What Will Happen to Former Cable-Operated "Community Channels"

CACTUS does not oppose cable companies continuing to operate the channels that used to be community channels, and which in recent years have come to look more and more like a local private broadcaster.

We do not, however, feel that the 2% of gross revenues that cable companies charge subscribers for community access to the broadcasting system, should be used to support these channels, however, since they no longer provide such access, except sporadically.

We think that 2% should be redirected to a new Community-Access Media Fund to which communities themselves could apply to run much more modern and technologically advanced multiplatform access production centres.

In the interests of fairness to other industry players, we believe cable companies should apply for private commercial specialty channel licenses to run the erstwhile "community channels". That would give other local broadcasters in the private and public sectors the opportunity to assess the services offered and have input to the licensing process.

What Would Be the Transition Model?

Under the CACTUS plan, it would take 3-5 years to bring multiplatform access production centres within reach of 90% of Canadians. To ensure that Canadians have uninterrupted service from some form of local channel, we are open to a phased-in approach. For example, the 2% collected by BDUs might be redirected to CAMF in a staged process:

Year 1: 0.5%
Year 2: 1%
Year 3: 1.5%
Year 4: 2.0%
Year 5 and onwards: 2.0%

This would provide time for education and publicity about the availability of community licenses and funding to be disseminated country-wide, and for support structures for the new channels to be put in place.

To ensure uninterrupted service, perhaps BDU erstwhile community channels could be issued temporary private local specialty channel licenses, for between 1 and 3 years.