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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.
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.
The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) and partners are hosting four events to help Canadians participate in the “Canadian Content in a Digital World” consultation being conducted by the Minister of Heritage, culminating with a live TV and web program called “Medi@cracy” on November 20th.
The first event was offered in partnership with Regent Park Focus, a youth multimedia arts centre in Toronto on November 2nd as part of Media Literacy Day. The event solicited answers to the Heritage Minister's questions from the point of view of digital media literacy.
On Thursday November 17th, CACTUS member TriCitiesTV will host a second opportunity for the public to weigh in at the Vancouver Public Library, in the context of Media Democracy Day.
On Sunday November 20th, CACTUS, in association with the Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec, Ricochet, and St. Andrews Community TV will present a live stream and broadcast in which viewers can answer the Heritage Minister's questions by phone and Twitter. The program will be broadcast on Bell ExpressVu and streamed.
Finally, on Tuesday, November 22nd, CACTUS' Executive Director Cathy Edwards will help moderate a focus group being presented by Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) to answer the same questions. The focus group will be held over lunch at the Department of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, and will enable WCT member and non-members to consider the questions as women working in telecommunications.
CACTUS believes the Heritage Minister's consultation is timely. Other groups are considering how Canadians access content in the digital world as well: the need for digital media literacy to make the most of the content available, to what extent digital platforms are democratizing media, and whether there are equal opportunities in digital media industries.
CACTUS and its members participated in two of the roundtable discussions held by the Public Policy forum in connection with the study it conducted entitled "Media Math:
Democracy, News & Public Policy in Canada", instigated and in part commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage.
In addition to participating in the roundtables, CACTUS submitted written answers to the questions posed by the Public Policy Forum in its "Media Math" discussion paper.
To see what we submitted, click here:
CACTUS has written to ask the CRTC to reconsider its community and local TV decision, based on the number of erroneous statements in the decision and its setting aside of the testimony by the very communities the policy is meant to serve.
Click here to read the request.
The policy will go into effect in September of 2017 unless enough Canadians complain to the CRTC, federal MPs, and to the Heritage Minister.
To support the request, fax the CRTC Secretary General at (819) 994-0218. The policy goes into effect in September of 2017.
To e-mail to your federal MP, most MP e-mails have the form email@example.com. You can check here.
To e-mail the Heritage Minister, use Melanie.Joly@parl.gc.ca.
Ottawa (August 3, 2016) According to a letter received by the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS), the CRTC has deferred consideration of almost 60 complaints against community TV channels operated by Eastlink, Cogeco, Shaw and Rogers until their cable license renewals this fall. The complaints were filed by CACTUS in partnership with community groups in March and April, 2016. Data regarding local and community-access programming produced by cable community channels was also placed on the public record of the CRTC's recent community and local TV hearing, and can be viewed online at www.comtv.org. The channels either fail to air adequate local content (generally 60% of the program schedule) or adequate citizen-generated content (generally 50% of the schedule)—or both. The deferral is the latest in a series of CRTC failures to enforce community channel policy:
Under Access to Information requests, CACTUS discovered that CRTC audits of community channels from 2002 to 2005 revealed that the majority of cable companies did not air enough local and access content. No remedial action was taken.
CACTUS filed data during the 2010 community TV policy review showing that only 19 of more than 100 cable community channels met the 60% local threshold. The rest shared programming across multiple cable systems.
After inviting CACTUS to produce an 170-page analysis of cable community channels logs in 2011, revealing widespread non-compliance with CRTC policy, the Commission itself refused to consider the data. CACTUS received a 4-page letter from CRTC staff stating “In most cases, BDUs meet the minimum requirements regarding the broadcast of access and local programming.” Staff refused to share the basis for this conclusion.
CACTUS made a detailed submission to the CRTC's review of local and community TV on Tuesday, January 5th.
After consulting with its members, researchers, and community media practitioners from all media at the Community Media Convergence in November (radio, online, and gaming groups as well as traditional community TV), CACTUS filed an updated version of the proposal it made first in 2010: to use funding collected from Canadian subscribers from cable, IPTV, and satellite subscribers for "local expression" to fund multimedia training, production, and distribution centres that would bring back meaningful access to broadcasting and content creation to more than 90% of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
CACTUS' spokesperson Catherine Edwards: "We're satisfied that this idea has had a chance to circulate among community media practitioners beyond our own members. We've consulted public libraries, community radio stations, former CAP sites, community online media, First Nations groups, and the gaming community. Everyone agrees: stable operational funding needs to be found to support community media in the digital environment. Community TV (audio-visual content however distributed) in particular has been neglected for more than a decade, and the upcoming CRTC hearings are a chance to rectify this situation. Furthermore, the proposal takes into account the growing role of new media, and how best to make sure Canadians have the access to skills training, equipment and production support that they need to participate in the digital economy and in the wider culture we share on digital platforms."
To read CACTUS' intervention, click the files below:
CACTUS is helping to organize and host the Community Media Convergenge at Carleton Univeristy which kicks off next weekend. The following article is cross-posted from the web site of the conference at www.ComMediaConverge.ca:
(Ottawa) Nov. 11, 2015 With less than two weeks to go, things are heating up in the community media world, with the first ever gathering of community media practitioners from all sectors (community TV, community radio, community online media such as The Media Co-op and gamers) at Carleton University Nov. 22-24th.
The conference features two days of panels about everything from “Social Media: Is it Community Media and How Do We Leverage It?” to “Community Media 3.0: Games and Interactivity?” The third day is a policy development forum, where attendees will have the opportunity to help shape a policy proposal to support community media in the digital environment.
Speakers include grandfathers of our broadcasting system such as:
Clifford Lincoln, author of Our Cultural Sovereignty: The Second Century of Broadcasting
Florian Sauvageau, author of the 1986 Report on the Task Force on Broadcasting
... to the new generation of bloggers and podcasters, including Mark Blevis, Victoria Fenner of rabble.
... and gaming organizations such as Dames Making Games and the Hand Eye Society.
Conference goers will be able to check out the latest from technology companies in the Tech Fair and watch the best community media the country has to offer in the evening Media Festival.
The conference is timely, and organizers hope it will help inform the CRTC's on-going review of its community TV policy, which is 40 years old and lags behind the reality of the digital distribution and creation of content.
CACTUS alerted the CRTC to the fact that it was planning to organize the first national digital community media conference in the fall of 2014, with the hopes that both CRTC staff and commissioners would be able to attend, contribute to panels, and get to know the frequently overlooked sector of the broadcasting system that they regulate.
It was on the CRTC's three-year work plan that it would review community TV policy, and CACTUS' intent in liaising with the CRTC as soon as it had 'hatched' the idea for the conference was to make sure that all parties could maximally benefit from the research, best practices, and policy alternatives that might arise from this first coast-to-coast meeting of community media practitioners on all platforms.
In February of 2015, the CRTC announced following its recently completed "Let's Talk TV" process that it would shortly review community TV policy in the broader context of its policies for local conventional television.
Concerned, CACTUS requested a meeting with CRTC staff to:
- renew our invitation to participate in the community media conference
- discuss the timing of the proposed review
- express our concern that the needs of the community TV sector might be sidelined in favour of the needs of larger interests and owners of conventional broadcasting networks.
When the CRTC met with CACTUS in late May, CACTUS learned that the community TV policy review notice might be posted before the end of summer, possibly precluding CRTC staff and Commissioners from participating, and precluding any of the research, practitioner knowledge and experience from shaping the CRTC's understanding of the sector and the policy review framework.
CACTUS therefore submitted the following formal request to delay a community TV policy review until after the conference, allowing the CRTC to participate fully, in a collegial fashion with media researchers and practitioners.
CACTUS presented an hour-and-a-half long workshop entiteld "The State of the Nation: Community Media in Canada" at this week's International Association of Media and Communications Research conference, held for the first time in Montreal, at UQAM (the University of Quebec at Montreal). This is a yearly conference that attracts researchers from around the world. The conference has a "Community Communications" section. The IAMCR is a project of UNESCO.
The intent of the presentation was to provide international attendees with an overview of community media in their host country. The session was attended by researchers from Canada, England, Ireland, France, and Columbia. A lot of discussion ensued about digital standards and the impact that gaming is having on traditional media.
CACTUS will also present a 12-minute 'highlights' talk at a second session on Wednesday, July 15th.
The presentation was developed with input from David Murphy, Darryl Richardson and Barry Rooke regarding community gaming applications, community online media, and community radio, respectively.
The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations and Carleton University will host the first national digital community media conference November 22-24 in Ottawa.
CACTUS' plans to host a professional and policy development conference to bring together community TV, radio, online and gaming pracitioners with the general public, researchers and policy-makers was first announced at the People's Social Forum in Ottawa in 2014. Since then, plans have progressed apace. Researcher Kirsten Kozolanka of the School of Journalism and Communications at Carleton University agreed to partner with CACTUS in order that the conference could be held centrally in Ottawa, easily accessible to government agencies whose policies affect community media, including the CRTC, Canadian Heritage, and Industry Canada.
The goals of the conference include exploring:
- best practices in the digital environment, ways in which the divisions between traditional community media such as community TV and radio are breaking down, and the need for new strategies to serve communities online. Also to be explored is the way in which youth and new demographics are increasingly developing media literacy skills through gaming.
- new policy directions needed to support community media in the multiplatform environment.
Thanks to a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) the conference will be maximally accessible for researchers and practitioners to attend from all parts of the country.
February 15th was the dead-line to submit comments to Industry Canada regarding its proposal to align its television spectrum usage plans with those of the US.
At issue is the US' plans to offer financial compensation to US television broadcasters to vacate channels between the low 30s and 58 to make way for data-rich mobile applications (aka video distribution via cellular technology). Industry Canada was seeking comment from Canadians regarding how closely Canada should align its own spectrum usage with those of the US.
The proposed spectrum auction will follow closely on the heels of last year's auction of the 700 MgHz band, in which former TV channels above 60 were auctioned off for use by wireless providers.
In its submission to Industry Canada, CACTUS prioritized:
- maintaining access to bandwidth by local authorities, and not allowing it all to be auctioned for private use.
- over-the-air broadcasting, because of the local control over content that over-the-air towers offer communities
- creating incentives for broadcasters to multiplex using digital technologies, to ensure that bandwidth is used efficiently, and there are always available over-the-air frequencies for new television services to use, including community television services
- community broadcasters as generators of unique local and Canadian content
- compensating broadcasters for the cost of moving to a lower channel assignment from the auction (i.e. incoming wireless providers should compensate outgoing TV broadcasters)
- using some of the proceeds of the spectrum auction to develop digital literacy at the community level
You can read CACTUS' full submission here.
CACTUS offered at workshop at the Ontario Library Assocation superconference in Toronto in January, as part of the work it is doing under a Trillium Foundation grant to reach out to communities around Ontario about opportunities to improve community communication infrastructure using digital technologies.
Representatives from approximately 30 public libraries attended the three-hour workshop, which gave the libraries a crash course in community TV history, the void in media literacy training in Canada that has opened up since the collapse of the old cable community channel system, and opportunities for libraries.
For their part, public libraries across Canada have been re-examining their roles in the digital environment. Many, realizing that it's not just about books anymore, have been exploring 'maker spaces' to bring families and clients back to libraries. Since the 1990s, libraries have hosted CAP sites or "Community-Access Portals" to enable broadband Internet access, but many are taking their roles one step farther. In addition to supplying passive resources such as Internet workstations, maker spaces within libraries are seeking to catalyze a range of creative activites from puppet-making, to hack labs in which youth learn computer coding and game-making, to audio-visual production and 3D printing.
CACTUS sees an obvious overlap between the traditional media literacy mandate of community TV channels and public libraries. Says spokesperson, Cathy Edwards, "Libraries are already in communities, and they're there for the long term. They're seen as honest brokers, welcoming to all, and in the business of preserving the community's audio-visual record. They're natural hosts for community media centres. It's a role that can revitalize their mandate within the municipality."
In March, the Quebec government released its "Plan Cultural Numérique" (Digital Cultural Plan).
In it is a provision of $750,000 to be shared among Quebec's not-for-profit community television corporations to spend on technological upgrades so that equipment is digital and HD, and to enable digital archiving of content.
For more information, details about the plan (in French) can be found here:
Unfortunately, community-owned and -operated television channels outside Quebec receive no financial assistance from any government or industry body. Most still broadcast in SD and have limited resources for archiving their content.
Meanwhile, many cable community channels have jettisoned decades worth of analog audio-visual content documenting every aspect of life in their host communities, because it has no long-term commercial value to them.