ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing January 28, 2016
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: January 28, 2016
© Copyright Reserved
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 resuming on Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 9:02 a.m.
4913 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l'ordre, s'il vous plait.
4914 Madame la secrétaire.
4915 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Thank you. Before we begin, I would just like to announce that tomorrow the hearing will start at 8:30. And now we will start with the presentation of St. Andrews Community Channel.
4916 Please introduce yourself and you have 10 minutes.
4917 MR. PATRICK WATT: Good morning Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Patrick Watt, and on behalf of the Board of directors and volunteers, we thank you for this opportunity to tell you about our experience in fostering community programming at the St. Andrews Community Channel.
4918 I’ve been involved with community television for 30 years in New Brunswick. Twenty (20) of those years was as an employee of the BDU-operated community channel in Fredericton with Fundy Cable, Shaw and then Rogers. I also worked a time with Maclean Hunter channel 22 while going to college in Ottawa in 1990. This all to say I’ve been exposed to many different approaches to BDU community programming. For the last 10 years, it’s been with St. Andrews Community Channel.
4919 In 2005 the volunteers at the St. Andrews cable channel carried by Rogers sparked my interest when they decided to obtain an over-the-air licence. St. Andrews Community Channel had been established in 1993, but Rogers was threatening imminent closure due to the interconnection of their cable systems. The volunteers were told that their town-specific channel would be replaced with the Rogers community channel from the City of Saint John.
4920 The Town of Saint Andrews has a population of 1,900. It’s the smallest of three towns located in Charlotte County in the south west corner of New Brunswick, about 100 kilometres from either Fredericton or Saint John.
4921 Over-the-air distribution offered to solve three problems for the St. Andrews volunteers. Audience fragmentation, we were the only community channel among 33 analog channels offered to the town by cable up until 2010, so many of the residents by that time had switched to DTH. Over-the-air would ensure that community content would be shared with the entire town.
4922 Two, mandatory carriage on the cable system. And three, increased ad revenue, we hoped, due to the larger viewership. Since Rogers did not financially support our cable-only station, we needed a larger audience to sell ads to.
4923 What now we call CHCO-TV or Charlotte County Television, went on the air in November 2006. And as it turned out, it’s not possible to survive on the few thousand dollars we are able to raise in ad revenue per year. We survive on infrequent grants as well, and a TV bingo program that has been very popular. In fact, so popular we use it as a platform to read community announcements between games and present news headlines.
4924 Other programs include: historical interviews with seniors; an hour-long current affair program; a sports call-in show; Fundy Tidings, which is a 30-minute in-studio interview show covering local organizations; Artisans around Charlotte County; The Mark Taylor Show profiles interesting people.
4925 We also are out in the community regularly covering events such as Remembrance Day ceremonies in St. Stephen, parades, local political debates preceding elections, high school basketball and hockey and other sports when we have the people power.
4926 Here’s a quick sample of the programming that we do.
(VIDEO PRESENTATION/PRÉSENTATION VIDÉO)
4927 MR. PATRICK WATT: CHCO-TV has also always covered Saint Andrews’ town council monthly meetings. Since being carried on Bell TV, we have also broadcast municipal council meetings for Grand Manan Island, which is also part of Charlotte County. Grand Manan once had its own independent community channel on cable, but due to technical hardships and lack of financial support from Rogers, and a dwindling cable audience, has decided to share its programs with CHCO.
4928 We would like to thank Bell TV for our expanded reach in southern New Brunswick. It has been an unexpected bonus to be available in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John, but most importantly to the many rural residents without cable who had never experienced community TV before.
4929 Community television volunteers who once operated a community channel in the Village of Harvey near Fredericton, have also begun producing programs for CHCO-TV. The Harvey community channel, along with five other self-supporting stations, were closed when their cable systems were interconnected in 2009 and ‘10.
4930 At the same time, the two head ends that used to serve the two other towns in our county, St. Stephen and St. George, were also eliminated and the head end in St. Andrews became the head end for the county.
4931 We of course assumed this would mean that our signal would be distributed across the county, and that residents in those towns having lost their own channels, would at least have the benefit of seeing and contributing to our channel.
4932 By a bizarre twist, however, Rogers was able to have the original St. Stephen and St. George licensed areas grandfathered, so that even though they were no longer -- they no longer retained their own head ends and were served by that head end in St. Andrews, they are considered to be separate cable systems and do not have to carry our signal.
4933 So in effect, not only had Rogers deliberately shut down a half of dozen of formerly self-supporting independent non-profit community stations, they had effectively quarantined the one remaining channel in the county.
4934 After months of negotiations turned disputes with Rogers Cable, it became a breath of fresh air to the residents of the county for CHCO to be picked up by Bell.
4935 There are many seemingly small loopholes that can make it insurmountable for stations such as ours to operate in the larger telecom world.
4936 We support CACTUS’ proposal for funding for independent non-profit community channels. In Charlotte County, CHCO-TV is the last remaining community channel production facility within 100 kilometres, yet four BDUs sell services within our town and county.
4937 With additional funding, we would hire staff. We’d ideally like 2 to 3 in order to sustain more regular programming, and be able to conduct more concerted outreach and training to bring in programming ideas and crew.
4938 We are disappointed to hear that some BDUs would like to cut back on access programming in order to create a local news fund. If such a fund were set up, however, not-for-profit independent community broadcasters such as ourselves should be eligible, because we serve smaller markets than any of the other payers might consider. If we don’t serve them, who might? Or, if BDUs are allowed to shift resources into professional local news production at their community channels, the content should be made available free over the air.
4939 Funds collected for local reflection by BDUs are intended for the public benefit, not only for the benefit of their own subscribers.
4940 One of, if not the biggest, failure of the BDU community channel model is the lack of audience access. Where BDU community production facilities exist, they might be state of the art, but it’s a serious limitation if community producers can access only a fraction of their community.
4941 How long would a local channel such as City TV survive if only it were available on Rogers? Therefore, how can a community channel build an audience if it’s only available on one BDU?
4942 As a small independent broadcaster that is expected to survive on ad sales, we feel further that it constitutes undue preference when City TV Toronto is readily available with local simultaneous substitution privileges throughout New Brunswick, while CHCO TV, the Province’s only independent channel of any kind, community or otherwise, is severely restricted in its reach by Rogers.
4943 We therefore support and helped develop CACTUS’ recommendations for the distribution of community television as well as its funding proposals.
4944 In conclusion, we find ourselves caught in limbo between being an independent small-market broadcaster expected to survive on ads, a model which the SMITS Coalition have eloquently pointed out is no longer sustainable, yet having to fulfill a community training and dialogue role that goes far beyond the expectations for the private sector.
4945 Moving forward, we had hoped the Commission would recognize that the currently licensed independent community channels like CHCO TV are examples of exceptional stewardship as very few of us survive only because of our passionate people with no corporate agenda and, oddly, no funding.
4946 Thank you for your time and I welcome your questions.
4947 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Watt.
4948 Commissioner Simpson.
4949 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Good morning.
4950 MR. PATRICk WATT: Good morning.
4951 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I would like to first better understand some of the challenges and focuses of CHCO because you are a hybrid of sorts ---
4952 MR. PATRICK WATT: Right.
4953 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: -- being a low power over the air.
4954 And although you identify yourself as a community channel, you have a wider range of communities that you serve.
4955 And so how do you approach community programming when it perhaps can’t be as local as you would like it to be but still be relevant to each of the communities you serve?
4956 MR. DAVID WATT: Well, Charlotte County in southwestern New Brunswick have a lot in common. So the people that do come to our station and use our facilities are close by, so we end up naturally producing programming for that area generally.
4957 So it’s just -- the people that come through the door end up producing the programs and we end up producing the programming that people want to watch, and Charlotte County has a lot in common even though they are, technically, I suppose, three separate towns.
4958 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: What is the driving distance or the time required to go between ---
4959 MR. DAVID WATT: Those three towns?
4960 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Those three towns, yeah.
4961 MR. DAVID WATT: It’s about, from either of those two towns to St. Andrews it would be 15-20 minutes.
4962 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. I’m thinking about testimony the other day where in greater Vancouver, where I live, it’s a big footprint, something like 55 kilometres from northwest to southeast and it takes the better part of an hour sometimes to get from one end to the other, not to mention the parking problem.
4963 Continuing on with the questions of programming, in looking at your website, I see that your structured programs are definitely focusing on areas of commonality, but when it comes to your news, that’s a different animal.
4964 And I’m wondering, given that we’ve heard so much about the cost of news being as high as it is and the financial support of news is disappearing, talk to me about how you’re programming news in a relevant way and how you’re dealing with the costs of gathering and producing news that’s relevant to all your service area?
4965 MR. PATRICK WATT: Well, currently the newscast that we do that you saw a clip of, it’s only three minutes long and it’s done once a week and it’s done in partnership, I suppose, with the local paper. We have access to their news at the end of that report. So he says pick up the newspaper for more details on these stories. If we happen to be out and volunteers are available with cameras, they’ll try to grab a soundbite and clips, and we add those to the little cast.
4966 So we look at is as, you know, a very simple newscast, but it wasn’t all that long ago I remember watching CBC News from Montreal when I was in college and it was just a newsreader with no clips and stories. It was the late-night news, of course, but you know, we don’t have a budget for news, so we do the best with what we have.
4967 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: In your written submission back in November, one of the first questions that was asked of all the intervenors is how should local programming be defined?
4968 And your answer was that local programming is any programming that is produced and broadcast and relevant to a defined community and not to be confused with community programming.
4969 MR. PATRICK WATT: Right. So ---
4970 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Could you sort of unpack that for me a bit?
4971 MR. PATRICK WATT: I guess -- let’s see -- well, I guess it was in local programming as referring to commercial local television, I guess, is what we were answering in that. That should be relevant to a given community, but local community public access programming would be produced by a volunteer.
4972 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: It was actually -- I should have perhaps shortened the question. The first question was how should local programming be defined?
4973 MR. PATRICK WATT: Right.
4974 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And the second part was how should local news be defined? So I think local programming was trying to wrap its arms around community programming of an un-news nature, so I was trying to keep to that focus. So if I confused you, I apologize.
4975 But I’m trying to understand; it seems to me that what you’re saying, not putting words in your mouth, but that while perhaps our focus and what we hear from other intervenors is that community programming has got to be closer to the audience both in its ability to gather and create and produce relevant community programming, you’re saying, “No, not so much” in that local programming is local because of the subject matter, not as sort of where it’s gathered and created.
4976 And are you suggesting that we should widen our definition?
4977 MR. PATRICK WATT: No, actually, I didn’t mean that at all, I’m sorry.
4978 Community local programming should be programing that is produced by an individual within the community.
4979 We do have a gentleman that does one program that does travel from Fredericton. I mean, it is a trek, but he finds working with us fun. He’s able to do his program. I guess one could question whether that is a community program, but it is a volunteer in that case who does not get paid for what he does and he uses our public access facilities for creating his programming. So I guess I would think that is a community program in that case.
4980 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: M’hm. And ---
4981 MR. PATRICK WATT: I guess that was an extreme case that we happen to be having right now.
4982 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And so you would encourage any community that wants to come into your environment?
4983 MR. PATRICK WATT: We would certainly welcome it. If there’s someone out there that wants to have our audience and express a story, we’re not going to turn them away.
4984 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: The Village of Harvey is what I was thinking of.
4985 MR. PATRICK WATT: Sure. I mean, they’re a 30-minute drive from St. Andrews. They’re on the route between Fredericton and St. Andrews, so they are within the municipal district of Southwest New Brunswick, and they’re smaller, so they feel more comfortable with ---
4986 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Are there restrictions because you’re a linear broadcaster that if you do have more success with other communities wanting to come forward with content, that you run out of -- run out of hours in the broadcasting day and, if so, have you thought about VOD or is that something that you can’t -- is that a hill you can’t climb because of costs?
4987 MR. PATRICK WATT: Right now it seems to be a hill that we’re having trouble climbing. We do put stuff on the internet or on Youtube from time to time to try to help with that request that we certainly do get.
4988 If our community channel or if independent community programming becomes that popular we would hope to help foster another studio or a station in Fredericton, or Saint John, or Moncton, or Bathurst to help set them up.
4989 I mean, I think it’s a shame that we do have that volunteer that does have to travel. And actually we’re working out -- or he’s working out, you know, an arrangement with one of the local colleges to maybe do some programming there and record it and save a little travel.
4990 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Just following on the YouTube idea for example, it’s getting easier to create content -- user generated content.
4991 MR. WATT: Sure.
4992 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And you can create a channel for CHCO on YouTube ---
4993 MR. WATT: Right.
4994 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: --- so it could be more easily discovered.
4995 You had referenced that you are eligible for some funding. In your presentation you said “We survive on infrequent grants” for example. What money
4997 MR. WATT: Those are maybe the town hall or a local -- the Fundy Community Organization has given us a little bit of money from here and there, very small sums. I mean, less than $1,000.
4998 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Have you ever tried to mount a campaign to go after funds that would aid in technical education so that more of your community could generate content for you and perhaps, you know, through post-secondary funding schemes and so on?
4999 MR. WATT: We haven’t yet but we are talking to some post-secondary education -- the universities and college is hoping to create a mechanism.
5000 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. On funding, I think it was not -- in not too distant past that you had made an application to the Commission for joining the small market fund and we didn’t think that was such a good idea. I don’t want to ask you about how you feel about that decision, but ---
5001 MR. WATT: Right. Actually, we didn’t -- I may have inquired about it but I never made a formal application.
5002 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: That’s why I was approaching it gingerly because, you know, I couldn’t recall myself whether there had actually been an application or an expression of interest.
5003 MR. WATT: Right.
5004 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So my question is this, we’re looking at -- we’ve heard appeals for the small market fund to be looked at, and one of the complexities is that not so small broadcasters in not so small markets are finding similarities to the small market -- small broadcasters -- and are either wanting to get into that fund or are now.
5005 Is this a fund that you feel that we still should be looking at to perhaps wrap the over-the-air low power stations into as well?
5006 MR. WATT: Well, I believe so. My understanding of that it kind of derives from the satellite subscriptions and the satellite companies do sell subscriptions in our town or in our county.
5007 So I wonder whether if these low power television stations existed before satellite, you know, came to be in the late 90s whether it would have been included anyways but it just happens that we were licensed after the fact or the policy came in in 2002 I guess.
5008 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Before I go to my next question on funding, I just want to go back to something I missed on access.
5009 With the regulations that you live by as a low powered community station, what are your access requirements, if any, under our legislation?
5010 MR. WATT: I’m sorry; the ---
5011 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, the community stations that are BDU operated have a requirement of local programming as a percentage of the overall that they do, and then within that local programming there’s a percentage and it’s about 50 percent ---
5012 MR. WATT: Right.
5013 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: --- for access programming, but the community has access to the technical facilities and the air time.
5014 Do you have that?
5015 MR. WATT: Well, I believe we do, but all of our -- the programs that we do are generated by volunteers.
5016 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yes.
5017 MR. WATT: We don’t -- and our whole board is volunteers. So I guess we looked at that as that everything that we do is an access program I guess.
5018 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, the reason why I asked it the way I did is that a lot of access programming on BDU operated community stations are ad hoc quite often. You know, they’re single issue, single effort. And because you’re more of a broadcaster and taking on all the -- you’ve got the mechanics of over-the-air broadcasting and sort of some of the operational trappings, you’ve sort of institutionalized a lot of this programming to the extent that I’m wondering if there’s any left for the ad hoc groups to come in, like the Harvey’s of this world.
5019 MR. WATT: Well, certainly we would always make room. We have a time slot during the week that’s just called “CHCO Presents”, for instance, so that if something does come up we would certainly help the community get that on television and have it scheduled accordingly.
5020 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So you’ve got a window.
5021 MR. WATT: Sometimes we even pre-empt other programs to see to it that things make it on the air.
5022 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Back to the funding, we’ve heard that -- we’ve seen submissions in the record so far that local news is important, it’s up over 80 percent, local information is important, it’s up over 50 percent.
5023 You are doing three minutes of news a week, did you say?
5024 MR. WATT: Yes.
5025 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: We’ve heard from conventional broadcasters that news is important; news used to attract advertising but not so much anymore, but news also costs a tremendous amount of money.
5026 Are you interested in doing more news, and if so would you feel that you should be eligible for the news fund?
5027 MR. WATT: I feel that we should be eligible if we can do the -- do what’s required. I don’t see us competing with the CTV and Global or CBC newscasts that do get into New Brunswick as local programs. You know, we would certainly probably just do the other stories that are around the county or within reach, where volunteers would assist or facilities that exist to create -- and I don’t know if it would start off to be -- if we had funding it may only be a five minute three days a week cast and it hopefully would grow.
5028 I mean, we’d have to do it in steps at this level. We wouldn’t jump into a half hour news cast, and we certainly wouldn’t have the network associations to pick up other stories from CNN or other regions to fill out a whole hour’s worth of news that I guess we would normally see in other newscasts.
5029 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: But given the demonstrated desire by communities to have more local news, if you could you would. Is that safe to say?
5030 MR. WATT: I think we would give it a shot, sure, yeah.
5031 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: You’ve said earlier that you pretty much ascribe to the CACTUS proposal, which I think makes it pretty clear with respect to your support of the mechanics and the funding and so on of CACTUS’ proposal.
5032 But I’m curious about one thing, and that’s to do with the -- their proposal and ones that we’ve been looking at from other intervenors, that there has to be a real separation between church and state; that there needs to be a toughening of the advisory board so that there is real shared governance. And I’m wondering how that impacts your present model.
5033 Do you have an advisory board?
5034 MR. WATT: Yes.
5035 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And would you be willing to share the governance of your station with a broader interest?
5036 Because the CACTUS proposal I think was designed not so much with low powered community stations in mind. And there’s got to be some adjustment to that proposal to work with your present system.
5037 MR. WATT: Right. I think the community is small enough, the board members that we have are on other boards already throughout town and other communities for that matter. We have a councillor from Grand Manan on our board. We have a person from Harvey. These people are -- they guide the station gently and, you know, and if they get their hands in it they’re working behind the scenes with everybody else.
5038 I think we can manage not adopting, but accepting any input into the station and how it might develop.
5039 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: You’d take a greater good position?
5040 MR. WATT: Yeah, I’d think so.
5041 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: I’m going to end my questioning with, sort of, where I began and it gets back to definitions. One of the other questions we asked was, is regulatory intervention needed to foster local programming by both the private and community elements of the broadcasting system and to ensure the presence of local programming? And your opening sentence caught my eye. You said the first step is a clear and agreed upon definition of local programming, and that’s where we started this session this morning.
5042 MR. WATT: Right.
5043 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And I’d like to go back to that again. You said that certain regulations need to be in place because in many cases local channels an BDU community channels are operated under the same parent branding. What did you mean by that and where -- and how do you -- what’s your guidance with respect to clearing up the definition of local programming?
5044 MR. WATT: I think that answer -- and I thought I heard another intervenor in the last couple of days talk about a community channel or a news station -- local news, being operated out of the same facility as a community channel. And I guess I wondered, or we wondered, how that -- you know, in looking at that question, how you would make that separation, you know, could volunteers end up doing news for a commercial channel? And we just thought that that should be clear, that maybe that shouldn’t, you know, in some regard, if you’re -- if it’s a commercial channel they’ve got a job and community television has a job.
5045 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And the second part of this, to close, is that I’m still a little unsure as to whether your position is that you don’t necessarily have to have local presence to be local. Because that’s part of the definition and --
5046 MR. WATT: No, no. I’m -- we would need to have -- as far as a community channel?
5047 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Well, in your instance you’re -- you serve many communities.
5048 MR. WATT: Right.
5049 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And you’re doing a little bit of what you were saying is the problem with Rogers, in they’re trying to be all -- you know, one size fits all.
5050 MR. WATT: Right.
5051 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And yet, by your -- the structure --
5052 MR. WATT: Right.
5053 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: -- of how you reach the communities, you have to do the same thing?
5054 MR. WATT: Well, if our budget allowed and if we did have more funding, either we would like to see equipment being placed in other libraries and our equipment or in the libraries in St. Stephen, St. George, Grand Manan. Grand Manan does have some equipment. Harvey does have stuff because they used to run the channels, and if -- again, we would like to help these communities have the equipment in their -- within their community and they may be small enough that right now one channel is enough to upload those programs to.
5055 If again, like I guess I said earlier, if we were producing that many programs and we needed to have a CHCO2 in -- or another channel completely independent, yet again in St. Stephen or St. George, or Harvey, or Grand Manan, so be it. It’s -- if we were -- for now if we are fostering that and helping other communities maintain what they can do, and if it grows great. You know, I -- we don’t want to be the independent community channel for New Brunswick. But for the time being, if we can give anybody ideas in the rest of the province, I think that would be beneficial.
5056 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Take a leadership role if you can’t actually do it yourself? One more question, if you’ll indulge me. You’re limited to 12 minutes an hour right now in terms of commercial time.
5057 MR. WATT: Yes. That’s --
5058 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And what’s --
5059 MR. WATT: We don’t sell that.
5060 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah. What’s your -- without telling stories out of school, what’s your percentage of inventory that you are able to sell on average?
5061 MR. WATT: Oh, I think we are -- we may be running four commercials right now.
5062 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: You’re living on Bingo?
5063 MR. WATT: Pardon me?
5064 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And you’re living on Bingo?
5065 MR. WATT: And we’re living on Bingo.
5066 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Thank you.
5067 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Commissioner Molnar?
5068 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. Good morning.
5069 MR. WATT: Good morning.
5070 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: One of the intervenors who was with us earlier this week said something that has stuck with me, and they said there are -- there is content that members of the community want to produce and there’s content that members of the community want to see, and it’s not always the same. Would you agree with that?
5071 MR. WATT: Sure.
5072 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So for an effective community television, what would you see to be the primary objective, the content that members want to produce, or the content that members want to see?
5073 MR. WATT: So far we have never refused anything. So if people want to produce something I would give it -- I think we would -- as a channel, we would give them the chance to do it. If they would like to see -- if they have an idea, they -- everybody should have a chance to give an idea a try. Does that --
5074 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But there are -- there are different platforms on which you can put content. What do you think should be the primary objective of a linear broadcasting channel, anything people want to produce, let them put it on and broadcast it?
5075 MR. WATT: Well, I think so because if a community member would like to tell a story, and they feel that the audience they want to tell that story to is on television, then I believe that they should be given that opportunity to tell it.
5076 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. One of the things I noted and you clearly outlined the challenges, the financial challenges with --
5077 MR. WATT: Right.
5078 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- running your community channel. How is it in obtaining the grants and moving to weekly Bingo and so on? You must have a pitch, if you will, you know, in order to secure the funding that you have today. When you go into the community, the community is supporting you.
5079 MR. WATT: Right.
5080 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And how is it -- what are the measures, or what is the message that you give to your community to secure their support?
5081 MR. WATT: We don’t have to pitch all that hard. It’s a small county. They all know what we’re trying to do and when they have the means to help out, different organizations usually do in a very small way. So we have never really pitched outside the province, or outside the county, I suppose, to this point for that type of support. So --
5082 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So the grants just come? The advertisers just come to you?
5083 MR. WATT: As I mentioned earlier -- well, the -- a volunteer will go around from business to business. We all talk about it when people do learn we have advertising and they’ll give it a try or they won’t. Before we were on Bell it was a little more difficult to go into St. Stephen and promote the idea of advertising. We weren’t on Rogers. It’s now hard to sell advertising in St. Stephen for that reason.
5084 I guess I started to talk about that the other day that we’re not -- being not on Rogers we’ve -- we had someone call us the other day. They had switched from Bell to Rogers and they had gotten used to watching us and didn’t realize that we weren’t available on the other channel. So that still creates an issue for us because businesses will ask, you know, I know my friends are on this television service, or that.
5085 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Let me ask my question maybe a little --
5086 MR. WATT: Sorry, if I --
5087 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- more clearly. No, no.
5088 MR. WATT: Okay.
5089 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I’m asking questions around what I really want to and so I’m going to say it a little more directly. The model you have today essentially requires you to be very responsive to your community, because you’re dependent on your community for funding. Moving to the CACTUS model, it wouldn’t appear that you would have any dependence on your community for funding.
5090 Do you think it would be appropriate that community centres, community television in your case, continue to be responsible to secure some of their own funding as a way to ensure their responsibility to the community and the support of their community?
5091 MR. WATT: Sure.
5092 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes?
5093 MR. WATT: Yes.
5094 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: What do you think might be an appropriate sort of allocation?
5095 MR. WATT: I would -- well, we may have more ability with extra funding to seek out additional funding, I guess.
5096 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M'hm.
5097 MR. PATRICK WATT: I guess I could reply to that written -- in the written form.
5098 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Sure, if you want to think about it a little more, but thank you. That was my question.
5100 MR. PATRICK WATT: Thank you.
5101 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner MacDonald?
5102 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good morning.
5103 MR. PATRICK WATT: Good morning.
5104 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Just a couple of questions for my own clarity.
5105 And I have no hard numbers to support this, but knowing a little bit about the demographics and the average age of the residents in New Brunswick and in Charlotte County, would it be a safe assumption, in your view, that the viewership tends to skew more towards watching your programming on television versus on some type of online platform?
5106 MR. PATRICK WATT: It may be. We do other -- some of the programs, the sports call-in show, isn’t necessarily -- well it’s a call-in show so you’d have to -- it’s more of a youth oriented -- or a younger audience, I suppose, for that program.
5107 And it’s interactive on television so it would be kind of hard to participate in that online, as a -- as an uploaded program.
5108 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: But you do -- you mention that you upload some of your content to YouTube. Do you upload everything?
5109 MR. PATRICK WATT: Not everything, no.
5110 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And you mention that you have a partnership with the local paper. I assume The St Croix Courier?
5111 MR. PATRICK WATT: That’s right. I mean they give us a subscription so that we can read their headlines.
5112 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5113 Have they ever expressed sort of in the interest of having, you know, the most number of eyeballs on your content as possible, is there any -- have they ever expressed an interest in perhaps -- I know they have a professional website that they -- that they maintain with news content, linking to some of your stories, be they news or articles of, you know, that are very reflective of the community or conversations with seniors or exposés on particular communities within the region?
5114 MR. PATRICK WATT: I’m sorry your question is that they’re ---?
5115 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I’m just sort of wondering how formal that relationship is and whether -- I mean obviously they’ll give you a subscription, that’s where you get your news content.
5116 Have they ever expressed interest in providing links to some of your videos on their online platform?
5117 MR. PATRICK WATT: We haven’t gone that far. There was a link, I believe, on their website to our website.
5118 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5119 MR. PATRICK WATT: And I think that’s where it stands.
5120 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay and just one final question and sort of along the lines of preserving content, what do you do in terms of like a content library where you maintain these videos?
5121 Because I’m thinking, you know, along the lines of your conversations with seniors or videos that are doing a short historical documentary on the McAdam Train Station or something like that.
5122 MR. PATRICK WATT: Right.
5123 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: That’s content that I think people would want preserved for the long term.
5124 MR. PATRICK WATT: Right.
5125 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And I’m just wondering what if any steps you’ve taken to ensure that that content remains?
5126 MR. PATRICK WATT: I’ve been accused of being a pack rat.
5127 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5128 MR. PATRICK WATT: So we have almost everything -- well we would have, I believe, everything that we’ve ever produced. Sometimes it’s on DVD.
5129 We have boxes of VHS cassettes dating back to 1993, which right now we have a volunteer working with the library to go through it, convert some of that stuff to a digital format and store it at the library in town.
5130 So we’re working on a method to make that stuff available.
5131 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, perfect thank you.
5132 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Watt. I believe those are all our questions.
5133 MR. PATRICK WATT: Thank you.
5134 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire?
5135 LA SECRÉTAIRE: I would now ask Rogers Communications to come to the presentation table.
5136 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Please introduce yourself when you’re ready and you have 10 minutes.
5137 MR. DAVID WATT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, commissioners. My name is David Watt. With me today to my right is Pam Dinsmore; to my left is Colette Watson, Vice-President, T.V. and Broadcast Operations.
5138 Next is Rick Brace, President Media Business Unit and to Rick’s left is Susan Wheeler.
5139 In the back row starting from my right is Peter Kovacs, next is Vic Maghakian, directly behind me from Rogers Community T.V. is Julie Henson, Marlene Lone and from Rogers Television, Janice Smith, Vice President National Sales and Dave Budge General Manager, City News.
5141 MS. WATSON: Rogers is uniquely positioned to provide insight into this hearing.
5142 We operate English language over the air stations, multicultural stations and community channels across the country in markets of every size.
5143 From the community center rink to municipal council chambers, on location at neighborhood festivals and at the school down the street, our community channels go where broadcasters don’t.
5144 In many of these communities Rogers T.V. is the only local television service and those Canadians in particular, like what they see.
5145 We’ve found an effective way to produce local, timely and relevant programming. We give access to those who want to reach local viewers.
5146 We provide hands on training each year to thousands of volunteers, and in doing so, we’ve become a talent incubator for the Canadian Broadcasting System and as importantly, a valued local service for those who would otherwise go without.
5147 Let me give you a sense of what that looks like.
5148 MS. WATSON: As you can see from the video and the comments received through the CRTC’s online forum, Canadians are passionate about what we do.
5149 MR. DAVID WATT: In our written submission, we proposed a model for local programming that was designed to address the well documented challenges facing conventional television.
5150 We provided a model that would allow companies operating both local television stations and community channels to reallocate resources from major markets to smaller, underserved and underfunded centers.
5151 With certain safeguards in place, this would ensure all Canadians are able to access local programming. Reflecting the discussion yesterday, with Cogeco principally, this would be a vertically integrated approach and would eliminate the need for a fund.
5152 We believe this is the right solution. The working document the Commission issued two weeks ago highlighted a different initiative.
5153 It proposed as a possible approach, a new fund to support local news and information programming and identified incentives for delivery this type of programming in underserved markets on community channels.
5154 So we went back to the drawing board and considered how these initiatives could work in a way that balances the needs and benefits of both the local and community sectors.
5155 Our proposal has four elements. First, all licensed cable and IPTV distributors would continue to devote 5 percent of their annual revenues to Canadian programming on the following basis: 3 percent to eligible production funds; 1.5 percent to the community channel; and .5 percent to a new Local News and Information Fund.
5156 Our proposal would harmonize the contributions that all licensed cable and IPTV distributors make to local expression. For cable BDUs, this would represent, in many cases, a 25 percent reduction in funding. Any further reduction would undermine the goal of ensuring that all Canadians receive local news and information programming that meets their needs and the broader objectives to be fulfilled by community TV.
5157 The second element of our proposal is a requirement for all community channels, where they hold the rights, to make their local programming available on both linear and digital platforms.
5158 This is consistent with the Commission’s multiplatform objective. It could be done through a curated YouTube channel, a dedicated app or some other means. Access to this digital offering would be made available to anyone connected to the Internet.
5160 MS. WATSON: The third element of our proposal would require community channels to make minimum commitments to local news and information programming in markets that are not served by a private local television station. In exchange for these commitments, a distributor’s community channels could pool their contributions to local expression and reduce their access programming obligations.
5161 Notre initiative de regroupement permettrait aux distributeurs d’attribuer une portion du financement provenant de marchés plus importants aux chaînes communautaires des petits centres. Cette approche est similaire à celle du modèle d’attribution de licences par groupe. Quinze (15) des 41 chaînes de Rogers devraient donc s’engager à diffuser 3,5 heures de nouvelles et d’émissions d’information locales originales par semaine. Ainsi, dans des endroits comme Moncton, Corner Brook et Owen Sound, les Canadiens pourraient accéder à des nouvelles et à des émissions d’information véritablement locales.
5162 En matière de programmation d’accès, les distributeurs qui s’engagent à diffuser des nouvelles et des émissions d’information locales pourraient par ailleurs réduire les exigences en matière de présentation de programmation d’accès et de dépenses à 30 pourcent.
5163 Cette mesure s’appliquerait dans toutes les zones desservies par les distributeurs et permettrait une augmentation de l’investissement dans les nouvelles et les émissions d’information locales.
5164 MR. BRACE: Thank you, Colette.
5165 The final element of our proposal is the creation of the new Local News and Information Fund, or LNIF, that would be financed by licensed cable and IPTV distributors. Each distributor would reallocate .5 percent of its current contribution to the LNIF. The value of the Fund would be approximately $33 million.
5166 Our proposal would not have any impact on exempt BDUs, which would be permitted to continue to devote the full 5 percent to their community channels.
5167 We also propose to maintain a revised version of the Small Market Local Programming Fund. DTH distributors would increase their contribution to .5 percent in order to be consistent with terrestrial BDUs. All private independent television stations would be able to access this fund.
5168 The objective of the LNIF would be to support the broadcast of local news and information programming on multiple platforms. This includes programs drawn from Categories 1, 2 and 3, in English, French, or a third language.
5169 Every VI and CBC/SRC local station would be eligible to receive money from the LNIF.
5170 The money would be allocated on a 30/70 basis between stations operating in French and English-language markets. Then, within each allocation, the amount of money each group of stations would receive from the LNIF would be based on its portion of the industry’s total local advertising revenues. It is simple, easy to administer, and would reward success.
5171 In addition, a local TV station that operates under a group licence would have to make a local programming expenditure commitment in order to access the LNIF. In effect, the current Canadian Programming Expenditure (CPE) for each group’s OTA TV stations would be changed to a “Local Programming Expenditure” (LPE).
5172 The result of the Fund would be to sustain local programming expenditures despite revenue declines in the conventional television sector. For some groups, LNIF funding may represent new investments in local news and information programming. For others, it will allow them to sustain the current expenditures in local news and information programming that would otherwise not be possible given revenue declines.
5173 MR. WATT: Rogers has put a lot of thought into what the best approach is to meet the Commission’s stated objective.
5174 We have outlined a comprehensive proposal that responds to your Working Document.
5175 To be clear, we still believe that the best way to meet the challenges of the future is to adopt our first proposal. We are eager to embrace the future, and to evolve the delivery of local news and information to the benefit of all Canadians.
5176 Thank you. We would be pleased to answer your questions.
5177 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
5178 I’m going to mention I’m happy to see so many women on your panel. In fact, it may be the high watermark in terms of the number of women not only on panels but on the front row of those panels, and it’s not even 2015 anymore.
5179 THE CHAIRPERSON: But it is a big panel, and I sure hope there’s a lot of people back home actually running your media assets right now.
5180 So there’s a lot here. Just to help you see where I’m heading, I’m going to start on the cable side and then move to more the media side in terms of my questions.
5181 Just so we can properly frame our discussion here, how many subs do you have, ballpark?
5182 MR. WATT: 1.9 million cable subs, subscribers.
5183 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And how many systems?
5184 MR. WATT: Systems -- we have 116 systems, many of them quite small. Licensed systems, we have 16; exempt systems, we have 100.
5185 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And by system -- a system would have common programming offerings, I would think?
5186 MS. WATSON: Not necessarily.
5187 THE CHAIRPERSON: Not necessarily?
5188 MS. WATSON: Not necessarily, no.
5189 THE CHAIRPERSON: A common head-end?
5190 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5191 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So that’s how you’re defining it.
5192 And how many communities would that cover?
5193 MS. WATSON: So we could have a philosophical discussion about what is your definition of community. Is it a municipality? Is it the Girl Guide community, the minor sports community? But we’re looking at about -- you know, based on the neighbourhoods that form a licence -- 350.
5194 THE CHAIRPERSON: So that’s geographically based on political organizations at the local level?
5195 MS. WATSON: To be honest, it’s more like pre-amalgamated markets. It’s the historical licensing boundaries we’ve had over the years.
5196 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. But would you say that there would be 350 ways of people saying “I’m from x”?
5197 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5198 THE CHAIRPERSON: That would be -- other than being from Canada or Newfoundland or whatever, they would be from that place?
5199 MS. WATSON: Agreed.
5200 MR. KOVACS: And I would -- sorry, I would just add, just to clarify, within our licenced systems, the 350 never reflects that. A given BDU actually serves a number of individuals, small, like towns or villages that fall within a broader -- like surrounding areas of the main serving area.
5201 THE CHAIRPERSON: But would not be within the licensed or exempted territories you serve?
5202 MR. KOVACS: They’re within the territories. It’s just in terms of the commissions, when they’re originally licensed, we identify the various communities that are within -- falling within that BDU boundary.
5203 THE CHAIRPERSON: I see.
5204 MR. KOVACS: Or the previously licensed exempt boundary.
5205 THE CHAIRPERSON: I see.
5206 And I think I picked up in your video that you have 41 community channels. Is that correct?
5207 MS. WATSON: Yes, 41 separate feeds.
5208 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Although there might be some shared programming from time to time.
5209 When you look across all these community systems, community channels, are there differences that are worth noting from a regional or provincial perspective on how you deliver the community channel?
5210 MS. WATSON: Absolutely.
5211 In most of -- in all of the markets we reflect and operate within the local circumstances and the local flavour of the community, funding is the first primary driver of these differences.
5212 The way the funding formula works, you spend what you earn by that market, not necessarily in a pool. So obviously a licence in New Brunswick that has 44 customers will have a lot less money to operate than the GTA licence which has 900,000 customers. So that’s difference number one.
5213 We operate in French and English in a few markets, difference number 2. And the rest is based on staffing levels according to funding, the roll-out of equipment upgrades based on the funding. And -- but in most cases -- I will give you kind of a more ubiquitous stat, we operate at about a 10 to 1 ratio staff to volunteers in most -- in most areas.
5214 And we try to drill down most of the funding to programming, as opposed to management over, you know, as a result of a lot of our reduced funding over the last 5 to 10 years. In fact, Rick just sent me a note saying, “In the last five minutes we’ve gone from 1.9 subscribers to 1.8 million subscribers.”
5215 So we have had a reduction in funding, so we’ve cut at the senior management level, if you will. There are not managers in every systems anymore. We’ve had to regionalize the oversight of these systems in order to keep producers doing programming as a result.
5216 THE CHAIRPERSON: And just to be clear, the 10 to 1 is 10 volunteers to ---
5217 MS. WATSON: To one staff, yes, not the other way around, sorry.
5218 THE CHAIRPERSON: But I understand that your inputs may change, the desires of the community, the amount of money, the French/English realities and the other distinctions, but is your framework different or your approach, your philosophy?
5219 MS. WATSON: No, the approach is -- we take what we do very seriously. We take the policy objectives of the Commission with respect to that very seriously. And so in 2011 you asked us to pivot on how we were doing community programming, and that’s what we did.
5220 So the philosophy was, you know, 50 percent access, 50 percent access spending, and that’s what we’ve done. Every one of them operates with that philosophy. We have always operated with local first, community first, and we just -- it gets executed on a smaller scale depending on the size of the system.
5221 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So how many employees do you have globally ---
5222 MS. WATSON: So we ---
5223 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- that are dedicated to the community cable system?
5224 MS. WATSON: There are 333 heads, which turns out to be about 274 full-time equivalence.
5225 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sorry, 333 ---
5226 MS. WATSON: The head count is 333 people, some part-time, some full-time.
5227 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5228 MS. WATSON: And it turns out -- it works out to 274-75, I forget the actual number.
5229 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, okay. But in terms of FTEs it’s more 333-35. That 333, I guess the individual ---
5230 MS. WATSON: FTEs is 275 ---
5231 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, 2 ---
5232 MS. WATSON: --- and then 333 people. So full-time equivalence is a combination of -- the way we do it is you add the number of part-timers, and that roll ups to be an FTE.
5233 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, my experience has been the other way around, that your FTE count is always smaller that the number of employees you have.
5234 MS. WATSON: Correct. So my FTE count ---
5235 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5236 MS. WATSON: --- is 275, and my headcount is 333.
5237 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Is the ratio of employees, whether we use the FTE or the headcount, largely the same across your systems?
5238 MS. WATSON: No, no, because of the way the funding formula works. So I have more employees -- so there are -- by ratio you mean ratio to ---
5239 THE CHAIRPERSON: To numbers of ---
5240 MS. WATSON: --- programming?
5241 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- number of subscribers in any given system.
5242 MS. WATSON: No.
5243 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it varies?
5244 MS. WATSON: It varies by funding, yes. So ---
5245 THE CHAIRPERSON: Isn't there a point where you can't have fewer than one employee because just the hand won't work?
5246 MS. WATSON: And that's why we regionalize, but -- so the smallest number is 1.5. We have two full-time employees in Edmundston, we have 1.5 in Brantford. You can never go below one, because that person needs to go on vacation and calls in sick sometime, and then -- but what we do is operate out of -- the larger centre will then send people over to help out in those cases.
5247 THE CHAIRPERSON: And in any given year, ballpark, how many volunteers do you have?
5248 MS. WATSON: Twenty-three hundred (2,300).
5249 THE CHAIRPERSON: In your video you described the 2,300 as people you trained. So I had only -- I had assumed that there might have been some returning volunteers. Are you constantly retraining them?
5250 MS. WATSON: There's -- yes, actually we ---
5251 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5252 MS. WATSON: --- we do. And it’s an evolving number, it fluctuates between 25 to 2,300. Again, it’s based on the volume of programming, the less -- if we’ve got a shrink in terms of resources, there are opportunities -- there are fewer opportunities, but we managed to have kept at that level for the last 10 years.
5253 THE CHAIRPERSON: And how do you recruit these volunteers?
5254 MS. WATSON: We start young, we have -- we start -- we go anywhere from day camps in the summer, Dovercourt will have a day camp for 9 to 11-year olds. We have co-op programs with high schools, we have credit programs with community colleges.
5255 And we -- as part of the 2010 framework, you require that we have public meetings minimum once a year. So we’ll have kiosks in malls, community centres, and we’ll have brochures, and we’ll try and run a little loop video and encourage people to sign up. We also have on-air promotions and some promotions in our bill stuffers.
5256 THE CHAIRPERSON: So with that proactive outreach, would you say that you have an oversupply or an undersupply of volunteers?
5257 MS. WATSON: It depends on the market, so -- but we’ve put out 16,000 hours a year for the last several years, so I think -- I think our supply is fine. There are -- there are -- sometimes we run a little low, if you will, on volunteers to do more mobile production, it requires a more skilled volunteer, and so then we focus the outreach to go get that type of volunteer.
5258 THE CHAIRPERSON: When you have an oversupply of volunteers, how do you mediate that?
5259 MS. WATSON: People take turns, it’s just -- it’s like everything, you just -- sometimes you grow the programming, we look for ways to include them, we offer them other opportunities. But for the most part, I would say we balance what we have with the numbers.
5260 I don’t know of one volunteer coordinator who says, “Oh my God, I don’t have enough, I have too many volunteers for Friday night’s OHL game, or for the basketball high school tournament.” We’ll find extra jobs for them, it just means -- you shrink and contract your production.
5261 THE CHAIRPERSON: M'hm.
5262 MS. WATSON: You’ll now have an extra volunteer to do more stats for us, and that produces the -- that enhances the production. If you don’t have that volunteer for next Friday, then we have fewer stats to put on the broadcast.
5263 THE CHAIRPERSON: And the volunteers go -- run the gamut, based on your answer, of all kinds of activities from on-air to behind the camera, to other support functions I guess?
5264 MS. WATSON: Yeah, whatever they choose, they’ll find a niche where they want to focus.
5265 THE CHAIRPERSON: Are you finding that it’s part of the larger ecosystem to train people to go into television or the audiovisual field?
5266 MS. WATSON: Absolutely.
5267 THE CHAIRPERSON: To what extent?
5268 MS. WATSON: Absolutely, it’s -- and that’s not new. Most of the radio television arts students are told by their instructors to come volunteer at a community channel to get some hands-on experience. And our co-op students, we have a very vibrant program here in Ottawa with the French Board, and the teachers very much encourage students to come and learn and do hands-on experience. So we find it very valuable and so do schools. We have -- I think 450 out of those -- or is it 150? One hundred and fifty (150) of those 2,300 who are actively involved in high school credit programs as a result of this.
5269 THE CHAIRPERSON: With respect to access programming, how do you go -- is there -- again, this may vary from system to system, is there -- are you dealing with an oversupply or an undersupply of ideas for access programming?
5270 MS. WATSON: I think, you know, give the Goldilocks answer, it’s a just right supply. It’s fine, we manage. There are -- I’m -- if I can -- if I’m interpreting your question right, is are you getting ---
5271 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m trying to get at how ---
5272 MS. WATSON: --- access requirements?
5273 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well no, how do you manage the requests?
5274 MS. WATSON: It depends on the resources, so we would love to do more in smaller markets, don’t really have them. We probably convert 70 percent of the requests that come in. There are some we turn down because they're just not appropriate or we just can't -- some people want to make a full-fledged film, which we’re not going to be able to do.
5275 And, you know, I’m going to use an example, and I don’t want you -- I wouldn’t want you to take it as flippant, but there are things that we turn down and this is a real example. The blond busty beer can tournament where women would be encouraged to -- you can, you know, think of the rest.
5276 And so we say no to things like that. Maybe they were testing us and having fun with us. But those -- we try and accommodate at least 70 percent -- not at least. We try and accommodate everything but we convert 70 percent of them.
5277 THE CHAIRPERSON: So when you say “we” you’re talking about Rogers?
5278 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5279 THE CHAIRPERSON: What’s the governance around the selection process currently?
5280 MS. WATSON: It’s done at the local level. I don’t see any of them. There are -- most of the management is done by producers themselves who are out in the community, volunteer coordinators, and those volunteer coordinators are tasked with going out and getting access requests or involving the community more.
5281 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would it be correct to say that although there is some governance around who chooses it’s not actually well-defined and it varies from one community to the next?
5282 MS. WATSON: It’s well-defined in that ultimately we own the licence or we are responsible for what goes on, so there is local oversight over all of that.
5283 THE CHAIRPERSON: But there’s no community base consultative committee?
5284 MS. WATSON: No. We used to have advisory boards, Mr. Chair, as you may remember, and we found that they do work, they are well-intentioned, but sometimes they turn out to be, you know, more cable-company focused, they want to talk about packaging, and marketing and things like that. And in some cases -- in a lot of cases, to be frank, they are advocates for special interest groups at the exclusion of others.
5285 And so we use feedback, we use our viewer response line, we use our surveys in order to get feedback for where we fall down, and what’s missing, and what are the voids. Our programming philosophy is to fill the voids.
5286 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I take it from that answer you would not be very supportive of a mandatory community based consultative committees to help you come to the decision you’re coming to as to what access programming is in or out?
5287 Because I’ve been hearing a lot so far, and I’m sure we’ll hear again, of people in the community wanting access and feeling that there’s a barrier to entry.
5288 MS. WATSON: And that -- so the answer to the first part of your question is we’ll embrace whatever decision the Commission makes. We have -- I work with advisory boards at OMNI. It works just fine.
5289 The second part of the answer is it just perplexes me, I don’t understand where that’s coming from; 27,400 groups came through our doors or we went to reach them last year, I’m not sure who’s not getting access.
5290 We are on pretty much every platform. Everyone gets a reply. I’m -- I wish someone could give me a pure real for example.
5291 THE CHAIRPERSON: Moving to another subject matter, and this builds on your notion of trying to get this to a multi-platform environment, so who owns access programming?
5292 MS. WATSON: The access provider owns that programming on all rights. We do have to work contractually with them. We try and help them. We obviously are there -- that’s what we’re there to do. But they need to clear music rights.
5293 We have music libraries that they will use and graphics packages that they will use. In the past we hadn’t cleared a lot of those digital rights so we have to work -- and so sometimes we’ll share the ownership in order to help them in order to facilitate a more immediate upload of that programming so that they don’t have to go out and clear the rights on their own or bear any additional costs with respect to that.
5294 THE CHAIRPERSON: Without falling down the rabbit hole that only a few of us in the world would actually find interesting on the how to clear copyright on this type of programming, wouldn’t it be the case that the chains of title would be actually quite messy when you’ve got a combination of your employees that may have in their terms of employment granted you the rights to a certain of this collaborative work and you have a bunch of other volunteers that may or may not be organized in some sort of corporation owning some other rights?
5295 MS. WATSON: That’s why -- for precisely that reason that’s why we co-own the rights.
5296 There are some examples where we own no digital rights and they will licence them outright, whether it’s the curling associations or the Ontario Hockey League. A lot of university sports now, the Ontario University Association, owns all of those rights and then licences them back to us for linear distribution, usually for no money, but that’s how it works.
5297 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. What other -- well, are there other -- are there regulatory barriers? Regulatory barriers. I’ll ask you about other barriers later. But are there regulatory barriers for you to support, encourage, execute on a multi-platform?
5298 MS. WATSON: No. There are -- I will say the financial structure -- the financial structure framework we work within in the community channel policy could be interpreted in a strict way to be interpreted that it needs to be for the cable linear platform. I think it’s old language. Perhaps it could be updated. But if we’re ---
5299 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, in terms of what is acceptable and not acceptable in terms of ---
5300 MS. WATSON: Spending.
5301 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- a community spend.
5302 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5303 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I get that.
5304 MS. WATSON: That’s it.
5305 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. What other barriers, other than -- wait -- non-regulatory -- are there non-regulatory barriers?
5306 MS. WATSON: No.
5307 THE CHAIRPERSON: Except maybe perhaps copyright I guess that we discussed.
5308 MS. WATSON: Well, copyright and where we own the rights.
5309 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5310 MS. WATSON: So we have a YouTube channel. We -- but we’ve tried -- you know, to be perfectly candid, we operate a community channel in Ottawa, where you all live and watch, and so if we have two -- I’m really worried about if I have too big an online presence will I get a letter from the Commission someday that says, you know, you’re offside on your -- on these financial parameters. So, you know, we’ve been testing the waters with respect to that.
5311 THE CHAIRPERSON: So when you’re suggesting that -- it’s because your presentation talks about us requiring it. Is it really a question of us requiring it or allowing it?
5312 MS. WATSON: Allowing. If we can modernize the language in the framework with respect to financing I think we’re there.
5313 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And be sensitive to maybe inadvertent ---
5314 MS. WATSON: Unintended ---
5315 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, but are platform neutral.
5316 MS. WATSON: Yeah.
5317 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Of the 333-plus employees you have supporting the cable -- community cable activities ---
5318 MS. WATSON: M’hm.
5319 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- are any of them also involved in any of your other activities?
5320 MS. WATSON: Just me.
5321 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You’re the only one in the entire ---
5322 MS. WATSON: Yeah, absolutely.
5323 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5324 MS. WATSON: Absolutely.
5325 THE CHAIRPERSON: So how do you attribute -- or is there an attribution of -- you’ll probably say your far unreasonable remuneration -- to assign it to the 1.5 or two percent depending on what it is in any given system?
5326 MS. WATSON: Up until January 8th, at the risk of being indiscrete, I also had another job, as you may well know, and so they paid me, and I am paid on the media budget not on the community television budget.
5327 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5328 MS. WATSON: I should ---
5329 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is that a result of the -- of accounting rules or it just happens to be that way?
5330 MS. WATSON: It just -- when I took on this new role the budget to pay me moved over to a different line.
5331 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5332 MS. WATSON: I need to correct something. Marlene, who is in the back row, also does some OMNI work for us now.
5333 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So how’s the attribution -- the accounting rules working for that?
5334 MS. WATSON: She is budgeted right now in the community channel, and in 2016 in the backend we’ll move over to the OMNI budget.
5335 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. There are some places across the country -- and I think I’ve had the opportunity to visit in Fredericton if I’m not mistaken
5337 MS. WATSON: Yeah.
5338 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- where you have a bricks and mortar facility, where the community channel has a physical presence, but there’s other offices for other activities of Rogers also in the same building. Would that be correct?
5339 MS. WATSON: That’s correct, yes.
5340 THE CHAIRPERSON: So from an accounting perspective, how do you -- because you’re allowed up to a 40 percent cap on indirect costs. So how do you do the attribution of the costs?
5341 MS. WATSON: Square footage. So we actually measure the square footage and then we get allocated -- we are charged an allocation or we charge an allocation against the community channel indirect expenses based on that square footage.
5342 THE CHAIRPERSON: So for depreciation, heating, maintenance, all the type of costs that would be associated with a bricks and mortar ---
5343 MS. WATSON: Yeah, snow clearing, parking.
5344 THE CHAIRPERSON: And is this ---
5345 MS. WATSON: And just to be clear, Mr. Chair, the depreciation referred to is building depreciation and not ---
5346 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, in this example, of course.
5347 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5348 THE CHAIRPERSON: I have another question on depreciation more broadly in terms of cameras, but we’ll get that in a second.
5349 But in this particular case, there’s an attribution of the costs and some of it goes to the 40 percent cap on indirect costs; is that correct?
5350 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5351 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is there a manual or guides or an accounting practice?
5352 MS. WATSON: Well, there’s an accounting practice. It’s a page long. It doesn’t require a full-on manual, but yes. And all of this has to be audited. We -- you know, our annual reports require that we submit audited returns to you, and that’s what we do.
5353 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5354 Would it be possible for you to share that one-pager on the rules that you use to attribute the costs?
5355 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5357 THE CHAIRPERSON: So that’s a 5th of February undertaking.
5358 When it comes to equipment used specifically for the community channel, let’s say a camera ---
5359 MS. WATSON: M’hm.
5360 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- you update a new digital camera; how does that work from an accounting perspective?
5361 MS. WATSON: Right now, we manage them -- we buy them -- buy equipment -- based on need. Our cap ex budget is assigned by region, but the depreciation is borne by the larger systems. I’ll let David explain the depreciation calculation.
5362 MR. WATT: Colette would buy the equipment, buy the camera, and that camera then would be depreciated over I believe it’s five years for a camera. And that shows up in the depreciation line. So these assets are dedicated to the community channel and our depreciation expense is just a little bit less than $8 million a year.
5363 With regard to the 40 percent number that’s being quoted for indirect expense, just to be absolutely clear, depreciation under the circular is actually identified as a direct expense. Now, on the forms we have to fill out, we show exactly what the depreciation is. But when some parties have been saying we spend almost 40 percent on overhead, that’s absolutely untrue. They’re including the depreciation number in there, which is a direct expense.
5364 And in terms of our indirect expenses, they, for Rogers, are 21 percent of the total $41 million we spend on community channel. If you would exclude depreciation, which is a different type of expense, and just look at operating expenses, indirect expenses are only -- are 17 percent of our expenses.
5365 THE CHAIRPERSON: How difficult is it for you to make a decision to purchase -- and I’m giving the example of a camera just because it just makes it real -- to make those sorts of expenses? But I guess they’re multiplied by a number of upgrades you need to do for whatever reason, technology changes, digital reasons or whatever. Presumably your volunteers want to be working on more modern equipment.
5366 How do you manage the risk of the multiyear -- it’s just a cap, but there’s still an allocation there that you’re allowed to deduct against for community against the bigger 5 percent. So how do you manage that?
5367 MS. WATSON: That’s precisely one of the reasons we would advocate a pooling of funds, because Gander, Newfoundland will never go -- will never get another piece of equipment because of the depreciation hit. And so the smaller the system, as you rightly point out, it becomes a deduction on their operating budget, and if we follow the formula correctly, the smaller the system, the more difficult it is to afford new equipment based on the depreciation.
5368 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that.
5369 I’ll move to another area. We’ve heard a lot from yourselves and other cable operators or BDUs, saying how valuable the community cable presence is to your undertaking. And I’ve pointed out, and I’m sure you will agree with me, that the 1.5 or 2 percent is not a cap. It is a maximum allowance for the 5 percent Canadian content contribution.
5370 Why is it perceived as a cap in terms of actual spend if it is so valuable; it provides a competitive advantage against the other BDUs to be seen as even more in the community?
5371 MS. WATSON: We value what we do. We honour the mandate and the privilege to work within that that framework at the local level, no question.
5372 Is it a differentiator over -- you know, our cable penetration is below 50 percent now. Is it that big a differentiator?
5373 THE CHAIRPERSON: It might be worse if you didn’t have a ---
5374 MS. WATSON: It could be. It could be. It is very valuable, but it is -- in the face of other opportunities to reach a larger, broader audience, other priorities. I don’t know that it could be seen as a wise marketing spend for us to put more money in it at that point in time. There are just more other competing priorities for that.
5375 MR. BRACE: I think, Mr. Chair, that it’s precisely why we want to re-change -- or sorry, change the balance of what we’re doing and it will allow us to allocate more money to various areas.
5376 So we look at a market like Moncton -- and when I first came onboard, you know, just in August, I had an opportunity to visit there, and through the research that was provided, and also having a chance to meet the people in the community, I recognized that in a market like Moncton, where there is no over-the-air, so we’re really the only source for the access to information programming there, that it is tremendously well received.
5377 And so that is why in our proposal we’re looking to rebalance the way we fund in order to really put more emphasis on the areas that are truly underserved. We see that as an opportunity to meet the objectives that we’re trying to achieve here in this hearing and, going forward, I think that we could deliver a much more robust offering in the communities that are underserved.
5378 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you can appreciate I’m exploring other sources of funding, and what you’re saying is it is very unlikely that you would go significantly above whatever the deduction available. Is that correct?
5379 MS. WATSON: Correct.
5380 THE CHAIRPERSON: Even though there may be some value to doing that?
5381 MS. WATSON: There’s value to doing what we do now.
5382 THE CHAIRPERSON: There’s been, in the hearing, some discussion about providing more flexibility with respect to sponsorship. You’re obviously quite active in the advertising market in a number of your properties.
5383 Would your view be that more flexibility in sponsorship, would it unduly affect the advertising market?
5384 MS. WATSON: I’ll start and then ask my colleague Janice to talk about local markets and advertising.
5385 But we’re very proud of what we do. We’re very valuable in many of the markets with what we do, and we generate a little over $1 million a year in sponsorship revenue.
5386 I don’t know that going -- having a call to action would grow that exponentially. I really don’t. Would the added flexibility help? If I look at it from a more holistic perspective, probably not, but I would let the expert talk.
5387 MS. SMITH: Good morning.
5388 From an overall perspective from an ad revenue viewpoint, the revenue potential for community stations is very limited, and it’s limited based on size of the market and the scale and also the economic conditions within those markets.
5389 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
5390 MS. SMITH: Specifically, when we look at, you know -- I could really break it down to three ---
5391 THE CHAIRPERSON: But, just to be clear, my question ---
5392 MS. SMITH: Yeah.
5393 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- related to added flexibility with respect to sponsorship.
5394 MS. SMITH: Yeah.
5395 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I’ll -- let’s make a distinction between sponsorship and advertising. So are you answering with respect to advertising or sponsorship?
5396 MS. SMITH: I was answering with respect to advertising, yes.
5397 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So perhaps let’s finish on ---
5398 MS. SMITH: Yeah.
5399 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- sponsorship and I’ll -- my next question was about advertising. So on sponsorship flexibility.
5400 MS. WATSON: So would that mean full on 30-second commercials? Is that where -- what you're asking ---
5401 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well it’s that the way we define sponsorship under our rules does limit sometimes a small business person from doing the type of sponsorship. And what I want to know from you is that if were we to create more flexibility with that, would -- would it create an impact on the pure advertising market, or is it somebody who’s really not in that game at all?
5402 MS. WATSON: Really the only thing that would -- added flexibility would be the call-to-action, we’re not permitted to have call-to-action right now. Everything else is there, you can have moving video, you can put it -- you can -- moving video was the biggest improvement a few years back.
5403 So really you can't -- you can say, “Joe’s Muffler Shop and located on Main Street”, that’s a sponsorship. Now you can say, “Joe’s Muffler Shop, buy now and save”, would be pretty much the added flexibility to add to us.
5404 The concern -- I guess where I was asking Janice to jump in is precisely the second part of your question is, “If you were to do that, what does that do to the local radio station, the local newspaper, or even over-the-air television?” And that's the part I’m -- I don’t feel equipped to answer about that.
5405 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, so -- and in fact, that gets to -- and I’ll let you answer in a moment ---
5406 MS. WATSON: Yeah.
5407 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- but the real question I’m asking is it -- and I always frame it into unduly effect to the advertising market, because it may have some effect, but our test tends to be whether it’s undue.
5408 Is that -- Joe’s Muffler Shop in your example -- somebody who would actually ever think of going on a television, internet or radio platform?
5409 MS. WATSON: So that Joe’s Muffler Shop would consider internet and radio, absolutely, because the production costs there are zero. So having to bear the cost of producing a commercial, you know, if they want to go slicker with the call-to-action, would probably be cost prohibitive in those markets.
5410 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So, I’ll let you finish your answer.
5411 MS. SMITH: Thank you. And I would just add to what Colette was saying, that is exactly true. So from a sponsorship perspective, you know, to operate in those local markets -- I mean there's obviously -- there are a few key factors of concern.
5412 So one is the measurement, and just based on the size and scale of the market. The other is budgets and cannibalization as Colette was speaking to. So the budgets within these markets for advertisers and key marketers are very small. And in those cases they are concentrated on either local radio or community newspapers. So to either do a sponsorship or even just to participate with regular brand seller participation spots within these community stations, the production to do so is quite expensive.
5413 So as an example, just to produce a spot, you know, with very good quality, because you do want it to be compelling, could run anywhere between 5 to $10,000. And that alone, you know, could very much eat up the majority of, you know, a marketer or an advertiser, or local advertiser’s Joe with muffler, their budget.
5414 So, those are definitely concerns that also speak to the sponsorship side. And the other side too is the back end and operation side. So for us, you know, to service those markets it would mean, you know, obviously sales and feed on the street. Obviously a trafficking perspective to manage the flow of inventory, and the spots for the sponsorships to manage those, and as well again, the production. Production is the biggest piece.
5415 And if I can, you know, our best example is what we’ve done with OMNI. You know, if you look at the OMNI channel, the OMNI channel is -- it’s, you know, the absence of ratings. We sell this on pure environment, and it is a language channel, we do run some English programming. But it is a very difficult channel on its own to monetize, because it is sold purely on environment.
5416 And quite honestly, when, you know, the question is asked, you know, “How could I do -- how could we manage, you know, the OMNI channel versus a community channel?” You know, the OMNI revenue to a great extent is also funded by the national advertisers. And from our perspective within our modeling, what we do is we would package a station like OMNI with national advertisers to -- obviously package for efficiencies, but also to create a holistic offering to a client.
5417 MR. BRACE: And Mr. Chair, if I could just put a finer point. We did some doodling on this behind the scenes just to see what might be available. And for argument sake we said, “Could we achieve $100,000 in a market like Moncton?” And if we were able to do local advertising sales, which -- which Janice thought was aggressive to start with.
5418 But just for illustrative purposes, if we did do that then we started talking about, well, okay, we’d have to have sales people, we’d have to have a traffic system, we don’t have a measurement system, so we’d have to be selling environment as Janice just described, and we’d have to have an ability to actually schedule and run that.
5419 So there's -- there's a lot of infrastructure that would have to take place and ongoing costs, you know, even outside of any capital cost. So if a sales person, for argument sake, made 30,000 a year or 35,000 a year, which is, you know, painfully low quite frankly, it doesn’t take long before you're eating up any opportunity, is the point I’m trying to make, so that you have that aspect of it.
5420 And really, at the rate cards that would be established, you are in the -- you are in the realm of radio rate cards, and certainly local community newspaper rate cards. So, would it have an undue effect? You know, is $100,000 material in that community? I guess it could be argued either way. But certainly there is an impact.
5421 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And we have to consider the fact that a community like Moncton is economically suffering these days, and so it’s all relevant; right? Thank you for that.
5422 So now, there's been views expressed -- and I'm going to sort of -- this is more questions to react to others’ positions, and I’d like to have your view on it and we haven’t had a lot of that so far in this hearing.
5423 So CACTUS and others have been advocating community channel basically completely run and operated not by the cable companies, the traditional BDUs, but by not-for-profit community groups. Your views on that.
5424 MS. WATSON: I don’t agree with that philosophy, as you might have surmised. I have several implementation worries about their proposal. First and foremost, they made this proposal to you in 2009 with respect to the Community Channel Policy that came out in 2010.
5425 And so we’re -- again, I am perplexed at the problem they're trying to solve, I don’t believe there's a problem with what we’re doing. I believe we honour the mandate. We are -- you may -- a lot of people think, “Oh, it’s big bad Rogers”, and you may be a bit cynical about when -- about this when I say it, but we believe in community television and we do our darndest every day to honour that mandate. We are -- our people are guided by that.
5426 And so, those 333 people are offended when an outside organization keeps talking about New Westminster, B.C. and then paints us all with this picture of “We’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing.” And I categorically reject that. We are doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Those 27,400 groups last year would reinforce that.
5427 They want to -- they want to reinvent the wheel. They want $96 million in infrastructure cost to create this. They would take $150 million out of the system with no licence. How could we give, you know, take from a licensed entity to an unlicensed entity? I’m struggling with the accountability on that. They were talking yesterday, I guess, it was about -- or I forget which day they were here, but this week -- they were ---
5428 THE CHAIRPERSON: I know how you feel.
5429 MS. WATSON: Yeah.
5430 MS. WATSON: The -- I think joining with libraries is fabulous, let’s go to Georgina in Keswick, because that’s what we do. And so -- and the idea that perplexed me when they were talking about this as they got going, was the librarians or the people in the library would teach editorial integrity, would teach a volunteer how to interview a politician. Are they going to replace journalism schools now? Are we -- are they moving into the realm of RTA schools? Those are the kinds of questions I would have of the scope of the idea that they have.
5431 Who’s training that librarian who’s training those volunteers to balance editorial integrity and teach volunteers or members of the community on how to interview a politician?
5432 And so there’s a lot of -- and again I don’t mean this in a pejorative way, but it seems a bit naïve and so I worry about the sums of money being requested, when no one has ever proven to me that we don’t do it right.
5433 MR. BRACE: And if I can just add to that that in terms of the, you know, the business modelling and Colette has pointed out the $96 million up front, which I think that if anybody in this room were offered $96 million up front we could -- we could probably deliver a fair amount.
5434 And we’re operating 41 stations on basically $40 million a year and of that, $28 million is spent on -- is spent on programming so a very efficient operation across the board.
5435 We would find it hard to really see how anyone could do it more efficiently, so for -- you know, for someone to kind of make that claim, really not having a track record, per se, with all due respect and not understanding what is involved in the production process, it kind of questions, you know, the credibility.
5436 You know, Colette has people that work in the community. Colette when I first met her, you know, the first thing I learned is how dedicated she is to what is happening in the community channels. Sometimes I question I think it’s more than the city, but, you know, good for her.
5437 And, you know, her people live in the community. They understand those communities and they are delivering an excellent product.
5438 So it really does -- it really does give us cause to question, you know, where they -- where they believe they can go, what they believe they can deliver, that is in any way any more efficient or higher quality than what we’re doing now.
5439 THE CHAIRPERSON: They believe quite firmly that if the public element of the broadcasting system is owned and operated by the public sector and that the private element of the broadcasting system is owned and operated by the private sector, that the community element of the broadcasting system ought to be owned and operated by the community.
5440 MR. BRACE: And I understand that and, you know, it’s -- and we totally -- we totally agree with that.
5441 And we understand that, by the way, the money that’s derived from our cable revenues is not Rogers’ money. We know that.
5442 It’s money that is allocated through regulatory process and we just happen to be the managers of that money and operate the systems.
5443 And Colette has said that she welcomes and any and all groups that want access to that, so that avenue is open.
5444 We just believe that our 45 year history has demonstrated that we’ve done an excellent job of managing that.
5445 And so to move away from that model and onto something else, worth the healthy debate, but at the end of the day we need to decide what actually gets delivered to the people.
5446 What is actually working? What is actually being produced that people find resonates with them and they want to watch.
5447 MS. WATSON: So I may, in a very career limiting move, may disagree with my boss who just said we agree with the communities should own the community part.
5448 With respect, the public is not -- while taxpayer dollars go to fund the CBC and its activities, there is still oversight.
5449 I don’t know -- and there is still -- it falls within a very concrete set of safeguards. I don’t know how you would manage that if it were owned by 8,000, 9,000, 35,000 community associations.
5450 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
5451 Again I’m exploring positions that have been put forward ---
5452 MS. WATSON: I know I get hot under the collar.
5453 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, no and obviously you don’t feel strongly about it.
5454 THE CHAIRPERSON: There have been some suggestions that coming out of this proceeding that we should make a policy framework that makes a clean difference between VIs and non-VIs.
5455 I was reading your submissions and I think you’ve already crossed that Rubicon. That you accept that there should be -- there could be a different model for VIs and non-VIs; is that correct?
5456 MS. WATSON: Correct.
5457 THE CHAIRPERSON: one of the challenges we have is -- and Commissioner Molnar was asking others about this and -- about people wanting to do community television because they have a story to tell.
5458 But we’re not sure whether people want to hear the story and the way we do audience measurement in this country is lagging behind, despite the fact some technology is available.
5459 What kind of evidence can you provide at this stage on viewing data to community including the potential use of set-top box data information, because I noticed in your written remarks -- your oral remarks, sorry, this morning you said “people like what they see”.
5460 So is there any evidence?
5461 MS. WATSON: Do I have proof of that?
5462 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
5463 MS. WATSON: Yes. We have in Ontario people meters. We get some Numeris data. We also have set-top box data in Ontario and it seems to be a recurring theme at this hearing. We -- our boxes in the Atlantic are not enabled for that.
5464 We do surveys once a year and our survey levels -- our satisfaction levels show that people value the programming.
5465 I will, you know, as a broadcast executive this is difficult for me to say, but the ratings on these channels have gone precipitously off a cliff in the last five years.
5466 It could be a function of cable erosion or a function of the change in programming strategy but they’re low.
5467 THE CHAIRPERSON: Could it also be because people are finding the sort of programming broadcast yourself on emerging platforms?
5468 MS. WATSON: You got it. Let me give you an example.
5469 In December, les choralists in Ottawa they had a choir and -- a children’s choir performed to an arrival of Syrian refugees and they sand, I guess, a song that meant something to them in French and a parent took their phone, videotaped it, loaded it up to YouTube.
5470 We were there, rolled out a truck, did a fabulous job, also put it on YouTube. The parents 1 million hits, ours 2,500 hits. So we’re -- we’re struggling with what you’re struggling with.
5471 THE CHAIRPERSON: You mentioned that your Atlantic boxes aren’t enabled. Are any boxes other -- in your other systems enabled to provide feedback?
5472 MS. WATSON: Yes, in Ontario they are, yes. The one difficulty and I hate to be throwing spokes in the wheels and we’ll solve all of these things, right now it’s more at an aggregate level.
5473 So it’s -- the code for it is RTV, but it’s not RTV Barry, it’s not RTV Oshawa, it’s not RTV Ottawa and so it’s an aggregated number.
5474 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5475 Okay it’s 10:50. I think we’re due for a mid-morning break. I haven’t finished but it seems like a reasonable place to break in light of my questions at this stage.
5476 So we’ll take a break until about 11:05. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 10:50 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 11:06 a.m.
5477 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre, s’il vous plait.
5478 So just to finish off on the subject matter, obviously the set-top box information that you might have for Ontario, maybe -- well we’ll be asking you an undertaking in a moment from Legal.
5479 And I think you have seen Exhibit A and it sort of covers that area, so you’ll be able to provide that.
5480 So as I announced earlier, now I’d like to turn more to the T.V. side or the media side of things, rather than community.
5481 So, in your view -- well I’ll start with the preamble that certainly the broadcasting licence, particularly an OTA one -- well all broadcasting licences are a privilege.
5482 So I’d like to see -- have your views on what are the public service duties of an over the air broadcaster?
5483 Particularly would you agree that the first duty is to fund, produce and broadcast high quality news and information?
5484 MR. BRACE: Absolutely, Mr. Chair, and I think that has been a priority for -- and it’s been a priority for Rogers Media on your over-the-air stations.
5485 However, what I will say is that as we kind of move through the environment that we’re seeing today, it is becoming much more difficult to deliver on what I believe we need to do.
5486 I would add a caveat to that, though. As I kind of look across the industry now and see how it’s unfolding and we’ve all talked about the declines in revenue, we’ve talked about the competition that we’re getting from the over-the-tops, and as I see it, and as our group discusses it and kind of transforms our strategy and morphs into where we’re going down the road, one of the things that is apparent to me is that news, and particularly local news, in fact especially local news, is an area that is somewhat protected by the global multinationals that are coming in over the border because it’s more or less the last area that we have that is kind of unique to us. I mean, we can be laser focused in a city like Edmonton, like Calgary. You know, it doesn’t matter, pick the city, Winnipeg. And that is not something that is particularly or even remotely targeted by the big over-the-tops, the ones that are coming in, that are challenging us particularly on a national basis.
5487 So that presents to me an opportunity. It no less reduces the difficulty in funding that and making it work because we’re in a state where we’re morphing. We’re morphing from people watching on linear to people watching on other platforms. Once again, it’s been talked about to death with the Commission and in many forums.
5488 And so what’s incumbent for us as broadcasters and over-the-air broadcasters is to ride that evolution and understand when we cross the barrier where we become more of a digital company, more digitally distributed on new-generation platforms than we are currently on linear platforms -- and it’s never easy for a big organization because of course the vast majority of our revenue is still from the traditional media sources, the vast majority. That cliché that we’ve all heard about analog dollars and digital dimes is absolutely true, and certainly Janice can comment on that if we need her to. And so we haven’t hit that.
5489 We are seeing declines in revenue. It is exiting the TV marketplace and it is going elsewhere. And we, quite frankly, can’t track where all of it is going. It’s going to a lot of different places. But it still is the main source of revenue.
5490 So our determination is that, quite frankly, local news is potentially an opportunity for us.
5491 It’s also one of the reasons in our proposal that we talked about being able to move money there from an over-the-top -- or from an OTA perspective for Rogers, I mean, we do news in Toronto and that’s pretty much it. We do Breakfast Television in other markets across the country. We would love to be able to do at least news inserts, newscasts within the body of our Breakfast Television shows that are meaningful and robust.
5492 And I think that that’s also an opportunity to put something within the context of a show that is working, so a Breakfast Television, so you’ve already got an audience that you can present that to as opposed to try to reinvent the wheel and do another 6 o’clock or 5 o’clock newscast head to head with competitors that are doing very well in those marketplaces, those being Bell and, of course, Shaw.
5493 So that’s kind of where we see it right now.
5494 And your question, “Is news important?” Is local news important?” I think it’s vitally important. It’s how we find a way to do it effectively and make sure that we’re not just doing something that is becoming in the past. It’s something -- it’s not being consumed the way it used to. We need to morph with that. Otherwise, we’re really not solving the situation.
5495 THE CHAIRPERSON: My question, which you reframed, wasn’t quite the same as the way you reframed it.
5496 My point was perhaps that it is the most important of all your obligations, is to provide news and information.
5497 MR. BRACE: I don’t know if I would say it’s the most important. I think there’s a lot of other -- there’s a lot of other responsibilities for over-the-airs as well.
5498 THE CHAIRPERSON: Such as?
5499 MR. BRACE: Such as providing an opportunity for Canadian independent producers in the drama categories, entertainment programming. I think that is important as well.
5500 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you’re putting entertainment programming on the same level as news and information?
5501 MR. BRACE: No, I’m saying that it’s also important. I don’t want to diminish that. I think that news and information is vitally important and I think we need to address that, that’s the purpose of this hearing, and I think particularly local news and information. I think that from a national news perspective we’re kind of doing a pretty good job there, I think. I think that that’s available.
5502 But from a local news perspective, you’re right, especially in small underserved communities, there’s work to be done.
5503 THE CHAIRPERSON: So although I used different words at the beginning of the hearing, I said basically this hearing’s about identifying what the problem is and what the right public policy response is to that problem.
5504 Now, you referred to the disruption. A lot of people describe it as the arrival of OTT. It’s not a phrase I use, because it’s only a phrase that makes sense to somebody who’s in an incumbent business that’s been disrupted. For digital natives it’s only over the top because you’re seeing it from a perspective.
5505 Nevertheless, there is a disruptive impact, but you yourself have just said that the advantage over streaming services that some are choosing to access, using, by the way, some of the telecommunication services other parts of your group supply, are at a disadvantage or have been historically at a disadvantage when it comes to live sports and live news. So even from a -- regardless of the overriding mission one obligation of an OTA, what would you say if I were to put it to you that it is actually the most important thing for you to become distinctive, a bit like radio has figured out, local, local, local.
5506 MR. BRACE: And I would concur, Mr. Chair, that that’s an absolute strategic direction for us, that it makes absolute sense for the reasons, even commercially, that I described, that it is a niche that is underserved and a niche that is not being challenged by global entities.
5507 So it’s an opportunity. It’s an obligation and it should be a major initiative for us.
5508 THE CHAIRPERSON: So why do we need to intervene?
5509 MR. BRACE: It’s simply a question from an economic standpoint of how do we make it work? And that is as pure and simple as I can say it.
5510 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’re not here to guarantee your bottom line. You’re not rate-regulated on the broadcasting side. We’re here to define outcomes for Canadians based on the privileges you’ve received by getting a licence. And I want you to convince me, because this is what this hearing’s about, that we have to intervene to make the economics of you providing news make more sense.
5511 Because frankly, if we’ve identified a problem, the solution could be quite simply, at licence renewal, just requiring you to do it.
5512 MR. BRACE: And we understand that, Mr. Chair. I think that’s why -- because you talked about do we need the Commission to intervene. I think that’s what Proposal Number 1 kind of answers. Proposal Number 1 really allows us to manage the funds that we are currently managing and be able to allocate them in a way that does make it more possible for us to deliver on that promise or deliver on that need.
5513 MR. DAVID WATT: IF I could just add, I think you used the words -- you used the word intervene, and intervene has a lot of different meanings and levels.
5514 In our proposal, our original proposal, which is the proposal we still prefer, the intervention that we’re looking for from you we would consider to be a relatively -- a modest intervention compared to establishing a fund. We think it is a vertically integrated solution. What we’re looking for is flexibility to direct funds from larger markets to smaller markets to provide more news and entertainment -- information, sorry, and also to focus on, in our OTA properties, in locations outside of Toronto to bring additional news.
5515 So I know it is an intervention, but it is in the form of flexibility with the dollars that we already have and that we are -- would be putting into ---
5516 THE CHAIRPERSON: But it’s still a regulatory action that has repercussions on others who are also part of this hearing?
5517 MR. DAVID WATT: Yes, it does, but we discussed this a lot in the last few days and I would also ask -- mention the objective here. And correct us if we are wrong, but we really focussed on the sentence in the document a couple of weeks ago where you said:
5518 “The commission will seek to ensure that Canadians in all markets are provided with the level and quality of local programming, including local news, that meets their needs, and that this is carried out on the most appropriate platform.” (As read)
5519 So we have interpreted that the emphasis on all Canadians to be a focus on the more underserved areas of the country now and all platforms. In our proposal we were going to make our local news through the -- on the community channels, the additional content that we’re providing, available to all on the internet. So this is really how we have tried to approach this.
5520 You’re absolutely right, it requires regulatory change and intervention. But we think it is in a constrained manner and allows us to then go and be creative in providing what you want in an economically sustainable manner.
5521 THE CHAIRPERSON: Did you want to add something?
5522 MR. BRACE: Probably just echo that to a certain extent. That whether we define it as intervention, or regulatory change, or morphing somewhat the rules that we’re operating under now, that’s exactly what our proposal tries to do. It says let us manage within our own ecosystem the dollars we’re currently managing, be able to address the problem.
5523 And to your point on -- at licence renewal, which is not that far off, you know we would propose coming to you with our solution, or our recommendations, and our obligations at that point in time. But by morphing the CPE into the LPEs, and now that all of that money is being spent on local news programming is something that would be helpful on, you know, permitting us to reallocate some of the money that we’re currently spending on community to markets that are underserved on the OTA.
5524 And by the way, we would never suggest for a minute it would be a -- it would be accessible by anyone that was profitable. So our Toronto news operation is in fact profitable. So we’re not talking about Toronto. But it would address other areas that would give us the opportunity to kind of meet that need and that requirement.
5525 THE CHAIRPERSON: Let’s get back to defining what the problem is. Others have suggested that local news continues to be very watched. That it’s desired by the viewership. But what we’re facing is the difficulty to monetize those -- that viewership through the behaviour of advertisers, ad agencies -- which by the way, not a single one have intervened in this proceeding. But that that would be the actual root cause. It’s not viewership, but the monetization of the viewership. Would you agree with that -- is the essence of the problem?
5526 MR. BRACE: I would. In fact I’d even elaborate on that a little bit, Mr. Chair, that you know, if we look at the viewership, particularly of local news in aggregate, it actually eclipses national news. So I mean, it is popular. It is relevant. It is something that is still, you know, very much from the standpoint of a ratings, you know, and calculating the currency that way, is saleable. It’s just that the money is not flowing.
5527 But that’s -- and that’s not just a news issue, that’s an industry issue. Money is just leaving the -- leaving the broadcast industry, leaving the over the air and specialty market, quite frankly. And so it’s not just about ratings, you know? That would be a better problem to have, quite frankly, because improved production qualities, investment in what you’re doing would hopefully correct that. But it’s -- that’s not the case. It’s all about the declining advertising.
5528 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you believe the advertisers are making the wrong decisions? If you had been an advertiser in the agency.
5529 MR. BRACE: I think we’re in the -- an environment where television is becoming unpopular from an advertising standpoint. They question the rating system, whether it’s you know, the currency they need to target the markets. They look to, you know, digital measurement systems where they can focus on people of a specific demographic, a specific gender, a specific buying pattern. And that, for them, seems to be more credible, and more saleable, and more attractive, quite frankly, for their clients.
5530 But having said that, the real head scratcher is that it’s not dollar for dollar. I mean -- and you know, that’s the -- if that were the case, you know, we’d understand it and it’d be a race to cross that line as fast as we could. We’d all be digital companies and, you know, the broadcast of these things, we know would be something quite different than we’re seeing now. But you know, I don’t think that anyone who’s come before you has had an answer for exactly where the money is going, or what they’re thinking. We just know that television is not the popular -- or not as popular.
5531 It’s still -- as I say, I keep emphasizing, traditional media is still where the vast majority of our revenue is. So, you know, we’re not abandoning that anytime soon. In fact, we have to make sure we support it. But it is an ongoing issue.
5532 Just as an anecdote, when you talked to VICE day one here and they talked about, you know, what they’re doing and how they’re thinking, and as you know we’re partners with them. We’re going to be launching VICELAND at the end of February. And it was interesting meeting with them and understanding their philosophy, because they’re seen as cool, they’re seen as modern, they’re seen as the real target for millennials.
5533 It’s where everyone is going, and you know, we can have the debate, is it real journalism? Is it real news reporting? You know, what exactly are they doing? Is it more documentaries in style? Is it current? Is it more, you know, after the fact? But having said that there’s no doubt the popularity is there. I mean, it’s -- and I said to them, you know, “Why would you want to partner with a traditional media company?” And even more than that, as a condition of partnership we have to launch a linear channel, linear specialty channel. And their answer was interesting.
5534 They said, “Well, there’s two things and they’re related.” But the first thing is that with a linear channel you’re getting broad exposure. Now, I mean, albeit our -- the station we’re launching doesn’t have very broad distribution, but it’s relatively broad distribution for them. Number two, that becomes the picture window on Main Street. It almost becomes where you go to get directed to other places.
5535 So it’s a different philosophy, a different way of thinking. They, having come from that side of the -- that side of the evolutionary process, having never had traditional media, have found it valuable in a different way. We tend to look at traditional media as that’s our main source, and the other things are all additive and peripheral to what we’ve got centering around our universe, which is traditional. That’s what’s in real changing and real flux right now.
5536 THE CHAIRPERSON: But by the same token, one could say that although your OTA news activities may not be as profitable as they may have been a number of years ago, they’re still part of a basket of services that you can cross-promote, cross-offer, leverage in one way or the other.
5537 MR. BRACE: And certainly as a VI that’s exactly what we do here. And I keep saying the traditional media is not dead. It’s still a major focus for us. But to be able to use what we have as the megaphone across radio, across publishing, across television in our case, is a real advantage and we certainly -- we certainly, you know, from a discoverability standpoint, that’s exactly what we do. That’s our strategy currently, whether it’s on other platforms, every platform that we operate on cross-promotes other platforms.
5538 THE CHAIRPERSON: So what do you answer to folks that say you’re a Rogers, a billion dollar company with an extremely high level compared to some of the other G7 countries of media, horizontal and vertical integration, that frankly you should just be able to cross-subsidize what might look like a loss on the TV news over the air business, but globally is a good place to be in light of all your other assets?
5539 MR. BRACE: So I know -- I know, Mr. Chair, that you hear all the time that we operate businesses individually and they have to make a profit and stand on their own, so I won’t go there. I mean, that is -- this is true to a great extent, but I run a media division and so we do cross-subsidize.
5540 By way of example, our media business this year, the business plan was made, actually not by any of the media services, but by the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays report to the media division and happen to get to be a World Series Contender. They got into post-season. That made our difference. So we made our year.
5541 And so the cross-subsidization, you know, will be there. But in a declining environment you can cross-subsidize all you want, but it does become the law of diminishing returns and at some point you have to address, “Okay, what isn’t working?” Although we have strong audience now for local news, and quite frankly for entertainment programming, it is in decline.
5542 Slowly but surely it’s in decline. We have to recognize that and we have to change with the evolving industry. And that’s, quite frankly, strategically what we’re trying to do.
5543 You know, I’ve said to the group that we can’t think of ourselves any longer as publishing people, as television people, as radio people, we have to think of ourselves as media people. We have to sell ourselves the same way.
5544 So Janice can no longer be a TV sales person, Janice has to become a media salesperson, understanding that, you know, that is going to be how we have to operate, you know, in the future and the not so distant future. It’s when does it cross that access.
5545 THE CHAIRPERSON: But why, to use your words, if news is the most vital aspect would that be the first thing you stop cross-subsidizing?
5546 MR. BRACE: Although it may be the most vital, in a business perspective it’s not the most profitable. And, you know, we’ve even made some change there.
5547 So it still rests that for conventional television the majority of revenue is driven by the U.S. programming, quite frankly. That’s been there forever.
5548 Just last year Colette made the decision not to put American programming in the 10:00 o’clock timeslot; to take that money -- because it’s expensive programming -- we gave something up -- but to take that money and try and reinvest it in other areas.
5549 So I think we’re trying to find ways to do exactly what you’re saying, it’s just a function of how economically in a declining economy do we make that happen. We’re looking for the answers, just as the Commission is.
5550 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But Canadians might be asking this themselves, to what extent should they as either taxpayers or subscribers be helping you along.
5551 How much money do you get out the Canada magazine fund?
5552 MR. BRACE: I don’t have that handy.
5553 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think it would be worth you undertaking to provide that information.
5554 What is your envelope in the Canada Media Fund?
5555 MS. WHEELER: It’s approximately 10 million.
5556 THE CHAIRPERSON: And if one were to look at the tax credits -- federal tax credits for Canadian independent productions, which you don’t benefit directly but -- well, you could, because federally you can access that tax credit, but I don’t think you do that, but you benefit from it indirectly. In any given year, what’s the value of that subsidy?
5557 MS. WHEELER: Again, as you allude to, that tax credit benefit goes to the independent producers that we work with and provide a licence fee to. They hold the underlying copyright in that. So they’re the net beneficiary of that bridge financing. But we can endeavour to give you an estimate if that’s of interest to you.
5558 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, actually it would be. I’d like you to take the last broadcasting year, and of all the programming getting tax credit funding that you broadcast what -- how much subsidy -- or actually it’s not a subsidy in that case because it’s not a contribution regime but it is for gone revenues for the Canadian purse of taxpayers -- how much it’s going into programming that you are buying as original first run on all your platforms.
5559 MR. BRACE: Absolutely we’ll do that, sir.
5560 THE CHAIRPERSON: You know, you mentioned earlier that the model that you’re proposing would be that this new subsidy model would only be for stations that are not profitable. How would we decide whether a station is profitable or not in light of accounting rules that sometimes allows money or costs to be moved from one station to the other or one activity to the other?
5561 MR. BRACE: And so to be specific, Mr. Chair, we’re referring to news -- local news operations and the profitability of them.
5562 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you’re not suggesting that we would disqualify a particular local news programming if we felt that it was profitable?
5563 MR. BRACE: Exactly. Exactly. We’re specific here to local news.
5564 And so in determining that, you know, accounting policies can be put in place. In fact, I think we do report on local revenue now. It would need to be refined a little bit because not all of the local revenue is attributable to news but in most cases the majority of it is. So we would need to refine that and be able to report it to the Commission, audited, so that we could determine, you know, who was and wasn’t, you know, profitable or not.
5565 THE CHAIRPERSON: The danger of regulatory intervention, or subsidy, or contribution is that it sometimes comes with a price for private companies that you might be subject to a little bit more control or caps.
5566 And my question is going to be provocative but it is pretty much to illustrate the path down which we seem to be going. If we’re going to start potentially subsidizing activities -- commercial activities that are at the heart of your licence, why shouldn’t we also be concerned about executive salaries and putting caps on those?
5567 MR. BRACE: Well, I guess that is a provocative question most certainly, Mr. Chair, and, you know, seemingly might be taking it, you know, a lot further than we would suggest, you know, would obviously work for us.
5568 And so I think that, you know, what we’re trying to do here is in an era of declining revenue and declining audiences to try and bolster something on a linear system in traditional media that if there is a formula that we can come up with that actually supports that then we should look at that.
5569 I mean, how far we take it, you know, is obviously debatable, but I think that, you know, maybe you’ve talked about it in extreme terms. But, you know, I think that that, you know, would be something obviously we wouldn’t want to entertain.
5570 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think another way of putting it is that there’s never a free lunch, strings might be attached. And I’m just wondering if you ---
5571 MR. BRACE: Well, I think strings ---
5572 THE CHAIRPERSON: You’re willing to ---
5573 MR. BRACE: --- that we can attach are things like the number of hours that we’re providing, you know, the amount of content we’re providing across the system, which is something that is tangible, measurable and maybe is more appropriate in this case, in our view.
5574 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can local news be covered without a local presence?
5575 MR. BRACE: It’s an interesting question. It’s kind of a two-parter. I think that to cover it effectively boots on the street have to be there. We need local reporters. We need local bureaus. Where it can be covered more efficiently and not be there is the remote editing, the remote delivery.
5576 So, for example, if we had enough ---
5577 THE CHAIRPERSON: You might want to -- it’s a lean forward technology ---
5578 MR. BRACE: Yes, sir.
5579 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- so please approach the mic.
5580 MR. BRACE: So if, for example, you know, we had reporters in a given market in Winnipeg they could deliver that -- those reports via servers back to a central location. It could be anywhere, quite frankly. And it could be prepared, edited and even delivered and hosted from that location, which actually is what we’re kind of looking at doing with hockey now.
5581 The technology has -- it’s called REMI. The technology has evolved to the point where you can actually produce and deliver live broadcasts from remote locations far more effectively.
5582 In the example of hockey, just to be illustrative, the camera’s would be onsite obviously, the technicians for that would be onsite, the commentators would be onsite, but everything then is brought back to a central location.
5583 So there are efficiencies that we’re developing -- sports is driving those, quite frankly -- that will give us that.
5584 Did you want to make a comment, Colette, or does that address -- okay.
5585 MS. WATSON: That’s what I was going to talk about.
5586 THE CHAIRPERSON: That may be true for sports. What happens to investigative journalism, civic reporting -- I get your point that somebody can fly in and out, but often times you’ve got to be there for a long period of time to develop, build a story, have the connections, have real information that might slip out at a cocktail party but ends up being breaking news a few months later.
5587 MR. BRACE: That’s why I talked about the bureau, the boots on the street. The reporters, I think, you know, need to be onsite to develop -- to deliver local news effectively.
5588 Did you want to make a comment on that, Colette?
5589 MS. WATSON: So, essentially, Mr. Chair, we agree with you that you need a local presence to do local news. What we’re struggling with is finding a way to do that cost effectively.
5590 And, you know, news is, along with drama, some of the most expensive programming that can be done. So for a local station it can be cost prohibitive.
5591 If I can move all the backend functions and just have storytelling and editorial in local -- at the local level then it becomes more cost effective and it’s an opportunity for us to move forward.
5592 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m going to bring you to the annex you had to your presentation. I must admit, thank you for it. It will help frame our conversation here.
5593 I’ll start with the column on the left and just want to clarify some aspects there which is related to your November 5th filing.
5594 Help me understand how this would work if, for any reason, your OTA assets don’t line up with your BDU presence.
5595 MR. BRACE: Okay. If I could pass this over to Dave to take us through this section?
5596 MR. DAVID WATT: Well, in our case, our OTA assets do not line up with, obviously, our community channel presence. So this is a part of the additional flexibility that we’re looking for in terms of moving dollars. And this, we think, was reflected in the group-based decision where flexibility was allowed in a different sense.
5597 But indeed that is a change that we would be looking for. We’d be looking for a pooling of the funds that would allow, with regard to the 2 percent directed towards the creation of local expression in the community channel that subscribers would pay be in Toronto to be able to move some of that money to other locations.
5598 THE CHAIRPERSON: And does this include your OMNI OTA?
5599 MR. DAVID WATT: In this case, we were just including our City TV.
5600 THE CHAIRPERSON: And not your OMNI?
5601 MR. DAVID WATT: Not our OMNI.
5602 THE CHAIRPERSON: So there’s no way, in fact, that you’re suggesting that there could be some help for news reporting on your multicultural service?
5603 MS. WATSON: Let me speak to the elephant in the room. The issue with OMNI was content and format. And so we replaced the traditional newscasts in Ontario and in Vancouver with current affairs programs that, using my expertise on the local level, I felt would enhance local engagement with those communities.
5604 So rather than spend eight minutes, ten minutes of the newscast from New Delhi or from Shanghai, we would focus on Markham and the Chinese population there, or the gun violence in the Sikh community in Surrey.
5605 And so that’s what we intended to do. Yes, it’s much less expensive to do than the other way. But I want to be clear that they still have a voice. They have a voice every day, day in, day out, for 30 minutes every day like they used to. The format changed, but the opportunity and the delivery and the focus on local was still, if I can be so bold to say, enhanced with the change.
5606 THE CHAIRPERSON: Again working off the left side of the table, you said:
5607 “Stations should have to commit to a
minimum number of hours of original hours of local programming.”
5608 First of all, you’re using local programming here and not news programming. Is that correct?
5609 MS. WATSON: Correct.
5610 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you intend it to be broader than news programming?
5611 MS. WATSON: Well, like I just described for the OMNI product, we’d like it to be news and information. So rather than a traditional cast that has eight between 90-second and three-minute pieces, it could be a 10-minute conversation with the leaders of the Sikh community on gang violence, or it could be a newscast. We just wanted to broaden it so that we could grow the diversity of voices.
5612 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would it still be Category 1, 2 or 3?
5613 MS. WATSON: I’d have to defer to the regulatory experts.
5614 MS. WHEELER: Yes.
5615 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So maybe I was loosely describing that as news programming as opposed to local productions that would be, I don’t know, cooking shows or entertainment.
5616 MS. WATSON: No, no, that’s not at all what we intend.
5617 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I think I understand better now.
5618 And would it necessarily be incremental?
5619 MS. WATSON: It would be incremental to the category but not incremental to the hours. We might have to shift some stuff around.
5620 THE CHAIRPERSON: And why do you think a regulatory intervention that’s trying to fix a problem would be satisfied with just maintaining the status quo?
5621 MS. WATSON: We’re not advocating maintaining the status quo. We’re advocating the VI solution, which in column -- on the left-hand ---
5622 THE CHAIRPERSON: All right. I’m still there.
5623 MS. WATSON: So there is some movement there. We could solve the lack of local news in some markets. We would pool community channel money.
5624 THE CHAIRPERSON: So there would be more?
5625 MS. WATSON: Certainly on the community channel side there would be an incremental 3.5 hours a week of news programming.
5626 THE CHAIRPERSON: A little lower down you talk about reducing under that model, again, the access -- reducing the community programming, access programming, from 50 to 30 percent. Why?
5627 MS. WATSON: The spending requirement that goes with it.
5628 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Why?
5629 MS. WATSON: So that we could -- prior to this current framework, we used to do daily newscasts in the 905s in Southwest Ontario and in New Brunswick. The spending requirement in this new -- it’s not new anymore -- but in this current framework just wouldn’t allow for that.
5630 So going back to the way it was pre-2010 would enable us to revive those newscasts in those under -- what we believe are underserved markets, but we would need the revenue. The cable revenue alone wouldn’t sustain that. The revenue has declined since then. That’s why we propose pooling from larger centres.
5631 MR. DAVID WATT: This would -- this reduction in the licensed areas would generate $2.9 million that would go to partially fund the incremental 3.5 hours in the 15 identified markets in smaller locations.
5632 THE CHAIRPERSON: Because your unarticulated assumption is that access programming could not be the source for the new kind of programming you’re suggesting. Is that correct?
5633 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5634 THE CHAIRPERSON: And why is that?
5635 MS. WATSON: Just safeguards on editorial integrity, balance, all of those things.
5636 And in the Working Document, the Commission did “won’t go” in the call it professionally executed programming.
5637 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah.
5638 MS. WATSON: So we’d have to change.
5639 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just to be clear, it wasn’t a preliminary view.
5640 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5641 THE CHAIRPERSON: It was just a working model.
5642 MS. WATSON: Yes, true. And so even prior to that, when we used to do those newscasts, the newscast was a licensee-produced product.
5643 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I take it that it’s the same answer that you would give if I were to ask that question with respect to your model -- the alternative model on the right side where you’re proposing that same reduction. Is that correct?
5644 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5645 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Let’s move more broadly to that right column since we’ve already started down that road.
5646 Why, if -- and I realize your preference is your original November proposal rather than the January one. Why are you proposing that all cable and IPTVs contribute?
5647 MR. DAVID WATT: It would be a matter of equity.
5648 THE CHAIRPERSON: But systems like Cogeco and Eastlink are saying, “Wait a minute, this is a VI problem, and it’s working quite fine. Our communities are quite happy with what we’re providing them. Why should we be contributing to solve a VI problem?”
5649 MR. DAVID WATT: And to be frank, we completely agree with them. This is, in our opinion, a distant second-best solution, having a fund. We don’t think it is the appropriate way to go. We are providing our best response to the Working Document. So the question was posed to us, “If there were to be a fund, how would you see that operating? How might it be structured?” But we do think this is an inferior solution. It allows the inequities that you have identified. It adds a level of great administrative complexity and cost. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul, as Cogeco said yesterday, and in that sense it’s robbing ---
5650 THE CHAIRPERSON: Not an expression I particularly like because in the end it’s only the subscriber that’s paying. Nobody’s entitled to any of this money.
5651 MR. DAVID WATT: I take your point.
5652 Another way to look at it, it’s also a great deal of running to not move very far forward. So event take Bell’s fund, which would take a full 1 percent, $66 million, and they go through a lot of calculations and say based on certain metrics they receive 35 percent of that fund, say $24 million, but they are paying into that fund about 14 million. So they’re netting 10 out of it.
5653 Shaw, the way it would work, again, they’re paying in. They have big OTA. They have been netting seven.
5654 Rogers, we’d be putting in 16, getting back four; we’re down 12.
5655 Quebecor, they would pay in -- they’d be down about seven.
5656 Where I’m going here is that a $66 million funds looks like gee, there’s going to be a lot more money here to devote to local news and information programming, but that’s not really true. It’s shuffling, to a large extent, money from the right pocket to the left pocket. And yes, Bell would have 10 million, Shaw 7 million, the unambiguous winners and they certainly are the most deserving would be the independents, and then there are very small amounts of funds for CBC and others, and then the absolute unambiguous losers as well, as you’ve pointed out, are Cogeco and Eastlink and TELUS as well, those who do not have broadcast properties.
5657 And then when you come down to our proposal at half of the Bell’s magnitude, you’re talking about really small sums of money, so a tremendous amount of effort to generate small sums of money that aren’t going to solve the solution and that predominantly go to the big players with some players unambiguous losers.
5658 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is there any rationale why you came up with .5 percent? Again, I’m just going down the right side here of the page, .5 percent for the Local News and Information Fund. Is there -- just a nice percentage?
5659 MR. DAVID WATT: No, principally because we felt .5 percent would put pressure on the community channel and allow us not to do things that we would like to do in terms of redirection. To go down to 1 percent would absolutely gut the community channel.
5660 Because as I mentioned earlier, you look at the fixed expenses, the depreciation in the case of Rogers, $8 million, about 20 percent. Our operation if you cut our revenue down to 50 percent, you’ve now got 40 percent of that having to be -- it’s devoted to depreciation, and that’s an expense already incurred. It’s not going away. So the implications of a fund of 1 percent size were enormous for the community channel.
5661 Posed with the question how would you structure a fund if you had to do one, we took the .5 percent number. There’s some additional logic in the sense that when we appeared here in 2009, the outcome of that proceeding was the Commission hoped that revenues would grow and that the amount of dollars devoted to the community channel could be achieved through a 1 percent -- 1.5 percent allocation of gross revenue.
5662 As things have turned out, revenue has actually declined, not grown, so we have not moved towards the 1.5. But at that, time the Commission believed that 1.5 percent of revenues would be an appropriate number. So again ---
5663 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So your .5 is -- you come to it in an attempt to protect, I take it, the 1.5 for the community channel and the 3 percent for eligible production funds rather than an exercise of trying to finds what’s the need to do local news and then going backwards?
5664 MR. DAVID WATT: That is correct because we think the need to do local news by the vertically integrated companies can be handled and should be handled by themselves within their own natural resources. Today, we recognize ---
5665 THE CHAIRPERSON: But now you’re merging -- you’re bleeding into the left side of the table, the old -- the November proceeding.
5666 I just want to make sure that you -- if you just did it just to protect the other, that’s fine. I just want to make sure you haven’t said -- done an exercise, this is what is needed to fund local news and therefore it comes out to .5 percent.
5667 MR. DAVID WATT: Pam, did you want to add?
5668 MS. DINSMORE: We did do an exercise to try and figure out what it would cost us to do the additional hours of local news in the 15 underserved community channels, and that exercise brought us to a number that was about $4 million.
5669 Now, I understand that is not part of -- they would not be recipients from the fund, but it helped us to understand if we maintained the 1.5 and we bring down our access expenditures, would we have the money to afford to do within that number, those extra hours of news in our underserved communities.
5670 So we did do that exercise. We exercised that discipline to better understand what could we lever up to the fund.
5671 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You say that DTH would continue fund the Small Market Local Fund. So this is -- is this the SMITS fund by another name?
5672 MR. DAVID WATT: Yes, it is.
5673 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5674 MR. DAVID WATT: And it ---
5675 THE CHSIRPERSON: What’s the policy rationale, in your view, for doing this? I know it’s your second -- far second best choice, but what would be the best argument in favor of this? I mean you may have heard the conversation that was occurring yesterday that we were struggling with what the policy reason behind what may have been a historical reality, when DTH emerged, but we are wondering whether it still was valid today?
5676 MR. DAVID WATT: Well, this really would be trying to address the economic needs of that constituency. We would actually see that the Small Market Local Programming Fund recipients today include members of vertically-integrated companies. We would think that they should be removed from accessing that fund of pool -- pool of funds, rather, and that this would become a source for pure independence, and it just recognizes the economic difficulties that they face.
5677 THE CHAIRPERSON: And in your view, is this limited to news? Because I don’t think the SMITS beneficiaries right now see it as just limited to news. They actually have a very much larger definition of local programming. So this would be local programming at large in your alternative proposal?
5678 MR. DAVID WATT: It would be at large at this point. Obviously, you could alter that circumstance.
5679 THE CHAIRPERSON: Doesn’t it sound to you like a bit or rate of return regulation, if we’re there to purely provide economic return to the beneficiaries.
5680 MR. DAVID WATT: Well, it -- I guess you could say that. Because what we were trying to do is -- we’ve listened to them. We understand they’re under economic pressure. We understand that you and we would want all Canadians to benefit from local news programming ---
5681 THE CHAIRPERSON: Most Canadians do not have relief from economic pressure of the price of broccoli and cauliflower. There is no economic relief for those who are losing their jobs in the oil patch and those that have lost their jobs in the lumber industry in New Brunswick and in other areas of the country.
5682 MR. DAVID WATT: I completely agree it is entirely a public policy choice.
5683 THE CHAIRPERSON: Help me understand; you say that the alternative proposal is designed to incent. How does the incentive work?
5684 Is it because you’re linking it to advertising revenue? Is that -- so maybe you can tell me more? I don’t want to make false interpretations.
5685 MR. DAVID WATTS: Yes, our -- well, it incents us to provide more and better programming which will grow our revenues, so as you say, appeal to advertisers, grow our revenues, and then we would be entitled or we’d be able to draw a larger portion of the funds so that, in essence, this structure would reward those people who were successful in growing their news and information programming and it would not reward those who were shrinking in revenue.
5686 THE CHAIRPERSON: And it’s based on an equal portion, so it’s a one to one, why? Why that particular proportion?
5687 MR. DAVID WATT: Sorry, I may be missing the one for one.
5688 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, then, tell me how it would -- is it for every additional advertising dollar you get something? Help me understand that.
5689 MR. DAVID WATT: The way -- it is in proportion to total industry revenues from local news and information, local programming. So if you add a dollar ---
5690 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it’s across the industry?
5691 MR. DAVID WATT: Exactly. Exactly. So you have whole pool and there are four players and ---
5692 THE CHAIRPERSON: I appreciate that. But, nevertheless, it’s still a one-to-one ratio as opposed to a 1.2 to one ratio or whatever?
5693 I mean, if you wanted to incent, you could actually use a different ratio.
5694 MR. DAVID WATT: Yes, I guess you could have a multiplier effect, yes.
5695 THE CHAIRPERSON: So very familiar, when I was at Heritage, with contribution programs that sometimes created more incentive by playing with the ratio.
5696 You proposed something. I just wanted to know you came to that particular number.
5697 MR. DAVID WATT: It’s a simple mechanism to reward those who succeed.
5698 THE CHAIRPERSON: And succeed in getting advertising.
5699 MR. DAVID WATT: That’s right, and growing the revenues by providing ---
5700 THE CHAIRPERSON: As part of a larger industry.
5701 MR. DAVID WATT: Exactly and providing quality local programming.
5702 THE CHAIRPERSON: It might be a bit remote. Don’t you think?
5703 MR. DAVID WATT: Pardon me?
5704 THE CHAIRPERSON: It might be a bit remote from the action of any one licensee.
5705 MR. DAVID WATT: That’s pretty much, I would submit, always going to be the case in a national fund. They’re doing these -- these types of funds are set up by proxies and allocators. It’s just the nature of a fund.
5706 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you’re proposing that the CBC could benefit from CBC/Radio-Canada in all instances or are you limiting it to minority community situations?
5707 MR. DAVID WATT: We have proposed in all instances.
5708 THE CHAIRPERSON: And we know that there is a commitment from the current government to inject additional funding into the CBC. We don’t quite know when or how that would look like.
5709 Do you think it’s wise for us to go down this path until we actually see that?
5710 MR. DAVID WATT: We certainly discussed that and recognized that commitment from the new government felt just in terms of fairness and diversity of voices within our fund that has -- not to repeat but I will -- it’s again our second-best solution that we included the CBC.
5711 THE CHAIRPERSON: And it is very much in terms of outcomes based on expenditures, would that be correct, rather than number of hours under this model?
5712 MR. DAVID WATT: It really is actually based on revenues because revenues are easily measured. We see ---
5713 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Right, but you’re not converting revenues, expenditures into hours.
5714 MR. DAVID WATT: No we’re not.
5715 THE CHAIRPERSON: You’re just leaving it at expenditures. Is that correct?
5716 MR. DAVID WATT: Correct.
5717 THE CHAIRPERSON: And would you agree with me that in certain circumstances, that may actually mean fewer hours?
5718 MR. DAVID WATT: One of our proposals, you would ---
5719 THE CHAIRPERSON: It’s not necessarily a bad thing but ---
5720 MR. DAVID WATT: No, you would still have to meet your required number of hours.
5721 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, okay. So the overlay of licensing requirements ---
5722 MR. DAVID WATT: Yes.
5723 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- gets you to the hours but the expenditures would be covered here.
5724 MR. DAVID WATT: Yeah, we’re trying to have minimal interference here in the existing system, so we are keeping the hours requirement.
5725 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, I believe those are my questions, although I’m going to pass it to my colleagues who will have other questions no doubt, but it will also allow me to review my notes to see if I’ve covered everything that I needed to at this point.
5726 Ms. Dinsmore, did you want to add something; no?
5727 MS. DINSMORE: I just wanted to come back to the issue of incentives because there is in our fund model a minimum threshold for vertically integrated companies. And that is to meet the local programming expenditure requirement before they could actually access the funds.
5728 So I might ask my colleague, Susan Wheeler, just to explain how that mechanism might work as an incentive.
5729 MS. WHEELER: Yes, I think what we are trying to do is, as much as some of the discussion is centered around hours of local programming, we really actually believe that it’s the investment in the programming that is first and foremost of importance.
5730 So one of the requirements or the threshold requirements in order to benefit from any kind of additional subsidy that the element would represent would be to make a commitment to local program expenditures as a form -- convert your Canadian program expenditures that are currently imposed on your OTA stations and convert that to a local programming expenditure.
5731 And that way, the Commission is assured that VI companies are making a firm investment in local programming before they would be able to benefit from any type of subsidy from the fund.
5732 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
5733 Commissioner Molnar?
5734 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
5735 I followed the conversation, but I would just like some clarification. I got I think a little bit confused about some of the discussion that went on.
5736 Early, Mr. Brace, you spoke about local TV being a real opportunity, and it is important to the viewership. Is that right?
5737 MR. BRACE: Yes and more specifically local news is an opportunity.
5738 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Local news is an opportunity and you saw yourself, in your vision, growing that, adding segments to the Breakfast Show, and so on.
5739 MR. BRACE: Based on the proposals that we put forward, that would incent us to do that and permit us to do it. But we see that as, you know --based on an economic model that can work.
5740 In the environment that we currently live in of declining revenues and declining audiences, it would really give us, you know, an opportunity to do that yes.
5741 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, and perhaps this is where things got a little fuzzy for me as to whether it was based on economic -- or whether it was based on a regulatory need or whether it was a business strategy.
5742 You commented that you look at your media division as a whole and that you cross-promote all of your different products overall, the different platforms, and you look for ways to brand Rogers and to bring people to the Rogers family.
5743 So how does local news fit into that strategy if we put aside a regulatory obligation?
5744 MR. BRACE: It fits into the -- it just makes it more difficult to do quite frankly. I mean that’s the -- you know, how do we get to where ---
5745 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: It’s difficult or it’s important?
5746 That’s what I’m trying to understand. You said that local news was an opportunity.
5747 MR. BRACE: It’s an opportunity and one we would like to pursue and we think the proposal that we have here would help us to get there.
5748 Without some kind of ability to manage the money differently the way we’re talking about, it becomes a more difficult proposal to deliver on.
5749 It’s something we’re still going to endeavour to do quite frankly because I think, you know, in ---
5750 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Could we put aside and perhaps this is what’s causing some confusion for me.
5751 So you’ve asked for some flexibility that would allow you to do news in communities over your Rogers TV channels, but you’re not able to do it today with the near 2 percent obligations.
5752 I had understood that the conversation about local news being an opportunity was more of a conversation on your traditional and conventional television stations. Is that true?
5753 MR. BRACE: Yes, okay, I’m sorry, yes.
5754 Yes, that’s absolutely true.
5755 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Because you’re not needing our intervention to do that; right?
5756 MR. BRACE: No, but the proposal that we put forward would help us to do it on our over-the-air conventional stations, maybe the ones that are in markets where we’re not delivering anything currently, where we’re delivering Breakfast Television.
5757 So to develop ---
5758 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So under your preferred approach though, you don’t -- there’s nothing under your preferred approach that you need from us to put news into your conventional; is there?
5759 MR. DAVID WATT: Just to clarify, our original proposal. So we -- this was the original proposal, contemplated shutting down the Toronto community station. It’s one of three that we operate within that licence. It is very well served by local over-the-air television.
5760 Our estimates were that that would “free up” about $4 million, a little bit more than that.
5761 At the time of our initial proposal, we thought the cost of the additional programming on the community channel that you just spoke of was about 2.9 million.
5762 So we were looking to support basically the reintroduction, re-emphasis of news programming in our smaller OTA stations, so the ones outside Toronto, with that $1 million.
5763 So there was actually that seepage across.
5764 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So you were looking to reallocate from community channel monies in Toronto to over-the-air conventional stations outside of Toronto. And it’s $1 million.
5765 Let’s face it, Rogers is big enough, $1 million isn’t swinging whether or not you can make local news, if it’s an important strategy, an opportunity.
5766 MS. WHEELER: I think it has to be recognized that we have hourly commitments to local programming in all of those markets.
5767 And so our first consideration is how do we fill those hours. Filling 14 original hours in Edmonton and Calgary is a real economic challenge for us, so to be able to fill those hours with news and information programming, right now is not economically possible for us, without running at a loss.
5768 And so what our proposal is really designed to do is to allow some of that money that is currently going to Toronto, which is a very well served market and help us fulfil our local obligations in other areas where we are able to do more expensive types of local programming such as news and information.
5769 So that’s really the rationale behind and when Mr. Brace talked about local being a strategy for us it’s across our media division.
5770 So we also have to recognize that we have that regulatory layer on top of that business strategy. So first and foremost we have to be in compliance and then we can pursue our strategy.
5771 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I might still be a little bit confused by that.
5772 If local is an opportunity, it’s a strategic priority, it’s a way of staying, you know, in contact with your customers, driving people to some of your platforms, you know, maybe it’s a little bit like your hockey stuff. People find it important they -- and they align with Rogers to get that.
5773 And if you’re assessing the profitability over all of your platforms, over your entire media division and frankly the profitability, I remember when you folks came to buy in Saskatchewan or when you went to buy in Montreal, the profitability is not on a station by station basis, because the profitability of all stations were lifted when you expanded the coverage of your network.
5774 So first let me understand and I thought I did, that in fact you assess profitability over your division. Looking at, you know, how you cross-promote across geographic areas, across platforms and so on; true?
5775 So that’s why I’m getting a little confused as to why we’re talking about specific hours in a specific market, if it’s important and it’s cross-promoted over everything and, you know, maybe local news is going to drive subscriber penetration of wireless within Calgary.
5776 MS. WHEELER: Sure, so I’ll let Mr. Brace speak to the overall strategy and assessment of profitability across the media division, but to your earlier allusion to our acquisition of -- of City Saskatchewan and now City Montreal.
5777 Those acquisitions are really designed to allow us to monetize our national and network programming and that does have benefits to the entire system, but it doesn’t necessarily equate down to the profitability of the local programming.
5778 And so yes it does, to the extent, help monetize local programming across all of our stations; it still is not enough, because we don’t have the reach of other national networks to be able to offset the losses on our local programming.
5779 So we do have to look at it on an overall station basis, but it’s still a loss in markets outside of Toronto on our local programming.
5780 MR. BRACE: And so just to put a finer point on it perhaps, Commissioner Molnar, yes we do look and I mean at the end of the day we have to consolidate the numbers across the media division, in hope that the stronger brothers and sisters are helping the weaker.
5781 But it’s not something that’s sustaining. I mean you still have to look at each element within your portfolio and try to develop it and it becomes -- and hopefully, you know, one day it lives on its own.
5782 I mean that’s the -- you know, that’s the structure that we look for so that, you know, we’re correct in saying that at the end of the day we’ll look at it across all of media, but still it’s no less important that each individual member of the family, kind of at some point, can hold its own.
5783 MS. WHEELER: If I can add, the cost of doing news, right, is expensive. Until we get a lot of this new technology in place, we’ll be faced with the cost of doing news what it is today for the next two, three years.
5784 Revenue -- advertising revenues are not standing still. They are not where -- they are going down at a rate of -- Janice can take us through that, but a rate of four to 10 percent a year.
5785 So -- and your working document outlined the -- kind of the revenue versus costs discrepancy as well.
5786 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. I ---
5787 MS. WHEELER: So we’re trying to balance all of those things.
5788 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right and many folks have talked to us about how there is pressure on the conventional model of revenue and I don’t dispute that for a minute.
5789 I just got a little bit excited because I thought Mr. Brace was coming in with a new perspective on the communications and how -- you know, we know that today more content is being created than ever before.
5790 And it sounded to me that you were coming in with a perspective that was looking beyond just a traditional linear and saying I have a -- I have a perspective, and I have a vision, and I’m looking at what Canadians want.
5791 How I can differentiate myself, how I can monetize that over many platforms, how I can recognize that this content drives loyalty to Rogers’ brand that, you know -- I was hopeful that for a minute hear we were going to get out of the weeds of saying monetizing local news within a local market.
5792 Because it sounded to me like you had a much bigger vision and I was just hoping you were going to share that with me, but fair enough. You’re not going to share.
5794 MR. BRACE: Stay tuned.
5795 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But I do believe you have it.
5796 My other question related to a conversation earlier about the limit on the two percent. And Ms. Watson I don’t dispute for a minute your passion for community T.V. or what you want to deliver to it, but I am confused when I hear that the limit -- there is a limit and that two percent is the limit and it’s the regulatory obligation and no more could be spent.
5797 Because, it seems to me that there are some pretty strategic corporate advantages within that two percent.
5798 First of all, everything’s branded Rogers TV. I mean, it’s not Markham Community TV, it’s Rogers TV maybe Markham.
5799 I’m not sure if it is or not, but so you’ve got branding, you’ve got -- or you’ve got people within each of those communities whose sole function is essentially to interact with the community.
5800 To meet -- make community relationships and partnerships and you’re suggesting there’s no value to Rogers at all to that.
5801 The only obligation is that which is a regulatory obligation and I think I heard you say you recognize that’s not Rogers.
5802 I wrote it down here somewhere. Something about it’s not Rogers money it’s owned and operated by Rogers for the community.
5803 So you recognize it’s not Rogers’ money but one might suggest there is certainly some value to the Rogers family related to owning and operating that community channel?
5804 Do you dispute that there is value? I mean if you put your name on a stadium you pay for that but you appear to make no contribution at all to these stations where you’ve branded them, you have your own employees, you’ve got your feet in the street with the Rogers nametag.
5805 Tell me why it would be inappropriate for there to be at least some contribution by Rogers to these community channels over and above the two percent that you recognize is not Rogers’ money?
5806 MS. WATSON: It’s certainly not my intent to say that we don’t value it. We absolutely do value it.
5807 And the budget for community television at Rogers is a little over $40 million. I am asking in option 1 to spend more than the minimum allotment in markets where it truly is a local service.
5808 In markets like Toronto where it’s really well served by over-the-air platforms, by over-the-air stations. We would seek to move some of that funding and make a better use of it.
5809 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Just -- sorry. My question is not -- yes.
5810 MS. WATSON: And you’re asking over and above.
5811 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah, my question is why is it inappropriate for Rogers to invest anything over and above the 2 percent, which they themselves recognize is not their money?
5812 MS. WATSON: So it’s -- I just want to correct the record that there are many over-the-air stations serving the GTA markets, so it’s not a self-serving issue. This was about really how do we move money to underserved areas, not what is more valuable to us.
5813 The Toronto community channel is valuable to us, but if we’re going to create news and information for Canadians in every market where they're undervalued, a very cost-effective way to do that is to move money from the Toronto community channel to the area that ---
5814 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Very good, but ---
5815 MS. WATSON: I’ll get to your answer.
5816 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- but -- I understand your proposal, but that wasn’t my question.
5817 MS. WATSON: Yeah, so the answer is it’s not that it’s inappropriate, it’s just the realities of business dictate that it won't happen, it is not the most cost-effective marketing dollar. So the company wouldn’t see it as -- they could spend that million dollars in different ways in a market to better serve his customers.
5818 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. I don’t even know what to say about that. You could spend it in a different way versus branding and marketing and people on the street who’s -- essentially their only role is promotion?
5819 MS. WATSON: Their only role is making community television, not promoting the company.
5820 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Making it for Rogers TV? Okay. I’ll let it go, I’ve asked my question, got my answer.
5821 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Simpson.
5822 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Thank you. I don’t want to stand in the way of lunch, but you presented a great opportunity because of the number of people here and your expertise on local as well as national network television. I have a few questions of Ms. Smith, who has a pretty ample background in network and national sales.
5823 The first question I've got is when you are selling nationally to the rep houses and to the agencies and drawing on your entire background, without telling stories out of school, you are looking at -- you're selling programs essentially, you're selling your network, but you're selling individual programs or do you like radio sell a combination buy or can advertisers cherry-pick programs?
5824 MS. SMITH: So to the advertisers and agencies we sell nationally by program.
5825 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
5826 MS. SMITH: Yes.
5827 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. So when you're doing that ---
5828 MS. SMITH: Yeah.
5829 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: --- you’ve got this balancing act between what the rights for the program cost and what your revenue potential and return across your system is going to generate to pay for what those costs were. So, you know, the formula is usually by cost per rating point or something. So you’ve got this cost outlay, you’ve got this revenue return.
5830 Now, when it comes to calculating that program cost is going to get paid for, are you making assumptions that each station is going to perform differently, or do you think that the program is going to perform relatively equally well across the country as it’s broadcasted?
5831 MS. SMITH: So when we -- when we are selling we’re selling on a national basis.
5832 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
5833 MS. SMITH: And the programs and the ratings or the audience, because we sell them a CPM ---
5834 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
5835 MS. SMITH: --- are based on a 13-week average. So we sell the average of those programs, of any one program, of the achievement of that program. And that's how it’s purchased.
5836 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: With some guarantees usually to the ---
5837 MS. SMITH: We do, there is -- there are industry guarantees ---
5838 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
5839 MS. SMITH: --- that every broadcaster upholds for each agency group and client, absolutely.
5840 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Switching over to the local stations now, and again, just drawing on your experience and anybody else that wants to chime in on this part, we’ve talked a lot about accounting principles, but I’m trying to get an idea of more to do with the revenue calculation of the individual station. I’ve seen -- I’ve worked for national ad agencies and I’ve ---
5841 MS. SMITH: M'hm.
5842 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: --- enthralled my colleagues with the stories of how as a Canadian agency we were quite delighted with selling to a multinational, because we thought our costs were going to be defrayed because they had research departments and media departments. And to our shock, the bills we got to access those services were often more than what it would have cost if we did it at home.
5843 And I’m trying to figure out why a local television station is not profitable to a national company that owns that station? You know, we’ve heard from the SMITS guys and we can, you know, it’s pretty simple math, you know, they're running their own balance sheets and they know pretty much, you know, why they're losing or making money.
5844 But when it comes to how you're figuring out the profits and losses of a network station when functionally 20-21 hours of that station is pretty much network, and the only costs are overhead of administration and news, how do you know that that station is losing money if your network side is making money? Because we hear that -- I’m sorry for the run-on question, but we hear that national advertising is dropping, but it seems to pay the bills at the head office level.
5845 MS. SMITH: Just in terms of -- Commissioner Simpson, just in terms of the overall industry just to -- on the national perspective ---
5846 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
5847 MS. SMITH: --- to give some colour, and we have talked about the fact that, you know, the industry is -- and having a challenge. So overall, when you take a look at the industry over the last year, I would definitely say that we’ve been under siege from a national perspective. We’ve seen declines on the conventional side, anywhere between 12 and 15 percent, and in some cases anywhere between 2 to 5 percent on the cable side.
5848 And again, this goes to the conversations we’ve been having, you know, throughout the morning, you know, and how the revenues are shifting. The revenues are shifting from conventional television into other platforms, specifically digital and mobile platforms, because marketers are looking for responses in real time and they're looking for efficiencies.
5849 You know, from a national perspective, we are seeing a challenge and I think that’s going to continue to decline, specifically within the confines of the economy and the Canadian dollar are certainly giving -- giving us a run for our money.
5850 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So aside from national news, now you don’t have a national news package per se like The National or CTV, but ---
5851 MS. SMITH: Correct.
5852 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: --- from a local news perspective industry-wide, are ratings declining? I’m seeing it in my market, but you know, as a truism?
5853 MS. SMITH: Yes, absolutely. So the only local news that we do have is in Toronto, and across the board local news ratings are declining.
5854 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And that's making it harder to sell to the nationals?
5855 MS. SMITH: Absolutely. And at the end of the day too, if I may, you know, when you look at local news and how clients purchase local news, they don’t buy local news necessarily in isolation. They buy it based on a total package, based on the strategy that they have for that market for that period of time.
5856 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: So the local stations have to be able to cost-justify their overheads for creating the local news. Am I then to assume that the burden on them is to top up the lack of national or the declining national revenues with more local and regional advertising? And if they don’t, that’s what throws everything to a loss?
5857 If you can't sell national and -- if you can't sell national advertiser on your local news hour, then, you know, how does that gap get made up, is it by the local sales team or ---
5858 MS. SMITH: It is by the local sales team. So we have a national sales team and -- as well as a local sales team in Toronto ---
5859 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Yeah.
5860 MS. SMITH: --- that cover off both disciplines, correct.
5861 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. so when you -- so when we hear sort of anecdotally categorically that local television news is in peril and local television is in peril, it’s predominantly because the only area of high cost that can't go away is the creation of news?
5862 MS. SMITH: Correct.
5863 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: And it’s not getting supported by national like -- because the ratings are declining?
5864 MS. SMITH: Correct.
5865 COMMISSIONER SIMPSON: Okay. Anybody else want to chime in? I think I'm done. That sums it up?
5867 LE PRÉSIDENT: Monsieur le conseiller Dupras?
5868 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Merci. Good morning.
5869 You say you have 333 employees working for community channel. How many just in Toronto?
5870 MS. LONE: Twenty-five (25).
5871 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Twenty-five (25). But you have a lot of subscriber on the cable side in that area, therefore -- I mean there's more money than you need to do a community channel in Toronto and you recognize that?
5872 MS. LONE: M'hm.
5873 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: But you are spending all that money in community -- for a community channel in Toronto, even though you have more than you need. So where are you spending the extra?
5874 MR DAVID WATT: What Toronto does, it bears the -- because of its size, it’s recognized, it bears a large proportion of the depreciation and the general overhead expenses. So you could take those type of expenses and say we have 41 channels, divide it, and each one would pay 140 first. We do the allocation more on the basis of revenue.
5875 So, in a sense, on those fixed costs Toronto is already supporting the infrastructure that supports the entire operation. A master control function as well is significantly supported by Toronto.
5876 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Okay. But just for a community channel in a city like Toronto and -- I don’t know -- a community channel in Ottawa, I mean, would the cost be different in these two markets?
5877 MS. WATSON: Well, the costs -- I’m not sure if you’re asking in a hypothetical -- or because of the way the funding requirement reporting works we spend what is required in those markets. And so -- and I don’t want to keep using the word “required”. We spend to the funding formula based on those markets.
5878 So the budgets are -- the output is pretty much the same in terms of the amount of hours. They are the two largest or most well-funded channels with respect to -- because of that and so they produce more hours. They’ll produce 30 hours a week of programming versus the hour and a half out of St. Thomas.
5879 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: And so it would be like the major markets that would -- where we would see money be taken to support smaller markets?
5880 MS. WATSON: Yes.
5881 So one of the things we do with Toronto, because it’s a large municipality, we actually run three separate and distinct channels in that one licence. So there’s one for Mississauga, and there’s one for the Richmond Hill northern corridor, and then one for Toronto itself. And that’s how we’re able to -- that’s how we spend the money based on being most responsive to those customers.
5882 And we see that if we were to keep the other two, the Richmond Hill and the Mississauga and take the money from which is urban Toronto and redistribute that to those other places it would benefit the system as a whole.
5883 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: In your original plan you were thinking of taking money from the community channel to help your local television. In your revised proposal you have a local news fund but you also require to have flexible pooling possibility of the community monies. Are you therefore going to give more money to the smaller BDU markets then you had anticipated as a result of this revised proposal?
5884 MS. WATSON: The math was always the same with respect to the pooling the money within the community channels. We would have spent more money in those markets.
5885 It became clear that after the Working Document was tabled that we focused on what would that money do in those markets and that’s when we were more precise with -- on a précisé -- we were more precise with what that money would deliver in those markets if you were to -- we wanted to give you some comfort on the fact that there would be incremental service to those subscribers in those markets.
5886 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: And just to be clear, the extra support you’d provide to the smaller market is that limited to your local news initiative or is it going to be more than that?
5887 MS. WATSON: We were proposing to do those local news initiatives -- initially we were just going to keep them running because the budgets are shrinking based on how the formula works. So we were -- again, as after the document, if news and local information is a determined policy priority then that’s what we would do with them. And that’s when talked about how we would move money around to deliver three and a half hours of original news in 15 underserved markets per week.
5888 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Do you think that’s the best thing for the smaller markets ---
5889 MS. WATSON: I do.
5890 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: --- to add local news? You were talking about your OMNI station, you know, that news does not engage as much as current affairs.
5891 MS. WATSON: Well, to be clear, though, the newscasts in Bathurst is not going to have -- you know, is not going to cover the attacks in Paris. The newscast in Bathurst would talk about Bathurst issues and it would be local in its nature.
5892 So there would be -- it wouldn’t be what we traditionally define as an over-the-air newscast with a bit of national, a bit of regional, you know, the sports and weather and off to a few local stories. This is a purely local play.
5893 In Bathurst it will be, you know, a conversation with the mayor, but it would also allow us -- a reporter to investigate something on a local level, absolutely.
5894 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: And for these expenses -- the local news expense -- you say well we’d like also to see the percentage of access programming go lower to 30 percent.
5895 MS. WATSON: M’hm.
5896 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Why not do this from the licence produce side?
5897 MS. WATSON: Because if -- as I mentioned earlier, the 50 percent spending requirement is prohibitive, and so if it went down to 30 we could do it. We used to do it but then when we had to move up to spend 50 percent of our budgets on access programming it -- we couldn’t do it anymore.
5898 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Okay. In the large centers where you cover many communities how do you ensure that these different communities are getting reflection?
5899 MS. WATSON: In the current community channel framework and the one that preceded it ---
5900 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: For instance, if I might give you an example, we had someone from New Westminster B.C. talked about Shaw, you know, that has this big area and New Westminster is not reflected at all and therefore they want an independent community channel. I give you this as an example.
5901 MS. WATSON: Understood.
5902 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: How is it different with Rogers?
5903 MS. WATSON: With -- in the 1998 framework and the 2002 framework and in the -- as a result of the ’98 framework, in 2002 and 2010 the Commission carved out Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver as special needs communities, if you will, to ask precisely that question, what will you do to meet the needs of the neighbourhoods in those communities. It was a safeguard against too much consolidation in terms of what would happen in those markets.
5904 So in Vancouver there used to be six neighbourhood studios. It went down to three and I think they’re down to one now. And in Toronto the Commission has a condition -- has imposed a condition of licence on our licence to provide -- we have to report on the number of groups who come from four quadrant’s of that area in order to meet those neighbourhood needs, which we meet and report on.
5905 So there’s that safeguard with respect to Rogers. I don’t know what the safeguards are for Shaw and Vidéotron.
5906 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: You seem to be very committed to community programming, but, I mean, for other BDUs that would be non-compliant what do you think of the proposal of having community member boards to decide on the programming that should be seen on a community channel?
5907 MS. WATSON: Well, if there are advisory boards and a way to seek input and advice, and outreach, they’re useful. If they are there to decide, then it becomes more of an additional obstacle to most of the time, referee between groups as to what -- who gets what. And so advisory boards in the way we’ve set them up for Omni would work fine. We used to have them voluntarily on the community channel. I don’t see a reason why we couldn’t bring them back.
5908 COMMISSIONER DUPRAS: Okay. Thank you very much. These are my questions.
5909 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner MacDonald?
5910 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon. I just have one question and it’s following up on Commissioner Molnar’s question, and I don’t question Rogers’ commitment to community television. But I do want to sort of, get your thoughts on how you do value being branded as Rogers’ community television. So I want to ask Commissioner Molnar’s question, perhaps a slightly different way.
5911 Rogers has a wide array of properties that are under your ownership and some of them offer the ability for you to build your brand, or to advertise. So if someone in Rogers’ advertising department decides that it’s appropriate to erect a new billboard, or new jumbo screen at the Rogers Centre carrying the company’s logo, or if someone decides it’s appropriate for Rogers to take out a full page ad in McLean’s Magazine for example, how does that work? Is that free or is there an inter or intra-company exchange of funding in some way?
5912 MS. WATSON: There’s an allocation of media assets within the company in terms of, you know, how many commercials City gets to have on City, and City get to have on Sportsnet, and Sportsnet gets to have on City, and vice versa. Billboards are paid for by the marketing group. That is outside of my purview.
5913 MR. BRACE: Commissioner MacDonald, if you’re talking about is there an allocated expense intercompany, which I think was your question, the answer is no. We use available inventory to promote our assets across the company, whether it’s Rogers TV, Sportsnet, whatever the case may be.
5914 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So if there is a page that hasn’t been sold in McLean’s Magazine, you just put your logo on it? There’s no exchange back and forth between different divisions?
5915 MR. BRACE: Yeah, that’s -- we would. That’s not probably the best example, because there would be production costs to that, so there would be some expense. But if you’re talking about radio advertising, if you’re talking about television advertising, it’s -- we use available inventory to promote all of our assets.
5916 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you.
5917 THE CHAIRPERSON: Legal?
5918 MS. FISHER: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Two questions from me today.
5919 MS. WATSON: Sorry, can I -- just to interrupt. But none of those opportunities exist on the community channel.
5920 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes, I know. But it could be argued that there is value in having your company’s logo at the bottom of the screen, or on the back of the set when there is an interview going on.
5921 So I was just sort of trying to figure out if there is any -- what the incremental value is to your company and the brand in having that logo out there. And if there is no value and you pay nothing for that value, maybe there is no value to it. But that was my -- that was my thought.
5922 MS. FISHER: Thank you. With respect to the questions contained in Exhibit 1 that was placed on the record of the proceeding on Monday, we ask that you undertake to provide responses as applicable by the 15th of February.
5923 MS. WATSON: Sure.
5925 MS. FISHER: Thank you. And my second question today relates to a new exhibit, Exhibit 3 which the Secretary will hand you. This exhibit follows up on a discussion that the Chair had with Cogeco yesterday and an exchange that you had with him earlier. It contains a series of questions regarding certain policies and procedures in the allocation of shared costs.
5926 I believe there was an undertaking given to the Chair for the 5th of February. This would supersede that undertaking because it’s a little more detailed and we ask that you undertake to provide your responses as applicable by the 15th of February.
5927 MR. DAVID WATT: We will.
5928 MS. FISHER: Thank you. That’s all.
5930 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I think we’ll adjourn at this point. Those are all our questions. We will adjourn until 1:45. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 12:42 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:46 p.m.
5931 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l'ordre, s'il vous plaît. Madame la Secrétaire?
5932 THE SECRETARY: Merci. Before we begin, for the record, the Commission acknowledges receipt of Unifor’s letter dated January 25th, and Unifor Local 723M letter dated January 22nd. These letters are on the public file of this hearing and can be found under the procedural requests link on our website.
5933 THE CHAIRPERSON: And we will take your request under advisement.
5934 THE SECRETARY: We will now hear the presentation from Unifor. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you have 10 minutes.
5935 MR. KITT: Thank you. Good morning Chairman, and Commissioners. My name is Randy Kitt. I am the Chair of Unifor’s media counsel. With me are Howard Law, Unifor’s Media Industry Director, and Angelo DiCaro, Unifor’s Lead Media Researcher. Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union representing more than 310,000 workers across Canada, including more than 6,000 in Canada’s film and broadcast sectors.
5936 We thank the Commission for the opportunity to speak today on this important matter of local and community television.
5937 As we do in our written submission, I want to begin by recalling a quote made by the Chairman in London, almost one-year ago to the day. The Chairman said:
5938 “Although it grabs fewer headlines,
the reduction in funding of local television stations by major broadcasters also gives me cause for concern. Media moguls are indeed allowed to be worried about profits, but both the public and private shareholders of broadcasting assets have a duty to ensure that news reporting and analysis continues to be properly funded. Any informed citizenry cannot be the sacrificial offering on the altar of corporate profits or deficit reduction.”
5939 Solidarity, brother. We agree with your passionate support for the importance of television news journalism. We agree with your assessment that local news be viewed as essential to a healthy democracy. And we agree that profitable corporations, enjoying the opportunity to make money in the licensed broadcasting ecosystem, are responsible for the realization of that imperative.
5940 We also want to remind the Commission of an important and prophetic policy statement that it issued in 2009, that is even more relevant today than it was then:
5941 “…Large media companies -- detached
from the local communities they serve -- now operate the majority of conventional television stations.”
5942 “…over the course of the current
economic downturn, it has been observed that broadcasters are more likely to cut local programming, programming that can entail significant infrastructure costs, rather than make difficult decisions in terms of cutting popular programming.”
5943 “It is the Commission's view that
diversity of voices and local reflection are equally as important, if not more important than, other preoccupations of broadcasters, and that such considerations and the public demand for local programming are currently not being appropriately recognized by many within the industry.”
5944 Since 2009, nothing could be clearer than the facts that broadcasters, including the prosperous vertically integrated “media moguls” that you have described, have responded to profit pressure by cutting their most significant cost centre, the staffing of local news operations. The body count keeps piling higher. Layoffs have become an annual event at each VI, eroding local news operations across the country.
5945 We also agree with your opening statement Mr. Chairman that the business model for local television is “under stress.” But we go further and point out that, in fact, the local television industry is undergoing a structural change. Every broadcaster that has appeared before you has confirmed that the revenue trend is sloping downward.
5946 There are some things that industry players and the Commission can’t expect to control; most importantly, the fact that the digital ad dollar is worth about 10 cents on the old media advertising dollar. And that digital, particularly Google, is eating our lunch.
5947 We also can’t control the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada deprived this industry of the most direct regulatory tool to address this situation; fee for signal. It will take legislative leadership to make that tool available.
5948 In the meantime, our challenge is to effectively use the tools we have, or the tools that we devise to save local television and local TV journalism. Along with newspaper outlets, local TV news is at the centre of original professional news gathering. On the front lines of local TV, we find many small market independent stations on the brink of going dark, but they won’t be the only casualties.
5949 Without a doubt, a number of small market stations controlled by the VIs are under threat of closure, and we refer to the CTV2 stations in that regard.
5950 And as we’ve heard and as the Commission’s own data shows, this crisis in local TV touches even the largest market stations. So what is to be done?
5951 There are two problems; first, keeping endangered stations on the air, and second, keeping and improving local news on all stations.
5952 We believe the solution lies in augmenting the small market LPF and creating a local news fund. In a directional manner, we concur with the Bell Media proposal to direct more BDU contributions to the SMLPF, on one hand and, on the other hand, create an incentive-structured LNF available to all local stations that broadcast news.
5953 However, we do propose tweaking Bell’s model so that sufficient BDU funds are diverted through the SMLPF to keep certain small market independent stations on the air.
5954 With respect to the LNF, we support Bell Media’s proposal to reward the production of existing and incremental local news. To the extent that distinctions based on financial need should be tied to the size of the market or the number of stations in a market or ownership status, these important considerations could be integrated into the design of the incentives.
5955 For example, Bell Media proposes that some stations would have to match each dollar of LNF funding with $2 of their own. However, for financially-imperiled stations, the Commission might consider a different cost-sharing formula.
5956 Nevertheless, with or without a local news fund, we cannot count on broadcasters to maintain, let alone improve, local news without binding definitions of local news, local programming and local presence as a Condition of Licence.
5957 In our submission, we present the Commission with three broad approaches on this score. We recommend a new Local Programming Expenditure obligation not unlike the current CPE or PNI licence conditions that exist for current VI broadcasters.
5958 Each licensee’s LPE should be pegged at no less than its 2014-2015 expenditures on local programming. These licence conditions would act as a hedge against further cost-cutting of local news.
5959 Second, we recommend putting real teeth into each licensee’s Local Exhibition Requirements, which, in 2009, were deliberately set well below actual programming levels for most stations. The LER should be reset at a level no less than each licensee’s current original and first-run local programming.
5960 Again, this will provide a hedge against further cuts to local news.
5961 Thirdly, we recommend tighter definitions of local programming to ensure that local news remains genuinely local by ensuring those definitions are embedded in the COLs.
5962 We support the definitions the Commission has tabled in its Exhibit 1 with respect to local programming and local presence, with some notable exceptions.
5963 We agree that independent local productions should be included in a revised definition of local programming, but urge the Commission to treat this programming as incremental to standard Local Exhibition Requirements.
5964 We also urge the Commission to establish local presence as part of the Conditions of License for local stations in the upcoming group-based licence renewals.
5965 On the definition for local news, we urge the Commission to omit Category 2(a) programming from the definition of local news. Including this category would give a green light to replacing actual news coverage with current affair-style panel talk shows.
5966 Appended to these speaking notes, we provide a revised definition of local news for the Commissioner to consider -- the Commission to consider that builds on the definitions submitted by Bell Media.
5967 Our biggest concern is that local news be truly local and is a product of original news gathering, not aggregated from other news outlets. Local news must be investigated by full-time reporters and shooters on the ground, presented by local anchors, and produced and edited by local personnel.
5968 We believe the VIs can live up to this suite of licence conditions and definitions regardless of whether or not they access the LNF.
5969 With respect to the independent stations, yesterday, Commissioner Molnar asked the SMITS group what those broadcasters would commit to in return for $20 million dollars, and we would say that a similar suite of licence obligations would be appropriate for independent stations.
5970 The specific details of those licence conditions could be worked out upon renewal.
5971 ` Finally, on the matter of third-language local television, it remains Unifor’s position that a separate proceeding is the place to address the OMNI situation. Otherwise, the Commission should re-open this process for all parties to submit evidence and argument, specifically on matters related to third-language local programming.
5972 In closing, we thank the Commission again for undertaking this important, national dialogue. Unifor members across the country are watching this consultation closely, as decisions made in these halls will have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of workers.
5973 Thank you.
5974 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
5975 Commissioner MacDonald?
5976 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon, and welcome. I just -- before I get into the questions that I have, I just wanted to ask one with respect to your oral submission.
5977 You talk about the solution lies in augmenting the small market LPF and creating a new local news fund and then, on the next page, on page 5, you recommend new local programing expenditure.
5978 I just want to be clear that those are separate suggestions; they’re not the same fund. So the local news fund goes for local news and the programming expenditure goes for non-news programming?
5979 MR. LAW: Yeah, so the idea would be the local news fund may or may not be accessed by stations. We think all stations require a local programming expenditure envelope enforced by Condition of Licence so they keep spending money on local news.
5980 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay, that’s perfect. Thank you for that clarification.
5981 MR. LAW: Sorry about the slew of acronyms. It can be confusing.
5982 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I’m going to get into sort of different funding mechanisms and your thoughts on that In a moment.
5983 I want to start off by asking, your members, are they involved in just the production of local news, or are they also producing other content and non-news programming as well?
5984 MR. LAW: Yes, we are involved in the production of local news and all sorts of other programming.
5985 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And in your submission, you had commented on the need for both a focus on news and non-news programming, and this question -- the answer to this question may be different depending on what market we’re talking about.
5986 But does your organization have any thoughts on what the right mix of non-news programming and news programming is for these stations?
5987 MR. LAW: No, we don’t have -- we don't have a number to give you. We’ll say unequivocally that the highest priority, we think, in all local programming is local news.
5988 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. You stated in your intervention that there should be reasonable and upward adjustments of the minimum of first run programming hours, and I wanted to get your thoughts on what "reasonable" means.
5989 MR. LAW: Well, we confused you because we put that in our brief and then, when we thought this through the last couple days in terms of our speaking notes, where we landed on local exhibition requirements is to peg the local exhibition requirements, not necessarily based on how many hours of repeat programming a station might be doing now and then adjust it upwards but, rather, to identify how much original first run local programming is being done and peg it at least at that level so that level doesn’t sink because that’s what counts. It’s what costs, but that’s what people watch.
5990 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So you’re setting it at the level that it would have been at in the most recent year, and you’re no longer suggesting that it increase -- obviously, it’s better if it does increase, but you’re no longer suggesting that it must increase from that baseline.
5991 MR. LAW: I think the more fruitful avenue for the Commission to explore in licence hearings is to make that the level of first run programming is upheld. Even adjusting the number of hours they have to repeat programming doesn’t accomplish anything, in our view, or accomplishes very little compared to making sure that the integrity of first run programming is upheld because that’s what suffers whenever there’s cost cutting, is the amount of first run, either in terms of the actual hours or in terms of the quality.
5992 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. In your intervention, you also note the loss of ad revenue and the loss of jobs that there’ve been in the industry in recent years, and you sort of -- you forecast out into the future as to, you know, that there may be more cuts coming.
5993 If community TV were encouraged or forced to provide an increased level of local news coverage do you believe that that would offset some job losses that have been experienced by local stations?
5994 MR. LAW: Do you mean if community programming in more or less the same market started doing news and people were laid off at OTA stations would get jobs there. Is that what you’re suggesting?
5995 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Well, there have been layoffs at OTA stations already. You’re suggesting that there may be more to come. If there are more people creating news content, such as the community television stations, do you think that finds a home for some of those individuals that have been displaced?
5996 MR. LAW: I would be very pleased if, in fact, that happened. I mean, you have to go through a lot of disruption of peoples’ lives and programming to get there. And I think to a certain extent your question has its own answer, which is obviously if there’s community based local TV popping up where there wasn’t before there are going to be some jobs associated with that.
5997 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And with respect to news programming on community television, do you think that -- because we’ve heard both sides of this argument over the last few days. Do you think that community stations would be able to increase their sort of -- their presence and be able to offer significant quantity and quality of news programming relative to some of the existing over-the-air stations?
5998 MR. LAW: Well, a couple of thoughts. I think, first of all, you’d have to -- I’d have to know where they were, you know, whether or not there were other OTA stations in that market, because there’s been a discussion about allowing that to happen where there weren’t OTA stations.
5999 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: M’hm.
6000 MR. LAW: But in order to do news you have to have -- from a start-up you’re going to have to have -- among many things, you’re going to have to have the resources of capitalization and you’re going to have to have experienced people. That’s not going to be easy for a start-up or else we would have seen more of it.
6001 But, you know, I don’t want anyone to think that, you know, we discourage that sort of thing and wish people luck with it.
6002 Go ahead.
6003 MR. KITT: No, I just -- you know, I don’t know a lot about community programming. I’ve worked for a private broadcaster my whole career. But some of the things I’ve heard in the last week, especially with your last intervenor, is that, you know, the model is significantly different.
6004 So if you’re asking whether we’re going to lay off, you know, a big VI -- won’t name names -- is going to lay off 200 employees this week and then next week they’re going to -- you know, and they’re going to employ on a community model of one staff member per 10 volunteers, or librarians are going to be training journalists, I don’t think that’s going to be a positive thing.
6005 If you’re saying are the community stations going to change the way they do things and change their model significantly that’s a question you’re going to have to ask them.
6006 But I think the answer to your question, from my point of view, based on what I’ve heard this week, is no, that -- you know, a journalist won’t -- being laid off from CTV or from Rogers isn’t going to go volunteer for the Rogers cable station and provide quality news for our communities.
6007 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: No. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that they would go and volunteer. If these community stations were actually hiring on the ground journalists, or technicians, camera operators, some of the individuals that have maybe been displaced over the last few years, if community stations were doing a professional quality of news as to whether you think what they would be doing would be significant enough to offset the job losses that we’ve seen to date at least in some of the over-the-air stations.
6008 MR. KITT: I think that would be great if whoever offers local professional quality journalism would be great as long as it is that. But I didn’t hear the willingness from any of the cable companies to do that this week so far. But wherever those jobs are if it’s good quality professional journalism and it’s on the air or on any number of platforms and there’s a job there that would be good, yes.
6009 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So what, in your mind, is actually required for local presence for a station to effectively operate in a community where in a world of rapidly changing technology right now more things are being automated, it’s easier to do things remotely? What’s actually required from a local presence standpoint to effectively deliver news?
6010 MR. KITT: Yeah, there’s no question technology, you know, facilitates automation and I’m absolutely surprised and amazed every day at what automation can do.
6011 Just yesterday we were looking at a news story that AP and some other news organizations they put in some facts in a computer and they’re automating about 2,000 news stories -- like newspaper stories a day. It just amazes and boggles my mind.
6012 But if you want local presence in a community I think you’ve heard it from almost everybody that you need reporters and you need definitely shooters in a bureau in the community. That’s number one. But I do believe you need an anchor and you need, you know, other facilities in that community to edit the news and produce the news in that community.
6013 The further away you get the news production away from the community the less that news production reflects the community.
6014 And to simply say and to hear, you know, the big VI say, you know, we can absolutely do editing anywhere in the world, you know, I have to call on that.
6015 Because I’m an editor -- I was a news editor for a lot of my years in my early career and, you know, you work directly with the producer as the story evolves.
6016 And if an editor in Toronto or an anchor in Toronto is making editorial decisions for small communities across this country it’s going to reflect the community of Toronto more than it’s going to reflect a small community like Medicine Hat or -- I’m just going to name some places I’ve been to -- St. John’s, Newfoundland.
6017 You know, because as an editor in Toronto -- you know, I might have been there once -- but no decision that anybody makes in that newsroom is reflecting that community at all.
6018 And the reality is that -- and we have it in our brief, and I could read it for you if I flip through it. But basically, you know, Shaw and Global are trying this model right now and -- central casting I think is what it’s called. And I think the people in small communities are quite outraged and upset that there’s an anchor in Toronto trying to represent them, and they put a screen, it’s very Less Nessman-esque -- you know, I’m standing here in Washington and it hits the site behind him of the -- you know, the set and it doesn’t reflect those communities at all.
6019 So I think technology can play a key role in making some efficiencies but if you want to reflect the community then you’ve got to have those productions in the community.
6020 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So -- and you would know this better than I would from your background as an editor. But if they need to find deficiencies to keep the station on the air, if they need to find some synergy somewhere in their operation, wouldn’t it be better to invest in having the local reporter and the local cameraman or perhaps the local station and maybe give a little bit on caring whether it’s edited in Toronto or Vancouver?
6021 MR. LAW: Hypothetically that might even work if you could test it out. But when Shaw cutback and central casted and moved all the anchors out of the cities that they’re presenting to they didn’t boost the number of reporters. So, you know, if this was simply a thinking smarter about local news and we’re going to cut or economize on one area but boy are we going to put more feet on the street that would be an interesting evaluation. And I guess you’ll have a chance to ask the folks from Shaw that next week.
6022 MR. KITT: Sorry, and I’d like to jump in there. Also, you know, you’re asking us wouldn’t it be better if we either shutdown or maybe do exactly that, and, you know, it’s sort of like as -- you know, now that I’ve moved from an editor to, you know, more -- a bigger part of my life is within the union now and I do a lot more negotiating, that’s kind of a negotiating question.
6023 And I think that when you get down to a question like that you’ve got to have the players in the room saying -- and that’s exactly to our COL point is that if we allow -- or if, you know, we’re going to do that over here will they commit to this over here. And I think what we find is that we allow this to go over here and then they still lay off employees, or they still shutdown the station, or they still do what they do.
6024 So from a bargaining standpoint, you know, we might be open to that assuming those COLs are in place so that, you know, actual -- a quid pro quo can take place there.
6025 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Just shifting gears a little bit, would you say that perhaps some areas of the country may be overserved relative to others that are significantly underserved from a local news or non-news programming standpoint?
6026 MR. KITT: I can’t imagine anyone could be overserved with local news. It’s absolutely essential to have the most diverse range of voices. And I would say absolutely, many communities are underserved.
6027 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And the reason I ask is we’ve stated that we believe that there’s sufficient money in the system -- perhaps rebalancing may be needed, but there is sufficient money there. I don’t believe that it’s -- you obviously share that viewpoint.
6028 But we have heard suggestions here this week, actually, from Rogers who presented just before you, about scaling back their operations or the BDU operations in the larger centres across the country, Toronto, Montreal, French Montreal and Vancouver, and redirecting those monies to small and medium size markets that may be underserved.
6029 Would you -- assuming there is significant money in the system already, would you think that would be a reasoned approach to ensure more level playing field for -- across the country?
6030 MR. KITT: Well, I wasn’t sure if I heard them say that they wanted to close down OTA in major centres and move that money to ---
6031 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Sorry; community stations.
6032 MR. KITT: Yes, right. Exactly.
6033 You know, we’re not experts on community television so, you know, we couldn’t offer an opinion on the impact of that for people who follow community television in the major centres.
6034 Rogers is number three in some of the major centres in terms of OTA, but I think there’s still enough ratings and ad dollars to keep them in the game. I think that’s a positive thing. So we’re not eager to see them leave those markets, certainly, in terms of OTA.
6035 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. You've recommended that local news programming expenditure should be separate from the current five percent that’s allocated from the BDUs. Is that accurate?
6036 I’m trying to figure out whether that’s coming from the five percent or whether that’s in addition to the money that the BDUs already contribute.
6037 MR. LAW: Did I trip you up again with all those acronyms?
6038 We talk in LNF or LPE, so the idea was out of the five percent, which you’ve said is fixed, that there could be redirection of that money in other places. So what we’re suggesting is that some of it go -- following kind of the template that Bell suggested, some of it go into the SMLPF and some of it go into an LMF, which I think we’ve been discussing the last few days. But LPE is just whatever -- is just to be a condition of licence of whatever their local expenditures are for that station.
6039 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. So it’s not in addition to. You’re not asking ---
6040 MR. LAW: No, no.
6041 COMMISSION MacDONALD: --- for more money from the BDUs.
6042 MR. LAW: No.
6043 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And some have suggested that we look at not just the broad cap when we’re doing the calculation of the five percent, not just look at the broadcasting revenue from the BDUs, but look at them more holistically for their larger scope of their operations.
6044 Would you care to comment on that?
6045 MR. LAW: I’m not sure I -- there might be two questions. I’m not sure which one is being asked.
6046 Could I ask you to repeat it?
6047 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes. We’ve heard different intervenors suggest that instead of basing BDU contributions just on their broadcasting revenue that we look -- for the large vertically-integrated companies we look at their overall revenue when doing that calculation and wanted to know what your organization's thoughts were on that.
6048 MR. LAW: Well, so there are two answers to the two questions that really are there.
6049 So our position, which we’ve put forward during the Let’s Talk discussions, was that it’s important to capture the OTD revenue as -- in terms of the Canadian content contributions.
6050 What we had also said in our brief, but not repeated in our speaking notes, was in terms of calculating that LPE we were talking about, we thought that the baseline ought to be when you take, say, 30 percent of something or 20 percent of something, whatever that is, that should be taken on broadcasting -- that should be taken on broadcasting and BDU revenues together because the broadcasting revenues are projected to drop quicker than the BDU contributions. So we felt that that would be a more stable base of calculating LPE.
6051 So we think that, within any particular vertically-integrated group, because they have the more stable, larger BDU revenues, that provides some sort of ballast when coming to calculate the LPE because the LPE is going to drop based on current projections.
6052 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So just so I’m clear, so it would be more than just their broadcasting revenue. It would be revenue that they derive from other sources as well.
6053 MR. LAW: Yes, that’s correct. That would be the denominator and you have to figure out a proper percentage.
6054 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And do you have views on what the proper percentage should be?
6055 MR. LAW: We don’t, and I think that I could say this as in answer to more than one question that you might pose is we’re in the position of being, kind of, experienced amateurs at this. And we don’t have in front of us some of the data and the number crunching ability that I think some of the major industry players do. So we’ll leave that to the Commission and to your deliberations.
6056 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Just a couple of final questions.
6057 Who do you think should administer these funds?
6058 MR. LAW: The LNF, you’re talking about?
6059 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah.
6060 MR. LAW: Yeah, we do have an opinion on that.
6061 We think that it’s important, obviously, to have industry players involved in that because they have -- obviously have expertise to bring. But we don’t think industry players, by which obviously we’re talking about the broadcasters, also other interested groups like ourselves -- and we’d be the first to put our hand up.
6062 We don’t think the industry players should constitute a majority, voting majority of whatever that organization is. We think the Commission should make sure that that Commission is -- from a numerical point of view, is -- has a solid majority of disinterested players who are able to put -- you know, to have no appearance of conflict of interest.
6063 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And if, hypothetically, there was money left over in that fund at the end of the year, what would you suggest be done with that?
6064 Should it roll over, should it go to some type of contingency, should it go back to the BDU?
6065 MR. LAW: So it’s more than Christmas party money we’re talking about.
6066 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes.
6067 MR. LAW: It probably ---
6068 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: We're not going to buy a photocopier at the end of the year.
6069 MR. LAW: It would probably make sense to roll it over. But I would imagine if you found that the LNF wasn’t being drawn upon that you would be looking to review the contribution levels.
6070 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
6071 MR. LAW: You might have the opposite problem, of course, that it -- that there’s too many claimants and that there would be -- we would need to have a review about whether or not we should increase, but that’s for another day, obviously.
6072 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: That may be the more likely outcome of the two.
6073 Thank you very much. Those are my questions.
6074 MR. LAW: Thank you.
6075 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar.
6076 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
6077 I just want to follow up on a conversation you had regarding the definition of local presence and your discussion about the need for anchors and editors within the local community.
6078 You were making reference to the Shaw initiative where, in fact, we have -- there are examples that exist today where those positions are outside of the communities.
6079 I wonder if your group has done any research or collected any information as to what the impact has been within those communities, what has been the community’s feedback.
6080 MR. KITT: We don’t have community feedback, but we have reached out to employees of those stations and it’s in our brief, paragraph 62, page 9.
6081 Here’s what one Unifor member had to say about the localness of programming under the MC model:
6082 "The new model is produced out of
Toronto. Those producers make decisions on what content will run in other markets. Most of the scripts are written by people in Toronto. Our folks do some, but in the context of the entire block of local news, less than half is done by people in that local market. MMC anchors are not from nor are they broadcasting from those local markets. They are being propped up in front of an image of those local markets." (As read)
6083 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So have you considered -- and I appreciate you have feedback from your members.
6084 MR. KITT: Yes.
6085 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Have you considered -- or do you, in other situations, ever look outside of your membership to assess the impact of the change?
6086 MR. LAW: Yes, we do.
6087 Do you want to ---
6088 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And it’s just in this particular -- as I said, it’s -- you brought up the Shaw situation, but also in the definition of local presence you’ve made that noteworthy that those are functions that should stay and those are functions that frankly we’ve heard from others don’t need to.
6089 So I was just -- you know, if you had done any kind of research outside of your membership I would have been interested in seeing that.
6090 Thank you.
6091 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just a few questions.
6092 In your brief at the bottom of page 4 -- in your oral presentations -- sorry -- in the written version we have here you say:
6093 “With respect to the LNF, we support
Bell Media’s proposal to reward the production of existing and incremental local news.”
6094 You heard Bell support incremental news? I may have -- I actually heard quite the opposite.
6095 MR. LAW: Well maybe I’ve misdescribed it or misunderstood it.
6096 My understanding of their proposal was that the programming that’s below the required threshold could attract some LNF funding and then programming above the required threshold or newer incremental programming could also attract LNF funding.
6097 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
6098 MR. LAW: That’s how I understood their proposal.
6099 THE CHAIRPERSON: You might want to look back at the exchange Commissioner Molnar had particularly with Mr. Malcolmson, and I think you would have -- you may have -- you may see there less than a ringing endorsement to do more.
6100 MR. LAW: Oh, well that certainly did catch our attention ---
6101 THE CHAIRPERSON: All right.
6102 MR. LAW: --- and we were quite surprised by that. And I don’t know if that’s just, you know, holding off until the next budget year to see what you’re going to do or it’s something more serious.
6103 THE CHAIRPERSON: You’re the experts on negotiations.
6104 MR. LAW: Yeah, well, we don’t get to negotiate their budget of course we just get to negotiate our collective agreement.
6105 So, yeah, that was someone troubling, as was Ms. Turk’s statement that 25 out of 30 of the stations are losing money, and the fact that they didn’t saying anything about the CTV2 stations.
6106 So the redeeming feature we thought of that particular proposal was the skin in the game part of it ---
6107 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
6108 MR. LAW: --- and we thought that was a good regulatory tool.
6109 THE CHAIRPERSON: Understood.
6110 You make a comment on Category 2A. I’m trying to get exactly what you are trying to get at, and maybe by giving you some examples -- and you might react, and you’re probably people that listen to a lot of news programming on various networks. Would you consider At Issue news on the CBC -- the At Issue panel?
6111 MR. LAW: I watch a lot of CBC news but I’m not sure I’ve seen At Issue. But I’ve seen ---
6112 THE CHAIRPERSON: They claim it’s the most power watched ---
6113 MR. LAW: What is the one with Rosemary Barton that I like so much?
6114 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, that’s Power & Politics.
6115 MR. LAW: Yes.
6116 THE CHAIRPERSON: This is with Mr. Mansbridge on Thursday evenings.
6117 MR. LAW: And?
6118 THE CHAIRPERSON: On Thursday evenings with Mr. Mansbridge at the end of the ---
6119 MR. LAW: Is that with Chantal and ---
6120 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, that’s the one.
6121 MR. LAW: Oh, yes, yes. I love that one.
6122 So that’s wonderful. Here’s the concern we have.
6123 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m happy that you like it but I’m trying to get whether you consider it sufficient from a news perspective.
6124 MR. LAW: Well ---
6125 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you’re right, there’s others. There’s Power & Politics. There’s Power Play on CTV, Canada AM, The Insiders. I think that’s Wednesday nights on CBC. Or even something like W5.
6126 I’m trying to see what kind of 2A you think doesn’t belong in local news.
6127 MR. LAW: We do have -- I want to address that point. Although I want to point out ---
6128 THE CHAIRPERSON: Without speaking about those particular shows but ---
6129 MR. LAW: You’ve given national examples and I wish there were more local examples of that.
6130 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But I’m giving you those hoping that -- you know, I don’t know where you live, but in that style but perhaps a little bit more about the local events.
6131 MR. LAW: So two things that happened in the last year -- one’s a better analogy then the other -- that really alarmed us -- and you’re already aware of these I know. The OMNI news that was eliminated, the news coverage that was eliminated with reporters being laid off and hosts being laid off, it was replaced with Talking Heads. It was absolutely an inadequate replacement, in our view, for local news. That’s -- we’re concerned about that as a way of cheaping out on local news.
6132 Another less direct analogy was what happened in Winnipeg about a year ago when the Breakfast Television show -- not a new show -- when Breakfast Television went off the air was replaced with cameras and the radio operation ---
6133 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
6134 MR. LAW: --- just focused on the radio host talking.
6135 It goes back to your 2009 decision, I think, which is, you know, operations people under -- with orders from on-high about, you know, cutting costs are going to look for wherever the biggest costs are and, you know, quality is next year’s problem.
6136 That’s why however you write that definition of local news we think it’s really important that yeah, you want to be able to preserve the At Issue’s and all the really good quality talk shows but prevent -- you know, to plug that hole in case that’s where bad decisions could be made.
6137 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I understand. But I’ve heard it said, for instance, that, you know, in the day and age of everybody having a smartphone and quick news bursts coming out we have a lot of little news bits coming out of -- at any time, a shooting here, a fire there, and that what perhaps is missing is taking all that noise and creating a signal and therefore analysis perhaps becomes just as important.
6138 And I’m wondering by excluding all of 2A you might not be overreaching.
6139 MR. KITT: I think when you make a suggestion like what about W5, you know, we would think that would be awesome, you know, that everybody took the issue and then did some real investigative reporting and analysis on that, you know, based on hard investigative facts and an investigation.
6140 But if it’s just going to be a FOX news panel where we get three climate change, you know, deniers and somebody else going up there and hammering on for an hour then it definitely shouldn’t be considered news.
6141 So I think there’s a place for analysis but not in the definition of our local news and hard news. That’s more local programming I think.
6142 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So -- well, I guess that gets the real -- so not that there’s not value in that sort of analysis but what you’re saying is you actually do intend to exclude it from your definition even though there may be some news aspects to it?
6143 MR. KITT: And it’s also a real -- you know, there’s a real chance of that creating a big loophole for the radio on TV analogy example, and that would be disastrous.
6144 THE CHAIRPERSON: All right.
6145 Well, I invite you as you get to the next phases to perhaps reflect whether the complete exclusion of 2A may have overreached, but if indeed it is your position it’s your position. But you’re news experts as well so I appreciate your perspective on things.
6146 MR. KITTS: Thanks. We’ll review it. Thank you.
6147 THE CHAIRPERSON: Great. Thank you.
6148 Does Legal have some issues -- questions -- yes?
6149 MS. FISHER: One undertaking.
6150 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Please.
6152 MS. FISHER: In respect of Exhibit 2 that was placed on the record of the proceeding yesterday -- Tuesday -- yeah, Tuesday -- okay -- loosing track of time -- we ask that you undertake to provide responses to the questions in that exhibit as applicable by February 15.
6153 MR. KITT: Thank you. We’re in receipt of that.
6154 MS. FISHER: Thank you.
6155 THE CHAIRPERSON: Which will get to some of the similar issues.
6156 So thank you very much.
6157 Madame la secrétaire?
6158 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Je demanderais maintenant à RNC Média Inc. et Télé Inter-Rives à s’approcher.
6159 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Juste in instant, le sténographe va prendre vos noms.
6160 LA SECRÉTAIRE: S’il vous plait, vous présenter et présenter vos collègues, et vous avez 10 minutes.
6161 M. BROSSEAU: Merci. Monsieur le président, distingués membres du Conseil, mesdames et messieurs, mon nom est Pierre Brosseau, je suis président exécutif du Conseil de RNC Média. J’ai le plaisir de vous présenter mes collègues de RNC Média et de Télé Inter-Rives; à ma gauche, monsieur Robert Ranger, vice-président, Opérations, Finance et Administration chez RNC Média; à ses côtés, Raynald Brière, président et chef de la direction de RNC Média; à sa gauche se trouve Marc Simard, président de Télé Inter-Rives; suivi de Cindy Simard, vice-présidente de l’information chez Télé Inter-Rives. Et finalement, à l’extrémité se trouve Catherine Simard, directrice générale de Télévision MBS Rivière-du-Loup.
6162 Derrière nous, vous trouverez monsieur Sébastien Côté, directeur de l’information en Outaouais et en Abitibi-Témiscamingue de RNC Média; à sa gauche se trouve Pierre Harvey, directeur général de CHAU-TV Carleton-sur-Mer. Mélanie Simard, vice-présidente des ventes et de la production pour Télé Inter-Rives; Stephen Simard, directeur des opérations de Télé Inter-Rives; et finalement Stéphane Grégoire, vice-président, Finance de Télé Inter-Rives.
6163 RNC Média et Télé Inter-Rives offrent des services de nouvelles de programmation locale avec neuf stations de télévision affiliées aux trois principaux réseaux de télévision francophone, soient Radio-Canada, V et le réseau TVA.
6164 RNC Média et Télé Inter-Rives sont membres de la coalition des stations de télévision des petits marchés. Les cinq stations de télévision de RNC Média desservent l’Outaouais, l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue ainsi que les francophones demeurant dans l’Est ontarien. Par ailleurs, les quatre stations de Télé Inter-Rives desservent l’est du Québec ainsi que les francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick.
6165 L’importance de la télévision locale n’est pas à démontrer. Y a un consensus autour du besoin de fournir un service de contenu local, particulièrement l’information. Ce contenu est valorisé, comme le montre l’étude du Conseil et les résultats de nos sondages. L’enjeu est de maintenir ces services, de les améliorer dans un environnement qui change rapidement.
6166 Nul ne conteste que les revenus des télévisions généralistes sont sous pression. Nul ne peut contester que les sources de distribution se fragmentent et offrent de nombreuses possibilités aux consommateurs. Nul ne peut également contester l’importance des nouvelles locales de haute qualité facilement accessible à la télévision généraliste.
6167 Ce qui ne change pas toutefois, c'est la volonté et la légitimité des canadiens d’obtenir une information locale continue et de qualité. Il s’agit d’un élément essentiel de la programmation. Là-dessus il n’y aucun compromis à faire. Cela représente un défi financier majeur dans le contexte de la fragmentation des revenus publicitaires entre les diverses plateformes, et la hausse constante des coûts de programmation.
6168 Notre situation est différente des entreprises intégrées verticalement, nous ne bénéficions pas des avantages qui y sont liés. Dans le marché francophone, nos sources d’approvisionnement de contenu de programmation sont limitées aux réseaux existants, réduisant ainsi la marge de négociation des coûts d’affiliation. Cela est une particularité de notre marché dont il faut tenir compte.
6169 Mme CINDY SIMARD: Monsieur le président, pour rejoindre nos auditoires, RNC et Télé Inter-Rives opèrent un total de 53 émetteurs, dont 95 pour cent ont été convertis au numérique haute définition.
6170 RNC Média et Télé Inter-Rives diffusent plus de 41 heures par semaine de programmation locale, une moyenne de près de 6 heures par jour, dont 92 pour cent représentent des nouvelles locales.
6171 Certaines de nos stations enregistrent des parts remarquables d'écoute allant jusqu’à 56 pour cent durant la diffusion de leurs nouvelles locales, ce qui est plus élevé que la plupart de toutes les émissions régulières des grands réseaux que nous diffusons, soient Radio-Canada, TVA et V.
6172 Il y a une raison à cela, c'est que nous y consacrons beaucoup de ressources humaines, techniques et financières afin de fournir à nos auditoires des nouvelles locales de qualité, et qui répondent à leurs aspirations. Nos stations emploient 80 personnes à temps plein pour produire uniquement des nouvelles locales.
6173 Au cours de l’année financière 2013-2014, RNC Média et Télé Inter-Rives ont consacré près de 6,5 millions uniquement pour la production des nouvelles locales. Pendant cette même période, nos stations ont généré des ventes de près de 1,9 million pour la diffusion des nouvelles locales. La production de nos nouvelles locales est donc largement déficitaire.
6174 Les ventes nationales réseau et sélectives, principales sources de revenus, sont en baisses constantes. Nos ventes locales, elles, ont légèrement augmentées dues à un travail acharné et à l’arrivée de la télévision en haute définition.
6175 Ces revenus servent à payer en plus du manque à gagner de la production des nouvelles locales, les dépenses quotidiennes d’exploitation de nos stations, telles que les employés techniques, la mise en ondes, la fabrication de l’horaire, l’entretien, les assurances, l’électricité, et cetera.
6176 À ces dépenses, il faut ajouter que les revenus nous servent à payer la plus grande dépense qui existe dans des petites stations indépendantes comme les nôtres, l’achat de la programmation des réseaux TVA, Radio-Canada et V.
6177 Depuis l’arrivée de la télévision privée au Canada, rappelons que la seule source de revenus de la télévision indépendante a toujours été constituée de la vente de publicité. Pour continuer à desservir nos régions, produire des nouvelles locales de haute qualité, nos stations auront besoin d’une autre source de financement stable et prévisible.
6178 Nous exhortons le Conseil à exclure le Fonds de programmation locale pour les petits marchés dans un futur mode de financement pour la télévision locale et indépendante.
6179 Ce dernier est le résultat d’une entente commerciale intervenue entre les télédiffuseurs indépendants et les distributeurs satellitaires. Cette entente a été entérinée d’ailleurs par le Conseil avec quelques modifications.
6180 Lorsque le Conseil a autorisé la création du Fonds de programmation locale pour les petits marchés, il indiquait:
6181 « Ce fonds compense les stations
locales indépendantes des petits marchés pour le préjudice causé par la migration des téléspectateurs vers les services par SRD, laquelle est particulièrement significative dans les régions rurales et éloignées du Canada. »
6182 Encore aujourd'hui, dans nos territoires, plus de 1,1 million d’heures-écoute par semaine vont toujours aux stations de Montréal appartenant aux réseaux.
6183 Bien qu’il s’agisse à l’origine d’une entente commerciale, le Fonds pour les petits marchés a spécifiquement été créé pour palier la perte des heures-écoute occasionnées par la pénétration des stations éloignées qui sont distribuées par satellite.
6184 M. BRIÈRE: Nous croyons que les rôles de la télévision locale et communautaire sont complémentaires dans un marché, c'est pourquoi ils sont différents. Il n’y a aucune ambiguïté à ce sujet en ce qui nous concerne. Nous produisons quotidiennement des bulletins de nouvelles complets diffusés à l’intérieur de la programmation des réseaux populaires francophones. Nous avons acquis une expérience et un savoir-faire qui nous vaut la confiance de notre auditoire.
6185 En région, l’image et la crédibilité de nos stations sont fortes et nos équipes sont expérimentées et compétentes.
6186 Dans le dernier avis de consultation relatif à la présente audience, le Conseil a mentionné qu’il comptait étudier la possibilité de la programmation locale dans l’ensemble du système de radiodiffusion. Permettez-nous de vous mentionner que dans nos marchés, les nouvelles locales produites par nos stations sont les seules à pouvoir rejoindre 100 pour cent de la population parce que nos stations sont distribuées par tous les distributeurs terrestres, satellitaires et par ondes hertziennes.
6187 Pour leur part, les canaux communautaires ne rejoignent, selon les territoires où nous sommes présents, qu’entre 55 et 65 pour cent de la population puisqu’ils ne sont pas distribués par satellites ni par certains distributeurs IP et qu’ils n’ont aucune transmission en direct.
6188 Comme en a fait état plus tôt ma collègue, Cindy Simard, dans les circonstances, nos deux entreprises réclament une nouvelle source de financement.
6189 Comme le financement des EDRs dédié à la création et à la production d’émissions canadiennes a connu ces dernières années une forte croissance, RNC Média et Télé Inter-Rives sont d’avis qu’un nouveau fond devrait être créé à partir de cette source et que ce fond de financement devrait être accordé aux télédiffuseurs privés.
6190 Vous avez entendu lors de la comparution de la Coalition des stations de télévision des petits marchés, mieux connu sous son acronyme les SMITS, les besoins identifiés par ces télédiffuseurs pour un nouveau fond au soutien des nouvelles locales. Ce fond est de 20 millions $.
6191 Même si nos stations du marché de Gatineau ne font pas partie des SMITS, elles devraient être intégrées à ce nouveau fond puisqu’elles vivent les mêmes réalités.
6192 Si le Conseil juge approprié d’élargir le nouveau fond à d’autres stations indépendantes, il devrait selon nous ajuster à la hausse les sommes devant servir au soutien des nouvelles locales.
6193 Les résultats recherchés par ce nouveau fond serviraient selon nous, premièrement, à assurer la pérennité des nouvelles locales de haute qualité afin de rejoindre le plus large auditoire possible.
6194 Maintenir, en ce qui nous concerne, le niveau de production excédentaire de nouvelles locales en date du 31 août 2015.
6195 Augmenter la production de nouvelles locales de 104 heures annuellement pour nos stations et cela, du dimanche au samedi.
6196 Développer notre offre de nouvelles locales sur les nouvelles plateformes numériques.
6197 Améliorer la qualité de la production des nouvelles locales et le sous-titrage qui s’y rattache.
6198 De plus, nous suggérons qu’un rapport sur l’utilisation des fonds obtenus soit envoyé au Conseil par chaque station en même temps que leur rapport annuel.
6199 Nous suggérons que le fond soit administré par l’ACR, un organisme indépendant ayant déjà l’expérience requise. L’ACR devra bien sûr fournir au Conseil un rapport annuel sur sa gestion du fond comme elle le fait pour d’autres fonds.
6200 Finalement, nous avons fourni dans notre mémoire principal nos projets de définition quant aux notions de programmations locales et de nouvelles locales.
6201 M. MARC SIMARD: La télévision locale indépendante et la télévision communautaire peuvent très bien cohabiter dans le système de radiodiffusion canadienne. Les rôles, les mandats et surtout leur rayonnement sont différents.
6202 La multiplication des plateformes nous invite à adapter nos modes de diffusion. Déjà, nous sommes présents sur les réseaux populaires comme Facebook, les sites internet dédiés mais pour répondre à la demande, nous devons aller encore plus loin.
6203 La mobilité nous ouvre de nouveaux horizons pour transporter notre contenu d’information et le rendre davantage accessible. Mais peu importe la technologie, peu importe le mode de distribution, peu importe le plus grand succès aux réseaux sociaux, une chose demeurera essentielle; offrir un contenu de nouvelles locales de qualité fiable.
6204 Nous croyons sincèrement et profondément être en mesure de répondre à ces attentes légitimes de la population de nos marchés.
6205 Nous souhaitons une nouvelle répartition des sommes disponibles dans le système actuel selon une formule simplifiée et équitable pour des producteurs et diffuseurs indépendants comme nous.
6206 Nous croyons que le Conseil a tous les pouvoirs pour assurer à tous les Canadiens une information locale et régionale de haute qualité.
6207 Enfin, nous tenons à remercier les membres du Conseil d’avoir amorcé la discussion sur ce sujet essentiel. Nous avons voulu y contribuer modestement. Mes collègues et moi-même, nous vous remercions pour l’attention que vous portez à notre situation et sommes maintenant disposés à répondre à vos questions.
6208 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup.
6209 Vous avez effectivement comparu hier avec la Coalition des stations de télévision de petits marchés. Et je voudrais juste vérifier que je n’ai rien manqué mais vous semblez avoir essentiellement la même position; n’est-ce pas?
6210 M. MARC SIMARD: Effectivement, oui, Monsieur le président.
6211 LE PRÉSIDENT: En quoi votre -- est-ce qu’il y a des points de différence?
6212 M. MARC SIMARD: Je vous dirai, non, il n’y a aucun point de différence, sauf le fait que dans le nouveau fond, les stations de RNC Média ne faisant pas partie des SMITS avec le marché d’Ottawa, parce que c’est un marché qui dépassait le 300 000 habitants. Alors, s’il y avait ajout d’un nouveau fond, évidemment, on demanderait que RNC en fasse partie.
6213 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k., je comprends bien. Donc, par conséquent, nous aurons beaucoup moins de questions qu’on en aurait eues parce qu’évidemment vous avez eu la chance de répondre à plusieurs questions auparavant.
6214 M. MARC SIMARD: Absolument, Monsieur le président.
6215 LE PRÉSIDENT: Si je comprends bien, vous préconisez l’appui non pas uniquement par rapport aux nouvelles locales mais aussi par la programmation locale au sens large. Est-ce exact?
6216 M. BRIÈRE: Non.
6217 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je sais que beaucoup de programmation locale se trouve à être de la nouvelle locale.
6218 M. BRIÈRE: Oui, c’est ça mais ---
6219 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais votre mécanisme n’est pas ciblé uniquement aux nouvelles locales?
6220 M. BRIÈRE: En très grande partie, en grande majorité, sur les nouvelles locales, qui est le coeur de ce qu’on fait.
6221 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais ça, ça serait si on mettait en place les mécanismes favorisés, le choix de dépenser sur des nouvelles locales ou sur de la programmation locale ---
6222 M. BRIÈRE: Oui.
6223 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- qui n’est pas de la nouvelle locale, ce serait une décision au niveau des stations; exact ?
6224 M. BRIÈRE: Écoutez, je pense que, oui, ce serait une décision qui relèverait des stations, à moins que vous y mettiez une condition.
6225 Mais essentiellement, je vous réitère que notre intention, ce qu’on fait, ça représente 92 pour cent de contenu de nouvelles locales et on a l’intention de continuer à faire ce travail-là.
6226 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et si on mettait justement une contrainte ciblée pour des nouvelles locales, votre point de vue serait?
6227 M. BRIÈRE: Nous vivrions très bien avec ça, Monsieur le président.
6228 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
6229 À la page 5 de vos notes que vous venez de lire cet après-midi, vous dites au centre de la page,
6230 « Pour continuer à desservir nos régions,… »
6231 Donc, je comprends c’est des régions au Québec.
6232 « …produire des nouvelles locales de haute qualité, nos stations auront besoin d’une autre source de financement stable et prévisible. »
6233 Bon. Entre dire ça et envisager une solution réglementaire, il y a quand même une différence. J’aimerais savoir qu’est-ce que vous avez fait avant de venir cogner à la porte du Conseil à trouver des solutions à l’interne dans vos entreprises, qui sont quand même des entreprises commerciales, pour pallier à ce manque de financement?
6234 M. MARC SIMARD: Bien écoutez, Monsieur le président, d’abord premièrement, il faut comprendre que nos stations -- la principale source de revenus de nos stations nous ne la contrôlons pas.
6235 Selon les années ou selon les ventes réseaux, 60 pour cent ou 65 pour cent de nos revenus sont contrôlés ---
6236 LE PRÉSIDENT: Monsieur Simard, je pense qu’on comprend très bien le problème.
6237 M. MARC SIMARD: D’accord.
6238 LE PRÉSIDENT: La question que je vous pose c’est pourquoi le Conseil est la source de votre solution à votre problème?
6239 M. BRIÈRE: Je pense que -- excuse, Marc, une seconde. On arrive un peu au bout de notre modèle parce qu’au fond, ces dernières années, on a vécu puis on a pu maintenir nos engagements puis même faire un petit peu mieux par la réduction des coûts.
6240 Je pense qu’on a vraiment travaillé à créer des synergies, à réduire nos coûts. Puis je pense qu’on est parvenu -- parce que quand on regarde dans les cinq dernières années, nos coûts ont diminué par rapport à l’inflation.
6241 Ça fait que je pense qu’on a fait un travail sain, responsable de gérer nos coûts à l’intérieur de notre entreprise.
6242 Maintenant, on arrive à un point où là, maintenant, les revenus nationaux particulièrement étant en décroissance ne nous permettront pas de continuer sur ce modèle-là.
6243 M. MARC SIMARD: Et je pourrais peut-être vous donner un exemple, Monsieur le président, écoutez, d’abord on s’est assis puis on a regardé chaque poste de dépenses de nos organisations.
6244 Comme un exemple vaut mille mots, je vous dirais, chez nous, à Télé Inter-Rives, on a décidé d’annuler les assurances véhicules, une flotte d’environ 35 à 40 véhicules mais en gardant la responsabilité. On a décidé, par exemple, de canceller toutes les assurances de nos tours, sauf les tours les plus importantes.
6245 Alors écoutez, on a fait une économie d’environ 75$ à 100,000$ dans cette fonction-là, qui nous permet évidemment de s’assurer que les -- la rentabilité de la station demeure assez importante pour pouvoir immobiliser, puis -- poursuivre nos opérations. C’est un exemple que je voulais vous apporter.
6246 LE PRÉSIDENT: Parce que ce que vous nous demandez c’est assez important. C’est-à-dire que le Conseil trouverait une solution à donner des subventions aux secteurs privés ?
6247 M. MARC SIMARD: Bien c’est -- vous avez parfaitement raison. M. le président, je va vous dire en toute honnêteté, parce qu’on est à Parlons TV fait qu’on parle -- on est ici pour se parler.
6248 On apprécie ça énormément, puis on vient pas souvent pour vous parler, pas bien souvent, mais vous savez on a discuté entre nous des heures et des heures.
6249 Et c’est sûr, je veux dire, ce qui nous inquiète un peu, M. le président, c’est qu’évidemment vous avez mentionné -- à plusieurs reprises depuis le début de l’audience vous avez mentionné, écoutez, est-ce que le gouvernement ou le CRTC-là devrait subventionner ou aider à la production des nouvelles locales ou aux stations télévisions locales.
6250 Puis d’autre part, en même temps ce qui nous assurait un peu aussi c’est qu’un moment donné, en lisant les communiqué que vous avez donné, vous nous disiez:
6251 « Nous devons assure la viabilité de
la télévision locale. »
6252 Alors on se dit mondou(sic), y’a un problème le CRTC reconnait, il dit même nous devons assurer la viabilité ---
6253 LE PRÉSIDENT: On peut tout simplement imposer des conditions de licence puis vous aller avoir affaire avec.
6254 M. MARC SIMARD: Mais si on n’a pu la capacité des faire alors à ce moment-là notre entreprise ira pas tellement loin.
6255 Mais écoutez, si vous me donnez la permission, c’est que, écoutez, je pense que si on résume la loi sur la radiodiffusion qui dit bien que l’on doit puiser aux sources d’information locales et offrir au public une -- des opinions divergentes.
6256 Si, par exemple, on ajoute que les nouvelles locales atteignent une part de marché de -- d’au-dessus de 56 pourcent dans nos marchés, ce qui est une proportion extrêmement élevée.
6257 Si on dit que les Canadiens vous ont dit, évidemment, puis ils nous ont dit d’une façon extraordinaire que les nouvelles locales étaient un -- une – d’une très grande importance.
6258 Si on dit aussi que les gens de nos petites régions, comme vous l’avez dit vous-mêmes, ou le CRTC l’a dit lui-même très récemment dans un avis public pour les -- sur les services internet, que les gens des petites régions doivent avoir la même qualité ou le même service que ceux des grandes villes.
6259 Si on prend aussi que -- donc on pense, Monsieur le président, que on a atteint vraiment les objectifs fixés par la Loi sur la radiodiffusion et aussi que personne d’autre que nous peuvent le faire aussi économiquement que nous.
6260 Alors à ce point-de-vue là, vous savez on -- c’est -- la situation est évidemment difficile, mais il reste que la -- il reste aussi que il faut assurer la viabilité de notre station.
6261 Alors la viabilité, évidemment c’est -- ça veut dire aussi assurer une rentabilité et à ce sujet-là je vous donnerais un exemple, Monsieur le président, que je suis -- puis là Raynald pourra ajouter quelque chose, on a réinvesti au cours -- depuis notre existence, 90 pourcent de nos profits.
6262 Alors je pense que vraiment-là c’est un effort constant, mais maintenant comme Raynald dit, on est rendu au bout de -- des capacités, de nos capacités.
6263 Mme CINDY SIMARD: Juste pour compléter la réponse, faut dire aussi que on a une offre de publicitaire, mais en dehors de ça on peut pas -- on n’a pas tout ce que les intégrés ont.
6264 Par exemple, on peut pas divertir -- diversifier notre offre en dehors que de vendre de la publicité, autrement dit.
6265 Donc ça devient difficile d’essayer d’aller chercher plus d’argent ailleurs, puis le côté dépenses, bien je pense que Marc l’a bien expliqué, on a fait le maximum qu’on pouvait faire.
6266 M. BRIÈRE: Juste une seconde. Je voulais pas étirer la discussion. C’est un choix de société, me semble-t-il.
6267 Effectivement, vous avez raison de dire -- en tout cas on finance une entreprise, on parle de financer, on parle d’aider la programmation locale.
6268 Dans d’autres secteurs, en télévision, on décide qu’en dramatique c’est important, on le fait. Y’a un gain pour le diffuseur au bout. On prend des décisions qui sont liées à des choix.
6269 On reconnait que c’est important. On reconnait que les Canadiens veulent ce genre de contenu-là. On reconnait que c’est probablement même essentiel. On a parlé de capital ce matin.
6270 Chacun utilise leur termes, mais je pense que quand y’a 80 pourcent des gens qui nous disent bon bien écoutez, nous autres c’est important pour nous. Puis dans des -- dans des collectivités comme les n’autres c’est important.
6271 Y’a eu des décisions de prises qui a créé des entreprises, très grosses entreprises. Nous autres on est dans des plus petites entreprises. On n’a pas les mêmes facilités. On n’a pas les -- on n’est pas dans -- on n’a pas les mêmes revenus. On n’a pas accès à ces mêmes sources-là.
6272 On dit nos nouvelles locales sont déficitaires. Est-ce que ça vaut la peine de penser qu’on devrait avoir un fond qui permettrait d’assurer la pérennité de ça pour un grand nombre d’années, d’offrir un service.
6273 Y’a un coût à ça. Effectivement y’a un coût à ça. Est-ce que come société on veut assumer ce coût-là ? Puis là y’a une décision à prendre.
6274 Puis à mon avis je répète c’est un choix de société, puis on le fait dans diverses -- dans divers secteurs. Peut-être en économie, ça peut être dans d’autres secteurs et je pense qu’on a la responsabilité de le faire.
6275 LE PRÉSIDENT: Est-ce que vous acceptez par contre que si jamais on descend dans la direction que vous voulez, que inévitablement le Conseil devra avoir un droit de regard sur vos postes de dépenses?
6276 M. BRIÈRE: On est transparent. Aucun problème avec ça.
6277 M. MARC SIMARD: Absolument, Monsieur le président.
6278 M. BRIÈRE: On accepte ça.
6279 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je note que vous voulez que l’appui soit dirigé seulement au secteur privé, quoi qu’une fois qu’on reçoit une subvention je me demande si c’est encore le secteur privé, mais passons.
6280 Au Québec on sait que la réalité concurrentielle des médias, contrairement dans les marchés anglophones, passent vraiment par la Société Radio-Canada et les -- le secteur privé.
6281 Est-ce que votre solution est vraiment équitable à l’égard de la situation concurrentielle au Québec?
6282 M. BRIÈRE: Je pense la seule raison pour laquelle on mentionne ça c’est que c’est un système de financement complètement différent.
6283 Déjà y’a des sommes alloué, qui sont importantes et me semble-t-il le gouvernement du Canada a dit bon bien on compte réallouer des fonds.
6284 Alors peut-être voir ce que ça va impliquer, mais à première vue c’est un financement déjà public.
6285 Alors dans cette perspective-là, on pense que ils vont probablement, de toute évidence, avoir la capacité de le faire et que la -- pour le -- pour ce qu’on connait de la situation actuelle, pour ce qu’on sait, l’argent devrait servir aux diffuseurs privés.
6286 LE PRÉSIDENT: Concernant la gouvernance, est-ce que vous êtes membres de l’ACR? Tous les deux?
6287 M. MARC SIMARD: Oui.
6288 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc c’est ce que je pendais, donc je suis un peu étonné quand vous dites que l’ACR est un organisme indépendant. Ça me parait un peu comme le loup en charge de la bergerie.
6289 Je sais que lorsque j’étais au Ministère du Patrimoine Canadien on a fait une réforme assez importante du Fond Canadien de la Télévision, qui est maintenant le Fond des Médias, justement pour réduire un conseil d’administration.
6290 Je pense à l’époque y’avait 21 personnes, puis je -- à savoir qui était plus en conflit d’intérêt autour de cette table-là.
6291 Je peux vous dire qu’y’avait tellement de conflit d’intérêt des fois les décisions se prenaient à une ou deux personnes, parce que tout le monde était en conflit d’intérêt.
6292 Je suis un peu étonné de voir que vous pensez que la gouvernance pour -- d’un tel fond pour le secteur privé pourrait être géré par une association qui est le groupe le porte-parole notamment des radios-diffuseurs privé.
6293 M. MARC SIMARD: Bien c’est parce qu’écoutez Monsieur le président, tsé, on a pensé que l’ACR ou la CAB était quand même un organisme très sérieux.
6294 Puis étant donné que le CRTC avait accepté qu’ils gèrent le front des petits marchés, que ça pouvait être une proposition.
6295 Mais écoutez, là-dessus on est bien -- on est bien humble-là. On a juste voulu penser que peut-être c’était une solution, plutôt de dire qui serait surveiller par le Conseil lui-même.
6296 LE PRÉSIDENT: Est-ce que vous -- puis ça va être ma dernière question-là. Je le signal à mes collègues.
6297 Vous dites « c’est un choix de société », mais inévitablement, lorsqu’on demande la contribution à des fonds ça peut avoir une pression sur les frais d’abonnements des distributeurs des divers services de communications.
6298 Est-ce que vous avez fait des sondages? Est-ce que vous avez pu nous offrir de la preuve qu’effectivement il y a un consensus social où les gens disent -- parce que c’est facile dire qu’on veut garder notre télévision locale, mais c’est un peu différent quand on réalise qu’il y a une conséquence financière. Parce que tout le monde veut des garderies. Tout le monde veut des hôpitaux, mais personne veut payer d’impôts.
6299 M. MARC SIMARD: Écoutez, non, Monsieur le président, honnêtement, on n’a pas fait de sondage là-dessus sauf que dans la situation courante, il n’y pas d’augmentation. Le câblodistributeur ne pourrait pas dire, “Je vous augmente parce que -- à l’intérieur du 5 pourcent.” Alors là-dessus, je veux dire, on…
6300 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais vous êtes d’accord avec moi que le montant est quand même dans le…
6301 M. MARC SIMARD: Oui, absolument, absolument.
6302 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et ultimement, qu’il y a rien qu’un payeur en bout de ligne, c’est soit l’abonné ou le contribuable, dépendamment quel chèque il remplit.
6303 M. BRIÈRE: Peut-être qu’il faut regarder les -- non, pour répondre à votre question, non, évidemment, on n’a pas fait le sondage dont vous parlez, mais il y a quand même des faits sur la table.
6304 Vous avez fait vous-même un sondage, et puis vous avez raison, admettons vous dites, “On fait un sondage; 80 pourcent des gens nous disent -- 80 ou 83 disent…”
6305 LE PRÉSIDENT: J’en conviens que les gens veulent leurs nouvelles locales.
6306 M. BRIÈRE: Oui.
6307 LE PRÉSIDENT: Moi je vous pose l’autre partie de l’équation.
6308 M. BRIÈRE: Oui, je sais, mais est-ce que, oui ou non, c’est un service important? Est-ce que, oui ou non, on évalue que c’est un service essentiel?
6309 Dans des communautés francophones, en ce qui nous concerne, c’est quoi l’autre moyen de parler aux gens? C’est quoi l’autre moyen dans une communauté, dans un environnement régional local, de savoir ce qui se passe?
6310 Aujourd’hui on a l’impression que parce que l’information est accessible, plus le monde est accessible, plus on a besoin d’entendre parler de ce qui se passe autour de nous. Puis les grands groupes le font de moins en moins. Ils le font de moins en moins parce qu’ils ont d’autres préoccupations et puis ils ont d’autres…
6311 Vous savez, on a centralisé tout ça. On a créé de plus grandes entreprises. Il y a des conséquences à ça. Je pense qu’on l’a fait pour le bien. Les bonnes décisions ont été prises. On n’a pas à discuter de ça, mais il y a des conséquences à ça.
6312 Puis une des conséquences c’est qu’il faut continuer à s’occuper de ce qui se passe en région. Puis les radiodiffuseurs indépendants le font. Les communautés ont le droit d’avoir le même service. Et quand je dis que c’est un choix de société, quand on regarde, nous autres, dans nos sondages, dans un marché, je fais 25-30 pourcent de part d’écoute avec le réseau. Là, je vous parle des grandes émissions comme la Voix, le Banquier et d’autres, puis le bulletin de nouvelles fait 50-55 pourcent.
6313 En tout cas, je sais pas si c’est une indication claire, mais c’est au moins un choix que les gens font en se disant, “Nous autres, deux fois de plus, une fois et demi plus que ce que j’écoute ailleurs dans les grandes émissions, je vais cueillir mes nouvelles parce que c’est important pour nous.”
6314 Mme MÉLANIE SIMARD: J’aimerais juste rajouter, s’il vous plaît, lors des dernières audiences pour l’abolition du FAPL, il y a aucun canadien qui est venu vous dire que ça lui dérangeait. Les fonds avaient été refilés aux Canadiens, puis il n’y a pas de Canadiens -- on avait été à l’audience toute la semaine. Il n’y a personne qui était venu vous dire que ça les dérangeait qu’il aille…
6315 LE PRÉSIDENT: C’est sans doute pour ça qu’on a eu des poursuites à Montréal en Cour supérieure pour avoir des remboursements.
6316 Je suis pas certain que votre constatation est la constatation de tous les Canadiens. Je voulais juste vous donner l’opportunité, si vous aviez ce genre de preuve, de la mettre au dossier.
6317 M. BRIÈRE: Non, mais évidemment…
6318 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais je pense pas qu’il y en a, si je comprends bien de votre réponse. C’est ça?
6319 Puis je prends l’occasion pour rappeler que le Conseil a agi, à plusieurs reprises, pour aider, soit en réduisant le nombre d’heures réglementaires, en permettant des exceptions assez importantes en termes de diversité des voix, en permettant à certains opérateurs de détenir deux réseaux. Donc il y a eu plusieurs exceptions.
6320 Et là vous nous demandez d’en faire une autre, qui est d’un autre ordre.
6321 M. MARC SIMARD: Vous avez raison, Monsieur le président. Écoutez, j’avais 12 ans quand j’ai commencé à suivre mon père. J’en ai 67. J’ai vécu dans le système de radiodiffusion qui, à mon avis, a été extraordinaire au Canada.
6322 Puis si on est rendu -- puis si le Canada a encore aujourd’hui une qualité extraordinaire de son système de radiodiffusion, évidemment le CRTC a joué un rôle très important, à mon point de vue.
6323 Ce que je voudrais dire aussi, par contre, évidemment, vous nous dites -- pendant 60 ans notre seul revenu a été de la publicité traditionnelle. Vous nous dites, puis je pense que vous l’avez toujours dit, “Écoutez, la situation a changé.” Donc on a atteint -- on a atteint vraiment la fin un peu de ce système-là, du moins pour nous, les petites entreprises locales, ayant pas d’exemple de canaux spécialisés ou autre chose. On pense qu’on a atteint vraiment l’extrémité.
6324 Donc après 60 ans, est-ce qu’on pourrait revoir un peu -- comme vous dites, on repart à zéro, revoir un peu la façon dont on fonctionne et on pourrait -- et d’avoir ainsi une aide pour ce quoi les Canadiens aiment le plus et, d’autant plus, ce qui peut sembler contradictoire, sans vouloir vous blesser, Monsieur le président, c’est que vous dites -- vous nous dites nous devons -- puis là c’est vous, là, puis je vous respecte beaucoup -- vous dites nous devons aussi assurer la viabilité.
6325 Alors là, assurer la viabilité, ça fait partie aussi peut-être de cette aide-là qui va nous aider, et assurer notre viabilité, mais à continuer de donner ce service-là extraordinaire qui remplit le mandat de la radiodiffusion.
6326 Alors c’est un peu ça, Monsieur le président.
6327 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, je comprends.
6328 On est loin d’une décision, mais on est là pour tester votre position sur diverses choses.
6329 Conseiller Dupras, s’il vous plaît.
6330 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Merci.
6332 M. MARC SIMARD: Bonjour, Monsieur Dupras.
6333 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Vous parlez d’augmenter la production de nouvelles de 104 heures annuellement. Ça veut dire quoi concrètement, là, par semaine?
6334 Hier, Monsieur Simard, vous nous avez dit, “Je vais continuer à faire la production excédentaire que je fais déjà.” Le 104 heures annuellement dont on parle, est-ce que ça c’est en sus de ce que vous faites déjà en excédant?
6335 M. MARC SIMARD: Oui, absolument. Peut-être que je demanderais à Raynald de rajouter quelque chose.
6336 M. BRIÈRE: Dans le cas de RNC Media, ce qu’on cherche à faire avec l’addition de ces heures-là c’est à couvrir la fin de semaine. Je pense qu’il faut élargir notre offre pour être capable de faire des nouvelles le samedi puis le dimanche. Je pense qu’il faut offrir ce service-là.
6337 Donc l’addition des heures, c’est une heure sur deux marchés, deux fois 15 minutes samedi et dimanche, donc 30 minutes à Gatineau, 30 minutes en Abitibi. Donc ça fait une heure de plus et puis 52 heures. Puis l’autre partie évidemment appartient -- est pour le groupe de Marc.
6338 Mais moi, je pense qu’il faut élargir l’offre. Plus on va élargir l’offre, plus on va offrir du produit. Plus on va offrir du contenu, plus on va être capable de maintenir nos revenus locaux et plus le modèle va se tenir, et plus à long terme on va avoir des possibilités d’améliorer notre sort.
6339 Donc, à mon avis, c’est en augmentant le plus possible notre offre, en continuant d’améliorer la qualité, en continuant de bien investir qu’on va être capable de rester à long terme. C’est pas en réduisant nos offres.
6340 M. MARC SIMARD: Pour notre part, je demanderais peut-être à Cindy, Monsieur Dupras, peut-être de vous dire exactement qu’est-ce qu’on envisageait de faire de plus.
6341 Mme CINDY SIMARD: Alors ça représente une heure également de plus par semaine pour notre groupe et on a l’intention de faire plus de minutes à notre bulletin de 18h00 sur notre station TVA, de faire le 30 minutes au complet, du lundi au vendredi.
6342 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Mais juste pour comprendre, ce que vous faites déjà en excédant c’est -- vous faites combien en excédant déjà?
6343 M. MARC SIMARD: Écoutez, puisque vous me le demandez, Monsieur le président, nos conditions de licence sont à 11h55 dans notre cas et, actuellement, on fait 25h38. Alors nous, on s’engage à continuer à faire le 25h38, plus l’heure additionnelle.
6344 Mme CINDY SIMARD: Plus l’heure additionnelle.
6345 M. MARC SIMARD: En plus, je pense, Cindy, ce que tu me disais justement, ce qu’on avait l’intention de faire et avec lequel on s’engage c’est de garder les studios de Charlevoix, du comté de Charlevoix, ouverts, de garder les bureaux de Rimouski, les bureaux de Gaspé, le bureau de Caraquet au Nouveau-Brunswick chez les Acadiens, ainsi que notre bureau d’Edmundston. Nous, on est prêt à vous assurer et à s’engager à les garder ouverts jusqu’à notre prochain renouvellement de licence, parce qu’à un moment donné, évidemment, à chaque renouvellement de licence on aura à discuter, mais ça c’est un engagement définitif qu’on est prêt à prendre.
6346 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Hier, quand vous parliez avec SMITS, que vous disiez que vous étiez pour garder les heures excédentaires, est-ce que ça c’était plutôt pour Télé Inter-Rivers que vous parliez à ce moment-là ou si c’était aussi l’intention du groupe?
6347 M. MARC SIMARD: Écoutez, je pense que de ce que j’ai compris de mes collègues, c’était eux aussi à l’intention du groupe puisque en discutant avec eux, ils nous disaient par exemple des heures, des émissions qu’ils faisaient, puis évidemment ils nous disaient que -- à ce moment-là qu’ils dépassaient largement -- qu’ils dépassaient pas largement, je m’excuse là, mais peut-être qu’ils dépassaient l’horaire. J’ai -- je voudrais pas répondre en leur nom là.
6348 Mais j’ai compris moi personnellement que eux aussi ne voulaient pas diminuer ce qu’ils faisaient actuellement.
6349 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Je vous remercie beaucoup.
6350 M. MARC SIMARD: Merci.
6351 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je pense que ce sont nos questions et puis vous vous êtes déjà engagés à répondre la pièce 1 lors de votre comparution donc on n’a pas besoin de retourner sur ce sujet-là.
6352 M. MARC SIMARD: Parfait.
6353 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup.
6354 Madame la secrétaire, oui, s’il vous plaît.
6355 LA SECRÉTAIRE: J’inviterais maintenant la Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada à s’approcher.
6356 S’il vous plaît vous introduire et vous avez 10 minutes.
6357 Mme LANTHIER: Bonjour. Alors je vous remercie d’avoir invité la FCFA à comparaître devant vous aujourd’hui, Mesdames et Messieurs du conseil.
6358 Je m’appelle Sylviane Lanthier. Je suis la toute nouvelle présidente de la FCFA du Canada, donc c’est la première fois que je comparais devant vous. Je vous souhaite la bienvenue. Et je suis accompagnée de notre directeur des communications, Monsieur Serge Quinty.
6359 Donc nos remarques aujourd’hui s’arriment de près au sujet proposé dans le document de travail publié par le conseil le 12 janvier dernier.
6360 Nous aborderons plus spécifiquement deux des enjeux soulevés au paragraphe 22, soit l’établissement d’une définition claire et précise pour la programmation locale et des mesures pour assurer un niveau continu et approprié de programmation locale et de reflet local.
6361 Nous terminerons avec quelques réflexions sur la première des deux initiatives présentées par le CRTC, la mise sur pied d’un fonds pour financer les nouvelles locales.
6362 Mais permettez-moi d’abord un bref retour sur les réalités assez uniques des communautés francophones en situation minoritaire en matière de programmation télévisuelle locale.
6363 Du côté des diffuseurs d’abord, outre deux stations membres du groupe Télé Inter-Rives qui desservent également le Nouveau-Brunswick, le secteur privé est à toute fin pratique absent de nos communautés.
6364 Et à part les stations opérées par Rogers au Nouveau-Brunswick et à Ottawa, la télévision communautaire de langue française est un phénomène presqu’inexistant à l’extérieur du Québec.
6365 Cela signifie que pour les francophones de sept provinces et d’un territoire et pour les franco-ontariens et franco-ontariennes qui habitent ailleurs qu’à Ottawa, Radio-Canada est la seule source de programmation locale en français.
6366 Cela représente grosso modo près de 60 pour cent de la population ayant le français comme première langue officielle à l’extérieur du Québec.
6367 Je signale au passage que les francophones des Territoires du Nord-Ouest et du Nunavut n’ont, quant à eux, aucune programmation locale en français et celle à laquelle ont accès les franco-yukonnais est produite à partir de Vancouver. Et si Terre-Neuve reçoit le signal de Moncton, dans la même province, les francophones du Labrador, eux, écoutent les nouvelles de Montréal.
6368 Donc dans le cas de Radio-Canada, je dis donc que la programmation locale -- programmation locale avec un bémol; comme nous l’avons expliqué dans notre mémoire, cette notion prend un tout autre sens dans nos communautés.
6369 Dans l’Ouest canadien, la société d’état opère une station par province et en Acadie, la station CBAFT, établie à Moncton, couvre les quatre provinces de l’Atlantique. Il reste que pour un fransaskois de Prince Albert, les nouvelles présentées au téléjournal, produit à Regina, sont sans conteste celles qui reflètent le mieux ses besoins et intérêts propres.
6370 Pour cette raison, la FCFA dépose aujourd’hui une proposition de définition de programmation locale et de nouvelles locales qui tient compte de cette réalité spécifique à nos communautés.
6371 Cette définition se lit comme suit : La programmation locale est donc la programmation produite pour fins de diffusion par des stations locales et, dans le cas des CLOSM, par les stations provinciales, régionales opérées par la Société Radio-Canada à l’extérieur du Québec et qui reflète les besoins, les réalités et les intérêts propres à l’auditoire desservi par la station, tout en s’adressant spécifiquement à celui-ci.
6372 L’inclusion des stations régionales du diffuseur public dans cette définition a son importance, surtout dans l’optique où le CRTC conviendrait, comme nous le souhaitons, de la pertinence de créer un nouveau fonds d’appui à la programmation locale.
6373 Du point de vue de ce que les francophones vivant en situation minoritaire voient ou ne voient pas à l’écran, le besoin est certainement là.
6374 Des années de compressions ont réduit de façon majeure la capacité des stations régionales de Radio-Canada de faire leur travail. La production d’émissions hors-nouvelles, reprise avec le Fonds d’amélioration de la programmation locale, a été à nouveau presque totalement abandonnée.
6375 Les journalistes sortent beaucoup moins des grands centres pour couvrir ce qui se passe dans les communautés plus éloignées. Et à cause des réductions de personnel, il y a moins de gens pour raconter nos histoires et nos réalités.
6376 Certains sont d’avis que Radio-Canada ne devrait pas avoir accès à un nouveau fonds d’appui à la programmation locale, entre autres parce que le nouveau gouvernement libéral s’est engagé à un rétablissement des crédits parlementaires amputés du budget du diffuseur public en 2012. Avec respect, la FCFA ne partage pas cette opinion.
6377 D’une part, il n’est nullement acquis que cette augmentation se traduirait par un accroissement des ressources dédiées à la programmation télévisuelle locale à l’extérieur du Québec.
6378 Les représentants de Radio-Canada ont d’ailleurs clairement indiqué qu’une telle augmentation ne changerait rien à la mise en œuvre du plan stratégique 2015-2020 de la société d’état, un plan qui jusqu’à maintenant a consisté surtout en des réductions au niveau de la capacité des stations régionales.
6379 D’autre part, le rapport Houle sur le financement de Radio-Canada, réalisé l’an dernier pour les gouvernements du Québec et de l’Ontario, montre clairement que la population francophone hors marchés métropolitains a perdu, proportionnellement, plus de ressources à cause de l’abolition du FAPL qu’à cause de la réduction des crédits parlementaires totaux.
6380 Ces crédits parlementaires appuient l’ensemble des opérations de la société d’état. En revanche, comme l’indique le rapport Houle, la disparition du FAPL a affecté directement la programmation de Radio-Canada, et encore plus précisément, la programmation locale hors marchés métropolitains du volet télévision en direct des activités de Radio-Canada.
6381 En somme, à moins que le gouvernement investisse non pas seulement pour rétablir la portion des crédits parlementaires coupée en 2012, mais plutôt pour bonifier substantiellement cette enveloppe tout en imposant des conditions de rendement strictes au diffuseur public quant à l’utilisation de ces fonds, il y a de fortes chances que l’accès des francophones à une programmation locale en français digne de ce nom demeure à risque.
6382 C’est pour cette raison que la FCFA est en faveur de la mise sur pied d’un fonds d’appui aux créateurs et aux diffuseurs de programmation locale, dont les bénéficiaires incluraient entre autres les stations traditionnelles de télévision locale et les stations régionales de Radio-Canada.
6383 Cela m’amène à l’initiative A du document de travail et je vous livre quelques réflexions en vrac.
6384 La FCFA croit fermement que ce fonds ne devrait pas se limiter aux nouvelles locales. Quoique celles-ci soient très importantes, la production d’émissions d’affaires publiques, culturelles ou de variété l’est tout autant. C’est aussi là que s’exprime le reflet des réalités de la communauté, et en milieu minoritaire, c’est aussi là que se bâtit le sentiment d’appartenance à la francophonie.
6385 En ce qui a trait aux résultats recherchés, nous proposons au CRTC la piste de réflexion suivante. Dans son mémoire, le Conseil provincial du secteur des communications rapporte que présentement, presqu’aucune station locale au Québec ne produit autre chose que des nouvelles locales; toutes les autres émissions ont été coupées. Cette réalité, nous la vivons aussi dans nos communautés.
6386 Étant donné cet état de fait, il pourrait être intéressant d’établir une norme minimale en matière de programmation locale, non pas uniquement en termes de nombre d’heures comme c’est actuellement le cas, mais en termes de types de contenu.
6387 Le fonds pourrait viser à garantir dans chaque collectivité bénéficiaire un minimum vital de contenu de nouvelles et de contenu hors-nouvelles. Il ne s’agit pas pour le CRTC de s’ingérer dans la programmation des télédiffuseurs, mais bien d’encourager la production et la diffusion de types de contenu qui, autrement, ne serait pas présenté.
6388 En ce qui a trait au financement d’un tel fonds, le propos de la FCFA n’est pas aujourd’hui de faire des recommandations spécifiques. Nous sommes conscients que l’enjeu de la programmation locale en français à l’intention de nos communautés s’inscrit dans la crise plus large et plus grave de la fédération -- et très grave de la télévision locale.
6389 À la lueur de l’ensemble de la preuve, le Conseil voudra sans doute deviser une solution plus globale, tout en incluant, en conformité avec ses obligations en vertu de la partie VII de la Loi sur les langues officielles, une lentille francophone s’adressant aux besoins et réalités que nous avons décrits dans cette présentation.
6390 En terminant, qu’on ne se méprenne pas. Notre message n’est pas un plaidoyer pour Radio-Canada. Ce que nous défendons, c’est les centaines de milliers de francophones qui veulent voir et reconnaître leurs réalités à la télévision en français, peu importe la plateforme sur laquelle ils la regardent.
6391 Je vous remercie et nous sommes prêts à répondre à vos questions.
6392 LE PRÉSIDENT: Alors premièrement, félicitations pour votre -- vos nouvelles fonctions et ---
6393 Mme LANTHIER: Merci.
6394 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- bienvenue à nos audiences. Mais je vais vous passer à maître -- mon collègue Dupras -- conseiller Dupras pour les questions.
6395 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Merci, Monsieur le président. Bon après-midi.
6396 Les compressions de Radio-Canada, pouvez-vous nous expliquer un peu ça c'est traduit comment, qu’est-ce que vous avez perdu exacte -- un peu plus spécifiquement comme services dans les régions que vous représentez?
6397 Mme LANTHIER: Depuis l’abolition du Fonds vous voulez dire, du Fonds de la programmation locale?
6398 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Oui.
6399 Mme LANTHIER: Oui. Écoutez, je pense qu’on a perdu une capacité de produire des émissions hors-nouvelles, comme on vient de le dire. Des émissions qu’y étaient -- qui dépassaient le cadre strict là de la nouvelle locale et de ce qui se passe aujourd'hui. Des émissions d’affaires publiques, des émissions qui -- des courts documentaires, des choses qui reflètent notre réalité, mais d’une autre façon. Des émissions aussi qui permettent de voir dans quelle -- un peu quels sont nos artistes, qu’est-ce qu’on fait à l’extérieur des -- du cadre strict des nouvelles. Je pense que ça on a vraiment perdu ça, qu’y est quand même assez important là.
6400 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Oui, oui.
6401 Mme LANTHIER: Par exemple, moi j’habite à Winnipeg ---
6402 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Il reste quoi ---
6403 Mme LANTHIER: Si je ---
6404 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: --- il reste quoi là comme ---
6405 Mme LANTHIER: Il reste -- il reste les nouvelles.
6406 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: IL reste les nouvelles locales.
6407 Mme LANTHIER: Il reste les nouvelles et il reste aussi une production jeunesse qu’y est faite dans l’Ouest qui s’adresse à l’ensemble des jeunes de l’Ouest qui s’appelle « On y va », et une production dans l’Atlantique -- dans les provinces Atlantique qu’y est une production d’émission de variétés qui joue le dimanche soir. À part ça, y a que des nouvelles.
6408 M. QUINTY: Et il serait bon de noter aussi que en septembre 2015, Radio-Canada a annoncé que dans plusieurs stations régionale à l’ouest d’Ottawa, il allait réduire de 1 heure à 30 minutes la durée des téléjournaux quotidiens.
6409 Et étant donné que les obligations des conditions de licences imposent un minimum de 5 heures de programmation locale par semaine, là avec les téléjournaux qui sont tombés à une demi-heure, on est à 2,5 avec ensuite des manchettes la fin de semaine. On a demandé à Radio-Canada comment la différence allait être comblée, on a pas eu de réponse claire là-dessus.
6410 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Et la télévision communautaire dans les régions, vous dites que c'est pas un outil pour aider les minorités ---
6411 Mme LANTHIER: Ben à ma connaissance ---
6412 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: --- est-ce que vous pouvez être un peu plus spécifique là-dessus?
6413 Mme LANTHIER: --- à l’heure actuelle par le biais des télévisions communautaires y a pas de production locale en français qui dessert les minorités, sauf je crois une demi-heure d’émissions par semaine qu’y est faite par une dame à Edmonton qu’y a contenu je pense plutôt historique. À part ça -- évidemment à Ottawa Rogers -- par le biais de Rogers y a de la production d’émissions locales en français. Y en a au Nouveau-Brunswick aussi je pense ---
6414 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Y a pas d’intérêt par les francophones dans ces communautés-là de ---
6415 Mme LANTHIER: D’utiliser ---
6416 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: --- d’essayer de faire -- d’utiliser les installations pour faire des programmes?
6417 Mme LANTHIER: Je pense que y a probablement pas de sensibilité de la part des francophones, y a pas de prise de conscience que ce sont des installations qui peuvent utiliser. Y a pas de lien entre ---
6418 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Et si y avait -- oui.
6419 Mme LANTHIER: Y pas de lien entre les diffuseurs et la communauté francophone.
6420 M. QUINCY: J’ai aussi parlé, Monsieur Dupras, ce matin au directeur général de la Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick qui est notre organisme membre, je lui ai demandé justement quelle était la perception des francophones par rapport à la télévision communautaire.
6421 Et ce qu’il m’a dit c'est que c'est connu, c'est connu que ces quatre télévisions qu’opèrent Rogers au Nouveau-Brunswick existent, que c'est pas nécessairement un auditoire qui est très gros et que Rogers met pas nécessairement les moyens dans ces télévisions communautaires-là pour assurer une qualité de programmation. Ce qui m’a dit c’est, « Y a des trous dans la grille-horaire. »
6422 Et effectivement, ces quatre stations-là font une espèce de pool de leurs émissions, donc y a des émissions d’Edmundston, y a des émissions de la Péninsule acadienne. C'est très bien, mais ce qu’on m’a indiqué c'est que Rogers ne mettait pas nécessairement les moyens dans ces télévisions-là pour assurer une grande qualité de programmation.
6423 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Et y a également des stations privées comme les stations de Télé Inter-Rives qui -- que ça dessert les populations comment exactement ces services-là?
6424 M. QUINCY: Ce que -- la même personne à qui j’ai parlé ce matin m’a indiqué que effectivement, Show TV qu’y est opéré par Télé Inter-Rives est très populaire dans la Péninsule acadienne, et probablement davantage écouté que Radio-Canada.
6425 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: O.k. Et donc y a pas de -- vous savez y a pas de mesures spécifiques auxquelles vous avez pensé nous suggérer pour aider à la programmation dans vos communautés?
6426 Mme LANTHIER: Outre la mise sur pied d’un fonds qui permettrait de réinvestir dans la programmation locale, je pense que c'est notre -- notre outil, c'est -- l’espoir qu’on a c'est qu’y ait un outil comme celui-là qui permette de réinvestir ---
6427 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Mais vous avez pas idée des ---
6428 Mme LANTHIER: --- dans la programmation locale.
6429 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: --- du besoin de ça se traduirait comment financièrement cette aide là?
6430 Mme LANTHIER: Ben ce qu’on sait c'est que avec le FAPL y avait à peu près je pense 23 millions qu’y était distribué par année dans l’ensemble des ---
6431 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Des stations ---
6432 Mme LANTHIER: --- régionales de Radio-Canada. Si on prenait ça comme étant une somme potentielle, on peut penser qu’on arriverait à ravoir un peu ce qu’on a perdu avec la fin du FAPL, et à faire un peu plus de choses-là en terme de programmation dans nos communautés.
6433 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: M'hm. Alors essentiellement c'est Radio-Canada, donc est-ce que Radio-Canada devrait être admissible à un tel fonds?
6434 Mme LANTHIER: Ben écoutez, dans -- la réalité c'est que dans nos milieux si c'est pas Radio-Canada c'est rien, c'est ça la réalité. Alors moi je vie à Winnipeg à Saint-Boniface, enlevez Radio-Canada -- comme enlever la capacité de Radio-Canada à Saint-Boniface, y a aucune autre façon de s’informer en français au niveau local par le biais de la télévision ou de la radio en français.
6435 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Donc essentiellement, ce que vous nous dites c'est que ça prend un fonds, et ce sont des sommes qui doivent être dédiées à Radio-Canada pour amener de la programmation francophone dans les régions à l’extérieur du Québec?
6436 Mme LANTHIER: Ce qu’on vous dit, c'est que la solution la plus pratique et la plus facile, étant donné l’état des lieux en ce moment et là où sont les infrastructures en ce moment, pour qu’y ait de la programmation locale en français dans nos milieux la solution la plus facile passe par Radio-Canada.
6437 M. QUINCY: Juste pour rajouter à ce que Madame Lanthier dit, nous on a vraiment voulu se placer du point de vue des francophones qui reçoivent la programmation locale. Et on peut pas inventer des diffuseurs de programmation locale où est-ce qu’y en existe pas. Pour 60 pour cent de la population de nos communautés c'est Radio-Canada ou c'est rien, c'est tout simplement ça.
6438 Et c'est pour ça que dans la définition qu’on vous propose pour la programmation locale, on a tenu à mettre les stations provinciales et régionales de Radio-Canada, parce que sinon -- l’aveu qu’on fait c'est qu’il n’y a pas de programmation locale à l’ouest d’Ottawa-Gatineau.
6439 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Bon, alors moi j’ai pas d’autres questions. Je vous remercie.
6440 Mme LANTHIER: Merci.
6441 LE PRÉSIDENT: À ma connaissance le rapport Houle n’est pas au dossier public de cette instance.
6442 M. QUINCY: Si on nous indique la procédure, nous on consignera ---
6443 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est parce que le problème de faire référence à une étude d’un expert qu’y est pas devant nous, pis qu’on est pas en position de poser des questions de cet expert-là sur la façon qu’y a procédé, les présomptions, l’analyse, on peut pas nécessairement prendre des conclusions comme étant testées, mis sous examen dans l’instance.
6444 M. QUINCY: Je comprends votre point.
6445 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et -- c'est votre première instance, donc je vous poserai pas la question, mais je vais faire un commentaire. Faudrait pas tomber dans le piège du spin des services de communication de Radio-Canada.
6446 Je sais que le CRTC a le dos large et que c'était tout à fait utile pour Radio-Canada de blâmer les choix de leur Conseil d’administration, puis de leurs administrateurs sur la disparition du FAPL. Mais le choix était disponible, le FAPL a été réduit sur une longue période de temps, ils auraient pu faire des choix sur où ils dépensaient leurs ressources. C'est pas assez de dire que c'est la faute du CRTC. C'est eux qui ont le mandat de desservir les communautés.
6447 Mme LANTHIER: Est-ce que je peux vous dire quelque chose à ce sujet-là?
6448 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
6449 Mme LANTHIER: Je ne pense pas que notre -- vraiment ce qu’on -- l’essentiel de notre propos ce n’est pas de défendre Radio-Canada, d’abord. L’essentiel de notre propos ce n’est pas d’accuser le CRTC non plus d’avoir mis fin au FAPL.
6450 Mais le constat qu’on fait, c'est qu’au moment où y avait ce fonds-là y a eu un impact pour vrai dans le genre d’émissions et le type d’émissions et le nombre d’émissions qui ont été produites et diffusées dans nos communautés, et donc dans la capacité de nos concitoyens de recevoir des émissions différentes que seulement des nouvelles, et d’avoir plus de nouvelles. On constate que y a eu un effet.
6451 Maintenant, nous on ne contrôle pas grand-chose là dans cette réalité-là. On ne contrôle pas Radio-Canada, on ne contrôle -- tsé, on a pas le contrôle des décisions que les gens prennent. Vous avez -- et on peut évidemment déplorer des décisions que les gens prennent, mais ce qu’on vous dit c’est que le constat qu’on fait c’est que le fait d’avoir mis sur pied ce fonds-là a appuyé la programmation locale pour vrai et on ne sait pas si en ne mettant pas sur pied un fonds comme ça on va réussir à appuyer la programmation locale dans notre cas.
6452 On se trompe peut-être, là, mais c’est le constat qu’on fait et c’est la solution qu’on a.
6453 LE PRÉSIDENT: Vous avez tout à fait raison que l’arrivée du FAPL a eu un effet positif, mais la disparition du FAPL, il y avait encore des choix à faire chez Radio-Canada et puis vous avez peut-être eu l’occasion de suivre nos renouvellements, mais on a mis beaucoup de pression sur Radio-Canada de mieux desservir les communautés en situation minoritaire.
6454 Mme LANTHIER: Et je vous encourage à continuer à le faire.
6455 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et on le fait souvent.
6456 Mme LANTHIER: Excellent.
6457 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup.
6458 Je crois que ce sont nos questions. Du contentieux?
6459 Alors merci beaucoup et peut-être à la prochaine?
6460 Mme LANTHIER: Merci.
6461 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci bien.
6462 Je pense qu’on est dû pour une pause d’après-midi jusqu’à 3h45, s’il vous plaît -- 15h45.
--- Upon recessing at 3:32 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 3:48 p.m.
6463 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre, s’il vous plaît.
6464 Madame la secrétaire.
6465 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
6466 We will now hear the presentation of Mr. Stephen Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins is appearing by videoconference from the Vancouver CRTC office.
6467 Mr. Hawkins, you may begin.
6468 MR. HAWKINS: Thank you.
6469 I would like to thank the Commission for allowing me to appear here today and share some of my ideas and experiences that relate to local news programming.
6470 By way of background, I have worked in the television industry for 30 years, for the past 23 years as a camera operator and videographer for CKVU in Vancouver.
6471 I have also been elected to the position of Local Union President for the past 10 years.
6472 Back in 2006 there was a dramatic reduction in overall local news programming at CKVU when all traditional news programming was terminated, leaving only Breakfast Television, a 3 1/2 hour morning show. No 6 o’clock news, no late-night news and nothing on the weekends.
6473 Now, almost 10 years later, there are far fewer people involved in producing this ever-shrinking show. The savings from years of layoffs have not been reinvested in the programming, and local news content continues to shrink.
6474 The story over at CHNM or OMNI has been similar. When owned by a group of local business people hours of local programming employed over 80 people and produced a full range of local ethnic programming.
6475 Along came Rogers in 2008, promising to build on this model but instead cut programming and jobs to where today OMNI employs less than a dozen people who produce bare-bones, live-to-tape, community information programs in Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi.
6476 And even though the CRTC imposed conditions requiring Rogers to maintain OMNI’s Victoria Bureau, it laid off its only two employees in Victoria as soon as the tangible benefits were spent last August.
6477 Now, all provincial news for CITY and OMNI is covered from Vancouver.
6478 The CRTC has heard many complaints from the Union and the public over the years and each time the Commission has expressed concerns about Rogers’ lack of commitment to local news programming, even going as far as directing Rogers, at licence renewal, to review its strategy for local news on City TV stations in western Canada.
6479 Yet every CRTC renewal results in the same vague conditions that allow Rogers to keep cutting local news and local programming or, worse, the CRTC decides against imposing any conditions at all, trusting the broadcaster to keep their promises.
6480 When Rogers applied for its most recent renewal, resulting in Decision 2014-399, it assured the Commission that it did not intend to remove ethnic news in prime time.
6481 The CRTC then said that imposing a condition of licence to require ethnic newscasts would be an “undue” financial burden, costing Rogers up to $2 million. You did not explain why $2 million for local news requirements was “undue”, when Rogers had just set records for its billion dollar NHL deal.
6482 What happened after this decision? Rogers laid off dozens more employees and reduced those important ethnic news programs into pre-recorded community programming shows, just a few months before the recent federal election.
6483 Today Rogers only employs one field reporter for their Breakfast TV show in Vancouver. He spends most of the day doing live hits into the updates, occasionally grabbing streeters on the issue of the day. This is hardly in-depth journalism. That leaves a couple of camera operators to cover the news of the day in Canada’s second largest English market.
6484 The story is the same for Rogers in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg, whose stations have been transformed into news bureaus.
6485 Meanwhile, the CRTC says that the only thing that matters in its decisions are conditions of licence, and Rogers is playing by those rules.
6486 And that is precisely the problem. The CRTC has no rules and no conditions that stop these huge, vertically integrated companies from eliminating original local programming. Rogers can do what it pleases, because it is only bound by conditions of licence, and its conditions of licence seem almost meaningless.
6487 Rogers’ failure to invest in itself would be entirely its own business, except that broadcasting is regulated and for important reasons. This is why Parliament set out specific goals in the Broadcasting Act.
6488 Parliament expected broadcasters to strengthen the system, not perpetually weaken it.
6489 Some have asked if local programming on OMNI and City in western Canada is the “canary in the coal mine” for local news. If it is, the canary is lying on the bottom of the cage and its future prospects don’t look very good. It’s being starved of the resources it needs to survive.
6490 If the CRTC is serious about local news, it must impose conditions that mandate specific levels of original, local news for each station, originating and produced by employees of that station.
6491 Every spring my members get nervous and this year is no different. On Monday Rogers announced 200 more employees are getting fired. Looking around the workplace, who is going to lose their job this time? Last May, the answer was over 40 employees fired from OMNI and City in Vancouver.
6492 This takes me to the questions of the Commission that you’re asking through this important process. Where is the industry going in the future? How is it going to get there intact? How do we get on the new bridge before the old bridge collapses?
6493 We are the creative content professionals who have dedicated our working lives to reflect Canadian stories back to Canadians, to produce the local news programs we all value so much in our lives. We celebrate communities’ successes we question failures. We help Canadians make informed decisions. We are the essential ingredient for a healthy democracy.
6494 Additional funding or re-allocation of current funding must be monitored by an independent third party and consider such factors as how many local news stories are covered? How many creative content professionals are involved in the process? Is the content presented to the public in an original way, over multiple platforms, not just TV stories dumped onto the internet?
6495 And since you have now said in Decision 2016-8 that the only thing that matters in your licensing decisions are conditions of licence, you must impose conditions that require quality local, daily, original, in-house news programming at the next round of renewals. There must be a real mechanism to deal with these companies in a timely way when they bend the rules.
6496 On the subject of Canada’s Ethnic Broadcasting Policy, the Commission has heard from thousands of Canadians that Rogers isn’t doing enough with its five OMNI stations. This 1999 policy needs to be updated to reflect the realities of today and give whomever wants to take the challenge of broadcasting to millions of multicultural Canadians clear guidelines.
6497 Surely these communities are worthy of their own policy review to engage them in a meaningful way.
6498 Any over-the-air license must require local original in-house ethnic news to be produced as a condition of license. Canada’s growing multicultural committees represent the equivalent of a small market within large metropolitan areas. So it makes sense to me that any funding available to assist small markets could be made available to these multicultural programs.
6499 In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Commission staff, it’s critical to Canadians that they have access to over-the-air local original news. The good news at least is that these huge vertically integrated companies, like Rogers, Bell, Shaw and Quebecore have many advantages in the new digital world. They are discoverable, trusted gate keepers to Canadians.
6500 They own the cable and cellphone delivery systems and the high speed data highways into Canadians homes. They control not only many conventional radio stations but most of the conventional television stations in Canada, along with most profitable specialty services. If they cannot do well perhaps the answer is to let others try.
6501 We know what the challenge in this hearing -- we know that the challenge in this hearing is huge. Establishing conditions of license and a funding framework to ensure that the Canadian broadcasting system can finally begin to grow and thrive moving forward. This is what will serve Canadians interest.
6502 My coworker’s and I would be proud to be part of the creative content future for Canada’s broadcasting system. We want to work with our employers and with the CRTC to ensure there is the best possible quality creative Canadian content on the new bridge.
6503 Thank you for your time.
6504 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Mr. Hawkins.
6505 Commissioner Molnar will start with the questions.
6506 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
6507 Good afternoon Mr. Hawkins. You mentioned that you’re the local union president; that is with Unifor is it?
6508 MR. HAWKINS: That’s right Unifor Local 830M.
6509 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And did you have the opportunity to hear our conversation with Unifor this afternoon?
6510 MR. HAWKINS: Yes, I did, while I was driving in.
6511 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Oh, while you were driving.
6512 MR. HAWKINS: Technology.
6513 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah. We had a good conversation with them and maybe while you were driving weren’t able to put all your attention -- hopefully not all your attention -- to the conversation, but hopefully it was hands free -- however that was going for you.
6514 But I assume that you are supportive of the positions that they put forward to us this afternoon?
6515 MR. HAWKINS: That’s right. Yeah, I’ve talked to Howard and Randy. I’m familiar with their position and I support it.
6516 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. And you have the opportunity to give the particular flavor of your region so that’s good too.
6517 There is a couple things that you had in your written submission that I just wanted to touch on with you if that’s okay.
6518 MR. HAWKINS: Sure.
6519 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You are -- particularly as it regards the definition of what is local and whether or not a physical local presence is needed.
6520 And you make in your statement -- or in your submission to us you speak of the need for reporters, camera operators, editors, writers, assignment to editors and hosts are all important elements, and you say decisions made at a centralized hub are often out of touch with the realities of the local community.
6521 You may have heard some of the large over-the-air broadcasters speak of using technology to try and reduce the cost of local programming and things such as anchors and editors are something that technology allows some economies of scale and scope.
6522 And I wondered if you might be able to comment on why it’s important that all the different functions, including editors and hosts and so on, are present within the local community.
6523 MR. HAWKINS: Well, I can say that if you let technology drive the policy and not the Broadcast Act and other factors that technically they can do news in front of a green screen, but when there’s a fire in Kelowna and there’s emergency measures technology also now allows you to put those anchors in that city, in that environment to give people a perspective of the news that previously talk technology couldn’t.
6524 So it seems like the technology that some of these companies -- their perception of it is perhaps looking in the rear view mirror as how can we do what we have always done using technology instead of looking forward and thinking of what can we do in the future and use technology in a more creative way. And then certainly to do that you have to have the storytellers in the street and those storytellers are the hosts, they are the editors, the camera operators -- all of our camera operators are also editors.
6525 So, you know, when we look to the future let’s not look too much in that rear-view mirror. It might guide us a little bit but I think that when you’re thinking of technology it should enable us to do things in a more creative way looking towards the future.
6526 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Can we use your expertise to tell us what might be the opportunities for the future?
6527 If it isn’t ---
6528 MR. HAWKINS: Well ---
6529 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- centralizing -- using technology to centralize, do you see opportunities that would enhance or, you know, change the way local news is collected and informed -- used to inform the citizenship?
6530 MR. HAWKINS: Well, using more people instead of less people, investing in the future.
6531 You look at Ted Rogers when he put in news radio and he didn’t use technology he used feet on the street, and that was an investment. It didn’t make money initially and over time it did.
6532 We need one of these broadcasters to be brave and invest in the future. They talk to us about using digital technology that we want to put some of our material online but then they layoff the people that are the creative content professionals to do that.
6533 You know, I believe both at CTV and City TV they laid off people in their internet department, writers and people contributing to that just as an efficiency.
6534 It seems that’s the area that we should be investing in, certainly supporting.
6535 Like I was saying, we don’t want to have the old bridge collapse, it’s what’s supporting us, but if we can invest in the new bridge using the resources from the old bridge hopefully to do that then, you know, that might be a good way to invest in the future.
6536 But I think somebody’s got to be brave and really invest in a vision and put your best people in front of it. Don’t just add it as another task and also, you know, after you publish this story could you also just dump this on the web. You know, let’s look maybe a little more to the future and engage our -- you know, engage the viewers.
6537 We used to have this thing called Speakers Corner and that was, you know, people coming to the corner to give us their opinion. It took time to edit through all the material. But, you know, something like that could be part of the future. It certainly isn’t news, it would be other local programming, but with everybody with an iPhone and opinions you could certainly -- probably put an interesting locally relevant program together doing that at very low cost.
6538 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, thank you for that, because that’s a great segue for my next and actually final question, and that was the question of local programming and local information versus local news. And what kind of priority or importance do you believe should be placed on each of those?
6539 MR. HAWKINS: Well, local news is the core. You know, that’s going to feed the dialogue. If you don’t have people to cover the shooting in Surrey and you’re going to have a panel discussion on your South Asian broadcast about violence in Surrey, you know, you’re sort of going at it backwards.
6540 And certainly a talk show or a community show like Colette was referring to that they’ve converted there, the news to community programming and that somehow they can cover local news better by reducing the feed on the street and making everybody go into the studio.
6541 That’s not news; that’s something different. News is not where it comes to you all the time; you have to go to it. You have to chase the people down sometimes and also filter the people who want to have their opinion expressed by coming in studio. It’s a combination.
6542 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: So just to clarify, and I did say it was my last question, but I do want to clarify. You know, breakfast television for example, one might question, I mean, that’s not news, but it is local in large part to -- I should say in large part, it’s not news, but it is local programming and engages with some audience.
6543 Do you continue to believe that that should be a priority within our broadcasting system to provide diverse local programming?
6544 MR. HAWKINS: Well, I think that there should be more of a news element to breakfast television and more funding for news with reporters doing the stories and not just sending videographers and cameramen to grab visuals and the occasional clip, but to do some analysis.
6545 And that’s, you know, part of the larger three-and-a-half hour window, which is, you know, I think quite a good program for what it is.
6546 And I think you’re right, it’s not news, it is a -- more of a current affairs program. When you break it down, there are, you know, news elements that are as strong as we can make them with the resources that we have. You know, we work very hard every day and since last May a lot harder.
6547 COMMISSIONNER MOLNAR: Thank you, Mr. Hawkins, those are my questions. I certainly have a sense of your frustrations that you’ve expressed here today.
6548 MR. HAWKINS: Thank you.
6549 THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Hawkins. I believe that those are our questions for you and thank you again for participating in this proceeding. And you will be able to continue in the reply phase of the proceedings, so thank you.
6550 MR. HAWKINS: Thank you very much.
6551 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire.
6552 LA SECRÉTAIRE: J’inviterais maintenant la Fédération culturelle canadienne-française à s’approcher.
6553 S’il vous plaît vous présenter et présenter vos collègues. Vous avez 10 minutes.
6554 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et j’ajouterais, même si ça prends une minute de plus, lisez pas trop vite pour que l’interprétation peut bien saisir vos mots. Merci.
6555 M. THÉBERGE: Merci. Monsieur le président, Mesdames et Messieurs membres du conseil, nous vous remercions de nous avoir invités à comparaitre devant vous au sujet de la programmation télévisuelle locale et communautaire au Canada.
6556 Je me nomme Martin Théberge, président de la Fédération culturelle canadienne-française et je prendrai la parole devant vous cet après-midi.
6557 Je suis accompagné de Maggy Razafimbahiny, directrice générale, de Carol Ann Pilon, directrice adjointe, et de Kadé Rémy, chef des communications.
6558 Nous tenons à faire part d’observations sur les impacts qu’il y aura pour les intervenants du secteur des arts, de la culture et des industries culturelles œuvrant auprès et pour les communautés francophones et acadiennes au pays.
6559 Nous représentons un réseau de 22 membres provinciaux, territoriaux et nationaux desservant près de 150 organismes artistiques et culturels. Ici, nous parlons de près de 250 communautés où vivent 2,6 millions de parlants français.
6560 Aujourd’hui, nous voudrions aborder certains des sujets soulevés dans le document de travail touchant particulièrement nos communautés et collectivités locales.
6561 Commençons pas l’établissement de définitions claires et précises pour la programmation locale, la programmation d'accès et la programmation de nouvelles locales.
6562 La définition de la programmation locale couramment utilisée par le Conseil nous est pertinente tant que les stations locales maintiennent cette présence locale et de manière physique.
6563 Les nouvelles locales doivent desservir la communauté de base avec une programmation qui leur ressemble et des nouvelles qui lui touche de près.
6564 Dans le contexte qu’est le nôtre, nous déplorons le fait qu’il y a encore peu de couverture médiatique télévisuelle qui reflète les réalités locales et régionales des communautés francophones et acadiennes au Canada.
6565 L’absence d’une couverture médiatique adéquate nuit au développement de ces collectivités et, par ricochet, au secteur des arts et de la culture.
6566 Nous croyons qu’il y a place à de l’amélioration pour faire en sorte que les préoccupations, les talents artistiques et les enjeux culturels des communautés francophones et acadiennes soient davantage présentés dans la programmation locale de même que dans la programmation des divers réseaux de diffusion francophones distribués au pays.
6567 Il va de soi que la programmation locale ne peut et ne doit pas se limiter aux nouvelles. La production indépendante régionale, que ce soit dans les régions du Québec ou dans les diverses régions en milieu minoritaire, fait partie intégrante du système de radiodiffusion.
6568 Tout comme les stations de télévision traditionnelle privées et publiques ont un rôle particulier et irremplaçable à jouer en ce qui a trait au fait de recourir aux producteurs locaux.
6569 Nous sommes d’avis que le Conseil devrait mettre en place des mesures pour reconnaitre le rôle central que jouent les stations traditionnelles dans l’expression locale.
6570 Continuons avec le deuxième élément du document de travail : des mesures pour assurer un niveau continu et approprié de programmation locale et de reflet local.
6571 Les résultats des consultations du processus « Parlons télé ne mentent pas », les canadiens tiennent à une forte majorité à leurs nouvelles locales et à leur programmation locale tout en déplorant le manque d’émissions à reflet local.
6572 Depuis peu, nous pouvons observer des certaines régions -- dans certaines régions, pardon, une réduction de la durée des nouvelles locales et une diminution drastique des ressources pour la couverture des activités culturelles de façon quotidienne, et ce malgré les conditions de licence auxquelles notre diffuseur public est assujetti, ce qui reflète un certain effritement de la télévision locale.
6573 Prenons en exemple, l’élimination du FAPL, où près de 112 millions de dollars ont été injectés dans la programmation en 2012. Ce Fonds n’étant plus, nous nous retrouvons devant une fragilisation de notre identité et de nos valeurs canadiennes ainsi que de la vitalité linguistique et culturelle des canadiens, notamment dans les CLOSM.
6574 À l’ère du numérique et dans la surabondance de contenu disponible sous multiples plateformes, nous ne le répèterons pas assez, il est plus que nécessaire que le contenu de la programmation locale reflète les réalités et les aléas de la communauté en place.
6575 Vient l’importance des ressources physiques avec des équipes au sein de la communauté. La notion de qualité de contenu ne peut être mise de côté au profit des avantages du numérique dans le service télévisuel.
6576 Un personnel et des studios locaux sont donc plus que nécessaires pour fournir une programmation propre à la zone géographique et la communauté desservie.
6577 En termes de mesures, nous estimons que le Conseil doit continuer à mettre l'accent sur le nombre d'heures de diffusion d’émissions plutôt que le montant dépensé.
6578 Le processus de renouvèlement de licence permet de revoir cet aspect régulièrement et de procéder à un examen cas par cas de chacune des stations locales canadiennes.
6579 Enfin, et bien que le Conseil aille vers une dérèglementation, force est de constater que dans un contexte de minorité linguistique, seulement des conditions de licence peuvent garantir une programmation diversifiée proposant des contenus émanant de nos communautés et produits par les producteurs indépendants implantés dans leurs communautés.
6580 En ce qui concerne l’établissement d’un mécanisme de financement contribuant à la création de programmation locale, nous sommes toujours d’avis qu’un tel mécanisme est essentiel au développement des communautés francophones en situation minoritaire.
6581 Nous tenons à rappeler ici que si le Programme de production de langue française en milieu minoritaire du FMC dont bénéficient les réalisateurs, artisans et producteurs a eu un impact positif à produire du contenu qui reflète les réalités de la francophonie canadienne, seul le FAPL a su grandement contribuer à la diversité de la programmation locale et au soutien de nos stations locales et plus particulièrement celles de la Société Radio-Canada.
6582 Nous recommandons au Conseil de maintenir les obligations de contributions des EDR et SDR afin de garantir une contribution à la création et à la présentation de programmation de pertinence locale et de reflet local et la programmation d’accès communautaire.
6583 Moyennant une redistribution des ressources financières disponibles, nous croyons que la création d’un nouveau fonds fournirait un soutien additionnel, accessible à tous les éléments du système de radiodiffusion, public, privé et communautaire.
6584 Un tel fonds pourrait être soumis à des conditions d’utilisation quant à une programmation qui offre d’une part, des émissions de tout genre tel que: des documentaires uniques; des séries documentaires; des séries dramatiques; de variété et enfants-jeunesse; ou encore des magazines d’intérêts locaux et des nouvelles locales. D’autre part, des contenus émanant de producteurs indépendants professionnels vivant et œuvrant dans les communautés francophones en situation minoritaire.
6585 De manière générale, la reddition des comptes pourrait inclure des indicateurs de rendements fiables tel que: le nombre d’heures de production dans les quatre genres télévisuels produits par des producteurs indépendants; la diversification des régions du pays dans lesquelles sont produits des contenus; la diversification des nouvelles locales dans la région donnée et le nombre de nouvelles locales rediffusées à l’échelle nationale; et le nombre d’embauches de ressources journalistiques et techniques.
6586 Quant à une proposition de solution pour le rééquilibrage des ressources financières disponibles, nous nous en remettons à l’expertise et les connaissances des commissaires du Conseil en vous soulignant quelques faits en vue d’alimenter votre réflexion.
6587 Les francophones des communautés de langue officielle en situation minoritaire représentent 4,2 pour cent de la population canadienne, et 13 pour cent de la population francophone au Canada. La FCFA estime qu’environ 60 pour cent de la population francophone à l’extérieur du Québec a accès à une seule source de programmation de nouvelles locales, qui est une station régionale de Radio-Canada. Pour ce qui est de la programmation d’accès communautaire dans les communautés francophones et acadiennes, ceci se limite principalement à deux provinces, l’Ontario et le Nouveau-Brunswick.
6588 Passons au troisième point du document, la modulation des exigences en matière de programmation locale et de programmation d'accès, basée sur la taille des marchés et les besoins prouvés de la communauté.
6589 La programmation d’accès communautaire présente une ressource intéressante de contenu local. Nous le voyons tel un espace citoyen apportant une complémentarité dans la programmation locale. Reste que l’élément communautaire ne peut aucunement se substituer à une programmation locale provenant des chaînes privées et publiques, pour la simple raison qu’il existe très peu de programmation communautaire dans les communautés francophones et acadiennes offrant du contenu exclusivement en français. Autre que les stations d’Ottawa et du Nouveau-Brunswick, la programmation d’accès se limite à quelques heures sur des chaînes communautaires de langue anglaise.
6590 Ajoutons que ces stations communautaires ont peu de ressources humaines, financières et d’infrastructures en place pour offrir une programmation locale qui puisse combler l’étendue des sujets d’intérêt pour nos communautés.
6591 En ce qui a trait à l’Initiative A qui énonce la possibilité d’un fonds pour financer les nouvelles locales, nous croyons quel que soit le mécanisme mis en place pour soutenir la programmation locale, celui-ci doit être accessible à tous les éléments du système de radiodiffusion, public, privé et communautaire. Il doit aussi soutenir une programmation de haute qualité incluant une variété de genres, non seulement la production d’émissions d’information.
6592 Quant à l’Initiative B, en ce qui concerne les mesures incitatives visant à diffuser des nouvelles locales professionnelles sur les canaux communautaires, notre position sur la question, vous l’avez déjà entendu. Les canaux communautaires ne constituent pas une alternative viable pour diffuser et produire des nouvelles locales dans nos communautés. Une reconnaissance accrue du rôle central que joue déjà notre diffuseur public auprès de nos communautés, serait beaucoup plus structurant.
6593 Nous tenons le Conseil responsable de l’intégrité de notre système de radiodiffusion canadien et de veiller à la conformité de ses décisions en lien avec la Loi sur la radiodiffusion et la Loi sur les langues officielles du Canada.
6594 Pour conclure, toutes les collectivités comprenant les communautés francophones et acadiennes ont le droit d’accéder à des contenus régionaux dans leur langue. L’évolution des habitudes de consommation des contenus et la réalité des petits marchés, il va sans dire que seule une aide peut permettre le maintien des services locaux et de mettre en valeur nos collectivités.
6595 Nous espérons que les présentes audiences permettront au Conseil de repérer des pistes d’action, et de mettre en place des mécanismes qui feront en sorte que les collectivités minoritaires soient bien desservies par une programmation locale qui leur est propre et offerte là où ils demeurent. Que nous puissions y entrevoir une reconnaissance de leur apport à l’univers télévisuel à l’ensemble du Canada.
6596 Je vous remercie. Nous sommes disposés à prendre des questions.
6597 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup. Juste avant de commencer à poser des questions -- et c'est moi qui va commencer, vous avez fait référence aux gens qui sont ici en avant comme des commissaires du Conseil. Une petite particularité de la langue française, on est un Conseil en français, et donc des conseillers. Et en anglais on est un « Commission » avec des « commissioners », mais vous êtes pas les seuls, Radio-Canada le fait tout le temps, et voilà.
6598 M. THÉBERGE: J’en prends bonne note.
6599 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc si je comprends bien, de votre point de vue -- parce que on a parlé de la -- bon, la programmation locale évidemment peut comprendre des nouvelles locales, mais de votre point de vue c'est aussi important d’appuyer la programmation locale qui n’est pas de la programmation de nouvelles, si je vous comprends bien.
6600 M. THÉBERGE: Effectivement, et on croit que en effet les canadiens devraient apprendre par les nouvelles, mais devraient aussi se voir, s’entendre et se reconnaître à travers la programmation autre que ce qu’y a dans les nouvelles, oui.
6601 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et si je vous demandais quand même de mettre en ordre hiérarchique les besoins de vos communautés, est-ce que vous mettez nouvelles locales et programmation locale sur le même pied d’égalité, ou est-ce que vous admettez que peut-être les nouvelles locales sont quelque peu plus importantes que la programmation locale?
6602 M. THÉBERGE: J’aurais du mal à les hiérarchisées, par contre ce que je vous dirais c'est qu’on peut pas avoir un sans avoir l’autre. Comme je l’ai dit, les canadiens doivent savoir ce qui se passe dans le monde, savoir ce qui se passe dans leur communauté par les nouvelles.
6603 Mais l’identité d’un canadien, que ce soit par un jeune qu’y est en pleine construction identitaire ou que ce soit pour d’autres raisons, l’identité du canadien passe aussi par le créateur, par l’artiste, et le reflet de cette création-là en ondes.
6604 LE PRÉSIDENT: Est-ce qu’y une spécificité des communautés en situation minoritaire qui fait en sorte que le reflet par exemple des activités artistiques qui sont peut-être pas strictement de la nouvelle, sont peut-être plus importantes pour assurer la vitalité des communautés?
6605 M. THÉBERGE: C'est difficile de répondre succinctement à cette question-là. Je vous dirais que tous les canadiens, peu importe leur langue, devraient avoir accès à des -- à du contenu culturel effectivement, parce que, comme je vous l’ai mentionné, la construction identitaire entre autre. Par contre, la spécificité des communautés francophones en situation minoritaire est que l’on est baigné dans une mer anglophone, et donc que cet élément-là devient un peu plus important je croirais, oui.
6606 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’ailleurs quand j’ai passé du temps évidemment au ministère du Patrimoine canadien, j’ai pu visiter les centres où -- par exemple à l’école Saint Jean, l’Île-du-Prince Édouard où on tente justement de créer une plaque tournante qu’y est pas seulement l’école, y a aussi la petite enfance, y a la radio communautaire, y a les artistes et des activités communautaires. C'est pour ça que je vous posais la question, est-ce qu’y a -- étant donné une spécificité minoritaire, que c'est encore plus important de penser au contenu local au-delà du contenu nouvelles?
6607 M. THÉBERGE: Oui, effectivement, y a un élément extrêmement important. Vous avez mentionné le concept d’école communautaire citoyenne qu’y est de plus en plus important dans nos communautés, mais y a aussi l’élément que les communautés étant tellement petites au niveau régional et ainsi de suite, on doit effectivement se retrouver, on doit se voir, on doit -- et plus au-delà de la nouvelle.
6608 Mais je dirais pas que un est plus important que l’autre. Je dirais que dans -- les deux sont nécessaires. Et donc y a un besoin d’un appui pour être capable d’en arriver aux deux.
6609 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Au paragraphe 12 vous faites -- vers la fin là du paragraphe vous dites, « ...grandement contribuer à la diversité de la programmation locale et au soutien de nos stations locales... », j’imagine vous voulez dire les stations locales des communautés en situation minoritaire, « ...et plus particulièrement celles de la SCRC. »
6610 J’ai un point d’interrogation, quel autre -- à part des stations de la CRC, est-ce qu’y a d'autres stations locales?
6611 M. THÉBERGE: Ben y a les stations Rogers, Télé Inter-Rives au Nouveau-Brunswick qui font partie de nos territoires. Mais comme on l’a mentionné tout à l’heure, près de 60 pour cent des canadiens français à l’extérieur du Québec n’ont pas accès à d’autres stations autre que Radio-Canada.
6612 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k., mais la station d’Inter-Rives elle est -- elle est redistribuée, si je comprends bien là, sur les systèmes de câblodistribution au Nouveau-Brunswick notamment, mais c'est pas vraiment une station locale au sens strict.
6613 Mme RÉMY: Ils produisent quand même des émissions de nouvelles et des émissions d’information et d’analyse sur le terrain, qui couvre l’Acadie.
6614 LE PRÉSIDENT: Qui couvre l’Acadie et donc qui sont d’intérêt?
6615 Mme RÉMY: Oui. Y’en n’a peu. C’est vraiment un tout petit pourcentage de ce qu’ils produisent-là mais...
6616 LE PRÉSIDENT: Puis vous avez mentionné Rogers, mais ça c’est sur le canal communautaire de Rogers? O.k.
6617 Et non pas le... donc dans notre langage « station » on a tendance à parler -- de par voie hertzienne puis de -- des services quand c’est par câble, mais je comprends.
6618 Donc... sauf ces deux exceptions-là, évidemment l’appui à la... aux stations locales pour les communautés en situation minoritaire passe surtout, sinon presque exclusivement, par Radio-Canada.
6619 M. THÉBERGE: Effectivement.
6620 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et donc ce que vous proposez donc c’est que ce qui sortira de cette audience si devra notamment, à votre avis, aussi appuyer les activités de Radio-Canada en situation... pour les communautés en situation minoritaire?
6621 M. THÉBERGE: Effectivement.
6622 LE PRÉSIDENT: Qu’en est-il pour les stations en situation non-minoritaire? Quel est votre point de vue?
6623 M. THÉBERGE: Je suis pas certain de comprendre votre question.
6624 LE PRÉSIDENT: On pourrait... est-ce que ça devrait aller vers Radio-Canada qui diffuse surtout mettons au Québec?
6625 M. THÉBERGER: Je crois pas être en mesure de répondre à cette question-là. Il faudrait... faudrait poser la question aux gens qui sont principalement intéressés.
6626 LE PRÉSIDENT: C’est bien donc on pourra poser la question.
6627 Pour vous, évidemment, vous voulez l’appui à vos comités... communautés, puis évidemment c’est Radio-Canada en situation minoritaire.
6628 Certains ont proposé que étant donné... bon effectivement le gouvernement a fait des déclarations et a l’intention de réinvestir, si je comprends bien, 150 million à Radio-Canada.
6629 Ne sachant pas exactement la nature et même les délais et le pourquoi de ce 150 million, certains ont dit peut-être qu’on devrait attendre avant d’étendre des mécanismes réglementaires à Radio-Canada, pour voir exactement les décisions du gouvernement par rapport à ce 150 million.
6630 Est-ce que vous avez un point de vue sur ça?
6631 M. THÉBERGE: Oui, vas-y.
6632 Mme RÉMY: Effectivement on attend l’annonce du prochain budget avec grande anticipation. Mais comme vous le savez...
6633 LE PRÉSIDENT: Vous vous savez déjà est-ce que ça va être traité dans le prochain budget ou... ?
6634 Mme RÉMY: Non, non. On attend de savoir.
6635 LE PRÉSIDENT: Ah bon, o.k. Vous en saviez plus que moi.
6636 Mme RÉMY: Exactement on espère; on souhaite.
6637 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k. Je comprends.
6638 Mme RÉMY: On a espoir que les promesses faites avant les élections vont être tenues.
6639 Mais on... jusqu’à tout récemment on semble sentir un peu moins une approche avec des chiffres très précis et plutôt des constats ou des commentaires un peu plus vague à cet effet, donc on attend de voir.
6640 Mais ça n’empêche pas que à l’avenir, un autre gouvernement pourrait renverser la décision et remettre Radio-Canada au même crédit parlementaire dont il bénéficie en ce moment.
6641 Et on sait que nos communautés ont fait -- ont écopés de certaines de ces coupures-là jusqu’à présent.
6642 Oui ce sont les décisions du radiodiffuseur d’investir ou non dans ces stations et dans cette programmation locale-là, mais n’empêche qu’un moment donné... vous l’avez prouvé dans vos chiffres, c’est très coûteux de faire des nouvelles locales et un moment donné il faut couper en quelque part et c’est la qualité qui peut s’en trouver le perdant dans cette situation-là.
6643 Donc bien que oui on souhaite que le Gouvernement Fédéral rétablisse les crédits parlementaires et que Radio-Canada prenne des décisions de réinvestir dans les stations régionales, pour la production locale y compris les nouvelles et les... le déclenchement de licence et les... la programmation locale qui va à l’extérieur de... au-delà des nouvelles.
6644 Mais... puis les conditions de licence que
6645 vous avez imposé vont nous aider à les convaincre d’aller
6646 dans ce sens-là.
6647 Mais effectivement avec les dépenses qu’on est juste en regardant les rapports qu’ils nous ont soumis dans les deux dernières années, c’est encore assez difficile par moment de savoir exactement à quel point ils remplissent leurs conditions de licence en regardant les tableaux.
6648 Y’a une analyse qui doit être faite plus approfondie puis avec les années qui viennent et L’FAPL maintenant éliminé on va pouvoir mieux juger si effectivement ils sont en mesure de réinvestir.
6649 LE PRÉSIDENT: Notre défis c’est qu’on tente, dans la mesure du possible, d’avoir l’alignement entre les divers mécanismes d’appuis, puis j’ai un peu l’impression de conduire la nuit sur le long d’une route sans phares, parce que je sais pas ce qui va se passer du 150 million.
6650 Mme RÉMY: Nous non plus.
6651 M. THÉBERGE: On est dans la même situation. Ceci étant dit...
6652 LE PRÉSIDENT: Ils pourraient avoir des accidents-là.
6653 M. THÉBERGE: C’est possible. C’est possible. On ne le souhaite pas.
6654 Mais ceci était dit, nonobstant ces décisions-là peut-être dans le budget peut-être pas, on a des discussions, bon, ici aujourd’hui, mais on a aussi des discussions avec Radio-Canada, avec Patrimoine Canadien, avec bon tout plein d’instances pour discuter de ces mêmes points-là et faire nos arguments à plus d’une instance pour éviter les accidents justement.
6655 LE PRÉSIDENT: Qu’en est-il de les consultations que Radio-Canada mène avec les communautés?
6656 On a mis beaucoup d’emphase sur cet aspect-là lors des renouvellements puis j’aimerais avoir votre son de cloche par rapport aux communautés un peu partout au pays.
6657 Est-ce que vous trouvez qu’ils font un travail acceptable? Est-ce que vous en voulez plus? Est-ce que vous vous sentez écoutez et entendu? Pas nécessairement la même chose ça écouté et entendu.
6658 M. THÉBERGE: Effectivement, nous on a travaillés fort aussi à ce qu’on soit inclus dans ces consultations-là, à ce que nos membres sur le terrain, dans les communautés, participent aussi à ces consultations-là, donc nous on a fait un travail de terrain à ce niveau-là.
6659 Vous posez de bonnes questions. On n’a pas tiré de conclusions qui s’étendaient de façon large pour l’échelle du Canada au complet.
6660 Mais on attend encore, à mon avis, à voir des résultats concluants de ces... de ces consultations-là. Donc je ne dis pas nécessairement qu’y’a rien qui est en train de se faire ou qu’on n’est pas écouté mais...
6661 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je comprends.
6662 M. THÉBERGE: ...on attend encore.
6663 LE PRÉSIDENT: Évidemment on serait intéressé à voir si jamais y’avait des manquements.
6664 Au paragraphe 8 vous faites un saut, du moins il me parait être un saut, entre parler de l’importance de la programmation locale vers la production indépendante.
6665 Et on a des exemples au pays où la production locale peut se faire à l’interne, plutôt que par des producteurs indépendants.
6666 Je voulais vous entendre pourquoi vous mettez l’emphase sur la production indépendante. Par rapport à la vitalité des communautés.
6667 M. THÉBERGE: Oui, bien pour plusieurs raisons. Souvent les producteurs indépendants vivent et sont vraiment imprégnés de la communauté, donc parfait ça peut être plus facile pour eux.
6668 Y’a une question de marché aussi. C’est de l’économie qui retourne dans nos communautés. Et parfois y’a une question d’expertise ou de capacité, tout simplement et d’efficacité financière. Y’a vraiment toutes sortes de raisons.
6669 Mais on croit qu’effectivement, pour avoir la production locale, d’avoir recours aux producteurs indépendants, peut être une avenue très efficace et avec de bons résultats pour se faire.
6670 LE PRÉSIDENT: Parce que c’est plus structurant pour les communautés; c’est ça ?
6671 M. THÉBERGE: Entre autre, oui.
6672 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k. Dernière question qui porte sur le canal communautaire. Je comprends... j’ai bien lu-là votre... votre position.
6673 À votre connaissance c’est vrai que parfois y’a pas beaucoup d’espace, mais notre politique quand même parle, en terme de programmation d’accès, qu’elle doit être offerte évidemment au... à la diverse... aux communautés issus du multiculturalisme, des peuples autochtones et des communautés en situation minoritaires.
6674 À votre connaissance est-ce que des gens se sont fait refuser l’accès à la programmation d’accès sur des canaux communautaires.
6675 M. THÉBERGE: J’ai pas cette information-là. Je suis désolé.
6676 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k. D’accord. Mais néanmoins vous trouvez que c’est pas une piste aussi forte pour atteindre les objectifs de politiques publiques?
6677 Mme RÉMY: Bien c’est que les communautés... les stations communautaires, dans le reste du pays à l’ouest de l’Ontario ou à l’ouest d’Ottawa, sont pas équipées non plus pour travailler avec des francophones.
6678 Je veux dire on n’a pas des francophones sur place, bien que les francophones sont souvent bilingue dans ces communautés-là, il n’empêche que ça devient pas un outil ou une piste d’exploration qui est très viable.
6679 Les gens ont le réflexe d’aller vers leur diffuseur public pour avoir une couverture médiatique de leurs évènements ou de développer des partenariats pour couvrir leurs évènements.
6680 Donc y’a pas ce réflexe-là, je ne pense pas, d’aller vers la télécommunautaire parce que y’a pas d’interlocuteurs francophones pour les...
6681 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et pourtant on a entendu de la part de ELAN, qui est le groupe anglophone...
6682 Mme RÉMY: Oui.
6683 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je sais pas si tu as eu la chance de... d’entendre leur intervention, mais en raison de l’action du Conseil qui a remis un peu Vidéotron à l’ordre pour s’assurer que le canal communautaire de Vidéotron fasse de la place pour la communauté en situation minoritaire -- dans ce cas-là ça se trouve à être les anglophones -- il se sont trouvés très bien accueillis et ont trouvé une place pour se parler entre eux dans leurs communautés.
6684 Mme RÉMY: C’est quand même un plus petit territoire. On parle de travailler avec neuf provinces, trois territoires. J’avoue que je ne sais pas non plus l’étendue des stations communautaires qui existent présentement dans le système qui desservent la majorité anglophone. Donc je ne sais même pas s’il y aurait nécessairement un interlocuteur dans chacune qui serait prêt à discuter, ouvrir le dialogue avec nos communautés, mais ça pourrait prendre peut-être beaucoup d’énergie, beaucoup d’effort pour installer un tel réseau et système tandis qu’il y en a un déjà en place.
6685 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui. C’est que le réseau -- et il y en a beaucoup plus que vous pensez, des canaux communautaires et ils sont obligés de vous desservir.
6686 Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de l’intervention de ELAN. Je comprends que vous voulez mettre de l’emphase sur, essentiellement, Radio-Canada, mais vous ne devriez pas mettre un X sur les canaux communautaires en vertu de notre politique existante. C’est très communautaire, comme la radio communautaire d’ailleurs, qui a eu un effet bénéfique, je crois, dans les provinces atlantiques ou, plus spécifiquement au Nouveau-Brunswick, n’est-ce pas?
6687 M. THÉBERGE: Je crois qu’en Atlantique serait juste de le dire pour…
6688 LE PRÉSIDENT: Au-delà de la province du Nouveau-Brunswick.
6689 D’accord. Ce sont nos questions.
6690 Pas de questions du contentieux? Alors merci pour -- oui, vous voulez ajouter pour compléter?
6691 Mme RÉMY: Est-ce que je pourrais juste peut-être ajouter?
6692 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
6693 Mme RÉMY: Lorsque vous avez posé une question par rapport à cette intersection qu’il pourrait y avoir ou cet accident qu’il pourrait y avoir dans votre initiative à le fonds pour financer les nouvelles locales, au paragraphe 25 vous aviez les propositions, “Pour établir un tel fonds, on devrait aborder les questions suivantes : la méthode de mesure afin de s’assurer que le soutien fourni soit bien additionnel.”
6694 Alors ça serait peut-être quelque chose à réfléchir lorsqu’on considère l’accès aux diffuseurs publics à ce fonds.
6695 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
6696 Et donc l’importance -- et peut-être que vous allez pouvoir nous aider dans vos commentaires de réplique à savoir c’est quoi la base sur laquelle il y a quelque chose de supplémentaire, n’est-ce pas, parce que c’est le genre d’information pratico-pratique qui nous aide à rendre des décisions éclairées.
6697 Alors merci beaucoup.
6698 Madame la secrétaire, on peut passer au prochain intervenant, s’il vous plaît?
6699 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Oui.
6700 We will just do a little switch. So we will start with the presentation of On Screen Manitoba.
6701 S’il vous plaît vous présenter et vous avez 10 minutes. Merci.
6702 Mme MATIATION: Monsieur le président, membres du Conseil, et membres du personnel.
6703 Je m’appelle Nicole Matiation. Je suis la directrice générale de On Screen Manitoba. Je vous remercie de m’accorder l’opportunité de partager nos commentaires au sujet de la programmation de la télévision communautaire et locale.
6704 On Screen Manitoba croit que les producteurs indépendants en région jouent un rôle clé dans la production d’émissions de qualité et qu’ils contribuent de façon significative à la diversité de la programmation en ondes.
6705 On Screen Manitoba est une association provinciale de l’industrie de la production audiovisuelle. Nos membres comprennent des producteurs, des scénaristes, des réalisateurs, des guildes, des syndicats, des fournisseurs de services, des festivals de films et autres organismes et individus ayant un intérêt dans ce secteur au Manitoba. Ceci représente quelques 40 maisons de production et plus de 1500 professionnels qui travaillent dans le milieu de la production audiovisuelle au Manitoba.
6706 Parmi nos membres se trouvent des individus des milieux anglophones, francophones et autochtones.
6707 Nous avons des membres qui habitent à Winnipeg, la capitale, et la ville la plus grande, ainsi que dans des communautés plus petites. Nos membres travaillent partout au Manitoba pour produire des émissions d’ordre national et international mais aussi pour produire des émissions locales qui reflètent les gens et les perspectives locaux.
6708 Nos membres sont investis dans leurs communautés et ils sont fiers de raconter des histoires locales, quand ils ont l’occasion de le faire, une occasion qui se fait de plus en plus rare de nos jours. C’est pourquoi je suis ici aujourd’hui.
6709 How will we continue to tell local stories in the future? Who will tell them? Who will watch them? Where will they watch them? How will we finance them?
6710 On Screen Manitoba agrees with the many Canadians who are participating in this consultation through the hearing and through the online forum. Local news, reporting and coverage of local events including arts, culture, sports and community life is important.
6711 We agree that the CRTC has a role to play in ensuring that community and local programming continue to be made available to Canadians through a variety of platforms.
6712 We also believe that the CRTC must ensure that a diversity of voice is reflected in community and local television programming. The sum of this diversity should reflect the cultural, geographic, linguistic and social diversity of Canadians. It should also reflect a variety of approaches to storytelling as well as news.
6713 Through this public consultation, we have the opportunity to consider new approaches, to identify community needs and to recognize the importance of local expression within the context of the Canadian broadcasting system. It is clear that local news, reporting and analysis are a high priority for Canadians. It is also clear that as audience viewing habits continue to change current funding models for local television cannot support quality local news coverage and analysis.
6714 Industry studies continue to point to the growing number of Canadians who watch content online, whether with a computer, a TV or a mobile device. The content anywhere, anytime audience is sophisticated. It has access to the best content produced anywhere in the world, and it is practised at making videos itself. Canadians have been making home movies and home videos for many, many, years.
6715 And today, not only are audiences of all ages shooting video, they do so with relatively inexpensive, lightweight mobile devices, and then they post their videos online in a variety of forums. As long as they have access to reliable robust broadband services, audiences can not only make but share their stories. While these stories may be local stories that reflect their community, or even be considered news, they are not directly subject to journalistic standards and may lack some of the rigour of local news reporting.
6716 Some people have pointed to newspapers that offer online video content as a means to supplement local news, reporting and analysis on television. However, the financial model for the newspaper is also in transition and jobs are being cut there also.
6717 Further, online news stories run by newspapers are not integrated components of the Canadian broadcasting system. And these different formats complement but do not replace local television.
6718 According to the Canadian Broadcast Act, the Canadian broadcasting system must inform, enlighten and entertain Canadians through its three elements: private, public and community. It cannot rely on other systems to achieve that goal.
6719 While Canadians are keenly aware of diminished resources and access to local news, reporting and analysis, there is also an understanding that community and local TV offers -- or should offer -- more than news programming. The consolidation of broadcasters in the past five to ten years has resulted in fewer locally and regionally-based broadcasting undertakings.
6720 The members of On Screen Manitoba who work in television, some who have done so for over 20 years, regularly remark on the diminished opportunity to produce stories with a Manitoba focus, whether fiction or documentary.
6721 We believe that the reduction in local expression that this represents is at odds with the objectives of the Broadcasting Act to serve Canadians in all regions.
6722 Many community channels provide valuable complementary services in terms of community and local news coverage, particularly for local arts, culture, sports and community events.
6723 The arts and culture sector, where I have worked for 20 years in Winnipeg, appreciates this coverage and sees value in communicating with the public about their events and activities through community channels.
6724 The Shaw Community channel in Winnipeg, for example, makes efforts to cover events outside of Winnipeg, but traditional community channel models with a studio tends to keep them based in Winnipeg, so offering limited opportunity to cover the entire province.
6725 In Manitoba, we are fortunate to benefit from a second model that has enriched the diversity and quality of the stories about communities throughout the Province. MTS Stories From Home has taken a VOD approach to community programming and local expression. This approach allows MTS to make a maximum investment in local content rather than equipment.
6726 With just two dedicated staff, MTS Stories from Home interacts with community producers who reflect Aboriginal, Francophone, Anglophone and multicultural communities in urban, rural and northern locations.
6727 Rather than focus on traditional coverage of local events and activities, MTS Stories from Home focuses on local stories in a documentary format.
6728 MTS works with a variety of organizations and programs throughout the year to connect with community producers. A wide range of people come forward with stories that are important to their community. Sometimes, those people have no production experience but a story to tell. And sometimes they have professional production experience and a local story to tell, when it is too local for national or even regional networks.
6729 On Screen Manitoba believes that the MTS Stories from Home model offers an essential complement to the traditional community channel and YouTube-style programming.
6730 We also believe that it is local programming for the digital age available anytime, anywhere and provides human and financial resources to ensure quality content at a time when audiences have access to the best content the world has to offer.
6731 We also believe that MTS Stories from Home plays an effective role in developing new Canadian content creators. The approach allows community members with no production experience or intention to work in production to work alongside emerging and confirmed professionals with a focus on creating great local content.
6732 Emerging producers can develop the skills they will need to create quality content in the future for local, national or even international sources, should they choose to do so.
6733 And because MTS stories from home is committed to working with people and communities throughout Manitoba, they are making a significant contribution to the diversity of voice in the broadcast system today and for the future, as they develop the capacity of emerging producers from Anglophone, Francophone, Aboriginal and multicultural communities.
6734 Nous constatons que pour le moment, il y a peu d’opportunité pour l’expression locale en français au Manitoba. Bien que MTS Stories from Home accepte de produire en français et avec les Francophones, nous constatons que ceci ne se fait pas de façon conséquente.
6735 Récemment, un regroupement de la communauté francophone a approché MTS Stories from Home afin d’explorer un partenariat qui pourrait faciliter l’augmentation du contenu en français. Mais ce sera au risque de réduire l’offre en anglais qui est déjà modeste.
6736 On Screen Manitoba croit qu’il faut davantage de ressources financières ou autre incitatif pour assurer que les communautés de langues officielles minoritaires aient accès à de la programmation communautaire et locale.
6737 Un coup d’œil sur la programmation de la chaîne communautaire de Shaw confirme que la programmation est en anglais. Les activités culturelles phares de la communauté francophone sont bien sûr couvertes. La programmation locale est essentiellement fournie par Radio-Canada sous forme de nouvelles.
6738 La production et la diffusion des nouvelles, des reportages et de l’analyse de ceci est appréciée par les citoyens francophones du Manitoba. Mais On Screen Manitoba croit que les canadiens devraient avoir accès à une plus grande diversité de contenu local en ce qui concerne le genre et le format et ceci, aussi bien en français qu’en anglais.
6739 I think we all agree that the Canadian broadcasting system plays a crucial role in democracy by informing citizens and reflecting who we are as Canadians. In essence, the Canadian broadcasting system is a communication system, not just an information and entertainment system.
6740 Balancing the role and resources afforded all elements of the Canadian broadcasting system, private, public and community, ensures that citizens have the opportunity and sufficient resources to communicate their perspective and their stories through the broadcast system.
6741 MTS Stories from Home is an important public forum where the citizens of Manitoba can share stories about current arts, culture, sports and community events as well as record stories about the history and people of Manitoba.
6742 It complements the offerings of traditional community television and online YouTube-style programming. It offers mobile, on-demand quality content that responds to Canadians’ desire for local stories and reflects the cultural, geographic and linguistic diversity of Canada.
6743 It is a model for community and local television programming that could be expanded and developed.
6744 On Screen Manitoba urges the CRTC to consider an approach to community and local television programming that fosters local expression through a variety of formats, genres and platforms and that reflects the reality of today’s multiplatform broadcast distribution system.
6745 We believe that this approach would facilitate the creation of diverse, high quality local programming. In a period of abundance of content and abundance of distribution platforms, audiences today have high expectations in terms of content. Focusing resources on the production of content as opposed to access to traditional equipment and infrastructure will help to ensure that Canadians see local perspectives and stories valued within the Canadian broadcasting system.
6746 Je vous remercie de cette occasion de partager le point de vue des membres de On Screen Manitoba et je suis disposée à répondre à vos questions.
6747 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup. Monsieur le Conseiller Dupras commencera avec quelques questions.
6748 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Merci, Monsieur le président.
6749 Bon après-midi. Les gens du Manitoba, est-ce que vous trouvez qu’ils sont quand même assez bien desservis au niveau des nouvelles locales?
6750 Mme MATIATION: En français ou en anglais?
6751 CONSEILLER DUPRRAS: Dans les deux langues.
6752 Mme MATIATION: Dans les deux langues. Il y a quand même une certaine couverture encore sur place mais il y a toujours de la soif pour plus.
6753 On a vu les réductions de la longueur des heures d’émissions à CBC et à Radio-Canada. Mais il y a une reconnaissance que par rapport à d’autres communautés on est quand même servi.
6754 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Et qu’est-ce que vous trouvez des oppositions qui ont été faites de créer un fond pour soutenir la production de nouvelles locales pour les stations conventionnelles?
6755 Mme MATIATION: C’est peut-être quelque chose à encore explorer. Je pense que mon comité qui réfléchit là-dessus voudrait se pencher dessus avant de se prononcer.
6756 Mais de façon générale, on constate que la couverture des nouvelles locales, dès qu’on sort de Winnipeg, est de plus en plus petite. Il n’y a plus de stations à Brandon, par exemple, qui est la prochaine plus grande ville et c’est une ville de 40 000 personnes.
6757 Donc, on a un défi au niveau de la distribution de la population au Manitoba.
6758 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Donc, la proposition également d’amener des nouvelles locales dans les stations communautaires, c’est quelque chose où il y a un réel besoin à l’extérieur de Winnipeg, par exemple?
6759 Mme MATIATION: On peut reconnaître ça je crois mais en même temps je note qu’il y a eu d’autres interventions où on a parlé de l’importance d’avoir une qualité de nouvelles aussi. Ce n’est pas aussi simple de mettre une personne avec un microphone et une caméra devant un événement. Il faut quand même avoir de l’analyse et de la formation.
6760 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Tel qu’on en a parlé dans notre document de travail, on parle de nouvelles professionnelles.
6761 Mme MATIATION: Oui.
6762 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Et quelle autre mesure devrait être mise en place selon vous pour aider à la programmation locale?
6763 Mme MATIATION: Bien pour nous, on trouve que vraiment ce qui est le plus faible actuellement c’est la diversité de la programmation locale.
6764 J’ai parlé longuement de « MTS Stories from Home » seulement parce que c’est une source de documentaire de haute qualité basée sur des événements ou des histoires qui sont très locales. Il y a même des exemples d’histoires que les créateurs avaient essayé de proposer à des stations de télévision régionale ou nationale et qu’ils se sont fait dire que c’était trop local.
6765 Mais en même temps on sait qu’il y a un public pour ça. C’est des documentaires qui plaisent à un public et qui sont d’une très haute qualité et qui gagnent des pris dans des festivals.
6766 Donc, on pense qu’il y a une opportunité de renforcer ce genre de production.
6767 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Et ça, c’est plutôt dans les marchés à l’extérieur de Winnipeg?
6768 Mme MATIATION: Ils travaillent partout et puis ils reflètent des histoires partout parce qu’il y a des histoires locales qui sont propres à Winnipeg, qui ne sont pas couvertes autrement, surtout en format documentaire et certainement pas en fiction.
6769 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Au niveau provincial, est-ce que le gouvernement apporte de l’aide financière aux producteurs pour la programmation locale?
6770 Mme MATIATION: Pas spécifiquement pour la programmation locale, non.
6771 On a un fond d’équité qui va investir dans les films ou dans les productions de télévision mais il faut avoir un télédiffuseur rattaché similaire au FMC.
6772 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: Et vous semblez trouver que la vidéo sur demande est une belle option au niveau de la télévision locale?
6773 Mme MATIATION: Bien je trouve que c’est une option intéressante pour voir comment on peut produire des documentaires et d’autres formats pour diversifier l’offre locale. Et c’est un système qui a marché au Manitoba. Je pense que ça vaut la peine de considérer.
6774 Puis je sais aussi que parmi mon entourage, il y a des gens qui regardent ces vidéos là en allant au travail dans l’autobus parce qu’ils peuvent regarder sur le téléphone. C’est des programmes de 10-20 minutes. Ça se fait.
6775 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: D’accord. Et -- bien écoutez, j’ai pas d’autre question.
6776 Mme MATIATION: Merci.
6777 CONSEILLER DUPRAS: C’est tout. Merci, Monsieur le Président.
6778 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je regarde mes autres collègues. Non. Donc c’est tout, merci. C’est ce qui arrive vers la fin des -- un peu plus loin dans le ---
6779 Mme MATIATION: Vous êtes bien patients, quand même. C’est des longues journées.
6780 LE PRÉSIDENT: Non, mais non, c’est parce que on -- les questions se précisent au jour le jour et avec le temps. Alors merci encore.
6781 Mme MATIATION: Merci.
6782 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire.
6783 THE SECRETARY: Thank you. We’ll now connect to our CRTC office in Winnipeg.
6784 Hi, Mr. Traill. Mr. Traill, can you hear me?
6785 MR. TRAILL: Yes. I had to turn the mute off. Sorry.
6786 THE SECRETARY: Okay, perfect.
6787 MR. TRAILL: Good afternoon.
6788 THE SECRETARY: Okay, you may begin your presentation. Thank you.
6789 MR. TRAILL: Thank you. Good afternoon Chairman Blais and Commissioners Dupras, Molner, MacDonald and Simpson.
6790 My name is Ivan Traill and since 1988 when I retired, I’ve been the manager of the NAC TV studio in Neepawa, Manitoba. Before that, other than the fact that I was teaching principal at a collegiate, I was a few president of Westman Cable Communications.
6791 For years I felt frustrated that CRTC did not seem to understand the importance and place of community television in the rural landscape. It wasn’t until I went to the Community Media Convergence in Ottawa that I realized that many of my compatriots didn’t understand.
6792 Most can’t get their heads around the idea that there are thousands of small towns that are not represented except on the community televisions. And they don’t get represented by any other form of television except a group which has its feet on the ground in those communities.
6793 When my neighbours watch a town council meeting, they want to watch it from gavel to gavel.
6794 (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES/DIFFICULTÉS TECHNIQUES)
6795 MR. TRAILL: Are we back on I guess?
6796 THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we can hear you again.
6797 MR. TRAILL: Sorry. Are we back on?
6798 THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we are.
6799 MR. TRAILL: Are we back on?
6800 THE PRESIDENT: I’m hearing you, yes.
6801 MR. TRAIL: Okay, thank you. Okay. I guess I don’t know where I was, but the church service coverage, sometimes we get ---
6802 (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES/DIFFICULTÉS TECHNIQUES)
6803 MR. TRAILL: …can’t see whether they’re there or not. I guess I’ll just continue. They’ll listen.
6804 THE PRESIDENT: Well, we can see you very well. And we can hear you. So if you want to continue, we’ll be able to do that.
6805 MR. TRAILL: Okay.
6806 When our customers watch the hockey games, they see their son -- want to see their son or grandson play. When the local Ukrainian group performs, they don’t want to see a 30-second clip, they want to see it all, even the parts that don’t go well. These are their families.
6807 There’s no other TV coverage of events such as these in most small communities in southwestern Manitoba, even provincial and national events that are rurally reflective, such as provincial Baseball Hall of Fame inductions dinners, the Agricultural Hall of Fame presentations, even the World Square Dance Competition. There were no other cameras on site except NAC TV’s.
6808 Certainly none from the BDU community channels, whose studios have closed in communities about, including the former Shaw facilities at Portage and Altona, whom we used to trade programs with, by the way.
6809 These events don’t even get a 30-second spot on the services originating from larger communities like Brandon and Winnipeg.
6810 NAC TV produces an average of 20 hours of original programming per week. News & Views, focusing on current events. This is supplemented by NAC TV Reads the News. We read two newspapers each week and they are shown twice, once at noon and once in the evening for people who have trouble with their eyesight or, for other reasons, can’t read the papers.
6811 Town council meetings go gavel to gavel and are covered twice a month. On alternate weeks, we have a Mayor’s Hotline, an open-line show with the mayor about the council and town matters.
6812 Other programs that promote open government -- governance, sorry, include AGMs for the Chamber of Commerce and other groups and town halls on housing, regional health and industrial development, any of those things that are -- that’s going on at the time. And they go basically gavel to gavel.
6813 Coffee Chat, we have three times -- four times a week, sorry, with people who are represented and we discuss informally anything that’s happening in the community and most of that interviews come to us from them.
6814 Church services from all denominations including, and that should read a two-hour Aboriginal church service presented each week. The service is presented twice. And that comes out of Winnipeg, by the way, where they could not get access to any of the stations in Winnipeg.
6815 Arts and cultural specials including band and church concerts, plays, choral groups, ethnic dancing groups including Ukrainians, Aboriginal, Scottish and Filipino.
6816 Neepawa has had a large influx of Filipino immigrants and so we are specifically -- have specifically tried to help integrate them into the community by airing their many sports, cultural activities, cooking and religion.
6817 Instructional programs in which community members share their unique hobbies and talents such as model trains and tractors, carving -- wood carving, wood working, gardening, stained glass, quilting, any number of things.
6818 Celebrating Seniors was a program where we interviewed seniors. Most of them were between half an hour and an hour long. We have 105 of these, which we show every once in a while, and are still producing some.
6819 Heroes and Heroines, we have 66 episodes of Heroes and Heroines, which started out interviewing war brides and ended up interviewing a lot of the veterans who had come back from the First World War and from the Korean War.
6820 The programs by health, legal and seniors’ organizations about health and safety issues. Specials, including graduations, of course, Christmas concerts, award ceremonies, store grand openings, parades and events put on by the Legion, Rotary, Lions, Kinsmen, Elks clubs, annual general meetings such as the Chamber of Commerce or the local foundation.
6821 Variety of sports including high-school football, hockey. We’ve done over 80 hockey games this year, including senior hockey, MJHL and a lot of minor hockey games. Basketball, minor league baseball and two local senior teams and of course we do three curling leagues each week.
6822 A feather in our cap has been the opportunity to cover provincial curling championships and provincial senior games, the 55 plus, held in Neepawa as well as the Canadian Broomball Championships in Portage la Prairie. Again, no other cameras were at any of these events.
6823 We are on a -- we are on daily from 10 a.m. to approximately 11 p.m. During that -- during the time when we are off air, we have a Teledac or notice board where community notices are posted and played continually.
6824 We have one-and-a-half paid staff and about 40 volunteers. These volunteers’ contributions range from 30 to 40 hours a week to once or twice a month. So some of them put in a lot of time, some put in very little.
6825 We are live to the local Roxy theatre and go live from there several times a year with concerts, rotary auction, which is their major fundraiser of the year and NAC TV’s showcase which is our major fundraiser of the year which is a telethon-type fundraiser.
6826 I hope this gives you some idea about how important this station is to our community and how important true community TV is to the country in general and to rural communities in particular.
6827 We create this programming on a budget of less than 100,000 which we raise primarily through DVD sales, covering our sporting events and the secondhand book shop, a contribution from our municipality of $6,000, a contribution of $12,000 from the MTS, which carries us now, and over 100 clubs and businesses donate each year to keep us on the air.
6828 If most of our time was not spent trying to raise money to operate, we would have more time and better programming and we could do more targeted outreach and training.
6829 I personally am 83 years old, a year older than I was last year when I spoke to you. I still contribute about 40-50 hours a week of volunteer time to keep the channel afloat, but it’s not sustainable. I won’t be able to be her forever. A younger experienced person will need to replace me and coordinate our administrative and technical staff, and at this time we can’t afford it.
6830 We also need to upgrade our equipment to HD. We need to upgrade to digital and we need a digital staff to support community training and production and additional staff to do more daily news and in-depth current affairs analyses.
6831 BDUs contribute the following. Westman Cable carries the signal in Neepawa but has refused to make a financial contribution since we started to be carried by Bell, which is one of their competitors. We thank you for putting us on Bell, by the way, but we don’t thank you for losing that $13,000 that we were getting from them before.
6832 Bell has carried our signal across Canada since 2012, for which we thank both Bell and the Commission, but does not contribute financial support.
6833 As aforementioned, MTS contributes $12,000 and carries the signal across Manitoba.
6834 Shaw contributes nothing, and specifically refuses to carry the signal on either Shaw Direct or the Shaw cable network, despite the fact that they produce no televisual content west of Winnipeg. We frequently receive requests from communities that used to have the Shaw production facilities asking us if we can cover these events for them. In fact, we travel as much as 150 and 200 miles to do some programs that used to be covered in those communities.
6835 Distribution issues are key, since our over-the-air signal, which is low-power UHF, only radiates 10 to 12 miles from our tower in Neepawa.
6836 Carriage on the services of all BDUs in our area are critical to the success of a community TV channel to serve as a focal point and information and news-sharing platform, especially for a rural community like ours with a population that is as dispersed as it is over such a large area.
6837 Therefore we echo the requests you received yesterday from Leo Sabulsky and the Chetwynd Communications Society and of CACTUS, that the low-power limitation needs to be lifted and carriage by all service providers to the local community needs to be assured within the geographic community of interest and the community of need that may or may not correspond to the broadcast footprint.
6838 I thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation and vent some of my frustrations, as well as brag a little bit about my favorite project. I want to ensure that I can pass this to trust to someone else on a sustainable footing, so that the work we have done and the model we have established will not be wasted.
6839 I would be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.
6840 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Traill.
6841 Commissioner MacDonald will start us off.
6842 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Good afternoon and thank you very much for your presentation. I’m happy we were able to sort out any technical difficulties and have you with us here today.
6843 I’d like to start off by just maybe learn a little bit more about how you spend your day. You mentioned a lot of fundraising activities that are required to keep your station funded, to raise that $100,000 a year and I’m wondering how much of your times goes to that versus actual programming or recruiting volunteers?
6844 MR. TRAILL: Well, we don’t do a lot of recruiting volunteers now because we have a good slate of volunteers, although the last three weeks I have recruited seven students from the high school who are now helping us to do hockey and basketball and are now producing a news program from the high school. So there is some recruiting.
6845 But a lot of time is spent doing things like making -- converting VHS tapes to DVD for people, which we charge for that service just to keep the money coming in the door.
6846 We make DVD copies of our hockey games, which a lot of people buy the DVDs, and those kinds of thigs take a lot of time, although it’s a lot better now that we have DVDs because it’s not -- it used to be that it was real-time and now it can be done very quickly, of course.
6847 But a lot of my time is -- if you want to know, I get there on Monday morning and usually there’s about five hours of access programming that’s sitting there waiting for me to put a header and trailer on, to do a little bit of minor editing to and get it on the air the first program going on Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock and the next program goes on Tuesday at 8:30. And so these have to be edited and put on the air if they’re going to be current, and there’s no sense having them if they’re not because that’s what the people are looking for.
6848 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you.
6849 You also mentioned that you’re currently being carried on Bell, MTS, over-the-air and on Westman Cable, and I’m wondering do you have any idea sort of how many residents in your region that you’re able to reach on those platforms?
6850 MR. TRAILL: Well, Shaw has a big footprint in our area. They always have had, although they’re losing out to Bell now. They had the biggest footprint, but now Bell has an outlet right on our main street and they’re doing a lot of recruiting and a lot of it is due, they tell me, to the fact that you can’t get NAC TV on Shaw but you can get it on Bell.
6851 So I would say we cover probably 60 percent of the people -- probably 80 percent of the people in the town and maybe 50 percent of the people outside of the town. But we have a large viewership in Winnipeg now, rural people who like to watch the type of programming that we put on the air. In fact, I talked to a lady yesterday or the day before yesterday and she said, “We watch you all the time.” She says, “I’m paying $80 a month and I’ve got 50 channels of nothing to watch and we like watching the programs from the rural community because that’s where we came in from.”
6852 So we do have -- and we get calls every day from as far away as Newfoundland and the Peace River and so on of people who watch our programming and they want that kind of programming. There’s no advertising in our programming. There’s some between programs, but our mandate is when we set this up that we would not put any advertising within the program. When the program starts, if it’s two hours long, there is no advertising until the program is over. If it’s a 15-minute program, there could be an ad at each end if we can sell them, but we can’t sell much advertising. People are outside of the
6853 -- they’re very local people who advertise with us as a method of donating to us more than as a means of advertising. Those ads, of course -- but we don’t get any national advertising or anything like that.
6854 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You mentioned in your oral presentation that you do approximately 20 hours of programming per week, and I’m just wondering how much of that time is news programming versus other programs that you’d air?
6855 MR. TRAILL: Well, it depends what you mean by news programming I guess. If you’re talking about hard news where we do news -- just news and news programs and so on, probably four or five hours a week. But if you’re talking about the town council meetings, and the mayor’s hotlines, and the current Chamber of Commerce activities and things like that, we probably put on 10 hours a week.
6856 Like we consider most of that, as long as it’s really current stuff, and we -- there’s been a lot of building in the area and so on, especially with the influx of Filipinos in our area, and so we’ve covered a lot of housing issues and things like that that are usually done by the town council in a format that’s -- that’s not in the studio but where the public is represented, and we cover that and present that in a timely fashion, within a day or two, hopefully.
6857 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And how do you decide what makes it on the air with respect to your access programming? Do you air everything? Do you make the decisions? Do you have an advisory group that helps you decide what goes on and what doesn’t?
6858 MR. TRAILL: Oh, well, yeah, we have a group of eight people who -- but they do not advise us as to what goes on the air. That -- if it’s access programming and people produce it and present it to us we will put it on, provided it’s not pornographic, or libelous, or whatever, but -- and to some degree you must be able to see it and listen to it and hear it.
6859 I mean, it’s -- there is, I guess a limit but we don’t -- we don’t refuse very much. If somebody wants to take the time to produce it and put it on the air we will show it. Sometimes we might show it at an off hour if we don’t think it’s particularly appropriate, but we don’t make a decision not to show it.
6860 Access programming means they have access to the airwaves and if they want to go ahead and make the program we will make a place for it in our programming.
6861 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And just one final question. You identified sort of four areas of need that you have for the long-term viability of your station. And I’m wondering if you could put a dollar figure on what it would take to address those four areas of need, the upgrade to the HD equipment, the additional staff, so forth.
6862 MR. TRAILL: Well, it’s a lot, but I can’t give you exact -- I’ll try to, but I can’t give you an exact number.
6863 I’ll give you an example, though, of why we operate on $100,000 a year. It’s because we use equipment that is outdated. We can get SD equipment now for one twentieth of what you could get HD equipment for because everybody is casting it off.
6864 So we have top notch SD equipment because nobody else wants it. In fact, some of the companies are even practically giving it to us because they don’t want it in stock.
6865 If we were to upgrade to HD, the equipment would cost us about 20 times what the equipment costs us now. It’s not cheap. And if we went to go digital they’re telling me $50,000 with this on the air with a new transmitter and so on like that.
6866 So it’s very expensive for us to upgrade to SD and only one of our people -- only one of the BDUs that is carrying our signal can actually take SD. Anyway, MPS is into our studio with fiber and they can actually take HD.
6867 So it would be a lot of upgrading. Like all of our playback equipment and all of our editing equipment and everything else would have to be upgraded and starting right from square one. So it would be -- initially, it would be a couple $100,000 to upgrade. After that, of course, then the operating would not be that expensive.
6868 But, by the same token, I’m donating a full-time job because I love it, but we’re going to have to hire somebody to take my place. We can’t find anybody else that’s going to do it. So you’re talking probably $40,000 a year to get somebody to take my job, and that -- I would think that’s a minimum.
6869 So it’s going to be very expensive for us. Like we can operate the way we are now on a budget of probably $100,000, $120,000, but if we were to go HD and, you know, do what we would like to do of course and hire somebody to take my spot, then it would be fairly expensive.
6870 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you. That’s helpful to sort of understand what would be required from a capital perspective and then an ongoing operating expense perspective. So we appreciate that.
6871 Those are my questions for today.
6872 MR. TRAILL: If I ---
6873 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Unless you had anything else you wanted to add.
6874 MR. TRAILL: Sorry, if I could just -- well, just one other thing. Like we do have a van where we go out and do things like, you know, aboriginal church -- aboriginal dances, or go to the Ukrainian festival, or do these things like that.
6875 It’s a 1976 motorhome that’s been converted by us. I mean, it’s not professionally done. But all you have to do is look at the age and you realize the problems we’re having now in doing -- and it’s very important to us because we are a rural community and we do have to go sometimes 50 miles and to pack up all that equipment and so on.
6876 So to have some method of going -- and it would cost us probably $120,000 to replace that piece of equipment alone. Right now we use it for football games and baseball games and so on within our own community, and we do go out a few miles but it’s not reliable enough to take longer distances.
6877 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Thank you for that additional information as well.
6878 MR. TRAILL: Thank you.
6879 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Traill. I hope your comments -- it’s good seeing you again. I hope your comments about old trucks doesn’t apply more generally, certainly not to anything produced before 1940.
6880 And so we’re happy to have you participate in our hearing once again. So good to see you and thank you very much for that perspective, it’s appreciated. Thank you.
6881 So I think we’re adjourned ---
6882 MR. TRAILL: You’re welcome.
6883 Thank you.
6884 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
6885 So we’re adjourned. And I remind everyone that we are reconvening exceptionally at 8:30 tomorrow morning. Donc 8h30 demain matin. Merci.
--- Upon adjourning at 5:25 p.m./
Debbie Di Vetta
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