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Television Providers Petition CRTC to Offer Community Channels Divided by Language

Prior to 2006, there was only ever one 'community channel' in a given neighbourhood. In 2006, Rogers petitioned the CRTC to divide its Ottawa community channels along linguistic lines. Other cable and satellite TV providers have been following Rogers' lead lately, a worry trend that takes Canadian 'community TV' ever further from its roots and more and more a copy of what's already available on commercial local TV.

But why?

The CRTC expects cable and satellite television service providers to spend 5% of their revenues on Canadian production. If they elect to offer a 'community channel' in a given licence area, they are allowed to retain between 1.5 and 2% of the 5% for the operation of the channel. The remainder flows to the Canada Media and other production funds that support professional production nationally.

Almost all cable and satellite companies have elected to operate a community channel given this choice, because it gives them some control over how a portion of their contribution to Canadian production is spent, and enables them to leverage local branding and advertising.

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US Ruling Threatens Community Media

A US appeals court has thrown out the concept of net neutrality, which had heretofore ensured that different kinds of Internet traffic are given equal access to bandwidth, and had prevented Internet providers from charging different rates to different kinds of traffic.

The US ruling sets a dangerous precedent that could threaten the long-term health of community media, as more and more people acquire information and entertainment on-line.

Click here for the full Wall Street Journal article.

People often ask, "Why do you need community TV channels anymore with the Interent? You've got YouTube."

There are lots of answers to this question:

  • You have to give up your copyright on many services such as YouTube, and they are being more and more commercialized. The community doesn't own or control them.
  • YouTube doesn't aggregate local audiences, and isn't live.
  • YouTube doesn't provide training and media literacy skills and equipment access for people who are not already media-savvy.

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    Participate in CRTC's "Let's Talk TV" Conversation with Canadians

    The CRTC is hosting a public consultation called "Let's Talk TV", to consult the general public about how it thinks the broadcasting system should evolve in the digital and multi-platform environment.

    The consultation will have several stages. Before Christmas, it was very free form. Canadians were encouraged to post informal comments on the CRTC's web site, in response to questions in three categories, including programming content as well as technological access to services.

    Groups and organizations were also encouraged to host "Flash Conferences" examining the same questions. These conferences could be informal get-togethers in people's houses, coffee shops, a townhall, a teleconference or web consultation. CACTUS held a "Flash Conference" in January. Our report can be found on the CRTC web site, along with the reports of other groups and organizations. (Click the link below, and then click "Flash Conference Reports" in the middle column where it says "Get Up to Speed on the Conversation.)

    Flash Conference Reports

    Here's what the CRTC's report on stage I had to say about community and local programming:

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    Citizen Group Challenges Videotron for Community TV Licence in Montreal

    On September 5th, Videotron proposed to the CRTC that it be allowed to spend between $6 and $10 million to fund a second community TV channel for Montreal, to be programmed exclusively in English. The money would be taken from the Canada Media Fund, which is used by independent professional producers to fund high-quality drama and documentaries... programs like Murdoch Myseteries, Rookie Blue, and the Listener.

    The channel would be called MYtv, a clone to Videotron's existing MAtv service. The company is currently in violation of its licence requirements to "reflect the official languages, ethnic and Aboriginal composition of the community" with the exclusively French MAtv service.

    The professional production community is naturally concerned, given that the new channel would drain scarce resources that would otherwise have supported the production of programming that could be seen nation-wide.

    A citizen group has proposed a third solution, that would meet the needs of both Montreal's minority communities AND the professional production community. The Steering Committee for an Independent Community Channel (ICTV) for Montreal, is challenging Videotron for its basic licence to administer the community channel. Current CRTC policy states that if a cable company is not meeting its licence requirements, a community-based undertaking can have it, along with the 2% of that cable company's revenues from the licence area to support it.

    Click here to see ICTV's complaint against Videotron, and licence application (scroll down the list of Part 1 applications until you find 2013-1746-2 and double-click it).

    ICTV Application

    A zip file will open on your computer showing a list of documents.

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    CACTUS Meets End-of-First-Year Targets for Trillium Foundation

    CACTUS filed its end-of-year report for the first year in a two-year grant by the Ontario Trillium Foundation to promote digital broadcasting opportunities to communities across Ontario.

    CACTUS had committed to engage at least 6 communities in the process of setting up a digital media centre by the end of year 1 of its grant, and 15 communities by the end of year 2.

    Work during the first year focussed on a) salvaging broadcasting transmission equipment being decommissioned by both TVO and the CBC for use by communities and b) reaching out to municipalities, bands, and communities across Ontario about the potential of digital technologies for broadcasting to improve local communications.

    Eighty-seven communities secured former TVO broadcast towers, and one community in Ontario has acquired a former CBC TV transmitter to date. Community groups in the following areas so far are exploring the potential for a digital community media centre to improve increase access to media skills training and local content (some using former TVO and CBC equipment):

    • Toronto
    • Manitoulin Island
    • Sandy Lake First Nations
    • North Bay
    • Ottawa-Maniwaki
    • Parry Sound

    We look forward to working with these groups throughout the coming year, and in welcoming others to the process as our outreach to communities across the province continues.

    For more information on the Ontario Trillium Foundation and its granting programs, click here.

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