OpenMedia.ca: CRTC Fails to Make History With Community Television Decision
CRTC Decision A Missed Opportunity for Media Innovation and Participation
The decision comes in response to questions regarding the ability of cable companies to have unfettered access to public funds. Cable monopolies have been holding back nearly $120 million per year from a public trust meant to be used to fund independent citizen media. Cable customers pay for community access on their cable bills. This hearing provided a historic opportunity to establish new-media incubators that lead to job creation, empowerment, and media innovation using existing funds. The CRTC has largely squandered that opportunity.
The CRTC ‘s decision was the follow-up to a Community Media Hearing that OpenMedia.ca testified at earlier this year, in conjunction with CACTUS (the Canadian Association of Campus and Community Television User Groups and Stations). Based in part on OpenMedia.ca’s online campaign that help deliver nearly 3,000 submissions that call for the funds to be liberated from cable companies, and which made clear where Canadians stand, we proposed that the public trust money used to establish community media-access centres. These centres would allow anyone to multicast video, audio and text through community-run channels. These centres would be in libraries, theatres and other public spaces.
Steve Anderson, National Coordinator of OpenMedia.ca, presented this proposal at the hearing alongside Michael Lithgow, Research Associate for OpenMedia.ca, and David Skinner, chair of the Department of Communication Studies at York University.
“The issue at hand is similar to other issues that have come before the Commission before, such as net neutrality,” Anderson said to the CRTC at the hearing in May, “where we are in a situation where there are literally a few companies on one side of the issue and the rest of Canada on the other side of the issue. It is clear that liberating the community media funds is in the interest of the cultural creator community, local business and innovation, marginalized people like at-risk youth, and Canadians in general.”
The CRTC acknolwedged OpenMedia.ca several times in their ruling, but this decision does not represent the will of Canadians, and certainly not the nearly 3,000 citizen submissions that OpenMedia.ca took a lead role in delivering. Though the CRTC did review our testimony, they appear to have been cowed by the influence of the cable companies and afraid to act boldly to do what is clearly in the best interest of Canadians. OpenMedia.ca sees this as a lack of action that leaves cable subscribers in a position where they are essentially facing forced taxation without representation.
OpenMedia.ca is a national, non-partisan, non-profit public engagement organization working to advance and support an open and innovative communications system in Canada. Our primary goal is to increase public awareness and informed participation in Canadian media, cultural, information, and telecommunication policy formation.
- Cable monopolies are taking nearly $120 million a year from a public trust that is supposed to be used for independent citizen media.
- More than $800 million has been taken over the last 10 years by big cable companies and used largely for their own commercial media production and infotainment.
- You, as a citizen of Canada, pay for the public trust.
- The community media public trust is being exploited by four family-controlled cable monopolies: Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw and Vidéotron.
- These bloated cable monopolies already earn a 25% profit margin (almost $2 billion each year).
- Rogers has also increased their basic cable rates an average of 85%, and Shaw has made its customers pay an average of 68% more.
Background: The Community TV Framework
Canada’s Broadcasting Act establishes "community" alongside "public" and "private" as one of the three elements of the Canadian broadcasting system, and states that the programming provided by the Canadian broadcasting system should include community programs.
In 2002, the CRTC sought to revise its policies implement both a new licensing framework and an integrated policy approach for low-power community-based television undertakings in urban areas and smaller communities. Its goal was to “ensure the creation and exhibition of more locally-produced, locally-reflective community programming, and to foster a greater diversity of voices and alternative choices by facilitating the entrance of new participants at the local level.”
The objective of the 2002 revision was to provide a high level of locally produced and locally reflective programming that complements the programming provided by conventional television and the BDU-operated community channel. Such services should enrich the variety of local and community-based television programming available to the public, as well as provide opportunities for new voices to participate in the Canadian broadcasting system.
OpenMedia.ca participated most recently in the hearing for the review of the 2002 community TV framework, the purpose of which was to determine whether its objectives had been met and the extent to which those objectives remain appropriate. The hearing was also a forum for questions specifically relating to the different models of community television.