CACTUS alerted the CRTC to the fact that it was planning to organize the first national digital community media conference in the fall of 2014, with the hopes that both CRTC staff and commissioners would be able to attend, contribute to panels, and get to know the frequently overlooked sector of the broadcasting system that they regulate.
It was on the CRTC's three-year work plan that it would review community TV policy, and CACTUS' intent in liaising with the CRTC as soon as it had 'hatched' the idea for the conference was to make sure that all parties could maximally benefit from the research, best practices, and policy alternatives that might arise from this first coast-to-coast meeting of community media practitioners on all platforms.
In February of 2015, the CRTC announced following its recently completed "Let's Talk TV" process that it would shortly review community TV policy in the broader context of its policies for local conventional television.
Concerned, CACTUS requested a meeting with CRTC staff to:
- renew our invitation to participate in the community media conference
- discuss the timing of the proposed review
- express our concern that the needs of the community TV sector might be sidelined in favour of the needs of larger interests and owners of conventional broadcasting networks.
When the CRTC met with CACTUS in late May, CACTUS learned that the community TV policy review notice might be posted before the end of summer, possibly precluding CRTC staff and Commissioners from participating, and precluding any of the research, practitioner knowledge and experience from shaping the CRTC's understanding of the sector and the policy review framework.
CACTUS therefore submitted the following formal request to delay a community TV policy review until after the conference, allowing the CRTC to participate fully, in a collegial fashion with media researchers and practitioners.
CACTUS presented an hour-and-a-half long workshop entiteld "The State of the Nation: Community Media in Canada" at this week's International Association of Media and Communications Research conference, held for the first time in Montreal, at UQAM (the University of Quebec at Montreal). This is a yearly conference that attracts researchers from around the world. The conference has a "Community Communications" section. The IAMCR is a project of UNESCO.
The intent of the presentation was to provide international attendees with an overview of community media in their host country. The session was attended by researchers from Canada, England, Ireland, France, and Columbia. A lot of discussion ensued about digital standards and the impact that gaming is having on traditional media.
CACTUS will also present a 12-minute 'highlights' talk at a second session on Wednesday, July 15th.
The presentation was developed with input from David Murphy, Darryl Richardson and Barry Rooke regarding community gaming applications, community online media, and community radio, respectively.
The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations and Carleton University will host the first national digital community media conference September 10-12 in Ottawa.
CACTUS' plans to host a professional and policy development conference to bring together community TV, radio, online and gaming pracitioners with the general public, researchers and policy-makers was first announced at the People's Social Forum in Ottawa in 2014. Since then, plans have progressed apace. Researcher Kirsten Kozolanka of the School of Journalism and Communications at Carleton University agreed to partner with CACTUS in order that the conference could be held centrally in Ottawa, easily accessible to government agencies whose policies affect community media, including the CRTC, Canadian Heritage, and Industry Canada.
The goals of the conference include exploring:
- best practices in the digital environment, ways in which the divisions between traditional community media such as community TV and radio are breaking down, and the need for new strategies to serve communities online. Also to be explored is the way in which youth and new demographics are increasingly developing media literacy skills through gaming.
February 15th was the dead-line to submit comments to Industry Canada regarding its proposal to align its television spectrum usage plans with those of the US.
At issue is the US' plans to offer financial compensation to US television broadcasters to vacate channels between the low 30s and 58 to make way for data-rich mobile applications (aka video distribution via cellular technology). Industry Canada was seeking comment from Canadians regarding how closely Canada should align its own spectrum usage with those of the US.
The proposed spectrum auction will follow closely on the heels of last year's auction of the 700 MgHz band, in which former TV channels above 60 were auctioned off for use by wireless providers.
In its submission to Industry Canada, CACTUS prioritized:
- maintaining access to bandwidth by local authorities, and not allowing it all to be auctioned for private use.
- over-the-air broadcasting, because of the local control over content that over-the-air towers offer communities
- creating incentives for broadcasters to multiplex using digital technologies, to ensure that bandwidth is used efficiently, and there are always available over-the-air frequencies for new television services to use, including community television services
- community broadcasters as generators of unique local and Canadian content
- compensating broadcasters for the cost of moving to a lower channel assignment from the auction (i.e. incoming wireless providers should compensate outgoing TV broadcasters)
- using some of the proceeds of the spectrum auction to develop digital literacy at the community level
You can read CACTUS' full submission here.
CACTUS offered at workshop at the Ontario Library Assocation superconference in Toronto in January, as part of the work it is doing under a Trillium Foundation grant to reach out to communities around Ontario about opportunities to improve community communication infrastructure using digital technologies.
Representatives from approximately 30 public libraries attended the three-hour workshop, which gave the libraries a crash course in community TV history, the void in media literacy training in Canada that has opened up since the collapse of the old cable community channel system, and opportunities for libraries.
For their part, public libraries across Canada have been re-examining their roles in the digital environment. Many, realizing that it's not just about books anymore, have been exploring 'maker spaces' to bring families and clients back to libraries. Since the 1990s, libraries have hosted CAP sites or "Community-Access Portals" to enable broadband Internet access, but many are taking their roles one step farther. In addition to supplying passive resources such as Internet workstations, maker spaces within libraries are seeking to catalyze a range of creative activites from puppet-making, to hack labs in which youth learn computer coding and game-making, to audio-visual production and 3D printing.
CACTUS sees an obvious overlap between the traditional media literacy mandate of community TV channels and public libraries. Says spokesperson, Cathy Edwards, "Libraries are already in communities, and they're there for the long term. They're seen as honest brokers, welcoming to all, and in the business of preserving the community's audio-visual record. They're natural hosts for community media centres. It's a role that can revitalize their mandate within the municipality."