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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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CACTUS and Partners Facilitate Public Participation in DigiCanCon

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.

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CACTUS Participates in "Media Math" Consultation by the Public Policy Forum

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 Written Submission to "Media Math" study

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CACTUS Asks CRTC to Reconsider Community and Local TV Decision

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 firstname.lastname@parl.gc.ca. You can check here.

To e-mail the Heritage Minister, use Melanie.Joly@parl.gc.ca.

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CRTC DEFERS ACTION ON CABLE COMMUNITY TV COMPLAINTS... AGAIN

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.

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New "Community and Local TV" Policy Deals Death Blow to Community TV

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CACTUS Proposal to Revitalize Community TV in Canada as Part of Multimedia Digital Vision

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:

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Community Media Convergence Ramps Up to Welcome Visitors to Ottawa

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.

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ComMedia 2015 Invites CRTC to Community Media Conference

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.

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CACTUS Presents "Community Media in Canada" Workshop at IAMCR, Montreal

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.

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CACTUS and Carleton University Partner to Host First National Community Media Conference

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.

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