ARCHIVED - Broadcasting Commission Letter Addressed to Catherine Edwards (Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS))

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Ottawa, 15 September 2016


Mrs. Catherine Edwards
Executive Director
Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS)

Dear Mrs. Edwards,

Re: Requests regarding Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-224

This is in response to your correspondence of 30 August 2016, in which you requested that the Commission:

  1. either reconsider the decision it had taken in Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-224 (the Policy) or convene a new hearing that considers only community television and media; and
  2. create an Ombudsperson or permanent position or department to manage its community media policy, re-establish its knowledge base and expertise regarding community media and to liaise with community and other government agency stakeholders.

With regard to your request to reconsider the Policy, as I am sure you are aware, there is no review and vary power in the Broadcasting Act (the Act) with respect to the Commission’s broadcasting regulatory policies.  Furthermore, as indicated in the Act, policy statements are non-binding pronouncements.  Rather, they represent a regulatory framework through which the Commission makes its decisions and orders.   Such decisions and orders of the Commission are final and conclusive, subject to appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal with leave.

Furthermore, the Policy was issued following an extensive open and accessible public consultation process on local programming, of which community television is a part, which garnered close to 2,500 comments from Canadians. The Commission heard from many parties, including community television stakeholders. The Commission considered all of the evidence and submissions filed on the record of this comprehensive public proceeding. This hearing followed on another extensive open and accessible public consultation process which led to the Let’s Talk TV decisions.  One of these decisions, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-24 (BRP 2015-24), addressed local and community programming but ultimately determined that a more thorough examination of certain issues surrounding these unique types of programming was warranted.

In making its policy conclusions, the Commission has regard to views presented by all parties. In the present instance, the Commission considered the interests and views of the community sector, the broadcasting distribution undertakings, the television stations and Canadians as viewers and creators of content. While it is true that the community television garnered support from many parties, Canadians who participated in this proceeding emphasized that other types of local programming, and particularly local news, was also of great importance to them and required support.

In order to ensure that appropriate policies and regulations be established, the Commission expressed a number of outcomes that it was seeking to achieve in both BRP 2015-24 and Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2015-421. The Policy clearly lays out how each of these outcomes is achieved through the revised regulatory framework.

As you know, the Commission is an administrative tribunal whose decisions are based on fact and evidence.  The Commission’s decisions are supported by an expert and professional staff whose breadth of knowledge about the broadcasting system is informed by the data we collect, the research we undertake and information placed on the record of various proceedings. I note that your organization and other representatives of the community television sector regularly participate in our proceedings and I wish to encourage you to continue to do so.

With respect to some specific allegations contained in your letter, I note that you argued that the Commission underestimated the scale of reallocation of money from community programming to local news that would likely occur as a result of this Policy. With all due respect, the estimate that you provided does not represent an accurate financial assessment of the potential sums available to support local news, as it is neither based on revenues nor subscriber numbers, but on approximate population numbers.   

We stand with the Commission’s estimate, enunciated at paragraph 92 of the Policy, since it is based on robust data reported by broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs).

Furthermore, your letter fails to mention that, while the Commission did modify the contribution model for local expression, it also adopted new requirements to support community programming. For example, the Commission will gradually increase the minimum proportion of local expression expenses that BDUs must allocate to direct programming costs from the current requirement of 50% to 75%. As a result, a larger percentage of the BDUs' contributions to local expression will be invested in the acquisition or production of local expression programming and BDUs that currently allocate a smaller proportion of their contribution to direct costs will have to adopt more efficient practices.

Finally, you expressed the view that the Policy will have the effect of reallocating contributions out of the small and rural markets that are not well-served by public or private television stations. This statement disregards the fact that these small markets are generally served by exempt BDUs, which, as mentioned above, will not be authorized to reallocate contribution from community programming to local news. In fact, exempt BDUs will not be affected by modifications to the contribution model as they will be able to continue to devote all of their required 5% contribution to community programming. Moreover, smaller licensed BDUs could also benefit from the Policy, as BDUs will now be authorized to reallocate funds currently devoted to community programming in larger markets to the production of community programming in smaller markets, based on established needs.

Yours sincerely,

Scott Hutton
Executive Director, Broadcasting

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