Today the CRTC released their latest policy on community access TV following the hearings last spring when the people involved with this valuable resource, including CACTUS, community groups and cable companies, presented their opinions on the existing practices along with proposals for change. One of the quantifiable items at stake in this often divisive battle is the $120 million dollars a year which is collected from subscribers and given back to cable companies to fund community access to studios, equipment, technical expertise and air time.

In recent years the cable-co’s across Canada have been eliminating community access and putting in its place, professional journalists. This replaces local TV coverage with a regional network which is being funded by a redirection of the $120 million dollars worth of subscriber fees intended for community TV initiatives.

The CRTC announced in this latest policy paper that cable companies will be required to improve reporting of community access activities by 2012 and provide 50% of air time on the cable channel to community developed programming by 2014.  Although this is an increase from 30% in the current policy most cable-co’s provide less but no one knows for certain since the existing reporting obligations aren’t being met and the definition of community access programming is subject to various interpretations.

Here in Central Alberta cable has a low penetration rate with satellite TV service taking the lead as the provider of choice in over 55% of the homes in the region so community access via cable has a limited reach anyway. What the CRTC should do is give the money collected in the levy, estimated to be $120 million this year alone,  to community groups as outlined in the CACTUS model and mandate that the programming be included in the basic packages offered by cable, satellite and IPTV. Building out a web based video service should also be included in this plan.

Sidebar: Given the current political wind blowing through the CRTC hallways, they might not even be around in 2014. Then what?

Dean

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Links:

CPAC coverage of the CRTC hearings on community access TV. The dates to watch are April 27 through to May 7.

CACTUS (Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations) which proposes a detailed model for community TV making use of the reallocated $120 million dollar levy.

OpenMedia “To advance and support a media communications system in Canada that adheres to the principles of access, choice, diversity, innovation and openness.” Here’s their take on the latest CRTC policy.

CRTC’s policy framework for community television 2002

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