CACTUS: “Community Element” All But Invisible in “Canada's communications future: Time to act”

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Ottawa (February 20, 2020)—The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) was disappointed to find almost no mention of the community element in the Canadian broadcasting system in the recently released report “Canada's communications future: Time to act” (aka the Yale Report). While Recommendation 52 maintains the existing definition of the Canadian broadcasting system as consisting of “public, private, and community elements”, there is no mention of the sector throughout the remaining 235 pages of the report, despite a full section devoted to the role and funding of public-sector media (the CBC), and considerable granularity regarding new funding and regulatory models to facilitate production for private media.

CACTUS' Executive Director, Cathy Edwards, said, “The community element consists of over CRTC-200 CRTC-licensed not-for-profit and community-owned radio, TV and multimedia production facilities. These organizations play a vital role serving smaller communities and minority groups in urban areas that are impossible for the public and private sectors to reflect. Everyone acknowledges the crisis in local news and information, yet the huge potential of the community sector to fill this gap—due to its lower cost structure and involvement by local stakeholders—is neither understood nor acknowledged.”

This oversight is part of a long-standing trend. Neither the 2017 Creative Canada Policy Framework and Shattered Mirror reports made more than passing mentions of the community element.

Anne-Marie Sandford, a CACTUS board member and Manager of the Firsttel community TV 5 station in Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory First Nation on Manitoulin Island, described the implications for indigenous communities: “Aside from the issue of local news and information, the report highlights the need to better serve indigenous Canadians. Our community TV station trains community members in media production and gives them a voice and a platform, in the Anishnaabemowin language. Community media is the only form of media that is cost-effective enough to be deployed by the majority of First Nations. Our members can access the infrastructure and skills to participate in the digital economy.” Ms. Sandford's comments underscore an additional role of the community sector, which is to provide the life-long access to digital skills training to Canadians in the communities where they live.

Edwards elaborated on the challenges facing community TV: “Community TV has been in decline for two decades. At the height of the cable community channel system in the mid-1990s, there were over 300 stations, many serving communities with only a few 100 or 1000 people. Today, there are fewer than 60. Just like the public sector, community media needs full funding to enable it to fulfill its potential as the other public-service sector. The CRTC has left its management and funding in the hands of Canada's cable giants, and they've shut the majority of community stations. The 1986 Report on the Task Force on Broadcasting which informed the 1991 Broadcasting Act recommended that community TV be separately licensed, to fulfill its potential as a platform for voices outside the mainstream. That need is even stronger 34 years further on, in an environment of intense media-ownership concentration. Canada is the ONLY nation in the world that has put stewardship of the so-called “community element” in private hands.”

The only reference in the Yale Report to the stranglehold that the CRTC allows cable companies to maintain on community TV is that half of the money (about $70 million) that was supposed to support communities to make their own audio-visual productions has already been siphoned off to support the Independent Local News Fund (the ILNF). Far from flagging this problem and the need for full funding for community media, the Yale report recommends at Recommendation 71 that more of this “levy” should be diverted to support local private news. The report doesn't acknowledge where the “levy” is coming from. The community element is just a black hole to be raided to support failing legacy news infrastructure. There is no vision to build more cost-effective, accountable and dynamic local institutions.

For more information: or (819) 456-2237 or (705) 279-5729

To read CACTUS' submission to the review process that preceded the Yale report, see

CACTUS Submission to the Broadcasting Review 2019

To hear an interview with Catherine Edwards, CACTUS' Executive Director, about the Yale report, as well as with Barry Rooke, the Executive Director of the National Community Radio Association, see:

Rabble Podcast with CACTUS and NCRA Executive Directors