Friday, August 27, 2010

CRTC Community TV Policy Fails to Address Real Issue: CACTUS

CRTC Community TV Policy Fails to Address Real Issue: CACTUS

A new community television policy released by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is little better than the existing policy, says an industry group advocating for community TV.

Catherine Edwards, Spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) said, "The Commission ignored the request of the Canadian public-which was made abundantly clear at these hearings-that the time has come for community broadcasting to be in the hands of communities, as it is in all Western countries that have a community sector. This is how it operates here in Canada in the community radio sector. Why not TV?"

Citing dissenting CRTC Commissioner Michel Morin, CACTUS noted, "The Commission's 'paternalistic community model' leaves community cable channels and the money that is collected from Canadians firmly under the control of cable companies."

The CRTC's analysis acknowledges that a lack of funding explains why so few community licenses have been requested, CACTUS noted, but it says the new policy denies communities access to the Local Programming Initiative Fund that is available to private broadcasters, denies access to commercial advertising, and denies access to the more than $120 million collected annually from Canadians for "local expression", but which instead goes to cable companies for their professional regional channels.

Edwards reflected, "What's particularly sad is how outdated the Commission's model of community TV is. Approximately 40% of Canadians don't subscribe to cable, so a cable channel as a digital townhall for Canadians just doesn't work anymore. We also presented data to show that the majority of the more than 300 unique community channels and studios that once existed on cable have already been closed. This evidence appears to have been ignored. The relatively minor tweaks to the existing policy do nothing to address the closures."

The CRTC said in its decision that the new requirements will take effect on September 1, 2014. Included in the new policy are requirements that at least half of a channel's programming expenditures will have to be devoted to local origination programming, as well as to community outreach initiatives and the training and development of volunteers.