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Heritage Committee Recommends Policy and Financial Support for Community Media

On June 5th, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage concluded its study on "Media and Local Communities" with the publication of a report entitled "Disruption, Change and Churning in Canada's Media Landscape".

Section 2.6.1 deals with community TV. After discussing the data presented by CACTUS and the Fedetvc, this section concludes by endorsing the call by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre form "greater recognition of all independent, not-for-profit community media “from both a policy and a funding perspective. The PIAC also believes that a study should be conducted to develop a national community media strategy. This strategy would include resources for training and financial support for community media."

In the section about the CRTC, Recommendation 9 states:

"The Committee recommends that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission review its policy framework for local and community television to determine its impact on funding for the community television sector."

Click here for the full report.

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CACTUS Partners with Public Libraries in Submission to ISED's "Innovation Agenda" Consultation

In parallel to the DigiCanCon consultation conducted by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Industry, Science and Economic Development (ISED, formerly Industry Canada) conducted an "Innovation Agenda" consultation in late 2016 and early 2017.

CACTUS partnered with the Ontario Library Association, The British Columbia Library Association, and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations in making a submission requesting support for community media organizations and public library maker spaces to teach digital skills, and in particular coding and video game production as a form of community media. This means that in the same way that community members have been able to learn traditional media production such as TV and radio while creating locally expressive content, they will be able to learn to design and create video games that explore local issues, express local culture and foster dialogue about community issues.

Video games are well positioned to foster dialogue because they can model complex systems and encourage players to consider issues from multiple points of view. Games require players to exercise agency and make choices within games, engaging their empathy in a way that other media including TV and radio cannot, except in directly interactive formats such as studio programs or call-ins.

The initial ISED consultation was open-ended, encouraging comments on a broad range of issues. CACTUS' submission with its public library partners was re-submitted in July as a formal funding proposal under ISED's CanCode program.

Click here to read our submission.

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Petition Supporting Community Media Presented by Over 20 MPs

A petition supporting community media that was first presented and endorsed at the World Forum on Free Media in Montreal in August of 2016, gathered steam and was presented by over 20 members of parliament either in the House before it broke for the Christmas break, when it reconvened in early February, or directly to the Heritage Minister.

The petition was supported by MPs from all parties, including Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc, and the Conservatives.

Here is the text of the petition:

"We, the undersigned Canadian residents, acknowledge:

  • That the Broadcasting Act stipulates that the community, private and public elements of the Canadian broadcasting system should complement one another to ensure that a range of local, regional and national programming is available to Canadians.
  • That it is the policy of the CRTC that “the community channel should be primarily of a public service nature, facilitating self-expression through free and open access by
    members of the community”.
  • That community media can effectively serve small communities, neighbourhoods and alternative voices not served by public and private media.
  • That digital convergence places new challenges on individuals, organizations, and communities to express themselves, to be heard, and to be visible.

Therefore we ask the government to enable a network of community-operated media centres to ensure

  1. the survival of community TV
  2. the availability of local media in towns and neighbourhoods not served by public or private media
  3. all Canadian residents have access to multi-platform media skills training and content distribution in the digital economy."

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"The Shattered Mirror" and "Canadian Content in a Digital World" Ignore Community Media

Two reports were recently published concerning Canadian media: "The Shattered Mirror" by the Public Policy Forum regarding news and "Canadian Content in the Digital World" by Ipsos Reid, under contract from Canadian Heritage. The latter report deals more generally with Canadian content production in the dynamic digital environment. Canadian Heritage also provided some of the funding for "The Shattered Mirror".

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec (la Fédération) agree with the reports' main observations: increasing media concentration among ownership groups, falling revenues from traditional news resulting in less regional content, and the rise of social media as sources of news and information of questionable credibility.

However, if 'Information is as vital to democracy as pure air, safe streets, good schools and public health', as states The Shattered Mirror' (CACTUS cited the same 2009 Knight Foundation report in our submission to DigiCanCon), we are surprised and disappointed to find no mention of community TV and media and their long-understood contribution to democratic local expression and civic journalism.

For 50 years, community TV and media have ensured a participative and democratic media landscape, and a local information offering that has all but disappeared from the big media groups, not to mention our role in enabling emerging and established journalists and creators to learn new skills and test ideas on low-risk local platforms. Community media are the 'farm teams' that drive our creative industries.

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CACTUS Submission to "Canadian Content in a Digital World" Consultation

CACTUS has flagged to both the Heritage department and to the Heritage Minister its concern that neither the national association itself nor any one of its members was invited to any of the roundtables in the "Canadian Content in a Digital World" consultation.

CACTUS was also concerned that the 12-member "expert advisory committee" identified on the DigiCanCon web site at www.CanadianContentConsultations.ca are drawn from community media organizations.

Given that community media comprises over 200 entities licensed by the CRTC and constitute one of three sectors comprising the Broadcasting system as defined under the 1990 Broadcasting Act, this exclusion is disconcerting.

All Canadians and organization are however welcome to upload files as part of the consultation. To read CACTUS' submission, click here.

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