Transcript, Hearing January 25, 2016
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: January 25, 2016
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Attendees and Location
140 Promenade du Portage
- Chairman: Jean-Pierre Blais
- Members: Candice Molnar, Yves Dupras, Stephen Simpson, Christopher MacDonald
- Legal Counsel: Shari Fisher
- Secretary: Jade Roy
- Hearing Managers:
Guillaume Castonguay, Jean-Pierre Lefebvre
--- Upon commencing on Monday, January 25, 2016 at 9:04 a.m.
1 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l'ordre, s'il vous plait.
2 Bonjour à tous et à toutes, je vous souhaite la bienvenue à cette audience publique. Je tiens premièrement à reconnaître que nous sommes réunis aujourd’hui sur le territoire traditionnel des Premières Nations. Je remercie le peuple algonquin et rend hommage à leurs aînés.
3 Au cours de la présente audience le CRTC se penchera sur la télévision la plus proche des canadiens, soit la télévision locale et communautaire. Grace à cette programmation, les canadiens ont accès aux nouvelles et aux actualités locales qui les tiennent informés sur des sujets et des événements qui sont pertinents et qui sont de pertinence dans leurs communautés.
4 Ils sont aussi exposés à des points de vue locaux et à des émissions créatives dont le contenu reflète la communauté dans laquelle ils vivent. Ce type de programmation favorise le processus démocratique en tenant les citoyens informés et engagés.
5 In 2003 -- 2013, sorry, the CRTC launched the Let’s Talk TV initiative, a country-wide conversation during which Canadians voiced their opinions on their television system. It was during this process that the CRTC identified a number of issues faced by local and community television in a media environment that is increasingly shattered.
6 We cannot ignore the fact that the world of television and audiovisual content has radically changed. More and more Canadians are availing themselves of multiple platforms for information, entertainment and to broadcast their own content.
7 The many changes happening in the media world recently, like the adoption of electronic newspapers and shifting of resources towards online platforms, are proof of this new reality.
8 Au cours des dernières années les revenus découlant des nouvelles locales télévisées ne suffisent pas à couvrir les coûts qui leur sont associés. Cette tendance assujettie les radiodiffuseurs soucieux de maintenir une programmation de grande qualité à une pression additionnelle.
9 Rappelons que l’offre d’émission de nouvelles et d’informations locales est une exigence de service public imposée aux stations de télévision commerciale en échange du privilège d’utiliser les ondes publiques afin d’y diffuser des émissions.
10 During this hearing the CRTC wishes to discuss future approaches that will enable local news and community access programming to adequately serve Canadian citizens, as well as methods they can use to adapt to multiple platforms in the digital era.
11 And despite the half-truths certain lobbyists are peddling about, the CRTC takes the situation very seriously, or else why wouldn’t we be holding a hearing?
12 It is also imperative that we keep in mind the importance of local news in the eyes of Canadians. A survey conducted as part of Let’s Talk TV found that 81 percent of Canadians attach great value to local news.
13 L’avenir de la télévision locale et communautaire soulève donc plusieurs passions et plusieurs questions. Comme vous le savez, le CRTC n’intervient que lorsque c'est absolument nécessaire de le faire. Vous l’avez constaté autant que nous, cette révision est opportune et nécessaire.
14 Au cours de cette audience, le CRTC veut aborder certains sujets avec les intervenants afin de garder les yeux fixés vers l’avenir pour donner un souffle nouveau à cette importante programmation.
15 So here are some questions that my colleagues and I will be raising with interested parties. First of all, given that the economic model for the production of news and local information programs is under stress, should the CRTC intervene to guarantee the production and long-term viability of these broadcasts?
16 And if the answer is yes, what type or types of actions should the CRTC take?
17 Secondly, more and more digital technology is playing the role of the traditional community element by giving Canadians a range of opportunities to personally produce and disseminate content for their community. And they can do so at very low cost. Is it still necessary and relevant for the CRTC to intervene to ensure that Canadians have access to the community element of the traditional broadcasting system?
18 And if the answer is yes, what type or types of intervention should continue or should emerge?
19 Troisièmement, les contributions financières à l’expression locale augmentent depuis plusieurs années, et ce malgré les pertes encourues par les services de nouvelles locales. Comment les ressources actuelles pourraient-elles être réparties entre l’élément communautaire et les stations de télévision locale afin de maximiser les bénéfices pour les canadiens?
20 Avec ces questions en tête, je veux aussi diriger votre attention sur deux propositions dont nous voulons discuter, elles sont élaborées dans un document de travail que le CRTC a publié le 12 janvier dernier afin de stimuler les discussions.
21 La première proposition concerne la création d’un fond pour financer les nouvelles locales. La seconde consiste à insister -- inciter, pardon, la diffusion et de nouvelles locales professionnelles sur les canaux communautaires dans les marchés sans station de télévision traditionnelle.
22 Ces deux propositions feront évidemment l’objet de discussions au cours de l’instance, mais nous sommes également intéressés à entendre d’autres propositions.
23 It is evident that this process will neither achieve its goal nor be effective without the participation of Canadians of all ages and backgrounds and from all regions of the country. After all, the CRTC makes transparent decisions that are based on evidence and an exhaustive public record.
24 I would like to thank each and every one of you for your contribution, and I take this opportunity to once again solicit comments. The CRTC therefore invites Canadians to share on an online discussion forum at crtc.gc.ca their views on the approaches proposed in the working document and on any other topics discussed during the hearing.
25 This forum has been opened since January 12th and will remain so until February 3rd, which is the final day of this oral hearing.
26 Finalement, je voudrais faire quelques présentations. Le panel se compose des personnes suivantes: Candice Molnar, Conseillère régionale du Manitoba et de la Saskatchewan; Steve Simpson, Conseiller régional de la Colombie-Britannique et du Yukon; Yves Dupras, Conseiller régional du Québec; Christopher MacDonald, Conseiller régional de l’Atlantique et du Nunavut; et moi-même, Jean-Pierre Blais, Président du CRTC. Je présiderai cette audience.
27 L’équipe du conseil qui nous assiste comprend de Guillaume Castonguay et Jean-Pierre Lefebvre, co-gestionnaires de l’audience; Sherry Fisher and Megan Maloney, notre équipe juridique pour l’audience; et Jade Roy, secrétaire de l’audience.
28 J’invite maintenant la secrétaire de l’audience à expliquer la procédure que nous suivrons.
29 Madame la secrétaire.
30 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Bon matin, merci, Monsieur le président.
31 Before we start I would like to go over a few housekeeping matters to ensure the proper conduct of the hearing.
32 When you are in the hearing room we would ask that you please turn off your smart phones, as they are an unwelcome distraction and they cause interference on the internal communication systems used by our translators. We would appreciate your cooperation in this regard throughout the hearing.
33 Nous désirons rappeler aux participants d’allouer un délai raisonnable pour la traduction lors de leur présentation à vive voix, tout en respectant le temps alloué pour leur présentation.
34 Veuillez noter que les documents sont disponibles sur Twitter, sur le compter du conseil @crtcaudiences en utilisant le mot click #crtc.
35 Just a reminder that pursuant to section 41 of the Rules of Practice and Procedures, you must not submit evidence at the hearing unless it supports statements already on the public record. If you wish to introduce new evidence, as an exception to this rule, you must ask permission of the panel of the hearing before you do so.
36 Please note that if parties undertake to file information with the Commission in response to questioning by the panel, these undertakings will be confirmed on the record throughout the transcript of the hearing. If necessary, parties may speak with Commission legal counsel at a break following their presentation to confirm the undertakings.
37 And now we will begin with the presentation by VICE. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 10 minutes for your presentation.
38 MS. ZENER: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I’m Naomi Zener, the Vice-President of Business and Legal Affairs for VICE in Canada.
39 With me today, on my left, is Ryan Archibald, on my far left, David Purdy and, on my right, Michael Kronish. Ryan Archibald is the Managing Director of VICE. David Purdy is the Chief International Growth Officer, and Michael Kronish is the Executive Vice-President of Television.
40 In our remarks today we will address how VICE has achieved its success in a world of expanding consumer choice and contraction of traditional media players.
41 To begin, we’d like to present a sizzle reel.
42 MS. ZENER: Ryan?
43 MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you.
44 VICE has a come a long way since its humble beginnings as a free punk magazine founded by Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi in Montreal in 1994. VICE is now the world’s preeminent youth media company, a news, content and culture hub and a leading producer of award-winning video, reaching young people on all screens across an unrivaled global network. Spanning the globe with our production and editorial operations in more than 35 countries, VICE reaches hundreds of millions of young people per month across all platforms, including 11 digital channels, linear television, film and mobile.
45 In Canada, we’ve experienced tremendous growth, operating production offices in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, as well as maintaining a strong network of freelancers across the country.
46 MS. ZENER: Michael?
47 MR. KRONISH: Good morning.
48 VICE is, first and foremost, a content producer and we make hundreds of hours of original, in-depth and often provocative content, focused on underreported stories about underrepresented places and perspectives, and we use an immersive style of storytelling.
49 Our video content tackles everything from short-form pieces to feature-length documentaries.
50 In Canada, we took aim at the 2015 federal election by focusing on overlooked issues like trans healthcare access, marijuana legalization and missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Our original digital news and culture format Daily VICE presented the live-streamed town hall series with now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair. Combined, we attracted over 3 million viewers, many of them who would not have watched this content via mainstream traditional media outlets.
51 In 2015, VICE successfully launched the digital vertical VICE News, at a time when traditional news media is struggling. VICE News produces in-depth video and editorial content from around the world, and we’re at the most pressing news events of our time.
52 VICE is reinventing news in two ways. Our style is actually very simple. We’re platform agnostic. We’re not beholden to formats and we break down the barrier between the correspondent and the viewer, speaking directly to our audience.
53 Our method allows us to connect with audiences outside of our own network and we build upon this by actively leveraging social medial to increase engagement.
54 MS. ZENER: Ryan?
55 MR. ARCHIBALD: With the luxury of having multiple channels, VICE cross-pollinates relevant content across all of our digital verticals, as well as through mobile, linear and digital partnerships. This enables us to introduce our audience to new content that they perhaps would not have actively sought out or discovered.
56 All forms of established social media, as well as the early adoption of new social media, are key in helping us reach our audience. Young people live on social media, and so does VICE. With the assistance of these socials, in Canada alone, VICE currently reaches an audience of approximately 30 million each month.
57 VICE enters into partnerships that are symbiotic with the VICE brand, such as those with Google, Rogers, Facebook and Live Nation. These partnerships enable VICE to deliver content on all platforms, thereby increasing engagement with existing audiences, as well as connecting with those outside of our network.
58 And VICE is continually evolving to meet the needs of our audience. In 2015, VICE launched Broadly, a vertical devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences. It was our most successful launch to date in company history, a testament to the community’s embrace of what was previously considered a void in women’s media and to our own diversification.
59 MS. ZENER: David.
60 MR. PURDY: Thanks.
61 VICE is able to monetize on the news and information programming it creates, not simply because it has its finger on the pulse of culture but because it is instrumental in pushing culture forward.
62 VICE has had success with a unique sponsorship model because it enables us to create high-quality content while simultaneously maintaining editorial independence. For example, VICE recently launched Daily VICE, a partnership with FIDO. Daily VICE is a five to eight-minute Canadian daily news show that includes a variety of news, political, culture, social and art stories from around the world. The format has already been exported to the U.S. and its popularity signals that we’ll be expanding to all territories.
63 When we cover a particular story, we’re not shackled by the storytelling expectations of one particular format or platform. The stories guide us to where they will be presented. It is common for us, while shooting a story, to leverage that content across our daily mobile, television, or a long form documentary for our digital verticals. This allows for both cost effective production and maximum monetization.
64 VICE is excited to work with Canadian media outlets to produce content that engage millennial audiences on a local, national and even international basis.
65 MS. ZENER: In closing, VICE acknowledges that the cost of producing traditional news programming is very high, one that has caused other media outlets to struggle or even shutter as a result of an inability to keep pace with the rising costs of production. VICE’s model scales those costs such that we can produce, local, national, and international news that local, community, and even some national programmers are experiencing difficulty doing.
66 We are the leader in producing content for the millennial audience around the world and at home in Canada. By remaining nimble, flexible and open to creative opportunities to monetize our content through strategic partnerships and multiple platform distribution, our approach ensures that VICE has the widest possible reach. We would be pleased to answer your questions.
67 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I’ll start us off, and first of all, thank you very much for accepting our invitation to appear at the hearing. It was very much appreciated that you answered positively that invitation. I suspect, as we were discussing earlier with one of my colleagues, Mr. Purdy, you didn’t expect to be back at the CRTC hearing this quickly. But I guess that’s the way of the world.
68 MR. PURDY: No, but happy to be here. Thank you.
69 THE CHAIRPERSON: I was a bit surprised to read one commentator being a bit surprised that we were starting off this hearing with a presentation from VICE, and I can assure you it’s not because we wanted to have a headline that CRTC starts with VICE.
70 But I think I found the answer in a column I read this weekend Saturday, in the Globe and Mail. And where Marsha Lederman was commenting in an article, “We all have a stake in the future of the mainstream media.” She was commenting there, of course, on the print media which is outside our jurisdiction, but not beyond the factual ecosystem we have to consider when we consider the issues within our jurisdiction. And she points out that:
71 “Good journalism is not limited to
the mainstream, of course.”
73 “...there’s a lot to learn from
alternative outlets, ranging from
Vice to Pro-Publica.”
74 So to answer those that were wondering why we’re starting off with you at the hearing, that’s the reason why, because we want to learn from your model.
75 I’ve heard it said that younger folks, millennials, tend to snack on news rather than sit down for the big meal. And I guess the big meal would be the traditional 6 o’clock news hour or something similar. What are your views on that? Is there a change in the way -- a generational change in how news is being consumed?
76 MS. ZENER: David?
77 MR. PURDY: So as a millennial ---
78 THE CHAIRPERSON: You do know that swearing’s been done?
79 MR. PURDY: It’s okay. My apologies. So we find at VICE -- and part of our -- and I’m going to ask my colleague, Mr. Kronish to elaborate on this. But we’ve found that millennials will consume content across all platforms, and it was really important for VICE to find a way onto the traditional television line up and dial. And in the US we’re launching at the end of February, VICELAND, and we’ve already had a show running on HBO, and we’ve been commissioned to produce a news show.
80 So millennials do watch television on the traditional TV set and there’s an opportunity for us to expand our reach by being there. However, they consume content across all platforms and more than half our usage now occurs on the smartphone. So when we produce content, we very much -- I always say mobile-centric, but Michael corrects me and says it’s digital-centric.
81 We make sure that the content we’re producing is going to make sense on the TV, the PC, and most specifically the smartphone, because that’s a huge part of where people consume content. And we re-cut the content that we create so that it makes sense in each one of those platforms, and the viewing times, and the viewing habits vary by platform. There is an opportunity for long form content targeting millennials but there’s also wonderful opportunity to condense or shorten that content. And, Mr. Kronic?
82 MR. KRONIC: I don’t have a lot to add except that we don’t shy away from long form content and Ryan could probably speak to the statistics. But like the engagement of some of the longer form videos that we’ve put up on -- via YouTube, or different distribution partners, is -- I think it’s quite unparalleled to see how long people will actually be engaged in an hour long documentary that we’ll put up on any of these platforms.
83 MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes. We use YouTube as a good example. YouTube came to us and gave us one of the dedicated channels when they initially offered full-channel experiences through YouTube a few years back. So they wanted VICE to be one of those channels and they told us at that time that you have to keep it short and snackable. And we found that it just wasn’t working properly and we were used to doing longer form at that time.
84 So we decided just to ignore what they were telling us and break the rules and started putting up our long form content onto the channel, and it started performing tremendously. So it wasn’t necessarily the length or duration of the content. It just, obviously, was the meat of the content itself and the voice that it was presented in.
85 THE CHAIRPERSON: So the long form content, as I understand it, you’re presenting it as a long form. Because I’ve seen for instance, on Télé-Québec, there’s a new TV show called “Like Me”, and their -- it seems that their multi-platform approach is to actually split the show up into small segments when they transfer it to the new platform. What you’re saying is that’s not your strategy and you don’t think that’s successful?
86 MR. ARCHIBALD: I’m not saying that it’s not necessarily successful. I’m not -- and that’s also not specifically our strategy. We use both of what you just said. Sometimes we will partition it up and release it in parts, and sometimes we will put the full length up.
87 THE CHAIRPERSON: Now, your principle target is obviously, from what you have said, a certain generation. And how are you finding other generations are absorbing that content? Do you find that there’s a negative reaction, or is it a learning curve that maybe digital natives didn’t have to go through?
88 MR. PURDY: So we had a group of Rogers senior executives in to watch a number of the shows we’ve produced, and I’d say a third of them were horrified of some of the new content we created, a third loved it, and a third were sort of somewhat neutral on it. So it’s -- we absolutely cut our pieces and tell our stories in such a way that it’s targeting a millennial mobile-centric audience and it won’t appeal to everybody.
89 It’s not going to replace the traditional newscast or CNN for older -- for all demos. But some will love it and it’s really important for us that what we do cut remains true to that millennial audience, and so that means that when -- and maybe Mr. Kronish can expand on this -- when we cover a story it’s in a very specific way. We want people reporting the stories to have a strong opinion. We want the language to be unfiltered and unfettered. We want it to be, you know, engaging, sometimes shocking, provocative, and we also -- we don’t want to be shackled by the format.
90 So one of the things that’s liberating about working at VICE is we don’t have to produce a story that fits within a preset four minute slot. If it requires 15 minutes to play out and tell that story, we’ll take the full 15 minutes and it may not make it on a traditional newscast, but it will make it online; and so that’s really liberating. And you know, recently I watched a piece about a young Japanese fellow coming out to his parents, and it was long and it was awkward, and it was painful. But I knew if it would have been covered by a traditional media outlet it would have been a four minute piece and it would have been very formulaic.
91 The way we covered it, it was I think, really riveting and engaging, but not for everybody. I think my parents probably would have wondered why this piece was going on for so long. So it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but we know who our audience is and we make content specifically for that audience. And they are the audience that, quite frankly, is not watching the traditional media outlets in a way that, you know, everybody in this room would like to see. They’ve migrated. They’ve voted with their feet and they’re watching our content in a different way.
92 THE CHAIRPERSON: Did you want to add?
93 MR. KRONISH: I could just add that the buzz-words that we use are authenticity and platform agnostic. So we reach across all the platforms, but, first and foremost, we just go after the most authentic content that we can create and our producers and our directors and our showrunners can create, and it’s up to them to go out and tell the story. They’re often part of the story.
94 We don’t hide from being a -- under the lens of objectivity. Often it’s -- there’s a subjective experience in a lot of what we do and then we put it out in to the world. And we know -- what we do know is where our audience is actively engaging with our content, and we don’t just go to one place or the other, it gets shared.
95 We keep saying the same thing, but it’s shared across all the platforms. We know that people will do the three minute piece of video on Facebook or an app but they will also go on YouTube and watch it, and we’re expecting them to watch long-form television series as well as we move in to the future.
96 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. You did mention that -- to build on that, that you do take a multi-platform approach, including linear -- traditional linear platforms, and I’m wondering is that an economic imperative because we’re not quite in to a new economic model, or -- because I could tell you that many people that cover this area, to a certain degree, would think that the younger generation just aren’t there, they’re all cutting the cord, and if you -- if one were to read and believe everything one reads, that they’re just not there anymore.
97 And so why would you bother with the linear platforms?
99 MR. PURDY: So, Shane Smith, our founder, and Andrew Creighton, our president, felt really strongly that certain advertisers hadn’t made that transition to digital and that we were missing out I think on a large part of the advertising community. They just weren’t as aware or in tune with VICE.
100 And so by putting ourselves on the traditional platform, first with the show that we’ve done for HBO and then this year with our own TV network in the U.S. and the TV network that Roger’s is going to be running in Canada, we feel that we’ll absolutely expand the number of people who are advertising on VICE and also the -- we’ll broaden the audience.
101 So linear was really important for us, and we’ve already seen an incremental lift in all of our revenue streams because of the fact that we’re on the traditional platform.
102 But what I will say is it was also important for us to not replicate everything that everybody else was doing in that platform.
103 So how we approach commercial breaks, how we approach sponsorship, how we approach ad loads is going to be different than the other channels on the dial.
104 And, you know, for me personally, for years I’ve been sort of in my old job wrestling with some of these networks. So I’ll pick on AMC because they’re not here. AMC arguably has made some of the best original programing in the last five years, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead; these are amazing shows. But even at my, you know, advanced age of 49, I find watching AMC’s programming difficult because the ad load is so heavy. We think that millennials have a much lower tolerance for that type of ad load.
105 And so we’re going got try and experiment with lower ad loads, different formats, not breaking up the content as much, because we believe our audience are used to binge viewing and watching content in an -- you know, not uninterrupted by ads but is a little more respectful of their time.
106 I think the second thing is the content that we’re producing -- Shane Smith uses colorful language. Because we’re in front of the Commission I won’t use his language, I’ll paraphrase. But he says that our viewers have a high -- or a low tolerance to bovine fecal matter and they know when they’re being sort of played with or manipulated that you have to -- this authenticity, you have to fight really really hard. And we have a lot of sponsors who have come to us wanting to do things that we felt would compromise the content or change the authenticity of it, tone it down, make it more friendly and we won’t do that.
107 So we’re trying to reduce the ad load, be respectful of how millennials watch content and really sort of maintain that unfiltered authentic tone.
108 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, you raise an issue. Not only are you redefining sort of the content part but you’re also struggling with redefining what has always been an important part of the economic model for television and that’s the advertising dollars.
109 So I understand your philosophy. I’m more curious, though, of a party that’s often not in our hearings but has sometimes more power than we do and that’s the advertisers and the agencies and how are they reacting to your desire to create a certain authenticity that’s more relevant to your audience.
110 MR. PURDY: So I’ll ask my colleague Ryan to expand on this. But when -- my understanding is that when people first started to come to VICE they were much less demanding in terms of the -- affecting the editorial content or the tone, the manner, et cetera, and so when we do sponsored content or branded content quite often we’d get a check and then we’d go away and do what we wanted to do.
111 Increasingly, you know, the -- we’ve had a little more pressure on us to try and control that, and I think Ryan’s fought very hard to make sure that -- we’ll take your check but you can’t tell us how or what we produce.
112 And maybe you want to expand on that.
113 MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes. Well, more specific, I guess, to your question is they’ve embraced it. They’re excited -- they too are looking for new formats and new ways to engage with people through advertising.
114 So they’ve been interested in what we have presented so far. I mean, to be honest, it’s at early stages, we have not launched the linear just yet, but they are interested with the prospect of trying to change the game with how advertising is presented with in the channel as well.
115 THE CHAIRPERSON: Now, you’re operating in a number of markets, Canada being one of them. As we look forward about the future of news, local news, local presence, from what you can observe, is there a specificity in the Canadian jurisdiction that we should keep in mind or not?
116 MR. ARCHIBALD: I’ll tell you what I’ve often heard people say that millennials feel closer to other millennials in other jurisdictions than to the generation that just preceded them. In other words, there’s a significant change there.
117 MR. PURDY: So maybe I’ll ask Mr. Kronish to speak to this. But we -- the content that we’re producing in Canada, regardless of who it’s for, we absolutely feel that there is a market for that or that -- not all of it, but much of it is relevant outside of Canada.
118 So whether it be stories about women, aboriginal issues, drugs, politics, et cetera, transgendered issues, all of these stories are highly local and highly relevant to their local audiences, but they’re also the same types of issues that are being grappled with around the globe.
119 And so one of the amazing things about VICE is that when we produce content it can be for Calgary, or Edmonton, or Toronto but it can also be exported to the thirty -- more than 33 countries that we now operate in.
120 And so we have a lens -- and we’re always thinking about that when we’re telling the story, is this a story that would make sense or be interesting around the globe, and a lot of the stuff is exported now.
121 MR. KRONISH: David basically speaks for me.
122 We agree with what your assessment is. Millennials are interested in millennials and they’re -- the borders are not set-up from province-to-province or country-to-country or continent-to-continent. We produce the stories, particularly news, with a Canadian focus because that’s where we are. And we have colleagues in the UK, or in the United States, or France that will focus more on their local stories. But the platform is digital and global.
123 So when we do a story about radicalization based in Calgary it goes up on vicenews.com or vice.com and it is viewed and it’s consumed by an international population. And that, for us, is success.
124 THE CHAIRPERSON: But it’s almost counter-intuitive, though, that something that’s so local would have appeal beyond the locality.
125 MR. KRONISH: Well, I mean, good storytelling is always about the microcosm that speaks to everyone.
126 So I think that what we do is that we use the word “documentary” a lot in the office at VICE, as opposed to “reporting”. We make documentary films about subjects that are important. That’s synonymous with news, for us.
127 THE CHAIRPERSON: I see. So even though it would objectively probably fall into the category of news by branding it as documentary it takes away the locality of it and the desire for other persons on other platforms in other countries to connect to it. Is that correct?
128 MR. KRONISH: Yes.
129 THE CHAIRPERSON: I don’t want to put words in your mouth but ---
130 MR. PURDY: I mean, I’ll just add, and, Mike will elaborate on this. But, I mean, when we covered the story about the youth in Calgary that would have been radicalized, you could cover that story in a highly localized way where you could say local Calgarian joins ISIS, da-da-da, you know, he lived here, he ate there, or you can talk about the issue of radicalization in a way that’s more global and resonates.
131 And there’s parents in Manchester, and there are parents in France, and there are parents all over the globe that are struggling with their children, you know, being radicalized, and so when we tell that story we do so in a way that it picks up on the local aspects of it but it also tells us universal truths.
132 And it’s, you know, because of digital and because millennials are in contact with each other globally -- you know the Arab Spring was a smartphone driven activity, you know, and so there’s -- there are universal stories going on out there, and the ones that are affecting Canadians do resonate outside.
133 I think -- I don’t know whether it’s an inherent -- I don’t know why traditional Canadian media outlets haven’t exported more of their stories or told them in such a way that they could partner with other international news media outlets.
134 And I know they do some of that, but for us it’s a cornerstone of the VICE business model. We plan on producing content in all of those 33 markets that were present and we plan on sharing that content in a way that it makes our economics make more sense, but also in a way that, I think, tells really clever and interesting stories.
135 And again I go back to a TV show we’re producing called Gaycation and Canadian host Ellen Page, and when she covers those issues they’re Canadian issues for sure but they’re also global issues, and people all over the globe are struggling with the same topics that we’re covering.
136 And so I think our model relies on the fact that we have a lot in common -- there’s a lot of unique and wonderful things around the globe but there’s a lot of things that are common around the globe, and if we can leverage that in a smart way that helps our business model we’re going to do that.
137 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Your view would be there’s no barrier for others to engage a similar export approach?
138 MR. PURDY: I don’t think so. I think -- you know, I’ve -- there’s a lot of great people behind me today, and I’ve worked with many of them, and I think there’s a lot of great storytellers.
139 And, you know, not just in the Toronto office but in the New York office there’s a lot of Canadians who are leading VICE’s expansion globally and there’s no reason why people working at traditional media outlets can’t start to leverage that.
140 Now, we think we have a special sauce or a unique way of telling stories that they can’t replicate and that they should hire us, and we’d be happy to work for them, but they have their own sort of special talents and unique attributes and I think there needs to be a view of news and documentaries that they can be exported and our stories are relevant.
141 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you’re monetizing it, I guess, through the value of your brand and the perception of your brand more broadly.
142 Would it be a mistake then when you’re trying to do export of Canadian news stories, or mini documentaries, or documentaries that goes to news and actuality to try to get a return? Are they sellable a bit like traditional entertainment programming goes into a distribution chain?
143 MR. PURDY: I’ll ask Ryan to elaborate. But VICE is profitable and we make money, and the content that we put up on vice.com globally makes money. We have sponsors and advertisers and we’re doing really well.
144 MR. ARCHIBALD: The short answer is yes, we do licence this content after the fact. Most recently we have a Canadian production that we did from a collection of our library content from our verticals which was translated and ended up into a package show on RDI in Quebec. But this is also happening globally as well.
145 THE CHAIRPERSON: Where are your young -- you mentioned that, you know, both on-camera and I think it was in the reels that both on-camera and behind the camera you’re looking for younger creators to be there. Where do you find them? How do you train them? Do you train them internally? Do you expect them to be trained when they arrive? What’s that part of the ecosystem like?
146 MR. KRONISH: All of the above. We actively seek out voices that will speak to our younger generation. It doesn’t mean that the people have to be within a certain age group. Obviously we don’t practice that. But it’s the voice and the open-mindedness of the people behind and in front of the cameras that we work on. They come from everywhere.
147 We’ve been -- we have been bringing in some talented producers from mainstream media from within Canada and internationally across VICE. People from Bloomberg, CBC, Bell, Al Jazeera, they’re joining our team.
148 But if you looked around our news desks our digital video production and even our television production studio there’s a lot of young faces there and they’re bringing ---
149 THE CHAIRPERSON: I take it mostly freelance as well?
150 MR. KRONISH: Well, actually VICE has an inordinate amount of full-time staff compared to what a typical -- on the TV side a typical television company would have hired.
151 THE CHAIRPERSON: So your view would be that your model isn’t necessarily threatening to those that see the future more based on full-time potentially unionized employees?
152 MR. KRONISH: We have many full-time staff compared -- and our growth over the last 12 months has been very, very fast. And our approach has been to hire and train and work with people on a full-time basis.
153 MR. PURDY: The only thing I would add to Michael’s comments there, the reason a number of them are full-time is because it takes a little while to sort of be deprogrammed and learn how to produce with that VICE tone and manner.
154 So we -- you know, they’re still working on me, but in terms of the people who are creative, there’s a very specific approach to content that VICE has and they will not put anything to air or online that doesn’t speak with that VICE tone and manner. So sometimes that requires a certain amount of training and that’s the reason we see ourselves hiring people more full-time than necessarily freelance.
155 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Back in 2008 when the Commission looked at this and said, you know, in terms of journalistic standards that one would -- for quality news one would normally expect trained journalists and compliance with certain standards and codes.
156 And certainly I’ve heard it argued that the emergence of new media through social media may be struggling with the notion of journalistic standards and that citizen reporting, for instance, doesn’t meet the traditional standard that traditional media may have developed over I guess over 200 if not 300 years of print media.
157 How do you ensure a certain standard? How do you approach that issue?
158 Because I heard you clear saying that you want to be a trusted source. Trusted I think implies certain standards, does it not?
159 MR. KRONISH: I think we are a trusted source. I think our -- the fact that we’ve won Webbies and -- sorry, I’ve lost my -- we’ve certainly won a lot of journalistic awards in the last couple of years. They’ve been growing from Emmy’s to a Peabody. So I think that we do have the credibility.
160 Advice Canada -- Advice News Canada’s editor-in-chief is Patrick McGuire who doesn’t -- he does not come from a journalistic background educationally but is, I would say, second to none in terms of his credibility as an editor-in-chief of a news department for our office in Canada.
161 We -- as I said before, we have a mix of seasoned journalists who have come from places like Al Jazeera and the CBC mixed in, and there is oversight, like any journalism department, but part of what we do is immersive and experiential and so we do not want to always be shackled by being a classically objective J-school -- capital J -- journalism approach to the way we tell stories.
162 THE CHAIRPERSON: But would you argue that you nevertheless have a certain amount of standard that may have evolved compared to other traditional media but there are standards if you’re educating and training internally is because there’s a standard you’re hoping the new employees are meeting?
163 MR. KRONISH: We definitely have standards, and we vet all of the stories that go up, and there’s multiple layers of vetting before something gets published or broadcast.
164 THE CHAIRPERSON: One of the issues at the hearing is the extent to which one has to be locally present to do local news, and I realise that, you know, you are present in a number of places but I would like to hear you on the need and how you ensure that stories are relevant to an audience even though you may not be physically present there. What’s the minimum requirement that you need?
165 MR. KRONISH: Well, for us, actually, being present is the most important thing; we have to go there. We have to get on a plane, we have to get on a boat. We have to be there physically with our cameras talking to people who are there. That for us is paramount to being authentic to what we are doing. We wouldn’t -- we don’t generally take AP footage and run it with a VO explaining what happened. The news -- that’s -- there’s a lot of sources that can do that type of content but that’s not our approach. Our approach is very much about being there when things happen.
166 THE CHAIRPERSON: On the “need to be basis” so not bricks ---
167 MR. KRONISH: We ---
168 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- mortars though?
169 MR. KRONISH: --- on a -- by choice. We will chose. We’re not necessarily following the pack about what is happening and then being reactive. We are proactively deciding what stories interest us and we go.
170 THE CHAIRPERSON: More traditional media have done that as well but they’ve had -- television media have had bricks and mortar presence at least closer to the communities they report on.
171 MR. KRONISH: Well, as we grow ---
172 THE CHAIRPERSON: So what’s your (inaudible) then?
173 MR. KRONISH: --- we would like to. Right now we have a major presence it Toronto. We have a presence in Ottawa. We have a presence in Montreal. So, we are able to capture some of that. We do have an office in Vancouver now. We spend a lot of time in the north, Nunavut, etcetera, etcetera. So, we are there doing all sorts of things and, again, part of the discussion about full-time staff is what we’re able to do by having staff that work full-time is they are able to multi-task. They are able to be working on a long-form documentary and at the same time be picking up a story about something else because they are in the region. We do that regionally and nationally but we also do that internationally. So if we are in Iraq working on a television series, we are able to report on a daily basis while we are there from whatever we are doing about ISIS or whatever the story would be.
174 THE CHAIRPERSON: Somebody asked a question before. I asked my -- if my colleagues any questions. Explain to me how the ecosystem between traditional, linear platforms and more emerging platforms. I’m not sure if they have emerged or are emerging. It’s only been 10 years but still it’s not in the, you know, the time that we have been around it’s not a huge amount of time. How do you play it out? Are there things can only live in the social, newish platforms and just can’t survive in the linear or is that too contradictory to your business model that it always has to be multiplatform?
175 MR. PURDY: So, I think for us, when we are targeting -- thank you for the question, Mr. Chairman.
176 I think for us when we are targeting millennials we are doing it for a very specific reason. We find that the advertisers are absolutely focused on that demographic. They are looking for ways to connect with that demographic and -- so if they come VICE it’s because they want to basically find that community and they’re having a tough time finding it on sort of traditional media outlets. So, whatever we produce has to be respectful of millennials and respectful of the tone, manner and platforms that they want to consume content on. So it’s absolutely -- we shoot with a digital lens first. We recognize that more than half our viewing occurs on a mobile device and so we bear that in mind when we are producing our stories.
177 Going forward, I think, you know, today more than 95 percent of our revenue is coming from digital. Going forward that will shift because of the -- our involvement in traditional television. But we are still going to produce things with a digital lens first and, so it’s different than producing content and then making it available on authenticated TV Anywhere app.
178 So if you’ve produced a great show, whether it be a newscast or a scripted drama and then you put it up on an authenticated app, there’s value in that but that’s different than the value that we bring when we actually produce content thinking of the smartphone first. And so, going forward we’ll continue to be digital centric. We will continue to be focused entirely on millennials. It doesn’t mean our audience will be exclusively millennial but we will produce content with them in mind, with a tone and manner in mind and we’ll not be shackled by traditional formats. So, if a piece needs to be 38.7 minutes long, it will be 38.7 long. That -- and if it doesn’t fit within our newscast or our traditional TV formats then so be it. We’ll -- but we’re going to produce stories that we want to tell for an audience that we want to reach and we’re not going to get hamstrung by traditional formats.
179 THE CHAIRPERSON: Because it’s about programming rather than schedule?
180 MR. PURDY: Yeah. It’s about the content. It’s about storytelling and, so, the thing that I’ve experienced at VICE through the indoctrination process has been tell great stories and above all, respect the brand. And if it starts to look like something that’s going to run on A&E, the traditional channel, not A&E our partnership VICELAND, it’s not going to be -- it’s not going to have the VICE brand on it. And if it’s, it’s about telling great stories in really authentic way to millennials and as I said earlier, they know when you’re faking it or fudging it or squeezing it into a format and they hate it and they -- they’re vociferous in their disgust when you fail them.
181 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
182 Commissioner Simpson.
183 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning. Nice to see you David. I thought you were actually -- you just left an organization that was going tieless and here you are again with a tie on and yet you’re in a very progressive company. I find that interesting.
184 David, I want to ask you specifically, because of your background, one question and it has to do with the conversation that The Chair was exploring regarding the definition of “community”.
185 You know, digital media companies look at a community more from their specific interest, sometimes narrow, sometimes broader but the digital companies don’t have geographic boundaries as much as they have an ability to penetrate very wide regions of the world but go very narrow and still make the economics work.
186 When it comes to conventional broadcasting and regulation and everything that comes with it, we have a tendency or have had a tendency to look at communities as being more geographically centered and regulation sort of articulates that. It’s the whole concept of broadcasting and serving community self-limiting in terms of the way it’s structured right now.
187 MR. PURDY: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.
188 I don’t think it needs to be. I think sometimes it can be and I think there’s a danger that you fall into a trap of producing something that is contrived.
189 I have a lot of friends who are reporters and they have an enormous amount of pressure on them to go out and fill the time that they have been allotted every day. So, whether there is a story there or there’s not a story there, they’ve still got to produce a four or five minute piece and it’s got to run at five o’clock or six o’clock or eleven o’clock. And let’s say it’s -- let’s say they get there and the story is amazing and it should be a half-hour piece, they only have their finite amount of time and they’ve got to be back in the office and they got to tell that story for five o’clock. So, they are a little bit shackled by or under pressure to product to fill the allotted time slot every day. So, often times I find they head out sort of knowing the story they want to tell in advance. They kind of have the shots in their head that they need to get, you know, car burning, person upset, police car lights flashing and they sort of go there with the story in their mind pre-set.
190 The nice thing about VICE, and this is a luxury, it’s not that we’re better than anyone else, it’s just that we’re -- it’s a luxury we have because we produce content for all platforms. Because we can go there and if there’s a story and we need to stay there for 3 days, we’ll stay there for 3 days and we’ll tell a 35 minute doc about it. Or, if there’s no story, we’ll pack up and leave. We don’t -- today we don’t have the pressure that a lot of traditional news media outlets have to fill a pre-set slot every day so it gives us freedom to let the story run.
191 The way that Michael and his team produce content is, quite frankly, they tend to sort of sit back and get the camera into the right place and let the story unfold and he’s got a really unique voice and in a unique way, as does VICE, of telling these things and it’s because we’re not shackled by traditional formats, and if we do produce a show or a piece of content that would work for say, Rogers or, that’s great and if it doesn’t work for Rogers, that’s fine too, we’ll use it online and we’ll let that story run for some awkward length of time, you know. And so it is liberating and I think -- but traditional media I think is evolving as well. So if you look at the folks behind me, they all have digital aspirations or digital businesses that they're starting to produce content for.
192 I think the difference is that their traditional businesses are much bigger than their digital businesses, whereas with us our digital business is bigger than our traditional business, so it gives us liberty.
193 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you're moving to broadcasting, sort of circling back into conventional realms. Is that because you're leaving money on the table demographically?
194 MR. PURDY: Thank you for the question, and yeah, it sounds a bit crass but absolutely we did it for the money. We felt that traditional advertisers -- we weren’t getting our fair share of auto, of banks, of Telco’s, of -- there was a bunch of advertising categories that we think we can do more business with if we’re on a traditional TV platform as well.
195 We’re -- we were doing very well in the digital space, but we’re going to do much better. And it is about an ecosystem, it is about that sort of perfect storm of traditional television platform, digital, mobile and all of that working symbiotically. So when we go to sponsors today, they're very excited about our TV platforms and it’s drawing new people into the VICE list of advertisers.
196 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Dupras.
197 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Thank you. On discoverability, what tools do you use to allow millennials to find what they want to look at?
198 MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. As I mentioned in the opening, I think social media is quite vital these days, so our constant quest is to produce the optimal content on the optimal platform at the optimal time.
199 So that means different types of content can go on different platforms at different times for obviously ultimate viewing and ultimate sharing is -- what we want to do is making sure we’re engaging so that it’s constantly getting shared. Obviously the social ecosystem is where -- that’s where we really strive to get to make big lengths and reach a lot of people that way.
200 So social, that’s no secret, Facebook is a massive part of what drives our audience and engagement back to our own digital sites as well.
201 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: But you're also building a catalogue, and I guess there's programming of all sorts available. And I mean, with a given topic one would -- what, use search engines that others have developed or that you are developing?
202 MR. ARCHIBALD: Search engines, we’re not developing anything specifically, but we have optimized how we’re set up so that through SEO and whatnot, through Google that people can more easily find us, there's tools for making sure that your content is more easily discoverable and found online for sure.
203 And to your point, yes, as everything we produce, it doesn’t just go up to a place and have a quick shelf life and come down, we have a huge library and catalogue online across all of our verticals, so once we can engage somebody, generally they will discover more and more and more and stay on our sites.
204 MR. PURDY: And specifically in Canada we’re creating an app that will be available to mobile customers, and that app will make it easier and more intuitive to find -- find contents. So it is about -- I’d say there's opportunity for us to further leverage our library in a way that we’ll have incremental views and incremental revenue.
205 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, those are our questions. Thank you for having participated.
206 Madame la secrétaire.
207 THE SECRETARY: I will now ask Eastlink to come to presentation table.
208 MR. PURDY: Thank you.
209 THE SECRETARY: Please introduce yourself and you have 10 minutes.
210 MS. MacDONALD: Thank you Chairman, Commissioners, Commission Staff. I’m Natalie MacDonald, VP Regulatory for Eastlink. To my left is Lee Bragg, our CEO, and to my right is Michael Smith, our VP of Community TV, which is known in our markets as Eastlink TV, as well as Coast Cable and Delta TV.
211 We are pleased to be here today to talk about these issues that are very near and dear to us. Our community channels provide a valuable contribution to our broadcasting system. And in fact, they are increasingly important now when so many Canadians have access to content from hundreds of sources.
212 The digital age has made our world smaller and has brought people from across all borders together on many fronts, which is truly incredible. But with the proliferation of media from so many sources, we risk losing some of the local identity that unites our communities and contributes to the fabric of our families, schools, local businesses and the local economy.
213 More than ever, the local stories and events happening at the community level, sharing local character and culture, while also contributing to the diversity of voices within our communities, need to be told by our community channels. The stories we are telling are unique and will not be told by our local broadcasters.
214 We present this short video to give you a glimpse into our community channel, Eastlink TV.
(VIDEO PRESENTATION/PRÉSENTATION VIDÉO)
215 MS. MacDONALD: The video highlights Eastlink’s role in our communities. Community programming brings our communities together by telling local stories, broadcasting student athletes, playing sports, covering local community events, bolstering the economy and smaller centres through support of local business, providing news and information, fundraising for local causes, providing a platform for small local producers and helping train and educate the future professionals in the media industry.
216 We understand that the Commission wishes to discuss proposals for contributing to the creation of locally relevant and reflective news, information and other local programming.
217 Eastlink’s written submission has described in detail the various types of programming we offer and we believe that we have been very successful at meeting the needs of our communities through the local and access programs we provide.
218 In fact, the 175-plus comments filed in this proceeding by community members supporting our channel describe how Eastlink TV and its involvement in their lives has touched each of them, their families and the groups and associations in which they participate.
219 We were delighted to experience, through their written words, the value that our programming brings to them. We want to continue to maintain our relevant role in the daily lives of the people who live in our communities.
220 While the other key elements of the system, the public and private broadcasters, have a role to play, we believe that with this focus on local programming, our role is extremely important and is filling a need that is not otherwise met.
221 In the Notice and in the working document, the Commission has raised the specific issue of news and information programming. As detailed in our written submission, Eastlink TV broadcasts public affairs programming, a magazine-style news show, election coverage and debates, coverage of investigations or hearings, local citizen stories, documentaries, events in the community and sports, along with celebrating local leaders and businesses. The programs we describe fall well within the definition of news programming as defined in Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2010-808.
222 While Eastlink does not provide a 30-minute daily news program or breaking news coverage typically provided by the over-the-air broadcasters, we do provide longer form news and information stories at a level of detail and on subjects that are not currently offered by local broadcasters. This provides our viewers with the opportunity to experience our community and events at a deeper, more intimate level, and this is important to our communities.
223 In this regard, Eastlink’s primary concern in this proceeding is that we not lose any of the current community channel funding we have today.
224 Eastlink is a relatively smaller BDU, with fewer than 330,000 subscribers across all serving areas. This is a far cry from many of the largest and vertically integrated BDUs who each have a share of cable subscribers in the 1 million to 2.6 million range.
225 In this proceeding, it seems the key concern is that smaller and rural communities in our country continue to have access to local programming content. This is exactly what Eastlink is doing.
226 We believe it would be a serious error to require small, independent BDUs who provide high-quality, relevant local programming to our customers to cross-subsidize some of the largest media companies in the country for their news and information programs.
227 The impact to our communities of the reduced local content we provide today would be significant. Such an outcome would dilute the value that our local presence and the contribution it is making to these communities.
228 We believe any solutions should come from within the broadcasters and the VI companies themselves. Options for consideration could include variations to the overall programming requirements, funding from within their corporate ownership groups, or using revenues from only the VI BDUs or from BDUs in the largest urban markets where significant subscriber bases and an already strong local programming presence could justify moving some of those monies into a separate fund.
229 As to the other issues raised in this proceeding, Eastlink has put forward our initial views in our written submission. We are willing to clarify any issues and also to address some of the specific issues the Commission raised in the working documents which have not yet been addressed here.
230 Our general position is that where there is room to grant community channel operators more flexibility to operate our channels, we are obviously supportive of that.
231 We appreciate the opportunity to be here and welcome any questions you may have.
232 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
233 Commissioner Molnar will start us off.
234 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So good morning.
235 To summarize, you’ve come here requesting no change?
236 MS. MacDONALD: That’s right. I think obviously when we reviewed the proceeding, it deals with a local programming provided by both community TV and the conventional broadcasters. And so we’re looking at it from the perspective of the programming we produce and our contribution to the system. And so from that perspective we don’t really think there’s a need for a lot of change with our community channels.
237 You know, we have proposed in our written submissions some minor tweaking, and we’re obviously open to flexibility.
238 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: To grant you more flexibility to -- within your own community channels?
239 MS. MacDONALD: Sure.
240 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I read your submissions.
241 MS. MacDONALD: Yes.
242 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Well, I just have a few questions based on your position coming in here. So first of all, I want to make sure, before I ask these, that I understand well the communities you serve. So you serve Halifax.
243 Do you have other licensed systems?
244 MS. MacDONALD: Yes. We have three licensed systems: Halifax, Dartmouth and Sudbury.
245 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. And so how many exempt?
246 MS. MacDONALD: We’ve got many exempt systems. Actually, the balance of our remaining cable systems are exempt and we operate throughout Atlantic Canada, primarily Newfoundland, most of the rural areas of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, all of P.E.I., Nova Scotia and some small communities -- a couple of small communities in New Brunswick. We operate throughout Ontario, Alberta and B.C. as well, and we have systems in all of those areas, primarily serving smaller and rural communities.
247 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And, frankly, the word “system” is not probably the word we should be talking about today because we should be talking about communities.
248 So how many communities? Can you give me a rough number of communities you serve?
249 MS. MacDONALD: I would say that given -- in the days of systems, we operated some 300 systems. Those served communities, and hundreds and hundreds of communities are served through our program -- through our cable system.
250 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And only three of those are large enough to be licensed?
251 MS. MacDONALD: That’s right.
252 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So they would fall within a larger community and the rest are all smaller communities?
253 MS. MacDONALD: That’s right, yeah.
254 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Let me know at any point -- you know, you’re always open to say “I don’t really have an opinion on this.” So without a number on the communities, it may be unfair, but I am still going to ask you about those communities and whether you believe that they, today, are served well with local news and information programming, not just through your community channel but generally.
255 Do you know -- would you be able to tell me how many communities you serve that are not served today by other local news?
256 MS. MacDONALD: Well, where we operate, many of the local conventional broadcasters -- is that what you’re referring to, local conventional broadcasters serving a community? Many of them, for example, in the Atlantic, they operate under regional licence and, therefore, they are served. I guess there’s a question as to, to what extent is the local when it’s provided on a regional basis?
257 But when we looked at the systems where we provide service, it would appear that where there is no local broadcaster, it looks like there’s two communities in Newfoundland that we serve that are not served by a local broadcaster, and that’s Stephenville and Marystown, Newfoundland.
258 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So of your 330 systems, 330 communities, there's only three that are not served by an over-the-air broadcaster or a conventional?
259 MS. MacDONALD: It would appear. I mean we had some challenges reviewing because of course we have to look at overlay the service areas of the local broadcasters and look at their contours and try to decipher from the mapping which is local, but it would appear that there are two -- two systems that aren’t served by the local broadcasters across our serving areas.
260 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And so those systems would be reliant on you as a primary source of local programming and information?
261 MS. MacDONALD: I believe they do receive service from broadcasters, it’s just the question is whether it is actually defined as the local broadcast service, so that is something that we would have to check on.
262 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Again, understanding your position is essentially, “No changes for us, we are doing well to serve the communities we’re in”, I’m still going to ask you a couple things about possible changes.
263 As you know, our working document proposed changes and one of them was the proposal that perhaps the community channels could begin to produce local news as local news is perhaps more traditionally defined in reporting. Have you given any thought to that?
264 MS. MacDONALD: We have actually, we’ve discussed that internally. And in fact, we actually have two cable systems where we formally did produce a local news program, and that is in Sudbury and in Timmins. And I can pass -- pass the microphone over to Michael to explain sort of what took place there and why we felt that we would not continue to produce a local news program.
265 Obviously, there's no doubt on the record that local news program is costly, and we provide all kinds of other programming that fits within longer form news category, so -- anyway, I’ll turn it over to Michael.
266 MR. SMITH: Thank you and good segway, Natalie. We find that if producing local programming and producing local news are two very distinct areas. Local news requires a lot of time, energy and resources to do it traditionally and to do it properly and it competes with trying to do local programming and tell the community stories. And really you have to do one or the other, it’s very difficult to do news and do it well and do it properly.
267 We use an expression “covering the embers”, because if there's a fire last night, maybe we’re not there, we’re there today covering the embers. So it’s not really traditional news. So we’ve taken the approach of meeting the mandate of and guidelines of our community channels and telling local stories and providing longer format, good news stories of what's going on in the community.
268 Certainly, it seemed to very well appreciated by the community and it’s terrific to cover good news stories and tell local news stories other than -- as our predecessors today said, “Covering the flashing lights of ambulances and police cars”, and really telling what the community wants to hear in terms of local stories.
269 MR. BRAGG: If I could add a little to that, I think if there was a defined gap and our customers were demanding certain coverage of certain activities, or there was, you know, we felt that we were getting feedback from our customers that they wanted more, if it was local news or more stories, we would try to fill that hole.
270 And I think that’s part of the challenge that we’re faced with, I think this whole proceeding is faced with, is we see as sort of a historical model for delivering news that is being challenged on a lot of fronts. And I think, you know, similar to, you know, we heard VICE talk about how they were really digital media and online, but they started to move to linear because they saw an opportunity there.
271 I think from a community channel perspective, we might do the same thing. I see us filling holes that the local broadcasters create sometimes, but it has to make sense and it has to be driven by the community’s needs or desires. So we get feedback from the customers and we hear that, saying, you know, “We wish that was covered.”
272 I mean part of what we saw on our video was there was a New Year’s celebration that the local over-the-air guys, the local news decided not to cover, so it went -- it went -- I think last year nobody covered it. And so we saw that as a gap, so we said hey, well we approached the city and we said, “We’d be happy to do that.” So we’re always trying to evolve and I think that’s part of the challenge, is that this whole media is evolving and we just have to keep reminding ourselves if there's a need, we have to evaluate if it makes sense and we’ll determine whether we can fill it or not.
273 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: One of the things that was identified in the working document was sources of funding, and particularly considering whether or not it would be reasonable to look at allowing local advertising for community channels who were filling the gaps and providing local news. Do you have any thoughts on that?
274 MS. MacDONALD: I absolutely think that where local community channels are looking to fill the gap and especially if there's no local broadcaster, that there should be more flexibility, and that may involve expanding to allow those community channels to offer local advertising. And we think that makes sense.
275 In our own submission we even suggested that there’d be some minor tweaks to the current sponsorship rules, just to enable small business owners and small -- small businesses working in the communities to be able to promote and sponsor community programming with slightly more ease than we do today under the current sponsorship rules.
276 MR. SMITH: Just to add to that, we find that people in the community that maybe their children are playing on the high school football team, they want to support the community channel and they're looking for that opportunity. But sometimes the restrictions on what they can say in the sponsorship piece limit what they can do. They may have a 30-second commercial they’ve already produced, it’s too expensive for them to produce a 15-second commercial or they do want to say a little bit more about their product or service and really they're just trying to support the community. So we’re really looking for a little bit of support in that area of making it easier for those people to support the communities and community programming.
277 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Do you have any sense as to the size of that opportunity?
278 MR. SMITH: Not in dollars and cents, but a little bit would help and be appreciated.
279 MS. MacDONALD: But I think we would say that the contribution by sponsorship isn't huge in terms of the value to the community channel operators so much as enabling community members and local businesses to support the channel.
280 Now, if you're talking about expanding to advertising in local communities where there is no local news and there's a community channel operator that wants to step up, that might look different and I’m not sure what the value of that opportunity would be. But clearly, one would assume that if there's more -- a purer form of advertising happening in those areas, it might be a little bit more valuable and at least help the same operator to provide more programming.
281 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: There are parties in this who would argue that community channels should not be run by the BDUs, I’m sure you're well aware of the record of this and there's proposals from many, CACTUS being one of those, that would say access -- community access should be in the hands of community members and not be controlled by the BDUs.
282 Do you have some thoughts on that?
283 MS. MacDONALD: Sure. Well I guess first of all we would say that we are very much engaged in the community, and we would very much say that the community does engage and play a role in providing direction in terms of the programming we provide through our access initiatives.
284 In fact, there's a huge -- a huge number of community members that contribute to and lead us in the direction of the kinds of programming that we create. We believe that we have a really good history of creating excellent programming, we continue to do so.
285 And I’d like to reference that, you know, we’ve got a lot of support from community members that highlight with some -- with great description the roles that we play in bringing community programming to our community. So we think we’re doing it well, we don’t think there's a need to change that model.
286 MR. BRAGG: And I think we are more motivated. I mean I always felt that the community channel funding came from our customers and we had the responsibility to provide value for our customers’ dollars. I mean it’s a derivative of a certain -- you know, the revenue that’s driven from, you know, our video revenues from those customers. So I’ve always felt that’s -- that’s their money, we have a responsibility to listen to those customers and provide some value for that money. So I’ve always felt we were more motivated than anybody to do that.
287 Now, we don’t limit third-party access. Actually, I mean, as we’ve said, we try to embrace that and bring on as much third-party content from an open access standpoint as we can, but we also like to do -- have some control over our own productions that we think represents what our customers want.
288 So I think to have a -- have it just completely handed over to a third party -- you know, I mean, obviously anybody can make that argument, but I think nobody’s as motivated as we are because they’re our customers and it’s their money and they tell us what they want done and we respond to that.
289 MR. SMITH: I can add to that too. Being part of a larger organization drives discipline, it drives management, and it has subject matter experts to manage that business and oversee it.
290 You know, customer service is a big part of what our community channel does, probably because we’re part of that bigger organization.
291 It really ultimately drives discipline and makes sure that we do the best possible job we have and that we adhere to the goals and plans of the organizations that we work with.
292 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Can I ask if you make your -- the programming or content of your community channel available on any other platforms?
293 MS. MacDONALD: Yes. Actually we offer our community channel on the traditional linear platform. We also have a VOD content and basically place I think all of our content on our VOD platform. We also have our community channel available on an over-the-top basis through Eastlink To Go. And there are some clips and segments on YouTube as well, and that’s an area we’re moving into a little bit. But certainly we touch on all platforms and we place our content there.
294 And actually our VOD is quite popular. We see a lot of viewing and we get -- you know, get a sense of where the interest is. And there’s a great amount of interest in watching the access programs that are on our VOD.
295 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Just one final question. I understand that your position is make no change.
296 Mr. Bragg, you spoke about it’s the money of your subscribers and your relationship with your subscribers. You’ve spoke about how important this programming is to the communities where you serve.
297 If the allocation of monies that was to be assigned to -- you know, that now sits within exempt and non-exempt systems for community programming, if that was to be at least some of that reallocated, tell me what that would do to the service you provide to the communities where you operate.
298 MR. BRAGG: That’s a good question.
299 Certainly, you know, if we had less funding we could do less. I mean, I don’t know if it was -- you know, if it was trimmed by 25 percent -- I mean, Michael runs it. I mean, I don’t -- I mean, we’d have to look and say well what tends to be the least popular or the least valuable dollar spent and trim accordingly.
300 I mean, it’s a tough question because we don’t really know. I mean, I think we do as much as we can with the funding that’s available, so if we had more we could do more, if we had less we’d do less.
301 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Let me ask the question more directly. And maybe you’ve already answered. So if there’s less money that through the regulatory system is allocated you would trim; you wouldn’t continue to provide service to your customers in the communities where you serve; you wouldn’t maintain the service?
302 I mean, nobody -- there is no limit -- as a regulator we haven’t assigned a limit as to how much you spend ---
303 MR. BRAGG: No, that’s fair.
304 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- it’s simply an allocation of monies.
305 So is it your sense that if there was a reallocation of regulatory obligations that you would trim the service you provide to your communities?
306 MR. BRAGG: I mean, now you’re getting into where if I had to spend our own, I’m going to call it, marketing or advertising dollars in lieu of what we were obligated to spend, I don’t know.
307 We know there’s a value in what we do. We think it’s a value to our customers. Is it as valuable as some of the other things we do, as rebuilding networks, as increasing internet speeds, I mean, I don’t -- we spend a lot of money doing things so it would be -- it’s hard for me to say how I’d rank that.
308 You know, would we spend some, I mean, maybe. I mean, I don’t -- it’s -- I don’t know. That’s a tough question.
309 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I know you came here asking for no change but I can’t believe before you came in this room you didn’t think about what if there was a change. I mean, you’ve asked about getting a little more.
310 MR. BRAGG: But we always want to ask for more.
311 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Exactly. I don’t believe for a minute you didn’t think about what would be the consequence if there was a little less.
312 MR. BRAGG: I -- you know ---
313 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You’ve talked about this being important to your communities, you’re an important element, you provide important access to information and so on.
314 MR. SMITH: I think what happens with funding is that -- and VICE talked about this, they want to have the bricks and mortar.
315 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
316 MR. SMITH: They do employ people.
317 Content production is directly proportional to the number of people you have. That funding’s cut, those numbers go down. So the amount of production that’s produced goes down.
318 We’ve been through in the past decade where we’ve had funding reduced and then that’s been reversed shortly thereafter.
319 Right now community programming is functioning at a level that’s never been seen before. We always say it’s not your father’s community channel anymore. The programming, the content that’s on the channel is comparable to mainstream production. Certainly we don’t produce a hockey game like Hockey Night in Canada or TSN but it’s comparable. And people like to see that content and have it, and if the funding is altered it will affect the amount of content that’s available on the channel.
320 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And to be clear, when you speak funding you’re speaking the maximum amount to be -- will be the amount that is required by regulation. Is that what you’re saying ---
321 MR. SMITH: Well, we ---
322 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- when you speak funding?
323 MR. SMITH: Yes, to that degree. We feel that it’s ---
324 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So it’s important, it’s branded -- it’s Eastlink TV, so you have branded this, you control much of the content of it, you make a relationship with your customers and the maximum to be spent is that which we require and assign by regulation?
325 MR. SMITH: From my perspective, that branding is directly proportional to the pride of work. And the people are aware of what’s on our channel. As VICE said, branding was important to them.
326 So it does drive viewers to that content for sure.
327 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I have no more questions. Thank you.
328 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
329 MR. BRAGG: Sorry, but can I just add a little to that, because I’m -- it seems like we’re going down a path of if we had less funding but possibly had more flexibility on advertising that we could be more self-funded and look more like an over the air broadcaster and then -- it just seems like are we trying to recreate ourselves to be one of the other guys, which I think their business models under strain, which I think everybody would acknowledge, and there has to be some adaptation.
330 So if we had less mandatory funding and had to do it on our own I think the challenge is we wouldn’t necessarily want to do it in the same way as everybody else was, because I do believe that that structure is under a lot of stress and strain and I think it has to change. I mean, I think customers are demanding it’s changed. There’s demographic change. There’s a lot of things. There’s more access all over the place.
331 And we, you know, talked a little bit earlier about the content and the creation and the integrity associated with it and the professionalism. So there’s -- you know, there are a lot of issues, so it’s hard to look at it as a sort of a one-for-one trade off when I think if we’re going to dramatically change the way we do things I think we have to look at it more holistically and say well what’s the right way to do it rather than just take incremental steps maybe down the wrong path.
332 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
333 And please understand my questions aren’t assuming an outcome, but you’ve come and said no change, and we’re not having this hearing to hear people say no change.
334 I mean, at a minimum I’d like to understand what the consequence of change would be to the communities you serve.
335 So, again, I wasn’t kind of trying to flash an outcome I’m trying to understand.
336 And you -- particularly, you have many, many small rural and remote communities, what is the impact on those communities. I was just trying to understand.
337 So I have no more questions.
338 MS. MACDONALD: I would, if I could, like to clarify the comment no change. And, of course, when we speak to community channel we propose no change in terms of the funding mechanism, but I expect there will be change coming from this hearing.
339 And, you know, when we looked at the issues that are before the Commission in this proceeding, you know, what I see as a summary of these issues is there is a perceived and perhaps real problem with maintaining a financial ability to create the kind of 30-minute or hour-long regular news that is deemed important by Canadians.
340 But with that, there is a significant amount of access to news in many other formats and many other successful formats. And so when we say no change and we’re looking at trying to find solutions to these other issues, we’re saying that I don’t think the solution should come from the smaller rural broadcasters and BDUs -- sorry, BDUs that are creating and very much meeting the needs in those local communities.
341 And so when we looked at -- when I looked at the evidence in this proceeding, it seems to me that the biggest issues are maintaining a regular news program if that is what is desired as a an outcome in smaller communities. It seems the larger communities, the larger urban centres, are doing fine.
342 So, you know, the targeted solution, in our view, is to really focus on what is the problem with the local news. And although there are -- there may be a submission or two on file from broadcasters who are describing the challenges of creating this news and they’re looking for cross-subsidies from independent broadcasters -- sorry, independent BDUs, there are also conventional broadcasters that have put forward ideas about new models and that they’re doing things differently.
343 And so I guess what I’m saying is that while we’re saying no change for local community channel funding that is currently and adequately, in fact, very well serving small communities, if there’s a change, that solution really should look to where the problem is and look to the areas where there isn’t a problem. So in terms of funding, there’s no problem in the larger urban centres. So maybe the reallocation should come from where the money is and where the problems are less evident.
344 And so that’s kind of our position. So I just wanted to clarify. We’re not here saying don’t change anything, and I just want to be clear that there will be changes and there may be changes coming from the proceeding, but we just propose that what’s working well shouldn’t be altered.
345 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
346 But the disadvantage -- and I understand your point, but the disadvantage of going first, and we’ve noticed this across this public proceeding, is that everybody seems to forget what the actual model is in the Broadcast Distribution Regulations. There is not a cap on the amount of money BDUs -- and, Mr. Bragg, you agree -- that there is not a cap on the amount of money BDUs, whether they’re large, independent, small, can spend on the community channel.
347 What the regulation says is there is a cap on the amount you can credit against your 5 percent you otherwise have to give to Canadian programing.
348 And so that’s why Commissioner Molnar was asking you, were the to be changed -- you’ve come here and said it’s extremely valuable; it creates loyalty to your customers in those -- why would you, if it is that valuable, if there was even a fraction less of the percentage deductible ---
349 MS. MacDONALD: Right.
350 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- why would you pull away from it?
351 MS. MacDONALD: And I guess what I would say to that is, absolutely, you’re right. I don’t disagree, and I understood where Commissioner Molnar was going with the questioning. And like every company that is offering multiple services in this country, we’re all -- I think many would say we’re struggling with a new reality, a complete change in, you know, a movement toward over the top. We’ve got dwindling subscriber bases. Most of the BDUs do. So we’re dealing with fewer subscribers. Part of our customers’ revenue goes toward the independent production funds. We see that the customers’ revenues that go to our community programming directly benefitting those communities with local, and we’re investing in multiple services and we’re expanding across the country with multiple services and major investments at the most competitive time that we’ve ever experienced in our markets for multiple services.
352 And so absolutely, I agree that, you know, if we had full flexibility to operate and we didn’t have the limitations on advertising and sponsorship and perhaps more flexibility in production, that there’s a valid question to be asked, which is is there a benefit to your company to use more than what is set aside?
353 But there’s so many other considerations in running a business at this extremely competitive time. And in fact, when we look at what the conventional broadcasters are saying, for example, Bell Media, they’ve got 32 specialty services. They’re the largest communications company in the country. They have successful specialty services that our subscribers pay dearly for, and yet they’re coming here showing a slice of the expenditures and revenue for news broadcast in a given week and saying they’re in dire straits.
354 And so they obviously do have tough times, as does everyone, and we all have to think outside of the box and build and plan for it. But I guess when I say are we willing to commit that we would spend more than the cap, we need to look at what’s happening in our market and all of the -- well, mine’s a business, so it’s a much more difficult question than it would have been maybe 10-20 years ago when we had a larger subscriber base and fewer services to contend with -- or compete with. We’re pleased to have the services obviously.
355 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
356 I’ll have more questions for you, but we’ll pass it to Commissioner MacDonald, please.
357 COMMISIONNER MaCDONALD: Good morning. We’re going to spend a lot of time over the next few days sort of talking about the benefits of community television for the community, but volunteers are also sort of the backbone of the community channel, and I’m just wondering if you could speak a little bit to the benefits that having a community TV station or structure in a given geography gives those volunteers, because there’s been a lot in the media as of late about changes to funding for production in Nova Scotia and the potential of limiting opportunities on a go-forward basis for producers, for camera operators and what have you.
358 So I’m just wondering if you can speak to that volunteer experience a little bit?
359 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, good question.
360 MR. SMITH: And there is no question that volunteering and obtaining volunteers is becoming more and more challenging every day. People are busy and with the changes in tax credits that we experienced in Nova Scotia, a lot of people that would’ve volunteered have moved out of the province. So it does become a challenge.
361 However, we have great relationships with community colleges, with journalism schools, even with high schools that have a curriculum of media programs. We receive a lot of volunteers from those sources. We even have volunteers that might be retired people that are looking for a different experience in life. And so that opportunity is absolutely applied and available. We have measurables of volunteers we’d love to receive on our programs and try to achieve those for our managers to try to get to, and it’s a great opportunity for young people to experience the business, a hands-on experience. They’re not just observing. They’re operating cameras or editing systems or as floor directors, any part of the production. So it gives them a chance to see if that’s what they want to pursue in life in terms of a career.
362 So it’s a big part of our operation and we enjoy it. We celebrate it. Every April is Volunteer Appreciation Week and that’s a big part of how we show appreciation to people by taking advantage of that time, and a lot of the promotion on our channel is saying volunteerism is available to our community channel. So again, a big part of what we do and what we like to do.
363 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you for that.
364 Just one additional question that gets down to sort of the various different communities that comprise Atlantic Canada. Sometimes individuals think of Atlantic Canada as just sort of one community of interest when that may or may not be the case. And, you know, when viewing news programing, oftentimes it is produced out of one centre, the larger centre being Halifax, and I’m just wondering since you are so close to the community, can you speak to any sort of hardship that your subscribers or community members may feel because everything -- all of their news content does come with that Halifax set of lenses and what is, you know, informative for Young street in Halifax may not be relevant to Main Street in Digby or Stellarton or what have you.
365 So I’m just wondering if you can speak to sort of where that line is and sort of perhaps where the focus should be in some of those smaller areas?
366 MR. SMITH: Definitely there is a community of interest in Atlantic Canada. We understand that. We have some programs that we call grid programming that is shown throughout perhaps Nova Scotia, P.E.I., the Maritimes or even Atlantic Canada, including Newfoundland. And we have some programs that we call “ultra local” that are just in Antigonish, for example. In fact, one of our most popular programs is a program called “Fishing With Friends” that came from a member of the community in Antigonish, and we have someone on the ground in Antigonish to produce that. So we have people, again, for example, in Nova Scotia in 10 different communities because we feel it’s important to be there and to be based there and to be accessible to members of the community to come forward and say, “We want you to help us tell this story,” or “We want to tell this story.” So we do have people on the street in those places because you’re exactly right, the broadcasters just in Halifax, sometimes it becomes centric to Halifax. But certainly it’s important to have people in Yarmouth and in Amherst, and Summerside and Charlottetown and in Bay Roberts to be available to tell those stories.
367 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Simpson?
368 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning. Thinking of Delta Cable for a second, you have a very interesting model here that I’d like to explore. And the question is built around the community programming value of what that system does with respect to the Delta community, and whether or not there is a business case to be built around the value of community.
369 In that market, for the benefit of those who don’t know the market, it’s part of the lower mainland of Vancouver -- Greater Vancouver -- and your competition is not only direct to home satellite, but also Telus and Shaw, who are formidable competitors. Both of whom have a very centralized, one size fits all community programming schedule that tries to satisfy the needs of all the communities in the lower mainland.
370 And what’s interesting about Delta Cable to me, is that you know, you bought a highly evolved, free-standing system from the Thomas family that very graciously and generously serves that community. Is there a business advantage from your standpoint that correlates to the quality of community programming that this Commission could learn something from, where you’re able to very specifically serve a community and fend off competition at the same time because of that?
371 MR. BRAGG: I certainly think there is an advantage to doing -- to operating your community channel well. And this seems to keep coming back, “Well, if there is, how valuable is it?” You know, we’ve never -- to be honest -- never had to look at it. Or I shouldn’t -- yeah, we’ve never had to. Maybe we should, to say whatever out budget is, if it’s -- I don’t know -- $7 million a year or something like that, if it was half that how much would we do on our own?
372 And whether -- and I think it is -- I mean, you bring up a good point, because it will be defined, sort of on a community by community basis, on what do we do that’s valuable and how valuable it is to this community; and hence, value to our image and then value to our business. And the challenges -- and I’m not suggesting it’s not valuable. I absolutely know it’s valuable.
373 But if it was -- if we had to fund it on a standalone basis, which you know, maybe we would, maybe we wouldn’t. It has to be more valuable than a lot of other activities that we’ve been unable to spend money on. So that if I had an extra $3 million the most value to the customers might be putting up a cell tower somewhere in that area. It might be spending more money on training for technical service representatives. It might be buying a new bucket truck. I don’t know. It just -- it has to go in and be measured against everything else that we do that’s a value to the customers.
374 So low and behold, maybe we would discover that we’d say, “Oh yeah, we should spend that.” But we’ve never had to, but we’ve always -- we’ve said it’s a fixed amount of money and we’re going to get the most value out of it based on customer feedback that we can. So because it’s lived in isolation and never had to measure itself against any of the other activities we do to try to generate good will from our customers and create customer value, you know, I don’t -- that’s what -- it’s hard to answer because it’s never, you know, it’s never had to measure itself against that.
375 I absolutely do believe it’s valuable, what we do. But is it more valuable than the next dollar that we spend somewhere else? I don’t know.
376 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui? Commissaire Dupras, oui.
377 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Just one question. I just -- have I heard right that the content is driven by the benefit for your company?
378 MS. MacDONALD: I think I can start and then Michael or Lee can add to that if I miss something. I think it’s important to say that the content and the quality of it is driven by a desire to provide something meaningful to our customers. Does it create a positive brand for our company and is that important? Absolutely.
379 But I think the guiding principles come from the community channel policy that was created so many years ago, which is about making locally relevant content with and community members, and making it relevant to the local communities. And that model has worked really well and we’ve evolved with that model to create something that we’re very, very proud of. So I think it’s -- you can’t separate it. I think that it’s a mix of both.
380 MR. BRAGG: I mean we do certainly -- do get value out of it, but we don’t decide this is the kind of programming we want to do because we think it’s going to show our company in a good light with the customers. It’s more the reverse. We listen to the customers and they’d say, you know, “Here’s the kind of programming we want.” Or “Here’s an idea for a show.” Or “There seems to be some community interest around this particular issue, can you do a show, or can you cover this?” And then we’d say, well, if that’s what the community wants, you know, if we’re doing what our customers want we know that’s a value for us.
381 So we don’t try to get inside our customers heads and say, this is -- they’re really going to like this. It tends to be the reverse. I mean high school sports is a good example. I actually didn’t think it was going to be that popular, but there were lots of people in the community saying, you know, “We wish you did more. We wish you did more.” And I just assumed it’s, you know, it’s a bunch of hockey parents that just want to see their kids on TV. Is there really much value to us?
382 But that’s what the community was interested in so we said, “Yes, we’re going to do as much of that as we can.” It’s turned out to be fantastic. Well, I was wrong, that’s fine. Occasionally I am. But it’s -- but it is driven by what our customers want. That tends to be how we’re directed into what kind of things we want to cover.
383 MS. MacDONALD: And to be clear, it’s driven by what our customers want, but it doesn’t mean it’s driven by the broader base of customers. So for example, there’s a program that we show in Delta which is Koucheh TV, and we were discussing the making of that program and different decisions that would have to be made if we had less funding. And there was -- that was a very specific niche type of program that required a significant amount of time and effort for us to work with the access programmers and really create something that was meaningful to them. More time than would be taken say with another program, and it touched a niche group within the community, but it was very important. So it wasn’t driven by -- so I want to clarify, it isn’t driven by a desire to hit a broader base.
384 MR. SMITH: I just want to talk about that. Just one correction, Koucheh TV is in Halifax. But absolutely everything else Natalie said about it was correct.
385 But I find that community programming is driven by the niche of the market where we can fit in. Where the local broadcaster may have vacated is where we step in, where the community wants it. Sports is a good example, you know, years and years ago we never did sports, but the -- as the public and private broadcasters vacated that and the community asked for it, we did it.
386 I think it’s more the opposite, Commissioner, that I like to say what we do in the community side, channel, reflects on the company. That if people feel good about the community channel, they’ll feel good about the company, but really it’s driven by the community and the niche where we can fit in and produce content, and we’re more responsive.
387 Koucheh TV is a great example. This was a lady who was a movie producer from Iran who came to Canada and was looking to be able to continue her profession. But also help the Farsi language community in Halifax reach out to themselves, and they came to our channel to do that. So we’re responsive to the community for sure. Thank you.
388 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just a few quick questions before I pass it on to legal. Mr. Smith, in your reel, very compelling reel, what would you -- and you featured in that reel a number of programs that are produced or distributed on your community channel. Of the total number, what percentage do you think of that, guesstimate, is access programming?
389 MR. SMITH: It’s well over 50 percent, close to 60 percent is access programming.
390 THE CHAIRPERSON: In the reel you presented, the video?
391 MR. SMITH: I would say in that reel probably, yeah. Maybe even a larger portion of that.
392 THE CHAIRPERSON: So more than what you are financially required to do, is that correct? So you find the access programming the most compelling programming to come and show the commission in a reel; is that correct?
393 MR. SMITH: I think so. Yes, for sure.
394 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m happy to hear that your programming is popular. I’m trying to go beyond anecdotal evidence. Now, you’re one of the few parties on this proceeding that actually gave us hard numbers on your VOD viewing to your community programming. Why aren’t you able to do so on the linear channel? I would have thought the set-top box, at least in some communities, could provide us some viewing numbers.
395 MS. MacDONALD: It has been something that we’ve, you know, communicated to the Commission also before that. We don’t currently have the mechanism for collection on the set-top boxes, we have different set-top boxes in the market and we currently aren’t -- don’t have that capacity for collecting data on our set-top boxes.
396 So that’s the primary ---
397 THE CHAIRPERSON: In none of your systems?
398 MS. MacDONALD: Pardon me?
399 THE CHAIRPERSON: In no system do you operate boxes that would allow you to get any information from the set-top box on viewing to community?
400 MS. MacDONALD: At this time, and I would hesitate, I wouldn’t to be saying the wrong answer here, but I believe that certain boxes may have the capability, but don’t have the -- I don’t know if it’s a software issue.
401 It’s something I’d have to clarify and get back to you on, but at this time I am -- I understand that we don’t have that capability for gathering that data through our set-top boxes.
402 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Could you undertake to provide us the reasons why?
403 MS. MacDONALD: I can do that.
404 THE CHAIRPERSON: Between now and the 5th of -- by the latest the 5th of February --
405 MS. MacDONALD: Sure.
406 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- which will be the standard undertaking date.
408 Finally, you talk about loosening the sponsorship rule; do I take it that in your view, that this would not in any way affect the advertising revenues for let’s say local radio or local television?
409 MS. MacDONALD: That’s right. What we had proposed was really just a slight loosening. At the present time we have often very small businesses that are interested in sponsoring events that they already sponsor in the community and they would like to, you know, sponsor on the community channel and just the format of the sponsorship.
410 We don’t generally think that those types of community businesses are necessarily looking to advertise with the larger conventional broadcasters.
411 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you. So I’ll pass it to legal, which I believe has a question.
412 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Exhibit 1; which I’m going to ask the secretary to provide you a copy of.
413 THE CHAIRPERSON: You just happen to be first.
414 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So this exhibit contains a series of questions relating to proposed definitions for local programming, local presence and local news, as well as a question seeking data for community channel tuning.
415 The Commission doesn’t expect you to provide an answer to these questions right now, as they will require some thinking and leg work on your part.
416 However, we ask that you undertake to provide the responses as applicable to your undertaking, by February 15th, 2016.
417 MS. MacDONALD: Sure. Yes.
418 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. And for the record, Exhibit 1 will be available on the Commission’s website, for other interested parties participating in this proceeding to comment on.
419 That’s all, Mr. Chair.
420 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. So that’s forewarning to others that we will be asking you. You just happen to be the first ones up that -- to whom we’ll be asking that question. So thank you very much.
421 MS. MacDONALD: Okay.
422 THE CHAIRPERSON: Those are our questions and we will take a 10 minutes break, until 11:15. Thank you.
423 MS. MacDONALD: Thank you.
424 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
---Upon recessing at 11:05 a.m.
---Upon resuming at 11:20 a.m.
425 THE REGISTRAR: À l’ordre s’il vous plait. Madame la secrétaire?
426 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Nous entendrons maintenant la présentation de la Télévision Communautaire Frontenac. S’il vous plait vous présenter et présenter votre collègue. Vous avez 10 minutes.
427 M. MURPHY: Christian Murphy. Je suis membre du conseil d’administration. J’occupe le poste de trésorier au conseil d’administration de la Télévision Communautaire Frontenac, puis je suis accompagné de Martin McArdle, qui est directeur général adjoint et directeur de la programmation Télévision Communautaire Frontenac, qu’on appellera pour les biens de l’audience TCF.
428 Donc, Monsieur le Président, madame la Conseillère Molnar, messieurs les conseillers Simpson, Dupras et MacDonald, bonjour.
429 Donc comme je disais, je m’appelle Christian Murphy et trésorier au conseil d’administration.
430 Je tiens à vous remercier de nous permettre d’intervenir dans le cadre de cette audience. D’ailleurs la présente instance démontre l’intérêt porté par le conseil envers les programmations locales et communautaires.
431 TCF, la Télévision Communautaire de Montréal, a été fondée en 1995. Notre mission principale est de produire des émissions télédiffusées, télévisées et diffusées sur des chaines communautaires des EDRs.
432 Ainsi que d’opérer un service de programmation communautaire, indépendant, que nous lancerons dans les prochaines semaines.
433 Ce service sera distribué sur certaines EDRs grâce à une licence qui nous a été accordé par le conseil en août 2015.
434 En parallèle, nous offrons un service d’information de proximité aux résidents du cartier centre-sud de Montréal. L’un des quartiers les plus pauvres du pays et qui est le seul de la région métropolitaine de Montréal à ne pas être doter d’un journal hebdomadaire de quartier.
435 Avant de vous exposer nos positions dans le cadre de cette audience, permettez-nous de vous présenter une vidéo produite dans le cadre du 20ième anniversaire de TCF.
436 Cette séquence démontre bien à notre avis, l’utilité des télévisions communautaires, leur pertinence en milieu urbain et le rôle de l’information locale qu’elle diffuse dans un contexte de concentration de la presse.
437 M. MURPHY: Excusez. Nous nous présentons aujourd’hui devant vous, afin de démontrer l’importance de maintenir et même d’augmenter le financement des sociétés de télévision communautaires à but non-lucratifs, telles que les télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec, afin d’offrir aux citoyens une couverture de l’actualité locale.
438 Le budget annuel de TCF est environ de 300,000$. La moitié de cette somme provient des EDRs, qui diffusent notre programmation.
439 L’autre moitié est reçue sous conditions sous forme de subvention, dons de locaux, salaires ou bien commandites.
440 Depuis l’année 2016, ce seront 300 heures d’émissions originales et locales, qui seront produites par TCF, grâce au travail de 4 salariés permanents, 2 employés, dont le salaire est partiellement subventionné par le Gouvernement du Québec et une cinquantaine de bénévole ayant consacré au total plus de 1 800 heures à TCF en 2015. Nous produisons donc en moyenne une heure d’émission pour chaque 500$ de financement accordé par les EDR. Nous réalisons de petits miracles à chaque jour avec le financement que nous obtenons.
441 En ne pouvant miser sur un financement garanti et récurrent, la planification à moyen et long terme est très ardue. Et la gestion quotidienne exige de la part des administrateurs et du personnel une flexibilité et une réactivité qui est peut-être moins requise dans d’autres secteurs du domaine des médias.
442 Je vais maintenant céder la parole à Louis-Martin McArdle, Directeur général adjoint et Directeur de la programmation à TCF.
443 M. McARDLE: Merci, Christian. Monsieur le Président, Madame et Messieurs les Conseillers, nous souhaitons prendre les minutes qu’il nous reste afin de vous entretenir sur le type de programmation locale que nous offrons, et sur les conditions financières dans lesquelles nous opérons.
444 Nos émissions occupent des créneaux qui sont complémentaires à l’offre télévisuelle et qui traitent en général de sujets qui ne sont pas couverts par les médias généralistes. Nous diffusons des magazines d’affaires publiques, des reportages sur des événements qui se déroulent un peu partout dans la région, des entrevues avec des acteurs de l’actualité montréalaise, et des séries reflétant la diversité culturelle et ethnique de la ville.
445 Nous mettons aussi en valeur les artistes locaux et les scènes culturelles alternatives, en plus de présenter des rencontres inspirantes avec des personnalités montréalaises, des débats sur des enjeux de société et des séries qui interpellent les citoyens et leur facilitent la vie.
446 Si certains intervenants à cette instance jugent qu’on peut réduire les sommes investies par les EDR dans les télévisions communautaires, il n’y a certainement pas trop d’argent dans les sociétés de télévision communautaire à but non lucratif.
447 Une réduction du financement octroyé par les EDR à TCF aurait des conséquences dramatiques pour la survie de la chaîne. À titre d’exemple, la diminution du tiers des sommes qui nous sont versées par les EDR nous obligerait à abolir un des emplois à temps plein et un des deux programmes d’emploi offerts à chaque année.
448 La réduction du volume de production qui en découlerait nous ferait perdre les subventions du Gouvernement du Québec, ce qui entrainerait la disparition d’un autre emploi à temps plein et d’un second programme d’emploi.
449 Au final, tout cela amènerait la fermeture de TCF, la perte de son expertise développée depuis deux décennies, la disparition d’une plateforme d’expression citoyenne, d’un média d’information s’intéressant à l’actualité des quartiers de Montréal, et d’un lieu d’expérimentation et de formation en médias.
450 Nous croyons qu’une piste de solution existe pour protéger les petits acteurs de la télévision communautaire des contrecoups que pourrait engendrer une réduction du financement de la télévision communautaire.
451 Comme lors de la réduction par le Conseil de 2 pour cent à 1,5 pour cent sommes devant être investies dans la télévision communautaire, une clause
452 « grand-père » pourrait être crée afin de protéger le financement octroyé par les EDR aux sociétés de télévision communautaire à but non lucratif.
453 Par exemple, les montants versés par les EDR à ces sociétés ne pourraient être inférieurs à ceux reçus lors de l’année -- à titre d’exemple, 2014-2015. Ainsi, il serait possible d’assurer quand même la survie des télévisions communautaires autonomes.
454 Nous sommes convaincus que notre structure de coûts est inférieure à celle des télévisions communautaires produites par les EDR, qu’elle permet d’offrir un nombre important d’opportunités d’accès, un volume de production imposant et, vous l’avez constaté dans la vidéo, une qualité de production professionnelle.
455 Dans une optique où on cherche à faire plus avec l’argent disponible, le meilleur « deal » -- si vous me permettez l’expression -- pour la production d’émissions de télévision communautaire est celui proposé par les sociétés de télévision communautaire à but non lucratif.
456 C’est pourquoi nous souhaitons que le Conseil soutienne les petits acteurs comme TCF en octroyant, par les contributions des EDR, un financement adéquat, prévisible et récurrent.
457 Nous vous remercions pour votre écoute et nous sommes à votre disposition pour répondre à vos questions, autant sur notre mémoire que sur notre présentation orale.
458 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci.
459 Monsieur le conseiller Dupras.
460 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Merci, Monsieur le président. Bon matin.
461 Alors vous êtes dans la grande région de Montréal, dites-moi des grandes EDR comme Vidéotron à Montréal -- j’écoutais le vidéo des gens qui trouvent que c'est important d’être informé dans les différents quartiers de ce qui se passe -- est-ce que vous trouvez que la télévision communautaire la plus importante à Montréal réussi bien à faire -- à faire cela?
462 M. MURPHY: Actuellement -- actuellement si on regarde vraiment ce qui se passe dans les quartiers, y a aucune information ou y a aucun temps d’antenne ou de -- qu’y est donné par exemple à certains organismes communautaires. Y a plusieurs organismes communautaires à Montréal, et leur seul moyen de pouvoir se retrouver au niveau de rejoindre les gens et de donner les services -- d’expliquer les services auxquels ils sont capables, c'est par la télévision communautaire.
463 Actuellement c'est assez limité au niveau des deux grands câbleaux distributeurs sur l’information vraiment très locale. Les chaines traditionnelles vont faire -- on fait la différence aussi entre la nouvelle et l’information. C'est certain que si y a un feu au coin de la rue, la télévision communautaire peut pas être là. On est pas équipé pour aller faire du reportage d’évènement, mais par exemple on est très bien équipé pour être capable de faire le portrait des services qui sont offerts aux citoyens dans leur environnement immédiat.
464 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: M’hm.
465 M. MURPHY: La Maison de la culture qui est voisine de la télévision communautaire fait une exposition quelconque, ben c'est sûrement pas Radio Canada qui va y aller, c'est sûrement pas TVA qui va y aller, et ce n’est pas non plus MAtv ou TVA qui se présentent à ces choses-là pour informer les gens de ce qui se passe dans leur milieu immédiat.
466 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Êtes-vous au courant si ces organismes communautaires qui auraient intérêt ou à faire des programmes, des productions sur le canal communautaire font des demandes pour cela?
467 M. McARDLE: On collabore avec plusieurs -- plusieurs acteurs du milieu communautaire, y a plusieurs de nos productions qui sont produites en collaboration avec des sociétés -- des organismes à but non lucratif, et ce sont des co-productions qu’on réalise avec eux généralement. Ils nous amènent un contenu, contenu qu’on leur aide à formaté évidemment, pour que ce soit télévisuel, et on fournit tous les équipements techniques et toute l’infrastructure de production pour produire ces émissions-là.
468 Y a une production d’ailleurs qu’on lance au courant des prochaines semaines qui s’appellera La Ruche où nous allons accueillir des représentants d’organismes communautaires du grand Montréal qui vont venir nous expliquer dans le cadre d’une problématique précise quels services ils sont en mesure d’offrir aux citoyens. Par exemple, dans le cas d’un parent qui a un enfant autiste, quels organismes sont en mesure de lui offrir des services par exemple de répit, des services d’activités pour aider le développement, et cetera.
469 Je me permettrais de rajouter un petit quelque chose si vous me le permettez, à ce que mon collègue a mentionné. La différence de traitement entre l’information locale qui est faite par les grands médias et ce que nous on fait, j’ai deux exemples très précis à vous donner.
470 Par exemple, lors de la dernière campagne électorale municipale en 2013, Radio Canada et RDI ont produit un débat qu’y a été diffusé, bon, à la télé avec les différents chefs des formations politiques, les candidats à la mairie, LCN a fait sensiblement la même chose dans le cadre de face à face. À TCF nous avons produit trois débats mettant au prise des candidats des différents formations politiques sur des thématiques précises, afin d’explorer plus en profondeur ces thématiques-là.
471 Autre exemple, y a eu récemment la démission d’une -- de la chef d’une des parties -- d’un des partis d’opposition au Conseil municipal de Montréal. Cette nouvelle-là a fait quelques entrefilets dans les médias traditionnels. On a pu la recevoir pendant plusieurs minutes en entrevue pour qu’elle nous explique les motivations à l’arrière de son choix et les conséquences sur la politique municipale.
472 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Parfait. Dites-moi, vous dites ces organismes-là sont venus vous voir, vous avez fait des co-productions avec, est-ce que c'est parce que avec les EDR comme tels, y étaient pas en mesure d’avoir de l’accès quand c'est tourné vers la télévision communautaire autonome?
473 M. MURPHY: Y a -- y a une ouverture au niveau des EDR de faire certaines émissions comme ça, sauf que y a toujours -- on ressent toujours qu’y a un calcul à l’arrière sur qu’est-ce que ça peut rapporter de plus à l’EDR, tandis qu’au niveau des télévisions communautaires y a pas de calcul arrière, y a pas de philosophie arrière de dire, « Nous, ce qu’on regarde c'est est-ce qu’y a un intérêt pour la communauté de diffuser quelque chose sur notre chaîne ou diffuser quelque chose au travers TCF? »
474 Donc on a eu -- on travaille actuellement avec Bell Fibe sur TV1 et on a eu des émissions lorsque la relation a commencé qu’y ont été rejetées sur TV1, ben dans le temps ça s’appelait ---
475 M. McARDLE: Bell Local.
476 M. MURPHY: --- Bell Local, qu’y ont été rejetées parce que ça n’avait pas le format que Bell Local voulait.
477 Donc il y a quelque chose en arrière dans les EDR qui vont limiter la diffusion d’émissions.
478 Et à TCF ou dans les autres télévisions communautaires autonomes au Québec, il n’y a pas cette limitation-là.
479 Tantôt, on parlait avec -- on entendait Eastlink qui disait qu’il y a beaucoup de bénévoles qui viennent. Vous avez vu le nombre de bénévoles qu’on a et puis ils sont à -- ils peuvent à n’importe quelles des étapes d’une production. Ils peuvent être devant la caméra, derrière la caméra, à la recherche, aux concepts, à la réalisation, au montage.
480 Donc ce qu’on fait au niveau de TCF c’est beaucoup plus d’encadrer pour rendre ça télé-diffusable, pour être capable de le mettre en ondes et non pas -- on ne porte pas de jugement sur -- bien, il y a certains -- il y a un jugement, ce qui n’est pas télé-diffusable. Des propos haineux, exemple, ne seront jamais acceptés à TCF, mais on ne porte pas de jugement sur la qualité. Il y a des petits organismes communautaires qui existent dans notre quartier et il y en a des plus gros, et c’est pas parce que c’est plus petit qu’ils s’adressent à un genre particulier d’individus qui ne seront pas accueillis à TCF.
481 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Vous êtes diffusé surtout sur un programme de vidéo sur demande. Comment est-ce que ça va, ça? Est-ce que vous avez idée si c’est un service populaire ou si c’est une plateforme qui est plus difficile d’accès pour les auditeurs?
482 M. McARDLE: Alors il y a deux choses. Concernant le nombre de visionnements, on n’est pas en mesure d’obtenir, de la part de notre principale EDR, d’obtenir des chiffres sur le nombre de visionnements.
483 Ceci étant dit, ce qu’on a constaté au début de la plateforme Bell locale c’est que les émissions que nous produisions étaient mises dans un sous-menu, dans une sous-catégorie à niveau hiérarchique plus profond que les émissions produites à l’interne par l’EDR, qu’elles soient des émissions d’accès ou non.
484 Et c’est pour ça que dans le mémoire qu’on a déposé l’automne dernier on évoque la nécessité que nos productions soient traitées sur le même pied d’égalité que les productions réalisées par une EDR, parce que l’équité de positionnement dans la grille-horaire qui existe dans le cadre d’un canal en continu, cette même règle-là devrait pouvoir s’appliquer en ce qui a trait à la vidéo sur demande.
485 D’un point de vue plus personnel, nos locaux sont situés à l’intérieur d’un complexe de tours d’habitations où beaucoup de gens âgés demeurent et les gens âges nous disent que c’est compliqué, c’est difficile que d’aller dans la vidéo sur demande. Il faut aller -- il faut faire sept-huit étapes pour pouvoir visionner une émission, alors qu’ils étaient habitués d’avoir un canal communautaire en continu où ils zappaient; ils allaient sur une chaîne et c’était la programmation qui était diffusée.
486 Donc c’est les échos qu’on en a de la part de gens qui sont dans le même édifice que nous.
487 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Et au niveau communautaire, est-ce que vous trouvez qu’un service de VSD seulement serait suffisant ou si le canal linéaire a toujours sa place?
488 M. McARDLE: Le canal linéaire a toujours sa place. On considère que les télévisions communautaires, sauf dans des cas bien spécifiques, ne sont pas des chaînes de destination. Ce que je veux dire par là, lorsqu’il y a, par exemple, diffusion de la Voix le dimanche soir à TVA, les gens veulent écouter la Voix. Ils vont le syntoniser.
489 On est plus une chaîne de découverte, une chaîne de zapping. C’est-à-dire les gens zappent, tombent sur notre chaîne, s’arrêtent, écoutent, trouvent ça intéressant et reviennent probablement. Que d’avoir une programmation diffusant vidéos sur demande, ça nous amène tout l’enjeu dont il a été question avec les gens de VICE ce matin, de la découvrabilité. Comment on fait pour attirer les gens à venir écouter nos émissions, que ce soit en vidéo sur demande, et c’est la même problématique sur les réseaux sociaux?
490 Et à ce moment-là ce sont des énergies, des ressources, de l’argent qu’on doit consacrer à faire la promotion de nos émissions plutôt que de pouvoir bénéficier du fait que ça a un canal précis, que les gens zappant tombent sur le canal et qu’ils peuvent nous découvrir. On doit donc faire une portion de ce travail-là.
491 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Et cette promotion-là, elle se fait sous quelle forme?
492 M. McARDLE: On le fait présentement par nos réseaux sociaux. On a un demi-employé à temps plein qui travaille à alimenter nos réseaux sociaux. Donc la moitié de son temps est consacré à ça, que ce soit sur Facebook, sur Twitter.
493 C’est sûr que c’est beaucoup notre site internet qui va nous permettre de rejoindre des gens. Presque la totalité de notre programmation est diffusée sur notre site internet. Donc c’est là qu’on va avoir le plus d’écoute et ces écoutes-là vont être mesurables.
494 C’est un travail qu’on a débuté de façon plus intensive au mois de septembre. Tranquillement, ça rapporte ses fruits. Il y a de plus en plus d’abonnés sur Twitter, sur Facebook. Nos publications ont plus d’impact. Mais c’est un travail de longue haleine et c’est un travail qui ne peut pas s’arrêter. C’est-à-dire qu’on ne peut pas prendre une pause de trois mois durant l’été à nourrir nos réseaux sociaux. Il faut qu’on continue à les nourrir en permanence. Donc ça demande beaucoup d’efforts, des efforts qu’on aurait peut-être moins à faire dans le cadre d’un canal linéaire.
495 À cela, vous permettrez de rajouter toues les problématiques qu’on a évoquées dans notre mémoire écrit de l’automne concernant l’interprétation de règles où peut-être certaines incongruités entre ce qui est appliqué pour les canaux en continu et les canaux gérés, opérés, en VSD, les différentes dispositions qui sont inscrites dans la politique de 2010. Donc il y aurait certainement des choses à modifier là-dessus. On les a détaillées en détail, pour faire un pléonasme, dans notre mémoire de l’automne.
496 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Est-ce que vous trouvez que c’est une bonne chose qu’il y ait des canaux communautaires compétitifs dans un même grand centre ou si ça crée des problèmes?
497 M. McARDLE: Il y a deux choses. Ce qu’on constate c’est que les gens, pour les opportunités d’accès, magasinent. C’est-à-dire que des gens qui ont des projets d’émissions vont frapper à plusieurs portes en même temps. Et il nous est arrivé d’avoir des discussions avec un citoyen qui voulait nous proposer un concept d’émission. On a fait quelques rencontres et il nous a dit, “Ben, je vais aller sur une autre chaîne parce qu’on m’offre 500 $ de per diem par émission d’une demi-heure pour payer le maquillage, le craft pour les travailleurs, tout ça.” Donc on se retrouve dans un genre de compétition pour déterminer qui va avoir le projet d’accès ou non.
498 En contrepartie, la région de Montréal -- l’Île de Montréal, c’est 2 millions de personnes, vous le savez. La grande région de Montréal, c’est entre 3.5 et 4 millions.
499 Il y a, à mon avis, de la place pour au moins trois canaux communautaires. Est-ce que ces canaux communautaires-là doivent être compétitifs? Et est-ce que leur diffusion doit être restreinte à une seule EDR ou, dans notre cas, avec notre licence sur plusieurs petites EDR ou est-ce qu’il ne vaudrait pas mieux que tous les canaux communautaires soient disponibles dans une région sur toutes les EDR? J’ai l’impression que pour servir la population, pour augmenter l’offre d’information locale, bien, c’est la deuxième solution qui est la meilleure, de faire vraiment que les canaux communautaires soient sur toutes les EDR dans une région comme Montréal.
500 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: C’est ça.
501 M. MURPHY: Permettez-moi d’ajouter aussi, le financement qui vient des EDR vers les télévisions communautaires n’est pas astreint, mais ne peut être déduit maximum que le CRTC a permis, un cap.
502 Les EDR sont des entreprises à but lucratif. Ils ne dépenseront pas lus que qu’est-ce qui leur est permis de déduire dans leurs règles comptables.
503 On vit l’expérience actuellement que pour aller chez un petit câblodistributeur, on doit débourser un montant d’argent pour installer des équipements qui vont permettre d’être diffusés parce que le câblodistributeur en tant que tel nous répond carrément, “Si pour vous diffuser ça me coûte plus que qu’est-ce que je peux déduire, je vais juste annoncer au CRTC que je vais créer ma propre télévision communautaire.”
504 Donc on voit la limite que les télévisions communautaires autonomes peuvent obtenir des EDR et c’est pour ça que dans ma présentation tantôt je disais de stabiliser et même d’augmenter le financement des télévisions communautaires autonomes.
505 Dans un grand centre comme Montréal, le fait de se déplacer, d’aller à Longueuil, d’aller à Vaudreuil, de se promener pour aller faire des reportages, implique des coûts.
506 Vous avez vu que la Télévision communautaire Frontenac est très limitée en tant que personnel, réussit à produire 300 heures d’émissions à 500 $ le coup de l’heure.
507 Je ne crois pas que dans d’autres institutions qui sont dans le même style, ça c’est un exemple pour les télévisions communautaires. En général, ça se situe là.
508 Donc le coût des émissions produites par une télévision communautaire autonome, est beaucoup moindre que le coût produit par une télévision communautaire qui est détenue par une -- par une EDR.
509 Et à ce moment-là, est-ce que l’argent est bien dépensé, si on regarde ça, si on permet à une EDR de retenir une portion de cet argent-là pour financer sa chaine communautaire, quand on regarde qu’à côté, les chaines communautaires autonomes, réussissent à faire beaucoup plus avec beaucoup moins.
510 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: M’hm. Les télévisions communautaires autonomes, est-ce qu’elles sont bien placées pour offrir un contenu plus local aux communautés que les EDRs?
511 Je veux dire si y’en a un grand secteur, est-ce que le -- est-ce que les EDRs sont bonnes pour couvrir les intérêts des différentes communautés dans son secteur ou si la part des télévisions communautaires autonomes seraient pas une façon de s’assurer plus, qu’y’a des éléments plus locaux qui paraissent au canal communautaire?
512 M. McARDLE: Les EDRs auraient les ressources financières pour être capable de couvrir de façon très, très précise ou très pointue l’actualité locale. Forcé de constater, de notre point de vue, qu’elles ne le font pas.
513 Ce qu’on a développé comme expertise depuis 20 ans, c’est une expertise ou on est en relation avec des -- avec chacune des -- chacun des arrondissements de la ville, avec chacun des -- avec un paquet d’organismes communautaires, des tables de concertations.
514 Ces liens-là nous permettent d’avoir un encrage sur le terrain et d’être capable de produire de l’information locale.
515 Il ne faut pas non plus, comme certains collègues que vous entendrez plus tard dans le cadre du processus, comme certains collègues l’ont évoqué dans leurs mémoires, que le rôle d’une télévision communautaire autonome devrait être essentiellement de faire de l’information locale.
516 Grosso-modo on fait sur le 300 heures de programmation originale par année, on en fait à peu près 70 heures, qui rentrent à l’intérieur de la notion d’information locale.
517 Y’a environ 210 heures que c’est de la programmation locale, mais qui n’est pas de l’information à proprement dit.
518 On interview un élu, par exemple, d’un quartier sur son parcours de vie, sur sa carrière, sur ses ambitions. On le classe pas comme étant de l’information locale, bien que c’est de la programmation d’intérêt local.
519 Et y’a une vingtaine d’heures qui sont des programmations, peut-être, des programmes un peu plus généralistes, qui nous permettent de faire des échanges de programme avec d’autres télévision communautaires autonomes au Québec, nous permettant de bonifier notre grille-horaire.
520 Les TCAs sont, je pense -- les télévisions communautaires autonomes, sont les mieux placées comme mon collègue nous le disait, en rapport qualité-prix, pour produire de l’information locale.
521 Le plus grand volume d’information locale contenu avec les plus faibles coûts de production.
522 Et c’est sûr que comme je le disais tantôt dans ma présentation, dans un contexte où on essaie de faire plus avec moins ---
523 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: M'hm.
524 M. McARDLE: Et on se prononce pas -- on se prononce pas sur le bienfondé ou non de devoir financer les stations locales privées en région, pour qu’ils puissent continuer à faire de la nouvelle. C’est pas notre champ d’expertise.
525 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: M'hm.
526 M. McARDLE: Notre champ d’expertise c’est la télévision communautaire et ça on le sait et on le vit à tous les jours, y’a pas assez d’argent dans la télévision communautaire.
527 Et dans notre présentation orale on voulait vous souligner notre vive inquiétude, à ce que une réduction des budgets qui serait consacrée à la télévision communautaire, se répercute négativement sur des petites organisations comme la nôtre.
528 C’est pourquoi on proposait, justement, l’instauration d’une close grand-père qui permet d’assurer le financement des télévisions communautaires autonomes, parce que pour MAtv ou TV1 de Bell, peut-être que d’absorber un tiers de coupures de budget c’est sûr que ça va diminuer les opportunités de production, mais c’est peut-être plus facilement gérable, que pour nous où ça des conséquences dramatiques, puis ça nous amène à la fermeture.
529 Donc -- donc voilà.
530 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Oui, je comprends.
531 Vous dites -- vous dites que ce serait une bonne chose que les télévisions communautaires autonomes soient financées pour les consolider, mais aussi pour permettre la création de nouvelles télévisions communautaires autonomes.
532 Trouvez-vous que à Montréal, par exemple, y’en n’a pas -- y’en n’a pas suffisamment? Vous êtes la seule télévision communautaire autonome à Montréal?
533 M. McARDLE: On est la seule sur l’Île de Montréal. Y’a aussi un producteur indépendant qui est -- qui produit une -- à peu près cinq heures de programmation par année, qui est aussi membre de la Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes.
534 Mais dans les faits nous sommes les seuls à avoir une véritable programmation communautaire sur l’Île de Montréal.
535 Comme je le disais, y’a très certainement de la place pour avoir trois chaînes communautaires sur l’Île de Montréal et le créneau qu’on remplit est un créneau qui est distinct de ce que MAtv et de ce que TV1 font.
536 Dans notre rapport -- notre rapport annuel qui avait été déposé lors de notre demande de licence l’an dernier, on mentionnait que c’est grosso-modo à peu près 60 pourcent des sujets d’actualités qu’on couvre qui n’ont eu aucune couverture dans d’autres médias télévisés, selon bon un sondage qu’on avait fait à l’époque.
537 Ça fait quand même -- c’est d’offrir la possibilité à ces gens-là, à 60 pourcent de gens, de ne pas -- ce sont des gens qui n’auraient pas droit à une couverture télé.
538 Donc si demain matin on disparait et il ne reste que deux chaînes communautaires à Montréal, MAtv et TV1, bien y’a -- y’aura un manque en information locale, donc on est convaincu qu’y’a de la place pour plus d’une chaîne.
539 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: M'hm.
540 M. McARDLE: Il faut par contre qu’y’ait un modèle financier viable. Le modèle qu’on a proposé au Conseil, c’est de dire pour l’instant on va aller offrir un service aux EDRs qui ne diffusent pas de canal communautaire.
541 C’est bien évident que c’est pas le 5,000$ qu’on est en mesure d’obtenir d’une EDR qui va faire une différence, mais ça va nous aider.
542 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: M'hm.
543 M. McARDLE: C’est sûr qu’à terme, notre souhait, ça serait de pouvoir être diffusé sur l’ensemble des EDRs de la région de Montréal et d’avoir à tout de moins de l’Île de Montréal et d’avoir des sommes de chacune de ces EDRs.
544 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Y’as-tu une raison pourquoi vous êtes pas sur Vidéotron? Vous étiez sur demande vous pourriez avoir des heures. Si vous pouvez nous expliquer.
545 M. MURPHY: Oui, je peux -- il va falloir que je fasse pas exemple un petit historique. Parce que moi je suis membre du conseil d’administration; je suis bénévole au conseil d’administration, donc j’ai un emploi.
546 Je suis un des directeurs du complexe immobilier dans lequel est logée la télévision communautaire à laquelle aussi on fournit des locaux gratuitement.
547 Historiquement -- et là on remonte dans les années 90, on avait des problèmes avec Vidéotron sur l’entretient de leur système.
548 Nous c’est des tours d’habitations de 15 et 17 étages et y’avait des câbles qui pendaient partout, les gens se plaignaient, et cetera.
549 Y’a eu beaucoup de rencontre avec Vidéotron pour essayer de corriger cette situation-là.
550 On exigeait -- et nous faut dire qu’on est dans un milieu de les plus pauvres du Canada. On est le propriétaire de l’édifice, c’est un organisme aussi à bon -- à but non-lucratif, donc essaie de conserver les loyers le plus bas possible.
551 Avec Vidéotron les discussions se sont terminées parce que Vidéotron exigeait l’exclusivité, exigeait d’avoir les -- dans le temps, les 784 appartements abonnés, garantie par Gestion des trois pignons et l’installation de leur fameux système Vidéoway, dans le temps.
552 Donc ça été deux ans-là de grande négociation pour arriver à cette étape-là.
553 À ce moment-là on a observé -- j’ai eu dans des rencontres avec d’autres gestionnaires, j’ai rencontré quelqu’un qui m’a dit Christian au CRTC ça permet, si on ne traverse pas de rues, de devenir autonome.
554 Comme les prisons, les hôtels, les choses comme ça, quand tu ne traverses pas de rue avec ton réseau tu pouvais devenir autonome.
555 Donc on a exclus Vidéotron des tours -- des tours Frontenac et on a -- on est devenu un peu, par la force des choses, câblodistributeur dans ces années-là, en installant des antennes satellites et distribution par notre système de vidéo interne.
556 Par la suite le CRTC a permis la compétition et est née VDN, le câblodistributeur VDN.
557 VDN aurait -- y’a eu plusieurs édifices à Montréal qui avait fait la même chose.
558 Une fois qu’on a parti la boule-là, y’a eu un autre complexe immobilier -- y’a eu plusieurs complexes immobiliers qui sont devenus autonomes par -- je le sais pas si c’est parce que VDN offrait le meilleur service, mais c’est par eux-autres que les équipements étaient installés.
559 Quand VDN a eu sa licence, y’a regroupé tous ces édifices-là et nous ça faisait notre affaire, parce qu’à ce moment-là commençait les chaînes spécialisées qui auraient demandé d’ajout d’équipement et d’investissement, donc c’est comme ça que c’est venu.
560 Mais depuis ce temps-là, o.k., bon VDN par la suite a été acheté par Bell et et cetera-là.
561 COMMISSAIRE SUPRAS: Mais depuis ce temps-là vous avez pas fait d’autres demandes à Vidéotron?
562 M. MURPHY: Depuis ce temps-là y’a eu d’autres approches que Vidéotron a fait, parce que il trouve que y’a un marché intéressant chez nous à venir installer leur câble.
563 Nous on se revire de bord puis on dit en tant que gestionnaire, puis en tant que supporteur de TCF aussi, on dit à Vidéotron je suis bien prêt à te laisser rentrer dans les tours, sous condition que tu acceptes la Télévision communautaire Frontenac sur MAtv. Et j’ai même pris des gageures avec des vice-présidents de Vidéotron qui sont venus me rencontrer, et quand y reviennent, ben la présidente de MAtv ou le président de MAtv refuse toujours d’avoir une télévision communautaire de surplus, parce que c'est de l’argent qui devra être distribué encore.
564 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: O.k., non, c'est que je pensais -- tantôt vous disiez là que les émissions devraient être distribuées sur toutes les EDR, alors je ---
565 M. McARDLE: Oui, tout à fait, ben c'est ça, c’est ---
566 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: --- je voulais voir de ce côté-là -- je voulais voir aussi au niveau des TCA si le 20 pour cent de la programmation hebdomadaire que les EDR doivent réserver c’était suffisant, parce que vous disiez que sans doute on pourrait avoir d’autres TCA qui sont mieux placés pour offrir une programmation plus locale, qu’y a de la place pour en avoir trois dans le grand marché de Montréal, et cetera.
567 Donc ma question était est-ce que le 20 pour cent de programmation qu’y est réservé aux TCA qui existent dans des marchés c'est suffisant, ou si ça devrait être augmenté et que d’autres TCA devraient être encouragés?
568 M. McARDLE: Y a deux volets, bon, dans un premier temps, le 20 pour cent en théorie est pour les canaux en continu, ce qu’on a -- ce qu’on comprend de la -- du règlement -- de la politique de 2010, pardon, c'est que dans le cadre d’une entreprise qui diffuse uniquement en vidéo sur demande, si cette entreprise produit une heure de programmation par semaine, en théorie 20 pour cent d’une heure c'est 12 minutes. Donc il -- on nous l’a dit par le passé, « Le minimum qu’on doit vous accorder c'est 12 minutes. »
569 Mais à partir du moment où une seconde télévision communautaire autonome arrive dans le même secteur, l’EDR doit fournir deux fois quatre heures. Donc y a je pense là peut-être une -- quelque chose qui pourrait être corrigé dans une future politique. Ça dans un premier temps.
570 Dans un deuxième temps, y a deux choses. Nous aimerions et nous souhaitons pouvoir avoir de la programmation diffusée à l’antenne de toutes les EDR, incluant MAtv. Ce qui faut comprendre par compte, c'est que lorsqu’on ne contrôle pas notre canal, on ne contrôle pas les heures de diffusion. Et la problématique que ça nous amène c'est qu’on peut imaginer -- bon, on diffuse notre propre canal 24 heures sur 24, on a notre propre grille horaire qu’on gère, donc on est en mesure de déterminer à quelle heure est diffusée quelle émission. Mais y a d’autres EDR qui diffusent aussi notre programmation, et celles-ci la diffuse à des heures différentes.
571 Parce que les EDR ne font pas nécessairement d’effort de promotion des programmations d’accès produites par les télévisions communautaires autonomes, en tout cas à notre connaissance, ça exige de la TCA dans ses outils de promotion et de communication d’annoncer quatre ou cinq heures de diffusion différentes, tout dépendamment de l’EDR. Ça devient extrêmement compliqué que de faire la promotion d’une émission pis de faire un message de -- d’envoyer un message précis si sur MAtv c'est diffusé le vendredi à huit heures, à notre antenne qu’on contrôle c'est diffusé le samedi 17 heures, sur un autre câbleau c'est à une autre heure, ça devient difficile à communiquer, pis ça devient difficile de fidéliser des téléspectateurs.
572 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: M’hm.
573 M. McARDLE: Ce qu’on pense qu’y est -- qu’y est la meilleure solution et on a un bon modèle je pense en étant en mesure de gérer notre canal 24 heures sur 24. Et ce sont 14 heures d’émission différentes par semaine qui sont diffusées, multi-diffusées à différentes heures de la journée. Et en plus de ça, on offre du temps d’antenne -- c'est un engagement qu’on avait pris devant le -- devant le CRTC -- on offre du temps d’antenne aux télévisions communautaires autonomes de la périphérie de Montréal pour que leur programmation soit diffusée à notre antenne. Y a je pense là un modèle pour nous qu’y est plus intéressant que de simplement avoir quatre heures de temps d’antenne sur des -- sur des EDR.
574 Pour ce qui est du quatre heures, évidemment ça pourrait être une bonne chose que d’augmenter cette exigence-là. De notre point de vue, quatre heures souvent les télévisions communautaires autonomes vont produire un minimum de quatre heures semaines, particulièrement dans la région de Montréal, ça veut dire qu’en théorie c'est une diffusion de chacune des émissions, aucune reprise.
575 On pense que y a de la place pour -- y devrait y avoir plus de temps d’antenne qu’y est consacré aux productions des télévisions communautaires autonomes. On ne chiffre pas nécessairement à combien ça devrait être augmenté, mais à notre avis ça devrait être augmenté.
576 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Également, juste pour finir avec l’initiative qu’on propose de réallouer des fonds, si des fonds devaient être réalloués et que y devait avoir un impact sur la télévision communautaire, quelle programmation de la télé communautaire voyez-vous comme étant la plus importante qui devrait être soutenue au détriment d’une autre?
577 M. McARDLE: La programmation communautaire joue plusieurs rôles. Nos émissions d’information locale, nos magazines d’affaires publiques sont essentiels parce qu’ils couvrent des sujets qui ne sont pas couverts par les médias traditionnels. Et particulièrement dans le marché francophone de Montréal où les -- ben, vous le savez, les stations -- les stations généralistes sont des têtes de réseau francophone, des têtes de réseau national, donc y a moins -- y a moins de place pour de la nouvelle -- de la nouvelle très locale qui peut en avoir sur les stations anglophones de la région de Montréal, pis c'est une compréhension empirique de la chose là.
578 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Mais pour être plus précis là, y a -- on a trois sortes de programmation sur une télé communautaire.
579 M. McARDLE: M’hm.
580 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: On a de la programmation qu’on appelle non-locale, de la programmation locale qu’y est produite par l’EDR, et la programmation d’accès.
581 M. McARDLE: Oui.
582 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Alors parmi celles-là?
583 M. MURPHY: C'est sûr que la programmation d’accès me semple être ce qui est le plus -- le plus important et ce qu’y est le meilleur « deal », parce qui faut pas non plus que -- comme ça s’est passé bon, à une certaine époque -- à une certaine époque à MAtv ou le Guide de l’auto, émission fort de MAtv, de VOX à l’époque, était rediffusé sur la chaîne Argent, propriété de TVA -- faut pas non plus que ce type d’émission-là ou les productions des EDR ce soient -- ce soient des productions qui viennent alimenter d’autres services spécialisés du même groupe. Je crois -- je ne crois plus que ça se fait maintenant, mais bon, ça s’est déjà fait à l'époque. La programmation d’accès c'est ce qui me semble être le plus important.
584 C'est sûr que la situation est particulière pour une télévision communautaire autonome, parce que par définition tout ce qu’on produit est de l’accès, que ce soit animé ou initié à l’interne par un employé, un salarié de la télévision communautaire autonome, ou que ça soit fait en collaboration avec un -- avec un bénévole.
585 À notre avis c'est ça qu’y est important, mais je veux revenir vraiment sur le fait que toute coupure de financement est tragique pour la survie de TCF, parce qu’on fait déjà avec des moyens extrêmement limités et on a pas droit à l’erreur. C'est-à-dire on peut pas se permettre de tourner quelque chose qu’on diffusera pas, parce qu’on sera pas en mesure d’atteindre nos quotas de 300 heures de programmation locale.
586 On l’a fait une fois l’an dernier parce qu’on avait réalisé une entrevue avec François Bugingo, vous comprendrez qu’on l’a pas passé parce que c'est le -- entretemps y a eu -- y a eu le scandale qu’on connait tous, autrement on a pas le choix de tout mettre en ondes ce qu’on produit, donc on est pas -- on a pas nécessairement cette latitude-là.
587 Donc ça -- et je veux aussi mentionner quelque chose, c'est que évidemment on aurait besoin de plus de fonds bien évidemment, parce que plus on aurait d’argent, plus on serait en mesure d’offrir d’opportunités d’accès, d’offrir la possibilité à des bénévoles de venir faire de la télévision, de couvrir plus de sujets locaux dans plus de quartiers de Montréal. Donc c'est sûr que c'est un choix bien difficile que de nous demander où on devrait couper dans le fond à l’intérieur de notre programmation, parce qu’une réduction du tiers, comme on vous le disait, ben c'est catastrophique, c'est la fermeture.
588 COMMISSAIRE DUPRAS: Je vous remercie.
589 M. McARDLE: Merci.
590 LE PRÉSIDENT: Une dernière question avant de vous laisser pour votre comparution. Au paragraphe 15 vous parlez de cette notion d’une clause grand-père et vous choisissez l’année 2014-15 comme étant l’année de référence. Pouvez-vous m’expliquer pourquoi cette année-là, est-ce que c'est tout simplement un exemple ou on aurait pu choisir la date de votre naissance?
591 M. McARDLE: La date de la naissance, bon, ça nous remonte -- ça nous remonte au dernier siècle, donc ça serait -- c'est peut-être pas une bonne idée. C'était parce que c'est notre dernière année financière qui est terminée, donc c'était pour ça.
592 Ça pourrait être en théorie 2015-16, y a pas d’avantage particulier, on donnait un exemple un peu comme lorsqu’y a eu la réduction de 2,5 à -- de 2 à 1,5 pour cent. Y a une année -- y a une année qui était je crois 2010, qu’y avait été -- qu’y avait été choisie et les montants étaient indexés à partir de 2010 là en fonction de l’IPC. Mais c'est vraiment juste pour ça, c'était pour illustrer un peu le propos.
593 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et quel principe devrait nous guider lorsqu’on choisit mettons cette notion là d’une clause grand-père ou un montant grand-père pour choisir la bonne année de référence?
594 M. McARDLE: Je pourrais vous répondre personnellement quelle année nous on a reçu le plus d’argent, mais c'est pas ---
595 LE PRÉSIDENT: J’essaie d’avoir une notion pour le dossier public ---
596 M. McARDLE: Oui.
597 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- qu’y est un petit peu plus structurée et non pas pour les besoins individuels des intervenants.
598 M. McARDLE: Tout à fait, ben si on regarde ce qu’y a été fait, vous me corrigerez si je me trompe, si on regarde ce qui a été fait lors de la politique de 2010, au moment où la nouvelle politique a été dévoilée, l’année de référence qui a été choisie c’était l’année 2010. Donc, ça pourrait être l’année en cours.
599 C’est sûr que de reculer dans le temps, bien là, ça devient peut-être plus compliqué pour les EDRs à gérer. Deux mille quatorze (2014)-2015, c’est pas l’année qui est la plus intéressante pour nous. Ça serait l’année précédente.
600 Mais la dernière année financière me semble être le bon référent.
601 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup.
602 M. MURPHY: Si vous me permettez d’ajouter, s’il vous plaît?
603 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, pour compléter.
604 M. MURPHY: Je tiens à dire, moi, en tant que trésorier au conseil d’administration puis en tant qu’un des membres fondateurs de TCF, qu’au départ quand CRTC a donné la licence à VDN et qu’on s’est intégré sur son réseau, ça été une volonté du propriétaire de nous donner un financement.
605 Et le financement qui nous a été octroyé de sa part, à ce moment-là, était de 10 000$ par mois.
606 Mais quand Bell a acheté cette entreprise, il a fallu que je me batte vraiment et presque aller avec des menaces à ce moment-là de dire -- bien presque aller et même d’entreprendre une demande de licence à ce moment-là pour s’assurer que la télévision communautaire puisse fonctionner.
607 Et en fin de compte, on est arrivé à une entente à l’amiable parce que Bell avait, en disant dans ses plans, « On veut faire notre télévision communautaire » et de venir se battre contre Bell au CRTC, on n’était pas nécessairement tout équipé à ce moment-là avec le personnel adéquat puis tout ce que ça peut prendre comme équipe pour arriver à convaincre, à ce moment-là, pour obtenir la licence.
608 Donc, on est arrivé à une entente à l’amiable que le financement allait rester de 10 000$.
609 Là, si on regarde ça, on est parti de ’95 puis on est rendu dans les années 2000 et c’est 10 000$. Quand Bell a décidé de fermer sa division VDN et de la remplacer par Bell Fibe, bien on est resté au même niveau.
610 Donc, si on regarde la Télévision communautaire Frontenac, en fin de compte, le financement venant des EDRs, si on calcule que l’augmentation du coût de la vie depuis ces années-là, en reçoit beaucoup moins proportionnellement qu’il en recevait dans ces années-là.
611 Donc, de fixer une date, moi je vous dirais 1995 indexé. Vous comprenez qu’en tant que trésorier, si j’indexe le 10 000$ de 1995 à aujourd’hui, en 2015, bien je vais obtenir plus de financement, je vais être capable de faire plus de choses.
612 Et comme je disais aussi, ce que j’ai constaté au cours de ces 20 ans-là et des discussions avec Vidéotron, avec Bell, et cetera, avec différents câblodistributeurs, c’est que ce qui est consacré à la télévision communautaire, c’est le maximum qui est déductible.
613 Il ne faut pas demander -- on ne demandera pas -- on ne demande pas aux EDRs d’en consacrer, d’en consacrer plus. Ils ne peuvent pas le déduire. Ce sont des entreprises capitalistes.
614 Donc, tant que le cap de déduction ne peut être augmenté ou n’est pas augmenté, bien il n’y a pas de meilleur financement qui va venir. On ne peut pas croire que par bonté, on va aller financer plus une télévision communautaire que ce qui m’est permis de déduire. Ce sont des entreprises à but lucratif et c’est normal de faire ça pour une entreprise à but lucratif.
615 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci. Donc si -- dans votre phase de réplique, je vous inviterais si vous voulez maintenir votre position au paragraphe 15, que vous prendrez cette opportunité-là pour nous aider, à la lumière de notre mandat législatif, qui est à l’Article 3.
616 Je comprends que ça a un impact sur vous mais nous, on doit être guidés par les objectifs de la Loi sur la radiodiffusion parce que c’est le mandat qu’on reçoit du Parlement canadien. Et plutôt que -- nous aider à nous guider dans votre soumission d’une façon plus conforme à notre cadre juridique.
617 M. MURPHY: Merci.
618 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci bien.
619 M. MURPHY: Merci de nous avoir reçus.
620 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire.
621 Mme ROY: Merci.
622 I will now ask Channel Zero to come to the presentation table.
623 When you are ready, please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 10 minutes.
624 MR. FUOCO: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I am Chris Fuoco, the Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Channel Zero.
625 To my far right, is Romen Podzyhun, Chairman and CEO; beside Romen is Jennifer Chen, Vice-President of Programming. And to my left is Cal Millar, President of Channel Zero.
626 Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear here today.
627 Channel Zero owns and operates CHCH, the local television station serving the Hamilton, Halton, Niagara region.
628 As you know, we recently restructured our operations at CHCH. Our revenues could not sustain the very high level of local news programming we offered, and we faced the real likelihood of going dark, something we helped the station avoid in 2009.
629 Where are we now? CHCH continues to offer a high level of local news and other local programming. We now broadcast 17 and a half hours of original local news content. We far exceed the minimum required level of local programing, which is seven hours a week.
630 Even at our current level, we hear regularly from viewers that they want more local news and information programming. For the time being, we have stabilized CHCH, and we are moving forward.
631 For the purposes of this presentation, we are also going to look forward and to grapple with some of the questions you have presented in the working document.
632 Our written submission reflects what others have said in this proceeding.
633 First, local programming, especially local news programming is becoming increasingly difficult to produce. This is because the traditional revenue model that supported this programming based almost entirely on advertising is eroding.
634 Second, a new business model may emerge in the future but in the intervening time, more Canadians risk a permanent loss of local news programming.
635 We understand that the Commission has asked participants to look further into the future and to consider new models to build on the strengths and the broadcasting system. We will discuss a new model later in this presentation. However, a new model may take more time to implement than is now available.
637 MR. PODZYHUN: Yes, thank you.
638 Right now, the urgent priority should be to rebalance funding to support local news programming, and quickly. Channel Zero’s recent experience at CHCH is a case in point. Financial data show that revenues for local television are declining. The situation in small and medium-sized markets is especially concerning.
639 We support, therefore, the proposals put forward for immediate funding for news programming. Both Bell and Group V Media made proposals with real merit, and we should support either as a framework with some small suggestions. The proposals are summarized at a high level in the table below for reference.
640 We also support refocusing the Small Market Local Production Fund to focus on incentives and outcomes. To be direct, as an independent station, CHCH should be able to access this fund, if we meet the requirements for local programming and we do. We are the only English-language medium-sized broadcaster providing news excluded from the SMLPF.
641 Respectfully, we believe that the fund should be focused on independent services providing news programming. Stations acquired by larger VI groups should be excluded.
642 We turn now to some of the Commission’s specific questions on how any fund would work.
644 MS. CHEN: What programming should be funded? Funding priorities should be given to support local news and information programming. This type of programming falls within the Commission’s content categories 1, 2(a) and 3; News, Analysis and Interpretation, and reporting in Actualities.
645 What is local programming?
646 We believe that the Commission’s existing definition is appropriate for the purposes of funding. This definition includes a requirement that the content be locally produced, and reflect the needs and interests of the market’s residents. By ensuring that funding is directed to stations with local production facilities, the new funding model will encourage the continued operation of these facilities in local markets, and the local jobs they represent.
647 In Bell’s proposal, the fund offsets the cost of news production over a set minimum level.
648 This could be an appropriate model. Our preference, however, would be on a model based on hours of programming rather than programming costs.
649 The Bell model creates an incentive to spend to access additional funding. A program -- our programming hours model creates an incentive to produce content in the most efficient way possible. Broadcasters already have all the commercial incentive that is required to create the highest quality news programing possible.
650 We support the proposals put forward by Bell and Group V Media because they are straightforward and could be quickly implemented. However, we agree that there is an opportunity to rebalance the system to support community programming and to enhance the role of private broadcasters, but such a rebalancing cannot happen overnight without disruption to the system and for Canadian viewers.
651 MR. MILLAR: For the longer term, we’ve been reflecting upon the Commission’s pointed statement in its working document that intervenors had not seized upon the opportunity to propose new solutions for the creation of local news and information programing.
652 We have also reviewed other intervenors’ comments and considered the great value that Canadians place on community programing, most particularly in markets that are not served by a local private broadcaster.
653 This has led us to consider a new model, which we will describe in a moment. This model has the following advantages. It uses the strengths of local broadcasters while allowing community channels to build on their strengths in markets where there is no local broadcaster. It eliminates duplication of effort. It enhances local program discoverability on every platform. It supports more in-depth local news and information programming, and it provides greater opportunities for synergies between the community element and private local broadcasters.
654 This model is based on shared responsibility and more cooperation between private broadcasters, BDUs and community programmers. The elements of this model are as follows.
655 All BDUs contribute 2 percent of their gross revenue to local programming, as most now do. The funds will be contributed to an independent third-party fund administrator. The fund would allocate these monies on a per market basis. Eligible recipients would vary by market and private over-the-air broadcasters would be prioritized.
656 To be eligible, the entity must meet minimum local programming requirements with respect to news, community content and municipal affairs. In markets with more than one OTA broadcaster, funding would be pooled and divided between the OTA broadcasters that apply. In markets without any OTA broadcaster, funding would be directed to community television. Restrictions on advertising would be removed.
657 Reflecting the public support provided for this programming, the entity producing it would have to meet certain public interest obligations to make it discoverable and available. This includes making it available on all platforms in the market, including online and on BDU VOD platforms.
658 MS. CHEN: This model, we believe, could represent a longer term funding solution for high-quality local news programming and for community programming on all platforms. We have attached a summary sheet to this presentation.
659 This model has some key benefits. It recognizes that in markets where there are existing OTA broadcasters and community channels, maintaining local TV news has the higher priority, but community reflection must be maintained.
660 News and information programming will be widely available and offered on all local BDUs, over the air and online without the need for a BDU subscription. This reflects the public interest in making news and information widely available.
661 It will no longer be necessary to subscribe to an individual BDU service to see the community programming produced in your community.
662 In markets where there is no OTA service and the local community channel is highly valued, it will play an enhanced role with a broader mandate, including news or information content, and increased resources, funded by all BDUs and including advertising.
663 In larger urban markets where community channels and OTA broadcasters now co-exist, BDUs could choose to maintain their community channel out of their own resources.
664 And last, individual players in the existing ecosystem would have more opportunity to elect the role that they wish to play in producing and exhibiting local programming in the future.
665 MR.FUOCO: Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation today.
666 We realize that the model we propose represents a new direction for funding and accessing local reflection.
667 If the Commission were considering moving in this direction, or something similar, then we feel that a working group could be struck to report on the final structure and governance of the Fund within one year, having recourse to the Commission for direction where required.
668 However, we reiterate that there is an immediate need for a solution to provide funding for high-quality local news and information programming, especially for independent television stations and in small and medium-sized markets. The sooner this is put in place the better for Canadians, in our view. In any event, it should be implemented for the next broadcast year.
669 In summary, we support, with the refinements we have suggested, the proposal put forward by Bell, which consists of a new separate fund for news programming and increased funding for the SMLPF. We also support the Group V Media model, which directs funding to independent television stations in small and medium sized markets. With respect to the SMLPF, if it is maintained, CHCH should be included.
670 Thank you very much. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
671 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for your presentation.
672 We’ll start asking a few questions, but I think we won’t get very far before we do the lunch break. So we’ll pass it on to Commissioner Simpson.
673 COMMISIONNER SIMPSON: Thank you.
674 Good morning. I’m going to divide my line of questioning into two areas, one before lunch and one after. The area I want to deal with right now is your proposed -- well, all of your proposals, and just get a few areas clarified for my understanding.
675 When you talk about news and information programming -- I’m looking at page 5 of your orals here -- I just want to completely understand what you mean by information programming. From a regulatory standpoint, informational programming, none news, in my regulatory mind I start immediately thinking about community programming as done now by the cable system.
676 Is that what you’re referring to here, that type of programming?
677 MR. MILLAR: Well, our priority in our presentation here today is to -- into the content categories, 1, 2(a) and 3, News Analysis, Interpretation and Actualities. So that would be the focus for funding allocation.
678 MR. FUOCO: Sure. And if I could just add, I think that if you’re -- again, we have to, in some way, separate our answers between what we’ve suggested as the short-term approach and maybe a longer term rethink of the 2 percent that’s used for local programming.
679 So I think it’s important to say that in the longer term rethink, we do think it opens up the opportunity and perhaps the obligation, if you’re going to access that funding, that you should be taking on some of the information and community programing that would have been done by perhaps the community station that would now be combined.
680 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah. Well, thank you, Mr. Millar. I understand your particular lens or perspective you’re using because it fits the structure of what you’re proposing from the business model you have.
681 But ultimately all of the proposals that we’re looking at that are looking to rob Peter to pay Paul with respect to BDU contributions, ultimately, come out of the pocket of community programming. And so that’s why I ask these questions the way I do and where it doesn’t fit neatly into the box Mr. Fuoco has described, I’d still appreciate you trying to sort of help me out here.
682 So earlier today, I asked Mr. Bragg a question about community information programing, and I know it may fall outside of the box of what you’re referring to in your presentation, but my question comes from the standpoint of its worth. There is a need, and it’s been surveyed and we saw some statistics that more than 50 percent of Canadians that were polled said community information is important to them.
683 My question is, from a business model standpoint, either as a BDU or, in your case, a broadcaster, is there any monetary value to that content? I asked Mr. Bragg the question from the standpoint of operational opportunities, in other words, can he use that to help sell subscription services. But from a broadcasters perspective, if you had that same kind of content available to you to help round out your broadcasting day, is it saleable? Is it monetisable or is it nice to know but not need to buy?
684 MR. MILLAR: And admittedly it’s a bit of a difficult question, but to the best of my ability, I’ll try to answer you.
685 I think that part of it comes down is does it serve a community need? Does it serve the viewers’ needs? And to the extent that either our news or some of the community programming.
686 So, for instance, we talked about municipal affairs covering local council meetings as sort of raising the bar. If there was viewer demand for it we’ve suggested you could make that available on the linear broadcast. And I guess, in essence, we’re saying that by using a finite resource we do think there would be some monetizable value to it.
687 The -- you know, I do think there is a lot of other content that perhaps isn’t best used on the linear feed and that’s why we suggested also on-demand, online and perhaps -- I notice we might have missed in the presentation we talked about ensuring that we use our on-air promotion to promote that so that people know it’s available, if not available at a time slot that it’s available online or on-demand.
688 I don’t know if that exactly answers your question.
689 MR. SIMPSON: It’s close. Maybe we can get into it in greater depth on the revenue stuff later which I’ll ask after lunch.
690 Mr. Fucco, you were going to ask -- or you were going to answer?
691 MR. FUCCO: Well, and in starting to develop this proposal or new concept, we also reflected on the news programming that we do and where at times the lines between where news and community programming sort of merge.
692 So I’ll use as an example our morning show which throughout the day we’ll lead with hard news reporting on stories that have happened overnight or happening at that point in time and then we will profile a local band and a live performance, or we’ve recently run a series where we’ve welcomed the local municipal mayors in to speak about what’s happening in that community.
693 So even as we operate today, we see there’s opportunities to begin to integrate more of the community style programming into what might be classified as a traditional news broadcast. And, to answer your question, that is attractive as a broadcast from an advertising perspective, especially to our local advertisers.
694 MR. PODZYHUN: Like, Mr. Purdy, I used to be a millennial about 25 years ago, and for me to get into sort of the business or be discovered I had to literally go to Los Angeles and so hopefully get discovered in California.
695 Nowadays a lot of the millennials want to get discovered on YouTube, and it’s -- you know, one sneaks through every so often. They start off as doing informational pieces, sort of like how to put on make-up, and they’re reviewing video games and the next thing you know they’ve got 41 million followers.
696 I think what we can provide as a private broadcaster is we become the new YouTube for the local people to get discovered that come on, and we’re doing that now. Like Mr. Fucco had mentioned about the bands and, you know, talking to the chefs in the Niagara region. And I think that’s the big service we can provide. And that will sort of breakdown the silos that we now have between the BDUs, the private broadcasters, CBC and the community channels. If we can sort of start rebalancing ourselves and creating that new structure television will be -- the millennials will be pulled back into the broadcast system.
697 MR. SIMPSON: With respect to the LPIF -- the local programming improvement fund -- when it existed its design was to incrementally increase the amount of content produced by a local station for that local market. But given what you’ve been going through and, you know, being one of the canaries in the mineshaft with respect to being an independent, was that fund really more of an infrastructure sustainability fund for some of the more independent broadcasters who didn’t have the largesse of a VI behind them?
698 MR. FUCCO: Well, I can speak for our experience and the use of LPIF and what we put it towards and then in the time during its phase out and subsequent elimination what has changed.
699 For us, the creation of local news has always been a bit of a -- there’s always been an element of internal subsidization where the cost to produce local news if it exceeds the revenues that you can derive from selling it historically those shortfalls were made up from two component, one was the margins that we would earn on our prime time or our acquired programming schedule. If they were generating profitable margins that would help offset any deficits that might occur on the local programming side of the ledger. The second component that filled the gap was LPIF.
700 And I think if we go back to 2009-2010 when we first took over the operations of CHCH we really put those funds to good use and expanded rapidly and invested heavily in local news.
701 And so through a combination of margins coming off of the acquired programming and if necessary through the funding within the LPIF, the model was sustainable. It allowed us to invest in our infrastructure. We upgraded our digital transmitters. We had to expand our closed captioning capabilities. And we fully rolled out HD throughout our entire plant. So for a period it was working well.
702 Two things combined over the last three or four years have changed things radically. One was the phasing out and then ultimately elimination of LPIF.
703 But combined with that, what we’ve seen is the erosion of margins in the acquired programming that was helping to offset that cross-subsidization we were doing. And not only was it just an erosion but an acceleration of that through a number of market forces that as an independent broadcaster, not part of a network group, limited in scale, especially when it comes to our ability to secure network television buys, that acceleration ultimately is what got us into the situation we found ourselves in going through last fiscal and then entering into this fall, which ultimately led to the very difficult decisions we had to make in December.
704 MR. SIMPSON: Thanks.
705 My last question before lunch has to do with sort of a follow-on to LPIF and talking about small market fund. In your very exhaustive proposal here I ask myself the question of this nature, in the pooling proposal that you’ve put together where there is one or multiple OTA’s in a marketplace, have you thought about prorating or differentiating an independent station in the market from a VI-owned station to the extent that the funds are distributed at different rates of dispersal?
706 I’m thinking here because of overhead structures, I’m thinking about cost of operation not being able to be spread, and I’m also thinking about whether there’s an opportunity to create one fund that through its structure replaces the potential of two funds, one as a news fund and one as a small market fund.
707 MR. MILLAR: So thank you for the question, Commissioner Simpson, and thank you for on short notice considering our fairly radical somewhat departure from the existing.
708 We haven’t given it that level of consideration at this stage, and that was part of the reason that we suggested that we would propose this, if you will, a philosophical strawman argument to allow people to consider a new direction but also to say that we don’t have all the answers to that.
709 There may be very good arguments in both directions and rather than trying to come up with a fully, you know, thought out -- we thought well the starting stage was well thought out but a fully fleshed out proposal it was really for a lot smarter minds than some of ours across the industry to come together in a working group and deal with just those issues.
710 So kind a long way to say no, we haven’t thought of that and yet now that you’ve broached it it’s something we would really give some consideration to.
711 MR. SIMPSON: Okay. Thank you very much.
712 Mr. Chair, I think I’ll step down.
713 THE CHAIRPERSON: So why don’t we take a break till -- so it’s 12 -- almost 12:40. So why don’t we come back at 1:40 -- an hour break -- and continue the questioning at that point.
714 Thank you very much.
--- Upon recessing at 12:36 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:42 p.m.
715 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
716 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre, s’il vous plaît.
717 So, Commissioner Simpson, please continue your questioning.
718 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you.
719 I wanted to move over to revenue questions. In your earlier submission, your part one, you had said that -- in so many words -- that in terms of how you were doing in ratings, you know in the news day parts, that -- or the day parts associated with news broadcasting, you were doing pretty good, particularly in the Hamilton, Niagara area. And I don’t contest that at all. I understand that and appreciate it and accept it.
720 My question has to do with what’s happening with ad revenue that should go along with ratings? Is the because you’re a BI and you’re not getting your share of national, or is it that it’s tough to compete even on -- you know? Give me the landscape of ad support. What’s happening there?
721 MR. FUOCO: Certainly. Thank you for the question. So as it relates to advertising revenue into local programming, or news products, we sort of differentiate two types of customers. There are local retail advertisers, and that has always been, I think, the strength and the bedrock of the station from a revenue point of view.
722 In addition to that, we source revenue from clients that we would call national clients, just to put them into a category, and they are typically buying rating points all across the country or heavying up in particular markets. And historically there was a balance between those two in our original news programming. What we have seen in the last number of years is sort of an ongoing change in the way a lot of the national clients are approaching the market and the types of rating points that they are buying.
723 Historically you could sort of segment three different groups of impressions, so to speak. You would have local level impressions, or city specific, or region specific. Then above that, in our case, would be sort of regional or provincial wide; that might have been called the spot market, historically. And then you have national impressions. One of the challenges that has impacted us directly, because we are unique, or not part of a large network group, is that second group.
724 The change of the regional or the spot buy has gone away, replaced by clients that are looking to buy nationally. And because we are not part of a national network, we have found ourselves on fewer of those national buys, and that’s driven by a number of market forces that are at play. Mostly with consolidation at the agency level, media planning, media buying, and agencies looking to deliver a lot of efficiencies to their clients.
725 So it is easier for some clients to just buy the entire country, not worry about spill necessarily or heavying up in market A versus market B, and so we have seen a trend where more dollars have migrated into these national type buys and that has accelerated in the last two years.
726 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: We’ve seen -- studies have pointed to demographics showing that conventional media, particularly television here, picks up as you cross that 34-35 year old threshold and the older the audience, the higher they are percentage wise as consumers of conventional media. My question here regarding demographics is, why are agencies so preoccupied in your mind, to buying 18 to 34, when 35 to 64 have all the discretionary money?
727 MR. MILLAR: It’s one of the fundamental questions that we have and it’s not even for us to take credit for having looked at it. Moses Znaimer has been before the Commission numerous times and has built a business looking at slightly older demographics. It’s -- there’s -- you know, we’ve talked about the fact that there are structural changes going on. There’s no -- saying this is not the -- you know this is not the golden era of conventional television by any stretch and there’s more fragmentation.
728 We are awash in content and so there’s the advertisers themselves -- I won’t speak for them. You know, we are told, you know, that they have their reasons and they, obviously, have picked their market segments. But one of the -- just one of the things that we’ve talked about within the TV, or TVB, has been this driven sort of by structural, and agencies, advertisers, and broadcasters, both in Canada, the US, and the UK, is just that the way we’ve structured that part of the business.
729 You can buy 18, 34; 25, 54; and you’re given a spill of 55 plus audience. And so as we’ve had the boomers move through the python, so to speak, we’re giving away more of that audience. The problem is that while some of us can -- many of us can identify it, it’s difficult to change it.
730 So that’s just one of the reasons, is that -- and advertisers rightly say, you know, we look for lifetime value of a customer, and somebody who’s 55, the statistics show they’ve got more disposable income. They’re buying -- still buying cars for many years. People are living longer and healthier lives. But the industry hasn’t really caught up to that. And those are some the sectoral and structural changes we can’t do anything about. So we tend to focus on ours. But hopefully that helps you.
731 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So is it safe to say too though that because you’re an independent that you miss out on national buys because they buy around you?
732 MR. MILLAR: Yes, absolutely. That’s exactly right. In fact, Chris and I and our -- Jeff Thrash(Ph), our sales manager, and Mark Burko(Ph), made a tour of the agencies in the fall when we saw, sort of, an acceleration.
733 There are some agencies that have pitched new business and won it with, you know, lower fees. I mean their business is competitive as well.
734 And so, you know, we had some pretty honest conversations. I won’t attribute it, but those people if they’re listening will recognize them, is that they said, you know, we pitched the business and won it on a model of buying network -- network rating points.
735 And we -- you know, we know the business in previous agency was on you. We’ve heard good things, we like the station, we like the programming, but truth is I don’t have the resources in my business. As an agency I can write four POs.
736 And so that’s not something we’ve come to the Commission to say ‘please change’, because we know it’s without -- outside the jurisdiction, but it is one of the things that as an independent we are struggling with.
737 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Continuing on the revenue model side, you spoke several times about “until such a time as a new model has emerged”.
738 When you look at organisations like Huffington Post, Gawker, Vice, they’ve been at it a while now; you know? They just didn’t start this yesterday and it seems that they -- that when I look at Vice, because they were before us this morning, you know, they started this thing back in 1994.
739 And they -- they’re a multimedia players. They started as a magazine and today they’re even backing into broadcasting, so they’ve got skin in a lot of games.
740 And as a broadcaster, you’ve got a lot of skin in one game, admittedly trying to get into more platforms, but do you think that from a broadcasting standpoint one of the problems we’re all dealing with, both at the regulatory side and the broadcaster side, is that broadcasters still think of themselves as broadcasters and are having trouble, you know, crossing this Rubicon into new media, where new media is unregulated, is unshackled in its thinking, in its fundraising ability?
741 The one thing that I find interesting that both conventional and new media share is that no one seems to want to pay for news.
742 So my next question is do you think, being that, you know, you’re pretty much committed to the news genre, that there is a subscription model in your future in conventional, or is this -- or has that ship sailed, or what would -- does it never get off the dock?
743 Where I’m coming from is people are saying that they -- 81 percent of the marketplace is saying they really believed local news is important; you know? Is the money where their mouth is, is the question.
744 MR. FUOCO: Well I think one of the -- one of the indicators that just -- that back up that 81 percent saying that they highly value news, is we just look at the ratings to our news programs in particular.
745 And -- because we’re adjacent to a very large market, the Toronto news programs and other news broadcasts from elsewhere in the province or across the country, are readily available and yet day in, day out, the viewers vote with what they tune into.
746 And so they clearly put the CHCH, their local news broadcast, by a significant margin, at the top of that list.
747 So I think that is the starting point that -- that we look at in terms of having a real affinity with the viewer and that’s a position of strength that we like to operate from.
748 To get back to, you know, what you were talking about earlier about sort of this then how do you take that brand, a station that has the kind of history and legacy in news programming that CHCH does and move it into different platforms and get into different spaces?
749 That is something that we have made efforts in doing, but it is -- it is difficult, not to implement, the implementation is difficult, we have gone to live streaming of our local news, posting as many stories as we can on our website, maintaining a website, building a presence.
750 And while we’re happy with what we have achieved in that space, the monetization of that content is a significant challenge.
751 There’s often talk of, you know, when you’re moving you’ll turn television dollars into digital pennies and that is not a stretch.
752 So we’re, I think, all broadcasters are sort of -- especially those that are doing news, are sort of straddling this transition from a model that has worked for some time, but is undergoing a lot market -- market changes, in terms of how it’s bought and sold.
753 Understanding that we need to get into digital. We have the brands that people are choosing and seeking out and so to the best of our ability we continue to try to make that transition. So that -- and that is what we’ve done.
754 This is a very similar conversation -- Cal and I had the good opportunity to meet with all of our employees at the station over the course of the past week.
755 Talking with them just about, sort of, where things are at and what -- how we’re doing and what we’re -- where things are at the business, because we have had a very significant -- a lot of developments over the last number of months.
756 And to a person, these were the types of things that all of our staff were saying. You know, we want to continue to do more of this, we recognize this is where we need to go, but it is very much unchartered territory and there isn’t a digital pot of gold waiting there to be grabbed and put on the books, so to speak.
757 MR. MILLAR: And if I could just add, talking about a subscription model maybe in our future, sort of two comments.
758 In 2012, when we came before the Commission in the LPIF review, we took the opportunity to do a fairly large survey. We reached out, we promoted it on CHCH and asked viewers hey you’re watching do you support this concept that, you know, you’re paying roughly a dollar a subscriber to support local television. If so, please go to our website, please, you know, indicate your support.
759 And we came to that -- to that hearing with 15,000 comments. We had far in excess of that of people just clicking the survey saying yes or no, but these were people who took the time to give us their name, their email and their comments.
760 There might have been one or two that said ‘yeah we don’t, no thanks’, but the vast, vast majority of those 15,000 were all in favour and in a sense that was a subscription model.
761 So not to advocate for the past, but there is a -- point on it, it’s that viewers, you know, when asked, have said they’ll do it. When they were being contributing towards it they still saw it as valuable.
762 The second comment I would just make is that, in some respects, a re-think, which is what we’re very much advocating of the entire community and local programming component, is in a sense a bit of subscription model, perhaps as that gets, you know, more fully developed.
763 But it is a sense to take some stability, because we’ve had -- one of the problems that we faced is that in this particular business, unlike our speciality business, the -- there’s an awful lot of volatility and I know everybody -- their portfolios and their mutual funds has been experiencing volatility, but ours would be the equivalent of having all of your nest egg in growth stocks.
764 They are just -- it bounces and when it goes up it goes up very high, when it comes down it comes down very low.
765 Over the air television doesn’t have, sort of, those fixed income securities to balance out the portfolio and it is subject to these swings.
766 Such that -- and Commissioner Simpson you’ll recall, that in 2012 you were here and at that point, you know, all of us had fairly robust revenue. Our revenues are down substantially from that time, as you know from our confidential filings.
767 And there were -- there was a view that it was just a hiccup from the past. I think the intervening years have shown that not to be the case, but that’s another element of, I think, an answer towards your subscription question.
768 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thanks. The dichotomy I find extremely challenging and I was going to say interesting but it’s beyond that, is that this hearing is about local news and information and community information.
769 And yet everything we’re seeing, both in the United States and Canada, is the local television stations find that news is the most expensive part of their outlay and programming.
770 And it’s -- what everybody says that they want from their broadcaster, yet if you were to follow a direct line on that activity, the more you do the quicker you go broke.
771 And so here we are looking at subsidies, and funding, and allocations, and appropriations. So I ask you this, you sort of touched on it, when a cable system applies part of its revenue to subsidizing community information, in your proposal you’re saying and they should be doing the same, with an even more important component, which is local news.
772 So at that junction in your thinking, are the -- are the audience or the citizens -- or the citizens of Canada not already paying then for a subscription -- I think that’s what I heard you say earlier -- but in the form of a fund?
773 MR. MILLAR: Yeah, I mean I think that there is viewer subscribers to BDU delivered services already paid make a contribution both to Canadian expression in the country near the CMF and to local programming.
774 To be blunt, you know, our proposal suggest that we need to set priorities, and that those priorities may require us to eliminate the duplication. In some markets there are two entities or more doing the same thing. And in our case it’s a very reputable organization that is -- came together with six cable companies originally and now it’s down to two but -- Cable 14 -- but they receive funding to do their -- to provide local programming and expression, and frankly, even to cover municipal news and so forth. In our case, that is -- in our area of Hamilton, I think that is a duplication of effort.
775 There are others and there's so many around the country, and the one that comes to mind most -- and again, it goes back to sort of 2009 -- was in Brandon, Manitoba when the local over-the-air station closed, Westman Communications stepped into the breach and have done a remarkable job providing local news reflection, but really news to the community of Brandon, Manitoba.
776 And again, in our model we suggest that should be rewarded and let them do more of it, but -- because there is no duplication in that market.
777 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you. I just have a couple more questions then I’m done. It goes without saying that you feel that there should be some regulatory intervention and that we should be looking at some form of funding to be able to continue community programming and news programming.
778 So that is a given, but a little blue sky here, so we’re seeing cord-cutting, we’re seeing people moving back to getting some of their content with digital over the year. So as we move forward 5-8 years down the road, there is the distinct possibility that cable will not be the preferred method for getting signal at the household. So what happens to that funding?
779 MR. FUOCO: Well we took that into considerations, we contemplated this new model.
780 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Which I haven’t had a chance to totally absorb, so ---
781 MR. FUOCO: Agree, and we understand. It’s a consideration and knowing that, you know, as an OTA broadcaster -- and all OTA broadcaster do have a unique position in that almost regardless of the technology in that market, be it cable, satellite, IP TV, it provide -- the OTA signal provides the greatest amount of access to that community because it is -- it is on the most basic tier. And if the customer chooses to go with the subscription service, it is available free there. And in cases like ourselves, we have done what we can to make it available free online through streaming.
782 So that -- we understand that there will be cord cutting, there's going to be a generation perhaps of cord-nevers that will perhaps, you know, make up a percentage of the millennials. That is the reality that we’re going to face going forward. And that guided some of the thinking behind this model which said, “If you are cutting your cord, eliminating your subscription service, but you -- how can we continue to provide access and -- to community programming that the -- we feel that the OTA broadcasters are best positioned to do so.”
783 The second component of that is the discoverability or the promotion of those local and community programming. Right now so much of the discoverability is going to be dictated by which subscription service you have, so if there's particular programming say on Rogers Cable 10 but you are a Bell Satellite customer, you may not even necessarily know that it exists.
784 Again, by pushing the exhibition and the promotion of that programming down to the most widely distributed, widely available layer, which is the OTA stations, we feel that that helps both with access and discoverability and promotion of that programming.
785 And that -- these two were key elements in helping us shape our thoughts on this model that we’re proposing.
786 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay, thanks. Last question, this again is a value question, revenue question I suppose, but it has to do with the valuing of local news and information, and it goes to criticism that is quite widespread that with internet sources of news, whether they’d be aggregators, creators, that a lot of this content -- the origins and the efficacy is not really well-known, and there's been also some finger pointing that some purported internet online news organizations actually have marketing departments to try and work with clients to figure out what kind of content they would like to sponsor, which draws the whole question of content for sale or for rent.
787 So would you give me, as your parting shot, why a fund that is ostensibly, as you said earlier, coming out of the pockets of Canadians already through their cable and DTH subscriptions, why this is money well spent because of the trust factor of conventional broadcasting of news?
788 MR. MILLAR: Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. You touched on one of the buzz words, we do have some digital businesses in another part of the business, and native advertising is all the buzz at the moment, which is also known as “content for sale”, and I think that’s kind of the delineation, is that it cost money to make professional news.
789 And as we went through in December, we had to part with a number of former employees who were professional journalists. We retained a lot of them, but it was a very difficult decision because professional news is expensive to do, and that’s not being created online.
790 Both my daughters are big fans of BuzzFeed, and yet BuzzFeed is essentially listicles. The Chairman pointed to the article in Saturday’s Globe and talked about the -- they used the listicles term but talked about the sure fact of it’s -- a lot of it is aggregation and she talked about having seen her own content re-used, maybe attributed, but if you're not creating that original news content, where is it going to come from? The aggregators have nothing to aggregate.
791 So -- and I guess in -- the final piece of that is that that certainly doesn’t happen. We heard VICE here and Mr. Purdy spoke very eloquently about work they're doing, but he acknowledged that it’s not local. It is -- they can have a local story with global relevance, and that happens from our standpoint, but there are -- there are local stories that our local community want to hear about that just simply don’t have local -- or sorry, national or international relevance, they're community and area-wide concerns and that isn't something that the other parties are playing in.
792 MS. CHEN: Sorry, just to add to that, the shelf life of -- the local news that we produce and the quality of news that we are broadcasting has a very short shelf life, so we’re not able to amortize it, we air it and then the next day we have new news. So that contributes to the cost of the production as well, and that’s something I think we need to keep in mind.
793 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar.
794 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. And my question is simply to understand your proposal. As I was reading through this I just want to understand what you would propose to be the commitment to community programming. If I understand correctly, and tell me if I’m wrong because this truly is just to understand, this would be produced by -- if a conventional news broadcaster came forward for the funding, they would produce the community programming?
795 MR. MILLAR: So yes, I mean that's -- thank you, if you -- if you step forward and apply for that funding, you would be taking on some additional obligations. And some of the obligations are to, you know, we use the idea of ensuring that every municipal council meeting -- even if it just includes a reeve and two councilors -- in that coverage area, is -- has a reporter there and it’s reported upon.
796 So there are certain, you know, community elements that might not -- that don’t currently make sense for an over-the-air broadcaster in doing local news to fully cover them, but there’s still -- even in small communities, there is a need for that reflection. So those are some things that the broadcaster would step up and commit to do that it might not otherwise be doing in exchange.
797 There is also the element, though, however -- there are still, even in this day where the need of the community isn’t so much to use our equipment and our studios, because those things have become relatively, you know, low barriers to entry. There is the need for that community program -- and it can be very well produced -- to get some exhibition or to be made discoverable. And again, this is what the local over-there broadcaster who applies to the fund under a new model would be committing to a certain level of using its on-air promotion.
798 We’ve talked about it. You know, the signal is the most broadly available and, therefore, you make use of that to make sure that the people in a smaller community are aware that, you know, it’s been recorded; it’s available, and it’s there for them.
799 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
800 So again, just to ensure I understand, so any programming produced by members of the community would be something that, under your proposal, would be promoted? It would be made available on a platform and promoted, but there would be no separate channel or linear space for it. Is that true?
801 MR. MILLAR: So I’ll separate the linear space from a separate channel. So there wouldn’t be a separate channel, but there would be -- because some of the content, quite frankly, would be -- could very well be applicable to the broader audience and find room in the limited inventory that we have of 168 hours in each week. Some of that content could well find its way onto the linear platform. But for certain, all of it would be available online and through those same BDUs, on demand, and available on an app.
802 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. And just one more question.
803 MR. MILLAR: Yeah.
804 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I heard what you said about the infrastructure to support it, but the funds to create it. If a community member sought to create community reflection programming under your model, would any funds be made available to them?
805 MR. MILLAR: We haven’t actually thought that part of it through, in fairness. It’s ---
806 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And that’s fair. Again, this is just ---
807 MR. MILLAR: Yeah, it is.
808 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- trying to understand what’s here.
809 MR. MILLAR: Yeah. Thank you for that.
810 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So thank you. Those are my questions.
811 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
812 I just have a couple of implementation questions and one big policy question. So we’ll do with the implementation question first, and I’ll do a little preamble. These questions aren’t -- you shouldn’t assume -- they’re hypothetical, so you shouldn’t assume that we’ve bought into the notion of a fund one way or the other. That’s what we’re exploring here.
813 You suggested that we should do this through a working group, and this could take up to a year. My experience with working groups, when they’re tackling policy issues -- and we have it a lot in telecom on the CISC working group, groups that were originally created to look at very technical things -- but any time there’ an element of policy that seeps into their deliberations, they end up being very self-interested. Inevitably, people are excluded or don’t have the resources to participate in working groups, and those who create the output of the working group end up having more influence than maybe they should.
814 So I want to know why you’re suggesting a working group as opposed to another means of implementing your proposal.
815 MR. MILLAR: It’s a fair question. The objective was to try to bring the industry and other stakeholders together to get their input rather than having it, especially in this circumstance -- maybe it would be worthwhile, just giving a sense, sometimes new ideas or new directions don’t come out on a nice ready schedule. And we apologize that this -- we didn’t think of this by the time we filed in November. It wasn’t until we were actually reading over everyone else’s interventions and thinking about how -- and also faced with the situation we were dealing with that kind of the penny dropped. So we were -- we’re interested in having a broader consultation on it.
816 That said, our most recent experience with a working group has actually been fairly positive. Once it was -- had a bit of a push from the Commission to get going, which was the SimSub Working Group. So at least from our perspective and I think some of the BDUs in the other programs, we’re seeing that as producing some product. So that probably biased our -- with limited exposure to it, biased our view of how effective it could be.
817 I think a consultation -- it could be a policy hearing. I perhaps take a point you might be alluding to, which is perhaps if there is to be a rethink, it requires more resources. A perfectly good idea. We didn’t want to impose another policy.
818 That’s essentially whey we broke our response into two pieces, which is to say there is an urgent need right not, without question, and both Bell Media and Group V Media have proposed very workable models, different, but both of them are workable and should be considered as soon as possible for short term.
819 Thinking a little more long term, but we didn’t want it to be too far down the blue sky and many years out the road, so we tried to put it into a one year. And that was the extent of our thinking, unless somebody can remember some other aspect?
820 THE CHAIRPERSON: So for you, one year is quick?
821 MR. MILLAR: Yeah, for something like this, it would be -- given that the urgency of the other two proposals’ implementation would cover us through that period, one year would be.
822 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
823 MR. MILLAR: It is over a year ago that we started the SimSub Working Group, and it is ---
824 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But you’ll agree with me the SimSub Working Group was dealing with a very technical issue, a little bit more like the CISC working groups that we have?
825 MR. MILLAR: Yeah, absolutely.
826 THE CHAIRPERSON: Have you given some thought that, you know, before we go to a big national policy with major consequences, that maybe we should explore the notion of a pilot project?
827 MR. MILLAR: No, but it’s a good idea. It’s a very good idea.
828 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps it’s a call-out to others that might want to think about the pros and cons of doing a pilot project and what it might look like.
829 Why wouldn’t we do this at licence renewal?
830 MR. FUOCO: Again, that’s another good suggestion. This is partially why we felt compelled to bring this up and put it on the table, because we were looking at it from our perspective as a broadcaster in a mid-size market. We are very familiar with the community channel situation in our region, but very much, we wanted to bring this forward and expose this thinking to a broader audience for these very reasons.
831 I think your earlier point about a pilot, Cal and I looked at one another, nodded and said, “That is a very interesting idea.” So absolutely.
832 MR. MILLAR: If I can just add? I think one of our initial considerations was -- and then Bell clearly suggested doing it at licence renewal, but there are staggered licence renewals. So the VIs, I believe, are up in 2016. I’m sorry; I don’t have the exact date. Ours was 2017 and it’s been extended to 2018. And I’m not sure where some of the smaller BDUs are, because I think they’re an important component of that. I use Westman as an example, but there are numerous others, including Eastlink who are -- do some very good work. So we would want them all considered. So I don’t know whether that has any impact on the timing issue.
833 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
834 The advantage of doing it, obviously, at licence renewal is you get to look at the specificity of the various licensees involved as opposed to doing a rather blunt national instrument.
835 MR. FUOCO: And if I may add in just furthering this dialogue, I think that goes back to, as Cal alluded earlier, we see there are -- what we submitted today is sort of the two phases. There’s a bridge, and we’ve looked at two proposals out there that, from our perspective shore up the urgent situation that we, and I think a lot of other broadcasters, will come forward during this hearing and present, which could then give us the time to consider some of these different alternatives.
836 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
837 My big policy question -- and I’m struck that we didn’t have more participation by the Association of Professional Journalists or actual professional news gatherers and reporters in this proceeding. I’m a bit surprised that we’re going down a path where, if not government and an agency of government, part of the executive arm of government, would suddenly be financing news and nobody seems to be saying, “Wait a minute; is that a good idea?”
838 I get that the operators are struggling -- that’s fine -- and I get people are losing jobs and there’s an upheaval out there, but I would have thought some people would have just taken a moment to pause. When government has financed news, for instance for public broadcasters, there are very strict governance rules in place and arms-length relationships, at least on paper, and I was wondering if you had a view on that, the appropriateness of the executive arm getting so deep involved in what is so important to democracy.
839 MR. MILLAR: Yeah, the independence of journalism. I mean, you make a good point. If this was -- if it was being done in another country we might be looking at it as scant and saying that essentially it becomes a mouthpiece of the government.
840 It is out of the necessity of wanting to ensure what we -- as Commissioner Simpson alluded to, we know that there’s consumer demand they are watching. We -- when asked -- if that gives any indication of intention. We have consumers telling us they value local news and yet it can’t sustain itself on the current model that we have. There are other models. You’re well aware of ReTrans consent in the United States. Different market. We don’t particularly agree that it could work in the Canadian marketplace. But we’re struggling to find a solution to a very core problem.
841 In our proposal, the meager attempt we made at trying to ensure independence was to place it in an arms-length -- admittedly the rules laid out by the agency of the government -- but in the hands of an independent third party to ensure that it wasn’t actually able to -- for the government to use it for its own purposes. It intended to go to an independent third party that will allocate their resources out. But that was to the extent that you raise a great policy question.
842 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, hopefully others will be reading the tea leaves and helping us as we go along in this hearing to answer some of those questions.
843 So thank you very much. Those are our questions. And perhaps in your replies -- final replies you can address some of those points as well. Thank you.
844 Madame le secrétaire?
845 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
846 We will ---
847 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sorry, I forgot legal. I knew I’d do this. I didn’t think I’d do this so early.
848 Legal please?
849 MS. FISHER: Sorry. This is just in respect of the questions contained in Exhibit 1 that was put on the public record this morning. And we ask that you would undertake to provide responses as applicable to your undertaking by the 15th of February.
850 MR. FUCCO: We will.
851 MS. FISHER: Thank you.
852 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
853 Madame le secrétaire?
854 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
855 We will now go to Skype for the next intervenor.
856 Hi, Mr. Sayegh.
857 MR. SAYEGH: Hi there. Am I being heard?
858 THE SECRETARY: Yes, perfectly.
859 So you can start your presentation, and you have 10 minutes.
860 MR. SAYEGH: Thanks.
861 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
862 MR. SAYEGH: Thank you.
863 Good afternoon, Commissioners, and thank you for the opportunity to participate in this process.
864 I have worked in the programming industry for over 35 years in four distinct areas of Canada, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa and most recently Cranbrook, B.C. prior to my retirement in 2014. I was employed by four separate broadcast distributing undertakings during that time.
865 Each of these diverse geographical areas in Canada allowed me to work with many volunteers, access producers and staff to create the programming that was reflective of the communities we lived in. My teams and I worked very hard to ensure that cities and town council meetings were broadcast regularly, volunteers were trained, open houses were held, local events were covered, amateur sports and non-profit theatre groups were profiled, and ensured that access producers had an opportunity to access both the technical and human resources available to the citizens in the relevant areas that I worked.
866 The two goals that I’ve always kept in mind throughout my career in community programming have been the following; one, is to reflect the community back to itself by providing and airing hyperlocal content and two, to help develop the Canadian broadcasting system.
867 One of the questions put forth by the Commission was whether or not the same rules should apply to both small and large systems. I say absolutely not. Large systems typically have three or four local broadcasters in the market and are presently covering most local issues and activities. This is especially true of all those broadcasters who now have some form of magazine show along with their local newscasts. So in these cases there is very little left for our large system community channels to cover.
868 Coupled with that, the cities in Canada will generally have several community colleges and universities that are providing all kinds of training for television and film production. Generally what these institutions and students really need is a way of having their content aired or made available to the public.
869 So if the BDUs can provide some funding and guidance to local producers to produce programming that reflect the community, and if they can provide a platform to air the programming, the community channel would be fulfilling their mandate to air local programming and to develop the Canadian broadcast system.
870 I look at the MTS model of local programming in Manitoba and in my opinion they seem to have gotten it right.
871 In Winnipeg MTS programming staff consists of two executive producers. Their role is to remain -- their role is to entertain the ideas brought forth from independent producers and individuals, agree on the value of the program as it relates to the community, and then provide the proper level of funding to bring the program to fruition. This program is then made available on Video on Demand for free to all of their customers.
872 Not only are they helping young filmmakers to start-up their careers but they’re also providing viewers with unique programming about their community.
873 So with almost no staff, no equipment expenses, that should mean that there’s additional funds and personnel that can be transferred to smaller centers across the service areas.
874 In Manitoba, which provides a great example as overall Manitoba funding, which includes money from Winnipeg, can be transferred to provincial areas like Brandon, or Portage la Prairie, or Flin Flon, or Thompson where traditional community programming model would continue to be active. If the programming is still of interest in Winnipeg any BDU can access the content and present it to other Manitobans.
875 The importance of the community channel in a small system has the potential of being the most important information dissemination tool available in a community.
876 I can’t tell you how many times people in my own community have missed events because they just didn’t know about it. Although the information was available, there was not one central, trustworthy place where they can check in and see what’s going on.
877 Unlike larger systems, smaller communities don’t have a local broadcaster, so the role of the cable distribution undertaking in these systems -- in these communities can be incredibly valuable.
878 So here’s an example of what a small system community channel would look like if the appropriate resources were put into place. As I turn on my TV here in Kimberley I would find a free Video on Demand service called something like My Community. Clicking on that would give me access to all that is local. I’d have several choices. My first choice would be called something like Today’s Information and it would consist of daily news and information, local weather and perhaps a profile of a group or an individual that was doing something relevant in this week.
879 If there was a big news story that day, the content could come from the regional broadcaster and would be enhanced locally with streeters or a follow-up story with those who are affected by that news story.
880 This program would be dictated by time rather -- sorry -- would be dictated to by content rather than by time. So one day the program might be five minutes in length and the next day it might be a 30 or 40-minute show.
881 The programs would remain on a Video on Demand library for an extended period of time.
882 My next choice would be to click on the community calendar and be able to quickly have a look at all that’s going on within my community and the neighbouring towns as well.
883 We sometimes dismiss alpha numeric channels as insignificant but it has proven to be of great value in many of the small communities that I have encountered over the years.
884 The channel would allow me to click on my own town, or any other nearby community, and I would see a monthly calendar full of all the activities taking place in that given community. I would then be able to highlight any one of those activities, click on it and get specific information about that event.
885 The next category might be called something like This Month’s Features, and in there we would find long-form programming produced by the community channel staff, by freelancers, or even members of the community. It would be programming exclusive to that community, programming that would normally not get airing on television.
886 Here’s where you would find the local Santa Claus Parade in December or hockey games. It could also include local council meetings that are produced by the towns themselves.
887 The next category might be called something like the local library. This category could be rich with local content from all sources. It would be basically the library of all the segments and stories mentioned earlier and it would be of great value to someone moving into a community as they would easily be able to find out what groups, organizations and interests await them in their new community.
888 Anyone from the community would be able to deposit relevant content into that library. It would, of course, require some sort of screening process for obvious reasons. Perhaps it’ll be footage from the high school choir of local highlights of last night’s hockey game or perhaps... (Technical difficulty)
889 THE CHAIRPERSON: Try to get him again.
890 THE CHAIRPERSON: Of course the advantage of Skype is we get more Canadians to participate in our hearing, but the disadvantage of Skype is sometimes it falls down, so be patient for a few moments. I’m sure this is making great television for CPAC.
891 MR. SAYEGH: There we go.
892 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. great we can hear you.
893 MR.SAYEGH: Sorry about that.
894 THE CHAIRPERSON: No problem. Please continue.
895 MR. SAYEGH: Okay. So where was I? So yeah, the answer is, as you know, Netflix is an online service, but most movies and series are still watched on TV, and I think that’s probably what led to the advent of Smart TVss and Chrome casting and Apple TVs and so on.
896 It seems like in today’s world content must be available on all platforms and must be available to all BDUs. The initiative -- this initiative is something that can be easy to execute providing we make a few tweaks to the present system.
897 First, full cooperation with the broadcasters and cable companies is needed. And this shouldn’t be very difficult anymore as cable and phone companies own the broadcasters, and perhaps in return the broadcasters can be allowed to use a small system community programming producer as a stringer for their regional news, thus enhancing their own regional news casts as well.
898 And second, it would need encouragement form the CRTC to create this scenario and perhaps the Commission to develop some sort of incentive program to help move this model along.
899 And third and finally, relaxing the rules of the spending of the 1.5 or 2 percent, allowing the cable operators to spend it in the communities where it is needed rather than based on their size.
900 Thank you for your time and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
901 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
902 Commissioner MacDonald will start us off.
903 COMISIONER MACDONALD: Good afternoon where we are; good morning where you are. Thank you for participating in this proceeding today.
904 I just have a few questions. When I was reviewing your submission, you noted that your only access to local or regional news would come out of Vancouver or out of Calgary, and obviously it might not be overly reflective of your community. We’re talking a lot in this hearing about potentially requiring community stations to become more active in the production of actual news content. We also need to be mindful that these stations often have limited resources, be they financial resources or people resources, and I’m just wondering if you could speak to the degree of priority that we should be placing on new news generation for community stations?
905 MR. SAYEGH: Well, again, I don’t that there’s sort of one answer for all communities, but in my experience, there’s been a few times where our community channel has been able to help out a broadcaster by providing some footage or by providing a story that might be of use to them and so on. And so it’s really already happening, I believe.
906 And as far as a priority goes, I think for community programmers the priority will always be local information and local news, but I don’t see a problem or I don’t see any kind of time constraint or anything in being able to help your broadcasters out as well.
907 Not sure if that answers your question.
908 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: No, that’s helpful.
909 You talked about a local library in and sort of moving this content to sort of an on-demand platform so Canadians would always have access to it.
910 MR. SAYEGH: M’hm.
911 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Do you see that online sort of video-on-demand model totally replacing the traditional community station or to be in addition to?
912 MR. SAYEGH: Sorry, go ahead.
913 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Sorry, I was just going to say as a total replacement for the community station or would it be in addition to what’s currently being offered?
914 MR. SAYEGH: I think it could be a replacement to the existing station. I say that for a couple of reasons.
915 One is that I think more and more people are becoming more used to video on demand and in fact in some places the video-on-demand service is actually more accessible to where the community channel is.
916 I know in my case, of course with high definition TV, I pretty much just go through the high-def. channels, so in many cases I just lose sight of what a community channel is, particularly in a small community.
917 So I think it would be easier to find if it was an on-demand service.
918 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And would you see that on-demand service being managed by the community station itself or perhaps a larger BDU that operates several community stations, or would you see that being as more of a nationwide repository of content, so Canadians, regardless of where they live, would have access to it?
919 MR. SAYEGH: Well, I think in this case I’m talking really about local, local programming. So yes, of course, and as VICE said this morning even, there is local stories that have sort of a national implication to them, and that’s fair enough, but I think what we would want to -- or what my position would be would be to do something that would be very local and managed locally and -- basically handled locally. And that’s not to say that BDUs couldn’t have access to the local stories for other markets. And in fact broadcasters could have access to those same stories for other markets as well.
920 But I think the -- for me, the crux of this thing is that locally there’s someplace I can go and find out everything I need to know about my community.
921 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And I know this -- the answer to this question probably largely depends on the size of the community being serviced, but do you have any thoughts around, you know, what is a sufficient amount of be it local news production or other programming? Like if we had to put a number on it, number of minutes or hours per week that are being created, do you have any thoughts on what that number should be?
922 MR. SAYEGH: I don’t have any thoughts on that number. I would suggest that it might be more appropriate to say we should have something on the air every day that’s new and that could be -- as I said earlier, it could be maybe just a five-minute newscast or it might be a larger story than that.
923 But I think one of the things that the community channel, although they’re very good at many things, there’s not a lot of content, so in some cases that same content replays so often that you just chase people away.
924 So I would suggest that maybe what we want to look at is something like a daily program of varying length depending on the size of the community and the amount of news and so on, and let that content dictate the time -- the number of minutes that it should be.
925 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And with respect to local presence -- I know in your presentation you mentioned the way MTS operate currently -- a lot of people that are part of this proceeding advocated for the need for a local presence in all of these communities and in this day and age with advances and technology and everyone can shoot a video off their iphone, we just sort of want to get your thoughts on what “local presence” actually means?
926 MR. SAYEGH: Good question.
927 Well, I guess being realistic, and I’ll use the community that I met as an example. Presently, my community channel operates out of Cranbrook, which is about 20 minutes down the road from here. But that community channel is also responsible for Fernie, which is about an hour away from Cranbrook. And there’s a number of other places up the valley; I think Radian is one, and I think Fairmont is another and so on.
928 So that community channel in Cranbrook is probably responsible for about six different communities.
929 In my opinion, maybe the central location is Cranbrook, but I would sure like to see sort of a local person in each one of those other towns, so that there’s somebody on the ground there that really has a sense of what’s going on in that community and really can think what’s important in that community and so on.
930 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And when we’re talking about community because one of the things we are looking to define, what’s your view of a community? Some people would think it’s the area within a BDU service area, the area in which they’re licensed to serve. Others would classify it as the municipality. It could be a cluster of municipalities that share sort of a common history, common background.
931 Do you have sort of any thoughts on how “community” could or should be defined?
932 MR. SAYEGH: Well, to me, I think that the best way to do it is geographical and I think that, as you travel the country, you’ll find that in some community, for example, in Kimberley, we don’t -- Kimberley people don’t really like to consider themselves part of Cranbrook, for example.
933 So you know in my opinion, Kimberley should be its own community. And then within that community, yes, we have artists and we have, you know, all the different communities of interest let’s say.
934 But I think geographical might be the right choice to just get everything started with.
935 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay and just one last question, in your submission, you stated that you thought that the -- believed that an advisory board was still the best way to ensure that the community channel is reflective.
936 And I just wonder if you have any thoughts on how such boards should be structured and sort of what groups or stakeholders we should ensure that -- that those individuals are represented on those boards?
937 MR. SAYEGH: Well again I think the best way to do that would be to have a look at the various communities, find out what is important to that community and then make sure that there’s a representative from that group within the advisory board.
938 Again, for example, in this community, we are very lucky to have a number of artists and a really solid art community here. So you know clearly that would be one.
939 We have a hockey team here that attract over 1,000 people each game. You know, so hockey and sports is also very important to us. We have a ski hill here.
940 And so I think once you look at your community and once you see what’s available there, I think it would become quite easy to select individuals that are involved in those different disciplines and create your board out of those people.
941 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, well, once again thank you very much for your participation in the hearing today. I will hand this back over to the Chair. Those are my questions.
942 MR. SAYEGH: Thank you.
943 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. I think those are all the questions from the Panel today.
944 Thank you very much again for participating.
945 MR. SAYEGH: Super, thank you very much.
946 THE CHAIRPERSON: Madame la secrétaire.
947 MS. ROY: Merci.
948 We will now hear Community Media Advocacy Centre and after we will hear the presentation from Bell.
949 THE CHAIRPERSON: Welcome. When you feel ready, please go ahead. And I see you’ve got one of your colleagues on Skype that we’ve pulled up.
950 UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I’ll just check in with my audio first.
951 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, we hear you well. Thank you.
952 MS. RAHEMTULLAH: Hello, my name is Omme-Salma Rahemtullah. I am a board member with the Community Media Advocacy Centre. I have been a community radio programmer for over 10 years in Toronto and am currently a national coordinator of GroundWire Community Radio News.
953 DR. KING: Hello, my name is Dr. Gretchen King. I am a community media scholar and a non-commercial audience researcher. I am also an award-winning community radio producer and am a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Ottawa and the
954 Secretary of CMAC.
955 MS. LUDSKI: Hello, my name is Zoe Ludski and I am a Transmedia Artist and an award winning broadcaster in both corporate and community radio. I am also serving as the Vice President on the board of CMAC.
956 MR. ALBINATI: Mabet si ekaw. Taon si Chris Albinati. I am an Isinay and French Canadian lawyer with 10 years of experience as a producer in community media and I am appearing today as counsel for CMAC.
957 MS. HANUSE: Kwey (hello). I’m Banchi Hanuse, founder of Nuxalk Radio and board member of CMAC.
958 Good day, Chairman Blais and Commissioners Dupras, Molnar, Simpson, and MacDonald.
959 Before we begin our presentation, let us acknowledge that we are speaking today on Algonquin territory, and we thank you for recognizing this.
960 We emphasize that it is our collective responsibility as media producers and regulators to acknowledge this history and the ongoing struggle of Indigenous peoples to be heard.
961 We are speaking today on behalf of the Community Media Advocacy Centre or CMAC.
962 CMAC is a national, public interest advocacy organization that works with Indigenous and non-indigenous communities who want to build community owned media stations and infrastructure.
963 With this work, we cultivate and strengthen community and Indigenous based programming produced by, and for, communities that are under-represented in media governance and programming.
964 CMAC's voice in this hearing prioritizes the experiences of diverse groups, such as Indigenous peoples, third language and disability communities. Today, we seek to amplify the experiences of our communities who are under-represented in local and community television programming.
965 These same communities are also generally absent in community television membership, management, and operation.
966 MS. LUDSKI: After carefully reviewing the questions the Commission asked in its initial Notice of Consultation and the points emphasized in the recently released Working Document for Discussion, CMAC recommends that changes to the policy framework for local news and community television programming ensure the following:
967 One, that the community element, as a distinct and equal element of the Broadcasting System under the Broadcasting Act, is recognized for the essential and unique role it plays in providing Canadians with local programming content that cannot be produced by the other two elements.
968 Two, that in application processes for community based television programming undertakings and associated funding mechanisms, priority is given to non-profit, volunteer driven organizations, where content and governance is led by community members.
969 Three, that current funding mechanisms are upheld and modified to be accountable and transparent to consumers and community television participants through the creation of a non-profit organization to manage contributions.
970 Four, that new funding mechanisms be created if necessary to ensure that the community element is able to fulfill the essential and unique role it must play in order to fulfill the purpose of the Broadcasting System.
971 Five, that users and consumers of local programming have transparent and accessible forms of participation in the governance of community-based television programming undertakings.
972 Six, that programming produced by paid employees of community-based television programming undertakings, including TVCs, does not meet the criteria for community access programming.
973 Seven, that annual reporting by community based television programming undertakings include financial statements and programming logs that quantify community access requests and refusals, closed captioning percentages, and what amount of local and community access programming represents “official languages, ethnic and Aboriginal composition of the community”.
974 Eight, we ask that the revised policy guarantee community based television programming undertakings, promote public awareness of community television’s mandate and relevant mechanisms for complaints.
975 And finally, CMAC recommends that non-profit, volunteer driven community TV channels be carried on all BDUs operating in the licence zone.
976 MS. RAHEMTULLAH: We would like to spend the last couple of minutes of our intervention to specifically address the working document for discussion circulated by the CRTC on January 12th.
977 The Commission in its Working Document has emphasized the problem that from 1986 to 2003, local news programming went from being a “fundamental element of television programming” to being an “endangered species, and that many parts of Canada are being underserved.”
978 As we explained in our submission, this problem arises in large part from a failure to define local content in a way that goes beyond geographical location and takes into consideration the different communities that are necessarily represented within a set geographical location.
979 This failure results in the exclusion of a diversity of voices and informs the problem the Commission has pointed to when it quotes the 2003 report
981 “An entire layer of Canadian life and
experience is missing from the screen and the airwaves and these forms of expression are arguably the places where the Canadian experience is the most original and vibrant, where the country discovers and defines itself.”
982 Addressing this complex problem requires more than just extending the definition of local programming to account for the diversity of voices within
983 a geographical location; but building in the necessary funding and accountability mechanisms into the regulatory framework, so as to ensure that those voices are not marginalized by the aesthetics of production and the accounting of local content hours.
984 MS. KING: We would now like to address how the policy can implement a more balanced funding structure and support local news.
985 CMAC is firmly opposed to the proposals to reduce the funds available and the requirement percentages stated in the policy for community access television programming.
986 In addition, within the community element, advertising should only fill in the gap where public sector funds fail. CMAC values that local advertising can connect community members and would consider limited allowances for local advertising on community TV.
987 CMAC also believes the CRTC policy revisions should address how public funding is managed and allocated. Specifically, we advocate that the CRTC establish non-profit management of the funds available and prioritize the allocation of funds to support non-profit produced community access and local news programming.
988 In addition, more data is needed regarding how these allocations are spent. Currently, there is no provision that community based television programming undertakings file detailed financial reports and logs of programming aired.
989 CMAC recommends that the policy be revised to include transparent and accountable reporting methods that include the CRTC verifying annual reports, with programming logs and financial statements detailing allocation expenditures.
990 We believe the funding is sufficient, but the policy lacks strong accountability mechanisms and clear definitions of what is local programming. The current policy and the proposals in the working document fail to recognize and support non-profit produced local news programming.
991 Funding for local programming must be allocated in a way that allows relevant, independent, community programming to exist. The Broadcasting
992 System is incomplete where any one of the three recognized elements is not producing any local programming in a given market.
993 The policy should provide transparent mechanisms that are -- require detailed accounting of funding allocations and specify the degree to which expenditures support the Diversity of Voices Policy and the fundamental purpose of the Broadcasting Act. This policy should specify a non-profit organization be mandated to manage the contributions, and report annually to the CRTC and other stakeholders on the expenditures and their impact.
994 Over the last year, two cases highlight why BDO -- BDU controlled local or community access programming contributions ultimately lead to mismanagement and failure to produce locally reflective, and therefore locally relevant, programming.
995 First, the Superior Court of Quebec in its decision, Girard contre Videotron, ruled in a class action brought against subscribers of the BDU over the local content contributions collected. The court found that Videotron “misled consumers and deliberately overcharged” customers for these contributions and underreported what it collected to the CRTC. The court ordered Videotron to reimburse its customers over $7 million. It is important to emphasize that the findings and significant damages ordered by the Superior Court of Quebec are not due to a mistake or an oversight on Videotron’s part.
996 The second case was that of the ICTV complaint against Videotron’s Community Television station, MAtv, that spends the community television contributions collected by the BDU. The CRTC ruled that MAtv failed to achieve all of the targets for community access to media literacy, access programming production quotas; as well as to reflect the linguistic, ethnic and Indigenous composition of the local communities in the service zone.
997 These outcomes emphasize the need for the Commission to be aware of the possibility of these practices as it considers the issues discussed this week.
998 CMACs submission concludes that accountable uses of public funding, and meeting the expectations for local news and community access programming, are best achieved by a policy that supports non-profit community television and non-profit management of the funds allocated for local and community access contributions.
999 MR. ALBINATI: We thank you for listening to CMAC’s oral presentation and for your work examining our intervention. We look forward to your questions and to continuing the conversation today.
1000 THE CHAIRPERSON: So thank you very much. Commissioner MacDonald will start us off.
1001 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon. You mention in your intervention that you’re of the opinion that the BDUs have failed to meet their obligations to servicing minority communities and indigenous peoples. And you mention today, and in your intervention, about the need for the CRTC to measure the logs that are submitted by these community stations and programmers to ensure that they’re meeting their performance targets.
1002 But I’m just wondering if you have thoughts on what, specifically, we should be measuring with respect to some of these groups? Financial expenditures are sort of very easy to manage on a spreadsheet. Other things are, you know, perhaps a little bit more difficult to quantify in the same manner. So I’m just wondering if you could maybe unpack a little bit for me what we should be looking at.
1003 MS. KING: In some of the responses that Videotron has given the Commission in response to the compliant of ICTV and MAtv, Videotron was met -- was made to enumerate how many indigenous programs it included in its broadcasting. How many programs that represent ethnic communities and so on. I do believe that the policy can put forward those kinds of content categories. Content categories that would ideally represent the community being served; the linguistic, the ethnic makeup, the indigenous makeup of communities being served. So to back up the policy with logs that enumerate the kinds of content being aired.
1004 So rather than just everything in a broad category of community access and everything in a broad category of local, there would be a further enumeration of what kind of content is featured within those categories.
1005 MR. ALBINATI: And if we could add that it’s not novel to suggest that kind of logging. I mean it’s already done in terms of community radio, where you have different categories for local, and Can con, and so forth. And how do we measure, you know, different types of third languages being represented in a volume of content?
1006 So I think those methodologies can exist for qualifying data and it’s just a matter of creating the proper structure for it, through consultation with those impacted communities, and then putting that structure in place. It’s just a matter of accountability to those communities.
1007 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And with respect to those communities, I mean, every community is different. Are you suggesting more of a blanket approach? Are you suggesting that the targets be specified based on the community in question? Should those targets, if they're such, they’d be tied back to percentage of Indigenous peoples -- people that live in a particular community for example, when time to set those targets?
1008 MR. ALBINATI: I mean we could -- you could talk of targets in terms of what is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the licence, but you could also talk about having the data there so that we know which communities are being represented and which communities aren’t.
1009 We use the word “underrepresented communities” a lot, but I mean we’ve also had the question throughout this hearing how should we define a community? You asked those questions yourself of the last presenter, would you define it by area or some other thing?
1010 And I think those are where the issue start, is when we start by thinking of community as an area, and then we forget the different textures and diversities that exist within that area, which is -- which is a point we’re trying to make here today.
1011 And so, even if the targets aren’t linked with licensing requirements, if it’s required that that data be collected, then you’ll be -- you’ll have the information to make better informed policy choices and to correct licensing requirements to set targets based on data collected. Right now we don’t have that data, so we don’t know what targets to set.
1012 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And do you have any thoughts on, you know, how the Commission should address situations of non-compliance if we do set those regulations out in place and providers fail to meet their -- those obligations, what should the consequences be, for want of a better question?
1013 MR. ALBINATI: I mean -- what should the consequences be? I mean that’s -- there's a lot to draw on in terms of how compliance is enforced and the types of consequences that exist in the communications framework already. If you don’t comply with your content requirements, you -- eventually you’ll get a warning and then you could have your licence revoked and those kinds of things, those already exist, perhaps that could be a part of it.
1014 In terms of non-profit community television undertakings, we have to keep in mind that -- that stringent consequences could impose undue hardship. And so I think the policy would have to take those into consideration that, you know, you have to balance that -- those consequences with the people they are being meted out against.
1015 So in the context of BDUs who control the large majority of the public funding that is supposed to go towards community television programming, those -- they should be held to a higher standard in terms of compliance when it comes to trying to meet the recognized need of communities and what they require.
1016 DR. KING: Just to point out as well, the law is clear as it's stated now that if a BDU is non-compliant, then the licence goes to a non-profit. I think what's unfortunate is that the BDU gets the -- well CMAC feels is unfortunate is that the BDUs get the first dib.
1017 We do think that Canada has set a standard for more than four decades in defining and distinguishing community media, that record is known worldwide that Canada is one of the birth places of certainly media. And I think that the policy and the way that BDUs have been allowed first dibs in taking a community licence has ultimately failed to uphold that worldwide reputation that we have.
1018 And so if anything, one of the changes that should be considered seriously by the CRTC, is to allow non-profit to have first dibs on the licence, because if community media and community television specifically is not relevant to the community, perhaps it’s because it’s not the community who’s managing it.
1019 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And I’ll ask a question similar to something that I asked of the last presenter as well, and it’s with respect to locally reflective programming. We’re talking a lot about locally, relevant and reflective news programming.
1020 Can you sort of -- with the set of lenses on and about trying to make sure that these, you know, individuals have access to material that is reflective of them, be the Indigenous people, disabled people, what have you, do you have any thoughts on what the percentage focus should be on news programming versus non-news programming targeted towards those individuals?
MR. ALBINATI: I’ll first say that in terms of understanding what is locally relevant -- I mean you are talking about audience and so forth, I did find it interesting that VICE was invited to open up this hearing and there was a lot of sort of discussion about millennials, and so I would say as a millennial, that this concept of millennials as this homogenous demographic is troubling. Especially if it’s to set the tone of a discussion around what is local, what is relevant and what is reflective, because it’s just this group of 20 to 30-somethings and there's this assumption that they have a certain cultural appetite, and that they have a certain practice in terms of how they get their content and so forth.
1021 But that glosses over the fact that -- that a homogenous group of any kind or a group of any kind has -- does not just have one cultural appetite, does not have just one language and so forth, you know.
1022 So when we talk about percentages with regards to different communities, Indigenous, ethnic, third language, disability communities, when we’re talking about those different communities we have to remember that the fundamental purpose of the Broadcasting Act and that you, the CRTC, has sort of the unfavorable job to protect the cultural sovereignty and national identity as that is expressed and controlled and shaped through the broadcasting system.
1023 That’s not a fun job to have, but we have to remember that in 1991 cultural sovereignties and national identities was largely framed around English and French, third languages mixed in. But now, over 20 years later, we have issues around colonization and reconciliation, that we have issues around growing immigrant populations and that the cultural sovereignties and national identities of Canada is rapidly changing, and that the broadcasting system needs to adapt to that, for a lack of better terms, but it doesn’t change the fundamental purpose of protecting that.
1024 So, to the setting targets for percentages and whatnot, if there are groups and communities that have been largely marginalized by the system, then you could argue that they -- it’s not this flat equal kind of idea, it’s that they need to have some priority because their cultures and their languages and their identities have been underrepresented to this point. And so we need to have some kind of affirmative targets to lift those up, if that answers the question.
1025 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I guess it’s still sort of along the same thing of setting those targets. I mean one of the ways they could be set is based on expenditure requirement, how much money we’re spending on that programming versus how much of it is actually making it onto the air. And I'm wondering where your thoughts are and where the line should be there. It’s the classic question around quantity versus quality and how the two should balance.
1026 MS. LUDSKI: Sorry, if I could interject from the internet here, if it’s possible to just refresh my video feed, I have a stalled image right now, so I’m not sure who asked that question.
1027 THE CHAIRPERSON: The questions are all being asked by Commissioner MacDonald, so -- we’ll try to do what we can, but it’s Commissioner MacDonald.
1028 MS. LUDSKI: Thanks. And I think in regard to that question, in my work in community media one of the things that I’ve really focused on is that success is and can be determined to different length for different people. And that also some of the communities like, you know, the communities that are maybe been focused to like the millennials, et cetera, those are the people who are participating with -- in the mainstream system in terms of spending money and earning money, and there are communities that don’t focus on growth or wealth in the same ways. And that kind of opens things up to setting what one would determine as success.
1029 DR. KING: One of the things I want to clarify about your question because you ask about expenditures versus over the airways, is there a presumption that expenditure on programming that might not necessarily air as well?
1030 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: No, and just to clarify whether we should be measuring the number of hours, the number of minutes that are aired versus how much money is spent on them. Like if we’re trying to, you know, I apologize, I'm a numbers guy, so if we’re trying to -- trying to set the budget and we say that 20 percent of the budget should be allocated to Indigenous peoples’ programming and programming that’s targeted towards that community.
1031 Should we be setting it based on how much money they’re going to spend on that programming or how many hours are actually created?
1032 DR. KING: I think that if you focus on hours created, then that’s the priority of what’re you’re trying to get out of the policy. You’re trying to get content out there for Canadians to view and consume and participate in.
1033 Yes, you want to know the dollar amounts of things because we’re talking about public funding, but I think ultimately if we’re going to address some of the affirmative issues that Chris was raising, we need to ultimately account for both and that’s why in CMAC’s intervention we constantly refer to needing data around the financial expenditures, but we also need to compare that data with the programming logs.
1034 So yes, the hours of content is the final goal, but because public funds are at stake, we need to ultimately account for both, and so the policy has to work hand in hand.
1035 Now, going forward and perhaps moving towards a policy that prioritizes nonprofit community television, that, in of itself, will require rethinking the policy and the allocations and how it can be measured, especially when you’re thinking about giving communities control over this. And so what kind of support are they going to need to do these allocations? What kind of support are they going to need to reach these programming goals? And so I think all of that has to be put into the considerations of the Commission going forward in revising the policy.
1036 But ultimately, it comes back to both. You have to set standards around expenditures and you have to set standards around hours of content on the air.
1037 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And just because you mentioned funding, that’s sort of a nice segue to my next question.
1038 When you were doing your initial oral presentation today, you said that in addition, within the community element, advertising should only fill in the gap where public funds fail.
1039 And I’m just wondering if you can sort of explain your thought process there for me a little bit? Some might say that if they can do advertisement, can bring in some ad revenue, that they’ll be able to increase the standard of their production or fund additional programming that perhaps they wouldn’t be able to rely just on public sector funds.
1040 DR. KING: The advertising needs limitations because we’re talking -- at least from CMAC’s point of view, we’re talking about prioritizing non-profit community television and non-profit community television, like its counterpart in the non-profit community radio sector, should have access to producing and airing advertising, especially when that advertising can connect communities locally and broadcast about community events.
1041 But likely, at least in a best-case scenario, from CMAC’s point of view, we would want that community television advertising to be accessible to the community. And so thinking of it being $1,000 for a 30-second spot might not mean that that advertising rate is very accessible to the community.
1042 So in that line of thinking, advertising revenue would not necessarily be a cash cow for non-profit community television because of limitations on not only the price per ad, which should be set to the -- by the local community’s needs, because every community is going to have different financial means, but there should be a general limitation on ads per hour so that we don’t have community stations just running advertising the majority of the time. Because then what’s the difference between that and the private sector?
1043 MR. ALBINATI: And then I would also add it’s -- I mean, CMAC’s proposal comes from a place that doesn’t vilify advertising. I mean, advertising can be not just a source of revenue but also a form of communication that is useful, that is going to be effective when it’s most relevant and reflective of the audience that is viewing the advertisement.
1044 So in the sense that advertisement can also be framed by those needs and also serve as a source of needed revenue, when needed, it has a role there. So we don’t think it should just be excluded out of hand.
1045 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Everyone today, especially not-for-profits, are trying to do more with less, fewer resources, be they financial resources or people resources.
1046 So I’m just wondering if you can comment on -- your thoughts around what’s actually required for local presence in these communities, given the advent of new technologies that are relatively inexpensive and, you know, allow my 13-year old at home to create a video that she can upload to Youtube? I’m just wondering where your thoughts are and what’s actually required from a bricks and mortar or equipment standpoint in those communities?
1047 DR. KING: The digital world has definitely made production way more accessible. In fact, it’s revolutionized many of our mediums, because we can go digital. The recording equipment has gotten smaller. There’s a lot of open source editing softwares. It’s definitely gotten more accessible across the board, but I think what’s valuable about community media production spaces, whether they be radio stations, television stations or hubs or maker spaces hosted in local libraries, is that you actually get to go out and meet and create with other community people. And I think that’s ultimately the value of community media spaces, that they are spaces to meet other community members.
1048 Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a solid space. It could be a mobile unit, depending on the community’s needs, but it’s ultimately the community that should be part of deciding, do we have a physical space? Do we have a mobile space? Is it just all the equipment’s in a backpack and it goes around? But I do think, based on CMAC’s experience, whether we’re speaking about the contribution that Nuxalk Radio is making around broadcasting in indigenous language in the local community, whether it’s the experiences working through creating a national community radio news platform that Omme and I have experience with, or myself working in community radio on both sides of the border as well as television and print, when you come to these community spaces and you ultimately work side by side with people, is the exponential learning opportunity. It’s not when I’m at home editing at midnight by myself that I’m learning about why it is that I’m clipping whatever I’m clipping, how I’m doing it, what it is, the point of view of the story that I’m telling. It’s when I do that in consultation with other people and I’m having to talk and explain and have dialogue around the media that I’m producing, that is ultimately the greatest learning opportunity as a community media producer.
1049 So I would hate to see a future where none of that interaction ever happens because everything is online and everybody is in their own personal space working alone.
1050 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You just mentioned online -- she looked like she wanted to say something -- just sort of looking at multiple things at the same time.
1051 You mentioned online and you noted in your submission that the availability and cost of broadband varies depending on where we are in the country. So just so I’m clear, your thought is that, you know, yes, things can go online. Yes, community channels can institute a video-on-demand service, but that they should be in addition to the linear traditional channel not instead of?
1052 DR.KING: Yeah. What we actually also added in our presentation today and it’s in our submission as well, I believe, that community television channels should not just be available to the subscriber of that channel. It should actually be across all platforms. It should be available to the community.
1053 And the same thing with the creation of content, it shouldn’t just be put online. Number one, not everybody across Canada has the same upload rate. In addition to not everyone has the same kind of download rate and not everyone, as you mentioned, has the same affordability when it comes to the prices.
1054 And I know a lot of our conversation has focused on the larger cities today, but speaking with Canadians who live in rural communities, which half the country does, we need to build a policy that represents all of them and all of their needs and all of the access that they have, and that includes the nuance of that. And so we should include in this policy discussion, well, what are the upload rates? Who are we serving when we only put community television on a single channel as opposed to offering it across these different platforms?
1055 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And ---
1056 MS. LUDSKI: If I can jump in from Skype?
1057 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes, go right ahead.
1058 MS. LUDSKI: Thank you.
1059 I do quite a bit of work and have, since 2000, been working in the online spaces and doing a lot of work with online education, and what I always say is that these are tools. The fact that we can have this meeting right now on Skype like this and I can be in a remote community on the Coast and be as well in Ottawa having this discussion is phenomenal, but it does not replace the face-to-face connection and when you work in a community, you -- these are tools that you can use after.
1060 So you’ve made those face-to-face connections, you’ve had that experience there in the place and then this is a bonus, these are the tools that we can now use to further our work and further develop what we’re doing.
1061 As well, I’ll add that in my own community where we’ve been holding conferences called groundswell and researching within the community, asking them what do they want.
1062 In my community of Powell River, the -- we live in the Sliammon First Nation and Sliammon people are moving towards Treaty. They’ll be living under Treaty instead of the Indian Act, as of April 2016.
1063 It’s -- that just distracted me completely thinking about that, but it’s the -- the fact that we can use this tool to share those stories does not replace the fact that, I’ll recall, people within my community are looking for a -- they’re looking to engage with each other, indigenous and non-indigenous people, in worthy projects, worthwhile projects in which they can have actual experiences and build relationships from.
1064 And something like a community media center, be it radio, T.V., et cetera, et cetera, is simply the container in which all these other exciting things can happen that are all really about fostering connections amongst community members, which is again in our community, with moving towards Treaty, our work in the reconciliation process is foremost in our minds. We are looking to build bridges right now.
1065 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you.
1066 Just one final question and it’s sort of along the lines of trying to bring communities together into something that is uniquely Canadian and it’s with respect to the advisory boards that are in place.
1067 You call into question, sort of, how useful they are based on how individuals are selected to serve on them.
1068 And I was just wondering if you have any thoughts or best practices into how people -- members should be selected to ensure that all aspects of the community are fairly represented.
1069 DR. KING: Well the advisory board structure now does not have anything that prevents a BDU from handpicking the candidates and from refusing people who have requested access as well to sit on those advisory boards.
1070 There’s nothing that prevents that. There’s no mechanism that asks the BDU to provide how was this board selected, can you show us the call out, can you demonstrate that there was some public notice. There’s nothing required.
1071 So this essentially allows to circumvent the true nature of what an advisory board is supposed to achieve.
1072 Now if the policy moves forward to non-profit management of a community channel, then you have all the mechanisms under non-profit law that put in place member elections to elect -- and membership ideally coming from a local community, to elect those boards that would then manage the community channel.
1073 And that in and of itself, would be a best practice from CMAC’s point of view, because we are ultimately asking for community control of these channels and non-profit management would be community controlling that channel and electing the boards that represent the communities.
1074 And there’s all sorts of diversity within the way the non-profit sector organizes its boards, but we do think that given the requirements of the Act to represent ethnic communities, third language and indigenous composition, that community T.V. channels boards should also be represented in that way.
1075 That there be guaranteed third language, ethnic and indigenous composition on the community television boards as well.
1076 MR. ALBINATI: And I’ll just add that it flows from the concept that Chairman Blais pointed out, that the broadcasting system, these are public airways.
1077 And that there are, you know -- it’s a public service obligation imposed on local commercial television stations in return for the privileges of using public airwaves to broadcast programming.
1078 That -- why we -- why we propose a non-profit model is because we feel it meets those fundamental needs better in terms of the public interest, in terms of seeking out that public interest -- sorry, prioritizing that.
1079 The fundamental purpose of the broadcasting act is again to protect, you know, cultural sovereignties and national identities.
1080 And nowhere in there can you really interpret cost mechanisms and values for expenditures and so forth or whether a BDU is making profit off of community T.V. or even balancing, you know, breaking even on community T.V.
1081 I think if that dominates the discussion or the policy, then it fails to really fully fulfil that fundamental purpose, that protection purpose.
1082 And so that’s where we see advisory boards through a non-profit structure or, you know, non-profit community controlled management and oversight, as being an important part of this policy going forward.
1083 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, thank you. Those are my questions.
1084 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just maybe some quick questions for my part, but if you don’t feel comfortable giving a full answer now it’s obviously there’s other stages in this proceeding where you can develop on it.
1085 You gave -- you made reference to accountability and compared it to the community radio, community radio has not always been a happy experience when it comes to accountability.
1086 And nobody’s in bad faith here, it’s just, you know, the community members are really excited about doing their programming and may not have the full desire or capacity to do -- to meet their accountability regimes.
1087 So did you give any thought to how that might be improved, because that -- it’s an area of frustration on both sides?
1088 MS. RAHEMTULLAH: Well I can speak to that, because I’ve been part of that situation you speak of, but what I’ve -- what we’ve learned, I think, as a sector, as a sector that’s really interested in prioritizing the community, is that we -- the importance is program, the importance is that being a learning process.
1089 But what needs to be part of that is governance literacy and that’s what we’ve been trying to work on actually for the past six months, is to make sure that part of the training that you get when you arrive at a community radio station, when you arrive at community television, I mean you learn how to produce, you learn, you know, the steps that are necessary in that, but that you’re also part of the governance of that space.
1090 And so that needs to come as part of the accountability; right? It’s like how much money do you spend with certain communities. That’s an important way to account and to hold these stations accountable.
1091 But governance needs to also be held accountable and I think the non-profit structure that we just spoke about is important, but also that -- organization providing its members with governance literacy needs to also be part of what -- part of the accountability; right?
1092 So you hand in your logs, you hand in your financials, but you also -- there needs to be some sort of accountability that you’re providing your membership access to governance; right?
1093 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
1094 MS. RAHEMTULLAH: So that that situation doesn’t happen where people do end up taking control.
1095 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So investing up front on building that capacity?
1096 MS. RAHEMTULLAH: Right.
1097 DR. KING: May I add to this as well? Part of my PhD studies at McGill University was studying community radio in Jordan, which is a 10 year phenomena.
1098 And one of the things I hear repeatedly from the workers and the listeners, because I did audience research as well, is that they were very concerned that there was a democratic deficit at the station.
1099 Because in knowing what the mandate of community radio was, because it’s broadcast all over the station, this is your station, community radio -- even the name of the station, “radio ballad” means radio of the community, people thought and felt and were adamant that they should be part of making decisions at the station, which is ultimately a governance issue.
1100 And so one of the conclusions I made based on this PhD study, was that just like community media has a mandate to pass the microphone and allow communities to participate in programming, we also have to pass the management hat as well and the seats of power in making decisions.
1101 And so the best way to do that is like we do in terms of providing accessible training and learning spaces around programming, we also have to do that for the governance opportunities as well.
1102 And then I would also extend a note that in our submissions, CMAC made the point that community television providers should also be making their viewers aware of the regulations that govern community television, because right now the burden is on the consumer and the viewer to go to the CRTC’s website, which is recently revised, and so we have to learn how to navigate that new platform now.
1103 And then in navigating that new platform, find the regulations, what the provisions are and then go and find the complaints system and so on. And it’s great that that’s all there, but we don’t necessarily have the mechanisms that easily inform viewers of what this is.
1104 And it’s not necessarily their responsibility is here to see. CMAC is suggesting it’s their responsibility at the licence holder.
1105 And if it’s a non-profit community television station, than that non-profit has a mandate to make sure, according to CMAC’s view, that the viewers who are watching that content are viewers who -- community members who are participating in producing that content know what the regulations are and know what the mechanisms and the avenues are for accountability.
1106 THE CHAIRPERSON: We obviously have a very diverse society, diverse Indigenous realities, diverse linguistic realities, diverse ethno-cultural realities, diverse generational and far be it from me to have suggested that all millennials are monolithic, I don’t think they are any more monolithic than all baby boomers.
1107 But the reality is that although some total may be very diverse, there are subgroups and sub-subgroups. And at one point, there may be programming that may interest those generating in, but it may not find an audience.
1108 And I was wondering from your perspective, to what extent is audience demand relevant going forward, even in your proposal?
1109 If I understand you, the reason you want to focus on linears is because there is a limited shelf space and it is a better platform but there is limited space. And how does one decide who gets that space?
1110 DR. KING: Just to clarify, CMAC is advocating for all platforms for community media, not just linear or not prioritizing linear but prioritizing all platforms.
1111 In terms of programming that’s interesting to the community, I think ultimately every station that is purportedly serving and licensed to serve a community should be in interaction with that community to find out what that community wants to be served.
1112 And so for a non-profit, that’s easy to do, given that non-profits are typically member-owned and have to call general assemblies at least once a year and meet with the community and could have priorities set there in terms of programming.
1113 It’s one of my interests in my post-doctoral studies going forward at the University of Ottawa to arrange community meetings with audience members, so that they could come up with news priorities to inform local news programming on community radio stations that don’t have news stations.
1114 So rather than a small group of people who are already at a community station, whether it’s television or radio, deciding what are the priorities for the community and then getting feedback, my suggestion is we should go to the community first and have the community set the terms and the priority.
1115 And I think the same thing could happen with regard to licensing, and it could be a best practice going forward that before a licence is issued, that there’s actually public comments that are collected on what kind of content is being sought out by the community members in that geographical or otherwise service zone.
1116 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. My question relates to popularity of the programming though. I take it from your perspective when push comes to shove, even through your governance, your proposed governance model that, at the end of the day, there may be folks that won’t get access because it’s not as -- it didn’t get the votes even at the community level.
1117 DR. KING: For sure, and I think that, you know, having worked in community radio for a really long time, as well as in print media, as well as in television, it is a limited resource and it has to be shared by the community.
1118 And I think we have the example of community medias across the country being very creative in how they share that resource.
1119 So for example my home station at CKUT, in the summer, I do a radio show with my daughter, who we’ve been doing it since she was seven. She is nine now. Because in the summer, there’s a lot of people who go away. It’s a university radio station; programming opens up. And so there’s a new allocation made. New people can come on and that includes a seven year-old broadcaster.
1120 The same thing happens for very popular time slots for, say, a genre called “World Music”. Lots of people want to play world music, expand world music on the airways, but we can’t just dedicate that two hour noon to 2:00 p.m. prime time show to one DJ when so many people want to have it. So what we’ve set up at least at CKUT, and many other stations across the country have done this, is collective shows, where either people program it collectively, that one hour, or they sign up for slots over the programming month.
1121 So I think in terms of this idea of popularity, it’s not the factor that’s the best way to measure what should be on air and what should not be on air.
1122 We can think of all the groups who are under-represented and misrepresented in the media landscape, who might do a program and people say, “Well, this is not interesting. I don’t want to hear people with disabilities reading the news to me”, which I heard whenever we started a disability news program at CKUT.
1123 MS. ALBINATI: It goes back to this idea of what is success, right. And the community might need to adjust their expectations of what they’re seeing on that channel when they tap in.
1124 And what we say in my town about somebody says, “How come you don’t have a show on” whatever, and then we say, “What a great idea. Come and make it and be a part of it.”
1125 And, yes, find the team of people and build your audience so that when you make the media, it happens and it exists -- it perpetuates itself.
1126 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, thank you very much. It looks like you’re volunteering to help us arbitrage the disgruntled in society as well. So that will -- and that’s a tough job for anyone who is trying to balance limited resources over demands.
1127 So thank you very much. Those are our questions for your participation. Thank you.
1128 DR. KING: Thank you for your time.
1129 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1130 So we will take a 10-minute break and come back at 3:45 to finish the next couple of interventions. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 3:35 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 3:45 p.m.
1131 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
1132 LE PRÉSIDENT: Alors s’il vous plait, Madame la secrétaire.
1133 THE SECRETARY: Merci.
1134 We will now hear the presentation of BCE. Please introduce yourself and your panel, and you have 10 minutes.
1135 MS. TURCKE: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners and Commission staff. My name is Mary Ann Turcke and I am President of Bell Media.
1136 It’s a pleasure to be here today to discuss local and community television programming, introduce Bell’s panel to you.
1137 To my right is Randy Lennox. He is President of Entertainment Production and Broadcasting. Randy oversees all of our local television and radio stations as well as our English independent and in-house productions. This position created with Randy in mind leverages his significant experience in the entertainment industry as the former president of Universal Music Canada, and his passion for creative multimedia content, all of which brings a fresh perspective to our business, including local TV.
1138 Next to him is Wendy Freeman, President of CTV News. Next to her is Nikki Moffat, Senior Vice President of Finance at BCE and the Chief Financial Officer at Bell Media.
1139 To my left is Rob Malcolmson, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at BCE. To his left, Kevin Goldstein, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Content and Distribution at BCE.
1140 And finally, Nicolas Poitras, Vice President of Residential Services at Bell Canada. Nicolas oversees TV One, our community television service, which has expanded to eight markets under his leadership.
1141 In the back rows supporting us today are Karen Mitchell, the News Director of CTV Winnipeg; Richard Gray, Vice President and General Manager of our Ottawa television and radio stations, and National Head of CTV Two News.
1142 And finally Cindy Jones-Sherk, who is the Manager of TV One.
1143 We will now begin our opening remarks.
1144 We are involved in both local and community television across this country. We believe that this allows us to present a holistic perspective on the matters facing both the industry and the Commission at this hearing. We operate 30 local over-the-air television stations, some of which have been in operation for over fifty years. We are present in markets of all sizes, including many where we are the only local news voice, markets like Prince Albert, Yorkton and Kitchener.
1145 Ratings and viewership information tell us that these stations play a critical role in their local communities because when a local news event breaks, we are there to give viewers immediate information on what's happening. For example, a boil water advisory in a community or a safe place to go in times of a natural disaster, such as the Calgary flood.
1146 As such, we believe that the long-term viability of these stations, across CTV and our competitors, is vital to our communities and our country. This is what is at risk.
1147 You may not be as familiar with our community television service TV1, which was launched by Fibe TV three years ago. Today, TV1 offers our subscribers locally relevant programming in the Atlantic Provinces, Montreal, Québec City, Toronto and Ottawa.
1148 Given that it is VOD-based, TV1 is a cost-effective service that ensures that the vast majority of our budget is spent on delivering content valued by our subscribers. At TV1, our programming philosophy is to provide viewers with a mix of community access programming combined with professionally produced non-access content that serves to drive discoverability.
1149 Bell recognizes the important roles the public, private, and community elements of the broadcasting system play in supporting local reflection. Our proposal is a genuine attempt to meet the needs of both local and community television because both are very important to the ecosystem. Within the constraints of a finite pool of existing resources, our proposal creates incentives to invest in local news while ensuring that local -- sorry -- that community TV remains sufficiently well-resourced.
1150 Local news is a fundamental element of television programming and is highly valued by viewers of all ages. Our local news audiences have stayed consistently strong and regularly rank among the top shows in a number of our markets.
1151 CTV works very hard at producing local news for each community we serve. In many markets, our commitments to local programming exceed the regulatory minima and those are programs available across multiple platforms. This is because Canadians want to consume news in a variety of ways and if you are in the news business, you must be present on all platforms to serve your audiences properly.
1152 It is particularly instructive that local news providers actually form the foundation of news on digital platforms. In fact, eight of the top 10 online news sites accessed by Canadians belong to traditional TV and print providers. These sites account for approximately ninety percent of the usage. This is a testament to the essential role that local and national television news provides within the overall news ecosystem.
1153 Unfortunately, the cost involved to gather and produce high-quality news remains the same regardless of the platform on which it is made available. It is challenging to monetize programming distribution for online platforms. Despite this, we still need to invest in these platforms, because it's what our viewers want, and local television news gathering provides the backbone for us to do so.
1154 I’d like now to ask Nicolas to talk about TV1.
1155 MR. POITRAS: Chez Bell, nous sommes extrêmement fiers de ce que nous avons pu accomplir avec TV1 pendant une période relativement courte. Le modèle d’exploitation de TV1 repose sur la conviction que notre réussite est liée à notre engagement communautaire. Nous avons constaté, lors de sondages menés auprès de nos abonnés en février 2014, que plus de 60 pourcent des téléspectateurs veulent regarder des émissions portant sur la scène culinaire locale, des événements communautaires, ainsi que des nouvelles et des lieux locaux. Nous essayons donc de nous concentrer sur ce que nos téléspectateurs veulent voir et nous avons ainsi réussi à accroître l’auditoire de notre service TV1.
1156 Plus particulièrement, notre investissement dans la programmation locale ou non-accès a fortement accru la découvrabilité de notre programmation d’accès. Nous avons ajouté deux émissions provenant du volet locale à notre service de vidéo sur demande pendant l’automne 2015. L’écoute de la programmation d’accès a ensuite augmenté. Ainsi, l’auditoire de l’émission Archi Branchés, qui traite de projets immobiliers novateurs, a augmenté de 380 pourcent en un an. Pour le Toronto Song Project, une émission sur le parcours de chanteurs talentueux, l’écoute a augmenté de 236 pourcent. Dans l’ensemble, l’écoute globale de la programmation d’accès a doublé.
1157 La plateforme de vidéo sur demande de TV1 nous permet de réduire sensiblement nos dépenses non liées à la programmation. Bien que les coûts d’exploitation de la vidéo sur demande soient inférieurs à ceux des stations communautaires de câblodistributeurs établis, les coûts de production vidéo de l’ensemble des émissions sont moins élevés qu’autrefois. Cette réalité devrait permettre à tous les fournisseurs de télévision communautaire de se consacrer à la création de contenus, pour le bien du système de radiodiffusion et des téléspectateurs.
1158 Nous estimons important de laisser assez de fonds dans le secteur de la télévision communautaire, mais les Canadiens apprécient avant tout les nouvelles locales. Depuis quelques années, le financement de la programmation communautaire a augmenté de façon appréciable, même si la technologie, comme je viens de le mentionner, a permis de produire et de diffuser de la programmation communautaire à meilleur compte. Pendant ce temps, la programmation axée sur les nouvelles locales s’est révélée non rentable, et elle repose seulement sur les revenus publicitaires. Nous croyons donc que le système de contribution actuel peut être rééquilibré afin de tenir compte de cette situation. La réaffectation des ressources actuelles ne sera jamais parfaite, mais avec un peu d’innovation, une bonne structure de coûts et de la volonté, la télévision communautaire peut encore prospérer.
1159 MR. MALCOLMSON: In our written submission, we proposed the creation of a Local News Fund, the LNF. This was a direct response to your invitation to propose a re-allocation of existing funding in a manner that is accountable and provides an incentive to invest in incremental local news by covering up to one-third of the costs above certain hourly thresholds. The chart attached to our opening statement summarizes our proposal.
1160 Eligibility to access the fund would be open to all local over-the-air television stations -- English, French and third-language -- that broadcast a certain amount of local news. We have suggested that the minimum threshold be 2.5 hours in small markets, five hours in medium markets and 10 hours in large markets. This amount of local news would form part of, but not replace, the current regulatory requirement for stations to air seven or 14 hours of local programming.
1161 We have included with our presentation today a proposed definition of local news for the purpose of accessing the LNF, which we would be pleased to discuss with you.
1162 Our proposal considers market size and community needs in three ways; first, by tailoring the threshold amounts of local news to the size of the market; second, by requiring terrestrial broadcasters to contribute to the Small Market Local Production Fund; third, by excluding exempt BDUs from contributing to the LNF. These last two points recognize that independent stations do not have the same scale as larger station groups and that small BDUs may be the only outlet for local expression in a particular community.
1163 We are supportive of the Commission’s proposal to have third party oversight and management of the fund, a transparent governance structure and annual reporting by both the fund administrator and recipients.
1164 Finally, Bell also supports the proposal to encourage community programming services operating in markets with no local broadcaster to offer professional local news to these markets. We believe this could be best achieved by allowing BDUs in those markets to redirect access dollars to local news.
1165 MS. TURCKE: Mr. Chair, we propose that the fund be established for an initial three-year term and that the Commission review the LNF’s effectiveness at the end of that period using the following benchmarks.
1166 First, the increase in the number of hours of local news on a weekly basis, the number of stations that have increased the amount of local news hours they produce, whether stations that currently exceed the baseline hours of local news have maintained those hours, and finally, whether the number of staff and reporters in local markets has increased or decreased since the creation of the LNF.
1167 In closing, local news and community television remain important priorities for the Canadian broadcasting system but the relative importance of each to Canadians must be considered. Even though the appetite of viewers for local news remains strong, it is unprofitable and local television is in structural decline. At the same time, community television is well funded. We believe our proposal will help support local news while allowing community television to thrive.
1168 Thank you for the opportunity to share our views and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
1169 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you for your presentation and welcome to the hearing, particularly those who appear at the hearing for the first time in your new capacities.
1170 So I will ask Commissioner Molnar to start us off.
1171 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Good afternoon.
1172 Just to be clear, this proposal is the same as what you’d filed in your submission. So have you made any changes?
1173 MS. TURCKE: No. Yes, it is the same.
1174 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Thank you.
1175 Okay, so I just want to begin with your proposal to ensure that we understand it well. The first thing I’d like to understand well is the fundamental objective of the fund. If I read what you have in paragraph 25 as to measuring the effectiveness of the fund, it indicates that the objective would be to increase the number of hours of local news. So is that what you fundamentally believe should be the objective?
1176 MS. TURCKE: We believe that there are number of ways you can measure the success of what we’ve proposed. At a high level ---
1177 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And -- sorry.
1178 MS. TURCKE: Sorry.
1179 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I used the measurement to presuppose what you felt to be the objective. What is it you determine to be the fundamental objective of establishing this fund?
1180 MS. TURCKE: The fundamental objective for us in three years when we all sort of are back here again there are more people in this country producing local news. There are 12 markets today out of our 30 and we’re the only local news voice. We don’t believe that that’s good for all local communities and we don’t believe it’s good for the country. We would like to see more people participate.
1181 If that means that because of the incentives we’ve proposed that people who have stepped back from the news operations get back into it or those that aren’t in it step into it, even if at two and a half hours a week, that would be what we would want to see. That’s part of the objective.
1182 Wendy, do you have anything to add?
1183 MS. FREEMAN: Just that the more voices the better for democracy. And we really believe that having more news is better for Canada and for Canadians.
1184 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So looking at the proposal you put forward, there was a specific amount of money that you proposed to be reallocated. Did you test to see whether or not with that amount of money you could achieve the objective you propose?
1185 MS. TURCKE: We talked about a pilot project earlier in one of the sessions. I -- what does success look like? It depends on how many more hours are produced, it depends on the order of magnitude on an absolute basis the increase on the amount of news. We believe that there is enough money here to accelerate and to sort of change the trajectory, whether it’s sustainable or not, I don’t know.
1186 I think so much is changing, I don’t think anybody could have predicted the change that’s happened over the last five years, even over the next three for all the reasons we’ve heard also earlier today. We can't predict it, we believe it’s a good start.
1187 I don’t know if you have anything to add in terms of the quantitative amounts.
1188 MR. MALCOLMSON: We took our direction from your proposal, which was take a look at existing resources and see of those existing resources what could possibly be reallocated, while at the same time leaving enough resources for community television to thrive. So within that finite pool of resources, that’s how we came up with our proposed reallocation.
1189 Is it a permanent fix to the structural decline of local television? No, it’s not. We, you know, we hope to come back before you at licence renewal and have a fulsome discussion about the future of local television.
1190 But as Mary-Ann said, this gets us started, it allows us to bridge the gap while at the same time not gutting community TV. So that’s how we approached it.
1191 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. I will say personally when I read it, I was a bit confused by what you were proposing, because while speaking of local television being in decline, you proposed an increase. And so that seemed a bit confusing. It appeared as well, and you’ve just said it again, that you're not coming forward suggesting that this is a solution.
1192 What kind of timeframe do you consider that this would potentially be a solution, that this would keep and increase and enhance local television and local news?
1193 MS. TURCKE: We believe that more -- I want to be clear, it’s -- when I talk about local news it’s very different than local television. Local news is a subset of local television. Based on what we’ve seen in our ratings and based on a survey that was completed by the CRTC, as well it was quoted earlier, 81 percent of Canadians value their local news.
1194 Success would be more local news on local television, that's where we’re coming at it from. And our view is, gee, in three years the shift to digital, the shift to over the top, all of these changing forces are having an impact, and let’s look at this for a three-year period. It’s something that we believe can be implemented quickly, and come back for a -- as Rob said, a more fulsome discussion at licence renewal to understand, you know, what the state of local TV is in at that state. And in the meantime, we haven’t made absent across the country and in small communities local news.
1195 MR. MALCOLMSON: Just if I could to clarify, what we’re suggesting here is we’re trying to create incentives to invest by all licensed local broadcasters. So as Mary-Ann said, some have stepped back of out necessity, some have continued to perform.
1196 What we’re trying to do is look at the system and say, “How many hours in small, mid and large markets would be appropriate to serve the market? And how do we create incentives for people to do that amount of local news, and then have an opportunity to access and funding to help them do more?”
1197 And I should point out that, you know, our proposal doesn’t seek funding of the complete package. We’re saying, “If you do your minimum amount of hours, you would then apply for funding, but the funding available to you under our proposal would only be one third of the cost of producing the incremental news.” So the broadcaster itself would be required to step up and fund the bulk, the lion share of that incremental news.
1198 So we’re trying to -- trying to create a commitment to invest and a desire to do more for the market in its -- in its entirety.
1199 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. I think I understand what you proposed. So the business model is in decline trying to maintain this element of it with no guarantee as to how long it would be maintained?
1200 MS. TURCKE: We’ve proposed an initial three-year term, right.
1201 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. Okay. And your proposal is that it ‘be directed entirely to local news, and you’ve provided a definition of local news. You may have heard this morning that there is an undertaking relating to definitions, and I’ll ---
1202 MS. TURCKE: Right.
1203 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- leave that with staff to provide you after, but I would like to understand your definition now, if that’s okay.
1204 MS. TURCKE: Can I make one clarification, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s not just to local news, it's also the Small Market Fund; right?
1205 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
1206 MR. GOLDSTEIN: Yes, there's two elements of our proposal. One is a route to create this LNF, as Rob indicated at the opening. The other is to top up the existing Small Market Local Programming Fund, which would go directly to those eligible parties to -- it could support local programming generally.
1207 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So just for my understanding, why is that important to you? You’ve mentioned you're not here to discuss the business case of local conventional, you're speaking -- the Local News Fund is designed to ensure certain content is on. So why have you particularly put your support behind the Small Market Fund?
1208 MR. GOLDSTEIN: I think two reasons. I think the first thing is just that I think we want to sort of -- try to put forward sort of an equitable approach that directed funding to all players in the television game, and so that includes public, private, you know, vertically integrated, small independent.
1209 The second reason is just that, you know, in this hearing we’re talking about local programming and local news, so you know, obviously local news has been, you know, highlighted specifically and the lion share of the funding we’re proposing would go to the LNF.
1210 But we also wanted to recognize that in smaller markets for smaller and independent players who may not have the same scale that we do, to provide local programming in general can be a challenge. And that was kind of the genesis of the Small Market Local Programming Fund. So we thought it would make sense if you're planning kind a broad equitable proposal that kind of deals with everyone’s concerns, that that would be a good approach.
1211 MS. TURCKE: And I derailed the local news definition, so I’ll let Wendy deal with that, sorry.
1212 MS. FREEMAN: Hi, our local news definition, as you can see in our document -- and I’ll just summarize it up -- is really local news that is gathered locally by boots on the ground, local journalists who are -- as you said earlier, bricks and mortars on the ground gathering news in the local markets.
1213 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. And when I read this, I wanted to make sure that I understood well what this definition actually meant, whether some of these words were specific or, you know, more important than others. When you say “the local news gathering by the personnel of the local station or by locally based news staff”, what's the “or” about?
1214 MS. FREEMAN: When we say “local news gathered by the personnel of the local station”, we mean the video journalists, the journalists, the cameramen, all who belong to the local station. These are full time employees as well.
1215 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. So you're not suggesting it needs to be produced in the local market or presented in the local market, it just needs to be gathered in the local market?
1216 MS. FREEMAN: Yes.
1217 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Is that the particulars of what you’ve said?
1218 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, you know, someone in the local market may have a story idea that they may pass on to one of our local journalists or local, you know, video journalist, and then we will go and gather it.
1219 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Who will gather it.
1220 MS. FREEMAN: Let me, you know, I'm sorry, our journalists, our journalists.
1221 MS. TURCKE: We’ve had this discussion and it’s interesting given what I’ve observed this morning. Right now we service two primary news presenting platforms. We are of course on TV and very, very prominent online too, regularly ranking in the top five of the digital news websites in the country. So as we look forward and today in the local communities it is gathered in the communities, it is edited, it is produced, and it is presented in the local community. That’s the way it is, and those local anchors form a fabric in the community as well.
1222 Going forward though, when you look at the rise of news on digital platforms, the question we ask ourselves is, is the iPhone -- is your mobile device, is your laptop, is that who is broadcasting the news to you now? And who is that local anchor, and what is their role, and is there a world where we follow down the path of some of our competitors where we produce it in a more centralized way and we -- it’s broadcast digitally?
1223 We are very, very happy with local presence right now, and we know that those people in those markets play a really important role in the community; and Wendy can tell you tonnes of examples where that has been the case. The issue is the economic integrity of the model, which is what we’re here to discuss. I don’t know if you want to add any examples, Wendy?
1224 MS. FREEMAN: Well, we currently need to be everywhere to all Canadians. On every platform, whether it’s your smartphone, whether it’s your television. You know, I always give the example of my family, you know, I have a 16 year old daughter who only gets her news on Snapchat. We are on Snapchat with the quick video bursts. My 20 year old son in university, he gets his news on his Facebook feed. We are on Facebook. My husband gets his news on his iPad. We are on the iPad. And then there are my parents who sit in Montreal, who are over the age of 70, who traditionally sit down every day at 6:00 and get their news there.
1225 So we need to be everything to everyone and that’s very important to us. And what’s interesting to note is just because news is -- could be on a smartphone, it still takes people to gather the news and that’s what’s expensive. Yes, the equipment may be lighter because you have an iPhone that you can shoot on now instead of a heavy camera. But it’s the gathering of the news.
1226 It’s sending out the local reporters to show up at City Hall and to ask the tough questions, to show up at the fire, to ask, you know, to when there’s in Moncton, New Brunswick when, you know, there’s a terrible gunman on the loose, to inform the community to take cover. These people, our journalists, still need to show up there and they still need to gather the news and report it, whether it’s on an iPhone, or a television set, or on your iPad, or on Facebook. We need to be everywhere to all Canadians at all times.
1227 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Well, thank you. As I said, I was trying to understand what your definition was seeking to represent or perhaps change from what might be there today. So ---
1228 MS. FREEMAN: Just one more ---
1229 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- distribution is well understood. There’s many ways of distributing.
1230 MS. FREEMAN: And for us as well, we are hyper local in the community. We are entrenched in the community. Our journalists are the fabric of the community, our anchors -- and you know unlike VICE who was here this morning, who I am a big consumer of, who really I consume a lot of their news -- we are hyper local. And again, for example, we know in two days of terrible rains in Calgary, we are the ones that are informing the community and the public where they can seek shelter, what roads not to drive on, where to get water. You know, we are the ones that do that. We provide the immediate news to the community.
1231 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. And just to be clear, under your proposal you would not only continue to be that, you would be more of that. You’d produce more of that if -- under the proposal you’ve put forward; is that correct?
1232 MS. TURCKE: We’re not committing to do more of what we’re doing today.
1233 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I thought that was the point of what you’re proposing?
1234 MS. TURCKE: We want to create an environment where more people engage in the news in this country, not necessarily that the two biggest news providers, by a mile, do more. We need more voices in the country. What we’re saying is if nothing is done in this country, it worries us that we’ll wake up in three years and even the biggest news providers, where we are the only voice in 12 markets, like I said earlier, aren’t there anymore. So I just want to be clear. Sorry about that.
1235 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, you’ve just confused me to be honest, because I assume you want to participate in this local news fund and the objective of the local news fund is to increase the number of hours of local news on a weekly basis. So you’re not -- if this was accepted -- proposing to do more?
1236 MS. TURCKE: Go ahead, Rob.
1237 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’ll try this. Currently we have in our licence conditions commitments, requirements to do local programming. Most of that currently is local news. Those commitments to do local programming will expire at licence renewal. We’ve examined this and said to ourselves, “What can we as an industry, what can we as a company realistically be able to do going forward with some assistance in terms of funding?” And that’s how we came up with the numbers we’ve put on the table.
1238 We’ve looked at small, large and medium sized markets and said, what is a realistic amount of local news within the confines of existing budgets to do in each of these markets? I think Richard can walk you through how we arrived at these minimum numbers if that ---
1239 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I don’t think that’s necessary and I’m going to rely on my colleagues because perhaps they understood what I didn’t. I thought fundamentally, I mean, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about what you’ve presented. You’d presented a proposal for a local news fund that you say if it was to be put in place the objective should be to increase the number of hours of local news. You’ve defined local news as having people on the ground gathering those stories, and you’ve said this fund would, you know, the effectiveness of the fund is measured as whether or not -- the increase in the number of hours of local news.
1240 So all I asked, and I’m confused by your answer, is whether or not should this fund be put in place, one would expect CTV would increase the number of hours of local news as you have defined it, as gathered in the communities with local staff, reflecting the local community, reflecting the particular needs and interests of local market residents, all residents, all platforms. It’s what you’ve told me it is. So I’m just asking, what would be the outcome? Would the outcome be, logically, that we could expect you folks to be creating more local news?
1241 MS. TURCKE: The objective is for the system, the entire news system to create more news. We have not over the last three, four, five years, reduced our news programming, where many others have. The ---
1242 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Fair enough. So the short answer, because I am aware sometimes we get into long conversations. The short answer is there would be no commitment on your part to increase the amount of local news.
1243 MR. MALCOLMSON: Let me take a stab at this. I think ---
1244 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: It’s really that.
1245 MS. TURCKE: Yeah.
1246 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: It’s kind of a short answer.
1247 MS. TURCKE: Yeah.
1248 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah. No commitment. So when the allocation -- when you provided the proposed allocation and there was an amount going to BCE, one would assume there would be none going to BCE because you’re not going to increase your amount of local news?
1249 MS. TURCKE: The allocation is a function of the incremental hours of local news each news provider in the country produces over and above the minimum that we’ve proposed in our proposal.
1250 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. So arguably, this fund, based on how you’ve established it, could simply maintain, or one might even see a decrease from what’s today, but it would be more than the minimum that you have defined?
1251 MS. TURCKE: Right. We’re committed to maintain our level of local news programming from now until licence renewal and it’s -- you know, the hope is that others step into place to put more news voices in the country, especially in some of the smaller markets.
1252 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And arguably, an outcome could be this is put in place and after your licence renewal, could be you might see a reduction in your overall news. Under this -- this fund is on its own going to ensure it’s maintained ---
1253 MS. TURCKE: Right.
1254 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- at current levels. Okay. I understand what you’ve put forward. Still, our Chair asked a question, and I’m not going to ask the same question as to whether or not government should be involved in funds for local news. But the question I had is somewhat related, and that is what would you consider might be reasonable obligations or responsibilities, should there be a fund? So essentially, it becomes a subsidised product funded, you know, in the public interest. What would you see to be the obligations that should appropriately be met by those who are going to access the fund, as it relates to reflecting communities or ---?
1255 MS. TURCKE: For us to access the local news fund, the obligations would be to be in line with the current obligations of producing and providing news in this country, around independence and all of the framework that goes around that.
1256 Maybe Wendy you can highlight some of that?
1257 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, thank you. It would be reflecting the community, as I said, you know, covering local news, what’s in our neighbourhood. It’s also very important for us to maintain independence.
1258 And, you know, we provide by rules, by the CBSC and the RTDNA codes as well. And –- but really it’s about reflecting the community that we are in.
1259 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Would you see that as being any obligations that don’t exist today?
1260 You would ---
1261 MS. FREEMAN: I don’t think so.
1262 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You say “reflecting the community”; would you see that as an obligation in a way different then you have to your audience today?
1263 MS. FREEMAN: Well I think what’s important is that; again, we maintain that everything we do and report about in the local communities is on every platform. It’s that we’re serving the community and that we’re not just serving one section.
1264 So we have to be serving everybody, all Canadians; whether it’s millennials, whether it’s boomers, all ages, and everyone, all Canadians.
1265 And I think that’s very important, especially as we move into a digital age.
1266 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think Commissioner Molnar you’re asking about benchmarks and if I could ---
1267 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well -- well not just benchmarks, I mean as -- as I said, this would be kind of moving from being essentially a commercial undertaking to one when you establish a fund, you establish the fund because you recognize that there’s a public interest in maintaining it, with public interest obligations or, you know, with public interest funding comes public interest obligations.
1268 Now I just heard one of those obligations would be to reflect all members of the community and make it available over multiple platforms.
1269 So that would be -- I didn’t see anything like that in your criteria that you had used to assess it in the three years.
1270 I guess because that’s what we do today and we didn’t think it would be ---
1271 MS. FREEMAN: It -- yes, it really is what we do today and, you know, we provide a public service as well, as I said before.
1272 You know, not only covering the news, not only covering, you know, local reflection, but you know, we’re the ones that show up at city hall and ask the tough questions.
1273 We cover municipal politics, we cover elections, we cover storms. We do that today. That is all part of what we do when we report the news.
1274 And, again, you know, our six o’clock news casts, our noon news, our five o’clock news, we are entrenched in the community, reporting what is going on in your community, that day, in real time, instantly to the community, to the neighbourhood, to the city.
1275 And that’s what we are doing today. Whether it’s covering municipal politics or elections or, you know, a lottery winner.
1276 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I am not, by the way, going to ask any questions or propose to assess the quality of your news today and that’s not the purpose, at least of my questions here.
1277 I was trying to understand the purpose, if we were to put in place a fund and what sort of obligations you might undertake to access that fund.
1278 So if you want to think about it, you don’t have to answer right now, but you’ve put forward criteria as to whether or not it would be effective and perhaps there might be more criteria.
1279 I want to move on to community. You’ve made the point that community continues to be important, but you’ve proposed to reallocate quite a lot of money from that.
1280 And in your opening statement here you say that within the constraints -- and I understand it’s within the constraints of a finite pool of resources, that it would ensure that community T.V. remains sufficiently well resourced.
1281 Do you have some basis for that? How have you determined that the amount with your reallocation would ensure that community television remains sufficiently well resourced?
1282 MS. TURCKE: Right, we have done quite a bit of analysis on that when we made the proposal.
1283 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
1284 MS. TURCKE: And Rob is going to start with some of the math and then Nicolas may join in.
1285 MR. MALCOLMSON: So, Commissioner Molnar, we did obviously we recognize that that type of reallocation will have an impact and we’re not -- we’re not saying here today that there won’t be an impact on community T.V., there will, but the -- what gives us some comfort is a couple of things.
1286 First of all, when you looked at -- when the Commission looked at -- did it’s last community T.V. review in 2010, the amount of money going to community T.V. at that point and time was $119 million and the Commission at that time made a finding that that amount of money was sufficient for community T.V. for the foreseeable future.
1287 Since 2010 the amount of money going to community T.V. from BDU contributions has gone from $119 million to over $150 million, so there’s been a significant increase.
1288 So point number one is there’s been an increase in BDU funding at a time when you had determined that it was -- it was well funded.
1289 Point number two is we took a look at the overhead allocations for cable community channels and it looks to us, from the outside looking in, that you know significant amounts of money are being dedicated to overhead, in the range of 35 to 40 percent.
1290 So when we look at that, we say there may be some opportunity for some more efficiencies and some innovation there to deliver community T.V. programming in different ways, at a reduced cost.
1291 So we think the increase of BDU funding and the opportunity to innovate will help dampen the impact, but certainly when you’re reallocating existing funding there’s an impact.
1292 Nicolas may want to talk about some of the efficiencies we’ve found operating TV1 on a VOD basis.
1293 MR. POITRAS: Yes, so when we look at our TV1 operations, our indirect costs or overhead, are about 20 percent on average.
1294 And we’ve achieved that by producing and distributing exclusively through on demand applications for mobile devices and that has allowed us to reduce costs significantly.
1295 So we don’t have to maintain infrastructure for linear channels 24-7 or big live productions and that is why we can get down to 20 percent of our money actually going to indirect costs. The remainder actually goes directly to programming.
1296 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, one of the things I noted is that you did not propose a different model for community access; you simply proposed a reduction in funding.
1297 You speak right now about the difference in what it’s costing on a VOD type platform versus the traditional linear systems that were there through the cable systems, did you give thought at all to a different model for community access?
1298 MR. POITRAS: Well we actually think the model we’ve adopted -- we’re a fairly new community T.V. service. We’ve been around for a couple of years more or less and from the get-go we designed it with new distribution technology in mind.
1299 So VOD, when we launched, was not widespread and still is not today for distributing community programming.
1300 We also deliver our content through applications for mobile devices and we think that is where, not only community, but the industry in general is going.
1301 Consumers are asking for flexibility in how they can consume their content, so that means at the time of their choosing, and on the screen of their choosing, and at the time, you know, that’s convenient for them and the location as well.
1302 And so we think, from the get-go we designed our service to leverage new technologies and I would say that we want to push it even further.
1303 So, you know, as new technologies evolve, for sure we think we need to be at the forefront because that’s how we’re going to continue to meet consumer needs and demands.
1304 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: One of the arguments I’m sure you’ve read on the record of this proceeding, is the fact that community access programming is quite fragmented now, as you have more distributors entering the system and in a particular community and yet it’s exclusive to the distributor versus available to all within the community.
1305 And some have argued that that’s a good reason to have a central -- a central hub, a central community access provider.
1306 What are your thoughts on something like that?
1307 MR. POITRAS: So just to make sure I understand your question, do you mean a centralized community TV service, or do you mean making the content that’s available on the BDU community TV services, make it available to non-clients?
1308 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I think I will back up my question to say there has been an argument that funds for community access are fragmented amongst distributors and the content is not available to everybody in the community.
1309 MR. POITRAS: Right.
1310 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So perhaps -- I don’t want to propose -- I’m not going to ask you to comment on specific proposed solutions. I wonder if you can think that there might be a solution? First of all, would you agree that there is a problem?
1311 MR. POITRAS: You know, I think, today, when you talk about access content, you know, it belongs to the producer. So the community member who proposes the idea owns the content once we’ve helped that community member produce it. And that means that the content can, you know, end up on the web, end up on, you know, commercial TV stations.
1312 We have a few examples, one in Montreal, a show on soccer called “Goal” that’s actually -- that ended up on the CBC. We have other examples like that.
1313 So today, the content, while it is available on the BDU service and distributed by the BDU, is something that can be accessed and distributed by the community member who proposed it.
1314 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. It strikes me a little bit, just as we’re having this conversation -- we just spoke about local news and what sort of obligations might go towards having what is essentially funding available because it’s in the public interest, and we spoke about the fact that some of the obligations are ensuring and reflecting the entire community and ensuring your distributing it or making it available through multiple platforms so that everyone in the community is able to access it in the ways that they are most comfortable with.
1315 So wouldn’t that seem to be also an objective to achieve for community television, community access programming?
1316 MR. POITRAS: Yeah, we would support measures that will allow greater access to access programming, so beyond the BDU that distributes. If the Commission ---
1317 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So on linear, on VOD, online, look at the full complement of distribution ---
1318 MR. POITRAS: Exactly.
1319 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- regardless of where the monies have originated or who’s holding it?
1320 MR. POITRAS: Yes, yeah. We would be open and would agree that it would be beneficial.
1321 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Thank you.
1322 Just a couple of last questions, and I’m going to pass it over. I want to talk about the timeframes that you’re speaking of here. Now, you speak about having a review in three years. When is it you would see that this fund and the reallocations that you propose -- when would you see that being implemented?
1323 MS. TURCKE: As soon as possible, I think is the answer.
1324 Rob, did you ---
1325 MR. MALCOLMSON: We would see it being commenced September 1st, 2016 with the new broadcast year and then running for a period of time, allowing the industry to get through licence renewal and then have a review to see if it’s actually working in the way we all contemplated.
1326 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So we had a fund in the past. I think much was learned with the last fund, and one of the things that is important is that any time you establish a fund, that there needs to be proper governance, accountability. It needs to be structured appropriately.
1327 It’s your view that all of that could be established and put in place by September 1st?
1328 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I’m an optimist, Commissioner Molnar, and I think if we collectively work together, it could be done. We concurred with the various governance proposals that you put in your working document: transparency; proper governance structure; third-party administrator and reporting. So all of those benchmarks I think could be hit if we work together.
1329 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So perhaps I missed something that you’ve put on the record. Have you put on the record a detailed sort of proposal as to what would need to be done to put this fund in place by the timeframe you’re looking for with proper governance, what that governance is required and what would need to be done? I mean, you’re talking a matter of months.
1330 MR. MALCOLMSON: We didn’t put a detailed governance structure on the record.
1331 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Would you like to do that?
1332 MR. MALCOLMSON: We put a proposal on the record and agree that, as you contemplate in your working document, those things would have to be done. They’ve been done for other funds. For example, they were done, to some extent, with the LPIF. They can be accomplished.
1333 So if you’d like us to come forward with a proposal, we can certainly give it a shot.
1334 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, I think if you believe that this should be in place by September, every day counts. So the more information that is on the record as to how this actually could be accomplished, if it could be accomplished reasonably, I don’t see how that would hurt.
1335 MR. GOLDSTEIN: Yes. I was involved in a number of those funds and sitting on the boards of them, and we would have absolutely no problem in putting something together to file by February 15th with the rest of the responses.
1336 THE CHAIRPERSON: The 5th.
1337 MR. GOLDSTEIN: The 5th, sorry.
1338 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
1339 MR. GOLDSTEIN: The 5th.
1340 THE CHAIRPERSON: The undertaking is for the 15th, that specific one, Exhibit 1, but all the other undertakings are for the 5th.
1341 MR. GOLDSTEIN: The 5th could work too. Well, it will have to, right?
1342 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
1343 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Thank you.
1344 I actually assume I know, but it’s always bad to assume, so I’m going to ask this question.
1345 And I’m not going to ask you to comment on the proposal that CHCH put forward right before you because that’s really not very fair with just a few hours. You can comment at another time.
1346 But just more generally on their thought that there’s a short-term solution and a long-term solution, is that your view on how this is properly structured?
1347 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, we see local TV in structural decline. This is a short-term solution, our proposed LNF.
1348 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And in your view, the long-term solution is something you’re discussing at licence renewal?
1349 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I was going to say if we try out the LNF and have some success with it, I wouldn’t rule it out as a longer term solution, as long as the industry needs the assistance. And there may very well be other solutions that people come forward with at licence renewal.
1350 What we do know is two things. We need some immediate assistance as an industry in order to sustain local news, and if the structural decline continues, there’s going to need to be some long-term solution. We don’t have that magic bullet right now.
1351 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Those are my questions. Thank you.
1352 THE CHAIRPERSON: I believe I have a few questions for you. And I guess the first bundle of questions relates to hierarchies of needs.
1353 And we heard from Eastlink this morning, and they were saying -- and I believe you were in the room at this point, or some of you were -- that certainly for less populated centres, that the current community channel approach was working and that people saw their smaller rural communities well served by that.
1354 Do you think that we should be taking a different perspective in terms of looking at -- I’m going to put it between quotes because it’s not exactly accurate, but “source of funds” being different, that we should be looking at maybe the credit BDUs get when they serve urban centres as opposed to more rural or smaller communities?
1355 MS. TURCKE: With respect to community TV or ---
1356 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, they’re linked now, aren’t they?
1357 MS. TURCKE: Yeah.
1358 THE CHAIRPERSON: It’s all about local reflections.
1359 So if we are going to create a fund, that money comes from somewhere, and I guess one choice would be there may be less money, but it might be coming from urban centres as opposed to non-urban centres?
1360 MR. MALCOLMSON: One element of our proposal, Mr. Chairman, is that for the smaller exempt BDU areas where they have community channels, we, number one, wouldn’t expect them to have to contribute to the fund and, number two, if there wasn’t -- if they wanted to allocate within their existing 5 percent envelope, all of that to local news in that community because they’re not otherwise served by a local television station. That’s something we’d support.
1361 THE CHAIRPERSON: Another part of their proposal is that this is a VI issue and VI should solve their own problems and shouldn’t be looking for money in the pockets of non-VIs.
1362 MS. TURCKE: Being granted the privilege of scale, which we have been over the last five to ten years, has helped us prepare to compete against some of the recent players that have come into the market, global players.
1363 We’ve heard all day about the systemic decline in revenue and the shift of advertisers to digital. We heard how CHCH is being cut out of national buys. Canadian media companies are being cut out of global buys, as Group M is a global company and Proctor and Gamble will do a global digital buy on Google, right? So all of those things are happening and the scale that we have had the privilege to attain over the last few years has helped us kind of hunker down for what has been a real battle on the front of advertising revenue over the last couple of years.
1364 We have -- the BCE has seen a decline in local TV and revenues to the tune of 115 million and earnings of 90 million over the last five years. It’s not sustainable.
1365 A couple of years ago, a handful of our stations were losing money; now, 25 out of 30 are. We also believe that business units have to stand on their own, and when I look across media, you know, honestly the issues in radio are not at all dissimilar from local TV, just on a smaller scale.
1366 So we are committed to local presence. We believe that it’s important. A media company of our size in the country, a vertically-integrated player of the size of our country has to realize that this is important, and that’s why we’ve come with the proposal we have.
1367 We have been, as a vertically integrated player, investing in news over the last few years. We have not cut back on our hours. At the same time, we’ve seen earnings and those for our local TV properties come down $90 million.
1368 I don’t know if you have something to add, Rob?
1369 MR. MALCOLMSON: It’s a fair and important question, Mr. Chairman, and in addition to what Mary Ann has to say about business units needing to stand on their own, of the 30 markets we’re in, 12 of those markets, we are the only local television voice in those markets, and given the current unfortunate state of local television, you know, you start to wonder who else might come into those markets if there was a loss of news voices.
1370 So we see it as not so much a VI versus an independent broadcaster problem. We see it as what’s best for the viewer in all local markets across the country and how do we assure that in those markets, regardless of ownership, there’s a sustainable, viable local television news voice. So that’s part of the perspective as well.
1371 THE CHAIRPERSON: Again, my question is in light of sort of a hierarchy of needs, and I appreciate Ms. Freeman saying we need to have quality local news because it’s important to our democracy.
1372 So help me understand then, why -- let’s say on an IPTV offering, BCE as a corporate group, insists on providing a local presence as opposed to reallocating those sums of money towards news?
1373 I realize your competitors in those markets offer community channel, but you could make a valid case that you should be allowed some sort of exception to that because that market is well served and those funds that you attribute to IPTV could -- community presence could be better served elsewhere.
1374 MR. GOLDSTEIN: I just think in terms of -- I guess you mean in terms of on a go-forward basis, under the -- I think we have an option under the current rules to do 2 percent to community or the 2 percent goes to a production fund. You know, we could have proposed that under our model. We wanted to propose something that was a more realistic because, you know, under a situation where if we were just to redirect it or if any BDU were to just redirect their 2 percent, it would essentially help viewers in the markets they serve as opposed to, you know, applying it at large to the system.
1375 And I think when we put together the proposal we were trying to do it in a way that I think recognized that local news was a key priority and that everyone should contribute and that it shouldn’t really matter in your local market who the owner of your station is, that the viewer should be able to benefit from local news.
1376 THE CHAIRPERSON: So do I take it then if you’d had your druthers you would see a system by which your IPTV services could redirect money to other means rather than have a competitive, second community presence where there’s already a terrestrial supplier?
1377 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think, if I understand your question correctly, we see value in our IPTV community channel, and Nicolas can point you to ---
1378 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m not saying there’s no value to it. I’m talking about hierarchies of needs.
1379 MR. MALCOLMSON: Fair enough. So we’re talking about reallocating resources as well. So you’re right; we could have come up with a different proposal, but when we look at our IPTV community channel, we do see value there and we think that viewers in markets where it’s available are better served. They’re better served if there are multiple options.
1380 So your question is a fair one, but we think there is some value in the -- there would be some loss to the system if we’re eliminating the community element.
1381 THE CHAIRPERSON: But, you see, when you’re sitting in a place like Eastlink’s, they’re saying, “Well, our system’s working quite fine; thank you very much. Why are they trying to glean in our backyard when they could probably find the sums elsewhere?”
1382 MR.MALCOLMSON: Again, that’s a fair question. When we look at it, we see traditional cable community channels as being sufficiently well resourced to carry out the mandate that they’ve been given and I think over the years that, you know, it could certainly be argued that they’ve been -- that they’re well-funded and perhaps over-funded, and if we’re trying to reallocate existing resources, that’s where we might appropriately look.
1383 MR. GOLDSTEIN: I think if I could also just add the Eastlink specific example, I think Ms. MacDonald noted this morning that they have a significant amount of exempt system and there are a lot of communities they serve where there isn’t a local television. And our proposal in no way would impact those dollars. It would simply be in the markets which -- I believe specifically in Halifax there’s CTV, Global, CBC all providing local news in addition to their community channel.
1384 THE CHAIRPERSON: You touched on it a little bit, but -- Eastlink certainly shared, although politely, their frustration that they have to manage multiple assets, wireless assets, telecommunication assets, broadcasting assets, and they have to make choices within that -- those assets as to where they go, I guess including Blueberry production in their case, whereas -- you know, over the years you’ve come to us and you’ve referred to it as the privilege of scale. And you said, you know, “Synergies are good. We have to have large companies. We have to be able to compete with what may be a large company within the Canadian boundaries is actually a very small company on the world scale.”
1385 And when we do ownership issues, it always is about synergies and, in fact, one could -- and some people have suggested that the degree of vertical and horizontal integration is probably without comparison, at least with many of our G7 partners, if not many other additional jurisdictions.
1386 But when times are tough, you said it earlier, you talked about business units have to stand up. I mean, you’re one of the largest radio operators in the country and you know that AM gets cross-subsidized by FM. There’s -- that’s how you do things.
1387 So it seems frustrating to some, and I think Eastlink was trying to express some of that frustration, that you come to us for large transactions saying, “It’s good; it’s in the public interest because it’ll give us scale and we’ll be able to compete; there’s synergies,” as this large group, but when there are losses, it’s always on the individual licensee level that you come and make the case.
1388 And my question to you, is that really fair and consistent?
1389 MS. TURCKE: There’s pressure across -- and I talked about it, across media. There’s pressure in radio. There’s pressure in local TV. There’s pressure in conventional -- in the national network of conventional TV based on some of the industry changes that we’ve talked about here all day. It’s not as confined into a little box as it seems on local TV, across the assets I look on over the last five years. It’s under attack. We’ve made a lot of decisions over the last five years that have put us here, and it’s all happening at once.
1390 In addition, when you compare us to the G7, one of the things I’ve learned in the last few months, Canada is so unique in terms of the media space with the impact and the influence of the American ecosystem here.
1391 So scale is even more important here in a broadcasting sort of situation then it would be in other countries, even the UK, for instance, where they’re much more on their own in terms of the content they create, the content they can schedule, and how they schedule and the advertisers that they can get involved.
1392 So across the ecosystem and media it is under pressure. We believe that local news is important and we’re the largest producer of it in the country and we want to keep doing it, and we want Global to keep doing it, and we want the CBC to do more. We want more voices in the country.
1393 And it is unsustainable right now for even large players to redirect sums of money from other places, as Eastlink articulated this morning, to fund what is fundamentally become unsustainable, and I would say feels like -- in my early days here feels like it’s accelerating. That’s what is frightening for me.
1394 THE CHAIRPERSON: There may be a frustration, though, that the system -- the public interest objectives have already provided a lot of support.
1395 Local television gets mandatory carriage, which means, you know, even if it’s not over the air but it gets privileged space on the terrestrial distribution system. It gets SIM sup to help support ---
1396 MS. TURCKE: M’hm.
1397 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- which is more important obviously in the English market.
1398 Spectrum comes very inexpensively compared to some of your -- well, what we call wireless but the new cellular markets.
1399 On top of that, there is public funding and public money going to support through tax credits, CMF, independent funds, all kinds of money from other peoples’ pockets ---
1400 MS. TURCKE: Right.
1401 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- supporting your business.
1402 And here we hear you knocking at the door again despite having a rather rich and diverse and rather large stable of properties in the media world.
1403 MS. TURCKE: Right. And having mandatory carriage is a privileged situation. It means that we capture many, many viewers. Our news properties reach 26 or 25 and a half million Canadians every week. Five and a half of them are millennials.
1404 The issue is the advertisers are not valuing that audience the way they once were for all kinds of reasons, some of it rhetoric, some of it fact.
1405 So as we look to transition from linear to digital and find whatever that balance is and whatever it’s going to be in the next five to 10 years, it’s really about the advertisers are the revenue stream being valued.
1406 The ratings actually haven’t been as impacted as people might think. It’s still popular. People still like it. It’s the fundamental issue of the advertising.
1407 And in small communities across this country, and even not so small communities like Kingston, you know, the disappearance of what I refer to as the big small business, right -- Vandervoort’s Hardware where I used to shop as a kid with my dad, it’s not there, it’s, you know, the larger big box stores.
1408 So all these sources of advertising revenue are kind of -- are just going away and you amplify that with a shift to digital and what you have is a situation in regions across this country where the advertisers just aren’t there to buy the property, irrespective of the fact that there’s mandatory carriage and lots of people are buying it. It’s just not as valuable to certain individuals as it once was. That’s what I’ve observed to be part of the fundamentals.
1409 I don’t know, Wendy, if you want to add.
1410 MS. FREEMAN: Well, it’s just interesting to note that our 6:00 o’clock newscast across the country have still really high ratings. In fact, in some markets the ratings have actually gone up. But what’s happened is that the advertisers have gone away because of cord cutting, of course because other people are going to the web, and again, we’re switching, you know, digital dollars to digital dimes -- dollars to dimes. But the ratings are still high. You know, people are still sitting down at 6:00 o’clock and watching the news.
1411 So until we -- you know, we have a digital first culture right now in our newsrooms, and it’s been tough. You know, we are a traditional news organization. It has not been easy getting the mindset, getting the culture changed, but we feel that we are on the right track. We still have a long way to go. Changing that mindset to no digital comes first.
1412 You know, the first thing we do when we break a story now is we Tweet it on social media, we get it on the Web, we get it on Facebook, we get it on Snapchat, and eventually -- and at 6:00 o’clock -- it goes on at 6:00 o’clock. That’s been very hard to do. But the majority of our consumers, believe it or not, still are watching the 6:00 o’clock news.
1413 So until we see that shift, until we get there, and you know, we -- I wish I had a crystal ball to know when, you know, it’s going to happen and when it’s going to change and how to start monetizing on it, we need some help.
1414 MS. MITCHELL: If I could add from the Winnipeg perspective ---
1415 THE CHAIRPERSON: Back row. Yes, okay.
1416 MS. MITCHELL: Hi. I’m back here. Yes, I’m very short.
1417 Looking at Numeris numbers, our 6:00 o’clock news ranks between one, two, and three, depending on what book you look at, for all television viewing in Winnipeg, and that’s huge. That’s the number one watched program up against under some demographics and some books Big Bang Theory.
1418 So people want to see the 6:00 o’clock news. There are still appointment viewing, at least in our Winnipeg market.
1419 At the same time, digital in the market year over year from 2014 to 2015 our website grew by 36 to 48 percent depending on what you’re looking at, videos, or print, or viewers.
1420 So right now, with a smaller staff than we had in the past few years, we are having to cover more and be more to more people and people expect us to be there. And it’s the credibility that CTV has that we are going to be there for them when the dike breaks, when the fire breaks out, but also to do those stories that are reflective of a community.
1421 We heard this morning that local news sometimes is at the fire or the flood and the safety, and we are -- and we are immediate. We can do things right away. When there was a boil water advisory we went live at City Hall, indoor 6:00 o’clock news, and that’s how people found out there’s a boil water advisory.
1422 At the same time, I have a list of stories that we’ve done on human interest. We’re covering a fellow tonight that worked 45 years as the front doorman at the Fairmont Hotel, the cool people he’s met and the stories he can tell us, he’s a character.
1423 So we are covering a wide gamut of stories ---
1424 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
1425 MS. MITCHELL: --- and people expect that from us.
1426 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’re not questioning that you do a great job in reporting and covering -- what I am hearing, though, is a profound shift. People are listening but the economics don’t follow for whatever macroeconomic reasons that is.
1427 But that actually gets me more worried because the stop gap is just that. It’s putting a patch on a tire and realizing that, in fact, we may actually have to replace all four radial tires because you can’t just do one anymore thanks to technology of radial tires, and it just gets more complicated.
1428 And part of me is wondering well, you know, the system has over time supported broadcasters, private commercial interests in various ways, and here’s another request, and three years’ time there’ll be yet another request, and at what point do we say just not working.
1429 These are commercial ventures, granted, but for a public interest. At what point do the others who are all contributing to what is an important activity, when the public isn’t necessarily monetizing -- they may be listening but they’re not necessarily monetizing in reality, what happens, do we just have another subsidy program in three years’ time and another one after that.
1430 MR. MALCOLMSON: Mr. Chairman, you’ve characterized our dilemma quite succinctly. These are commercial ventures and from this perspective -- you know, as Mary Ann said to you -- and she quoted some of the decline in revenue and decline in earnings -- at some point in time when you have a business, you know, that’s in structural decline you have to revisit. It’s the same way you’re asking us to think about it.
1431 But in the interim period you also have to look at the viewer in Yorkton or Red Deer who doesn’t -- isn’t necessarily aware who owns his local news station he just knows that in that market there’s a local news station that’s serving that community. That viewer may not be part of this right now. Transition to digital. He just may want his 6:00 p.m. newscast.
1432 So we are sitting here today saying, how do we find admittedly a way to cooperatively bridge the funding gap?
1433 And the proposal we’ve put on the table shouldn’t be construed as a handout. It does come with incentives to invest with commitments, to do news in local markets, and commitments to fund the bulk of that local news.
1434 So there are two perspectives here for sure, but we have to balance the commercial perspective against the public interest perspective, and that’s what our proposal is trying to do.
1435 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And I guess fundamentally, at the end, we have to question ourselves, has the private sector done enough to adapt to the situation?
1436 Okay, fair enough. Let’s change subject matter.
1437 Since you’re here, I don’t want to go back to the events of last spring, but I think I have to, to a certain degree, because we’re talking about news and you don’t come to us very often.
1438 But back then, Mr. Cope said, and I quote -- this is based on Media Reports:
1439 “The independence of Bell Media’s news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians. There can be no doubt that Bell will always uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news.”
1440 You’re taking notes, Ms. Freeman, because I am going to address the question to you.
1441 And then on June 1st, BCE introduced a new journalistic independence policy to strengthen autonomy in CTV News and granted the president of CTV news absolute editorial privilege.
1442 So my question is to you, could you please describe the measures that you’ve put in place since those events to ensure journalistic independence, your undertaking, and how is that working out?
1443 MS. FREEMAN: Thank you for the question.
1444 It’s actually working out very well and what we have done is we’ve put a journalistic independence policy in place and basically so that there is never any interference from anyone that no one can ever influence our news division.
1445 And if someone -- anyone that works for CTV News feels that they are being pressured or influenced by someone, that they can come to me and that I now have a place to go if I feel that I am being pressured or influenced. And in the end, it is my choice on what we cover and what we do, and I have the final say.
1446 But the independence policy was distributed across the company and in the end it basically says that no one has the right to interfere in our news gathering and in our news, and in our news editorial decision-making. And it has been going well. Thank you for asking.
1447 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is there an intent to somehow report on that publicly, as to events? I mean it’s not been a year, I realize that but at some point?
1448 MS. FREEMAN: I think at the time, there was some reports about it. We never like to report on ourselves, so ---
1449 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps I’ll build on a question Commissioner Molnar asked earlier. If indeed we go down the road of, perhaps putting it a bit too blunt, subsidizing news, is one of the commensurate obligation perhaps providing more reports on the independence of news reporting by commercial entities?
1450 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, and of course, look, we -- that’s the fundamental of our news organization; it’s the complete independence and we would always want that sort of thing, absolutely.
1451 THE CHAIRPERSON: Speaking of independence, you spoke eloquently earlier about the importance of news to our democracy. Did you get all the financial support you think you need to do your job?
1452 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, I do.
1453 Bell has been very good to the News Division. They have actually put a lot of money into it. We’ve done a lot behind the camera that you may not see.
1454 However, times are tough and again everyone has witnessed that. You know, even today, I saw that Rogers is laying off 200 people, 4 percent of their workforce. It’s not just us.
1455 And absolutely, they have been very good to us.
1456 THE CHAIRPERSON: And that includes at the local news level?
1457 MS. FREEMAN: Yes. Currently, in the local news level, we are putting in all sorts of measures behind the camera, automation, new sets, all sorts of things that sometimes you don’t see as a viewer, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes.
1458 And again, we have kept the number of local news hours. We have not cut back, cut back on any of them.
1459 THE CHAIRPERSON: Mr. Malcolmson wants to revisit his commitment at licence renewal, I believe. We can go back to the quotes in the record, I think, is the words he used, but I’m sure you’ll be there.
1460 MS. FREEMAN: I will be there.
1461 THE CHAIRPERSON: There’s this notion I asked earlier about governments being involved in the funding of news, and I wouldn’t mind having your perspective on that.
1462 And frankly, I’ve thought about it after asking the question earlier. I was actually involved in some of these funds. It’s not just a unique dimension. Obviously the public broadcasters, both national public broadcasters, but that’s equally true for provincially-funded ones.
1463 The magazine fund I was involved, as Assistant Deputy Minister at Canadian Heritage, in a sense also finances a variety of magazines in its distribution costs. Right, back it used to be a postal subsidy; now, it’s a much broader subsidy.
1464 But I can’t help but question myself, if somebody had been putting forth the idea of subsidizing a daily newspaper, news gatherers in this country, the professional journalists in this country would say, “Wait a minute. What’s up with that?”
1465 Yet, we seem to be falling into this discussion with respect to local news without having the “wait a minute, what does this mean in a democracy of having an arm of the executive creating a fund?”
1466 So is it an absolute no-no or -- as a journalist, what would you think of it in foreign jurisdictions, let alone in Canada, or are there safeguards or mechanisms that should be put in place?
1467 MS. FREEMAN: I don’t think this would be a government fund. I think what we’re asking is that we’re to move some money from community to local news.
1468 But absolutely ---
1469 THE CHAIRPERSON: By policy adopted by the CRTC, which is an arm of government.
1470 MS. FREEMAN: Arm’s length.
1471 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
1472 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, we would probably want some policies put in place but again, you know, everything we do, you know, we don’t have interference. We also act in arm’s length and we have codes that we follow, the RTDNA and the CBSC, and no one can influence what we do, even if ---
1473 THE CHAIRPERSON: And yet you had to put in a new code at one point, because there had been abuse.
1474 MS. FREEMAN: Yes.
1475 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I’d rather be ahead of the problem than ---
1476 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, so we would have to put in some more, absolutely.
1477 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you have any suggestions or perhaps that goes to the February 5th question ---
1478 MS. FREEMAN: Yes.
1479 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- with respect to governance of a particular fund and how you ensure it to be arm’s length ---
1480 MS. FREEMAN: Yes.
1481 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- to prevent this sort of interference ---
1482 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, absolutely.
1483 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- that inevitably might come about?
1484 MS. FREEMAN: Yes, that, absolutely.
1485 THE CHAIRPERSON: I appreciate that. Thank you.
1486 Those are my questions. Thank you very much. You have been patient late in the day and thank you for accommodating the group ahead of you to switch around. So thank you very much.
1487 Those are our questions. Madame la ---
1488 THE SECRETARY: Mr. Chair, sorry.
1489 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, yes, of course, yes. There you go.
1490 MS. TURCKE: I get the fun task of ---
1491 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ms. Turcke forgot to press the button for her mic and, twice now, I’ve forgotten to pass it on to legal. Go ahead.
1492 MS. FISHER: Again, with respect to the questions contained in Exhibit 1 that was placed on the record of the proceeding this morning, we ask that you undertake to provide your responses as applicable to undertaking by February 15th.
1493 MS. FREEMAN: Okay.
1495 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you. Now we are done.
1496 Madame la secrétaire.
1497 THE SECRETARY: I will now ask NewWest.tv to come to the presentation table.
1498 Please introduce yourself when you are ready, and you have 10 minutes.
1499 Sorry, could we have order in the hearing room? Thanks. Please go ahead.
1500 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Good afternoon, Chairman Blais, commissioners Dupras, MacDonald, Molnar and Simpson.
1501 I’m Deepak Sahasrabudhe. My career has been that of a television producer and I’ve produced 22 television series, through my independent production company, SOMA Television Limited.
1502 The programs have been broadcast on commercial T.V. in Canada and in many countries -- many other countries and as such, I deeply understand the potential of our medium.
1503 I’m here, however, as the founder and as a member of NewWest.tv, a not for profit society registered in British Columbia.
1504 NewWest.tv was created to provide community programming for residents of New Westminster B.C. My plan for this presentation is first to introduce NewWest.tv, with a two minute video clip from the biggest production that we’ve produced, which is an exterior live five camera shoot.
1505 Following that, I will share the results of my compliance assessment, in which I reviewed almost 30,000 broadcasts of about 2,100 programs broadcast over one week periods in 87 licence areas across Canada, except Quebec.
1506 First the two minute video. You’ll see short clips from a live production that captures the biggest event that New Westminster has hosted in recent years.
1507 The most expensive of the cameras used to shoot this event cost about $2,000 new, the other 4 cost less -- cost less than $800 each.
1508 The program was streamed to a huge Jumbo Tron monitor for the crowd on site and live streamed to the world from our city hall’s website. Shaw, our local cable company, was not present. I’d love to run the video now.
1509 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: So the program was live-switched and streamed on the internet. The budget, a few thousand dollars, used to pay for rental of mobile video transmitters attached to our mobile cameras.
1510 Because of the -- because of us, there’s a comprehensive record of this event and that’s a really important thing for our community.
1511 And what an opportunity it was for my gang that made this program. Many volunteers got to be part of a big production and it was a lot of fun for all of us.
1512 While NewWest.tv receives small grants from the city and from other organizations for specific projects, we cannot afford studio space, nor do we own any equipment.
1513 Our projects are created by volunteers using equipment borrowed from my production company.
1514 Our projects -- sorry, a significant problem is that loaned equipment is not covered by my company’s insurance policy, so our next funding drive for NewWest.tv will be to cover insurance costs.
1515 All of our members are volunteers and are residents of New Westminster. Some of us, like me, have a background in T.V. production, others participate to support their community.
1516 Some are members of local organisations wanting to discover how they can use media to promote their missions.
1517 Sometimes individuals who are not regular members help us out too. A notable example is our member of parliament, Peter Julian, filled in as a cameraman at an event when one of our volunteers had to cancel at the last minute.
1518 NewWest.tv covers key civic events such as town halls and all candidates meetings. We produce livestreams and make the recordings available on our website.
1519 Viewership of livestreams and recordings is usually much higher than the live audience that was present at the venue.
1520 My initial work in planning a vibrant community T.V. service for New Westminster, was to assess the programs currently available on Shaw T.V. in New West and the program report I created for New West, attached to schedule two, to this presentation, shows that the only local program is the City Council meeting, which I know is produced and paid for by New Westminster Council.
1521 So no money is spent on programming in New Westminster by Shaw.
1522 Despite living in the suburbs of one of Canada’s largest cities, our residents do not feel that they have adequate local reflection or that their voices are heard and reflected in the media or in planning for a region as the whole.
1523 It’s important to realize that this hearing is not just about the need for adequate reflection of rural areas with no private or public T.V. broadcaster, but also about the needs of those who live in municipalities within the super cities that are becoming more common in our country.
1524 My interest expanded from that initial study of programming offered in -- community programming offered in New Westminster, to exploring the diversity of community programming -- community program offerings in other communities across Canada.
1525 Starting in May 2015, I examined the program offerings of 87 licenced and exempt cable systems across Canada.
1526 I realized that residents of the communities where I was assessing community programming also need to know about the programs that their money is being spent on.
1527 Therefore, I’ve made all of the information I gathered available to the public at a website, www.comtv.org. It’s the shortest URL I could come up with.
1528 The website contains detailed information about more than 30,000 broadcasts, of 2,100 different community programs, broadcast over 1 week periods in the 87 licence areas, across Canada. I wasn’t able to do Quebec, because my French isn’t strong enough.
1529 This work provides the basis for understanding how the cable regulations are being interpreted and applied by cable programmers across Canada.
1530 Fewer than 20 percent of the community programming services meet the CRTC regulatory requirements for community television in our country.
1531 For example, Shaw collects subscriber fees earmarked for community television from seven licence areas in the lower mainland, including New Westminster Delta, Coquitlam, Burnaby, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Surrey and White Rock, without meeting the commission’s local and access minimum, 60 percent and 50 percent respectively.
1532 So how much money was involved was my next question. Schedule 1 to the notes I have provided for this presentation, shows my calculation using publically available information.
1533 Using Statistics Canada CMA data for 2011 and the CRTC’s cable T.V. data, I learned 87 percent of households subscribe to a television service, but only 66 percent of those subscribe through cable companies -- cable carriers, and therefore the average -- and also the average monthly cable TV subscription cost is 55 -- 59.48, sorry. And the contribution to community TV is calculated at two percent of the BDU’s gross subscriber revenue in a market such as New Westminster.
1534 So that amount is calculated as number of households times 56 percent penetration, times $59.48 per subscriber, times 12 months, times two percent, which totals almost $6 million per annum in the greater Vancouver area. The budget for public libraries in the same region is $13 million, to give a little perspective on that. To provide some perspective on the potential of this money as a resource to serve the public interest and our need for access of information and media skills training.
1535 Coming back to New Westminster, despite an estimated budget of $400,000 collected from cable subscribers in New Westminster, nothing is produced by Shaw for our community. Nothing. Nada.
1536 The regulations are clear that there are requirements for local and access programs and minimum expenditure requirements for each licence area. The BDU took the money. The contracted services were not delivered. This issue needs to be resolved by a full financial audit for New Westminster community television service to determine how much was improperly charged to subscribers in the License Area; possibly amounting to as much as $3.5 million since 2009. Because of the seriousness of this state of affairs, we note that several groups as well as CACTUS have filed 69 complaints of non-compliance against cable operators based on the data posted at www.comtv.org.
1537 The $300,000 to $400,000 per annum collected from cable subscribers in New Westminster may be an insignificant budget in the corporate world, but in the hands of a volunteer organization, this is a very substantial fund.
1538 If our community could plan the resource allocation for our two percent of cable subscription fees, we would attract further funding from sponsorships because we are fully integrated into our community, including its businesses. I have one of them. We could expand our current online-only program offerings to include a linear cable-distributed service available 24/7, covering a full range of hyper-local issues that are tied to the essential cultural, social and economic wellness of our community, as described in the discussion of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing in our -- as I discussed in my written submission.
1539 Right now, many more groups would like to play a role in Newwest.tv, but we lack the facilities and resources.
1540 The BDUs have not given us programming that is distinctive or local to New Westminster because they cannot afford to be present and knowledgeable about every community in which they have cable infrastructure. Budget management by the local institutions and groups that know and form the community is the only way that effective local reflection can be generated.
1541 Going forward, a website such as comtv.org can be more than just a compliance tool. It can support the sharing of content ideas and help cross-Canada alliances. Weekly program details could populate the data automatically via an RSS feed. Links could enable community television practitioners across Canada to view each others' work, as well as community residents to feed back comments about local program offerings. The system as a whole would be informed from its grassroots, as we believe was the intention of Canada's community TV policy.
1542 We fully endorse the CACTUS proposal as the only way to achieve a national framework for community television services that work in partnership with their host communities and are managed by those communities.
1543 Thank you. And I look forward to your questions.
1544 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Commissioner Dupras?
1545 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon.
1546 I’m listening to you and I’m wondering, has anyone from your community ever demanded access to the facilities of the Shaw Community Channel in Vancouver to try to produce some access programming?
1547 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: We’ve discussed -- we’ve talked with Shaw of course. The problem is the services that they offer are difficult to access. They are offered far away and it’s relatively costly for us to be able to use their facilities in Vancouver. Their studios are located in the height of the most expensive part of Vancouver. Parking is phenomenally expensive.
1548 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: When you say it’s costly, they’re charging to use the facilities?
1549 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: No, no. For us simply to be there to use their ---
1550 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: How far is it from New Westminster, their studios?
1551 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Forty (40) kilometres.
1552 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Forty (40) kilometres?
1553 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: That’s right.
1554 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: All right. Are you knowledgeable about independent television -- community television corporations?
1555 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Yes, I am.
1556 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Isn’t that something that you ever thought of creating?
1557 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Well, yes. I have thought about it. The economics haven’t suggested to me that it would make sense for me to form such a company. I think that -- well, we first of all believe that having a not for profit society actually gives us access to much more in the way of resources in our community. People are very responsive to knowing that they’re participating in something that is building community.
1558 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: You know that the independent television communication -- I mean community television corporation is a non-profit organization, run by community members, to do community programming? It’s not more than that. You seem to find that this is excessive in terms of burden to undertake?
1559 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: I haven’t undertaken it because we have so far been -- well, what I’ve been doing is trying to understand how best we could serve my community. How I, and my small group, can serve New Westminster.
1560 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Well, wouldn’t that be -- wouldn’t that be a way?
1561 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: It may possibly in the future. My interest at this point is wanting to make sure that the community gets the resources that it is providing -- gets back in services, appropriate results from the resources it’s providing.
1562 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: And what about your company online? Are you -- do you have any equipment that members of your community can use to try to produce ---
1563 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Well, we don’t have any ---
1564 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: --- with you?
1565 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: We don’t have any money. I -- Newwest.tv relies entirely on equipment owned by my private production company, and I make it available because I want to see community television prosper in New Westminster. I -- as I mentioned it is a problem in that when I loan this equipment, because Newwest.tv doesn’t have any money we can’t -- I can’t expect money back from them. So it’s actually not covered by my insurance policy, which is a problem, as I mentioned.
1566 It would be great to have studio space. That’s not very expensive. We don’t need anything glossy. What we need is a little bit of space. We need a little bit of money to have our own equipment. It would be fantastic if we could have facilities locally that our young people, that anyone who’s interested in television, could access in our own neighbourhoods.
1567 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Are there any other BDUs in your city?
1568 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: None.
1569 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: No.
1570 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: No.
1571 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Exclusively Shaw?
1572 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: That’s correct.
1573 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: There are no competing BDUs?
1574 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Oh, I’m sorry. We -- yes, there are. The satellite and Telus is. But not ---
1575 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: But aside the satellite, there are no other terrestrial BDUs?
1576 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: There are not.
1577 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Okay. What do you think of video on demand? Couldn’t that be -- could that be a way of the future for community service?
1578 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: It’s part of the future, but the linear channel really still is an important feature. This morning we heard that what was once a magazine became on online and now is looking for television, or is using television again.
1579 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: But access is limited on a community channel, why on VOD there’d be more room for more.
1580 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Well, we do make our programs available on VO -- using VOD. Newwest.tv has a YouTube account and there we can offer everything we’ve made is available to our community. That’s an important part of it. But gathering the community together at a particular time is an important thing.
1581 When we did -- we covered a number of all candidates meetings and provincial -- I’m sorry -- the federal and municipal elections and we had quite a good response from our community. People who couldn’t attend accessed the live stream that we offer and then our VOD channel. So that including both the live stream and the VOD we found roughly triple the audience accessed those events through our live stream than were present in the venue at the time.
1582 So the VOD is an important part of that. The live stream actually is important for timeliness and that live stream costs us money for every viewer that comes on. So success for us is actually a problem because actually I have to pay for it.
1583 The important point that I would really like to make is that a lot of money is being collected in New Westminster by the BDU for community television service. They don’t spend it in New Westminster. They should. And I would like to cause that to happen. That is my objective.
1584 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: We understand.
1585 And what about the local television stations, aren’t they reflecting anything of New Westminster?
1586 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Yes, lovely regional stuff. But what we need is -- like the reason I showed you this video -- I actually chose this against some of the thinking of the rest of my group who thought well we should put little snips of everything we’ve done, but I wanted to show you that we can do stuff that looks good. Like yes, that show if CBC had done it could have looked a little snappier but this was the stuff that we did and for almost no resource. The cost of a big commercial project wouldn’t have looked that different to my community but it would have cost a whole lot more to actually deliver.
1587 If we had a regular fund -- actually if the money that’s being collected for this purpose was used for this purpose then with an organization like the one that we may be -- I don’t necessarily have to be the organization that delivers it. But if a local organization were to have a regular resource to be able to plan and schedule this kind of programming we could work wonders. It’s actually a whole other economic system.
1588 The public interest programming is not funded with eyeballs in mind and the departing advertisers. Our interest comes from connecting each other together. It’s a very different objective.
1589 So when we put on a program and we have high school students we know that the parents of those high school students, and uncles, and aunts, and yada, yada, yada, they’re going to watch.
1590 That’s our model. It’s about people connecting people. It is not about advertiser eyeball -- eyeballs for advertisers.
1591 And so I think that I would like to ask the Commission to consider this economy when thinking about community. We are hyperlocal and I think it’s very important to know the kind of ideas that are important to our community.
1592 When our regional news service offers a story on transportation in the Lower Mainland they don’t know the issues surrounding the Pattullo Bridge, and what are the issues between Surrey, which is on the other side of the bridge, and New Westminster, and what is the impact of -- this became an issue.
1593 TransLink, the transportation authority in the Lower Mainland, proposed a six lane bridge. It would -- a six lane bridge coming from a highway in another city, Surrey, would terminate on a road that was four lanes, and now what happens to the traffic.
1594 Right now we have 450,000 cars a day that transit through New Westminster on the various bridges that clog up our roads. You know, getting -- going a few miles -- New Westminster is a very small place. It was built -- it was the first city in British Columbia. And so its scale is that of a city from another era and that’s its charm. That’s why I’m there. Our total area is seven square miles. And there is no space to build a big wide highway because neighbourhoods would have to be lost in order to do that.
1595 Well these kinds of ideas are known by our community and when a regional news service covers that they don’t know what we’re talking about. They don’t have the depth.
1596 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: So for that you say that the community channel would have to be the one doing the job in your locality ---
1597 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Yes. Yes, I think it would.
1598 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: --- and that maybe we should look at what should be done in areas where cable have large centers if we should not tell them, you know, to spread correctly the local programming amongst the different communities in the sector they serve?
1599 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Yes, Commissioner Dupras. The regulations require it but it’s not being done. So I’d like to make sure that it is done.
1600 I think there are a few important ideas. Number one, the money that’s collected in the community should stay and be used in the community.
1601 Number two, corporate executives in a faraway city -- 40 kilometres is a long way when thinking about hyperlocal. These executives don’t know anything about New Westminster. They don’t come there. They don’t live there.
1602 So when programming ideas come up they’re not understanding that our -- we have some issues and that there’s some things being built there. Community television needs to be integrated with the other public service organizations in the city so that our programs can help extend the reach of those organizations.
1603 And that’s a very important part of our economy as well, because when a BDU would create a program they have to do a lot of research to find out what is important and going on and whatever. We already have in our neighbourhood that knowledge. It’s imbedded in our neighbourhood.
1604 And in terms of voracity and credibility, well everybody knows the people that we would put on camera and they know that they have to face up to what they say. It’s a self-controlling system.
1605 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Okay. Well, thank you very much. It’s very appreciated.
1606 I have no more questions.
1607 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1608 I believe Commissioner Simpson has a question as well.
1609 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I want to go back to the beginning of your -- a question that was asked of you earlier and I want to get a better answer for the record.
1610 When you decided to take on this mission of yours, this journey of creating local community television for New Westminster, did you engage Shaw for the purposes of getting access to their system?
1611 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: I did talk to them and decided that it was not worth pursuing.
1612 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Because of the reasons you stated ---
1613 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Yes.
1614 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: --- which was distance, lack of local knowledge ---
1615 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: And just scheduling.
1616 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: But they did not say no; you said doesn’t fit my terms?
1617 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: The issue is that they’re required to have studio space in our licence area. They do not. The cost of accessing the studio space that was offered to us in another city far away where parking is incredibly expensive it just added up to be far too costly to access.
1618 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. And with TELUS -- did you approach TELUS at all?
1619 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: We have talked to TELUS and we have proposed some project ideas for their VOD service. We did not succeed in getting funding but they’ve encouraged us to pursue it further. So it’s maybe still in process.
1620 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. I do recall -- it had to be, what, 15 years ago when Shaw started closing their annexes or their regional community production centers and -- which was one issue that, you know, communities are still smarting about.
1621 But I remember very clearly in another hearing CACTUS coming to this Commission and saying they were actually being denied access, and access from the standpoint of volunteers not wanted.
1622 Is that your understanding?
1623 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Yes, it is. And I know of others who have approached Shaw and had difficulties in accessing the equipment. I don’t know enough of the details, really, to comment much on them. They aren’t the benign and helpful service that one would expect from a community programming supporter.
1624 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So in the conversations that have been had in this first day and the submissions that have come forward, is there nothing that you’ve seen at this point with respect to the opportunity to fund community productions that causes you to have a better feeling about how this is all going?
1625 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: I didn’t hear anyone seriously talking about communities deciding how to allocate their resources.
1626 In serving New Westminster, I have spent quite a bit of time trying to think through, how do we make sure that the programming we offer actually reflects the community and not that of one or two people that think they know something?
1627 So I looked into different possibilities. The one that I like a lot is the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing measures the ---
1628 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I’m familiar with that, yes.
1629 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: And it has -- it presents eight domains of wellbeing. And I looked at how -- if we were to say, as a community, we would allocate our resources across these eight, not necessarily equally, but that would be a target. These are the things that are being measured across our community to determine where things are going well and where things are not going so well.
1630 And resources for community programming maybe should follow such a pattern so that we know, okay, well, right now there’s some issues, environmental issues; maybe we want to lift that one up. In New Westminster, sports has always been a big deal, and it might be a little difficult to reduce the support for sports, but maybe we have to in order to support other areas. But I also think that this should be done in a transparent kind of way so that the citizens can comment that, you put x percent over here and x percent over there, et cetera.
1631 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Last question.
1632 The debate has been in terms of community information. There’s been the issue of exhibition -- you know, getting the stuff on the air and where does the money come from to pay for the stuff that gets made?
1633 Have you read the submissions so far and the purpose of this hearing from the standpoint that one of the things that is being explored is availability of funds for independent producers to produce content without having to use the resources of a BDU per se? And why is that not satisfactory to you? Why do you have to go out and build a BDU if that isn’t satisfactory to you?
1634 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: I’m not sure I understand the resources of the BDU. As I understand it, there is a percentage, 2 percent, invariably, of the gross fees that a BDU charges its subscribers that is, shall I say, earmarked for community television. Those funds are part of what a BDU gives back to a community for the right to be able to have a cable service.
1635 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I understand that.
1636 But I’m talking about do you have to have their equipment to do what you want to do, or is having access to funding enough?
1637 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: I don’t want to use their equipment.
1638 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well ---
1639 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: It’s too hard to access.
1640 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, that isn’t the question I asked. I asked, we are looking at funding alternatives for independent productions as wells BDU productions that can be aired on the BDU.
1641 You seem to only see a third avenue, which is I want to go away and do my own productions with my own equipment on my own distribution system. And why is that? I don’t understand that.
1642 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Oh, I’m afraid -- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to give that impression.
1643 We do want to be part of the cable broadcast system. We want our programs to be available to our community through television because that is -- that’s a real sign of quality. It’s a sign of you’re important in a community. So we want that.
1644 People understand and know television. Access on the internet is more complicated.
1645 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I understand.
1646 Okay. I think I’m done. Thank you.
1647 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1648 It’s been a long day, and so we appreciate you being able to be patient with us and stay to the end of the day with us. Thank you.
1649 MR. SAHASRABUDHE: Thank you for the time.
1650 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1651 We’re adjourned until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. Thank you.
--- Upon adjourning at 5:44 p.m.
Debbie Di Vetta
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