October 27, 2003 -- Vancouver, BC ***Please Circulate***
ASK YOUR MP TO SUPPORT COMMUNITY TELEVISION
by Richard Ward
After thirty years Parliament is speaking up for independent, participatory, public access community television in Canada. Ask your Member of Parliament to support the new study by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage: Our Cultural Sovereignty.
The important recommendations for community television are 9.1, requiring greater access (not just recommending it), and 9.8, establishing the Local Broadcasting Initiative Program to fund community television.
Presumably that would replace the current levy on cable companies, 5% of gross subscription revenues. 3% goes to the Canadian Television Fund and in cities the other 2% is now being spent on cable company-controlled community TV. Rural communities can spend the full 5% on their community channel.
The uproar began in 1997 when a new CRTC policy allowed cable companies to turn community TV into a promotional vehicle for cable services. In Vancouver, for example, the community share of the cable levy is $5 million annually.
Across Canada the total is $80 million. No one knows for sure how the money is spent. Parliament couldn't find out. The Standing Committee was "dismayed that virtually no information exists on what happens as a result of cable company expenditures (approximately $75 to $80 million) in support of community television each year."
All the recommendations on community television, 9.1 to 9.10, are good. 9.2 recommends consulting with public, private, community, educational and not-for-profit broadcasters and related interest groups to create a Community, Local and Regional Broadcast Policy. Recommendation 9.5 promotes digital community TV. 9.7 adds community TV to satellite services.
The Standing Committee found most witnesses at hearings were frustrated by recent CRTC decisions, and that the CRTC has "created a great deal of confusion in the area of community broadcasting". The new community channel policy, CRTC 2002-61, requires 4 hour a week access for community groups and a new independent "community programming licence" but only if the cable company chooses not to operate a community channel. It may be too little too late. Micromanaging is out. The Committee believes there has to be "a decisive break with the past."
Although independent community TV is new in English Canada, it has a long history in Quebec. Then in 1999 Videotron cancelled shows by CTGC (La Corporation de Telediffusion du Grand Chateauguay) at the same time Rogers in Vancouver was cutting programming by ICTV Independent Community Television Co-operative.
If you think it's important to know how community TV money is spent, support Committee recommendation 19.17 which creates a Canadian broadcasting monitor in the Office of the Auditor General. She would deliver annual reports on community TV spending and CRTC policy outcomes.
The community channel is your best chance to get your issues on television. CMES Community Media Education Society has worked since 1997 to get a good policy in front of Parliament. Now's our chance. Make sure your Member of Parliament knows you support the community television recommendations (9.1 - 9.10) in Our Cultural Sovereignty: The Second Century of Canadian Broadcasting by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Clifford Lincoln, MP, Chair.
Richard Ward is the Executive Director of CMES Community Media Education Society.
Website: Our Cultural Sovereignty: The Second Century of Canadian Broadcasting
Write to your Member of Parliament at the House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 (postage free), or visit your local constituency office.
To find your MP, go to: http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/house/PostalCode.asp?lang=E&source=sm
List of Recommendations
Richard Ward, Executive Director C.M.E.S.
Community Media Education Society
#309 - 2040 Cornwall Avenue
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6J 1E1
Phone: (604) 733-9090