Weblog / Notre blogue

CACTUS Gets Press in MediaCaster and TechMedia Reports

The CRTC public notice has been posted for the community television review. You can read it at:


As with most policy reviews, the Commission poses specific questions. We will be posting an analysis of what the questions mean this week and next, as it's not always obvious, even if you are familiar with previous hearings and the minutiae of CRTC policy.

In the mean time, the press for the hearings has begun. CACTUS was quoted in both MediaCaster last week at:


and (incorrectly) by TechMedia Report at:


(CACTUS spokesperson, Cathy Edwards, did not in fact propose that boards of independent community TV channels should be appointed by municipalities or locally elected officials, although municipality representation and support will be important.)

If you have press contacts that could give exposure to CACTUS' proposals for a revitalized independent community television sector, please contact us (see the About page). We need to encourage as many individual Canadians and community organizations that have used community channels to publicize their activities and events to intervene with their views at the hearings.



Knight Commission Presents Report to FCC Head: Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy

The widely respected Knight Commission presented its report "Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy" to the FCC on Oct. 2, 2009.

The report closely echoes CACTUS' own proposals "Community Media and Technology Centres" to enable citizens to actively participate in public discourse. Like CACTUS, the report writers suggest that these centres could be built on to existing facilities central to communities, such as libraries.

The report also recommends public financial support for these centres, and that access to information and to the means of PRODUCING information is as important to the healthy functioning of communities as "clean air, safe streets, good schools, and public health".

For the full report, see http://www.knightcomm.org/


Tyee Publishes Story on W2 Multimedia Access Centre in Vancouver

They Tyee on-line newspaper recently published the following story about Vancouver's new W2 multimedia-access centre.

A New Vision for Community TV
Centres like Vancouver's W2 promise a more democratic way to create televised media.

By Steve Anderson and Michael Lithgow, 2 Oct 2009, TheTyee.ca

Giving citizens access to digital tools.

TV is dying. What will replace it?

The Net Reboots Cinema
How long until films are wired straight into our minds?

How We Can Reinvent TV
The web now allows us to bypass the studios. At last, artists will run the shows.

Unbeknownst to most Canadians, cable companies and local community groups have been wrestling for control over community channel assets: the community groups want space on the TV dial and production resources; the cable companies want to call the shots, control the programming, and move their community channels in the direction of commercial television. Approximately $80 million collected annually from Canadians and earmarked for community programming, is at stake.

Meanwhile, the digital revolution is transforming citizens into media producers and every home computer into a virtual television station. In such a radically altered media environment, the question remains: what will community TV be in the 21st century?

Community television is a throwback to a time when cable technology was new and the web was not yet born. It allowed anyone to create a program that could be seen on cable. Community television was the YouTube of its day; but things have changed. Downloading and streaming have precipitated a complicated restructuring of the television industry, brought on in part by new viewing habits. Traditional TV now seems to be on the wane.

But there are some things that are harder for the Internet to replace. Most television takes more than one person to make. The Internet cannot replace the studio space, hands-on training and possibilities for in-person collaboration and mentorship that community television allowed for. And it won't replace the sense of place provided by a community production studio; a space where people can gather, work, learn and create together.

We are at a critical moment when traditional media ownership is more concentrated than ever, and yet we have perhaps the most participatory medium in history at our fingertips. As such, citizens need access to media literacy, knowledge and media production skills more than ever before. And Community Media Centres -- modeled on the idea of recreation centres and local libraries -- may be a crucial piece of the digital divide puzzle.

The physical rendering of the Internet

The Internet has become an engine of innovation, choice and free expression because it is a relatively open platform for citizen engagement and free enterprise. This open platform facilitates free association and collaboration, which then produces exciting projects like Wikipedia, Firefox, and citizen-powered events like ChangeCamp.

As noted in previous columns, various projects in the "terrestrial" world are integrating web practices and values like transparency, openness and participatory decision making, into their work. The new push by groups in many cities to revamp community media centres looks to be part of this larger process of physically rendering the Internet.

Community Media Centres are attracting interest because they are in many ways, a physical mirror image of the Internet. If nothing else, Community Media Centres are an open platform for citizen collaborations of all types. Take a look at the description of soon-to-be launched W2 Community Media Centre in Vancouver:

"W2 will bring together hybrid art forms, community art practices, individual human development and community cultural development in a single environment. It will be home to a diverse grouping of Vancouver arts and community service organizations offering developmental programs in writing, radio and television production, painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, video and cross-media."

Like the Internet, W2 will allow community members to engage at a level with which they are comfortable, and to freely develop their own ambitions and capacities. The Internet is nothing if not an online space where intrinsic motivation and open communication encourage and enable personal and collective exploration, collaboration and creativity. Community Media Centres could be the offline world equivalent of this open space, or rather a site where the offline and online can effortlessly merge. They are, in a sense, the next phase of social media, bringing to life the collaborative potential of the Internet in physical production spaces that mirror the complicated technological capacities of commercial studios.

Allocating community funds to communities

This fall, the CRTC will reconsider the role of community television in Canada. And they will ask Canadians what should happen with community channel policy. CACTUS (the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations), an innovative group based in Ottawa, is putting forward a proposal for community channel money to be used to create community media centres across the country.

CACTUS is proposing that a portion of the $80 million allocated to community channels be used to create a fund that community groups can apply to set up community media centres. The centres will provide training, equipment and may even acquire community broadcast licenses for radio or television. They would offer facilities for sound recording, television production, web design, broadband streaming and share resources with other community organizations that specialize in communications, for example, community newspapers, libraries, and theatres.

The best part of the plan is that this money is already being spent by cable companies. With CACTUS's proposal, Canadians won't have to pay another dime -- the media centre proposal will tap into funding that is already available.

The offline web

With the popularization of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before people figured out that online practices and values can have a place in our offline world. The beginning of what might be a long bleed of practices and values to the terrestrial may have begun with growing interest in participatory events. But why stop there?

As the desire for open systems and practices gains momentum, we can look to these and other hubs of open collaboration as an exciting new social nexus. A network of networks, you might say, much like the Internet.

Michael Lithgow is the co-founder of CACTUS, research associate at OpenMedia.ca, and a long-time community television advocate and organizer from Vancouver now living in Montreal. He was one of the founding directors of ICTV on the West Coast, former member of the Cue Up collective at Video In. He is currently a PhD student at Carleton University.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for OpenMedia.ca. He is a contributing author of Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media and has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times, Common Ground, Rabble.ca and Adbusters.


"La Television des Iles" Crippled Before It Hits the Air

The latest just in from Les Iles de la Madeleine:

"La Television des Iles" is the first instance in Canada of an independent "community programming service" that qualifies and was awarded the 5% cable levy in the absence of a cable-company operated community channel. Eastlink Cable had committed to paying the new channel the levy until the announcement of 2009-544 on the 31 August, which exempts systems under 20,000 subscribers from seeking licenses, and by extension, from obligations for local expression. The previous limit had been 6,000, and before that 2,000. The change is presumably part of the CRTC's drift toward increasing deregulation, and an example of how the fate of community television continues to be determined by cable industry market conditions and regulations. Here's the original in French:

"Îles-de-la-Madeleine, 9 septembre 2009 – Diffusion communautaire des Îles réagit à la décision du CRTC 2009-544 rendu public le 8 septembre 2009 qui énonce une nouvelle ordonnance d’exemption pour les entreprises terrestres de distribution de radiodiffusion desservant moins de 20 000 abonnés. Les câblodistributeurs ne sont donc plus tenus de consacrer 5% de leurs revenus nets à la programmation canadienne depuis le 31 août 2009.

Suite à cette nouvelle réglementation du CRTC, le câblodistributeur Eastlink a décidé de se retirer du projet de relance de la télévision communautaire des Îles réduisant considérablement son budget de fonctionnement annuel.

Par conséquent, Diffusion communautaire des Îles se voit dans l’obligation d’annuler le lancement officiel de la programmation prévu ce soir à la Galerie Bar Spectacle les Pas Perdus. Au cours des prochaines semaines, le conseil d’administration évaluera les différentes options possibles concernant le manque à gagner et même l’avenir de TVI, la télévision des Îles."


Bugle Observer Publishes Story on Rogers Takeovers

Lights, camera, no action

Published Tuesday September 22nd, 2009

Digital upgrades in Carleton County impact local programming on Rogers Cable

By Katelin Dean

After 10 years, the final hymn has been sung – at least from local church television broadcasts.

Bingo balls will fly no longer in the NBCC-Woodstock TV studio. Rogers Cable upgrades have forced the popular Tuesday game to assimilate with Rotary Bingo out of Fredericton. PHOTO BY KATELIN DEANThe lens cap is on and the balls have dropped for Valley TV Bingo. The broadcast, which had been airing out of the studio in NBCC-Woodstock, will now combine with Fredericton's Rotary Bingo. Rogers Cable has upgraded their system to digital.

"We rebuilt the entire cable network," Rogers manager of public affairs and communications Christiane Vaillancourt said.

She said they put in fibre optic lines to allow for high-speed Internet, provincial local phone calls and an enhanced digital cable package for most of Carleton County.

Because of the upgrade, serving areas had to be combined. This means Valley TV Bingo, church services from the Woodstock Wesleyan and Woodstock Baptist churches, NBCC Woodstock Journalism's Community College News and the Kinsmen's Christmas Telethon are either eliminated or have to make other arrangements with Rogers.

"We're bending backwards to offer programming solutions free of charge," Vaillancourt said.

A meeting took place between Rogers representatives and the groups effected by the change.

"It was certainly a shock when they told us we were done," said Carmen Nicholson of Valley TV Bingo.

Nicholson has been running TV Bingo since October 1994.

Despite working out a deal with Rotary Bingo in Fredericton – who had been airing at the same time as Valley TV Bingo – she said she's still disappointed.

"It's not going to be the same," Nicholson lamented.

Bingo players will still be able to buy there cards from the same locations and play at the same time. The money raised from this area will stay in this area. The difference is that Nicholson will no longer host the show.

"It's going to have an effect," she said. "They (the viewers) like the local connection."

"I've met so many great people," she continued.

Anger was the first emotion Nicholson experienced upon learning the news. She said she now just feels sad.

"It's been such a big part of my life," Nicholson said. "I'm going to miss it."

TV bingo will continue to be played Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. Church services on Sunday afternoons, however, will not.

Woodstock Baptist Church Pastor Leonard Cousins said he's sad for shut-ins who regularly watched the service on television.

"It's a loss to the community on many levels," Cousins said.

Unlike some of the other effected organizations, little is being done to keep church services on the air.

Vaillancourt said Rogers can't represent one faith over another on the station.

In the meeting, it was suggested by Rogers to get together with other denominations and rotate church services, Cousins said.

"We would have to get together with every church from Fredericton to Plaster Rock," Cousins said. "It's improbable to get everyone together."

The Baptist Church is currently looking into ways to broadcast their service online.

Cousins said he suspects many of the people who watch the service on television are shut-ins.

"I assume most viewers would be seniors who are less likely to have computer access," Cousins said.

"I felt sad for shut-ins when I heard the news," he continued.

Unlike the church services, the Community College News will continue to air in some form.

"This shift will have no impact on the curriculum," said television journalism instructor Paul Squires.

"I'm really happy Rogers is making arrangements to continue to air the program."

Squires said he's not entirely sure how it's all going to work as of now, but they are working together.

Arrangements for the annual Kinsmen Christmas Telethon have also been made so the annual program will run, said Vaillancourt.

Vaillancourt said everyone involved in the meeting understood the changes.

"They seemed pleased about reaching a greater audience," she said.

"We're very excited about the products and service we're bringing to the Woodstock area," Vaillancourt concluded.


CBC and St. Croix Courier Pick Up Story of Community TV Channels in New Brunswick Threatened by Rogers

Rogers has announced that it will be terminating 3 community programming services in the southwest corner of New Brunswick before the end of the year. Nine communities have been operating the community channel on Rogers (and formerly Fundy Cable) for upwards of 17 years, although never with financial support from either cable company. Rogers is expected ultimately to replace the individual services of these nine communities with a single feed from one of its larger regional centres, probably Fredericton or Saint John.

Patrick Watt of St. Andrews Community TV will be assisting these communities to either:

a) incorporate as "community television corporations", which will entitle them to at least 4 hours per week on the Rogers-operated channel.

b) apply to the CRTC to carry on a "community programming service", which will mean that Rogers must carry them on a digital channel.

c) apply to the CRTC for a low-power over-the-air license, which would mean that residents in these communities could see the channel for free. These channels would also have must-carry status on Rogers' basic tier.

These three options were enabled by CRTC policy 2002-61 and are currently available to any community group in Canada. Few groups have taken advantage of the 2002 policy because of a lack of viable funding options (with the exception of groups in Quebec, who have access to Quebec Ministry of Culture funding).

The CBC ran a televised story about the situation in southwest New Brunswick last week. You can see it on YouTube at:


The NB newspaper the St. Croix Courier also reported on the situation. The text of the story follows:

Future of community channels in limbo


ST. GEORGE – The future of the community channels which serve the St. George and St. Stephen areas is in jeopardy.
In eastern Charlotte this would mean the end of the annual Christmas telethon live broadcast the Pennfield Lions Club and raises money for needy families.
The problem is that Rogers Communications is putting fibre optic cable into Charlotte County in order to deliver HDTV and the company says it would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue local television broadcasts.
Currently there are community stations operating out of St. George and St. Stephen while the volunteers who work on the St. Andrews Community Channel saw the writing on the wall some time ago so they now have their own broadcast licence.
Patrick Watt, who is a volunteer with the St. Andrew Community Channel CHCT, said they are one of some 15 independent community channels with a licence in Canada and probably the only one within the Rogers cable system that the company would have to deal with.
“This should not affect us too much because we have a licence. In St. George and St. Stephen their channels don’t have licences so it is quite easy for Rogers to say they are done.
“Under CRTC regulations, any community can start its own community television station on cable or you can have an over-the-air broadcast which requires cable to carry the station. You get the best of both worlds when you get a UHF channel as we have.”
He said Fundy Cable at one time gave their support to these stations but Rogers simply is not.
“At one time staff from Fundy Cable used to come to the stations from Saint John and Fredericton and would help train local volunteers. It is just a different corporate world today.
“I have dumped a lot of effort and heart into this. I started in community television with Fundy Cable when I was 16 years old – that’s 23 years ago.”
Watt said it will be a shame if St. George and St. Stephen lose their community channels. CHCT would like to involve all Charlotte communities so that local TV shows and event coverage could continue to be watched all over the county.
“We want to keep community TV alive because we think it’s really important. It would ignite all kinds of opportunities. I can foresee it to be a very wonderful thing.”
If the communities could pool their resources, said Watt, and produce programs county-wide it is likely more people would watch CHCT and get involved.
With today’s technology, people in St. Stephen or St. George could go to their community access centre, or even their home computer, and upload their videos to the station’s server then, once it was approved, it could be shown on CHCT-TV.
“It is a very attainable vision we have. We proposed to the CRTC that CHCT be carried across the county when the new digital cable
comes to town.
“That is done in Nova Scotia at a community station in Cape Breton. They do a really good job getting support from their local channel there and are being carried by three or four different cable systems. “We approached Rogers for county-wide coverage and hope to work with them to make it happen for CHCT-TV. Their new digital cable system originates in St. Andrews so it is almost just the flick of a switch to make it happen.”
If that was done, he said, the Christmas telethon, for instance, could be broadcast all across the county not just in eastern Charlotte. The telethon then could potentially raise much more money for many more families.
“Fifteen years ago, there were 300 cable TV stations in Canada. Today there are now 200 and of these, only about 100 are truly public access channels. Sadly, these 100 stations serve towns of less than 10,000 people therefore only ten per cent of Canadians have access to public access TV.”
If CHCT served the whole of Charlotte County, said Watt, it would
also appeal to more local advertisers. This, in turn, would allow CHCT to upgrade their transmitter then they could extend programming to the islands of Deer Island, Campobello and Grand Manan as well.
“The possibilities are endless and to me it is very exciting. We would like public support for this idea. It is a known fact that many people kept their cable to play bingo. If you take that off, a lot of people are likely to switch to satellite.”


CACTUS Shares Implementation Plan for a Revitalized Community Sector with CRTC Staff

CACTUS member Cathy Edwards, Robin Jackson (the ex-executive director of the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund) and Patrick Watt met with CRTC officials on September 3rd to outline CACTUS' proposal to revitalize the community tier by creating a new community-access license class and an accompanying Community-Access Media Fund to support the new license holders. CRTC staff listened attentively and asked lots of questions. We hope that this information-sharing session will help shape the framework of the upcoming hearings by educating CRTC staffers about what the sector can accomplish if given the right tools.

Table of Contents

a) Status of Community-Access Programming in Canada

b) CACTUS Position in Upcoming Policy Review

c) Action Plan if a New Community-Access Media Fund is Created

a) Status of Community-Access Programming in Canada

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were over 300 community-access television channels across Canada, by which the Canadian public (both individuals and groups) had direct access to the airwaves. Most were operated and/or distributed by cable companies. Since the cable industry enjoyed 80% penetration at that time, community TV was “accessible” to most Canadians both as producers and viewers. A few community channels operated over-the-air, in remote areas that were not cost-effective for cable, such as in Valemont, B.C.

In 2009, although there are still about 200 “community channels” in operation country-wide, CACTUS estimates that just over 100 of those, or 1/3 the original number, are genuinely “community-access”; that is, enabling individuals and groups within communities to make programs and messages for themselves. These include:

 The ~45 members of Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec (Fedetvc). Some of the Fedetvc members manage community channels on behalf of a cable operator by contract. Others are independent non-profit community TV corporations that supply programming for part of the playback week of a local cable company. The future of many of these groups are uncertain both because their sources of financing are fragile and because they depend on cable companies for distribution. Many have had to pursue commercial-like models in recent years to survive. As a result, many are functioning below capacity as far as their ability to do outreach in the community.

 The ~33 channels operated by Access Communications (a cable co-operative) throughout Saskatchewan (approximately half of the cabled communities in Saskatchewan).

 The ~19 channels operated by Westman Cable (a cable co-operative) in western Manitoba (accessible to a minority of communities in Manitoba, with just over 26,000 member households).

 Five of the low-power OTA license holders, located in British Columbia, Ontario, NTW and New Brunswick. (The other low-power OTA license holders do not enable access by the community at large.)

 Seven organizations in New Brunswick that operate community channels on behalf of Rogers.

 An indeterminate number of smaller private cable companies (mostly members of the CCSA) that still enable community access, such as SeaSide in Nova Scotia. Cable companies vary widely in their attitudes toward enabling access... even from one town to the next within the same company, so it's difficult to arrive at an exact total.)

Approximately 90% of these channels are located in communities having fewer than 10,000 people (see Appendix A). So, while approximately 1/3 of the original 300+ community TV channels still do access production, they are accessible to less than 10% of Canada’s population. (They tend to be in communities small enough to be of little commercial interest to BDUs.)

Another 1/3 of the original number have been closed down or regionalized. For example, while Vancouver used to have 12 regional offices, these have been consolidated to a single downtown location. While New Brunswick used to have over 30 individual studios, today there are only six.

The remaining 1/3 are in the hands of cable companies that are no longer positively disposed toward community access. Control of content is in the hands of cable staff, although a few (in areas served by Rogers, for example) still allow volunteers to provide free labour as technicians.

In addition, the cable industry as a whole has lost market share, and is now subscribed to by only about 60% of Canadian households. Since telephone and satellite companies rarely contribute directly to community-access production, this is a further loss to the community sector.

So, access to a local community television channel has become a privilege enjoyed by a minority of Canadians. It is no longer a basic service accessible to all.

How do we reverse this trend?

b) CACTUS Position in Upcoming Policy Review

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) is an association of individual Canadians, community groups and associations, OTA license holders, cable co-ops and others who are concerned about the loss of access to community channels by Canadians.

During the community sector review, CACTUS’ main requests will be:

1) The creation of a non-profit and non-commercial community-ACCESS license class. License holders will commit to 80% community-access productions. Equipment, training, and air-time will be offered to the community free of charge.

2) The creation of a Community-Access Media Fund (CAMF) to which holders of community-access licenses will be able apply. CACTUS will suggest that this fund be created primarily from the cable levy currently being spent by cable companies that no longer offer production access to their communities.

3) Holders of community-access licenses who apply to CAMF will be encouraged to set up platform-independent access production centres that might simultaneously hold OTA radio and television licenses, webstream, and have must-carry status on the services of all locally available BDUs. They will be encouraged to pool community resources; for example, maintaining offices in local community centres, libraries or theatres, so that the community can “one-stop-shop” to get their messages out. This diversified infrastructure will both promote efficiency and enable communities to modernize and use technologies for local communication to best advantage into the future.

If these requests become a reality, and a Community-Access Media Fund is created as a result of the upcoming hearings, how will the sector be revived?


Depending on the size of the proposed Community-Access Media Fund, access can be extended to more or to fewer Canadians.

Here are two budget outlines, one for a small community (10-30,000) and one for a larger community (over 30,000). Extremely small communities (< 10,000) might maintain only a camera or camera and edit suite, and relay footage to a larger centre , while the largest cities (over 500,000) might have two-three separate access centres.

The goal is that as many Canadians as possible should be able to travel to a community-access production facility within 30 minutes on public transportation.

Small Community (10-30,000, of which there are 85 in Canada)

Startup Costs
Control room
Edit suite
ENG kit
Mobile (van with portable cameras)
Studio and control room
Voiceover booth
Internet lab (3 computers, modem, network) $6,000
Office equipment and furniture $2,000
Transmission equipment $60,000
Total $392,000
Yearly Operational Costs
3 staff (manager, community outreach co-ordinator/trainer, technician) $160,000
Repairs (parts, not labour) $10,000
Materials (e.g. videotape, office supplies) $30,000
Rent or mortgage, building maintenance $25,000
Total $230,000

Larger Community (> 30,000... of which there are 86 in Canada)

Startup Costs
Control room
Edit suites
ENG kits
Mobile (specialized vehicle, committed equipment, CCUs etc.)
$12,000 per
$10,000 per

Control room and studio
Voiceover booth
Internet lab (5 computers, modem, network) $10,000
Office equipment and furniture $6,000
Transmission equipment $100,000
Total ~ $500,000

Yearly Operational Costs
5-8 staff (manager, community outreach co-ordinator/trainer(s), technician) $3-500,000
Repairs (not including labour) $10,000
Materials (e.g. videotape, office supplies) $40,000
Rent or mortgage, building maintenance $25- $50,000
Total $400-600,000

Proposed Fund Size, # Channels that Could Be Maintained

Community-Access Media Fund Size # of Channels

(includes yearly operating costs)
(0.5 % cable gross revenues in 2008)  45/86 cities > 30,000
 20/85 communities 10-30,000
 Fund management ($500,000)
 National association that would provide the leadership to rebuild sector (CACTUS or equivalent) $1,000,000
(1% of cable gross revenues in 2008)  80/86 cities > 30,000
 80/85 communities 10-30,000
 Fund management ($500,000)
 National association ($1,000,000)
(1.5% cable gross revenues in 2008)  86/86 cities > 30,000
 85/85 communities 10-30,000
 Fund management ($500,000)
 National association ($1,000,000)
 ENG kits, edit suites, part-time staff support for additional communities < 10,000
 Special project grants, long-term infrastructure and equipment upgrades
 Additional neighbourhood offices in cities > 500,000
(2% of cable gross revenues in 2008) Not necessary at this time.
> $120,000,000
(2% BDU revenues, including satellite and Telcos) Not necessary at this time.
>> $120,000,000
(2% BDU revenues, including satellite, Telcos, and ISPs ) Not necessary at this time.


CAMF would establish long-term targets to distribute funds evenly throughout the regions, with proportionately more in smaller communities since:

 Minimum staffing, equipment and facilities are necessary to get on air in the smallest communities, and

 The sharing of common resources becomes more efficient in larger population centres.


 The long-term size of the fund is determined by estimates of on-going operational costs and not startup costs, and

 publicity and community education about the existence of the fund, how to apply for licenses, and how to operate access television channels will take time (not all within a single calendar year)

the CAMF strategy will be to:

 Upgrade facilities and establish adequate staffing at existing independent community TV organizations (including enabling the transition to holding OTA licenses for those currently on cable only, and the transition to digital and HD where appropriate).

 Establish a minimum number of access production centres in each region in the first year (at least one large and one small), which can become models and training centres to enable nearby communities to get up and running in subsequent years.

The following scenario is an example, assuming that CAMF is created from 1.5% of the existing BDU levy, or $90,000,000:

Year 1:

Infrastructure grants and upgrades to existing independent community-access television organizations (approximately 60 total, including members of the Fedetvc in Quebec, but not including cable co-operatives, which already have access to the cable levy):

Estimate per channel

 General equipment upgrades (could include digital and/or HD) $100,000
 Addition of OTA transmission equipment $100,000
 Addition of Internet access terminals,
webstreaming, on-line program archives $20,000
 Addition of radio broadcasting for communities that want it $20,000



Supplement staffing for existing 60 (non cable-coop) channels: $15,000,000

Fund and national association: $1,500,000

New channel startups, including year 1 operational costs:
36 small, 36 large $59,100,000

Total Year 1: $90,000,000

Year 2:

Operational costs for 43 existing large channels >30,000 $21,500,000
(not including cable co-ops):

Operational costs for 93 existing small channels (<30,000) $21,390,000

Fund and national association: $1,500,000

New channel startups, including year 2 operational costs:
28 small, 28 large $45,610,000

Total Year 2: $90,000,000

Year 3:

Operational costs for 71 existing large channels >30,000 $35,500,000
(not including cable co-ops):

Operational costs for 121 existing small channels (<30,000) $27,830,000

Fund and national association: $1,500,000

New channel startups, including year 3 operational costs:
14 small, 14 large $22,820,000

4 additional neighbourhood offices in cities > 500,000 $2,350,000

Total Year 3: $90,000,000

And so on. In year 4, the remaining additional neighbourhood offices in cities > 500,000 would be complete and attention would be shifted to setting up additional outreach facilities in communities < 10,000 that are not within easy reach of a facility serving 10-30,000.

In actual fact, the setup rate in the first year of the fund might be slower than projected, due to the need for promotion and education about the purpose and availability of the fund monies. A more realistic estimate is that by the end of year 5, the fund would be mainly dispensing operational monies, monitoring performance of existing channels, and setting up additional outreach facilities in communities < 10,000 that are not within easy reach of a facility serving 10-30,000.

(CACTUS or equivalent)

 Publicizing the availability of funding for community groups to set up access production centres.

 Supporting community groups in license application process.

 Assisting the CRTC in assessing applications, since an application in the new community-access license class would trigger eligibility for funding from CAMF. For example, while the CRTC would assess technical criteria that affect other sectors and license holders such as transmission range, protocols, and standards, CACTUS might assess the strength of the application from the point of view of involvement and support by a broad cross-section of community stakeholders, and the knowledge and understanding by the applicant community of the role and responsibility of a community-access channel.

 Supporting community groups in funding application process; for example, assistance in preparing realistic budgets (assessment from licensing process would be automatically forwarded to the fund).

 Providing technical and organizational guidance to community groups setting up new as well as existing channels; for example, who to hire, what equipment to buy, how to engage the community in production.

 Creating, pooling and distributing training materials for production centre staff, community producers, and volunteers.

 Lobbying for the community sector.

 Program sharing via a web site and archives, tape bicycling if appropraite, and (long term) supporting an application for a national public-access channel to share programming.

 Web site maintenance to share educational materials, member news and progress.

 Liaising with CAMF to achieve long-term growth targets in the community-access sector.

The board of directors for CACTUS would consist of member channel staff and community producers. Therefore, CACTUS advocates for the immediate needs of those working and volunteering within the sector.


CAMF would:

 Have final responsibility for assessing applications by would-be grantees.

 Administer grant monies.

 Monitor that applicants fulfill grant requirements (such as used to be done by the CRTC for cable community channels). Regular reporting would be required not only about programming volumes, genres, and numbers of individuals and community organizations that participate, but also about projects that:
- Benefit the community in concrete, measurable terms.
- Stimulate community debate on important issues.
- Capture and promote local culture or history.
- Involve previously excluded groups.
- Approach the use of media from new or alternative perspectives.

 Ensure that long-term regional targets for community-access are met.

The board of directors for CAMF would consist of a range of organizations with both a stake in the expression of local cultural identity as well as expertise to offer the sector, such as:

 National association (CACTUS) or community-access representative
 Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec
 Canadian Association of Media Education Organizations (CAMEO)
 Federation of Canadian Municipalities/Fédération canadienne des municipalités (FCM)
 Independent Media Arts Association/L’Alliance des arts médiatiques indépendants (IMAA)
 Educational sector (for example, a campus television channel such as NuTV in Calgary)
 A representative of the new media sector (Canadian Interactive Alliance/Alliance interactive canadienne)
 Aboriginal community
 Diversity/ethno-cultural community
 Accounting
 Governance
 Lawyer
Therefore, it will be the Fund’s responsibility to make sure that no regions or major sectors within Canadian society are excluded from access to community production facilities.

The genius of the community-access sector is that a relatively small investment in infrastructure, equipment and training staff can result in large volumes of locally relevant and vital programming. This is possible due to the production multiplier effect of volunteers.

You need a minimal professional staff (trained in both production techniques and community facilitation) to set professional standards, to assist and co-ordinate community volunteers, and to practice outreach to sectors of the community that are often overlooked. Once these individuals are in place and begin to work with a community, a community-access television channel can produce about ten times the volume of programming that could be produced by full-time paid staff alone.

For example, prior to 1997-25 and the changeover in format that occurred throughout Shaw systems, 6 staff and 200 volunteers at Shaw Cable 10 in Calgary produced between 35 and 40 hours of new programming every week, in every genre, from children’s programming, to sports, to seniors, to news magazine, to short fiction, to phone-in programming on a range of topics from the stock market to tax tips. Much of this programming was live and interactive.

Similar ratios are possible at smaller channels. For example, the three-person staff suggested for communities of 10-30,000 might facilitate the community to produce 15-20 hours per week. The smallest communities, with only a camera and edit suite and one part-time staff person (studio), might produce 2-3 hours, which they would probably relay for playback to a medium-size centre, or pool programming with other equally small communities on a single channel.

If access production centres can be re-established in the 86 Canadian communities with populations > 30,000 and the 85 communities with populations between 10,000 and 30,000, those communities will be able to produce between 100,000 and 200,000 hours of new LOCAL production per year, more than all that is produced by the country’s private and public broadcasters combined.

While this production multiplier does work, volume of production should not be the only determinant of channel success, however. With increasingly fractured audiences who can find what they want to watch when they want to watch on a wide selection of channels, most community channels worldwide consider their programming a success if local audiences tune in a few times a week to important local issues, or niche programming aimed at them (children, for example).

There has been an intense focus recently on the possible loss of local news services from communities across the country. Questions have been directed at the community-access sector and its ability to fill these niche. The community-access sector can fill the need for locally relevant programming. Whether a particular community elects to produce in a traditional “news hour” format is unpredictable, however.

It’s important to remember that the traditional news format is expensive and resource-intensive because it’s made up of many short clips, each of which represents a separate shoot somewhere in the community, followed by intensive editing. It’s a big-city paradigm in which viewers can’t be expected to know the subjects of stories, and are assumed to want no more than a minute or two on several different topics rather than an in-depth look at any one.

Community-access volunteers tend to prefer to produce longer, more in-depth stories about topics of personal and community interest. Their smaller town audiences, who often know the protagonists, tend to want more too. So, instead of sending a crew to a football game, and editing just 3 minutes of highlights as part of a “news hour”, a volunteer crew is more likely to air the whole game, and the community is likely to want to watch it, because their kids are in it. Similarly, instead of interviewing a local politician and editing just a couple of key comments on an issue that may or may not affect most residents, community volunteers are more likely to engage that politician in studio for a full half hour on a local issue that affects everyone, perhaps inviting the audience to call in.

So, while a daily high-impact news format is not a common format on community-access TV channels world-wide, what audiences typically get is more: more variety and more depth.

It is, however, common for community-access television channels to produce weekly or bi-weekly news magazine programs, with slightly longer more in-depth segments. They may be updated with new stories as they come in from the community. These variety formats are often co-ordinated by channel staff, as they require input from and collaboration among multiple volunteers and community organizations.


Because distribution technologies keep changing, it’s important that money for local expression be put into multi-platform access production centres that:

 Leverage existing community resources. For example, they may be located in libraries, community centres, or theatres... places where the community meets and from which community events can easily be broadcast or webcast.

 Are platform-independent. They may simultaneously hold an over-the-air radio and television license, webstream, and have must-carry status on the services of all locally-available BDUs. They should be universally accessible to residents both as audiences and as producers.

This investment in infrastructure rather than in a single technology ensures that community-access production centres will remain current as new technologies come on line in the future.

It also means that the best communication strategies can be designed to assist the community to get its messages out... not confined to a single platform, but efficiently leveraging all. For example, a local band or an election debate presented in a theatre or community centre could be simultaneously videotaped and recorded for broadcast by radio and TV, webstreamed, and available on the services of the local cable operator or regional satellite feed.


CRTC policy 2002-61 was important in creating a new low-power broadcast license class for communities. With the new Community-Media Access Fund, this ability to reach communities free, over the air, can be expanded.

This is particularly important in an environment in which more and more private and public broadcasters are considering abandoning transmission towers and equipment during the transition to digital.

CACTUS sees several possibilities and has several questions/suggestions/requests for the CRTC:

1) It is the intention of CACTUS that new community-access production centres that apply to CAMF must hold over-the-air licenses, to ensure that their signals are universally accessible to their communities.

2) This can happen in several ways. Several of the current OTA license holders, such as St. Andrews and Hay River have set up analog transmission equipment for less than $20,000, by using lesser known brands of equipment, buying second-hand, and utilizing existing structures such as buildings rather than stand-alone towers. Others, depending on geography, geographical spread of the population, and existing towers and infrastructure, have had to pay as much as $100,000 for transmission equipment to get on air.

Depending on the size of CAMF, there are several possibilities for OTA low-power transmission:

 Dual analog digital television sets will continue to be available for some years. If funding is insufficient, communities that are currently transmitting analog signals could be allowed to continue to do so. (This is the policy that has been adopted for rural areas in several other Western countries, including the UK and some Scandinavian countries.) New license holders could be encouraged to purchase digital equipment or given the choice (since analog equipment is currently available second hand at a discount).

 If the private and public broadcasters are allowed to discontinue over-the-air service in communities < 300,000 as they have asked, could the CRTC request as compensation for these communities that the towers and equipment no longer being used be given to new community license holders?

 As outlined by the Canadian Media Guild, it is probably not necessary that smaller communities upgrade to HD in the short term. Existing community-access organizations could continue to use standard definition equipment for the life of that equipment, and upgrade gradually. New license holders would be encouraged to purchase HD equipment, budgets permitting (since HD models are often no more expensive than standard-definition equipment).

3) Some local frequencies for radio and television broadcast must be retained for community use, and not auctioned for use by wireless services.
Appendix A:
Existing Access Television Channels by Group and Population

> 30,000 10-30,000 < 10,000
Quebec Federation Montreal
Châteauguay Dolbeau-Mistassini
Thetford Mines
Victoriaville Mont-Joli
Vallee de la Matapedia (Amqui)
Havre St-Pierre
Les Escoumins
Cap-aux-Meules Îles-de-la-Madeleine
Low-Power OTA Leamington, ON Telile, NS Ash Creek, BC
Hay River, NWT
St. Andrews, NB
Valemount, BC
Chetwynd, BC
Westman Cable, (MT) Brandon Boissevain
Gilbert Plains
Ste. Rose du Lac
Swan River
Access Communications (SK) Regina Biggar
Emerald Park
La Ronge
Meadow Lake
The Battlefords
White City
ICTV, Vancouver Vancouver (lower east side)
Community groups operating a community-access channel on behalf of Rogers in New Brunswick Chipman
St. Stephen
St. George
Grand Manan Island

Appendix B:

The Community-Access Media Fund (CAMF) would be a not-for- profit funding organization that would distribute funding to community-access licensees for their operations. It would provide funding for new distribution technologies, community outreach and other special projects. The Fund would be responsible to collect information and statistics to monitor the performance of licensees.
The mission of the Fund would be:
 To support community-access media centres that enable Canadians to use multiple technologies for local expression, including both traditional media such as television and radio, as well as new media such as the Internet, wireless technologies and other new digital platforms.

 To give communities the tools they need to effectively communicate among residents, community organizations, and policy-makers on issues of common concern, to better their communities, and to celebrate and reflect local culture.

 To enable community-media centres in Canada to reflect the diversity of the communities they serves.

 To solicit and distribute contributions/grants and other forms of support to community-access media centres for operations, production, training, distribution, and other purposes that support the aims of community-access production and distribution in Canada.

 To develop community media as an integral part of the Canadian media fabric.

1. Priorities of the Fund

Assistance would initially be made available for the following priorities. (As the needs of community-access media centres change over time, so will the program priorities of the Community-Access Media Fund.):

 Operational Costs
Operational costs of community-access media centres, including routine maintenance of production and distribution equipment for multiple platforms (TV, radio, Internet, etc.), staff, facilities, production costs.

Applicants would be encouraged to show:

 How they will leverage existing community resources to achieve maximum visibility, accessibility, and efficiency, such as locating themselves in community centres, libraries, secondary schools or media colleges.

 How they will solicit involvement with a diverse cross-section of the community, including community organizations, Aboriginal, ethnically diverse groups, persons with disabilities, official language minority groups (where applicable), educational institutions, local businesses, the municipality, provincial and federal elected representatives, artistic and cultural groups.

 Grants for New Community-Access Media Centres
Start-up costs for new media centres, including licensing, production and transmission equipment, facilities, hiring.

 Technological Upgrades for Existing Centres
 Upgrades of production equipment, including migration to digital and HD as appropriate (pending CRTC policy directives and industry changes such as the continued availability of analog reception equipment).

 Addition of new production and distribution platforms, such as radio, Internet, wireless, over-the-air.

 On-going Leadership and Education within the Community Sector
On-going leadership and education to the community-access sector would be carried out by a new national association (CACTUS or equivalent); for example, identification of underserved areas to develop new access-media centres, assistance to would-be licensees, technical and organizational asistance to new licensees, the organizational of professional events, the development of educational materials, common archives of programming, etc. The Fund would provide funding to this association.

 Special Project Funding
Development monies to be made available for special projects, such as the on-going monitoring of distribution technology, and research to determine the best ways to engage sectors of the population that have been overlooked in the past.

 Other Responsibilities of the Fund
The Fund would collect information and statistics on the performance of the community-access media centres. Licensees would be required to submit to the Fund on an annual basis the following information:
 Number of hours of programming produced, by genre.
 Platforms used to produce and distribute programming.
 Number of community producers, volunteers, and organizations involved in the media centre.
 Projects having high impact, such as those which:
- Benefit the community in concrete, measurable terms.
- Stimulate community debate on important issues.
- Capture and promote local culture or history.
- Involve previously excluded groups.

2. Funding

 Community-access media has fallen behind in this country due in part, to the lack of funding available to enable community groups to apply for their own licenses. Since facilitating local expression and Canadian culture is one of the licensing requirements of the BDU sector, it is recommended that funding for these initiatives should come from the BDU 5% levy.

 While the major funding should come from the BDU 5%, the Fund would seek other sources of funding to supplement this amount. It would investigate charitable status so that it could issue tax receipts for donations made by the public and pursue grants from foundations. National government and non-governmental organization sponsorships would be sought. Government grants would be solicited for various special projects.

 The Fund would encourage the community-access media centres themselves to collaborate with municipalities, local businesses, and educational institutions. It would reward applications by communities that have made efforts to diversity financing.

3. Governance
 The organization would be federally incorporated as not for profit. Charitable status would be investigated.
 The Board of Directors would ensure accountability and transparent decision –making, allowing input from stakeholders.
 Those in charge of making decisions would not have any affiliation with any potential funding recipient to avoid conflict of interest.
 The Board of Directors would be comprised of 10 to 12 voting individuals, including representatives from the following organizations:
- National association (CACTUS) or community-access representative
- Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec
- Canadian Association of Media Education Organizations (CAMEO)
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities/Fédération canadienne des municipalités (FCM)
- Independent Media Arts Association/L’Alliance des arts médiatiques indépendants (IMAA)
- Educational sector (for example, a campus television channel such as NuTV in Calgary)
- A representative of the new media sector (Canadian Interactive Alliance/Alliance interactive canadienne)
- Aboriginal community
- Diversity/ethno-cultural community
- Accounting
- Governance
- Lawyer

 The Fund’s Board members would serve on a fixed term, rotating system, without remuneration
 Board members would be nominated and/or elected by the bodies named. For example, CAMEO would designate the media literacy reprentative. IMAA would designate a film or video artist representative.
 The Board would be responsible for ensuring effective management of the Fund, creating policies and practices regarding fund distribution, oversight of finances, strategic planning.
 The Board would establish effective and efficient processes to appraise applications objectively.
 The Board would be a policy Board; it would not manage the Corporation.
 The Corporation and the Board would be governed by its by-laws.
 Annual general meetings would be held at which time financial statements and annual reports would be made available and directors would be elected to the Board.


CACTUS Presents to Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

During the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage emergency meetings this summer on local programming, CACTUS members Cathy Edwards and Michael Lithgow made the following presentation (also available in video at http://www2.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeHome.aspx?Cmte=CHPC&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=2 (click on May 13th):

"The Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) is building a bilingual national membership of independent community television channels, cable co-op community television channels, some private cable companies that still practice community-access television, and the public who uses and watches them. We are an association that believes in citizen access to the airwaves... that is, that individual members of the public should be able to participate in the broadcast system.

The Broadcast Act specifies that Canada’s broadcasting system should enable a diversity of voices to be heard, and that there should be as broad-based access to it. The economic crisis has also focussed attention on the scarcity of local programming. The latter problem is not new, however. Both CBC and private broadcasters have been cutting back on production and shutting channels in smaller population centres for years. Over the same period, BDUs have progressively regionalized and professionalized community television production, resulting also in station closures and fewer hours of local programming.

This is a great pity, as it is the community sector that has the greatest capacity to address all three needs:

 For diversity
 For access by as many Canadians as possible
 For local programming and expression.

It is impossible to have more diversity and more broad-based access than to enable every Canadian, every organization in civil society, and every community to be a producer. This has been the genius of the Canadian community-access model, a brainchild of the National Film Board. It was enabled in the early 1970s by the introduction of portable video recorders and the presence of cable television in communities across the country. This model has been copied world-wide, and today is a robust part of the broadcasting systems of more than 30 nations, including the majority of Western democracies. Most have recognized community broadcasting as a third tier, which funtions according to a different paradigm than public and private broadcasting. Most recently, the European Union has recognized the tier formally, and recommended members to adopt financial and legislative supporting structures for the community tier as a way to promote inclusion and vital multicultural dialogue.

Meanwhile, here in the cradle of the community-access movement, the sector that has the most potential to respond to our crisis in local programming has been gutted by successive rounds of CRTC legislation and misuse of community channel funds by the country’s biggest cable operators:

 The damage began in 1997, when community television was officially deregulated. Funding to the sector was cut from 5% to 2% in larger markets to make way for the Canadian Television Fund, and cable operators were given the choice whether to have a community channel at all. Most opted to keep the 2% rather than give it up to the CTF, but began to look at the channels as potential revenue sources.

 Responding to pressure by cable companies, the CRTC relaxed rules against advertising on the channels. Many of the programs are thinly disguised vehicles for product promotion, often for national and international companies, not even local ones.

 The public in many centres such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg have been kicked off the channels, in favour of professionally produced formats that mimic commercial production. For example, in Calgary, where I worked as the Volunteer Co-ordinator from 1993 to 97, 400 volunteers and a half dozen staff produced over 35 hours of new production per week, in every conceivable genre, from mobile sports, to seniors and kids programs, to live arts and entertainment, to local issues and phone-in debates. After the channel was professionalized, production was reduced to one hour or less of news per day.

 Studios in smaller communities have been closed. Where Vancouver once had 12 regional offices giving access to 1200 volunteers, there is now one, in Shaw’s corporate tower downtown. Where New Brunswick once had 30 studios spread around the province, today Rogers offers only 6. Not only are cable operators closing studios on their own initiative without repercussion from the CRTC, but the CRTC is promoting the closures by allowing mergers of service areas.

 In 2002, in response to public outcry, the CRTC revised its 1997 policy, and introduced the requirement that cable community channels air 30-50% of “access production” (a far cry from the channels being 100% at the disposition of their communities, but better than nothing), and should offer training and equipment to the public. Most of the big cable BDUs simply ignore these rules because there has been no monitoring nor disciplinary action by the CRTC.

 The 2002 policy also introduced the idea that community groups should be able to apply for over-the-air licenses for community television, but there was no funding formula offered, and fewer than 10 community groups in English Canada have stepped up to the plate, mostly surviving on bingos and advertising. Approximately 40 independent community television corporations in Quebec have managed to survive on grants from the Quebec Ministry of Culture and sponsorship, but most are producing below capacity because of funding shortages.

 The 2002 policy also introduced the idea that if a cable operator was not providing community programming in the spirit of CRTC policy, that another organization within the community could apply for the 2-5% cable levy. Several such applications have been made, where cable operators are flagrantly violating access requirements, but they have always been turned down. As a double whammy, the low-power license holders who are offering access programming, cannot apply for the levy.

 Despite the CRTC commitment to hold a hearing into the community television sector this fall, recent CRTC rulings continue to damage this sector. In December, the CRTC ruled in a closed hearing in less than ten minutes that Shaw could buy the Campbell River TV Association, one of the last remaining cable co-operatives in English Canada, which had been providing community programming on Vancouver Island for over 50 years.

 Distinctions between cable license classes may be removed, resulting in less funding for community television in small communities (a reduction from 5% to 2% of cable gross revenues). This change was proposed in 2009-176, whose dead-line for interventions was this Monday.

 When concerned parties contact the CRTC to understand the impact of new regulations, CRTC staff themselves often seem unaware how changes affect the sector. There should be an Ombudsman’s Office for the Community Tier monitoring the coherency of decisions and policies.

So, CACTUS would like to alert the Standing Committee that we fear that the CRTC lacks the willpower and political backing to make the structural changes necessary. The loss to Canada is that the one sector that could best respond to the current crisis in local programming has been successively undermined. But how is the sector different?

 Because the community-access model employs volunteers, a typical community channel can produce 5-10 times as much programming as a professional channel. Any public or BDU-funding given to the sector acts as seed money, which is multiplied in the hands of the community to produce programming for the community. The current drift toward regionalization and commercialization of community channels by cable companies has meant that the same economic factors limiting local production in the public and private tiers have come into play in the community tier. This process needs to be reversed to get production back into communities, to leverage the economic and creative genius of the community-access model.

 Because program ideas come from the community itself, the community can produce programs tailored to its own needs. Better communication between local government, residents, businesses, and community organizations leads to better infrastructure development and better promotion of local events and culture.

 Participation in television production, which is still the medium by which most Canadians derive information and entertainment, develops a more engaged and critically aware populace, more able to deal with complex challenges as we move forward.

What would CACTUS like the Standing Committee to do?

To revitalize the community television sector so that it can play its part in fulfilling the diversity and access requirements of the Broadcast Act, the $80,000,000 being spent yearly by cable companies on so-called “community programming”, as identified by the Lincoln Report, Our Cultural Sovereignty, needs to be liberated to independently run community channels that are accessible to all, representative of their communities, and present in those communities. While cable companies may once have been the obvious trustee for community-access production, the era of the small cable company who was a close partner with the community is gone.

At a time when cable operators buy commercial TV stations for a dollar and may soon buy commercial TV networks, it is also disquieting that those same BDUs are gatekeepers for the issues that can be discussed on our community channels, the one—at least potentially—truly free grassroots window in the broadcasting system. This tier, when functioning as it was designed, is an essential safety valve for our democracies.

What will CACTUS pledge to do if this happens?


During the ten years that community television has languished in Canada, it has made great advances around the world. With the adoption of small high-definition camcorders and computer editing suites, access centres in other countries are producing programs that are indistinguishable from professional content, except in ways that we view as an advantage: they are local, they are fresh, they take risks and showcase real people taking stands about local issues.

Not only has the video production technology changed, the distribution platforms have of course also changed. The most advanced community access centres in the world are platform-independent. They offer residents free training and equipment for not only video and radio production, but also web design and computer skills. They are housed in live theatres, libraries, and community centres, so that residents can “one-stop” shop to get their messages out. The resulting productions have must-carry status on all platforms, including over-the-air, cable, satellite, and Internet.

If community access centres of this kind can be adequately funded from the existing BDU levy or from new sources, CACTUS has the expertise to lead the tier to provide this level of service and to fill the gaps in local programming. Where Canada once led the world in the use of new technologies at the local level, we would do so again.

Thank you for your time."


CACTUS submission to the CRTC on community media and new media broadcasting

Today was the deadline for submission to the CRTC for the CRTC's public consultation on new media broadcasting in Canada. What follows in CACTUS' submission, responding to concerns about how regulating new media broadcasting might effect community television.

The Canadian Association of Community Television User Groups and Stations (CACTUS)
830 Cite des Jeunes, #6

(819) 772-2862

Friday, December 5, 2008

Re: Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-11
Canadian Broadcasting in New Media

Dears Sirs and Mesdames,

1) I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS), which is building a bilingual national membership of independent community television channels, cable co-op community television channels, some (typically smaller) private cable companies that still practice community access television, and the public who uses and watch them.

2) I would like to state that I am not a “new media” expert in the sense of understanding the current state of the technology, bandwidth available in different parts of the country, the likelihood of this bandwidth to increase in the near-to-long-term, or how likely it is that this bandwidth will be sufficient to support, for example, streaming of live HD video. Therefore, I will state certain assumptions that underlie my arguments, knowing that they may change over time.

3) While I am not a new media expert from a technology point of view, I am nonetheless--and most of CACTUS members are--experts in thinking about policy-making with respect to the democratic use of media platforms. My comments are therefore made from the point of view that the Internet, as with other distribution platforms before it, should be structured in as democratic a fashion as possible with respect to the ability of individual Canadians to access content created by others, as well as to make available their own content for sharing with other Canadians and internationally.


4) While traditional television media (since CACTUS’ main interest is in the production and distribution of audio-visual materials) was limited in terms of the number of distribution channels, and much of the current regulatory environment was a response to the fact that few channels were available, and therefore that the allocation and use of those few channels were important public policy interests, I am making the assumption that the Internet as a platform for the distribution of audio-visual materials is not limited. Traditional television “broadcasting” was one-to-many because of the nature of the technology. The exception was community television, which broke down this paradigm by enabling the viewers of television also to be producers, and by enabling interactive participative formats such as mobile productions or phone-in formats in which the public could directly participate in a live broadcast. The Internet is, by its nature one-to-one. Any individual can access the platform and publish content, and any individual can choose among theoretically unlimited sources of content.


5) The thrust of 2008-11 seems to be primarily one of making new definitions of broadcasting that can be applied to new media, with the longer-term goal of using these definitions to shape policy. I would caution against this approach, in that the definitions may need to evolve over time to enable policy, not the other way around. I welcome the discussion of definitions, because they help to clarify issues, but advise that CRTC commissioners should keep their eyes firmly on the long-term objectives of the Broadcasting Act and of the needs for democratic debate and participation, and remain ready to revise definitions as needed as conditions change in the unfolding new media universe. Policy-makers and regulators could easily trap themselves, Canadians, and the potential of new media by committing prematurely to certain definitions now, and feeling they can’t be revoked or re-examined later.

6) That being said, at this point in time, I think it is a mistake to use the term “broadcasting” at all when referring to the distribution of audio-visual materials over the Internet. In this, and in response to Q.1, I disagree with paragraph 22 in the Commission’s policy posting. I think shifting the idea of “broadcasting” to the Internet, in the long term, will foster an unequitable and undemocratic use of the Internet. It favours the idea that conditions should be set up now to enable traditional television “broadcasters” to survive in this new environment, even if the strengths of that new environment have to be compromised or limited to allow them to survive.

7) The term “broadcasting” (as opposed to “niche-casting”, for example), arose because of the one-to-many nature of traditional over-the-air analog distribution of television programming. While there were certain efficiencies to this kind of production and consumption of audio-visual materials, there were also serious drawbacks, to which the Internet is not prey.

8) The Internet, by its nature is about the ultimate niche-caste. Anyone can produce and distribute content for the price of server space with an ISP. Anyone can access content from almost anywhere in the world. The Internet’s great freedom and flexibility should not be warped in any way whatsoever to favour the “broadcast” many-to-one, captive audience model.

9) There is no need for “broadcasters” in new media. All that are needed are content producers. In the new environment, independent producers can directly distribute their own content, without gate-keeping by a traditional “broadcaster”, or by the second level of traditional gatekeepers—BDUs--who decide what “broadcasters” to offer in service packages.

10) The only sense in which there will be a need or niche for the organizations that we used to think of as “broadcasters” in the new media environment is their role as providers of content of a certain kind and quality. For example, there will continue to be marketing and branding advantages to larger production houses in that viewers surfing the web for content are more likely to sample and to be able to find new programs from existing and known production houses (at known web sites) than to be able to locate new producers. In this, however, there will be no difference between larger independent producers with the capacity to build a track record producing many programs and what we used to call “broadcasters”. In the new media environment, there will be just producers and viewers. Larger producers with track records will enjoy advantages of economies of scale and branding, that’s all.

11) In the same way, entities that distribute content (not necessarily the content producers) who specialize in certain topic areas will enjoy advantages. e.g. Known distributors of quality children’s programming will have advantages over independent producers, again because of marketing and brand advantages. Parents looking for quality children’s programming are more likely to go to known names from whom they have purchased before than to search the web sites of small independents.

12) So, in this sense, there will be the potential for gate-keeping from the point of view of marketing power (unknown independents will continue to benefit from teaming together in larger units so that their content can be found), but the distinction between content producers and content distributors will be fluid at best. The role of the “broadcaster” as traditionally understood is gone. Broadcasting organizations that hope to survive need to redefine themselves as content providers or content distributors, to fit the new environment, not the other way around.

13) Therefore, in answer to Q.1 and Q.2, I also disagree with the Commission’s paragraph 23, in which it seeks to distinguish between traditional “broadcasters” and “individual Canadians producing in an individual capacity”. The only old definition that holds in the new environment has to do with genres of programming. The programs, whether they be dramas, series, or kids’ shows, will continue to survive (or seem to be so far). The Commission needs to focus its regulation on the quantity, quality and accessibility of these key cultural genres of programming just as it has done in the past, not with definitions that draw arbitrary lines between different kinds of producers of that content, lines which increasingly do not exist.

14) ISPs should be viewed in the same category as BDUs. They provide a pipeline through which audio-visual content can flow. They make profits from charging the public access to this pipe-line. They assume none of the risks nor costs of content production. The pipe-line would have no value if there were no content.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Net Neutrality (Section IV, Q. 14)

15) Net neutrality must be preserved at all costs. By this, I mean that to preserve the seemingly magical level new playing field for content producers that we call the “Internet”, ISPs should never be able to privilege the passage of certain kinds of content (video or otherwise) over others. These decisions need to be left to the users of the system. For example, a video downloaded from CNN should never have speed priority over a video downloaded from U-Tube. If 1000 people download one video from CNN for every video downloaded from U-Tube, and this means that CNN overall is getting more use of available bandwidth, that’s OK because that decision is not made by CNN in a boardroom making a private deal with the ISP; it’s a decision made by 1000 different users who elected to download the CNN video. The system must be driven by the demand side, not the supply side.

16) My assumption that there is unlimited bandwidth, may of course, turn out not to be true. It may be that given Canada’s population, if everyone wanted to download (or watch live streamed) movies at HD quality every night of the week, that we would have bottlenecks. However, as long as the demand-side runs the system, things will remain in equilibrium. For example, customers dissatisfied with live streaming of HD may say to themselves, “It breaks up, and it costs a lot because it exceeds my monthly Megabyte download quota. I’m just going to download the non-HD format, or download overnight and watch it tomorrow.” It is legitimate for ISPs to charge more for heavy downloads and thereby allocate scarce resources (thereby leaving the final allocation decision in the hands of consumers), but it would not be legitimate for ISPs to negotiate a deal with a Hollywood studio to reserve say 50% of bandwidth exclusively for HD movie nights, while all other Internet users of every content genre have to compete for the rest. HD may or may not prove viable on the Internet. It should have to prove itself as a format, in open competition with all the other types of content that use the Internet for delivery.

17) I make this comment about HD because of conversations I have had recently with community television channels around the world. One would think, on the surface, that with the introduction of digital and satellite television, that there should be more space available for public-interest and community channels. However, while there is more bandwidth, this does not necessarily translate into more channels and thereby more diversity. In many countries, traditional broadcasters are not simply using existing transmitters and switching over from an analog to a digital-encoded signal as an individual corporate decision. In many countries, governments are giving control of digital transmission to monopolies or near-monopolies. Every traditional broadcaster then has to negotiate space on the new monopoly-controlled systems of digital transmission towers. They are asking for more bandwidth per channel (enough for HD), meaning that the space available for different channels is actually less, not more in many instances, than in traditional analog broadcasting. Community and smaller broadcasters are often finding themselves left out, and left to fight political battles for space against overwhelmingly larger organizations.

18) In order to draw a line between “professional” and “non-professional” broadcasting, there has been a trend in traditional broadcasting to continually raise the bar on what is acceptable from a technical “quality” point of view, from VHS, to U-matic, to Beta, and now HD. Not meeting the current quality standard has been used as a way to keep many smaller producers off the air over the years (even though people have been happily watching television ever since it achieved VHS quality). I would caution the Commission against any structuring of the Internet that would assign traditional “broadcasting” organizations any kind of bandwidth advantages in the new media environment. They should be left to compete openly, and new technologies also must compete and demonstrate that people really want them through choices in pricing. The environment itself must not be warped or limited.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Canadian Content (Section III – Q.8)

19) For the moment, and assuming the level playing field environment of an Internet that is content-neutral and has unlimited capacity, the old CanCon rules with respect to the amount that a given organization (traditionally, a “broadcaster”) should produce that is Canadian versus non-Canadian no longer apply. Where there are no borders and no limits on channel capacity, CTV or Global is just a citizen of the world, with the same options for producing and publishing content on the Internet as any other individual Canadian.

20) CanCon policies therefore should shift their focus in new media mostly to funding support. That is, in a environment where anyone can find any program at any time, you can’t make Canadians seek out Canadian content, but you can make sure that Canadian content is available in genres that are:

a) considered culturally important, such as local programming, news, social and political debate, educational programming for children, drama.

b) expensive to produce given the continuing relatively small market of Canadian viewers. For example, it’s not necessary to provide financial support to bloggers, in general. Anyone with a digital camera and a computer can produce a decent blog. As long as some categories of audio-visual programming remain expensive to produce, however, funding support will be needed.

21) Because ISPs (as noted in the “Definition” section above), will be functioning like BDUs in the distribution of such culturally key video genres, and are charging the public fees for access to a pipeline that will flood them with non-Canadian content, and that that pipeline has no value without content, and that the ISP assumes none of costs nor the risks of that content production, it is reasonable to apply a similar tax on ISPs to that currently charged to BDUs for the production of Canadian content in culturally important categories. In this, I agree with the assessment done by Eli Noam.

22) I do not feel that this needs to be a separate “new media” fund if the genres to be distributed are traditional linear audio-visual streams. ISPs should be asked to contribute similar percentages of the gross revenues they accrue from video distribution to existing funds such as the CTF and to the community programming sector.

23) As they are now, these funds should be available to content producers who can produce in these culturally key genres. As you are seeing, there is no place for “broadcasters” per se in this new system. Their place and raison d’etre was on “broadcast technologies”. To compete in the new media environment, they exist only as content producers (or content distributors).

24) To continue on from my own paragraph 19, the only situation in which CanCon rules as far as percentages of production carried out or distributed by a given organization should be required to be Canadian is if we find over time that the marketing advantages of key “brands” of program distributors (e.g. a known brand like Global that in the future decides to sell programming on-line) means that everyone is shopping for programs from a few key web sites who have the resources and algorithms to make sure they are favoured by search engines. If we find in practice, that such key distributors favour non-Canadian content, some kind of percentage rules might have to be applied. Hopefully this will not happen, but this is a situation that will need to be reviewed over time.


25) My comments with respect to the role of community broadcasters follow from my comments on CanCon in general. As a culturally significant category of programming as identified by the Broadcasting Act, funding support needs to continue to be provided for community-access production centres, but this funding does not need to distinguish between distribution via traditional means (television) and the Internet. ISPs, like BDUs, should contribute production funds to this sector.

26) Already, the most advanced community-access production centres around the world are platform-independent. That is, they typically hold at least one community radio and television license, they often provide free access to the Internet and free training for individuals, small business, and NGOs to design web sites, and they may even embody live theatre or other facilities. What is important is that there is funding support so that these centres can exist, in local communities where all Canadians can access them easily. Such access centres enable Canadians to develop messages and a voice that they can then share with other citizens in their own community, across Canada, or around the world.

27) As CACTUS has reiterated at other CRTC hearings, production and operational support for community access centres is THE most efficient use of public funds for generating Canadian content, because the use of volunteers acts as a multiplier. A relatively small pool of equipment and training staff is shared and skills are disseminated throughout the community. Throughout the history of community television in Canada, 5 or 6 paid staff and the volunteers they enable in a community have routinely been able to produce as much as 35-40 hours of new local television production per week, in every imaginable genre.

28) With the advent of small but high-quality digital cameras that are much less reliant on artificial lighting, most of the old technical quality distinctions between “community TV” and “professional TV” have ceased to exist. The same production technologies are available to individual Canadians, and this is one reason why there should be no distinction between “professional” and “non-professional” production from the point of view of the Commission. For more than 30 years now, community television policy has refuted this distinction. The popularity of sites like “You-Tube” underscore this point.

29) There are occasionally comments made that with these cheaper production technologies and the availability of distribution outlets like “You-Tube”, that community access production centres are no longer required. Nothing could be further from the truth. The popularity of “You-Tube” demonstrates that even without proper funding, individuals will find a way to self-publish video. What “You-Tube” lacks, however, is the teaching and critical community-development platform that are provided by community access centres. Content quality, ultimately is driven by message, not by picture and audio quality. For a healthy democracy at a national level, and for healthy communities, there needs to be a physical meeting place in communities where people can discuss and design media together, and learn to make sophisticated media messages that can effectively reach both those in their own communities, across Canada, and around the world.

30) Both the production centres, and accessibility by citizens to all distribution platforms (including conventional television, the Internet, and whatever we dream up tomorrow) continue to be critical.


31) I have been sympathetic to the Commission’s recent claims to want to “simplify and stream-line regulation” in order to meet the goals of the Broadcasting Act.

32) At the same time, I believe, as Richard Ward of the CMES articulates in his submission to this process, that for the free market to function effectively, it must be effectively regulated to keep it free. The stronger the media companies and interests involved, possibly the stronger this regulation needs to be. Not “strong” in the sense of complex or invasive, but strong in the sense of forward-looking, coherent and fair.

33) At the diversity hearings (and also in this process), the Commission has raised the issue of cross-media ownership, and editorial independence of newsrooms.

34) It is my view that the kind of complex (and probably unenforceable) rules that would have to be introduced to guarantee editorial independence of newsrooms owned by the same media organization have been necessitated as a second level of regulation because the Commission did not do its job at the first level… in limiting media concentration and control of the airwaves in the first place.

35) In a truly competitive media marketplace, I would cheer small news organizations that reused the same content on Internet, in newspapers and on affiliated radio and television channels. Why not? Makes sense. Saves money. This exact strategy is used at the multi-platform community access centres I described in paragraph 26. Someone walking into a community access centre who has an important message is encouraged to simultaneously tape a radio and TV program, in front of a live studio audience, and perhaps post a blog about it afterwards. People want to maximize and leverage the reach of their messages, in the most efficient way.

36) This kind of cross-fertilization among newsrooms would not have represented a threat to diversity if the organizations in question were relatively small. It’s only that too much concentration has been allowed to happen, that the newsroom collaboration represents an additional threat.

37) In the same way, because BDUs have been allowed to concentrate too much, smaller content providers such as the Weather Network and others come to you demanding Category 1 license protection. They rightly describe a situation in which their business model depends on carriage by just 3 or 4 massive BDUs, and that they therefore have no bargaining power when they sit down to negotiate. So, they come to you for protection and regulation, which would not have been required if you were doing the job of maintaining a diverse and free market among BDUs in the first place.

38) So, I suggest to you that the best way to simplify regulation is to keep the market free in the first place, so that you’re not playing catch-up later with impossiblly powerful media entities and Byzantinely complex policies.

39) With respect to the Internet, this means you must keep it a level playing field at all costs. Maintain net neutrality. Keep the public in control of choices, and do not disfigure it to maintain an outmoded notion of what constitutes “broadcasting” and “broadcasters”. Let them compete with every individual out there holding a video camera. Let’s keep the “new” media environment genuinely “new” and FREE.



CACTUS asks CRTC to reject Shaw takeover of community owned cable cooperative

The deadline for intervening in Shaw's attempt to takeover Campbell River Television was today. CRTV is one of Canada's few remaining community owned cable cooperatives. The takeover has split the community and called into question how non-commercial media organizations are regulated.

Amidst accusations of regulatory non-compliance and possible illegality, intervenors from across Canada have been demanding that the takeover be stopped.

What follows is the CACTUS submission.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Re: Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-1187-9
Shaw Cablesystems Application to buy CRTV (Campbell River Television)

Dears Sirs and Mesdames,

1)I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS), which is building a bilingual national membership of independent community television channels, cable co-op community television channels, some (typically smaller) private cable companies that still practice community access television, and the public who uses and watch them.1 In preparing this intervention, CACTUS consulted members of the “Save CRTV” committee in Campbell River, and draws on the expertise of:

Catherine Edwards, who has travelled the globe researching models of community-access television during the shooting of the documentary series My TV, Your TV, Our TV.

Michael Lithgow, whose masters thesis developed a framework for assessing the effectiveness of community access television channels.

Members of the Community Media Education Society and Independent
Community TV of Vancouver, who have for ten years tenaciously continued to operate an independent community TV corporation despite enormous legislative and financial difficulties.

The Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec, the professional association representing 40 independent community television channels in Quebec.

St. Andrews Community Television in New Brunswick, holders of one of the 2002-61 low-power community broadcasting licenses.

2)CACTUS would like to oppose this sale on two grounds:

That Shaw is mismanaging cable levy funds held in trust on behalf of the public and knowingly misinterpreting the spirit and application of the community channel guidelines as stipulated in CRTC policy directive 2002-61, and the previous policy directives respecting the community channel on which 2002-61 is based. Given that CRTV is one of the few remaining true community-access television channels in English Canada, we feel that it would be a shame to see its management pass to Shaw, with a resulting likely loss of access and community control (a loss for local residents) and the resulting loss of a functioning model of community access television from which the decimatd community sector can be rebuilt in the future (a loss for Canada). Given that the CRTC has acknowledged problems in the sector and has committed to a review in 2009, we feel that any change in ownership in the interim which could further weaken the status of community access television channels should be put on hold.

That there are significant irregularities in the sale process as conducted by the current board of CRTV and Shaw. The issue of this sale has been hotly debated in the Campbell River community and press all summer, with much information being distributed in the community to a) scare the community into selling and b) offer financial incentives to the community to sell which are contrary to the BC Societies Act and the CRTV’s own constitution.

3) This intervention is therefore presented in two sections,. The information in the first section, which relates to Shaw’s fitness to operate a community-access television channel, is the same information that CACTUS submitted to CRTC public notice 2008-38, in which Shaw applied to renew licenses for its Western cablesystems.

4) The information in the second section comments on the process of the proposed sale and the turmoil it has caused in the community of Campbell River. In preparing this information, CACTUS consulted members of an ad-hoc “Save CRTV Committee” (composed of Campbell River community members and past CRTV board members and managements staff concerned about the sale process, who are also intervening to this process). CACTUS independently verified all claims made by members of this ad hoc committee by consulting original documents on the CRTV web site, the web sites of the town’s two newspapers, and the BC Government. Extracts and links to the key documents are provided either within the text of this document or in footnotes.

5) CACTUS’ comments are intended to support the interventions of Campbell River residents opposed to the sale, validate their findings, and put their struggle both into a national context and in the context of next year’s proposed review of the Canadian community TV sector.


6) Shaw has been ignoring community channel policy related to:

the airing of access programming
the training of the public
access by the public to equipment and technial support for the production of access programming

on its community channels for over ten years.

7) Instead of respecting the spirit of the guidelines, which are meant to engender “high levels of citizen participation” and to enable communities to express themselves, Shaw has been increasingly commercializing its channels (as supported by the CRTC’s own findings in 2008-38), taking control of program production out of the hands of the community, and striving to immitate commercial production formats to win the maximum revenue possible through sponshorship and advertising. The result is so-called “community programming” that is unrecognizable compared to the collaborative, interactive community programming that this same company did up until 1997. The programming produced today is almost indistinguishable from that produced by commercial local broadcasters.

8) Not only has the character of programming changed in ten years, but also the volume. Because of the reliance on staff to produce programming and the exclusion of community volunteers, the volume has dropped from in excess of 35 hours of programming a week in major centres in every conceivable genre (from community news magazine, to local sports, to children’s and senior’s programming, to drama production, to self-help shows, to interactive live phone-in issues shows) to little more than a CNN-style hour-long newswheel per day that repeats all day long, in urban centres that are already well-served by multiple local television news services. So, aside from the loss of citizen access, community channels have lost most of the advantages they used to offer in terms of quantity local origination. In using volunteer labour from a wide cross-section of the community, they used to be able to produce high-volume, multi-genre programming reflecting true diversity. Because today’s “community channel” imitates commercial production formats and operations, it has fallen prey to the same resource limitations and competitive considerations that limit the depth, breadth, and diveristy of programming in the commercial sector.

9) While I have less direct experience of the operation of community channels in Shaw’s smaller systems, I know from video interviews I conducted in 2007 for the series My TV, Your TV, Our TV 2 with Shaw’s VP of Programming, Alex Park, present and former station managers in both Calgary and Winnipeg, and from anecdotal information from viewers and community producers in other parts of the country that Shaw’s policies with respect to community programming are fairly consistently applied nationwide.


10) Shaw’s claim in its 2008-38 application that the amount of “access” programming aired on its systems exceeds 50% is based on a definition of “access programming” that Shaw is aware differs from the CRTC’s definition.

11) 2002-61 states that access programming is:

“programming produced by individuals or groups in the community served by the undertaking, either assisted or unassisted by the licensee”.

12) The policy goes on to say that cable companies should promote the availability of training programs related to access, and to solicit program proposals.

13) It’s clear that the intent of the policy is to put production directly in the hands of the public, and to enable them to be in charge of particular programs whose concept and approach they themselves design. In this, the community’s channel free speech mandate has not changed since the 1970s.

14) Unfortunately, Shaw’s attitude has. In speaking to Alex Park and other Shaw program managers, all espoused the current company philosophy that “access programming” is any program in which an individual or group in the community is featured or has its activities publicized. I spoke to David Campbell, the Program Manager for Shaw Calgary from 1995-2005, about this change in approach to access and to volunteers on July 18, 20073:

Cathy Edwards (After reading key parts of the CRTC 2002-61 guidelines): So it sounds like they’re coming back saying “OK, there was a bit of a mess for awhile, but we really want that some of the programming should be access programming of the old-fashioned way.” How did Shaw respond as a company when this hit the books?

David Campbell: Well, I think we responded pretty positively. Again, as we talked about before, you know, it was left—it was still—everything’s an interpretation. And we interpreted volunteer use differently. Clearly there weren’t enough volunteers or the quality of programs that people would watch on an on-going basis, so we inserted more trained people into that process… put volunteers more out front. They became the subjects of the stories. They became the people who talked about what was going on in their community.

15) To Shaw, “access” today means coverage by Shaw of you or your event (if you and your event happen to fall within their programming parameters), not access to and control over the means of production and freedom to select approach and topic. The selection of topics, the responsibility for point-of-view, and every aspect of production remains firmly in the hands of cable company staff.

16) There are also no advisory boards as stipulated in the community broadcasting policy (nor were there prior to 1997), in which communities might have a chance to complain about this situation.

17) Using this definition, it’s easy to meet the 30-50% requirement, since it’s virtually impossible to report about a community if no individuals, organizations, or groups are included. The only way to avoid them might be to focus on nature, or the state of the roads! I would ask, how is this any different than the local program production of any local commercial broadcaster? When a commercial broadcaster interviews a person about a topic, that person is not considered “a volunteer”.

18) This reinterpretation of policy has corrupted the key attribute of community programming that makes it different than a commercial or public local broadcaster, which justifies the money that is poured into it, and which define it as Canada’s “third tier”: citizen participation.

19) When I asked Mr. Park on July 18, 2007, how many individuals or groups in the community still produce a complete program, he admitted that there were only four groups in Vancouver (all of whose programs Shaw had kicked off the air between 1997 and 2002-61 and which were only reinstated when forced to do so by 2002-61) and none in Calgary:

Alex Park: Community groups will just show up with a tape and say “Here’s our programming this week. Put it on.”

Cathy Edwards: Can you give me examples of that?

Alex Park: Sure. In Vancouver, we have four major groups right now that just show up and say “Here’s my program for the week. Play it.”

Cathy Edwards: Are they doing it here in Calgary too?

Alex Park: We don’t do it here in Calgary. We do it in Vancouver. We do it in a number of other cities. Some of that is just the communities.

20) I also interviewed Allan Sayegh, Program Manager at Shaw’s Winnipeg channel, about access on August 3rd, 2007:

Cathy Edwards: The expectation by the CRTC that there should be true access of the old style for part of the programming week is pretty clear. How do you reconcile that?

Allan Sayegh: Good question… I’ll take a stab at it…Community access is still I guess in some way a little part of what we do… It’s much more difficult now than it was in the past and I have no examples on air now. I have a couple of examples in development, shall we say.

Cathy Edwards: There’s even a pretty specific part in there that says that once a year there’s supposed to be a billing insert that encourages the community to present program proposals—not just story ideas for you guys to cover—and also the availability of relevant training.

Allan Sayegh: Still says that, eh? I haven’t read 2002… That’s interesting, I had no idea.

As of last summer, the Program Manager at one of Shaw’s biggest systems was unaware of CRTC regulations governing the operation of his licensed channel.

21) Upon request, I can provide transcripts of video interviews with numerous members of the Calgary and Winnipeg communities who have asked for air time or access to production facilities since 1997 and whom have been refused. They are generally told, “That doesn’t fit our format anymore.” The message is always that the channel has become “Shaw TV”. It’s no longer the channel that the community can consider “its” channel.


22) 2002-61 states:

“The Commission considers that, in light of its final policy on access, it is appropriate that cable companies take specific and effective steps to inform and promote access to the community channel, and to provide and promote the availability of related training programs.”

23) In Shaw’s recent license renewal applications throughout Western Canada, the company claims that it offers training. For example, from the Calgary application:

“We promote Training through a variety of means including the opportunity to work on mobile coverage of local cultural and sporting events; 2 week to 2 month practicum placements from the local post-secondary schools with broadcast, journalism or communication programmes; work with these local programmes in developing television production skills by offering the full day access to our production studios and our television mobile. This access allows them real-life experiences working with modern technologies.”

24) This is the only example Shaw gives. I would ask what the other “variety of means” include.

25) All this says is that Shaw uses “volunteers” who already have training from other institutions. They are being exploited as unpaid labour while the general public, who are supposed to find access to television training and opportunities, are excluded.

26) When I asked Allan Sayegh, Program Manager of Shaw TV in Winnipeg, about training, he said:

Allan Sayegh: We don’t provide the form of access where we train anymore, that’s true. We do work very closely here in Winnipeg with Red River College and with Tech Voc. One is a high school and one is a community college… That’s where a lot of our freelancers come from. We’re actually providing up-and-coming producers, shooters, producer, editors and so on with an opportunity to hone their skills. So we still do that, but it’s not the same as it was.

27) When I was the Volunteer Co-ordinator and principal volunteer trainer at Shaw’s head office in Calgary from 1993-96, Shaw offered year-round training to ANYONE, from orientation, to courses in audio, camera, mobile, graphics, control room techniques, hosting, editing, producing and ENG shooting. These were formal courses with planned and printed course agendas and workbooks that general members of the public had access to at no charge, not ad hoc on-the-job “training” as described in Shaw’s license application. Shaw is allowing unpaid students to participate as crew on large productions that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to produce.

28) Shaw is hereby keeping television experience within the industry (students already engaged in a professional training process). No invitation is being extended to those outside to participate in the production process.


29) The claims in Shaw’s supporting documents about community TV from Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver about soliciting program proposals and advertising the availability of training are misleading. The Program Managers in both Winnipeg and Calgary told me that they solicit only ideas for short clips that staff then produce as part of the daily newswheel.

30) Shaw’s claims that they don’t get much response to their advertisements are also misleading. When opportunities genuinely exist and the community channel is receptive to programming ideas and to giving technical assistance and support, word travels fast. During the period that I worked at Shaw in Calgary, training courses were always full, with no outside explicit advertising of any kind. The programming schedule was always full with proposals from producers in the community. We had waiting lists. This is a universal experience for community TV in large Canadian centres, and continues to be the status quo in other Western countries where true community-access TV is practiced and offered.

31) The times have not “changed” in this sense as Shaw has claimed over the years. Interest in and dominance of TV of an art from has not waned. In fact, the popularity of Internet-based sites such as YouTube vouch for the continuing need for ordinary people to express themselves using video and to find an audience. The general public has been forced to find alternative venues as they have been increasingly edged off television. They persevere, despite the poorer technical quality, fractured and ad-hoc audiences, lack of production support and direction, and lack of a coherent community programming schedule and viewing public that community TV stations in Canada used to provide.

32) If Shaw claims it advertises and is getting no response, it’s not doing its job. Community facilitation has always been a part of the responsibility of the holder of the cable license, and this is no different thirty years further on, as stipulated in 2002-61. It’s a measure of the degree to which the access component has been eroded that CRTC policy writers felt they had to stipulate that a billing insert soliciting program proposals should be included at least once a year (as if that would be sufficient to rebuild a dynamic volunteer pool after years of neglect). Cable companies used to build up these relationships with the community naturally through their genuine outreach and community involvement year-round.


33) Not only is it now rare on Shaw systems for volunteers to produce programs or to exercise creative control, the number of volunteers (other than trained broadcast students) that participate in all technical roles of television production has dropped to a tiny percentage of what it once was. When I left Shaw in 1997, Shaw Calgary had an active roster of 400 volunteers. At its peak, the Shaw Vancouver-area offices welcomed in excess of 1200. That’s just two of the systems held by Shaw in Western Canada covered by the current license application. I asked Alex Park in our interview how many volunteers now access the system (in all roles):

Cathy Edwards: How many volunteers are active at the moment?

Alex Park: I would say, across all of Shaw, about 200.

Cathy Edwards: You mean in Calgary here?

Alex Park: No, I mean across all of Shaw… So we, have that component… but… you know, we don’t… If the Commission sort of says, “That’s OK” then we’re OK.

34) This is fewer than the number of Shaw community television employees.

35) When I asked Mr. Park how he could justify this, he claimed that the nature of the community and people’s willingness to volunteer has changed:

Alex Park: What we find is that it is actually much harder to get people to come and volunteer and make that commitment and the 3 or 4 people a year who might want to make their own show… Things have changed. People’s lives have changed. People are no longer willing… They no longer go to cocktail parties and say, “You know what, I’m a volunteer of the community channel.” Who cares, actually?

36) In fact, an Ipsos Reid survey done in 2005 for Calgary, Shaw’s headquarters, showed that 71% of Calgarians regularly volunteer an average of 14.6 hours per month, compared to a national average of only 27%. Of this 71%, 49% said they volunteered because of a skill that they wanted to learn. It would seem, therefore, that Shaw’s headquarters is located in a particularly fertile potential volunteer pool.4

37) Mr. Park concluded this section of our interview with the following:

Alex Park: I guess having been at this for about thirty years, having started out really in the very early days of what we would consider pure access, I’ve come to the conclusion that the community is better served by the model we currently have. And, I’ve been through all of the access issues, every kind of community group, I’ve seen them, I’ve worked with them, I’ve helped them put their programs together. My personal view is that the community is no better today as a result of that—none. I can’t see anything. So while there was all sorts of effort and angst and things that went into that process, I would challenge anyone to put their hand up and say “Here’s how the city of Calgary has been improved by the fact that we had a bunch of people in the studio making their shows.”

38) The VP of Programming for Shaw neither believes in nor makes any attempt to implement the access principle throughout Shaw’s cablesystems. The only example he could give of the access principle still being applied came from Vancouver, in which 2002-61’s four-hour per week allocation of air time to groups outside Shaw has been the subject of bitter battles for ten years, as the CRTC’s record of complaints shows.


39) I would like to make a final comment about the inappropriateness of Shaw being the custodian/administrator of the cable levy and of the community tier in the broadcasting system throughout Western Canada.

40) Since 1997, the entire pre-1997 programming archives at both Shaw TV in Calgary and in Winnipeg have been destroyed by Shaw staff. All true access programming in both cities--a vital and irreplaceable record of each city’s social, political, artistic, and community history over nearly a 30-year-period--is gone. All that remains are a few VHS copies scattered among the basements of ex-volunteers and community producers.

41) When I asked Allan Sayegh about the loss of the Winnipeg archive, he said:

Allan Sayegh: I have a whole room of tapes. I don’t go in there very often because I get a headache when I look at them all, but I think we have, I’m sure we have things that go back for years…”

Cathy Edwards: Prior to 1997, though? That was the year of the format change.

Allan Sayegh: I don’t think we’ve thrown them out. Every so often we get onto a jag about you know we got too much junk in this place, we have to throw it out, but tapes have never been a part of that. So, I believe we have things around… I don’t know.

42) I verified with Mr. Sayegh’s staff (and checked the archives myself) that nothing prior to 1997 is still held by Shaw in Winnipeg. To save a small part of this important history, Dorthi Dunsmore, Winnipeg’s first community programming manager (who has submitted an intervention to this process), deposited a few tapes with the Manitoba Archives.

43) I also checked with current Shaw TV Calgary staff about the survival of any pre-1997 tapes. Nadine Sampson, the traffic co-ordinator at the time (who has submitted an intervention to this process), confirmed that she was told to dispose of older tapes. She salvaged a few by offering them to their community producers.

44)We feel that this demonstrates perhaps more than any other single point that a private for-profit company is not the appropriate custodian of this history nor the appropriate administrator of the on-going operations of a community-access TV channel. Shaw as a company, has shown a particularly reckless disregard for genuine access production since 1997.

45) A DVD giving examples of both Shaw’s “community programming” in Vancouver prior to and post 1997 (the year in which the company first began to exclude the public from its community programming) has been filed in person at the CRTC’s Gatineau headquarters. The DVD also includes some of the clips from the interviews with Shaw staff whose transcripts have been quoted. The full interviews are available on request.


46) CRTV has been providing cable service to Campbell River for 50 years, and has the lowest cable rates in Canada. Even the most casual perusal of documents on CRTV’s web site5 shows a record of member/customer satisfaction and pride in a locally run service.

47) With respect to Shaw’s application to buy CRTV, there appear to be four serious irregularities:

At the CRTV’s most recent AGM on November 28, 2007, a record of 443 members were in attendance and overwhelmingly voted to turn down an offer by Shaw to sell. To quote the CRTV’s record of this meeting:

The open mike session began with a clear message in the form of a motion “that the offer from Shaw be received and filed with no further action taken”. This motion was immediately seconded and received a nearly unanimous vote. The following parade of speakers spoke strongly to the benefits of keeping CRTV local even if the price of basic cable had to increase. There was a very clear message from the floor… “We are not for sale!”6

At the election of board members which followed on December 3rd, 2007, the directors renewed their commitment to respect the mandate given them by their members to invest in new infrastructure, to remain competitive, and to keep the service local.

This strategy, to update the infrastructure through a cable fee increase (which still resulted in fees lower than those in most parts of Canada) appears to have been pursued by the CRTV board until April 30th, 2008, when Shaw obtained administrative approval from the CRTC to extend its existing service area into the service area of Campbell River.

When both CACTUS and concerned CRTV members made inquiries with the CRTC earlier in the year, we were told that an “administrative approval” (without a public hearing) can be granted in cases in which there is precedent and “no policy issues” are raised:

“With respect to the procedure followed to process Shaw’s proposed extension of service area, the Commission determined, in the interest of a more timely disposition of applications, that extensions to existing service territories would be handled on an administrative basis (i.e., without public comment process) in Broadcasting Circular 2006-1, Streamlined processes for certain broadcasting applications, 27 March 2006. In so doing, the Commission stated that it would issue letters of approval for such applications, provided they do not raise any policy concerns and are consistent with previous decisions. The application by Shaw to extend its service area to include Campbell River, as detailed above, fulfils these requirements and was therefore approved on an administrative basis.7”

When I spoke with members of the Distribution Group at the CRTC, I was told that such “administrative approvals” are more typically granted in cases in which a new housing development appears on the borders of an existing BDU service area, not a case such as in Campbell River, in which the area in question is already served by another organization. I also made the point at that time that in fact there WAS a policy issue at stake with Shaw’s request, which is Shaw’s poor record with respect to community-access television and the potential of its competition in the area to damage a thriving and locally controlled operation. (This record of Shaw’s was a contributing factor to Shaw’s failure to obtain a full-length license renewal for its Western systems earlier this year.) However, at the time, I was told that there is no appeal process to a CRTC “administrative approval” other than to obtain an Order in Council stopping the service area extension.

Despite the spectre of competition with a cable giant, the CRTV board nonetheless held to its mandate, as shown by this extract from a CRTV April 30th, 2008 press release:

What better way to show off the value of CRTV than by a little healthy competition! Facing recent news that Shaw will be attempting to enter the Campbell River market, CEO Jim Forsyth is confident in the 50-plus year track record of CRTV. CRTV is well-positioned on product, price, quality of service and unique local programming. It is a gem in the world of media and a company that members can be proud of.8

The release goes on to compare CRTV’s Cambpell River service to the service provided by Shaw in neighbouring Comox Valley. On every point, CRTV’s current service is cheaper and offers more choice.

Furthermore, conversations with members and technicians of CRTV indicate that that $10 per month rate increase that was implemented by the board (from $16 to $26 per month) was based on a comprehensive plan to extend the co-operative’s offerings to include Internet, cell phone service, and video-on-demand. These individuals claim that the plans were realistic and achievable, that new equipment was ordered, and the negotiations had been begun with Bell regarding cell phone service.

With respect to claims by some interveners to this process that CRTV cannot hope to compete with Shaw going forward, I have seen no evidence that this is the case, and they offer none. On the contrary, CRTV has competed successfully in the past, currently offers a superior and cheaper service (no doubt one reason why Shaw would like to remove them as competiton), and had made a coherent plan moving forward. While CACTUS attempted to obtain a copy of the technical plan that must surely have been drafted at the time of the rate increase last year, CRTV members opposed to the sale say they were denied access to documents by the CRTV board. I would recommend that if the CRTC has any doubts about the ability of the CRTV to compete with Shaw in the future, that you ask for access to this plan.

Meanwhile, on October 1st, 2007, Shaw had sent a document entitled Roadmap to Acquisition to the CRTV board, enumerating how a sale would proceed, culminating in a cash payment to each member:

“Step 10: Approximately 30 days after receipt of the last of the necessary approvals, we would close the deal. At this time, the distribution of cash to your members would take place.”9

On October 29, 2007, Shaw sent a household-to-household letter to CRTV members directly offering them each $3,000 for the value of their stake in CRTV:

“Members of the Cambpell River Television Association would financially benefit from our merger with each member’s share valued at $3000 a piece.”10

This is the first significant irregularity in the process, since this offer violates the BC Societies Act, as confirmed in the following extract from a September 22, 2008 letter from Jim Hopkins, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Provincial Treasury and Registries, to Larry Widen of the “Save CRTV” committee:

“Section 73(1) of the Societies Act clearly prohibits a charitable society from distributing assets among its members. This provision is also consistent with section 2(2) of the Act”, which allows a society to carry on a business, trade, industry or profession as an incident to the purposes of the society, provided the society does not distribute any gain, profit or divident or otherwise dispose of its assets to a member of the society.”11

Between April 30 and June 23rd 2008, the CRTV’s board began conducting meetings with Shaw considering a potential sale, overturning its mandate. Its change in attitude appears to be a result both of the monetary offer made to CRTV’s 13,000+ members, as well as to the circulation of misinformation that if Shaw were to compete with CRTV and build its own infrastructure in Campbell River, that it would have the power to deny CRTV access to cable television signals and bandwidth.

In a May 7th 2008 release assessing Shaw’s offer, the Board wrote:

“In light of the fact of increased competition in Campbell River plus the reality that small "Class 1" Cable TV systems have all but disappeared across Canada it is prudent for the Board to consider all options available to CRTV. Factors that the Board are taking into consideration include:
1.Shaw Cable has been given permission to move into Campbell River by installing their own cable system to compete with CRTV….
2.That small independent Cable TV systems in Canada now represent less than 3.5% of the total Cable and Satellite customers in Canada. The cost of sale for programming, materials and labor are considerably higher than the competition.
3.That CRTV purchases all of it's television programming and internet backbone services from its competitors.”

While #2 appears not to have been true, given the comparison of CRTV’s to Shaw’s rates and services, #3 implies that Shaw might have the power to deny CRTV access to services, which contravenes CRTC policy. The “Save CRTV” committee says that this misperception was and is still being widely circulated in Campbell River to scare members into selling.

This decision by board members to ignore the mandate given them at the preceding AGM and to promote an environment of misinformation is the second irregularity.

The third irregularity, is that according to the CRTV’s original constitution, 75% of its total membership of 13,000+ must endorse any decision to sell in writing. This was confirmed publicly in a CRTV October 31, 2007 press release:

Bylaw 106 makes it very clear that a decision to sell CRTV must be supported by a clear process. That process is written authorization by 75% of the members of the society.”12

In making its purchase offer, Shaw was aware that this clause in the CRTV constitution constituted a poison pill to ensure that ownership of the co-operative remained within the community, and that the constitution would have to be changed. Step 8 in Shaw’s Roadmap to Acquisition states:

“The CRTV members would hold a meeting to amend their By-laws and vote on Shaw’s offer.”

At the August 23rd, 2008 meeting of the CRTV membership, two motions were carried, one to change the CRTV’s bylaws such that only 75% of members present at the meeting were sufficient to carry a motion to sell. In the second motion, 93% of members present (fewer than 300 of the total membership of 13,780 members, or less than 1%!!) voted to sell. According to the BC Societies Act, an amendment to a bylaw must be registered with the Societies Registrar before it can be used.

The Registrar has confirmed that it rejected the resolution to amend CRTV’s bylaws as submitted by the Board on August 28th:

“On August 28, the registry rejected an initial request by Campbell River T.V. Association to file a resolution amending the society’s bylaws… The amended working purported to apply retroactively to special resolutions, despite section 23(1)(a) of the Act, which provides that a resolution to change a society’s bylaws is not effective until filed with the registrar.”13

No subsequent vote has been taken by the CRTV membership that would give the Board permission to sell.

48) In light of these irregularities, it would appear that Shaw’s attempt to buy CRTV is invalid. 75% of the CRTV’s total membership did not approve the sale in writing.

49) As a third party concerned about the ability of communities to have access to their own communication systems, CACTUS feels that undue haste and misinformation has informed this process. If more than 75% of the total membership of this community-run cable co-operative really wants to sell its cable infrastructure and management of its community channel along with it, CACTUS, of course, could not oppose it. However, in light of:

the fact that the last AGM of this Society indicated an overwhelming desire on the part of the community to keep its cable service local, and

that the mood and behaviour of the CRTV Board of Directors and of the 1% of the total membership who attended and voted to sell at the August 23rd meeting only changed subsequent to the distribution within the community of misinformation concerning the possibility of a $3,000 cash payout and the potential for Shaw to cut off signals from CRTC,

that there are significant legal irregularities that have not yet been fully investigated by the BC Registrar of Societies.

that the sale of CRTV would result in less competition in service in both Campbell River and the surrounding areas, contrary to the intent of the CRTC’s April 30, 2008 administrative approval to Shaw that it be allowed to extend its service area. (As noted on the CRTV web site, Shaw’s Star Choice rival offering had been performing poorly compared to the CRTV’s home-grown service.) In addition, as already stated (details available in the footnoted documents), Shaw’s cable service offerings in other parts of Vancouver Island are inferior to those offered by CRTV. So, not only would there be less competition, but inferior service, and without competition, no motivation on the part of Shaw to improve service.

and that the future of one of English Canada’s few surviving true community access channels is at stake

CACTUS feels the matter merits a full hearing, with the possibility that members of the community in question could participate fully (i.e. a hearing held in Campbell River). We also feel that the current hearing dates (Nov. 13 for the submission of written comments, and Dec. 8th for the closed hearing in Gatineau) are premature, as the BC Societies Act has not yet rendered a final decision concerning the legality of the sale. Once their ruling is public, if it becomes clear that a $3,000 payout to members is not possible, there’s every reason to think that a second (this time legitimate) vote on a sale by the full membership would not pass.

50) CACTUS would also like to make the following suggestions as possible compromises:

If it is determined (CACTUS has no evidence that it is so, but should it turn it turn out to be so) that CRTV as an organization lacks the access to capital necessary to compete going forward, The CRTV board and/or Shaw might like to consider the precedent set by cable co-operatives in Quebec such as the Cooperative de Cablodistribution de Les Eboulements in Quebec city, in which Dery Telecom leases the cable infrastructure from the co-operative. A similar arrangement in Campbell River would give the Campbell River community control of its communication system and community channel over the long term, continuing its 50-year tradition, as well as on-going revenue. This would in the long term be better financially for the community, than a one-time questionably legal sale. A part of the on-going profits from cable service would stay in the community, the community could continue to operate its own community channel, and Shaw would have an opportunity to offer services.

Given Shaw’s poor history of respecting community access to the community channels within its license areas, if the sale of the cable infrastructure proceeds for whatever reason, 2002-61 provides for the possibility that CRTV could retain ownership of the community channel equipment, facilities, and archives, and continue to operate the community television service using the 5% cable levy from Shaw. With Shaw’s record, CACTUS does not believe it should be allowed to buy and operate Campbell River’s community channel under any circumstances.

These suggestions may or may not fulfill the aspirations of the members of CRTV, who, upon full disclosure of all information, may wish to retain full control and delivery of the cable service in their community as voted at their November 2007 AGM. But either option would at least guarantee autonomy in the running of the Campbell River community TV channel and a continued voice for Campbell River residents.

51) Finally, CACTUS feels that no sales should be approved that might weaken the already beleaguered community-access TV sector, particularly in English Canada, prior to the full sector review that is planned for 2009. We feel that nothing can be gained through a hasty process.

For Shaw, Campbell River is small potatoes and in no way hampers its ability to expand its business in other parts of the country or into other industries. On the contrary, the continued existence of CRTV represents healthy competition for Shaw, and an example of how to run a cheaper and more community-friendly cable service.

For Campbell River, a 50-year cable operation and local access channel is at stake, as well as the potential that revenue from this operation should be lost to the community forever. (We note that several intervening members of CRTV who support the sale, argue for the short-term benefits of the as-yet unapproved distribution of $3,000 per member, which will soon be spent.) The appendices to Geoff Goodship’s intervention provides a detailed breakdown of this long-term loss.

For Canada, one of the few remaining viable models of community-controlled communication will be lost, just at that moment when we have realized what a proud community-access history we have, and that its infrastructure needs to be strengthened. We are pioneers who have been copied world-wide, thanks to CRTC visionaries of the past. Just last week, MJ Kim, a prominent media activist from South Korea told me that the NFB “Challenge for Change” newsletters that outlined the principles of community access in this country continue to inspire those who push for a more democratic, participative media in South Korea.

Catherine Edwards
(The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations)


CACTUS asks CRTC to keep community channel in basic cable package

CACTUS member Cathy Edwards is presenting today at the CRTC hearings on cable company regulations. One of the questions put on the table by the Commission is the removal of the community channel from the basic cable package. This would cripple community television as an effective medium for community participation and local reflection.

Watch the hearings live by clicking here.


Is community TV facing its Waterloo? A response

The following is a letter written by Sid Tan to the Globe & Mail in response to Marsha Lederman's article: Is community TV facing its Waterloo? published on April 10, 2008

Sid Tan is a community television producer and activist with ACCESS TV (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society) and the Slim Evans Society (producer of Working TV). His current projects include Fearless TV and Salt Water City Television in Vancouver.

Dear Editors.

Just over ten years ago, government regulators and cable companies delivered a near lethal blow to community television. The government ruling and self-serving interpretation by dominant cable operators Rogers and Shaw led to the dismantling of community television volunteer networks and local office infrastructure and resources in Metro Vancouver. This near death scenario continues, seemingly with government and corporate collusion, and begs for a judicial review. As
well, the Auditor General should review the $800-million in public money handed to cable companies across Canada on behalf of community television the past ten years. That's $60-million to Rogers and Shaw in Metro Vancouver the last ten years.

In 2003, a Senate (the Lincoln) report stated its "frustration" and "dismay" that no information exists on what happens to cable company expenditures on behalf of community television. There's no way to find out if citizens got their money's worth!

In Public Broadcasting Notice 1997-25:131, the government regulator responsible to the Minister of Canadian Heritage - the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) - handed community television to cable companies. It boldly and trustingly states: "This policy reflects the Commission's belief that opportunities for local expression would continue to be provided in the absence of a regulatory requirement. In the Commission's view,
after more than twenty-five years of operation, the community channel has achieved a level of maturity and success such that it no longer needs to be mandated. Apart from its benefits to the public through local reflection, the community channel provides cable operators with a highly effective medium to establish a local presence and to promote a positive corporate image for themselves."

The Commission's boldness was mistaken and its trust misplaced. On November 19, 1996, more than three months before the new policy announcement, Rogers began shutting down its neighbourhood television offices, beginning with 1010 Commercial Drive. Thousands of volunteers and dozens of staff worked in this and another sixteen or so community
television studios and offices throughout Metro Vancouver. In Vancouver alone, there was a full studio along with four neighbourhood community television offices ñ two in Kitsilano, one in the West End and the Commercial Drive location. Volunteer community-based productions such as Complaint Department, Production Parade, Metro Magazine, Chinatown Today, Global Justice, Pressure Point and East Side Story dominated the then Rogers cable community channel. The
programming opportunities, production training in local offices, mentorship and extensive volunteer networks are all but gone from Shaw, now the dominant cable operator in the region through a swap of assets with Rogers in 2001.

Shortly after Rogers announced the closure of the Commercial Drive office, the volunteers there hastily constituted a not-for-profit society to weather the anticipated corporate assault on community television. Rogers, taking flak for the closures, agreed to support the volunteers for two years while Community Media Education Society was organised to safeguard the spirit and legacy of community television. Two workgroups developed. One to work on regulatory and
public education efforts and the other to continued the production of community television programs. The production workgroup begat three not-for-profit community television corporations. First came Independent Community Television Co-operative, then Vancouver Community Television Association and ACCESS TV (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society), which initiated and helps produce FearlessTV and Saltwater City Television. Along with the Slim Evans Society, best known for its Working TV, all now have regular timeslots on Shaw's local cable community channel. None receives any of the public funds collected by Shaw - an estimate $6-million annually in Metro Vancouver.

Now the Shaw's cable community channel is called Shaw TV and its community television in Metro Vancouver is directed from the Shaw tower at Coal Harbour. Ironically, with a studio there, volunteers from Vancouver need to go to Surrey for studio production in a building which also serves as a Shaw retail office and storage. Volunteers from Port Moody need to come to downtown Vancouver to pick up a camera to do a shoot in Port Moody and return the gear. Shaw's appreciation of community-based volunteers is underscored by their miserly ways towards them. Volunteers and non-profit groups pay for
all transportation, parking, refreshment and majority of tape expenses for their productions. Yet Shaw has the public money to provide the same to its production personnel, including company vehicles. More miserly and destructive was the shutdown of local offices and studios and laying off production staff over the past ten years. Shaw continues to believe and explain community television is better after cuts to local offices and staff and loss of the volunteer network. These are dastardly deeds and show Shaw's corporate greed trumping community need.

A judicial review is in order. The Broadcasting Act clearly states the Canadian broadcast system is comprised of public, private and community elements providing a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty. Yet the CRTC, our broadcast regulator mandated to uphold the Broadcasting Act, believes the community element no longer needs to be a regulatory requirement for cable operators. The resultant
confusion allowed cable companies such as Shaw to refuse broadcast of programs produced by not-for-profits. This was a clear violation of CRTC rules and the spirit of community television.

A judicial review may explain why cable companies receive and control the entire cable community channel levy, leaving not-for-profit groups to fundraise for their community television needs. There is no logic when community programming produced by volunteers is only available by subscribing to a corporate service. Unbelievably, the CRTC says Vancouver cannot have a low power community television is because there is no room on the broadcast spectrum. There's room for public and private broadcasters but none for the community. How is that fair?

Canada has played a central role in the development of community television and is considered by many to be the birthplace of community broadcasting. The community element was developed to provide local groups with training to access to the broadcasting system. Community broadcasting, which is local, volunteer-based and largely not-for-profit, is often able to broadcast a diverse range of voices, alternative points of view, and innovative programming ideas. In January 2008, CRTC Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-4 announced a comprehensive review of its policies with respect to community-based radio and television. The objective of this review will be to ensure that the Commission's regulatory policy supports the development of a healthy community broadcasting sector. Over two months have passed and
there is still no information available on when the review will begin.

Given the community television carnage wrought by Shaw and Rogers in Metro Vancouver, one could say the CRTC's review is too little to late. At the least, the Auditor General should let citizens know what happened to the $800-million in public money given to cable companies. The worrisome lesson here is that the federal government can hand the
public trust of community television to cable companies, who want citizens to be passive consumers and not active makers of media.

For more on community television, go to www.crtc.gc.ca and see CRTC Broadcasting Public Notices 1991-59, 1997-25 and 2002-61. You can email cmes@vcn.bc.ca if you want to get involved in community television.


C.M.E.S. Responds to CRTC Rejection of Innovative Community TV Licence Application (Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2008-19)

Ultimately it's about the money. Canada's $80 million annual broadcast distribution levy has created the modern hybrid community channel, a community-corporate partnership where the entire tax is returned to the company to be used for business promotion.

When CRTC commissioners rejected the C.M.E.S. application to provide the community channel for the Telus TV distribution network, they considered three issues. The middle issue is that C.M.E.S. might not be able to provide a community channel without revenue from Telus. From its own resources C.M.E.S. is being asked to fund this channel. The CRTC suggests advertising, going into not-for-profit competition with commercial TV.

In fact cable companies are seeing dramatic advertising revenue growth on community TV ─ $5 million in 2005, money that once would have been available to broadcasters to help fund Canada's entertainment industry. Now some cable companies have become so financially dominant they can refuse to pay the tax that helps finance the Canadian Television Fund.

The third reason given by the CRTC for rejecting the C.M.E.S. application is that distribution of shows for Alberta and BC would come from Calgary and Vancouver. Production would take place in all fourteen communities covered under the Telus licence, independent shows controlled by residents in those communities, but the CRTC did not consider that to be sufficiently local. Until Terrace and Lethbridge can have a full local schedule financed by local subscribers they can't have anything.

The mayor of Medicine Hat disagreed, the mayor of Prince George disagreed, and twenty-five other people representing municipalities, universities or themselves disagreed; but that was not enough to convince the CRTC. Once Vancouver's community channel had eleven neighbourhood offices. Now we see centralized programming throughout the Lower Mainland and beyond. Thousands of volunteers have been replaced by a few paid professionals. Is it finally time for municipalities to manage the system, guaranteeing channel access in the same way that public libraries are open to everyone, especially since for community TV a funding structure is already in place?

The first reason the CRTC uses to reject participatory public access TV in BC and Alberta begins by acknowledging C.M.E.S. strengths. C.M.E.S. is genuinely structured for community control of its management, operations and programs. C.M.E.S. has operated on a volunteer basis for more than a decade, along with other community TV groups in Canada who constantly have to turn away volunteers. In spite of that, the CRTC doubts that starting out with part-time workers and volunteers is practical. Until everyone can be paid no one can be paid.

Canada's $80 million community channel tax on imported US TV signals is paid annually by all Broadcast Distribution Undertakings (an exceptionally clumsy phrase, usually shortened to BDUs.) In English-speaking Canada cable companies administer the tax they pay, much as if you managed the details of how your income tax is spent. Not-for-profit societies may receive the channel funding if community programming otherwise would not be available. This is the clause that C.M.E.S. has just tested unsuccessfully. If BDUs breach the Key Elements of the CRTC 2002-61 Community Channel Policy they also forfeit the levy money but the CRTC monitors compliance only when there's a public complaint. Parliament has been told that "virtually no information exists on what happens as a result of cable company expenditures" (Our Cultural Sovereignty, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, June 2003, page 368).

Judging by their decisions, CRTC commissioners believe in strong businesses. Once Canada spent money to encourage political participation, recognizing the importance of public discussion to a nation. At the moment an almost religious faith in rugged individual anti-social economics blinds too many policy makers. The vogue for small government was not supposed to entrench big business but that's where the power has gone.

This decision against C.M.E.S. is equally problematic for Telus who will find it even harder to meet the local standard laid down here. When the Broadcasting Act included community television as one of the three pillars of Canada's broadcasting identity, when Pierre Juneau and Frank Spiller set out to involve us all as television producers, not just as consumers of American shows, they knew that the community channel would need secure funding. Like health care and education and its own armed forces, Canada needed to support community TV financially. Later when the argument came into fashion that all government services could be provided more efficiently by private businesses, the $80 million annually for community TV was irresistible to the private sector. The result was that all other social services began to suffer from the lack of discussion and promotion that had been provided by community television.

If the CRTC is true to its public trust, the only possible reason it might have had to reject the C.M.E.S. application is that C.M.E.S. did not set its sights high enough. Throughout the hearing process no one ever expressed any doubt that C.M.E.S. could operate a community channel. At the Kelowna public hearing C.M.E.S. director Brock MacLachlan pointed out the financial Catch 22 where credit unions and foundations require core funding before grants and loans will be given. C.M.E.S. made it very clear in Kelowna that its application was all about the money.

BDUs talk about competition but in fact a few cable companies retain the lions' share of subscribers, whether the competition is from little multipoint businesses or big telephone companies. Now in the Canadian Television Fund hearings a couple of cable companies like surly teenagers have become big enough to take a swing at their parent. If our government can be bullied then we have no government at all; or, even worse, we have government by large corporations. Without effective and sufficient taxation we always will have weak government. It has to be about the money.

Law courts and concentrated capital are powerful but nothing is as powerful as an idea that is right for its time. Community TV was founded on eight Key Elements, listed on page 333 of Our Cultural Sovereignty. These Key Elements are conspicuous by their absence on corporate community channels.

The best explanation for the CRTC decision against C.M.E.S. would be CRTC fears that the Telus web-based system won't succeed against its cable competitors. C.M.E.S. energy and, worse still, the enthusiasm of volunteer producers would be depleted to no purpose. That would explain why Telus got the licence in 2003 but the C.M.E.S. application was delayed til late 2007. The CRTC most likely recognizes that a favourable decision for the Telus system may not be enough to reinvigorate community TV. Nonetheless the C.M.E.S. application was necessary to see whether volunteers had the determination to carry the process through to a decision.

The real challenge is in Canada's major cities: creating a participatory public access community channel under independent control with full BDU funding. Whether this is done by municipalities or not-for-profit community groups, it must be done. The Community programming undertaking provision in CRTC 2002-61 states that the community channel must be operated according to CRTC 2002-61 Key Elements. If it can be proven in Vancouver that this is not being done, then $5 million is available there annually to support civic issues, public discussion and all-around fun. The same opportunity exists in Calgary and all of Canada's communities, large and small. This is the only tax most BDUs ever pay. It's all about the money.

Richard Ward
Director, C.M.E.S.

Link to Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2008-19

*** End of document ***


Venezuela government supports community television in response to “savage” opposition media campaign

In a surprise move, the Venezuela government has donated audio-visual production equipment to 69 community television facilities across the country. The Communication and Information Minister Andres Izarra, speaking to over 400 community television representatives in Caracas, said that community television has a crucial role to play in the struggle for truth. The donation comes in response to what has been described as a “savage” opposition media campaign currently underway by Globovision.

The donation has been well received by community television producers, according to Jhonny Pancho, representative of Catia TV, one of Venezuela's oldest community television stations. As for any perceived influence peddling by the government, Pancho and Caita TV president Gabriel Gil were adamant that community television remains independent of government.

Community television responds to people's needs rather than government needs, said Gil. More than 70 per cent of the programming is produced by community collectives.

Go to venezuelanalysis.com for the more story.

Also, for some background check out Justin Podur's piece on Znet.


CRTC Awards Compensation to Citizen's Advocacy Group for Cost of Preparing Submission

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has won a major victory for Canadians who want a say in telecommunications policy in Canada. In Telecom Costs Order CRTC 2007-14 issued today, the CRTC upheld PIAC's request for compensation for the preparation of a submission to a public hearing on whether or not to eliminate regulatory constraints on telephone companies' basic rates.

The public hearing (Telecom Public Notice CRTC 2006-10) was instigated in response to a letter from Bell Canada requesting deregulation of basic phone service fees. PIAC was strongly opposed to such a move, and included with its submission a request under s.44 of the CRTC Telecommunications Rules of Procedure for compensation for the costs of preparing its submission. Under s.44, the CRTC can award costs against a regulated company to an intervener who represents a class of subscribers with an interest in the outcome, who has participated in a responsible way, and who has contributed to a better understanding of the issues. The CRTC ordered that PIAC be compensated in the amount of $20,182.74.

Bell Canada (on behalf of itself, Bell Aliant Regional Communications, and Saskatchewan Telecommunications) had argued against the application, suggesting that PIAC had not been responsible, that they had unnecessarily delayed the proceedings and had made unsubstantiated allegations during the hearing. The CRTC found unequivocally that PIAC had participated in a responsible way and had contributed to a better understanding of the issues.