ARCHIVED - Public Notice CRTC 2001-19

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Public Notice CRTC 2001-19


Ottawa, 5 February 2001


Review of community channel policy and low-power radio broadcasting policy




The Commission seeks comments on issues relating to its policy frameworks for community cable television channels and low-power radio stations. The Commission will consider such revisions in conjunction with the development of a new licensing framework for low-power community-based television undertakings in urban areas and smaller communities, and in its development of an integrated policy approach to community-oriented programming undertakings.




During the past several years, the communications environment has continued to evolve at a rapid pace. This has led, among other things, to a high degree of media consolidation and cross-media ownership with integrated broadcasting companies at both the national and regional levels of the Canadian broadcasting system. Quite apart from some associated benefits, this trend might result in a system with fewer players in conventional television, radio and broadcast distribution and, in many markets, a reduction in programming reflecting local and community concerns.


At the same time, however, technological developments present new opportunities for Canadian voices to be heard - locally, nationally and globally.


Low-cost broadcast technologies, for example, make it possible for new entrants to make a greater contribution to the broadcasting system.


The Commission's existing policies governing both low-power radio and community cable television were developed almost 10 years ago. The Commission considers that it is now time to examine whether these policies continue to make possible the achievement of their stated goals in the changing communications landscape.


In light of the goals set out in the Broadcasting Act (the Act), the Commission considers that it may be appropriate to develop an integrated policy approach to community-oriented programming undertakings, to ensure a greater diversity of voices and alternative choices within the broadcasting system at the local level.


The proposed integrated approach would consist of three components: low-power radio, low-power community-based television, and the cable community channel. The Commission considers that such undertakings have the potential to make a contribution to the goals set out in the Act, especially with respect to the provision of local community-based programming.


In Public Notice CRTC 2000-127 dated

1 September 2000, Call for comments on a licensing framework for low-power community-based television undertakings in urban areas, and in other markets not covered by existing policy, the Commission sought comments on the development of a licensing framework for low-power community-based television stations that would operate in markets currently served by existing over-the air television stations.


Comments have been received and will be considered by the Commission at the same time as the comments received in response to this public notice.


In this notice the Commission seeks public comment on a range of issues relating to what policy frameworks should govern the cable community channel and low-power radio undertakings.


A: Review of cable community channel policy (Public Notice 1991-59)


For over 25 years, cable operators were required to operate a community channel to ensure that members of the communities they served had access to the broadcasting system. This resulted in the sharing of stories and information within the local community. The Commission's approach has had a certain success. There are today over 700 community channels in operation.


Under provisions outlined in the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations (the BDU Regulations), the Commission no longer requires cable companies to operate a community channel.


The new provisions allow cable licensees to reduce their required contribution to Canadian production funds if they elect to make a contribution to local expression, such as operating a community channel.


The Commission notes that cable BDUs contributed $82.0 million to local expression in 1999, compared to $85.7 million in 1997. In the province of Quebec, cable BDUs contributed $18.9 million to local expression in 1999, compared to $21.8 million in 1997.


In recent years, various individuals and community groups have expressed concern over the future of the community channel as well as a perceived reduction in opportunities for access and the reflection of local community issues. The Commission has received numerous complaints from community groups across the country - particularly French-language groups in Quebec - expressing the view that a review of the current approach is necessary.


At the recent consultations on the provision of broadcasting services to French-language minority communities (see Public Notices 2000-38 and 2000-74), the importance of community radio and television in reflecting the needs and requirements of French-language minorities was strongly emphasized.


Role and objectives of the community channel


The Community Channel Policy (Public Notice 1991-59, dated 5 June 1991), states that the role of the community channel should be primarily of a public service nature, facilitating self-expression though free and open access by members of the community. In addition, community programming should complement that provided by conventional broadcasters.


Within this context, operators of community channels are expected to meet a number of objectives designed to foster the development of programming that reflects the local community and actively promotes public participation. These objectives include the following:


· encouraging a high level of citizen participation and community involvement in community programming;


· actively promoting citizen access to the community channel and providing adequate training programs;


· providing feedback mechanisms, such as advisory boards, to encourage viewer response to the range of programs aired;


· seeking out innovative and alternative views;


· providing a reasonable, balanced opportunity for the expression of differing views on matters of public concern;


· reflecting the bilingual and multicultural composition of the community; and


· providing coverage of local events.


The Commission seeks comment on the following questions:


· How successful has the community channel been in meeting the objectives of the 1991 policy? If necessary, what could be done to improve on the achievement of these objectives?


· Has the community channel evolved differently in English and French markets, and if so, how?


· How has the community channel responded to the multicultural and multilingual needs of the communities served?


· In light of changes to the broadcasting system since 1991, including increased consolidation of ownership and market competition, should the role and objectives of the community channel be revised?


· What effect would the development of community based low-power television services have on the role and objectives of the community channel, within the broadcasting system?


· Is there a continuing need for the community channel to be complementary to existing over-the-air and specialty services?


Access and training


The Commission's existing community channel policy emphasizes the provision of the widest possible opportunity for self-expression. It states that licensees should actively encourage participation by groups and individuals, consult with the community to determine the best programming mix, reflect the bilingual and multicultural nature of the community and provide regular training opportunities.


The Commission seeks comment on the following:


· How successful has the community channel been in meeting these training and access objectives?


· In light of the evolution of the community channel, are any changes required with respect to its role in providing access and training?


· Should the nature and quantity of access and training be determined by the licensee or by a representative community organization? If the latter, how should this be done?


· If community-based low-power television services were to be licensed, what, if any, distinction should be made between the role of low-power TV and the community channel with respect to access and training?




Community channels may be distributed as part of a Broadcasting Distribution Undertaking (BDU) licence. They are not licensed separately as programming undertakings. The Commission seeks comment on the following:


· Should community channels be licensed as separate programming undertakings? What would be the advantages or disadvantages of licensing these channels?


· If licensing were required, who should be eligible to apply: only the BDU licensees that carry the channel; only organizations that are clearly representative of the community to be served; or any applicant, including other BDU and programming licensees?


· Should community channels, if licensed separately, be operated strictly on a not-for-profit basis?


· Would it be necessary to define "community-based television" as a distinct class of programming undertaking?


· If community channels were licensed, what carriage requirements would be appropriate for broadcast distribution undertakings?


Definition of community


As a result of consolidation, the service areas of many cable systems are growing larger. These often include many distinct "communities" within the larger area. Following the proceeding initiated by Public Notice 2000-163, the Commission may develop a regional approach to licensing cable BDUs. In such situations, it may be necessary to define the concept of "community" as it relates to the community channel. The Commission seeks comment on the following:


· How should the Commission define "community" with respect to the community channel - only in geographic terms, or also in terms of ethnicity, culture and language?


· In the case of large cable systems, is there a valuable role in serving a broad regional "community"? If so, how can the reflection of smaller localities within the region be assured?


· If the Commission licenses cable BDUs on a regional basis, how can concerns with respect to the role and definition of the community channel be addressed?


· What effect would broadening the definition of "community" have on access by individuals or groups from smaller localities?


Financial support


Although the BDU regulations made the distribution of a community channel optional for cable licensees, Class 1 BDUs must contribute 5% of gross revenues from broadcasting to Canadian programming through the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) or in combination with another certified Fund. BDUs are allowed to reduce this contribution (by between 2% and 3.5%) if they maintain a community channel.


Also, community channels are permitted to sell sponsorship messages but are prohibited from broadcasting commercial spot advertising.


The Commission seeks comment on the following:


· In light of the provisions of the BDU Regulations noted above, are changes to the funding of community channels necessary?


· Should the allowable reduction in CTF contributions be linked to the amount of original community programming produced?


· What would be the impact of permitting the sale of commercial advertising on community channels?


· If advertising on the community channel were permitted, should cable licensees continue to be allowed to allocate a portion of their contribution to Canadian programming to the community channel?


· Should the community channel be permitted to charge a fee for individual and/or group access to the channel, or require that programs seeking access have established sponsorship?


· Should all revenues from any commercial activity on the community channel be reinvested in the service?


· What could be the impact on the community channel of the licensing of low-power community-based television with the ability to sell advertising?




The BDU Regulations restrict the programming distributed on the community channel to community programming, which is defined basically as programming produced by BDU licensees or members of the communities served by the undertakings.


A limited amount of government and public service information material is also permitted, but no payment may be made for the distribution of such material. Smaller systems may also distribute NFB productions, children's, educational and multicultural programming.


Programming may be exchanged between systems, but non-adjacent systems may devote no more than 40% of the schedule to non-local programs. The scheduling of foreign programming is not permitted.


· Should the existing restrictions on the types of programming distributed on the community channel be retained or revised?


· How should local and regional programs be defined in the context of the community channel?


Special programming services


Since 1975 (CRTC Public Announcement dated 16 December 1975), the Commission has permitted cable operators to apply for authority to distribute special programming services designed to extend and complement local Canadian programming services. At the present time, existing special programming services primarily address the needs of multicultural communities.


· In the context of a review of the community channel policy, what should be the role and mandate of special programming services?


· Should the Commission modify its approach to special programming services with respect to ownership or financing?


· Should special programming services be required to obtain a programming undertaking licence? What would be the advantages or disadvantages of licensing these undertakings?


· If licensing were required, should applicants other than the broadcast distribution undertaking be permitted to apply? If so, should such applicants be restricted to those controlled by an organization that is clearly representative of the community?


· If special programming services were licensed, what carriage requirements would be appropriate?




Community programming is subject to the voluntary provisions of the Cable Television Community Channel Standards. It is also subject to program standards set out in the BDU Regulations, which prohibit, among other things, the distribution of programming that contains abusive or obscene content, or false or misleading news.


BDU licensees must also ensure that community programming adheres to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Voluntary code regarding violence in television programming.


· Are the existing provisions appropriate, or should revisions be made to the framework governing the standards for community programming?




Program logs must be retained by community channels and submitted to the Commission upon request. In addition, cable companies provide certain basic information with respect to the operation of their community channels, including program hours, operating expenses and revenues.


· Is there a need for any changes to be made to the logging requirements or the financial reporting of community cable channels?


B: Review of licensing policy for low-power radio (Public Notice 1993-95)


The Commission considers that low-power radio undertakings make a contribution to the goals set out in the Actand attract new entrants into the Canadian broadcasting system. Such services are particularly well-suited to provide local community-based programming.


Classes of low-power radio undertakings


There are 4 types of low-power radio undertakings defined by Industry Canada:


Low-Power AM (LPAM): An undertaking with transmitter power of less than 100 watts. Each LPAM is licensed on a specific frequency in the 525-1705 kHz band, and for a specific transmitting site. LPAM undertakings are not protected against interference from regular, protected AM undertakings. This means that, in case of a frequency conflict between an LPAM and an existing or newly approved regular, protected AM undertaking, the LPAM would have to either change frequency or cease operation.


Low-Power FM (LPFM): An undertaking with maximum Effective Radiated Power (ERP) of 50 watts and a maximum transmitting antenna height of 60 metres. Each LPFM is licensed on a specific frequency in the 88-108 MHz band, and for a specific transmitting site. LPFM undertakings are not protected against interference from regular, protected FM undertakings. LPFM undertakings are protected, however, against interference from each other, VLPFM, and LPAS (defined below) on a priority basis (Public Notice 1993-95).


Very Low-Power FM (VLPFM): An undertaking operating with maximum ERP of 10 watts and transmitting antenna height of 30 metres. Each VLPFM is licensed on a specific frequency in the 88-108 MHz band, and for a specific transmitting site typically situated in a small remote community. VLPFM undertakings are not protected against interference from regular, protected FM undertakings, but are however, protected against interference from each other.


Low-Power Announcement Service (LPAS): An AM or FM undertaking with a very limited coverage area. In the case of AM (535-1605 kHz), a transmitter power must be such that it does not produce a field strength level of more than 0.25 millivolt/metre (mV/m) at a distance of 30 metres. In the case of FM (88-107.5 MHz), transmitter power must be such that it does not produce a field strength level of more than 0.1mV/m at a distance of 30 metres. LPAS undertakings can be referred to as "30-metre coverage" undertakings. Operators of LPAS undertakings are not licensed to make use of specific frequencies or transmitting sites.


Role and objectives of low-power radio


In Public Notice 1993-95, the Commission sets out a priority system for licensing low-power radio undertakings in areas where available frequencies are scarce. These areas include Vancouver/Victoria, Montréal, and Southern Ontario.


The Commission has identified two classifications of priority services: Priority A and Priority B. Priority A services take precedence over B services in the following order:


a) Originating conventional, not-for-profit


b) Originating conventional for-profit


c) Rebroadcasts of local stations


d) Rebroadcasts of distant signals


Priority B services include not-for-profit information services (traffic, weather etc.) and commercial announcement services.


The Commission seeks comment on the following:


· Should the Commission establish a clear description of the role and objectives of low-power radio? If so, what should such a description contain?


· Should the Commission maintain different classes or categories of low-power radio licences? If so, is the current licensing priority still appropriate?


· In order to encourage new entrants to the system, should the Commission give priority to new players (i.e. owners not currently controlling a radio licence) whether for profit or not-for-profit?


· In order to respond to the multicultural and multilingual needs in various communities, should the Commission give priority to the licensing of ethnic and/or third-language low-power radio services?




The 1993 policy states that the Commission will issue a call when it receives applications for low-power radio services in areas where frequencies are scarce. Calls will not be issued in other areas.


· Should the Commission maintain its policy of issuing calls only when it receives applications for low-power radio in the large urban areas of Vancouver/Victoria, Montréal and Southern Ontario?


· In order to encourage the development of community-based low-power radio, would it be helpful for the Commission to establish an annual public process at which it heard all applications for such services?


· Were the Commission to license community-based low-power television (LPTV), should the Commission encourage common ownership of community-based LPTV and radio services? Would the system benefit from encouraging instead such services to be separately controlled?


Programming requirements


Commercial low-power radio services are subject to the Radio Regulations,1986 with respect to Canadian content, local programming and French-language vocal music. They also must adhere to relevant Commission policies such as the Ethnic Policy (Public Notice 1999-117) and the Religious Policy (Public Notice 1993-78).


· Are there any reasons why the requirements for low-power radio should differ from those required of commercial radio licensees?


· Should commercial low-power radio undertakings contribute to Canadian talent development? If so, on what basis?


· Should all low-power radio undertakings adhere to standard industry codes?




Low-power radio undertakings are required to keep logs and to file annual financial returns.


· In light of the changes to the system, are any changes to the logging requirements or the financial reporting of low-power radio required?


· Are there other means by which the Commission should monitor the operation and impact of these services?


Call for comments


The Commission invites comments that address the issues and questions set out in this notice. The Commission will accept comments that it receives on or before 7 May 2001.


The Commission will not formally acknowledge comments. It will, however, fully consider all comments and they will form part of the public record of the proceeding, provided that the procedures for filing set out below have been followed.


Procedures for filing comments


Interested parties can file their comments on paper or electronically. Submissions longer than five pages should include a summary.


Parties wishing to file their comments on paper should send them to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, K1A 0N2.


Parties wishing to file electronic versions of their comments can do so by email or on diskette. The Commission email address is 


Electronic submissions should be in the HTML format. As an alternative, those making submissions may use "Microsoft Word" for text and "Microsoft Excel" for spreadsheets.


Please number each paragraph of your submission. In addition, please enter the line ***End of document*** following the last paragraph. This will help the Commission verify that the document has not been damaged during transmission.


The Commission will make comments filed in electronic form available on its web site at in the official language and format in which they are submitted. This will make it easier for members of the public to consult the documents.


The Commission also encourages interested parties to monitor the public examination file (and/or the Commission's web site) for additional information that they may find useful when preparing their comments.


Examination of public comments and related documents at the following Commission offices during normal business hours


Central Building
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
1 Promenade du Portage, Room G-5
Hull, Quebec K1A 0N2
Tel: (819) 997-2429 - TDD: 994-0423
Fax: (819) 994-0218


Bank of Commerce Building
1809 Barrington Street
Suite 1007
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K8
Tel: (902) 426-7997 - TDD: 426-6997
Fax: (902) 426-2721


405 de Maisonneuve Blvd. East
2nd Floor, Suite B2300
Montréal, Quebec H2L 4J5
Tel: (514) 283-6607 - TDD: 283-8316
Fax: (514) 283-3689


55 St. Clair Avenue East
Suite 624
Toronto, Ontario M4T 1M2
Tel: (416) 952-9096
Fax: (416) 954-6343


Kensington Building
275 Portage Avenue
Suite 1810
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 2B3
Tel: (204) 983-6306 - TDD: 983-8274
Fax: (204) 983-6317


Cornwall Professional Building
2125 - 11th Avenue
Room 103
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 3X3
Tel: (306) 780-3422
Fax: (306) 780-3319


10405 Jasper Avenue
Suite 520
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3N4
Tel: (780) 495-3224
Fax: (780) 495-3214


530-580 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6C 3B6
Tel: (604) 666-2111 - TDD: 666-0778
Fax: (604) 666-8322


Secretary General


This document is available in alternate format upon request and may also be examined at the following Internet site: 


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