Citizen Group Challenges Videotron for Community TV Licence in Montreal

Ottawa (October 8, 2013) A group is proposing to the CRTC that a not-for-profit organization manage community TV in Montreal instead of Videotron. The Steering Committee for an Independent Community TV Channel (ICTV) for Montreal says that Videotron’s existing MAtv channel fails to meet the conditions of its CRTC licence to "reflect the official languages, ethnic and Aboriginal composition of the community."

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) has raised its own questions about whether the company meets the other basic requirements of its MAtv Montreal licence. The company is expected to devote at least 50% of its air time and its programming budget toward "access" programming, which the CRTC defines as programming made by citizens, community members, and "volunteers". CACTUS has recommended that the CRTC audit MAtv after regulatory and programming staff at Videotron told CACTUS on October 1st that they commission programming—that is pay producers—to produce their ‘access’ content.

At issue is Videotron’s recent application to the CRTC to spend an additional $6-10 million for an exclusively Anglophone "community channel" to be called MYtv, a clone of the existing exclusively French MAtv. Videotron wants approval to take this money out of the Canada Media Fund, which independent producers across Canada can tap into to produce programs like Murdoch Mysteries, Rookie Blue, and the Listener.

"It’s like rewarding Videotron for failing to serve Montreal’s minorities over the last decade, says Gretchen King, Chair of the Board of CKUT, the community radio station at McGill University, as well as a member of the Steering Committee for ICTV Montreal. "The $6-10 million that Videotron is already spending on MAtv is more than enough to fund a dynamic multicultural community channel that would reflect all the energy and creativity of this fantastic city. That’s what community TV is supposed to do."

ACTRA, the Directors Guild of Canada, the Canadian Media Production Association, and several Quebec industry associations have all raised questions about the necessity for a second community channel in their comments to the CRTC on Videotron’s application. They are concerned the second community channel would drain scarce resources available to fund high-quality drama and documentary programs.

"The $6-10 million that Videotron is already spending is an enormous budget for community TV. If Videotron is not willing to represent minority groups and to accurately reflect our city, then another group should administer this licence," argues Laith Marouf, former Executive Director of Concordia University TV and Equity Commissioner for the National Community Radio Association. "CRTC policy allows for this. This is why we have set up a Steering Committee to look into alternatives. We have asked the CRTC for 60 days to enable a not-for-profit corporation to propose a better model for community TV in Montreal."

Contact: Catherine Edwards (819) 772-2862