and local ISP representative was told that he could obtain the CBC's otherwise useless analog transmitter for over $80,000!

In the weeks ahead, we will keep track of the progress being made in each community. If and when roadblocks arise, we will flag them for the affected government agencies.

Notes on Interpreting the Data

Just because the remaining transmitters have not been specifically requested by communities does not mean they don't want them. The CBC conducted no outreach to affected communities when the CRTC consultation was open for public comment. The particular Canadians and communities that participated heard about the proposed shutdown through CACTUS, the press, or partner organizations whose representation across the country is uneven. We note in particular the low response rate in Quebec where we and our predominantly anglophone partner organizations have few members, and Newfoundland, where broadband Internet penetration is the lowest in the country (our campaign was conducted primarily via the Internet). Public awareness in Newfoundland is of particular concern, since more than a third of the transmission sites slated for shutdown by the CBC are in Newfoundland.

Nonetheless, the high response rate among Canadians who are slated to lose service, Canadians for whom service will continue, and also 84 Canadians who are already without free over-the-air-access to CBC TV (i.e. they currently fall between service-area contours) vouches for the importance of the issue of fair and equitable access to the national broadcaster by all Canadians.

This strong response suggests that a thorough campaign of outreach by the CBC in affected areas using its television service would likely result in requests that the CBC consult with communities about their options in most of the 623 service areas slated to be decommissioned.

We use as a benchmark the two-year Heritage Lighthouse Program in which the federal government advertised the availability of heritage lighthouses for community maintenance for two years before finally shutting down only those that communities could not or did not wish to maintain.

What is clear is that with over 2000 letters to the CRTC, shutting down the CBC's entire analog TV distribution network should not have been filed as a "Part 1 application" for expedited consideration. It should be examined as a part of the CBC's full licence renewal in November of 2012.

We encourage all individuals concerned about continuing CBC access in their communities to contact us regarding next steps.


Transmitter Location Community or Interested Group Solution Sought Stage in Process
Alberta and Saskatchewan First Nations Technical Services all 57 sites with towers has contacted CBC, waiting for response from sales agent
Alert Bay BC residents of Galiano Island analog transmitter
Bamfield BC Bamfield Community ISP analog transmitter lease arranged with 3rd party tower owner; awaiting reply from CBC
Banff AB resident of Banff analog transmitter
Barrie, ON residents of Owen Sound, Perkinsfield, Desboro, Hanover and Barrie digital upgrade
Bella Coola, BC residents of Bella Coola analog transmitter
Bonnington Falls BC residents of South Slocan analog transmitter and tower
Burns Lake (CBCY-TV-1) BC (shown on CBC contour diagrams on current web site but absent from 2012-0509-7 application?) resident of Burns Lake whatever's there
British Columbia BC Broadband Ass. 12 CBC-owned towers
Calgary, AB Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes (FCFA) and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex Radio-Canada
Campbell River, BC residents of Campbell River, Quathiaski Cove, and Manson's Landing analog transmitter
Campbellton, NB residents of Campbellton analog transmitter and tower
Canmore AB residents of Canmore analog transmitter
Castlegar, BC residents of Castlegar Inonoaklin Valleys analog transmitter and tower
Charlottetown, PEI Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA) and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex Radio-Canada
Cheticamp NS residents of Cheticamp and Margaree Forks analog transmitter and tower
Coronation AB resident of Coronation analog transmitter
Cranbrook BC residents of Cranbrook, Jaffray and Kimberley analog transmitter
Crawford Bay BC residents of Kaslo and Ainsworth analog transmitter
Crescent Valley BC residents of Crescent Valley analog transmitter
Creston, BC residents of Creston, BC analog transmitter
Dauphin MB City of Dauphin analog transmitter and tower
Digby NS Residents of Annopolis Royal analog transmitters and tower
Elliot Lake ON Residents of Elliot Lake analog transmitters and tower
Flin Flon MB residents of Flin Flon analog transmitter
Fort Smith, NT resident of Fort Smith analog transmitter and tower
Foymount ON resident of Foymount analog transmitter
Fredericton, NB Residents and the City of Fredericton and Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA), Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex Radio-Canada
Gaspe, QC resident of Gaspe analog transmitter and tower
Golden, BC resident of Golden analog transmitter
Goose Bay LAB resident of North West River analog transmitter
Grande Prairie, AB Municipal District of Spirit River and residents of Demmitt and Grande Prairie analog transmitter and tower
Grand Forks BC residents of Grand Forks analog transmitter
Greenwood BC residents of Greenwood, Anaconda, Christina Lake analog transmitter
Greenwater Lake SK residents of Archerwill, Porcupine Plains and Wadena analog transmitter and tower
Hagensborg, BC residents of Hagensborg, Hagensborg TV Society analog transmitter (CBC keeping tower for radio) in negotiations with CBC (has asked $4800 to rent space on its tower)
Halifax, NS Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA) and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex Radio-Canada
Harrison Hot Springs BC residents of Harrison Hot Springs analog transmitter
Hay River, NWT Hay River Community TV and residents of Hay River analog transmitter for CBC and APTN awaiting final approval on donation of equipment
High Prairie, AB Municipal District of Smoky River analog transmitter and tower
Huntsville ON residents of Bala, Milford Bay, Shelburne, Bracebridge, Emsdale, Severn Bridge and Huntsville analog transmitter and tower
Invermere BC resident of Invermere analog transmitter
Inverness NS residents of Margaree Forks and Orangedale analog transmitter and tower
Jasper BC resident of Jasper analog transmitter
Jonquieres QC resident of La Baie multiplex CBC English
Kamloops BC residents of Bridge Lake and Kamloops analog transmitter
Kearns ON residents of Kirkland Lake and New Liskeard analog transmitter
Kelowna BC residents of Coldstream, Kelowna, Lumby, Westbank and Oyama analog transmitter
Kenora, ON residents of Keewatin and Kenora analog transmitter and tower
Kitchener, ON residents of New Britain, Brownsburg, Elora, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, Bloomingdale, Stratford, Burgessville, Drumbo analog transmitter and tower
Lac du Bonnet MB resident of Victoria Beach analog transmitter and tower
Lake Louise AB resident of Lake Louise analog transmitter
Le Pas MB residents of Le Pas analog transmitter
Lethbridge AB City and residents of Lethbridge, Coaldale, Vauxhall and Champion Municipal Library digital upgrade
Little Current ON Residents of Gore Bay, Kagawong, Mindemoya analog transmitter and tower
London ON City of London, residents of St. Thomas, Ilderton Kilworth, Sparta, St. Mary's, Delhi, Denfield and London digital upgrade
Mabou NS resident of Mabou analog transmitter and tower
Madeira BC Sunshine Coast CAP site analog transmitter
Maniwaki, QC Indigenous Culture and Media Innovations analog transmitter and tower in negotiations with CBC
Marathon, ON resident of Terrace Bay analog transmitter
Margaree NS residents of Margaree Forks analog transmitter and tower
Matane QC resident of Matane analog transmitter and tower
Meadow Lake, SK Makwa (First Nations) analog transmitter and tower
Middle River NS residents of Baddeck analog transmitter and tower
Moncton NB City and residents of Moncton, Shediac River, Markhamville, Indian Mountain and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex English CBC
Moose Jaw SK residents of Caronport and Tugaske analog transmitter and tower
Mulgrave NS residents of Antigonish, Canso, Dover, Linwood, Port Hawkesbury analog transmitter
Murdochville, QC CAP (CACI) site of Mont-Louis and Gros-Morne analog transmitter
Nelson, BC residents of Nelson and Inonoaklin Valley analog transmitter
Newcastle NB residents of Glenwood and Miramichi analog transmitter and tower
New Denver BC resident of Silverton analog transmitter
New Glasgow NS Municipality and residents of New Glasgow analog transmitter and tower has left voicemail and e-mail messages for CBC; no reply received
New Richmond QC residents of New Richmond analog transmitter and tower
Nipigon ON (CBLK-TV); provided on CBC web site, but not listed in 2012-0509-7 resident of Nipigon whatever's available
Normandale ON resident of Port Dover analog transmitter and tower
North Bay ON residents of North Bay and Sundridge analog transmitter
Nova Scotia Province of NS Broadband Project Office any of 26 CBC-owned towers in NS
Parry Sound ON resident of Parry Sound analog transmitter
Osoyoos BC resident of Oliver analog transmitter
Peace River, AB residents of Peace River analog transmitter and tower
Pemberton, BC residents of Pemberton and Base Technology Ltd. (community-based ISP) analog transmitter
Pembroke, ON residents of Cobden, Deep River and Pembroke analog transmitter and tower
Penticton, BC residents of Penticton, Peachland, Summerland and the Penticton School District and Community ISP analog transmitter CBC wants $80,000
Peterborough ON resident of Lindsay analog transmitter
Ponteix SK resident of Val Marie analog transmitter and tower
Port Alberni BC? residents of Comox, Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni analog transmitter and tower
Port Hardy, BC resident of Sointula analog transmitter
Prince Albert, SK residents of Shellbrook, Prince Albert, Cudworth, Melfort analog transmitter
Prince George, BC residents of Prince George analog transmitter and tower
Princeton, BC resident of Princeton analog transmitter
Quebec, QC Residents of Quebec, Courcelette and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex English service
Red Deer AB residents of Red Deer, Lacombe and Sylvan Lake analog transmitter and tower
Revelstoke BC residents of Revelstoke analog transmitter
Rock Creek BC resident of Rock Creek analog transmitter and tower
Rosemary AB resident of Rosebud analog transmitter and tower
Rossland BC resident of Rossland analog transmitter
Saint-Augustin QC resident of Saguenay analog transmitter
Saint John City of Saint John and residents of Rothesay, Markhamville, Bayside digital upgrade
Salmon Arm BC residents of Coldstream, Salmon Arm, Lumby and Tappen analog transmitter
Sarnia, ON residents of Inwood, Camlachie, Sarnia analog transmitter and tower
Saskatoon, SK residents of Saskatoon Hanley digital upgrade
Sault Ste. Marie ON Residents of Sault Ste. Marie, the SSM Innovation Centre and Municipality of St. Joseph analog transmitter In negotiations with CBC and tower owner.
Sayward BC Residents of Sayward analog transmitter
Sechelt BC Sunshine Coast CAP site and residents analog transmitter
Sheet Harbour NS resident of Moser Bay analog transmitter and tower
Shelburne NS resident of Shelburne analog transmitter and tower
Sherbrooke QC residents of Sherbrooke, Hatley, North Hatley, Magog, Sawyerville and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex English service
Slocan BC residents of Slocan analog transmitter
Smithers(CBCY-TV-5) BC (shown on CBC contour diagrams on current web site but absent from 2012-0509-7 application?) residents of Smithers whatever's there
Sooke BC residents of Sooke analog transmitter
Squamish BC residents of Squamish and Base Technology Ltd. (community-based ISP) analog transmitter
Stanraer SK resident of Duperow analog transmitter
St. John’s NL Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA) and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex Radio-Canada
Sudbury ON residents of Sudbury, Hanmer, Noelville and Worthington analog transmitter
Swift Current SK residents of Swift Current analog transmitter and tower
Sydney NS residents of Sydney and Margaree Forks analog transmitter and tower
Terrace BC residents of Terrace and Kitimat analog transmitter and tower
Thompson MB resident of Thompson analog transmitter
Timmins ON residents of Kirkland Lake and South Porcupine analog transmitter
Tofino BC resident of Tofino analog transmitter
Truro NS residents of Truro and Brookfield analog transmitter and tower
Valemount BC Valemount Entertainment Society analog transmitter CBC wants $4800 for rental on CBC tower
Vernon BC residents of Coldstream, Vernon and Oyama analog transmitter
Warmley SK residents of Maryfield and Windthorst analog transmitter and tower
Whistler BC Base Technology Ltd. (community-based ISP) analog transmitter
Whitecourt AB resident of Edson analog transmitter
Whitehorse YT residents of Carcross and Whitehorse analog transmitter
Whycocomagh NS resident of Orangedale analog transmitter
Wiarton ON residents of Feversham, Wiarton, Lion's Head, Meaford, Markdale and Owen Sound analog transmitter and tower
Windsor, ON Residents of Windsor and surrounding areas, Joe Comartin, MP and Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA) and Commissioner of Official Languages multiplex Radio-Canada
Wingham ON residents of Clifford, Goderich, Gorrie, Harriston, and Markdale analog transmitter
Winlaw BC residents of Winlaw, BC analog transmitter
Wynyard SK residents of Wadena and Wynyard analog transmitter
Yarmouth NS resident of Yarmouth analog transmitter and tower
Yorkton SK resident of Springside analog transmitter and tower
All 7 transmission sites (7 transmitters, 3 towers) in Yukon Yukon territorial government wants service to continue

Community rebroadcasting is already a reality for more than 100 Canadian communities. Valemont, BC (population: 1400), rebroadcasts six TV channels (including a local community channel) and three radio channels. Residents pay $40 per household per year for the service.

For more information about community rebroadcasting click here or call CACTUS at (819) 772-2862.

Click here to read CACTUS' full submission to the CRTC regarding the proposed shutdown of the CBC's analog over-the-air TV network.

You can also join the Facebook group "Keep CBC Transmission Sites Public" if you'd like to discuss what's happening with others, or you can follow us on Twitter @CACTUS62.


Journalism Strategies Conference at McGill April 19-22

From April 19-23, McGill hosted a "Journalism Strategies" conference. The goal was stated as follows:

"We think something important is at stake: the health of Canadian democracy. We believe the more ways we can find for more Canadians to be involved in public discourses and questions of governance, the better off we will all be. We believe journalism can and should play an important role...

We are bringing together established academics, graduate students, journalists, activists, policy-makers and others interested in journalism policies. Our goals:

1) help mobilize a broad network that will recommend public policies for ensuring spaces in the Canadian media ecology for journalism that places public deliberation and citizen participation at the core of its mission.

2) undertake a process of policy-making that is itself participatory (within the limitations of time and resources available.)"

This sounded like a perfect venue to discuss the important contributions played by community media in the Canadian "media ecology", so Karen Wirsig of the Canadian Media Guild and Catherine Edwards of CACTUS co-submitted a paper the explored ways that public and community broadcasters could work together for mutual benefit and to the benefit of Canadians.

The paper is available here:

Public and Community Partnerships to Improve Local Media.

You can also see our presentation at the conference (as well as the other conference presenters) here:

CACTUS Presentation at Journalism Strategies (starting at minute 43).

The most pressing need for public-community collaboration that surfaced at the conference was for CBC towers and transmission infrastructure slated for decommissioning on July 31st this year to be offered to communities to maintain going forward. We proposed that they be offered to communities not just to keep the CBC going, but to offer new services: community TV or radio as well as rural broadband (wireless Internet) and mobile services in underserved areas.

Let us know what you think about the conference and stay tuned re. CBC transmission infrastructure. There will be further announcements by the CBC, by CACTUS, and by the CRTC this week.

May 7, 2012