Re: Public Notice CRTC 2001 -- 2, Item 1a.
1) I'm writing on behalf of C.M.E.S. to comment on the takeover
by Quebecor of Videotron (Application 2000 - 2310 -2). We propose attaching
a condition to the transaction.
2) Our particular concern is that the independent community channel
groups in the areas licensed to Videotron should regain their funding. Canada's
community channel has been a widely appreciated success. No other component
of our communications system, as defined in the Broadcasting Act, demonstrates
such broad participation and involvement.
3) The experiment these past two years to remove the cable companies'
obligation to fund community television, hoping that companies would do
so voluntarily in the interests of good public relations, seems to have
been a utopian dream.
4) Cable companies have to do what's best for their shareholders,
notwhat's best for people in the communities where they're licensed. Those
interests don't always coincide. It would be wrong for corporate management
to put the public interest first and that's why cable companies shouldn't
operate the community channel. Here in B.C. we appreciate that Quebec has
been a good example to the rest of Canada, at least until recently.
5) C.M.E.S. wants a participatory, independent community channel
with good public access. We don't know what Quebecor will do in that regard
but, judging by our correspondence with Andre Desrochers at CTGC TV and
Gerald Gauthier at the Federation des televisions communautaires autonomes
du Quebec, and by the CRTC's own account of Quebec community TV in 2001-19,
Videotron has been especially destructive these past two years.
6) Taking away community access pushes Canadians ignored by commercial
news systems towards civil unrest. The community channel has a good record
for discussing issues in depth and giving activists an avenue that often
leads to real change through debate, rather than through direct action and
confrontation. Plus, you get some of the best music and art and theatre
on community TV. We shouldn't abandon this hard-earned forum.
7) As a matter of CRTC policy, all broadcast distribution undertakings
- cable, satellite and multipoint - should contribute 2% of their gross
revenue to community programming, administered by non-profit organizations
which hold community channel licenses independently.
8) In this particular case, a significant share of Quebecor's $30
million benefit package which is directed toward the public good should
be remitted to those independent organizations operating community channels
in Quebec who have suffered these past two years. That is the most democratic
way to encourage the production of Canadian programming. The quality of
Canadian community TV is recognized internationally.
9) We want community television that ensures diversity of voices
and alternative choices at the local level. This decision can help put such
a system on a sound financial footing.
Executive Director, C.M.E.S.
Community Media Education Society