CACTUS Requests Basic Information to Be Made Available to Public about Community TV

Since the notice of the CRTC policy review of the community TV sector was posted on October 22nd, CACTUS has been trying to stimulate genuine debate about the future of the sector that would include input from a broad cross-section of Canadians.

The two major stumbling block have been:

1) The lack of information in the public notice itself. All it says about the current community TV channels on cable is that there are 139 in the country: nothing about where they are, who runs them, nor how much access programming they do.

CACTUS has now submitted six different Access to Information request trying to find out whether the sector is living up to its current policy mandate. The CRTC required cable operators to keep logs of the number of hours of access programming that they do, the titles of the programs, and the names of parties provided access, to enable the Commission to monitor performance. We were therefore surprised that none of this information had been offered in the public notice, but even more surprised when the CRTC informed us that since 1990, it has never once asked cable operators to see this information. We were puzzled, as we had heard anecdotally that various cable companies had been audited over the years for compliance.

Since cable companies are required to keep these logs for 12 months, our latest request to the CRTC is that they ask for these most recent logs to be made available before the hearings, to enabel Canadians to objectively assess whether the goals of the community TV policy as stated in public notice 2009-661 are being met. We are still waiting to hear.

2) The failure of publicity for the hearings themselves. We wrote and requested the CRTC four times to ask that community channels themselves be required to run neutral notices to inform the public that the review is going on. We finally found out that the CRTC had passed on our request to cable companies, but only Rogers replied. Unfortunately, Rogers' proposed wording for this notice is highly prejudicial. It does not refer to the channel's access mandate, and repeatedly refers to the channel as "Rogers TV", as if it is part of Rogers' business brand, rather than a public service.

As neither of these issues has been addressed, we remain deeply concerned that most Canadians will not have the information they need to participate meaningfully in hearings that will decide the future of the one part of broadcasting system over which they are meant to have direct input and control.