Rogers’ Testimony at Community TV Hearings Conflicts with Testimony of Ordinary Canadians


Rogers’ Testimony at Community TV Hearings Conflicts with Testimony of Ordinary Canadians

Ottawa (May 4/2010) In its presentation before the CRTC yesterday as part of the seven-day hearing into the future of community television, Rogers made several key statements that conflict with the testimony of previous witnesses.

Chairman von Finckenstein thanked the Rogers panel for its presentation by saying, "I have heard nothing but good things about Rogers Cable TV during the last week. I congratulate you... At least the people that appeared before us feel that you are meeting the need of community TV."

In fact, many intervenors last week criticized the cable giant for curtailing access by the public to their studios and for closing channels.

Jennifer Mawhinney from Fredericton testified on Friday that, "While the public is permitted to suggest shows for each season, I've only seen series pitched by employees make it to air."

Colette Watson, Vice President for Rogers claimed that "close to 60%" of the programming on Rogers’ Ottawa channel was "access programming" (made by members of the public). Scrutiny of Rogers’ Ottawa schedule posted on-line, however, reveals that almost all the daily shows that fill up the programming schedule list Rogers employees as producers.

Perhaps of more concern are the station closures. While New Brunswick once had almost 30 distinct community TV services, today there is a single provincial English service and a single provincial French service offered by Rogers, with only occasional insertions of local content.

Part of the problem is that the CRTC no longer requires cable companies to license systems with fewer than 20,000 subscribers. On questioning yesterday, Ms. Watson admitted that only 4 of 79 such licence-exempt systems in New Brunswick and Newfoundland offer any community programming. When Commissioner Menzies asked whether there
had previously been community programming in these 79 systems, Ms. Watson said "Not while we were operating the system. We bought New Brunswick in 2000."

On Tuesday last week, Patrick Watt, station manager for the community-owned and operated TV channel in St. Andrews, New Brunswick testified that Rogers closed 3 small channels in rural New Brunswick in 2009, including channels in Harvey, McAdam, and Woodstock. Four more communities have been informed by Rogers that they will be cut off this year, including St. George, St. Stephen, Minto and Chipman.

CACTUS spokesperson Cathy Edwards says that Canada has fewer than 1/3 the number of community channels as it once had. CACTUS opened the hearing last Monday with a proposal to redirect the funds currently spent by cable companies on their own "community channels" to community-owned and –operated channels such as the one in St. Andrews. "If communities themselves were in charge, these channels could be kept open and would be genuinely accessible to residents."

Contact: Catherine Edwards, (819) 772-2862

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