Transcript, Hearing 28 November 2023

Volume: 7 of 15
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: 28 November 2023
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Table of Contents


4973 Rogers Communications Inc.

5201 Cogeco inc.

5329 Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations

5344 CHCO-TV

5363 Community-University Television

5379 Ontario Library Association

5398 André Desrochers

5424 Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec

5592 Paramount Global


Gatineau, Quebec
28 November 2023
Opening of Hearing at 8:58 a.m.

Gatineau, Québec

‑‑‑ Upon commencing on Tuesday, November 28, 2023 at 8:58 a.m.

4969 THE SECRETARY: Good morning, everyone.

4970 Before we begin, I would just like to re‑announce, for the record, that there may be requests for information sent to some intervenors after the hearing and that there will be a final submission period providing an opportunity for parties to file brief final written comments that will be announced at a later date.

4971 We will now hear the presentation from Rogers Communications Inc.

4972 Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you may begin.


4973 MR. SHAIKH: Good morning, Madam Chair Eatrides, Vice Chairs Barin and Scott, Commissioners Naidoo and Levy, and Commission staff.

4974 My name is Dean Shaikh. I am the Senior Vice President of Rogers Communications, Regulatory Affairs at Rogers Communications.

4975 I am joined today by, to my left, Colette Watson, President of Rogers Sports and Media, Susan Wheeler, Vice‑President, Distribution and Regulatory, and Cynthia Wallace, Director, Regulatory Counsel; and to my right, Pam Dinsmore, Vice President, Regulatory Cable, and Peter Kovacs, Director, Regulatory Cable.

4976 The passage of the Online Streaming Act, and its implementation by the Commission, presents a long overdue path to modernizing Canada’s broadcasting regulatory framework. In line with the Policy Direction and consistent with the views already expressed by other intervenors, we believe that one of the most important objectives, and necessary outcomes, of this proceeding is to minimize the regulatory burden on Canadian broadcasters and BDUs.

4977 Enhancing the competitiveness, strength and viability of Canadian broadcasting companies will benefit all stakeholders within the domestic cultural sector and is foundational to realizing the Act’s objectives in a modernized Canadian broadcasting system.

4978 Colette.

4979 MME WATSON : Depuis plus de 50 ans, l’industrie canadienne de la radiodiffusion a créé, de concert avec le Conseil, un système de calibre mondial doté d’une diversité de choix de contenus distribués sur des réseaux robustes. Rogers est fier du rôle que nous avons joué, et nous sommes ici aujourd’hui pour contribuer à façonner le prochain chapitre.

4980 Nos services de radiodiffusion rejoignent les Canadiens d’un océan à l’autre en mettant l’accent sur les nouvelles locales, la programmation de sport de premier ordre, la télévision communautaire et la radio locale. L’an dernier, nos stations Citytv, nos stations multiculturelles OMNI, ainsi que nos stations de radio de nouvelles ont livré des centaines d’heures de nouvelles locales dans des villes situées dans six provinces du pays, alors que nos canaux communautaires ont fait la couverture d’enjeux et d’événements locaux de Terre‑Neuve à l'Île de Vancouver.

4981 Our networks enable Canadians from across the country to access a diverse breadth of content. As a BDU, Rogers invests billions of dollars annually to expand and operate Canada’s only nationwide wireline network. We have also brought next‑generation television platforms and innovations to the Canadian market ‑‑ through Ignite TV, Ignite Streaming and our Ignite TV everywhere mobile app ‑‑ to ensure our customers can discover and access the best Canadian and foreign content.

4982 Under the modernized regime, Canadian broadcasting companies like Rogers must be empowered to fulfill our critical role within the system through our unique contributions that simply cannot be matched by foreign online undertakings.

4983 Unfortunately, while we’ve been evolving our businesses to remain relevant to our audiences and customers, the regulatory framework has not. For over a decade, traditional broadcasters have been forced to compete against unregulated global streaming giants under old rules that are no longer in step with our operational and competitive realities. As a result, Canadians continue to cut the cord while the financial crisis in local news deepens.

4984 Rogers and other Canadian companies have built the broadcasting system we celebrate today, and we are proud of that. Despite competitive inequities, we have continued to uphold our commitments under the Act. Canadian ownership groups cannot continue carrying the full weight of the contribution regime. This modernization process requires a new regulatory bargain, one that significantly reduces our regulatory burden, promotes equitable competition and supports the unique contributions that only Canadian companies can make to the system.

4985 Dean.

4986 MR. SHAIKH: Establishing a fair initial base contribution for online streamers is a critical first step in modernizing the contribution regime and is achieved by adopting Rogers’ proposal of 2 percent.

4987 Our proposal is specifically designed to be an initial investment by foreign and unaffiliated online undertakings in the Canadian broadcasting system, which is consistent with the clear purpose set out in the Notice. It does not reflect the final base or the flexible and intangible contributions that will be considered in the next phases.

4988 To arrive at our proposal, we examined the Commission’s data regarding the traditional broadcasting industry’s current level of direct financial contributions as a percentage of total revenue, which was close to 2.7 percent in broadcast years 2021 and 2022.

4989 Our proposal is premised on the clear expectation that the Commission will take meaningful steps to lighten Canadian ownership groups’ direct financial obligations.

4990 It is no longer fair or sustainable for Canada’s broadcasting industry to be the primary source of funding for all stakeholders in the system. Since 2012, our BDUs and radio stations paid direct mandated financial contributions of almost $2 billion to support the CMF, CIPFs, ILNF, local expression and CCD. Of that, close to $1 billion was paid to the CMF alone. This still represents only a portion of Rogers’ contributions to the system. With a more broadly supported regime, the Commission must reduce the financial burden imposed on all contributors.

4991 Our proposal of 2 percent is a starting point to ensure that foreign streamers make an initial direct contribution in support of Canadian and Indigenous content, as required by the Online Streaming Act and the Policy Direction. However, the final contribution requirements imposed on foreign and unaffiliated Canadian online undertakings must be sufficient to:

4992 ‑ address their impact across the Canadian broadcasting system; and

4993 ‑ allow the Commission to materially reduce the financial contributions currently imposed on Canadian ownership groups.

4994 Pam.

4995 MS. DINSMORE: The applicability of the new contribution framework is also a key issue in this proceeding.

4996 Online streaming services that are affiliated with Canadian broadcasting groups should be excluded from initial base contributions. Step 1 should be focused exclusively on imposing an initial investment obligation on foreign and unaffiliated Canadian online undertakings which have not previously been subject to any form of direct or indirect financial contribution under the Commission’s regulatory framework.

4997 Imposing incremental requirements on affiliated online services at this stage is entirely inappropriate. It would be inconsistent with the government’s Policy Direction if the existing burden imposed on Canada’s traditional undertakings and their affiliates actually increased as a result of this proceeding.

4998 The initial base contribution should apply to foreign and unaffiliated Canadian online undertakings that are having a material impact on the Canadian broadcasting system. Rogers has proposed applicability thresholds of $50 million for online video services and $25 million for online audio services, based on revenues earned at the level of an individual online undertaking.

4999 Susan.

5000 MS. WHEELER: Finally, you asked parties which funds should be the recipients of the initial base contributions.

5001 As you’ve heard throughout this proceeding, local news is in crisis and requires immediate intervention to ensure the ongoing health and quality of Canadian newsrooms.

5002 A fundamental outcome of the modernized contribution regime must include new mechanisms to provide long‑term financial support for high‑quality Canadian‑produced broadcast news from credible outlets. This is critical to achieving the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and the Policy Direction, and more fundamentally to the health and strength of our democracy.

5003 For that reason, in this first phase, we support directing 30 percent of online video and audio undertakings’ initial base contributions towards an interim News Fund accessible by all private TV and radio stations producing news, and it would administered by the CAB.

5004 Rogers’ long‑term preference is for the Commission to give Canadian ownership groups the flexibility to invest a significant portion of our final base contributions to support local news.

5005 With respect to the balance of the contributions, we propose that it be directed to existing funds. These funds have the infrastructure in place to quickly and efficiently administer the initial base contributions and can support the Act’s objectives for the creation of Canadian and Indigenous content, as well as those relating to diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

5006 Dean.

5007 MR. SHAIKH: Rogers appreciates this opportunity to provide our views on the new contribution framework.

5008 We have proposed a constructive approach that is consistent with the objectives of the Act and the Policy Direction. As we look ahead to the additional steps in this consultation, we will continue to work in partnership with the Commission to achieve the shared goal of ensuring the long‑term strength and competitiveness of a broadcasting system that serves the needs of Canadians.

5009 We look forward to answering your questions.

5010 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Thank you for participating in the proceeding and thank you for being here with us this morning.

5011 I'll bet the Panel has a lot of questions and we look forward to the discussion as well, so I will turn things over to Commissioner Naidoo to kick things off.

5012 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Hi there. Thanks so much for being here today. Thanks for your presentation.

5013 I wanted to start off with applicability. How would you respond to concerns that large broadcasting entities or groups could organize themselves so that they had multiple online undertakings below the applicable threshold that you suggest as a way to reduce the contributions that they will be required to make? And in addition to that, what impact would that have on the Commission's ability to achieve the policy objectives of the Broadcasting Act?

5014 MR. SHAIKH: Well, certainly, we have established our thresholds based on identifying those undertakings that are having a material impact on the Canadian broadcasting system.

5015 I think, Pam, you want to add some more on applicability.

5016 MS. DINSMORE: Yes. As you know, our view is that originally we established a threshold of $50 million based on individual standalone Canadian revenues. Through the process, we came to a different conclusion for audio services, online audio services. That was really based on what we saw in round one from others. There were nine intervenors who suggested that the thresholds used in the digital media survey should be the thresholds that are applied. So we moved to that position, but we all took the position that it should be based, again, not on group base but on standalone revenues.

5017 I don't think that that's a concern. We haven't identified that as a concern. I think the important thing is to establish the right threshold. I think the important thing is to understand, you know, what is the materiality below that threshold, whether a service should be exempted or not.

5018 End of day, our key concern is that our online undertakings that are affiliated are not subject to any contribution requirement coming out of this proceeding, that we wait and see what happens through phases 2, even 3, for the recalibration to happen, because we've been paying contributions for years, as you heard from Dean, and the others have not. So that is really the point of the exercise.

5019 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: In your intervention you also submitted that the definition of “social media service” must recognize that a single online platform may engage in a variety of activities, some of which appropriately fall under the Broadcasting Act's contribution regime. Do you have any other suggestions on how the Commission could define the concept of “social media services” and their activities that are subject under the Broadcasting Act?

5020 MR. SHAIKH: We understand there has been a lot of discussion about how to capture social media services and whether they should be captured, and we want to be absolutely clear that our interest is in considering a contribution from the platforms and the contribution should apply to the platforms and that may include platforms that provide certain social media services.

5021 We are not interested in any contribution applied to social media creators, and in terms of how to define that, I think, you know, these are sophisticated companies and they have probably expertise in data analytics to help you determine what portion of their platform is dedicated to what would be defined as broadcasting. That may include some social media aspects, but, to be absolutely clear, we are not interested in regulating individual social media creators.

5022 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: All right, thank you.

5023 You also propose ‑‑ you brought up even in your presentation an initial contribution level of 2 percent of gross annual broadcasting revenues for foreign and unaffiliated online undertakings which should apply, in your view, uniformly regardless of the business model. Many other broadcasters, though, submitted different contribution levels for different types of services in line with how contributions are currently being made in the traditional broadcasting system. So I'm just wondering if you can explain why you're proposing a uniform across‑the‑board two per cent for everyone?

5024 MR. SHAIKH: Thank you for the question. I think it's critical because I think there's a risk in trying to define online streamers as being like a distributer, like a virtual BDU, like a broadcaster, when really they're engaging in activity that captures characteristics of all three. I mean, we certainly know that we're losing BDU subscribers to online streamers, so they're having an impact on the distribution side. We certainly know that we're losing audiences to online streamers, so they're having an impact on the broadcasting side.

5025 So that's why we thought there's more risk in trying to have different categories of online streamers. We'd rather kind of recognize some consistency across all of those platforms and apply two per cent uniformly in recognition of all of those impacts they're having on the traditional broadcasting system.

5026 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: All right. I just wanted to follow up a little bit. One intervenor you may have seen in the interventions that were posted suggested that the Commission consider foregoing a mandated initial base contribution altogether entirely in favour of a single overall contribution requirement that individual undertakings could allocate at their own discretion among various contribution options. And I'm wondering if you can comment on this suggestion and what that might look like regarding contribution options for domestic broadcasters.

5027 MR. SHAIKH: Well, that is a very important question because, as you heard from us this morning, what we're really in pursuit of here is a fair and equitable framework. So there have been some suggestions from the online streamers that they should not have a mandated contribution; they should have greater flexibility; they should have flexibility within something defined as a CPE.

5028 If you do that, if you find that argument compelling and there should be no base contribution and they should have complete flexibility, then a fair and equitable framework demands that you do the same for traditional broadcasting undertakings. Otherwise, we don't be able to compete. Otherwise, the really unfortunate, unintended consequence of this proceeding will be that you'll be driving audiences and subscribers to the streamers who have complete flexibility and control of their content productions.

5029 So if you find that argument compelling, and their contribution or at least their mandatory contribution should be zero, then you have to move toward making our mandatory contribution zero to ensure a fair and equitable framework.

5030 And to be clear, zero as a mandatory contribution does not mean we won't continue to be contributing to the Canadian broadcasting system. I think we would like to benefit from that same flexibility that they're asking for if you grant it to them, so we could contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system in the way that makes most sense to us to serve our customers, to serve our audiences.

5031 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Thank you for that. In addition to the existing regulatory obligations, how in your view do you think that Canadian broadcasters such as Rogers contribute to the policy objectives of the Broadcasting Act?

5032 MR. SHAIKH: I think I'd like to ask our president of Sports and Media to talk about how we contribute to the Act.

5033 MS. WATSON: Every single day through our television, radio, and online services we create hours of news, hundreds of hours of news throughout a year in English, in six languages through our OMNI stations, and local information in French and English through our 59 community channels. We create programs of national interest like Canada's Got Talent. We create dramas like Hudson & Rex. We create a forum for Canadians to gather and hear their local news every single day on our online platforms.

5034 We, as a company, have been purveyors of content for over 60 years. Ted was a patriot. We believe in building this Canadian broadcasting system. We helped build it in a regulatory bargain with all of you. And we're proud of that.

5035 We have no intention of stepping away from that. But we need your help in making sure that as we compete with foreign online streamers that we either have the same playing field that they do or that we're able to contribute in different ways.

5036 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Thank you for that.

5037 I want to move now to funds. Many intervenors from equity‑deserving communities have submitted that the current funding model system does not adequately fund and support content by and for their groups and communities. So I'm hoping that you can elaborate on why you believe that existing funds are sufficient for achieving objectives of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. And part and parcel of that ‑‑ and I can repeat the question, because it's kind of multi‑pronged ‑‑ how do you suggest that the Commission respond to existing gaps in the system, and is there something that you think the CRTC could do or are there other tools that you think could address the gaps?

5038 MR. SHAIKH: Well, I think I'll start, and then I'll ask Susan to talk about the specific funds.

5039 First, in terms of funds versus overall Canadian content production, we spoke today about there being a crisis in local news. We don't see the same crisis in overall Canadian content production. We've heard in this proceeding already that film and television production is achieving historic highs, $11 billion, in terms of Canadian content, $4 billion. So in terms of Canadian content overall, it's thriving, which is not unexpected, given the proliferation of platforms.

5040 Having said that, it's clear from the Act and the policy direction that consideration must be given to how we can better support equity‑seeking groups, including programming for Indigenous creators and BPOC communities. And I think there's a question of how within the existing pool of Canadian content production that can be better achieved or within existing funds. But I think our preference is to consider existing funds.

5041 Do you want to add something, Susan?

5042 MS. WHEELER: Yeah. The only thing I would add is that the existing funds present, you know, an immediate opportunity to get funding to those communities that are now being prioritized under the new legislation. So our suggestion on using the existing funds is really one of expediency and experience in actually administering that kind of funding to various creators in the industry.

5043 We have heard, you know, a number of stakeholders identify some of the systemic barriers that they're facing. And I think the Commission does have tools through their guidelines, through their, you know, Canadian Independent Production Fund guidelines, through reporting requirements and other, you know, tools available to be able to monitor the success of that and encourage partnerships with some of the agencies that have come forward, identifying, you know, their inability to access or participate in some of those funding decisions.

5044 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: All right. Thank you for that.

5045 I wanted to ask you, you mentioned in this last answer news, obviously, and in your opening remarks. What needs to be done to ensure the viability of news in Canada? Is there a role for online undertakings to support audio and audiovisual services to ensure news gets funding?

5046 MR. SHAIKH: I'll start, and then I'll ask Colette to add something.

5047 First of all, the importance of local news cannot be overstated. Not only is it critical to our democracy, but it actually is a key differentiator between the traditional system and the online system. It's one of the things that we hope will keep Canadians within the system. So in terms of what contribution online streamers can make, we've suggested an interim news fund. More broadly, we suggested greater flexibility in how we spend on news.

5048 And I think Colette, you probably want to add something about local news.

5049 MS. WATSON: So all of what he said is truly important. As a journalist by training, I worry about the future of news. I worry about cultural sovereignty and democracy, as Dean said, if local news isn't sustained and supported.

5050 That said, it's a money‑loser. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to any of you who read our annual reports.

5051 The idea of online streamers participating is a good one. This is phase two/phase three discussions, but we're thinking in a ‑‑ if we have the flexibility to redirect some of the money we spend on CMF, for example, in order to shore up and sustain local news, we would do that. And the online streamers would shore up CMF. That's perhaps a simplified, naïve way of looking at it.

5052 But we send probably ‑‑ you know, we probably keep 15 per cent of what we send to CMF as the largest distributor and as the smallest broadcaster get a very small envelope back. If we're able to redirect some of that money to create local news, very similar to way the Commission agreed with us in 2016 on a redirect, that would help.

5053 I'm not looking for more incremental. I'm looking for long‑term sustainability. That's what keeps me up at night. And so this kind of contribution creativity flexibility would allow us to maintain sustainable funding for local news in this country, which I'm sure we all agree is incredibly important.

5054 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: So you mentioned long‑term sustainability in news, and that's actually an issue that I really wanted to dive down on. I think it's a huge issue. You proposed in your opening remarks, you proposed that 30 per cent of online video and audio undertakings' initial contributions should go to what you call an interim news fund.

5055 I'm wondering, first of all, how did you come up with that percentage. Secondly, do you consider this to be a long‑term solution? Because we're talking interim here. And the total percentage that would go to such a fund, what percentage in your view should be allocated to the audio sector in comparison to the audiovisual sector?

5056 MS. WATSON: I'll start and I'll ask Susan to jump in.

5057 In terms of defining the interim measure, we think it's throughout this process. So you've got a three‑phased approach throughout this process. For immediate help now, let's support the CAB's proposal of a 30 per cent interim news fund. But as the paragraph right after says, we're not fond of that idea. We would prefer to control that through our contribution regime in a redirect. But in a temporary, interim way, with respect to local news assistance today, we believe that's the best way to go.

5058 But Susan has more in depth on the CAB's ‑‑

5059 MS. WHEELER: Sure. In terms of your question about the 30 per cent, we are members of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. We did want to support our broadcast colleagues in their representations on the importance of local news and funding local news. The policy direction requires that all players in the system support the creation of local news. And so we wanted to identify a material amount of new contributions that would go for that purpose.

5060 But as Colette mentioned, our preference isn't to continue to access funds. We make sizeable contributions as a vertically integrated company and believe that, you know, if we can get access to some of those contributions that currently go out to third parties for other types of programming that we're not necessarily involved in, that it would be a better method for us to be able to use our own resources to invest in our own news programming.

5061 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: I wanted to stick with the interim news fund just for a moment. You had mentioned also that you felt that such a fund would be, in your view, possibly administered by CAB. What would have to change for CAB to administer this? And I guess the question is: Is it currently set up to do so?

5062 MS. WHEELER: Yeah, the CAB currently administers the independent local news fund. So they do have established expertise in administering funding of this nature. The key change that would have to happen on this interim basis is that it should be accessible to all private television‑radio stations, not just the independents, and obviously not just television, that it would also be accessible by radio broadcasters who are currently producing critical amounts of local and community programming.

5063 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: All right, thank you. Let's get into Indigenous groups now. Throughout this hearing ‑‑ I'm sure you've been following it ‑‑ you know, Indigenous groups have mentioned that Indigenous ownership of content and audio and audiovisual broadcast undertakings is extremely important. So I'm wondering how Rogers is trying to facilitate that, if you are trying to facilitate that? Can existing funds help with that? What other funding or non‑funding can, you know, be offered or ‑‑ to support that initiative?

5064 MS. WHEELER: Well, we are currently critical supporters of diverse and Indigenous programming through our contributions to 9(1)(h) services like APTN and OMNI Regional. But in addition, we have, you know, continuously partnered with Indigenous creators and Indigenous broadcasters to, you know, create new forms of programming. We do Hockey Night in Canada in Cree. We've commissioned a number of partnerships with other multicultural stations like Fairchild and EC Television. So we've used our existing contributions in ways to try and make those dollars go further by partnering and collaborating with both broadcasters and creators to extend that funding to be able to kind of make it go further than it would if it was just us on our own.

5065 MR. KOVACS: And sorry ‑‑

5066 MS. WHEELER: Yeah, please.

5067 MR. KOVACS: Sorry, I would just add on the community channel front, across the 59 channels that we operate in Canada, we produced over the last broadcast year 535 original hours of Indigenous programming working with in partnership or featuring First Nation communities.

5068 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: So you've talked a little bit about what Rogers is doing. Is there anything else that needs to be done to help the overall system support that initiative?

5069 MS. WHEELER: As we identified in our written submission, we do support the Indigenous Screen Office and the certification which the Commission has granted. We did hear, you know, their representations and requests for specific funding and are supportive of that and think that it would be a meaningful step forward in helping to enhance the participation, representation of those creators in the industry.

5070 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: All right. Well, those are all the questions that I have, but I know that my colleagues have questions as well, so thank you for answering mine, and I hand it back to the Chair.

5071 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you, Commissioner Naidoo.

5072 Let's go over to our Vice‑Chair for broadcasting.

5073 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Thank you. Thank you for being here today.

5074 So just a follow‑up question on competitiveness, and I know you talked about competing at the BDU level and competing at the broadcasting level. If you take it down to I think you said you were purveyors of content, we've had intervenors before us that talked about potentially directing some of the funding to training and to kind of invest at the beginning of the process, and that that is one of the elements that is lacking in terms of Canadian content being competitive with the content of foreign streamers.

5075 With that, well, what are your views on that position?

5076 MS. WATSON: We are incredibly proud of our community channel record. Since 1969, community television has been a principal at the management table part of this company.

5077 And training is pretty much the reason for being for community television. We've trained broadcasters across this country, broadcasters who have left this country to go elsewhere through our community television infrastructure. Proud of it. Have done it for 54 years, and we'll continue to do that.

5078 We every single day work with school boards across the 59 stations. If you come with me to Richmond Road after this, I'll show you 15 students who come to work there every single day as part of a co‑op program with their high school. We do that in French and in English. And they work a camera; they work an edit suite; they build up storyboards; they pitch programs. And critically, we teach them media literacy as well. And so that's our contribution to the training phase of the process in this country.

5079 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Okay, but generally speaking, would you agree with the position that if any new funds are injected into the system that they should be directed towards training in addition to production?

5080 MS. WHEELER: Yeah, I think we are very supportive of the initiatives that support training and development.

5081 I will note that under the current Canadian content development requirements for radio broadcasters, we're prohibited from directing any of those funds towards training and developing our own on‑air talent and spoken‑word creators. So again, in the spirit of fairness and equity, we would expect that if there is flexibility to direct monies towards that type of an initiative, that it would be extended to all contributions in the system.

5082 But we do believe it is very important to help, you know, new creators, especially as they're getting their foot in the industry and developing their skills.

5083 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Thank you. Back to the Chair.

5084 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. There will be no road trip to Richmond Road to see the students today, Vice‑Chair.

5085 Let's go over to Commissioner Levy.

5086 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Good morning. Just to clarify, with your news fund, that 30 per cent administered by the CAB, would that be for the full range of all of the outlets that provide news, that's radio, TV, community television, Indigenous radio and television, the whole gamut?

5087 MS. WHEELER: Yeah, it would be for those who have a current requirement to produce news under their licence or actually have a track record of producing news. So yes, it would extend to radio, television, Indigenous, you know, APTN, who has a news requirement. Community channels I don't believe have a specific news requirement or ‑‑ but again, if they can establish that they are, you know, producing news, they would ‑‑ I think we wouldn't see any reason to exclude them from access to that fund.

5088 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Okay. That might be an issue for some follow‑up.

5089 The other thing that I was interested to see was that of the billion dollars that you've put into the CMF over the years, you claim to have only got back 15 per cent through the envelope system that flows through producers that you green‑light. And so obviously, you are a big contributor.

5090 With the online streamers, it's ‑‑ I get the sense that there's a feeling that you're essentially conceding ground to them, that you see a future where you'll be negotiating with them for program rights at some level rather than commissioning original Canadian drama, documentaries and so forth. How do you see ‑‑ what's Rogers going to look like in the next five to 10 years under this new regime?

5091 MR. SHAIKH: Well, the outcome we want here is we can compete with online streamers. And some of the concerns you've identified are legitimate, but I'll ask Colette to speak to her vision for ‑‑

5092 COMMISSIONER LEVY: What do you want spend ‑‑ what do you want to use the flexibility for specifically?

5093 MS. WATSON: Local news, primarily, as well as ‑‑ we struggle sometimes with structural frameworks around how to produce a show. We don't need an intermediary. We'd like the flexibility to produce Canada's Got Talent and Hudson & Rex and whatever else comes across or a producer pitches to us without having to wait to see if someone will approve our funding. If we are able to control more of that destiny, we would be able to give more security to the independent producer; we would be able to enter into more partnerships.

5094 And so with respect to your point about we'll be competing against them rather than commissioning programming, we already compete against them. And so that's a fact. We compete against them for Canadian pitches as well as foreign studio programming.

5095 So if we’re able to have more flexibility to compete on a level playing field, that’s all we’re asking.

5096 COMMISSIONER LEVY: So would you be increasing your licence fees to make up for the contributions that would normally come from CNF or some other fund? Would you be taking on ownership of the intellectual property so that you could monetize it in other markets?

5097 MS. WHEELER: Yeah. I think just in terms of your question about commissioning, we do see, you know, our role as commissioning Canadian programming in the future. We don’t believe that should be the role of the foreign online undertakings for the very reason you just mentioned in terms of ownership and control of intellectual property. That is seminal to the health and sustainability of Canadian owned and controlled system in the future.

5098 Canadian companies ‑‑ only Canadian companies will continue to reinvest in, you know, the infrastructure and the resources that we need to set ourselves up for success in the future, and so under a modernized regime, we’re making considerable contributions to Canadian programming, much of which goes out the door and ends up on the screens of our competitors.

5099 And so in our ideal future, we would take those funds and direct them to Canadian programming, work directly with our production partners to create Canadian programming that we can then, you know, either partner with foreign undertakings to ‑‑ for the global stage, but primarily serve our local and domestic audiences.

5100 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Thank you.

5101 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.

5102 Let's go over to Vice‑Chair Scott.

5103 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: Good morning. I’m interested in exploring your proposal for new money to come in and then a corresponding offset, to some extent, on the regulatory burden on traditional broadcasters.

5104 So in your proposal, what’s the ratio of new funding in to reduction on existing?

5105 MR. SHAIKH: Well, we haven't established a ratio. It’s an important question and it’s actually one of the reasons we’ve suggested a measured stepped approach with only initial base contribution. There’s been a lot of estimates of what will come in with various percentages, but we’re only at a stage of estimating how much ‑‑ what is the denominator, really, upon which you’ll apply that two percent. It could be 50 million, it could be 200 million. We don’t know, and I think many of the conversations we’ve already had in this proceeding is to establish from the online streamers which revenues will be captured.

5106 So that’s why it’s a stepped approach. We want to first see what comes in, what is available to the system and what then can be used to properly recalibrate our contributions. We also want to understand what you impose upon them as a base contribution and what their requirements are so we can ensure that it is fair and equitable.

5107 In terms of a ratio, we haven’t said 50‑50. We haven’t come to a firm position on what our own contribution should ultimately be until some of those first questions are answered in this initial phase. But certainly the objective ‑‑ and we want to be clear. Our objective is to significantly and meaningfully reduce our own mandated contribution.

5108 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: Okay. And would part of that ‑‑ would your objective be for it to be net neutral or for it to be additive to the total contribution available to funds?

5109 MR. SHAIKH: So we’re looking toward a sustainable path forward. We’re not trying to inject hundreds of millions of dollars, new dollars into the system. And the reason for that is, as we’ve said, there’s already been an explosion of content production. Content producers are thriving in the new system.

5110 We do recognize that certain initiatives have been identified by the Policy Direction and the Act, specifically Indigenous content, content for racialized communities and other equity‑seeking groups, so if there is to be new money, we think at least at this stage it’s a more modest increase than maybe others are imagining. And there is definitely an offset in terms of our own contribution.

5111 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: So just finishing up on that theme, then, so I hear you loud and clear on the fairness principle, but are you then saying that kind of the public policy benefit, I think to use your word, would be modest? So we improve on fairness, but the public benefit is modest, or is there kind of a hidden public policy value that goes beyond just the math?

5112 MR. SHAIKH: Well, I think it's critical that when you talk about the public policy objectives that you think about all the objectives, and there are many objectives under the Act. And we view the primary objective to have a Canadian broadcasting system that is Canadian owned and controlled, and that means you have strong Canadian broadcasters, you have strong Canadian BDUs.

5113 So an outcome of this proceeding must be to ensure the ongoing health, viability, strength of domestic BDUs and broadcasters. And we’re not looking for protections. We’re looking for the same flexibility that might be provided to the online streamers.

5114 We’re not saying that, as part of that process, there shouldn’t be ‑‑ because, actually, you’ve been directed to provide additional support to Indigenous communities and, as we said, racialized communities. That should be a policy outcome of this proceeding.

5115 We don’t agree that a policy outcome of this proceeding should necessarily be hundreds of millions of dollars in new direct subsidized funding of Canadian content production. We don’t think that’s the area of crisis.

5116 And to add one more thing as a public policy objective, as I think we’ve said, there is some crisis in local news.

5117 So if you are targeted ‑‑ I think you have to be targeted with regulation. And if you target the areas of need that we’ve identified and that the Act and the Policy Direction have identified, news, Indigenous content, content for other equity‑seeking groups, then there will be a positive public policy outcome as a result of this proceeding.

5118 That doesn’t necessarily mean hundreds of millions of dollars in new subsidized funding when there are already billions of dollars in the system that are producing content.

5119 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: Thank you. That was helpful to get on the record.

5120 And then changing gears a little bit for my last question, can you speak to what the scale of the impact would be on the affiliated online undertakings if the two percent was applied? It doesn’t seem like ‑‑ to me like that would be a huge number, but again, I’d like to get a better sense of this, what that impact would look like.

5121 MR. SHAIKH: I’ll start and then maybe ask Pam to speak to it.

5122 It’s a ‑‑ it’s really ‑‑ it’s a principle. It is ‑‑ we have to be in that space potentially as a growing part of our business. It's largely complementary to our existing business. We have to have the ability to compete and innovate in that space, and that’s really the objective.

5123 Pam, do you want to add some more?

5124 MS. DINSMORE: Yeah. I think that, based on what Colette and Susan have been telling you about news, it would just mean that more money would be flowing out the door to a third party ‑‑ to third parties as opposed to us being able to directly spend on the things that we need to spend our money on.

5125 So as we’ve said many times, we have already contributed over the years and, again, the content that is on these online undertakings that are affiliated is content that’s already been, you know, at the basis for contribution on the linear side. So I think that between those two elements, it really doesn’t make sense for us to have to come out of this proceeding with a contribution on our affiliated online undertakings.

5126 Should the Commission at some stage later in the process decide that that is the proper way to go, we’ll have that discussion then, but certainly at this early stage we do not believe that this is ‑‑ this would be the right outcome.

5127 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: Thank you very much. Those are my questions.

5128 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Vice‑Chair Scott.

5129 Let's go back to Vice‑Chair Barin for another question she’d like to squeeze in.

5130 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Yes, I’m sorry. I have a burning question on 9(1)(h) services since you are here before us.

5131 So you mentioned Omni and Omni benefits from mandatory distribution on the digital basic tier. And Omni is there to fill an exceptional need for Canadians.

5132 I’d just like your view on how you see these types of services evolving in the online and on demand world, and also, do you have any opinion on whether the funding system should include these types of services if and when the linear system can no longer sustain them adequately?

5133 MR. SHAIKH: I’ll start. I mean, first of all, our ‑‑ as a distributor, our contribution to 9(1)(h) services should definitely be considered as one of our contributions to the system and might be considered in how to properly recalibrate that contribution in steps 2 and 3.

5134 Speaking of Omni specifically and 9(1)(g) generally, to my left.

5135 MS. WHEELER: Sure. And so we do note that the Commission is limited in its ability to bring foreign online undertakings into the same regime that BDUs currently are subject to in terms of mandatory carriage and wholesale payments to programs of exceptional importance. So we note that there are a number of intervenors who suggested there be a fund that would go to supporting programming that is aired on these services. That is one idea.

5136 I think the structural solution for the future of 9(1)(h) services is probably a discussion we would have to have in a Phase 2 or Phase 3 process where we can look at it holistically and understand how, you know, the current regime can continue to support while other new players in the system can also continue or support and care for these services as well.


5138 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.

5139 So maybe we can talk a little bit about urgency because we’re here to talk about the initial base contribution. We’ve heard from a number of intervenors that there’s an urgent need. We’ve heard words like “crisis”, “critical”, a number of other descriptive words. And then we heard last week from an intervenor that there is no urgency, so take our time, you know, we’ve got a couple of years to do this, so consider this more globally.

5140 Can you talk to us about the urgency?

5141 MR. SHAIKH: Well, I want to resist hyperbole which others use. However ‑‑ so let me answer it this way.

5142 Let’s look at the areas that are being impacted by the growth of online streamers. Five, six years ago, there was ‑‑ you know, there were 11 million or so BDU subscribers. Now we’re getting close to nine million, and that trajectory is heading in the wrong direction.

5143 So we do need to provide distributors with greater flexibility to compete to keep people within the system, and whether that’s something you consider as urgent, I can tell you on our side we’re really tackling what is the future of video and what is the model going forward and how do we ensure we can compete.

5144 Local news, obviously, we’ve identified as the area that is in most urgent need, and I don’t know if there’s anything more you want to add about that.

5145 MS. WATSON: So picking up on that, you know, BDU universe is shrinking at a rate of 2.7, three percent a year. We’ve gone, as Dean just said, from 10 million a year ago to 9.2 and change today in a time when Canada’s population grew. So we’re bucking the trend, and not in a good way.

5146 We operate in a heavy ‑‑ and I don’t mean this in a pejorative way, but just stating facts ‑‑ in a heavy regulatory environment on news. We have to hire a person to count locally relevant versus locally reflective minutes every single day on every newscast.

5147 Social media purveyors of news don’t have to do that, and so it’s really difficult to keep planning for the future when we’re stuck in 1995 with a framework, and so that’s the urgent part.

5148 We realize it’s a Phase 3 or a licence renewal option. We were, I’m going to be frank, disappointed we didn’t get our shot at a licence renewal sooner because this was an opportunity to work with you, which we’ve done for decades, to create the new model of what works.

5149 We’re not saying we don’t want to do it any more. We’re just saying it’s kind of oppressive here. I’m feeling a little ‑‑ a little boxed in and we’d like to create more, we’d like to do more. We’d like to just create stories that are important to our audiences.

5150 I was visiting our station in Winnipeg a few months back, and the station manager there, the news director was talking about a First Nations group that was just outside the city boundaries and she felt prevented from doing more stories about that because it wasn’t in the ‑‑ it wouldn’t count as locally reflective. And it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, really. You would all agree she could probably do that story”.

5151 And so how do we get around that sort of when you operationalize the Policy Directives, this is what happens. And so as the operators, we come back to you and say we’re either going to need to expand that definition so she could do that story or come up with a new framework.

5152 And so that’s the help we need today because we only have enough budget for so many reporters, and that story didn’t get done, and that’s sad. Really, that’s not right.

5153 And so how do we create a regime that allows us to do those stories that are important to our audiences, that are important to Canadians that reflect us back to each other from credible journalists who do their best to be balanced and accurate every single day? And so we need some relief today.

5154 I know it’s not going to happen today. There’s a process. But that’s why we use words like “crisis” and “urgent”.

5155 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that.

5156 And maybe just sticking with that theme of regulatory burden, so you know, you have said that we need to minimize it, we need to reduce it. Part of that is ‑‑ what you said is a material decrease in financial contributions that’s needed as well.

5157 We’ve heard a lot of similar language from other broadcasters. I know that Cogeco will be sitting in those seats in about 10 to 15 minutes and they’ve given a lot of specific examples in terms of, you know, quotas.

5158 You’ve talked about, you know, the locally reflective counting. They’ve talked about surveys and all kinds of other examples of the regulatory burden.

5159 Can you just talk to us a little bit further about what you’re talking about in terms of the regulatory burden? So that’s part 1.

5160 And then my last question, which is very much related to that, is what is the impact of that regulatory burden very explicitly on the broadcasting system and on Canadians? Because you’ve said it’s an oppressive regime.

5161 MS. WATSON: I’m sorry for that hyperbolic word.

5162 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. But, you know ‑‑ and we’ve heard “regulatory straitjacket” last week.

5163 So you know, we’re hearing these words. What’s the impact? And whether that’s employment, infrastructure, whatever else, can you just talk to us about the impact on the Canadian broadcasting system and on Canadians?

5164 MS. WATSON: I’ll start, but I’ll ask Susan to add.

5165 The immediate impact is we pay people to fill out those forms rather than go out and pitch stories and do stories, so that’s ‑‑ from the person who operates the operation, that’s kind of the decision I have to make. But from a regulatory, I’m going to pass it over to Susan.

5166 MS. WHEELER: I think over the years as the regulatory framework has evolved, there hasn’t been the discipline of getting rid of certain regulations when we add new regulations, and so what’s happened is that there’s a compound effect where we continue to do certain things, file certain reports, submit logs on a monthly basis, get error reports, you know, do this type of administration that probably doesn’t really reflect the operational reality of what we’re doing on a day‑to‑day basis as broadcasters.

5167 And so that, you know, to Colette’s point, requires resources and investment that isn’t going on screen, that’s really going to the administration and the ‑‑ and reporting on what we’re doing as opposed to focusing on what we actually want to do, which is create content and entertain and inform audiences.

5168 And so in terms of the burden, we’re not only looking for more flexibility in how we’re actually making our investments in Canadian programming, but also some relief from some of the, you know, outdated reporting and logging requirements that we would have as a part of our historic, you know, operations in the system.

5169 MR. SHAIKH: Just to add a little bit more on the distribution side, obviously, in this initial first phase we’re talking about contribution and what it means to have a reduced contribution on our side. It means greater flexibility to spend on our own business. It also means, quite honestly, we can have more support to add value for customers.

5170 I mean, really, there hasn’t been enough conversation about consumers and viewers and what their needs are, and I think with greater flexibility we could invest to better serve our customers and our viewers in competition with foreign streamers.

5171 And I think it’s critical ‑‑ another thing that really hasn’t been touched on or we haven’t had a chance to respond to online streamers and others who suggest to our burden is part of the regulatory bargain because we benefit from certain protections. And I think that’s really old thinking. That kind of thinking started at a time when we were ‑‑ local cable monopolies and broadcasters had licences based on secure spectrum. None of those things are relevant today. We’ve never had a more competitive environment.

5172 Cable BDUs compete directly with telco BDUs and other licensees now and, of course, the entire system competes directly as distributors and broadcasters with foreign streamers.

5173 So in this environment of unprecedented competition, where we still have all those burdens and obligations that were created at a time when we didn’t have ‑‑ we were not faced with that competition, for them to possibly persist or increase in the face of the emergence and growth of online streamers who have, to be clear, zero obligations, zero burden, I think that puts at risk the health of the Canadian broadcasting system and our ability to continue to deliver maximum value and choice to Canadian viewers and customers.

5174 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.

5175 And maybe just to close things off, I mean, I think what I’m hearing is that there’s the issue of the level playing field so, you know, that traditional broadcasters have this heavy burden and online does not, but at the same time, I’ve heard concern expressed about, you know, outdated logging and those sorts of things.

5176 MR. SHAIKH: I mean, I resist the urge to use the term “level playing field” because it’s sort of become trite in the regulatory space, but I do like the language of the notice, which is “fair and equitable”.

5177 We’re not identical undertakings, but whatever framework you establish has to be fair and equitable. If they convince you that they’re doing really well with the flexibility they have, then why not grant us that flexibility to do as well or better than them?

5178 We want the ability to compete. We’re not asking for new protections. We’re just asking for, I think, some targeted funding in areas like local news and others that are identified. What we really want is a fair and equitable framework that allows us to compete.

5179 And I think the burden applies to everything you described, from the administrative burden, which is significant on the community channel side, on the local side, on the radio side. It’s really ‑‑ it is a weight upon our company ‑‑ all the way up to the more significant ‑‑ I won’t say more significant, but the other contributions and obligations, financial and otherwise.

5180 It’s the full range of regulations that ‑‑ where you need to consider going forward whether they have a place in the new modernized system.

5181 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for those answers.

5182 We will turn things back over to you to conclude.

5183 MR. SHAIKH: I think Colette’s going to say something, too.

5184 And I just ‑‑ I want to make clear this is not a revolutionary concept, the idea of properly recalibrating the broadcasting system. I think about five or six years ago, the Commission itself ‑‑ the Commission of the “Harnessing Change” report where they talked about BDU contributions being considerably reduced. At that time, you were considering whether the introduction of contributions from telecom services was appropriate.

5185 Others have wisely determined, the Commission itself, that it wasn’t appropriate to tax telecom services. They’re not engaged in broadcasting. They’re not having an impact on the system.

5186 We’re now at a stage where we’re really looking at the sector that is having an impact on our system and that could make a contribution, but if they do make a contribution, that recalibration has to lead to the result that you imagined back at the time you wrote the “Harnessing Change” report where our contributions and our burden is materially reduced.

5187 And again, it’s only about the mandated contributions. It doesn’t mean that Rogers isn’t committed to serving Canadians and our audiences with other contributions. We want the flexibility to build a strong system.

5188 MS. WATSON: To build on that, as I’ve mentioned, we are a proud Canadian company. All our employees, all our employees are Canadian. They live here.

5189 We want to participate in the next phase of the Canadian broadcasting system. We’re here as a partner. We believe we brought a pragmatic solution‑oriented proposal to the table. We want to work with you.

5190 We are proud of our record over the last 60 plus years, first as a distributor. Ted started ‑‑ I’m sorry for the history lesson. Ted started with a cable ‑‑ a little 5,000 cable customers and CHFI and what was then CFTR and what is today 680 News.

5191 We’ve built ‑‑ we invented the community channel. We’ve built Omni Regional. We have created funds to help producers before funds were an obligation.

5192 We know our role in the system, we know our role in the country, and we want to keep being a player with respect to that. And so you can count on us to be your ‑‑ to be here with solution ‑‑ with solutions and the truth, whether it’s unvarnished or not, hyperbolic or not, but we want to be ‑‑ we want to be helpful, but we also need to understand throughout the entire legislative proceeding that led us to this moment, I felt a little hard done by. And that was because I thought we have been here for 60‑some years and do you know until the Policy Directive last week, the word “broadcasting” was never used? And so ‑‑ other than in the definition of broadcasting distribution undertaking.

5193 And I felt a little like the forgotten other woman here and I wanted ‑‑ I wanted to get our respect for that, that we built this. We ‑‑ not as Rogers, but Rogers with the industry, we built this. We’re here. We’re Canadians. We’re not going anywhere, and we want to build the next chapter.

5194 So I hope ‑‑ I hope that that sentiment comes across in our words.

5195 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Thank you for your presentation and for being here with us this morning.

5196 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.

5197 We will take a 10‑minute break and be back at 10:15.

‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 10:03 a.m.

‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 10:13 a.m.

5198 LA SECRÉTAIRE : Bonjour et bienvenue.

5199 Nous débuterons avec la présentation de Cogeco.

5200 S'il vous plaît vous présenter et présenter vos collègues, après quoi vous pouvez débuter. Merci.


5201 M. BEAUDRY : Madame la Présidente, Madame la Vice‑présidente, Monsieur le Vice‑Président, Mesdames les Conseillères, membres du personnel, bonjour.

5202 Je suis Paul Beaudry, vice‑président, Affaires réglementaires et gouvernementales chez Cogeco.

5203 Je suis accompagné, à ma droite, de Caroline Paquet, présidente de Cogeco Média, et de Marc Thibault, directeur général des stations de radio CIME et CKOI et responsable de la programmation musicale chez Cogeco Média; à ma gauche, Simon Desrochers, directeur, Affaires réglementaires – radiodiffusion chez Cogeco.

5204 Il nous fait plaisir de comparaître devant vous dans le cadre de la présente consultation, dont l’issue sera cruciale pour l’ensemble de l’industrie de la radiodiffusion au pays.

5205 Dans le cadre de la mise en œuvre de la Loi sur la diffusion continue en ligne, nous demandons au Conseil d’instaurer de nouvelles règles qui viendront, une fois pour toutes, corriger l’asymétrie réglementaire inacceptable qui existe depuis beaucoup trop longtemps entre les radiodiffuseurs traditionnels et ceux en ligne.

5206 Ce besoin est particulièrement criant pour le secteur de la radio, qui est assujetti à un cadre réglementaire révolu et pratiquement inchangé depuis l’avènement des plateformes audio en ligne telles que Spotify et Apple Music.

5207 Je cède maintenant la parole à Caroline Paquet.

5208 MME PAQUET : Bonjour.

5209 Cogeco Média est l’opératrice de l’un des plus grands réseaux de radios au Québec. Ses 21 stations rejoignent chaque semaine plus de 5 millions d’auditeurs et diffusent, par semaine, plus de 1500 heures de programmation locale, près de 1000 bulletins d’information, plus de 13 000 chansons d’artistes canadiens, près de 15 000 pièces musicales de langue française, et près de 4500 messages publicitaires provenant d’une diversité d’annonceurs qui croient encore toujours en nous.

5210 La radio est présente dans la vie des Canadiens depuis près de 100 ans pour répondre à leurs besoins d’information, d’accompagnement et de divertissement, et ce, en tout temps et en toute situation.

5211 La radio est un service de proximité qui permet aux auditeurs et auditrices de rester connectés sur le monde, de s’informer, de se nourrir de musique d’ici, de débattre d’affaires publiques et de s’enraciner dans leur communauté.

5212 Pourtant, malgré l’importance indéniable qu’occupe la radio dans le façonnement de notre tissu social et démocratique, sa viabilité est plus que jamais menacée. En effet, la croissance sans borne des entreprises en ligne non réglementées, de même que l’imposante présence numérique subventionnée de Radio‑Canada, ont mis à mal les stations de radio commerciale privées.

5213 Au courant des dernières années, les stations de radio commerciale ont subi une baisse importante de leurs revenus publicitaires. Tel que reconnu par le CRTC lui‑même, les revenus publicitaires des stations de radio commerciales de langue française ont chuté de 20 pour cent en 5 ans, alors que le bénéfice avant intérêts et impôts a fondu de près de 50 pour cent sur la même période.

5214 Cogeco Média n’échappe pas à cette tendance lourde, alors que nous avons dû inscrire une radiation d’actifs de 88 millions de dollars à nos états financiers.

5215 Cette situation existe parce que les entreprises en ligne et les stations de radio se battent pour les mêmes revenus publicitaires, le même auditoire et la même main‑d’œuvre. Cependant, les radios commerciales ne se battent malheureusement pas à armes égales avec les plateformes en ligne pour la simple et mauvaise raison que celles‑ci n’ont aucune obligation réglementaire.

5216 En effet, ces plateformes n’ont aucune contribution à verser, n’ont aucune exigence de dépenses en contenu canadien, n’ont aucune obligation de programmation locale, et n’ont aucun quota à respecter.

5217 La radio suffoque, avec des coûts de production d’émissions qui explosent, une main‑d’œuvre qui se fait rare, des revenus publicitaires en décroissance, une réglementation qui atteint une lourdeur sans précédent, et un régime fiscal désavantageux. Malgré cette trame de fond difficile, nous nous efforçons à bien desservir nos auditoires ainsi que nos annonceurs, qui demeurent notre seule et unique source de revenus.

5218 Et pour le bénéfice de tous, quand je parle du fardeau réglementaire, je parle, entre autres :

5219 (i) des quotas de diffusion de musique vocale complètement déconnectés des habitudes d’écoute des auditeurs;

5220 (ii) des études de rendement qui s’allongent et se complexifient d’une année à l’autre;

5221 (iii) des formulaires de sondage qui se multiplient;

5222 (iv) des critères inflexibles de contributions au contenu canadien;

5223 (v) ainsi qu’une panoplie d’autres obligations réglementaires qui s’appliquent à la radiodiffusion.

5224 Bref, si nous sommes ici aujourd’hui, c’est parce que la radio commerciale n’a plus les moyens de réaliser sa mission, de répondre aux besoins des auditeurs, et de satisfaire pleinement les attentes des annonceurs.

5225 En conséquence, nous demandons au Conseil de baisser sans attendre les contributions financières des stations de radio commerciales. Nous demandons également au Conseil de mettre en place, sans plus tarder, un mécanisme pour retourner aux radios commerciales une part des contributions qu’elles versent aux différents fonds. Car en radio, contrairement à la télé, on ne fait que payer et on ne reçoit jamais rien en retour. Rien.

5226 Ces deux actions concrètes permettraient aux radios commerciales de continuer d’appuyer les artistes d’ici, de produire du contenu d’information de qualité et de desservir les annonceurs locaux, bref, de tout simplement continuer à répondre aux besoins des Canadiens et des Canadiennes.

5227 Parce que sans ce soutien, ce sera non seulement l’écosystème de la radiodiffusion au pays qui s’appauvrira mais la démocratie canadienne dans son ensemble.

5228 Ceci nous amène à la crise des médias de nouvelles que nous vivons présentement.

5229 Alors que la capacité financière des médias traditionnels à produire et diffuser des nouvelles est plus que jamais compromise, la disponibilité même d’un contenu d’information de qualité et digne de confiance est devenue un enjeu d’ordre public.

5230 Face à cette menace, il est plus que jamais nécessaire de soutenir financièrement la production et la diffusion de nouvelles offrant des perspectives d’ici sur l’actualité, les affaires culturelles et les débats publics.

5231 Néanmoins, le soutien financier aux nouvelles qui existe présentement n’est disponible qu’à la presse écrite et au secteur télévisuel. Il n’y a rien pour la radio. Rien.

5232 Vous conviendrez avec moi que cette réalité est un non‑sens, alors que les radios commerciales, et particulièrement les stations dites  ” parlées », sont de grands producteurs et diffuseurs de contenus d’information. Plus de 80 pour cent de la programmation des stations parlées est lié aux nouvelles et à l’actualité autant locale que régionale, nationale et internationale.

5233 Et ajoutons que pour de nombreuses communautés à travers le pays, les stations de radio locales sont souvent la seule source d'information restante, puisque les journaux locaux et les télévisions locales ferment tour à tour leurs portes.

5234 La mise sur pied d’un fonds national pour financer la création et la diffusion de nouvelles vérifiées, fiables et de qualité par les stations de radio commerciales est maintenant une urgence indiscutable.

5235 Les entreprises en ligne, qui n’offrent aucune compensation aux producteurs et créateurs de nouvelles, devraient être les premières à contribuer à un tel fonds.

5236 En terminant, vous avez, Madame la Présidente, Membres du Conseil et membres du personnel, le pouvoir et les outils nécessaires pour changer le cours des choses, et ce, dès maintenant pour les stations de radio qui sont présentes dans la vie de tous et chacun.

5237 Les radios commerciales sont un pilier du système canadien de radiodiffusion. Pourtant, ces mêmes radios, je le rappelle, sont complètement oubliées du financement de contenus. Sans l’instauration de règles équitables pour les radiodiffuseurs traditionnels, des centaines de stations vont fermer et des milliers d’emplois vont disparaître. Nous assisterons à la création de déserts médiatiques d’un océan à l’autre.

5238 L’avenir des radios commerciales et de tout ce qu’elles représentent est donc entre vos mains. Aujourd’hui, il est temps de renverser la situation et de passer à l’action :

5239 ‑ en exigeant que les entreprises en ligne contribuent financièrement;

5240 ‑ en accordant des allègements réglementaires aux stations de radio commerciales; et

5241 ‑ en donnant à la radio commerciale accès à des fonds pour financer les nouvelles et le contenu d’ici.

5242 Nous vous remercions pour le temps que vous nous avez accordé, et nous serons heureux de répondre à vos questions.

5243 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Merci beaucoup pour votre présentation.

5244 Alors, moi, je vais commencer avec les questions, puis après ça, je vais céder la parole à notre vice‑présidente de la Radiodiffusion.

5245 Juste pour commencer, de nombreux intervenants nous ont parlé de l'asymétrie réglementaire entre les radiodiffuseurs traditionnels et les radiodiffuseurs en ligne. Vous avez décrit la situation actuelle comme une situation critique qui doit changer.

5246 Pouvez‑vous nous parler un peu de l'urgence?

5247 M. BEAUDRY : Bien sûr.

5248 La situation est urgente, premièrement, parce que nos stations de radio font face à une crise financière sans précédent, un déclin marqué des revenus publicitaires qui s'est accentué pendant la crise de la COVID et qui, malheureusement, ne s'est pas résorbé depuis, un transfert d'écoute vers les plateformes en ligne en raison du fait, notamment, que nous faisons face à des exigences réglementaires qui sont, malheureusement, en inadéquation avec les habitudes d'écoute de nos consommateurs.

5249 Une des dépenses les plus importantes pour nos stations de radio, on en a plusieurs en format parlé. Les nouvelles coûtent chers, et on produit des nouvelles qui sont accessibles à un grand pan de la population québécoise. Nos stations rejoignent 5 millions de Québécois à chaque jour.

5250 Et dans certaines régions où nous avons des stations de radio, la station de radio est la dernière courroie de transmission de nouvelles locales qui existe, en raison, comme ma collègue Caroline vous l'a dit, de la fermeture des médias écrits et de la centralisation des fois de la production de nouvelles des stations télévisées au cours des dernières années.

5251 Il y a urgence d'agir, et, malheureusement, on remarque que certains de nos pairs dans l'industrie ont déjà commencé à prendre des décisions extrêmement difficiles.

5252 On ne l'a pas fait encore, mais on ne veut pas avoir à prendre ces décisions‑là, et, compte tenu que la production de nouvelles est un des chefs de dépenses les plus onéreux pour des stations comme les nôtres, on se dit qu'agir rapidement dans cette Phase 1 de la revue du Conseil, en établissant sans plus tarder un fonds qui pourrait aider à financer les nouvelles, et notamment aider les radiodiffuseurs, serait extrêmement avisé.

5253 MME PAQUET : À ceci, j'ajouterais que pour demeurer pertinent et continuer de concurrencer ces grands joueurs en ligne, le contenu, la pertinence du contenu, pas seulement en termes de nouvelles mais même dans nos stations musicales, d'avoir des contenus, des gens qui sont intégrés dans la communauté, c'est ce qui nous différencie d'abord, le contenu.

5254 Et également, en début de speech, si je peux dire, j'ai mentionné la baisse également de nos bénéfices. C'est parce que ça fait plusieurs années également que nous investissons, nous aussi, dans une transformation numérique, mais cette transformation numérique là, elle est exponentielle, elle coûte extrêmement cher. Donc, on investit des millions de dollars pour arriver, nous aussi, à pouvoir prendre ce contenu‑là et pouvoir maintenir une certaine compétitivité et maintenir notre auditoire. Et maintenant, ce n'est plus possible. Ce n'est plus possible. Les revenus ne sont plus là, ils sont tous sur les plateformes en ligne. Donc, c'est l'urgence d'agir.

5255 M. DESROCHERS : Alors, Madame la Présidente, si je peux juste rajouter aux propos de mes collègues.

5256 Quand on parle d'urgence, aussi pour nous, je pense on l'a bien souligné dans notre mot d'ouverture, 88 millions de perte d'actifs, ça c'est à cause d'une perte d'auditoire, une perte d'annonceurs, et puis c'est quelque chose de sans précédent pour nous. C'est majeur.

5257 Et puis, on sait que certains de nos concurrents, certains autres joueurs dans l'industrie, ont fermé des stations, par exemple, ont eu des pertes d'emploi, coupé des postes. Bien, nous, on n'est pas encore rendus là, mais ça serait peut‑être la prochaine étape.

5258 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Merci pour vos réponses.

5259 Alors, sur la question des contributions actuelles, que répondez‑vous aux intervenants comme des plateformes en ligne qui disent qu'ils contribuent déjà de manière significative au système de radiodiffusion canadien?

5260 M. BEAUDRY : Je dirais pour commencer, c'est sûr qu'il y a des contributions, mais il y a des contributions qui sont faites par des entreprises qui sont au cœur de leurs modèles d'affaires et qui sont en fonction de leurs propres besoins et qui servent leurs propres fins. Et c'est tout à fait bien, et on n'a aucune critique à cet égard‑là, mais cela ne devrait pas les exempter de l'obligation de contribuer à des fonds dans l'intérêt du Canada et non dans leur intérêt à eux. On a tous des motivations financières comme entreprises privées, mais on a des obligations de contribuer au système de radiodiffusion canadien, et cette idée qu'ils pourraient s'extirper de l'obligation de contribuer au bien commun en sélectionnant en vase clos des initiatives qui leur plaisent et qui leur servent, à notre avis, ce n'est pas suffisant. Il faut avoir un mécanisme par lequel ils peuvent contribuer à des fonds établis qui vont, tout à tour, pouvoir aider les entreprises de radiodiffusion qui, elles, se prêtent à ces exercices depuis des années et des années et des années. C'est certain qu'il y a peut‑être 15‑20 ans, 30 ans, alors qu'on était dans un ‑‑ l'expression anglaise est le fameux walled garden du monde de la radiodiffusion, il y avait un certain quid pro quo, où on obtenait une licence qui est un privilège significatif, et tout le monde en gagnait. Mais là, on est dans une situation qui est maintenant intenable, où ces gens‑là fonctionnent en marge du régime.

5261 Et d'ailleurs, on salue l'initiative du gouvernement, ce que vous faites présentement qui vise à les intégrer dans le giron réglementaire canadien, mais vous devez bel et bien les intégrer dans ce giron‑là et non seulement les mettre à part et leur permettre de faire leurs propres affaires.

5262 LA PRÉSIDENTE : D'accord. Merci beaucoup.

5263 Alors, vous avez demandé au CRTC de faire plusieurs choses. Commençons par vos demandes d'allègement réglementaire.

5264 Alors, vous demandez au Conseil de réduire immédiatement les contributions financières des stations de radio commerciale, mais certains intervenants nous ont dit qu'ils n'étaient pas favorables à une réduction des contributions des radiodiffuseurs traditionnels. Comment répondez‑vous?

5265 M. BEAUDRY : Je pense que le portrait financier qu'on a dressé devant vous agit comme preuve assez convaincante qu'il y a matière à obtenir des allègements tant au niveau réglementaire, tant au niveau des obligations intangibles que pécuniaires.

5266 Certainement, on pense que les entreprises en ligne devraient contribuer significativement de façon financière au bien‑être du système de radiodiffusion canadien, et d'ailleurs, c'est en partie en raison de cette influx de fonds dans le régime canadien qu'on peut se permettre de vous demander des allègements sans qu'une partie prenante, un fonds existant, en sorte perdant.

5267 Il y a d'autres intervenants qui vous ont proposé des modèles économiques très sophistiqués pour montrer qu'avec un certain niveau de contribution, ça allègerait et ça permettrait de compenser pour une diminution des obligations pour les joueurs traditionnels.

5268 On ne s'est pas prêtés à cet exercice‑là nous‑mêmes, mais il va de soi que si les entreprises qui réalisent des profits et des revenus très importants au Canada de par leurs activités de radiodiffusion doivent avoir des contributions à la hauteur de leurs moyens et à la hauteur des revenus qu'ils réalisent en opérant au Canada, bien, cet influx‑là devrait permettre au CRTC de faire en sorte que toutes les parties prenantes qui bénéficient des fonds présentement puissent continuer à en bénéficier, qu'ils amènent des nouveaux bénéficiaires, puis, en même temps, qu'on considère une partie de cette enveloppe‑là comme compensant une diminution des obligations, premièrement, financières qu'on aurait à contribuer.

5269 Puis l'autre élément que je voudrais porter à votre attention, c'est que je ne veux pas présumer de l'issue des phases subséquentes de la consultation du Conseil, mais ultimement, je parierais que les obligations du côté intangible que les plateformes en ligne auront à assumer ne seront jamais de la nature de celles que nous en tant que radiodiffuseurs traditionnels, on a à assumer, et, en raison de ce déséquilibre‑là qu'il y aura au final, ça justifie que des contributions pécuniaires plus élevées soient perçues de ces plateformes‑là, en raison du manque à gagner du côté intangible qui sera assurément le cas, à mon avis, à la fin de l'exercice.

5270 MME PAQUET : Merci, Paul.

5271 À ceci, j'ajouterais l'urgence d'agir, de baisser ces contributions‑là pour nous. Ça va nous servir à maintenir ce que nous faisons actuellement, offrir des nouvelles crédibles et de qualité. C'est vraiment important de saisir cette urgence‑là.

5272 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Merci beaucoup.

5273 Alors, peut‑être on peut continuer avec la réponse que vous avez offerte maintenant.

5274 Alors, on a entendu de vous et d'autres radiodiffuseurs traditionnels parler de la lourdeur du fardeau réglementaire. La semaine dernière, on avait Québecor, on avait BCE. Ce matin, on a entendu Rogers. Vous avez énuméré des exemples ce matin : les quotas, les études, les formulaires de sondage, critères inflexibles.

5275 Que se passera‑t‑il si le CRTC ne réduit pas le fardeau réglementaire? Et j'ajouterais aussi, j'ai pris note ce matin que vous avez déclaré que si les radiodiffuseurs traditionnels ne bénéficient pas de conditions de concurrence équitables, des centaines de stations fermeront leurs portes, et des milliers d'emplois disparaîtront.

5276 M. BEAUDRY : Je pourrais commencer en parlant de la situation critique à laquelle on fait face dans certains marchés régionaux. Il y a plusieurs de nos stations régionales qui sont déficitaires, et, en raison de cette situation‑là, on doit devoir... on est acculés auprès du mur, et on est dans une situation où on doit prendre des décisions importantes rapidement.

5277 Certainement, on a une dose d’espoir présentement parce que vous avez lancé une instance. Et on ose espérer que, justement, la première phase, qui vise à déterminer les allocations et les seuils de contribution des entreprises en ligne permettront d’injecter, et ce, rapidement, des fonds grandement utiles à l’industrie avant la fin de la phase 3, qui pourrait avoir lieu dans deux ans. Donc, pour nous, c’est très important. Il y a une urgence d’agir.

5278 Puis, comme je vous le disais tantôt, le chef de dépense, souvent, qui est le plus important dans nos stations, c’est la nouvelle. Elle coûte très cher. Puis, malheureusement, s’il y a des coupures à faire, c’est là qu’on doit regarder. On veut pas avoir à faire ces décisions‑là parce qu’on croit qu’on offre un service qui est vital à la santé démocratique du Canada. Puis, comme je vous le disais tantôt, il y a des situations où si on quitte dans une communauté, on crée un désert médiatique en matière de nouvelles locales total. Et on veut prévenir ce genre de scénario. Et c’est pour ça qu’à notre avis, il faut agir rapidement.

5279 M. THIBAULT : Je peux continuer. Si on revient sur la charge en ce moment qu’on a par rapport aux obligations réglementaires, les stations de radio francophones, on ne se le cachera pas, on a des obligations réglementaires très élevées au niveau de quotas, d’utilisation des montages, de musique canadienne et francophone aussi. On n’a pas d’équipe pour faire ça à tous les jours. C’est nos équipes de contenu, nos équipes de programmation qui doivent colliger l’information, doivent suivre ça parfois à chaque semaine. Pendant ce temps‑là, on n’est pas en train de produire du contenu canadien pour lequel on est là, pour lequel on est dans chacune de nos régions. En ce moment, c’est très lourd et la situation est critique.

5280 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Merci beaucoup. Alors, j'ai une dernière question puis, après, je vais céder la parole. Est‑ce que vous pouvez nous parler un peu plus de votre proposition de création d’un fonds national pour l’information? Et qu’est‑ce qu’un tel fonds soutiendrait en particulier?

5281 M. BEAUDRY : Absolument. Donc, en raison de la situation criante et de la crise des nouvelles, on l’a relevé, on est la seule industrie, la radio, qui n’a pas accès à des fonds pour les nouvelles. Évidemment, à l’extérieur du créneau du CRTC, il y a la presse écrite qui bénéficie de crédits d’impôt pour le journalisme. On n’en a pas. Il y a un fonds pour les nouvelles locales indépendantes au niveau de la télévision auquel les radiodiffuseurs n’ont pas accès. On croit qu’il y a un gap, comme on pourrait dire, qui doit être rempli. On a proposé la création d’un fonds pour les nouvelles à la radio. Et on a proposé des allocations qui nous apparaissaient comme étant raisonnables et équitables.

5282 Bien évidemment, nous n’avons pas accès aux revenus des plateformes en ligne. Donc, tout ça est sujet à une transparence de leur part pour déterminer exactement comment ils peuvent contribuer de façon significative. Mais, pour nous, ce fonds pour les nouvelles là devrait être utilisé pour financer des joueurs comme nous qui investissent dans les nouvelles, qui investissent dans l’activité de journalisme, que ce soit local, mais également les perspectives locales sur l’actualité nationale et internationale.

5283 Chez Cogeco, on a une agence de nouvelles, Cogeco Nouvelles, qui alimente non seulement nos 21 stations de radio, mais des dizaines de radios additionnelles indépendantes en nouvelles nationales et internationales. À notre avis, ce n’est pas seulement des perspectives locales. Des perspectives locales, il en faut, mais il faut encourager le journalisme canadien de façon à ce qu’on puisse avoir des perspectives canadiennes non seulement sur l’actualité locale, mais l’actualité également nationale et internationale.

5284 Par rapport au mécanisme de comment un fonds créé de la sorte fonctionnerait, on s’est pas avancés sur une formule particulière. Évidemment, on prend note du fonds indépendant pour les nouvelles locales du côté télévisuel, qui est entre autres une formule qui est basée sur les dépenses, le nombre d’heures. Et il y a un plafond en matière de fonds qui peuvent être perçus par une seule entité. C’est quelque chose qu’on pourrait explorer. Mais la demande principale qu’on a à vous faire aujourd’hui, c’est que, des fonds pour les nouvelles devraient être octroyés à des radiodiffuseurs, ce à quoi ils n’ont pas accès présentement.

5285 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Merci beaucoup. Je passe la parole à la vice‑présidente.

5286 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Merci beaucoup. Bonjour. Alors, j’ai plusieurs questions qui vont un peu compléter le dossier public. Nous avons posé cette question à plusieurs intervenants déjà. Alors, j’aimerais avoir votre perspective sur votre position que seules les entreprises en ligne qui ne sont pas affiliées avec un radiodiffuseur traditionnel devraient être tenues de contribuer... de faire une contribution de base.

5287 M. BEAUDRY : Certainement. Pour la première phase de cette consultation, il nous apparaissait préférable que, pour partir le bal, d’une certaine façon, que les entreprises en ligne, que des revenus significatifs soient initialement dans l’obligation de faire des contributions initiales immédiatement. On a également mis de l’avant l’argument selon lequel les entreprises traditionnelles de radiodiffusion, évidemment, on parle de nos stations de radio, ne soient pas pénalisées par une nouvelle méthode de financement. Cette méthode de financement, vous l’aviez un peu fait miroiter dans la revue sur la radio commerciale. Quelle qu’elle soit, à notre avis, nos obligations pécuniaires devraient diminuer.

5288 Et évidemment avec la perspective selon laquelle les contributions seraient prises par groupe de propriétés, notre position à être incorporée dans la phase 1, c’est qu’évidemment, les entreprises en ligne doivent avoir un certain seuil pour devoir commencer à contribuer alors que, nous, si nos revenus du côté traditionnel rencontrent ce seuil, ce qu’ils feraient forcément, on aurait à contribuer sur le côté en ligne immédiatement. Et ça nous apparaît inéquitable.

5289 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Merci. Alors, parlons du marché francophone versus le marché anglophone. Vous avez souligné que les exigences de contribution, plus particulièrement les obligations intangibles et non pécuniaires sont plus sévères dans le marché francophone qu’elles le sont dans le marché anglophone. Alors, pourriez‑vous élaborer sur ces différences dans les marchés linguistiques? Et je vous ai entendu parler...

5290 M. THIBAULT : On a besoin de flexibilité. En ce moment, l’auditoire nous quitte et consomme moins d’heures d’écoute à la radio, surtout chez les radios musicales parce qu’il consomme des plateformes où leur contenu et leur musique, bien, c’est à leur choix. Vous le savez, on est dans un monde de choix. Nous, nous devons faire malheureusement des choix de diffuser une programmation qui tient compte d’un paquet de paramètres, qui n’est pas en adéquation avec les coûts et les besoins des Canadiens en ce moment.

5291 Pour nous, ça devient difficile de rencontrer ces attentes‑là. Et on est en concurrence déloyale avec les joueurs numériques qui, eux, à toute heure du jour ou de la nuit peuvent diffuser le contenu au choix des auditeurs.

5292 MME PAQUET : Et on assiste à... et on assiste également, comme Marc le mentionnait, à un taux de décrochage, particulièrement chez les plus jeunes. Donc, comment par la suite ramener les jeunes dans le système de radiodiffusion plus traditionnel, c’est d’abord et avant tout du contenu pertinent, qui répond à leurs besoins et, bien sûr, des plateformes numériques qui sont state of the art, si je peux dire. Et, dans notre marché plus particulièrement, la seule compagnie qui a réussi à faire ceci, c’est Radio‑Canada.

5293 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Je sous‑entends que, pour vous, c’est la musique vocale francophone qui... quand vous dites que vos jeunes auditeurs décrochent, ce que vous dites, c’est que vous voulez avoir plus de musique non francophone.

5294 M. THIBAULT : On veut plus de flexibilité parce que, les stations de radio, si ça continue comme ça, vont jouer moins de musique parce qu’il y a tellement une adéquation entre ce que les gens veulent puis ce qu’on est capables de leur diffuser. Il y a une absence de plusieurs formats de musique francophone dans le marché québécois parce que les quotas nous empêchent d’aller de l’avant. C’est difficile pour nous de concurrencer. Puis, quand on parlait de Radio‑Canada qui nous fait concurrence aussi de ce côté‑là avec des budgets énormes, avec des contenus subventionnés, qui sont présentés sur leur antenne principale. Ils n’ont pas accès à la publicité, mais ils contournent le tout en rediffusant ces contenus‑là subventionnés sur leur plateforme en insérant des contenus publicitaires. C’est une façon de contourner la réglementation qui les empêche de présenter des fenêtres de publicité à la radio.

5295 Ils nous font compétition également au niveau des contenus, au niveau de l’attraction des bons talents parce qu’ils ont des budgets qu’on n’aura jamais. Et la même chose au niveau de la transformation numérique. Ils ont subventionné leur transformation numérique. Nous, on est dans la transformation numérique, mais on n’a pas les mêmes moyens qu’eux.

5296 M. BEAUDRY : Permettez‑moi, Madame la Vice‑présidente, juste de rajouter un élément quand on parle du fardeau réglementaire. Un exemple frappant, c’est la décision qui a été rendue par le Conseil sur le cadre réviser de la radio commerciale, qui a été rendue l’année dernière. On a été très déçus, franchement parlant, par rapport à la teneur de cette décision‑là, parce que le secteur de la radiodiffusion francophone est sorti de cette révision de la politique avec un fardeau réglementaire possiblement plus élevé.

5297 Et, là, je parle... on est impliqués dans les marchés bilingues, c’est‑à‑dire Ottawa, Gatineau et Montréal. Et, dans ces marchés‑là, on fait face à une concurrence féroce de radio de langue anglaise. Et les radios de langue anglaise ont bénéficié de l’abolition de la politique du hit qui fait en sorte qu’ils peuvent jouer plus que 50 pour cent de leur musique en faisant jouer des hits. C’est une mesure qui avait été mise en œuvre pour faire en sorte de freiner les transferts d’écoute vers les stations de langue française vers les stations de langue anglaise.

5298 En même temps que le Conseil a aboli la politique des hits, le Conseil a signalé son intention d’abolir le montage musical. Le montage musical, c’est une compilation d’extraits musicaux, en français ou en anglais, qui est un outil franchement parlant de rétention de nos auditeurs. Évidemment, le Conseil ne l’a pas encore aboli, mais il a signalé son intention de l’abolir.

5299 Ça, c’est un exemple frappant, là, oubliez... et déréglementer complètement. Ça, c’est un exemple frappant de mesure ciblée qui pourrait extrêmement affaiblir les radiodiffuseurs francophones, surtout dans les marchés bilingues, si le Conseil passe de la parole aux actes, c’est en pensant à ce genre d’initiative là qu’on se dit : « Il faut vraiment obtenir un petit peu plus de liberté d’agir. Sinon, le système en entier va être pénalisé. Les fonds que l’on subventionne vont être pénalisés. Tout le monde y perd.

5300 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Merci. Alors, est‑ce que vous pensez que, si on parle d’une contribution initiale de base, qu’elle devrait être pareille dans les marchés francophones et anglophones?

5301 M. BEAUDRY : Bien, c’est sûr que, lorsqu’on a fait nos recommandations pour les contributions initiales de base, on a en tête les entreprises en ligne et, oui, à notre avis, elles ne devraient pas changer en fonction de la nature du marché, qu’il soit francophone ou anglophone.

5302 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : C’est bien. Alors, vous avez parlé avec la présidente de votre proposition pour le fonds qui soutiendrait la production locale, les nouvelles locales à la radio. Mais, selon vous, est‑ce qu’il n’y a pas certains fonds existants qui pourraient bien mieux soutenir ces types de programmation communautaire à la radio?

5303 M. BEAUDRY : Bien, on a proposé une allocation puis on a proposé la création d’un fonds. C’est sûr qu’il y a plusieurs alternatives qui sont possibles au conseil. Et, ultimement, le message qu’on vous envoie, c’est : assurez‑vous qu’il y a des fonds suffisants pour appuyer la création de nouvelles de qualité à la radio. Puis, évidemment, nos collègues qui font de la télévision, on n’est pas opposés non plus à ce qu’on bonifie l’enveloppe. Mais, pour nous, évidemment, l’important, c’est la radio.

5304 On vous a parlé tantôt, certains de nos concurrents verticalement intégrés, pas nécessairement en nouvelles, mais en production de contenu contribuent d’une main puis peuvent aller en chercher de l’autre. En radio, il n’y a aucun scénario de la sorte. Et c’est pour ça qu’on trouve que c’est extrêmement urgent d’établir un fonds.

5305 Pour ce qui est de la structure, est‑ce qu’il y aurait matière d’élargir le fonds du Fonds de nouvelles indépendant de façon à cibler non seulement les services de programmation audiovisuelle, mais également ceux en audio? On n’a pas nécessairement une opposition de principe par rapport à ça, mais, tout ce qu’on veut, nous, c’est qu’il y ait un mécanisme efficace qui nous permet de financer adéquatement ces opérations qui, encore une fois, sont extrêmement charnières pour notre santé démocratique.

5306 MME PAQUET : Peut‑être que j’ajouterais une spécification. Lorsqu’on parle de la production de nouvelles, on ne parle pas seulement de bulletin de nouvelles. Quand on pense à nos stations de radio parlée, 80 pour cent de leur contenu, ce sont de la nouvelle, de la nouvelle qu’elle soit locale, régionale, mais c’est des nouvelles... la radio a la capacité de suivre l’évolution d’une nouvelle pendant la journée.

5307 Quand on pense aux feux de Chibougamau, par exemple, nos reporters sont là constamment. On leur donne une instantanéité. Donc, pour nous, la nouvelle, ce n’est pas que juste produire un bulletin des nouvelles et de le lire, c’est produire du contenu pertinent, crédible, qui répond aux besoins de chaque communauté, qui est ancré dans la vie de tous les jours.

5308 M. THIBAULT : Je rajouterais que, dans nos stations musicales, on fait à chaque heure à chaque jour du contenu d’information, que ce soit... que l’animateur du matin dans la ville de Chibougamau nous parle des feux de forêt ou de l’animatrice, par exemple, dans une station de Montréal musicale qui nous parle d’un événement important dans la vie des gens à Montréal, pour nous, c’est du contenu d’information. Et on en fait du contenu d’information canadien tous les jours.

5309 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Je vous entends sur le besoin pour le soutien pour les nouvelles. Mais... et je vais combiner cette question. Le conseil a approuvé le Bureau de l’écran autochtone en tant que fonds indépendant ainsi que le Bureau de l’écran... oui, en fait, ce fonds‑là. Et on a entendu parler des propositions pour le soutien à la production de musique autochtone. Selon vous, est‑ce qu’une portion des contributions pourraient être dirigées pour soutenir la communauté autochtone, en particulier la communauté musicale?

5310 M. BEAUDRY : Absolument. On a proposé une allocation qui n’incorporait pas nécessairement un fonds distinct, mais certainement, à notre avis, il serait important que des fonds soient alloués pour la musique autochtone. Et, à notre avis, les fonds existants, FACTOR, Musicaction, Starmaker, RadioStar pourraient incorporer des composantes au sein de leurs organisations qui œuvreraient pour accomplir ces objectifs‑là. Il pourrait y avoir un volet découvrabilité spécifiquement porté sur les communautés en quête d’équité, y compris la communauté autochtone, la communauté noire.

5311 Évidemment, on prend note de la certification, là, du Bureau de l’écran noir et du Bureau de l’écran autochtone. De ce que je comprends, c’est plutôt... en raison de l’utilisation du mot « écran », c’est plutôt orienté vers l’audiovisuel. Mais dans l’allocation proposée, même si on ne fait pas mention explicitement d’un fonds particulier pour répondre aux besoins des communautés en quête d’équité, ce n’est pas parce qu’on n’y croit pas. On croit que c’est tout à fait utile, mais que ça devrait être potentiellement incorporé dans la mission des fonds existants, qui, à notre avis, gèrent bien les fonds et font une bonne reddition de compte avec les membres de l’industrie.

5312 M. THIBAULT : Si vous le permettez, on supporte chaque année des initiatives des communautés autochtones qui sont dans les villes qu’on dessert. Par exemple, nos stations Planète au Lac‑Saint‑Jean, bien, font la promotion d’un événement qui s’appelle « Les rendez‑vous des Premières Nations ». On le supporte à chaque année. Notre station 98,5 à Montréal, The Beat aussi, notre station anglophone a créé une journée spéciale pour la Journée de la réconciliation et de la vérité nationale. Notre station de Saint‑Jérôme, CIME, par exemple, collabore au Festival d’art autochtone à chaque année. Et on prêts à le faire et à en faire encore.

5313 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Merci beaucoup. J'ai une dernière question plus générale. Dans vos commentaires aujourd’hui, vous avez parlé largement de la crise économique à laquelle fait face l’industrie de la radio. Et, oui, on vous entend sur l’allégement du fardeau réglementaire et la création d’un fonds pour soutenir les nouvelles locales. Selon vous, si le conseil, disons, enlevait les... Bien, d’abord, on est assujettis à la Loi sur la radiodiffusion. Alors, on a une mission culturelle. Disons qu’il y avait une... comme vous dites, une réduction du fardeau réglementaire, est‑ce que c’est la solution... ça enlèverait... est‑ce que c’est la solution pour l’industrie de la radio? C’est une industrie en transition, mais comment vous voyez le futur d’une industrie même avec des changements qui pourraient vous donner plus de flexibilité?

5314 MME PAQUET : Tout d’abord, la nécessité de baisser le fardeau réglementaire, c’est une urgence, je dirais, nationale, pour nous permettre justement d’avoir un tremplin vers le futur. Il y a seulement deux choses selon nous qui vont nous permettre de traverser ceci, outre les allégements, les fonds. Bien sûr, c’est de toujours produire du contenu pertinent. Pour être en adéquation, continuer d’être présent dans la vie des gens, il faut avoir continué de produire du contenu d’ici, des histoires qui préoccupent les gens d’ici.

5315 Pour ce faire, on a besoin d’air. On a besoin d’air, on a besoin de sous, on a besoin... Tout à l’heure, mon collègue parlait que dans toutes mes stations, c’est les gens qui produisent le contenu qui remplissent tous les formulaires du fardeau réglementaire. Pendant que ces gens‑là font ça, ils ne sont pas en train de travailler dans le contenu, ce qui nous différencie de toutes les plateformes en ligne. C’est ça qui nous différencie.

5316 Deuxième des choses, la transformation numérique. Ça fait plusieurs années que... on a plein de collègues qui en ont parlé, qu’on investit nous aussi pour pouvoir être où est‑ce que les gens nous écoutent. Mais, vous savez, ces investissements‑là, nous n’y arrivons pas. Ils sont exponentiels. On continue d’investir. Mais ils sont exponentiels et supportés par des revenus publicitaires. Ce sont mes seuls revenus, la publicité, qui, elle aussi, s’en va sur le numérique. Donc, c’est un écosystème. Et en quelque part, quelqu’un, le CRTC selon nous, a le pouvoir entre ses mains aujourd’hui de mettre en action des leviers pour le futur.

5317 M. BEAUDRY : Et si je peux juste compléter, on ne demande pas des allégements réglementaires pour devenir comme des entreprises en ligne. On demande plus de flexibilité puis d’allégements réglementaires pour pouvoir conserver la voie unique que l’on a dans l’univers médiatique québécois.

5318 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Merci beaucoup.

5319 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Merci. Merci. Alors, peut‑être on peut vous laisser le dernier mot.

5320 MME PAQUET : Oui, merci beaucoup. Merci pour vos questions. Je me permets de revenir sur un grand mot que j’ai dit. La radio a été complètement oubliée. C’est aujourd’hui le temps de remettre les pendules à l’heure et de remettre les radios, les stations de radio commerciale privée au cœur de vos décisions. Que ce soit avec les contributions des joueurs en ligne, l’allégement réglementaire, mais aussi nous permettre à nous aussi d’avoir accès à des fonds, des fonds que tous les autres joueurs ont eu accès, les joueurs télévisuels, les compagnies verticalement intégrées, la presse écrite, la radio a été complètement oubliée. C’est grand temps de renverser et on compte sur vous.

5321 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Merci beaucoup. Merci pour vous réponses. Merci pour votre participation dans notre instance et dans l’audience aussi.

5322 MME PAQUET : Merci.

5323 M. BEAUDRY : Merci beaucoup.

5324 LA SECRÉTAIRE : Merci. Nous allons prendre une pause de 10 minutes. De retour à 11 h 10.

‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 10:58 a.m.

‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 11:10 a.m.

5325 THE SECRETARY: Welcome back.

5326 Before we begin with presentations, I would just like to announce that the Canadian Race Relations Foundation that was supposed to appear today will be appearing on Friday just before Amazon.

5327 So, we will now hear the presentations of the next participants, la Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec, André Desrochers; the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations; CHCO‑TV; Community‑University Television; and the Ontario Library Association. We will hear each presentation, which will then be followed by questions by the Commissioners to all participants.

5328 We will begin with the presentation from the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations. Please introduce yourself, and you may begin.


5329 MS. EDWARDS: Commissioners, Chair, I am Catherine Edwards, with the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations, CACTUS, as we are known. CACTUS advocates for access to digital training, production support, and distribution platforms so that all Canadians can be heard and express themselves in the digital environment. Our vision has evolved from our roots in community TV to include multimedia and multiplatform access.

5330 The new Broadcasting Act recognizes the role of not‑for‑profit community media for the first time, with a definition, a comprehensive description of its role at section 3(1)(s) and clarification regarding its role in supporting Indigenous expression at 3(1)(o); official language and other minorities at 3(1)(d)(iv); the disability community at 3(1)(p); and all Canadians in participating directly in public discourse at 3(1)(i) (iv). As the Ministerial Directive states, community broadcasting is of “exceptional importance to the achievement of the objectives of the broadcasting policy.”

5331 The Act and the Notice of Consultation for the first time also recognize the importance to all Canadians, but especially to minorities, of self‑representation. It is the community element that makes this democratic promise real. While no doubt production funds will be created or enhanced through this process to support more minority‑owned media companies and channels, it is the community element that ensures that no matter your educational background or means, how well you speak English or French, how able‑bodied you are, or what your sexual orientation is, you don’t need to own a production company or launch a network to be heard in our country. Those who are trained at a community media organization are the media creators, owners, and distributors of tomorrow.

5332 Recognizing our exceptional importance, the Directive urges you to “encourage innovation by, and support the sustainability of, community broadcasters.” But community TV is currently not sustainable and not “available throughout Canada so that all Canadians can engage in dialogue on matters of public concern,” as the act stipulates at 3(1)(s)(vi). Therefore, our answer to question 12 is that Canada desperately needs a Community‑Access Media Fund.

5333 There are currently over 200 community radio stations in Canada, whose numbers have held steady over the years, supported by campus levies, commercial advertising, and the Community Radio Fund of Canada. There were once over 300 community TV channels on cable run by BDUs, but most have been shuttered. The CRTC acknowledged in 2016 Local that the remaining BDU community channels had become regional in focus. We have analyzed scheduling data over the years that suggests that there remain only about 30 distinct BDU community channels in English Canada, sharing programming over vast regional and provincial networks. CACTUS was formed in 2008 to fill that gap with genuine community‑owned TV.

5334 However, it’s a hard slog. Outside Quebec, not‑for‑profit community TV receives no BDU funding, and there are only about 30 as a result, a few headquartered in board member’s basements, having to rent facilities ad hoc. That’s fewer than 70 community TV stations in English Canada, including BDUs and not‑for‑profits. We have the passion and know‑how to do this job, but not the resources.

5335 CACTUS and the Fédération were entrusted with distributing funding under the Local Journalism Initiative to community‑owned TV in 2019. This was the first federal or industry funding ever directed to our sector, and it is having significant positive impacts, as you will hear, but it supported only the journalists’ salary and a tiny amount of equipment. We had been told we were ineligible for the SMLPF, the LPIF and the ILNF although we met the published criteria. We don’t qualify for the CMF and similar funds because we don’t commission work from producers, and we don't qualify for CAVCO because we are not‑for‑profit. We applied to set up a Certified Independent Production Fund for community TV last year after the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended it in their report on the Rogers‑Shaw purchase, but were told we don’t meet the criteria.

5336 We need operational funding for heat, light, space, equipment, and staff coordinators to facilitate the voice of Canadians. We are proud to support federal priorities, but we can respond effectively only if we have basic infrastructure.

5337 Our vision for CAMF is to rebuild our sector to 250 community‑owned media centres, accessible to 90 percent of Canadians. The sector as a whole needs 100 million, but CACTUS and Fédération members, and the few remaining BDU community channels, raise an estimated $30 million. The shortfall to achieve the objectives set for the community element by Parliament is 70 million ‑‑ and this is a heck of a deal. The community element produces an hour of content for a tenth what it costs the public and private sectors, because we collaborate with the community. This is why it's the only viable form of broadcasting for rural Canada and for minorities in urban settings. Our public broadcaster receives over a billion from Parliament, and private broadcasters take in over 2.5 billion through advertising, subscriptions and industry supports. Therefore, a target of 100 million from all sources for the community sector is one‑tenth or less the price tag of the other sectors, and reasonable.

5338 We propose that ISPs should contribute this amount ‑‑ a base percentage of revenues to CAMF that would generate 70 million annually.

5339 CACTUS has always had Indigenous members, including board members. Under the LJI, we fund individual Indigenous journalists and organizations. We would welcome applications from Indigenous communities, most of which were never cabled and missed the first generation of community TV. With over 600 First Nations and 3,000 reserves, however, equipping every First Nation, Métis and Inuit community with its own media centre will require more than 70 million, and therefore an integrated approach with other stakeholders.

5340 CACTUS first appeared before the Commission, concerned about the negative impact on democracy of widespread closures in BDU community channels in 2008, in this room, at the Diversity of Voices hearing. Following that hearing, the Commission committed to fund “independent community services”. The Community Radio Fund of Canada was created shortly thereafter. It’s 15 years later, and the community TV sector is struggling to fulfill its mandate in the absence of an equivalent solution.

5341 Nous donnons maintenant la parole à quelques‑uns de nos membres, qui vous parleront du travail exceptionnel qu’ils font malgré tous les obstacles. Merci beaucoup.

5342 LA SECRÉTAIRE : Merci.

5343 We will now ask CHCO TV to make their presentation. Please introduce yourself.


5344 MR. WATT: Thank you.

5345 Good morning, Chair and Commissioners, my name is Patrick Watt, and I am the station manager at CHCO Television, and with me is our news director, Vicki Hogarth.

5346 I was here as well in 2008 when the Commission committed to establish funding for “independent community services”, and we have traveled here today with new hope. Our television station was established in 1993 to operate a community channel under Fundy Cable. Rogers purchased Fundy Cable in 2000, and we licensed our channel as a low‑power community undertaking in 2005 to avoid being shut by Rogers like 30 other small studios that once existed in New Brunswick under Fundy Cable.

5347 Funding intended for LPTV community stations in underserved rural communities has been mentioned in the CRTC regulations since the mid‑80s, but there is always a loophole for BDU exemptions that resulted in us not acquiring the funds. Until 2011, even the regulations stated that, if a BDU had less than 20,000 subscribers and did not operate its own community channel and an independent community channel existed, they could be afforded five percent contribution to Canadian programming.

5348 Rogers convinced the Commission to accept a “zone‑based approach to community television” in 2006, just a year later. Rogers TV from Saint John was then made available in our community in 2010, where CHCO‑TV was already licensed but now Rogers technically provided a community channel. Situations like this no doubt added to the difficulties of launching independent community channels across Canada for the last 20 years.

5349 CACTUS was formed in part at the suggestion of CRTC staff who realized too that independent community television undertakings needed collective representation as we struggled with a new policy framework that conflicted with BDU exemptions. Exemptions are part of this hearing today. Those exemptions will inevitably affect how much funding is collected and returned to the public benefit. We hope the commission will make provisions for flexible policy to ensure that the spirit and integrity of important funding mechanisms will avoid unintended consequences.

5350 Since 2016, the “accountable” BDUs have made both cuts to community programming and, as permitted by the Commission, in 2016, BDUs diverted community programming funds to their commercial local news. Now heading into these hearings, the same commercial television undertakings want relief from that local news obligation.

5351 At the same time, we at CHCO‑TV have done the opposite.

5352 MS. HOGARTH: In the Canadian media landscape, my home province of New Brunswick serves as a prime example of a news desert. Our local realities are overshadowed by content originating elsewhere, with Global News and CTV anchoring their local news from outside the province. Yet, I live in a rural corner of New Brunswick in a county of just 25,000 people where local news and civic programming thrive because of CHCO‑TV.

5353 With just three full‑time staff members and a roster of over 25 dedicated volunteers ‑‑ a third under the age of 19 ‑‑ CHCO produces seven to 10 hours of new local programming weekly. This includes local news and gavel‑to‑gavel council coverage in four municipalities. We don’t just shine a light on our community; we actively engage it, becoming a local force valued throughout our region.

5354 Prior to Meta's news block on Facebook, CHCO had over 28,000 active followers, surpassing our county’s population by 3,000. In contrast, Rogers TV New Brunswick has under 7,000 followers, while Bell TV1 nationally has 13,000. Popularity is not our mission, but CHCO‑TV is beloved beyond the borders of our county precisely because we authentically reflect our community and include them in the process of telling their stories.

5355 While YouTube prides itself on offering Canadians a free platform for content creation, Meta's news block proves just how easily Big Tech can take opportunities away from Canadians when it suits them, especially when money is on the line. These platforms promote themselves as great equalizers, while sidestepping the darker consequences of their business model: facilitating the unchecked spread of misinformation. As artificial intelligence gains prominence, the susceptibility of platforms like YouTube to weaponization grows. If they fail to curb misinformation, they should, at least, contribute to a fund that supports non‑profit community television, which is a truly accessible platform that also adheres to media ethics and codes.

5356 While digital platforms bear some responsibility for the decline of genuine local news and programming across Canada, homegrown for‑profit media also plays a significant role. The journalism industry’s adherence to the marketplace has resulted in substantial newsroom job losses nationwide and centralized programming that fails to accurately represent Canadians, particularly outside Quebec and Ontario. If nonprofit community television is to receive funds from C‑11, the focus won’t be on replicating American reality TV shows or giving executives bonuses, but on hiring more staff, training more volunteers, and creating even more genuinely local content reflecting our communities.

5357 While Bill C‑11 is well‑intentioned, it risks benefiting only vertically‑integrated for‑profit models that have drained community television funds yet still request relief from delivering local content in what they view as non‑desirable marketplaces. While Canada’s media conglomerates claim to be the Davids to the Goliaths of YouTube and Netflix in the context of Bill C‑11, they are still the giants on home turf and resist sharing the pie.

5358 MR. WATT: The average internet subscriber needs high speeds and larger bandwidths not to pay bills or send emails, but to consume video which in essence is to watch TV. Consider that Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, and StackTV, are all television subscription services delivered over the same coaxial and now fibre optic cables strung across the same public utility poles that cable TV used over 60 years ago. Smartphone data plans have also grown for the same reason, to consume those same commercial video subscriptions. And that wireless bandwidth ‑‑ another regulated public resource ‑‑ was once used by the over‑the‑air television stations which then typically triggered public service‑producing local programming and news. So, maybe nothing has really changed in the last 60 years after all.

5359 MS. HOGARTH: To truly foster democracy, a substantial increase in funding for locally engaged reporting in which citizens become part of content creation is imperative. What better way to rebuild trust in the media than to invite the community into the process and provide regions often overlooked by mainstream media with a platform to tell their stories? By championing nonprofit community television, we invest in marginalized community voices, promote diversity, and ensure journalism remains a vital force for civic health, and a pillar of democracy.

5360 MR. WATT: Thank you.

5361 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.

5362 We will now hear the presentation of Community‑University Television. Please introduce yourself, and you may begin.


5363 MR. JAY: Dear Commissioners and Chair, My name is Dru Oja Jay. I am the Executive Director of Community‑University Television in Montreal, which is a member of CACTUS. CUTV was founded in 1969, making it the oldest Campus TV production facility in Canada. Hundreds of TV and film production professionals, including Montreal CTV news anchor Mutsumi Takahashi, have worked with us, and a lot of other ones you probably haven’t heard of, behind the camera. Thousands have received training.

5364 But we’re not just a learning environment. For decades, CUTV has had a close relationship with the community. We have supported hundreds of artistic and documentary projects with equipment and production support. We covered local Indigenous issues years before the media took them seriously. We supported young racialized filmmakers in the neighbourhood of Little Burgundy, and we broadcast panels on issues like housing from neighbourhoods neglected by the rest of the media, like Park Extension.

5365 We are exceptionally well positioned to be the kind of institution that would, in the words of the Broadcasting Act, “enhance the vitality of official language minority communities in Canada and support and assist their development.” CUTV has been a source of innovation, whether it was adoption of online streaming in the 2000s, or the use of live broadcasting to connect thousands to social movements like the historic 2012 student strike.

5366 We’re a station, but we don’t actually have a channel on cable, and broadcasting on the internet is hard. As you can imagine, you are competing with ‑‑ well, the entire internet. Youtube’s algorithms in particular are tremendously unfriendly to geographically‑specific content.

5367 Despite having no dedicated distribution channel and none of the funding that is supposed to go to community production, we have found success. We are building our own distribution network based on public spaces, and our online videos have been viewed over a million times just in the last year. Today, our Local Journalism Initiative journalists are covering scores of stories that other outlets overlook.

5368 If you would like, as the Act says you would, to “strengthen the democratic process and support local journalism through community participation,” then we are your people. Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, we can deliver that as well as anyone.

5369 The main message I want to convey is that you, the Commission, have the opportunity to break with the approach of your predecessors. They played a key role in creating a deep crisis in broadcasting in general, and in journalism in particular. In 2016, when the CRTC’s ‘Local and Community TV’ policy was last reviewed, the Commission diverted financing from community TV to private news.

5370 Overnight, community TV stations were shut down in Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary. In 2023, Quebecor followed suit. Last August, they closed MaTV Montreal. We were actually in negotiations with MaTV to finally, after being rejected many times previously, get our content on there, but now they are closed, so ‑‑ they closed MaTV Montreal, making CUTV the only community TV left on the island of Montreal. They’re cutting other not‑for‑profit community TV stations nearby as well.

5371 The company claimed the shutdown was to “maintain the viability of TVA local news.” But a few months after MaTV closed, TVA cut 547 jobs, bringing the total cuts for the year to nearly 800. In 2022, Quebecor reported 599 million in profits. What used to be a public service obligation attached to the privilege of making boatloads of cash through TV subscriptions has fallen by the wayside.

5372 The CRTC ‑‑ not you, but your predecessors ‑‑ has made that decision over and over again. In the 1970s, cable companies were told to spend as much as 10 percent of their revenues on community TV, with predictably incredible results, which I won’t go into right now. But by 1991, the obligation was 5 percent. In 1997, it was reduced to 2 percent; in 2010, to 1.5 percent; and in 2016 ‑‑ well, we don’t even know. Companies can keep their contributions secret ‑‑ because the Commission allows them to.

5373 In Montreal, Bell gutted its English‑language Montreal newsroom at CJAD, among other outlets ‑‑ part of a wave of newsroom cuts across the country. Far from falling on hard times, Bell reported of 528 million in profits ‑‑ not revenues, profits ‑‑ last year. I am asking you to reflect on who is going to fulfill an inclusive local programming mandate: an organization that elects its board of directors from its viewers and producers, and which spends every penny on production and education, or a giant conglomerate that is accelerating the destruction of Canadian journalism and cultural broadcasting at its most desperate moment? That is the question.

5374 Community TV stations would do everything to avoid the cuts that these corporations have made on a whim. The former Minister Rodriguez’s mandate letter stated: “Our sense is that public confidence and trust in the CRTC has waned in recent years.” I can confirm. Specifically, he wrote the CRTC fell short in making its processes accessible to the public and non‑corporate interest groups.

5375 I was astonished to read the CRTC’s public Notice of Consultation and see no mention of the community element, which was introduced in the legislation and also emphasized in the policy directive.

5376 The time to do better is now. Trying to reverse decades of corporate capture is a tough task. But representatives of 38 million Canadians have mandated you to do precisely that. I don’t envy you, but I believe in you. Community TV stations exist to serve our communities, and our share of the funding has gone in only one direction for decades. We are cost‑efficient, creative, and accountable. Fund a Community‑Access Media Fund, and we will show you what is possible. Thank you.

5377 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.

5378 We will now hear the presentation of the Ontario Library Association. Please introduce yourself, and you may begin.


5379 MR. SAVAGE: Hello. I am John Savage, representing the Ontario Library Association at this historic hearing to transform the Canadian media landscape and secure a role for OLA’s public libraries.

5380 When I worked as a media monitoring librarian and system designer for the Federal government and other clients in the late 1990s to 2008, I witnessed how our government and society was undermined by a shrinking media sector. As a Métis rights advocate and historian, I’ve seen how a lack of Indigenous culture in the media affects our role in society.

5381 Based on such problems, I first engaged the OLA in 2014 to partner with the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations, CACTUS, to rebuild Canada’s community media sector atop our national network of public libraries. Why build anew when public libraries have an existing capacity and a mandate to help?

5382 Three decades ago, the Federal government began working with public libraries to deliver the Community Access Program connecting Canadians to the internet. Now we ask the CRTC to help public libraries connect Canadians to broadcasting, by creating a Community Media Access Fund to develop new non‑profit community media centres, hosted by public libraries.

5383 The Ontario Library Association has 265 public library boards, of which 39 are on First Nation reserves, which have diminished after the pandemic. It is part of a national network of 642 public library systems with 3,350 branches. Many of these branches are located in areas where there are no print, radio or television studios at all.

5384 The OLA makes its proposal on behalf of Ontario’s public libraries, but also for Canada’s, which were represented at past CRTC hearings by the Canadian Library Association in 2009 and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations in 2017. In that CRTC 2017‑160 hearing, I presented that 95 percent of public libraries we surveyed that year stated they would be interested in hosting media training and production support to assist the public create community media television content. However, 90 percent indicated that funding was the main barrier to do so.

5385 Let me remind everyone, public libraries have a broad mandate to support community media, if funded. Some public libraries have been hosts of community radio and television studios for over 40 years. An example of this is in the United States, where the Allen County Public Library’s Access Fort Wayne community television and radio studio was established in 1981.

5386 In Canada, the Schreiber Media Centre is hosted within the accredited Schreiber Public Library that contributes library capital and support. Because public libraries are municipal entities, the SMC was established as a separate non‑profit to receive funding. To govern the relationship, a Memorandum of Understanding outlines the relationship and level of support the library provides.

5387 For example, the library may manage the media training programs, recruiting and training members of the public, while the media centre provides a journalist in residence to guide in video production for broadcast.

5388 This media centre is managed by Donna Mikeluk, their retired library manager, who established it in 2019. Staff are employed through the Canadian Heritage’s Local Journalism Initiative Program, as administered by CACTUS. In just four years, it has revitalized local democratic discourse, promoted culture, and stimulated knowledge sharing.

5389 Donna told me that different levels of government, organizations and members of the public now contact the broadcaster whenever they have a story to be covered locally. However, if the federal program funding ends this March, this small community of 1,000 people on the shores of Lake Superior may lose this studio and local news coverage, creating just another news desert.

5390 Currently, public libraries are excellent candidates to host media centres. They are adding multimedia production studios to create content for their own websites and for the public to create theirs that may go on social media. Library makerspaces are also providing training and production support so that the public and small business can create multimedia content on an ad hoc basis as well.

5391 Based on our estimates, a public library hosted non‑profit community media centre would require $150,000 to $350,000 per annum to run a small studio of three to seven staff. A national network would cost $95 million to $225 million annually to establish one in each of Canada’s 642 public library systems.

5392 OLA’s message at this hearing is “Coverage is King”, so let’s fund it. A fully funded public library hosted community media system can provide the greatest coverage nationally to scale up, for a fraction of the cost of other alternatives.

5393 Please note, the non‑profit community media sector is the only member of the broadcasting sector without a fund, which is probably why our broadcasting sector is out of balance. Please create a Community Media Access Fund as proposed by CACTUS or even an Indigenous Media Fund so that OLA can overcome local media voids.

5394 Lastly, we also call for a stable source of funding for the Broadcasting Participation Fund that makes my representation here on behalf of the public interest and public libraries across Canada possible.

5395 Thank you for considering our proposal to build on the Community Access Program that connected Canadians to the Internet so that we can now connect Canadians to their broadcasting sector via public libraries. I look forward to your questions later.

5396 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.

5397 Nous entendrons maintenant la présentation de M. André Desrochers.


5398 M. DESROCHERS : Bonjour.

5399 Donc, je suis un citoyen impliqué depuis plus de 35 ans dans la télévision communautaire. Ça fait la huitième fois que je viens devant le CRTC, dont la première a permis de mettre en place le cadre stratégique de la télé communautaire en 2002. Mais aujourd'hui, même si j'ai été cofondateur de deux télés communautaires, je suis impliqué dans l'organisation du premier forum pancanadien de télés communautaires.

5400 Je veux présenter, à titre de citoyenne impliquée dans sa télé communautaire et qui la consomme, et le texte a été écrit avec Chantal Bédard, et Chantal Bédard est avec moi. Madame Jade Roy, merci beaucoup de m'avoir permis qu'elle soit avec moi. Alors, je la laisse se présenter.

5401 MME BÉDARD : Bonjour. À titre, bien sûr, de directrice générale de la Télévision communautaire de Vaudreuil‑Soulanges, mais surtout à titre de consommatrice et de personne qui représente les consommateurs de Vaudreuil‑Soulanges, merci. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

5402 M. DESROCHERS : Par notre intervention, nous aimerions effectuer ensemble trois propositions au Conseil afin que les citoyens‑consommateurs de la télévision communautaire soient mis sur le même pied d’estale que les consommateurs des télés généralistes, des chaînes spécialisées ou en ligne.

5403 Depuis l’introduction de la télévision communautaire dans la Loi, celle‑ci a stagné dans une classe à part, laissée au bon vouloir des EDR. À titre de citoyen‑consommateur de ma télé communautaire, je suis inquiet pour l’avenir et la survie de celle‑ci dans le cadre actuel, confinée à la seule distribution par câble.

5404 À preuve, monsieur Péladeau est venu vous mentionner en ouverture d'audience que 1,4 million de consommateurs canadiens se sont désabonnés du câble entre 2016 et 2022. Lors de la remise de mon intervention cet été, Vidéotron n’avait pas encore annoncé qu’il fermait MAtv Grand Montréal et arrêtait la production d’émissions pour son canal communautaire en 2024. Il y a près d’une dizaine d’OSBL qui produisent dans la couronne de Montréal et qui diffusent à partir des installations de MAtv Montréal. Est‑ce que le canal sera conservé pour utilisation pour ces entreprises qui diffusent sur cette licence, et, si oui, qui va l’opérer, qui va l’entretenir? Monsieur Péladeau et Québecor n’ont donné aucune indication au Conseil en ce sens lors de sa comparution en ouverture d'audience.

5405 À titre de consommateurs et de citoyen‑citoyenne impliqués dans leur télé communautaire, c’est ici que nous aimerions vous apporter quelques compléments d’information en lien avec votre question de la création d’un nouveau fonds ou non.

5406 De mon côté, je suis de la génération câblée. Le canal câblé était le seul moyen disponible permettant de refléter mon coin de pays, de radiodiffuser la démocratie citoyenne locale et régionale, d'ailleurs, une des raisons qui m’a amené à m’impliquer pour créer du contenu local avec d’autres bénévoles.

5407 Aujourd’hui, je vis dans une maison intergénérationnelle avec ma fille, mon gendre et leurs enfants. La télé câblée, ils en n’ont rien à cirer. Tout le monde, et ça comprend mes petits‑enfants, regardent la télé via des applications mobiles connectées à la télévision intelligente ou en différé à l’heure qui leur tente, avec leur tablette, leur téléphone, et même mon téléphone.

5408 MME BÉDARD : Avec votre avis de consultation, vous demandez de vous aider à élaborer un cadre règlementaire modernisé pour soutenir la diffusion de contenu canadien et autochtone.

5409 Le gouvernement, via son récent décret, donne instruction au CRTC d’” Examiner comment il peut encourager l’innovation et appuyer la pérennité des radiodiffuseurs communautaires qui revêtent une importance exceptionnelle pour la réalisation des objectifs de la Loi ».

5410 À titre de consommatrice‑consommateur de média en ligne, nous venons vous soumettre une façon de moderniser l’élément communautaire, voire le transformer en innovant.

5411 Tout d’abord, pour être équitable devant tous les consommateurs et citoyens pour que la télé communautaire atteigne ses objectifs, il ne faut plus qu’elle soit un avantage concurrentiel pour les câblodistributeurs. Il faut se mettre au diapason des consommateurs. Il faut que la télé communautaire puisse être désormais accessible partout, pour que nous les consommateurs et les citoyens et citoyennes ayons accès à celle‑ci sur toutes les plateformes numériques comme toutes les autres chaînes. La conserver comme avantage concurrentiel pour les câblos crée une inégalité qui n’a plus sa place aujourd'hui.

5412 Dans notre région, le sud‑ouest de la Montérégie au Québec, les consommateurs et citoyens que nous croisons nous le répètent sans cesse : « Chantal, nous regardons la télé via les applications de notre téléphone ou les liens vers votre site Internet ».

5413 À preuve, nous vous joignons en annexe un sondage effectué par la télévision communautaire de Vaudreuil‑Soulanges concernant les habitudes de consommation de leurs émissions. C’est plus de 90 pour cent des répondants qui écoutent la télé communautaire de Vaudreuil‑Soulanges via une plateforme numérique.

5414 Je suis une personne très active. À titre de consommatrice, je désire consommer quand je veux, où je veux et comme je veux. Je veux que ma culture soit accessible sur la plateforme que je désire. Alors, pourquoi payer la télé câblée quand j’ai accès à du contenu en ligne avec mon forfait cellulaire ou Internet? La télé câblée ne convient pas à ma génération, ni au rythme de vie des plus jeunes générations que la mienne.

5415 Les consommateurs sont un peu perdus. Pourquoi on n'est plus sur Facebook? « C’est pratique, tout est là » nous répètent‑ils. Mais pourquoi sommes‑nous obligés d'être sur Facebook, obligés d’aller sur des sites non canadiens pour consommer notre culture?

5416 Voici donc notre seconde proposition. Et si la solution était que la découvrabilité du contenu 100 pour cent canadien des télévisions communautaires passait par une innovation, une transformation, une modernisation.

5417 Dans l’intervention initiale, on proposait qu’il y ait obligation au GAFAM de mettre en ondes des séries provenant des télés communautaires. Mais soyons réalistes. Pourquoi ne pas plutôt être sur des plateformes existantes canadiennes telles que, Gem, l’ONF? Le consommateur en serait gagnant, moins perdu. Il pourrait avoir un point de vue plus global de ce qui se passe au pays.

5418 Dans votre processus, il est primordial de rendre accessible à tous et toutes les nouvelles et les petites histoires locales des télés communautaires qui sont souvent la source des grandes histoires, d’échange constructive, de rapprochement, de compréhension de l’autre.

5419 M. DESROCHERS : En terminant, notre troisième proposition est en lien direct avec le futur fonds. Si vous voulez que les télévisions communautaires prennent toute la place que la Loi leur fait dorénavant, il faut qu’elles aient accès à un fonds indépendant dédié à celles‑ci, comme tous les autres éléments de la Loi. Le Conseil a une chance en or de rectifier cette injustice qui perdure.

5420 À titre de consommateur, j’ai besoin de voir aujourd'hui dans la globalité ce qui se passe dans mon pays et non pas m’encarcané dans mon univers uniquement local. En créant un fonds dédié à ces dernières, leur mission de base pourra soutenir un contenu 100 pour cent canadien, produit par, pour et avec la communauté qu’il faut distribuer sur toutes les plateformes numériques.

5421 Merci de votre écoute.

5422 LA SECRÉTAIRE : Merci.

5423 Nous entendrons maintenant la présentation de la Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec.


5424 MME HINSE : Merci.

5425 Bonjour à tout le monde. Je m'appelle Amélie Hinse. Je suis la directrice générale de la Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec.

5426 Nous représentons 41 membres, qui eux représentent 260 employés et 700 bénévoles qui produisent plus de 1000 heures de bénévolat par année, mais c'est surtout notre réseau, 200 heures de programmation locale originale par semaine qui est produite.

5427 Je voulais aujourd'hui devant vous présenter quatre points principaux sur lesquels je voulais insister dans le mémoire que j'ai soumis par écrit plus tôt le mois dernier, le premier étant la création d'un fonds d'accès à la télévision communautaire indépendante.

5428 Les tentatives d’aider la production de nouvelles locales dans le monde de la télévision ont échoué. Mon collègue Dru en a parlé beaucoup tout à l'heure, en exprimant plusieurs chiffres. Donc, je ne reviendrai pas dessus.

5429 Mais les mesures en place dans les précédentes modifications à la réglementation du CRTC et la trop grande liberté des EDR traditionnels ont mené à la presque disparition de la télévision communautaire au pays. Dans un contexte de crise des médias locaux, de déficit de représentation des minorités et des régions dans le paysage télévisuel, il nous semble évident que le secteur privé ne soit pas la clé pour faire rayonner nos régions et assurer un exercice plein et entier de la démocratie.

5430 Pour ces raisons, nous soutenons qu’un fonds indépendant dédié à la programmation d’accès et à l’expression locale assurées par les télévisions communautaires autonomes est nécessaire.

5431 Nos collègues de l’ARCQ, des radios communautaires, ont exprimé la semaine dernière le besoin d'un financement de base stable pour le milieu des médias communautaires. C’est aussi ce que nous souhaitons.

5432 C’est aussi ce que semble vouloir Patrimoine canadien lorsqu’il mentionne dans son décret, et je cite :

5433     « Il est ordonné au Conseil d’examiner comment il peut encourager l’innovation et appuyer la pérennité des radiodiffuseurs communautaires et des entreprises de radiodiffusion qui revêtent une importance exceptionnelle pour la réalisation des objectifs de la politique canadienne de radiodiffusion ».

5434 Ces objectifs sont, entre autres, sauvegarder, enrichir et renforcer la culture canadienne; favoriser l’épanouissement de l’expression canadienne; soutenir la radiodiffusion communautaire; refléter les préférences et intérêts de publics variés; veiller à la liberté d’expression et à l’indépendance en matière de journalisme; la programmation canadienne devrait, à l’échelle locale, provenir de diffuseurs communautaires, renfermer des émissions éducatives et communautaires, et offrir au public l’occasion de prendre connaissance d’opinions divergentes sur des sujets qui l’intéressent et de participer activement au débat public.

5435 Ces objectifs sont la mission même des télévisions communautaires autonomes et indépendantes du pays. Il ne nous manque que les moyens pour y arriver convenablement.

5436 Patrimoine canadien semble aussi être en accord avec notre vision demandant au CRTC, toujours dans le même décret :

5437     « de tenir compte de l’importance d’un soutien durable, ... à la programmation axée sur les nouvelles et l’actualité, notamment à un large éventail de nouvelles locales et régionales et de programmation communautaire originales. »

5438 C'est la raison pour laquelle nous demandons la création de ce fonds.

5439 Le deuxième point sur lequel j'aurais aimé insister, c'est de demander, en fait, comment serait financé ce fonds. Donc, grâce à la participation des entreprises en ligne, qui pourraient contribuer à la hauteur de 2 pour cent, comme les EDR traditionnelles le font en ce moment, pour soutenir la programmation communautaire.

5440 Pour que l’élément communautaire puisse remplir sa mission et participer à la réalisation des objectifs de la Loi sur la radiodiffusion, nous suggérons :

5441 ‑ de rétablir la contribution des EDR à 2 pour cent et d'établir une contribution pour les entreprises en ligne de 2 pour cent des revenus bruts, qui serait un retour au seuil pré‑2016;

5442 ‑ d'abolir l’exemption des EDR en milieux urbains et semi‑urbains et diriger une partie de ces contributions en région;

5443 ‑ de rendre la contribution obligatoire pour les EDR et les entreprises en ligne; et

5444 ‑ de faire assurer la gestion du 2 pour cent des fonds pour les EDR qui n’exploitent pas une télévision communautaire par une organisation indépendante, soit le Fonds d’accès à la télévision communautaire indépendante.

5445 On l'a mentionné plus tôt, plusieurs de mes collègues l'ont déjà fait, 100 pour cent de l’argent investi dans la télévision communautaire indépendante va directement à la programmation et au fonctionnement de l’organisme et sert directement la communauté. L’argent ne va pas dans les poches d’investisseurs privés. Les fonds serviraient à financer les opérations des télévisions autonomes.

5446 Ce qu'on demande aussi ce serait d'abaisser le seuil d'exemption qui avait été suggéré au départ dans les documents du CRTC. La crise du financement de la télévision communautaire pourrait être réglée en évitant d’exclure des plus petits joueurs. La programmation communautaire est réalisée par et pour des petites communautés souvent laissées de côté par les grands réseaux. Une contribution en pourcentage des revenus bruts, même s’ils sont modestes, fera une énorme différence pour les télévisions communautaires éloignées des grands centres qui sont souvent les seules à offrir de l’information locale à leur communauté et ainsi éviter de tomber dans un désert d’information.

5447 Par exemple, une entreprise en ligne avant des revenus bruts de 9 millions de dollars, plutôt que le threshold de 10 millions qui avait été suggéré, et contribuant 1,5 pour cent, donc ce qui est le montant actuel et non pré‑2016, contribuerait pour 135 000 $ à la télévision communautaire, ce qui est l’équivalent de deux salaires à temps plein, en plus de payer pour les infrastructures.

5448 Nous appuyons aussi ce qui a été dit précédemment, de rendre disponible la programmation communautaire partout et sur toutes les plateformes, et surtout les EDR. On pense que c'est nécessaire. On est rendus là.

5449 Thank you. It was a pleasure. It's going to be a pleasure to answer your questions both in French and in English. Thank you.

5450 LA PRÉSIDENTE : Excellent. Merci Beaucoup pour vos présentations. It's great to see such strong representation from community TV, so thank you. And we know that many of you also travelled here from a variety of provinces, so we really appreciate you being here with us today.

5451 Alors, on va commencer avec la vice‑présidente Barin. Merci.

5452 VICE‑PRÉSIDENTE BARIN : Merci beaucoup. Merci à vous tous pour votre présence et vos propositions pour la télé communautaire.

5453 Je vais commencer le questionnement, et ensuite, je vais passer la parole à mes collègues.

5454 My first question, I am going to direct it to CACTUS and it was a common proposition across your interventions. You propose a fund of $70 million to stabilize the community television stations but also to restore 174 community television services in Canada.

5455 Do you have any data or studies to support the demand for restoring these 174 community television stations?

5456 MS. EDWARDS: I think the evidence is in all the figures about news deserts. So there was a lot of communities who were contacted under the Local Journalism Initiative who were interested to have some kind of reporting, but the ‑‑ it's a great fund and it was a great initiative and it got our foot in the door and starting to regrow and stabilize some of our stations, but a lot of communities, we weren't able to respond because there was no infrastructure funding.

5457 So I think the fact that we're in a situation where everyone has acknowledged the news deserts. You know, we just see the closures in print, television and radio across the board. The viable replacement for those services is community media because it's so cost‑efficient the community can get involved and at the same time address ‑‑ so, for example, we're in the middle of preparing an application for the Digital Citizenship Initiative. Community media, by involving people, combats misinformation because it's training citizen journalists out on the ground and combating fake news directly.

5458 So it's a combination of, you know, there's these voids that we know are there and it's a really cost‑effective, you know, safe, accountable way to fill them.

5459 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Thank you for that.

5460 Ma prochaine question, je vais la diriger à madame Hinse et peut‑être monsieur Desrochers.

5461 Vous avez dans vos présentations fait allusion au meilleur financement des nouvelles locales produites par le secteur communautaire. Est‑ce que l'élargissement du mandat de certains fonds existants et/ou les propositions de certains intervenants pour un nouveau fonds indépendant certifié auquel les télédiffuseurs privés et communautaires seraient admis répondrait à vos besoins?

5462 MME HINSE : Il faudrait voir. C'est toujours une question de chiffres. C'est évident que, en ce moment, les EDR traditionnelles devraient, ou peuvent en fait, parce que ce n'est pas une obligation, malheureusement, contribuer à la hauteur de 1,5 pour cent de leurs revenus bruts. La plupart le font, surtout au Québec, je dirais.

5463 Au reste du Canada, je pense que la plupart des fonds vont dans le Fonds des médias du Canada en entier. Donc, avoir accès à ce type de fonds‑là, qui n'est pas conçu pour la télévision communautaire, c'est très difficile. Parce qu'on a quelques membres isolés qui détiennent leur propre licence qui ont accès au fonds, par exemple, le Fonds des médias du Canada, mais ce n'est pas possible pour nous d'intégrer ce genre de fonds, là.

5464 Notre structure, la grosseur de nos organisations, le support administratif qui est nécessaire pour simplement produire les demandes et produire les rapports de reddition de compte, c'est impossible pour des organisations communautaires de faire ça.

5465 C'est pour ça que nous, on demande la création d'un fonds indépendant. On est le seul secteur qui n'a pas de fonds. Il y a des fonds pour tous les créateurs de contenu canadien en ce moment. Les radios communautaires ont leur propre fonds. La télévision communautaire n'a pas son fonds. Donc, je pense qu'on est rendus là. Je pense que ça fait assez longtemps qu'on en parle, et que même ça l'a été écrit dans la Loi par le passé. Je pense qu'on en a besoin, puis on est rendus là.

5466 MS. EDWARDS: Can I add something?

5467 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Of course. Go ahead.

5468 MS. EDWARDS: I just want to make sure I understood your question. You're asking if one fund that was for all kinds of productions would suffice? Like, for example, if we had an envelope in the CMF or something like that?

5469 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Yes. So, would existing funds ‑‑

5470 MS. EDWARDS: Well, the problem is, as I alluded to in my presentation, because the production isn't paid for, we need infrastructure and coordinators and trainers to facilitate kind of free production of content by the community. We don't fit any of those models.

5471 So the ILNF, we should have fit. It was for so‑called conventional broadcasters, so some of our over‑the‑air members should have fit. We were just told it wasn't created for us, we hadn't lost satellite dollars. SMLPF, same thing. All of these funds, we just get told we don't fit. The CMF, we don't fit because we don't commission productions, we don't have any money to put the upfront cash that would trigger the CMF.

5472 We tried to create a CIPF, thinking that because it was a radio fund and the CRTC had been through that process, understanding their structure, which is the same as ours, they would get it, but we just got an email back saying we didn't fit.

5473 So we just don't fit those funds and I don't think that trying to create an envelope inside the CMF, which ironically was created from originally community TV money, as well the ILNF, they don't really understand that structure. It's completely different. It's not funding by production. It's not a tax credit. It's just a different fund structure.

5474 That's why I believe the Community Radio Fund was created as a distinct fund, because it just didn't fit anywhere else. We're the same.


5476 Monsieur Desrochers, Madame Bédard, est‑ce que vous voulez vous pencher sur cette question?

5477 MME BÉDARD : Au niveau de notre cas à nous, comme le disait madame Hinse, c'est au bon vouloir des EDR. Donc, je vous confirme que nous, nous ne recevons aucun montant, depuis les 15 années que nous existons, de la part du principal câblodistributeur, c'est‑à‑dire Vidéotron, et un petit montant de 1 000 $ de la part de Cogeco a ramé. Donc, ce fonds‑là ne fonctionne pas pour tous les modèles. C'est un modèle qui est désuet, la façon qu'il fonctionne. Donc, un fonds, oui, mais pas sous cette forme‑là.

5478 M. DESROCHERS : Je ne pense pas qu'il faut mêler commercial et communautaire. On n'a pas la même façon d'opérer. Alors, ça demanderait peut‑être plus d'argent aux télés commerciales parce qu'elles ont une structure, elles ont des administrateurs, tandis que nous, déjà, on produit avec ‑‑ Cathy tantôt le disait ‑‑ à peu près un dixième des coûts de ce que ça coûte en commercial.

5479 Si on va dans le même fonds, j'ai peur que la télé commerciale dise : « Bien, voilà, il y a 1 000 $ dans le fonds. On prend 500, puis on vous donne 500. » On n'a pas la même façon d'opérer. On a besoin de plus de fonds, parce qu'eux autres, les télés commerciales, même si les fonds sont en baisse actuellement, elles peuvent avoir des revenus de publicité. La télé communautaire, on a zéro droit à de la publicité sur les ondes. On n'a pas le droit à aucun fonds qui existe, que ce soit le crédit d'impôt. On est juste des producteurs d'accès dans la Loi. On n'est pas des producteurs. On n'est pas considérés comme...

5480 Même, on a demandé, nous, à titre de producteurs, si on pouvait être de l'Association des producteurs du Québec. On nous a refusés. Ils ont dit : « Vous pouvez déjà avoir au Québec 20 000, 30 000 de la part du ministère de Culture, qui donne aux télévisions communautaires. » Mais avec 25 000, on ne paie pas un salaire.

5481 Alors, je pense qu'il faut qu'il soit indépendant, vraiment, pour que ça soit équitable. Ce ne serait pas équitable de les mêler ensemble. En bout de ligne, je suis à peu près certain qu'un se débalancerait de l'autre en disant : « Bien, moi, j'ai besoin de plus d'argent parce que je suis commercial. » Ça ne fonctionnerait pas, là. Même si on veut l'entente, on a déjà essayé, puis ça ne fonctionne pas.

5482 MS. EDWARDS: Could I add one other thing? We've had five years, now, managing Local Journalism Initiative funding, the Fédération and CACTUS together, because there was no community TV fund. So community radio is also part of the Local Journalism Initiative, distributing financing for community radio journalists. There was no fund for TV, so we've been directly managing that program as associations.

5483 And so we've built up already five years of, you know, understanding of the sector and what their needs are and where that program didn't fit their needs and the kind of things that we need to change. It's why reinvent the goal when we already have that institutional knowledge, you know, well developing. Thanks for the question.

5484 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Thank you very much for those very complete answers. I'm going to pass it back to the Chair.

5485 THE CHAIRPERSON: Merci beaucoup. I know we have quite a few questions, so I will turn things over to Vice‑Chair Scott.

5486 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: Okay, thank you. I'll address my question to CACTUS. So I'm probably not the only one whose view of community TV is heavily influenced by the community TV I grew up with. But as we're hearing about BDUs shedding customers, Mr. Jay reminded us of how hard it is to compete on the Internet, and I've also heard various references to things like community media centres.

5487 What's the modern view of community TV? What does it mean to carry the objectives of community TV into the modern innovative future‑looking framework? Can you paint me a picture of that that's distinct from kind of my local community TV affiliate that I have in my mind?

5488 MS. EDWARDS: Sure. And I should frame this by saying we are not a corporation. We're an association of individual members. So not all the members have the same point of view. But at CACTUS ‑‑ this is strongly my personal view, but it's dealt with dealing with membership over the years in their feedback to us. They're all at different places, but the view that CACTUS has been putting forward before the Commission for the last 10 years since ‑‑ 13 years, since 2010, is for community media centres.

5489 We think particularly in small communities that it's much more cost‑efficient, it's much more for ‑‑ it's much more cost‑efficient to run and convenient and value‑added for consumers for users of community media centres if it's one‑stop shopping. So and we have a lot of members already doing that. So CHET TV in northern British Columbia has a radio and a TV station. Focus Media Arts Centre in Toronto has radio, TV, a print magazine they encourage youth to work on, and are teaching videogame production.

5490 So community TV back in the day, you know, was limited. We didn't have an Internet to mix all these media. But it was the only place that you could touch a camera and use it. So it was the new technology of the day that people didn't have access to. And we think that that needs to keep moving.

5491 So for example, I went back to school in 2018 and got a master's in civic media and how to use new audiovisual tools, which are extensions of traditional TV. So virtual reality, because it's really good at engaging people and expressing minority presentations. Videogame production for civic use: there's a whole subfield out there about how you engage people around civic issues by like getting kids to take role‑play with one another to understand one another, augmented reality. So there's all these new audiovisual tools.

5492 So we can still be on the leading edge of giving Canadians access to new audiovisual tools and how they can be used for community engagement, civic engagement, expressing local realities. And so we think the most cost‑effective way to “deliver” or offer community media services is under one roof. But we also strongly believe that every community needs to figure it out for themselves.

5493 So I know we had an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant in around 2012, and we had ‑‑ we're interfacing with some Indigenous organizations. And some of them were ready to go with video because they'd gotten these big Northern Indigenous grants to cable the communities, like fibre op. Other ones were saying, Well, really, it's way easier for us and for elders to, you know, just talk on the radio. And we even had a group say, you know what? Facebook's working for us because we have good cell service out here. We can all be out on our traplines and it's like, you know, we can put on Facebook, You know, I'm coming home at 6. Can anybody take me on their sled? You know, so every community's different. And I think that's really important.

5494 So if you've read the description of the community access media fund, we budget what budgets could be if we were trying to offer all the facilities under one roof, but expecting ‑‑ like so there's a budget for ‑‑ some people still want transmitters. You heard from Chad Ingraham yesterday that that's an important technology that's appropriate for them. So we budget it for all those pieces, but maybe not every community will want all those pieces, or they'll want to start with something and add something. So we're not making the decision for them. But we think that they should have access to these technologies and pick and choose what fits.

5495 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: I found that very helpful. Thank you.

5496 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, great. Thanks very much. We will keep rolling. We'll go over to Commissioner Naidoo.

5497 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Yeah, hi. Thanks for being here today.

5498 My question is for CHCO‑TV. The community television sector is linked in tightly with various communities that are served. How do you determine what your communities need in terms of programming, in particular, though, how do you determine the needs of your communities with respect to news? And what structures do you think need to be put in place to serve those needs?

5499 MS. HOGARTH: For us, starting just with gavel‑to‑gavel council coverage and bringing that to as many communities as we can is a huge starting point of what we do in determining the stories that we do follow. And then we bring in the community to help us cover those councils. And we have an all range of people that are a part of that process.

5500 And from that, and like I said with our 28,000 followers, we've built a relationship, a communication relationship with our community where they send us information about what's going on, and they're able to interact with the content on various platforms. TV might be the centrepiece of what we do, but we are multimedia. We're on YouTube, Facebook when ‑‑ we will be back on Facebook, I hope. Right now, I'm using my own personal page as a makeshift Facebook page for the TV station. So it's incredibly interactive.

5501 Our door is also open, so building these news stories comes from the community as well. They know that. Our door is open. Especially Tuesday night is the big night that anyone knows they can come in and take part in live television production and stick around to pitch ideas or hear what we're working on and help us cover those stories and follow them all the way through.

5502 So it's a very, very big community effort to cover the community. And I do rely on those relationships we've built within the community. We live in the community too, so they can easily find us. I think when you are a community station, you're not parachuting in somewhere to tell a news story. You live there, so I actually know all the pieces and the organizations and the groups who I need to speak to any time there's a story that is emerging.

5503 We're a part of that community, and I think that's what differs from local news as it seems to be defining itself across Canada now. It's more centralized, and they send a journalist when there's a story. But if that journalist doesn't live there, they can't fully understand all the back history and the complexities that make that story what it is.

5504 So from my perspective as a news director somewheres ‑‑ and I've worked in bigger cities; I know what the difference is. But when I work in a small place like this, I understand all the pieces before I even start the story of who I need to reach out to, and our community has a great relationship with us because, not only the door is open, we're there. They can find us on the street too. So we're really easily accessible. So when people have news they think we need to look into, they approach us. And if there is that odd time they think that coverage wasn't strong enough, we will hear back from them. That's the kind of community news station we've built. It's quite strong and it's heavily involved as a community.

5505 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Thank you so much for that answer.

5506 MR. WATT: May I add?


5508 MR. WATT: The Local Journalism Initiative couldn't have come at a more important time for us, and just before COVID, and Vicki joined the team with that funding, which is great.

5509 And you know, we ended up being ‑‑ well, we're on Bell across the province, you know, carried by Bell Fibre Op. And we ended up covering or carrying the news conferences any time the province had one on. So we were the only broadcaster because, you know, I hate to say, but the other television broadcasters in the province didn't do that. You know, Cable 10 started to do it on Rogers, but we were on ‑‑ we were the only licensed broadcaster who ‑‑ Vicki put it in a journalistic framing, you know. She hosted the television event before, during, and after to help the audience with those broadcasts. And so we were the only broadcaster that was providing it. Otherwise, you could go down the next channel down, you could find out what was going on in Ontario quite easily, channel City TV is right there. But in New Brunswick, it wasn't on any other television station. Online, sure, but not on TV.

5510 So Vicki, did you want to add about ...

5511 MS. HOGARTH: I would say at that time too, I mean, that speaks to the interactive multimedia elements of what we do. We aren't just an old‑school dying‑out community TV model. We were streaming on Facebook, YouTube, television at the same time. So there were multiple ways for the community to send in questions live while we were in the middle of doing it so we could hear what they were worried about.

5512 An example would be an island like Campobello, which is in an area we cover that had a ferry shut off and was cut off from mainland New Brunswick. So that was one of the things we fought for in the updates with the premier and the chief medical officer is can you restore this ferry for the winter and make sure they have access to the rest of Canada instead of having to figure out a way through a border that's closed just to get groceries. They don't even have a gas station on their island. So that was one of the ways we made sure to speak to our community at the same time and also do our job.

5513 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Thank you so much for that answer. Thank you.

5514 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thanks very much.

5515 Let's go over to Commissioner Levy.

5516 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Hi. I'd like Mr. Jay and Mr. Savage to weigh in on this one. Many intervenors have identified gaps in the system that need to be filled, and in particular gaps that have to do with equity‑seeking groups who are, you know, trying to get training and trying to get on air whatever role they can. And I wonder if you have views from the community TV perspective on how an initial base contribution could help to address those gaps.

5517 MR. JAY: I am sorry, how which contribution?

5518 COMMISSIONER LEVY: We have been talking in terms of an initial base contribution from online streamers to create more funds for the system as a whole, and we wonder how those gaps could be filled in terms of community TV.

5519 MR. SAVAGE: I think that relates to the community access media fund that we propose. So the base funding would ‑‑ that would be eligible through that sort of base funding. That would allow us to buy equipment, hire people for different communities. With the library model, we would work ‑‑ we would establish non‑profit community media centres that would be hosted by public libraries, so there's be cost‑efficiencies, like I mentioned the Schreiber Public Library that can come under the roof of that library, or they can get special deals through their municipal connections with city council for rental space for like sometimes they rent space for a dollar, for example.

5520 The gaps ‑‑ there are different kinds of gaps we're talking about. We're talking, you know, geographic gaps. Canada is a large country. It has a sovereignty problem right now with all the gaps. Members of Parliament and legislature don't know what's happening in their own constituencies.

5521 Through the media I met with Dr. Robert Kitchen the other day. I tried to do some media scan on him. The best article I found about what he was up to was an LJI reporter, so that's through the Local Journalism Initiative program, which wouldn't be that ‑‑ you know, he wouldn't have been interviewed. That was the only piece I found that was really, really comprehensive on what he was up to.

5522 But the other issue is the ‑‑ so we had the geographic issue, which is affecting public security. We had forest fires. There was a radio station, I forget their name, community radio, and they were covering evacuation notices and providing very important information to the local area. That was highly required.

5523 Public health gaps. So you know, public health information delivered at a local level can be delivered most effectively through community media when people are engaged in that.

5524 The other issue is the fact that communities also have ‑‑ there's gaps in culture. So you have Inuit communities and far‑flung First Nation Reserves and Métis communities that need to communicate about their own local culture. These cultures potentially could disappear. Right now, they're getting flooded by American culture and southern Canadian culture. But what do we know about these communities? Lot of them have rich culture that comes down here. We see that with the diaspora in Ottawa.

5525 So those are some of the gaps we could address. I've based my model on what Schreiber Public Library and other libraries have done. I'm pretty confident that if we wanted to eliminate the gaps across the country for less than a quarter billion dollars, anywhere from what the CACTUS model is suggesting, $70 million to that, we could do it.

5526 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Thank you very much. Mr. Jay?

5527 MR. JAY: Yeah, thanks for the question. I mean, you know, we are a community TV station that is based on Concordia University's campus, but we extend way out into the community. And usually, we do that by stretching our very small budget. But we do a number of things already which I can sort of describe very briefly.

5528 COMMISSIONER LEVY: In terms of gap‑filling, of ‑‑

5529 MR. JAY: Yes, exactly so ‑‑

5530 COMMISSIONER LEVY:  ‑‑ groups that are looking for access, how do you approach ‑‑ how do you think that that could be addressed?

5531 MR. JAY: Yeah, so the gaps that we see are I mean there's tremendous demand, for example, for equipment. And again, this is limited to some extent to the people who are, you know, in the geographic vicinity of the station or of our offices. But we do have links with community groups in a lot of really underserved neighbourhoods, a lot of sort of specifically English‑speaking or allophone, you know, neighbourhoods of Montreal which don't ‑‑ which have trouble sort of typically accessing the other sort of community resources that are out there.

5532 So there's equipment, which certainly we do try to, you know, extend to those places, but we could certainly cover a lot of gaps by doing like a remote ‑‑ like for example, we had a sort of a proposal on the table to have a remote equipment lending in Montréal‑Nord, for example, or in Park Extension or in Little Burgundy. These are the kinds of things that would be within our reach, you know, with a little more resources.

5533 Same thing with production support. You know, people can come to our studios downtown. They can access, you know, mentorship of various kinds. They can access editing suites. They can access a studio. You know, we could set up satellites in those various ‑‑ in those underserved neighbourhoods which are, you know, predominantly people of colour and racialized people and again, you know, face barriers to accessing the sort of typical community resources.

5534 Same thing with shows. We've done a little bit of this in Park Extension. We had a sort of a pilot series of a sort of a TV show where one of our community partners would go around, Faiz Abhuani would go around and talk to different people in different parts of Park Ex, talk to different community groups, you know, just sort of get a sense of what they're up to, talk to people in the street. It was a very sort of dynamic show. But we didn't have the resources to continue to support it. So you know, there's another gap. I don't think Faiz is going to find support anywhere else besides community TV. So that's another example.

5535 And I think the final one is certainly training is another big one. We do a huge amount of training, whether it's workshops, whether it's mentorships, whether it's internships. A lot of those, I mean, a majority of our ‑‑ of those positions right now are filled by people who would feel ‑‑ by people of colour, but also by people specifically who have the experience of not feeling like they ‑‑ or of feeling like they have a lot of barriers when it comes to accessing, you know, whether it's industry spaces or other kinds of training.

5536 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Thank you very much. That's very helpful.

5537 MR. JAY: And I just wanted to say one more thing which is coverage. You know, there's a lot of these neighbourhoods are, you know, severely under‑covered, you know. As I mentioned, there's been cumulatively over a thousand jobs cut in broadcasting just in the last few years. So even without that, I think that there were a lot of specifically English‑speaking neighbourhoods in Montreal that have been neglected. And so there's a lot more we could do. We have been doing a lot of that with the LJI money, but I think that there's a lot more that we could do specifically involving people from those neighbourhoods, from those communities in the creation of that coverage.

5538 MS. EDWARDS: Could I add something to do with the way we've been managing the LJI on the question of equity‑seeking groups, or are we out of time?

5539 MR. SAVAGE: Can I just finish up on one section here? I just wanted to add with public libraries, they have an ongoing need to fill gaps. They do information needs audits of their communities. So their boards represent the diverse communities.

5540 So the future of community media hosted by public libraries will connect them to that kind of function that will make sure these gaps in their communities representing diverse groups are met.

5541 The geographic gap within the communities of people who need to access these facilities through public transit. Public libraries are centrally located. They're not out in some industrial park somewhere. They're accessible by all different diverse groups. So public libraries are a real potential partner for communities TVs that would eliminate those gaps just because that's what we do.

5542 MS. EDWARDS: Are we out of time on that one?

5543 THE CHAIRPERSON: So maybe I can just jump in, just because we have translators here, and we're on a bit of a schedule, and they need to take a break.

5544 MS. EDWARDS: Sure.

5545 THE CHAIRPERSON: But maybe you could just take a minute to address this, and then we would like to hear a concluding thought from everyone.

5546 MS. EDWARDS: Sure. I was just going to say the way we've been managing the LJI, initially, the Local Journalism Initiative, you may know, was focused on geographically underrepresented areas. So we were working hard to place journalists in outlying, like far‑flung parts of the country. And then in when the LJI was renewed in year three, Canadian Heritage asked that at least half the additional money be used to hire journalists from diverse backgrounds. And I think right now out of about 42 journalists we have, more than two thirds are from diverse backgrounds just because it's our mandate. We'd already been hiring them.

5547 So some of the journalists that we had hired for the geographically underserved areas were already diverse, but and then we brought in an intern program to expand that number. So for example, we have a transgender intern working currently at CHCO‑TV under Vicki as a senior journalist so that they can learn. There's an Indigenous journalist working at Portneuf south of Quebec City under a senior journalist so that he can learn. We have just signed contracts with three BIPOC, exclusively BIPOC‑serving organizations, so not just Indigenous, BIPOC or diverse journalist, but the entire organization represents ‑‑ Education Through Media works with Black youth in Toronto, Focus Media Arts is also mostly multicultural serving youth, and then C2C News Network in Winnipeg, we just ‑‑ is focused on Black youth.

5548 So some of these ‑‑ so organizations and minority individual journalists are being placed either through internships or we're looking for them as fully trained journalists. It's what we do. It's our core mandate, so. Thanks for allowing that.

5549 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that.

5550 So we are a bit tight on time, but we would like to give the opportunity for maybe everyone to take a minute just to offer a concluding thought.

5551 M. DESROCHERS : André Desrochers. Je vais commencer. Je suis un humble consommateur.

5552 Alors, je voulais juste répondre à la question de monsieur Scott.

5553 Un peu l'avenir de comment les télés communautaires... On ne peut pas faire autrement que d'aller avec comment on la consomme maintenant, la télévision. Il faut aller vers le numérique, et on ne peut pas laisser ça dans les mains seulement des EDR, qui sont en diminution d'abonnés, en diminution de place. Si on se fie seulement à être des producteurs d'accès et qu'eux nous mettent dans leur propre modèle numérique, bien, on ne sera pas beaucoup plus gagnant. Il faut vraiment nous aider en créant un fonds qui va être indépendant et qui va nous permettre d'aller dans le futur.

5554 Donc, à la question, comme vous disiez tantôt, qu'est‑ce que ça apporterait, toutes les EDR qui sont venues ici vous ont demandé un allègement de leur fardeau, et si on les met dans le même fonds avec les télés commerciales, bien, le fardeau ne sera pas réduit. Alors, si on garde le fonds indépendant, ils n'ont pas à gérer ce fonds‑là, en plus.

5555 MME BÉDARD : On a démontré, tout le monde l'a démontré, l'importance pour l'impact des télévisions communautaires. Ce n'est plus à définir, on le sait, c'est un incontournable. On sait que nous dans notre région, 90 pour cent des personnes consomment en ligne. On sait que le fonds des câblodistributeurs est complètement dysfonctionnel pour nous actuellement, parce qu'on reçoit juste rien.

5556 Comment est‑ce qu'on peut se moderniser, comment est‑ce qu'on peut devenir un média à la page, comment est‑ce qu'on peut bien répondre aux habitudes d'écoute des consommateurs, c'est à considérer, là. Le fonds doit servir à notre virage, au virage numérique des télévisions communautaires, en parallèle peut‑être avec la télévision câblée pour s'assurer que tout le monde a accès, mais il faut être sur le plus de plateformes possibles selon les habitudes d'écoute des consommateurs de toutes les générations.

5557 MR. JAY: Yeah. I just want ‑‑ in closing, I just wanted to add just a little more on the demand piece, which Ms. Barin asked about.

5558 I mean, news deserts create, as they say, not just ‑‑ you know, it’s not just an absence of something, but something comes in to fill the avoid. You have news scorpions, news snakes and so on. I think we’re all familiar with what I’m talking about, the kinds of ‑‑ like the kinds of nasty beasts that sort of come in when you don’t have that local social fabric, when you don’t have local journalists who are connected to the community, who are ‑‑ who are reflecting the community back to itself, who are giving people a way to productively participate in their community life.

5559 And as our community lives become more and more mediated, I think that becomes more essential, not less, and so community TV, I think, is uniquely positioned to fill that gap in a good way, to provide that sort of ‑‑ to build that social fabric of relationships between community members that the sort of ‑‑ the stuff that we don’t think about that civic life is based on, I think, is what we’re talking about here. And that is ‑‑ and I think the stakes could not be higher.

5560 I mean, you have hundreds of local media outlets have closed, so that social fabric is, I think, disappearing. I think everyone understands that, but I feel like it’s worth sort of replaying the stakes. I mean, even in my ‑‑ I mean, I’m speaking as somebody in a so‑called major media market as well. I mean, obviously, this is deeply affecting rural communities, but in Montreal ‑‑ I mean, if you look at the Montreal Gazette, it is a shadow of its former self. You cannot call ‑‑ there’s nothing you can point to in Montreal and say, “This is a vibrant local media environment”.

5561 I mean, journalists are burnt out, underpaid and being fired by the dozens. It’s grim out there. And I think that that is the basis of our social fabric and if that falls apart, you know ‑‑ I think we’ve already seen a preview of what can happen when that fabric starts to tear, but I think there’s ‑‑ we can fall a lot further.

5562 Not to put too grim a note on it, but I do want to say that I think, yeah, community TV is uniquely positioned to provide ‑‑ you know, we provide equipment, production support, training. We help people create shows. We help people create documentary films. We help people create short videos. We cover their communities. We do all that with a tiny, tiny budget, and I think, you know, given the chance, we could do so much more. And community TV ‑‑ you know, community TV stations that used to exist and could exist in the future could do so much to specifically address that profound sort of challenge and potential ‑‑ potentially sort of devastating situation that we face in all of our communities.

5563 Thanks.

5564 MME HINSE : On n'est pas les premiers à venir devant vous pour demander une part de l'argent qui est attendu des entreprises en ligne. Par contre, notre demande n'est certainement pas farfelue. Il est question de demander aux entreprises en ligne de contribuer au contenu canadien. Je pense que ce n'est pas non plus farfelu de penser que les entreprises en ligne vont décider d'investir, eux autres mêmes, dans la création de contenu, plutôt que de financer des fonds externes. Je pense que tout le monde s'en attend.

5565 Par contre, les entreprises en ligne ne vont jamais bâtir leur propre télévision communautaire pour financer le contenu local qui est créé dans nos communautés. Puis nous, c'est ça qu'on fait, puis ça ne serait pas souhaitable qu'eux le fassent. Parce que nous, on est ancrés dans notre communauté, et c'est pour ça que ça fonctionne si bien, et c'est notre mission, et je pense que c'est comme ça qu'on réussit à avoir une belle démocratie partout au pays.

5566 MS. EDWARDS: I think I’ll just follow up with Rogers’ reply comments to the summary written round, they encouraged the Commission to turn down our proposal for a Community Access Media Fund merely because the Commission had done so in 2010 and in 2016. And our reply is that we think CAMF was 13 years ahead of its time. The underlying challenges in the system that caused us to propose CAMF back then have only become more acute.

5567 Media ownership concentration has intensified. Rogers buying Shaw further media concentrates the whole sector as well as concentrating community channel ownership and financing.

5568 There was a single paragraph in their application about how they would address longstanding non‑compliance by Shaw community channels.

5569 Secondly, cable subscriptions, as André eloquently said, have fallen to a point that cable community TV can’t function as a platform for public dialogue, the expansions in the news deserts that Drew has spoken of. And finally, everyone’s recognition that minorities must control their own media, not third‑party entities. The time to rebuild community TV to finally address these deficits is now.

5570 Thanks so much.

5571 MS. HOGARTH: I think many of you know that for journalists, it’s usually a calling that takes you into this line of work. It can be a struggle.

5572 For the past 20 years, before moving back home to New Brunswick, I worked in Montreal, Toronto and saw so many newsrooms close. There were sometimes a part of them when one day you just find out it’s no longer. That takes a toll on you, and many of my friends who are excellent journalists are no longer working in the field.

5573 When I moved into community media, I finally found that place that meant something to me where my work could mean something because I had a chance to build community around the work I was doing, and there’s no fear of an exec making it all about money and cuts happen here. It’s non‑profit, and it’s the most beautiful thing and it has these opportunities to grow. And knowing that and knowing how many amazing journalists across our country are not doing the job they were so well trained to do right now, if they had the opportunity to do this in a corner of the world they care about ‑‑ I mean, the best thing you can do as a journalist is go to where the quiet is.

5574 I know when I worked in Toronto, I would often felt, well, there are thousands of me here. Why am I doing this here? And when I went back home to New Brunswick and also found a place with the values that CHCL has, it was lifechanging for me and we were able to build a community around that that understands the value of local news and participates in it.

5575 And I know that that can be a model for other communities and I know it could also be a lifeline for journalists who are so able to do these jobs and right now might be doing something corporate. I have friends working in stores who could be the best investigative journalists in another part of Canada where they’re just not getting those opportunities right now.

5576 So if there’s any way for a place like us to be a model for others, that would be incredibly impactful.

5577 Thank you.

5578 MR. SAVAGE: Based on my perspective as a Métis person, I’m aware through looking at the archives of my ancestor, Chief Nebenonaquet, Chief Big Shilling, and how he was engaged in many Council meetings with his community and with the colonial governors, it was very interesting period because there was a lot of consultation being done.

5579 My European roots, I'm aware also that Athens had their agora where people would meet to discuss different civic issues to strengthen their democracy.

5580 In Canada, we have public libraries. These are well placed centrally within a lot of communities. They host ‑‑ they currently host speakers. They have people coming in with spaces making content.

5581 What we’re proposing is that we utilize that existing community media resource in each of those communities. The future of community media, if built upon a network of public libraries, makes a lot of economic sense, but it also makes a lot of cultural sense because that is where things are converging to this day.

5582 Canada can get ahead of the curve a little bit by doing that. I’m sure other Nations will probably follow in very quickly behind them.

5583 It’s already happening. We’re starting to see the convergence of libraries, museums and archives to create digital content out there. There’s different programs reaching different groups of people on media literacy, literacy in general, English and French as a second language and Indigenous languages, so it is something that we highly encourage you to look at as a possible option through a Community Access Media Fund.

5584 Thank you.

5585 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you so much.

5586 Obviously, we’ve heard some common themes this morning into this afternoon, but also some very different perspectives, so we appreciate you sharing your own personal experiences with us.

5587 Merci beaucoup pour votre participation.

5588 THE SECRETARY: Merci.

5589 We will take a lunch break and be back at 1:35.

‑‑‑ Upon recessing at 12:36 p.m.

‑‑‑ Upon resuming at 1:33 p.m.

5590 THE SECRETARY: Welcome back.

5591 We will now hear the presentation of Paramount Global. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you may begin.


5592 MR. SMITH: Thank you.

5593 Good afternoon, Madam Chair, Commissioners and Commission staff. My name is Doug Smith. I am the Senior Vice‑President, Streaming and Content Licensing, for Paramount Global Canada.

5594 Born in Calgary, I grew up in Ottawa. I played hockey and rugby on rinks and fields not five minutes from this location. In 1994, my first industry job was selling wildlife documentaries. Can’t get more Canadian than that. I then spent the next 11 years at Alliance Atlantis where I probably sold more Canadian content by volume than anyone else appearing at this hearing.

5595 Today, I run Paramount’s two streaming services, Paramount+ Canada and Pluto TV Canada. Additionally, I lead our licensing business in Canada, selling our film and studio content to Canadian partners.

5596 I am pleased to introduce the panel today. To my left is Tom Hastings, Head of Original Programming, Paramount+ Canada. Tom is one of the most respected creative executives in Canada with decades of experience developing talent and taking scripted projects from screens in Canada to around the world. He holds a PhD in Canadian Literature from York University. It’s true.

5597 To Tom’s left is Susan Makela, Senior Director, Acquisitions, Rights and Inventory for Paramount+ Canada and Pluto TV Canada. Susan is also a veteran of Canada’s media industry, with nearly 25 years of experience specializing in the funding, policy and regulatory requirements of Canadian production, previously at Bell Media and Corus. She is currently responsible for the content rights strategy and long‑range business planning for Paramount’s streaming content in Canada.

5598 To my right are Keith Murphy, Senior Vice‑President, Government Relations, and Regulatory Counsel for Paramount, and Martha Heller, Vice‑President, Government Relations, and Regulatory Counsel for Paramount, both of whom you previously met at the Motion Picture Association Canada panel on November 20th.

5599 Thank you for affording us the time to speak proudly on behalf of Paramount Global. Paramount is well known for great television, everything from CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV. We are also Hollywood’s oldest, continuously running film studio dating back to 1912. Our programming library hopefully includes many of your favourites, Star Trek, SpongeBob SquarePants, South Park, Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues, The Godfather and Mission Impossible, to name a few.

5600 Here in Canada, we operate two new and very different streaming services.

5601 Paramount+ was relaunched in Canada in 2021 as a subscription service featuring blockbuster films, originals and hit shows on‑demand. Paramount+ Canada is currently an ad‑free subscription service. We will begin offering an ad‑supported tier in 2024 at a lower price.

5602 Pluto TV Canada is not even a year old. Just a baby. It’s an exciting new style streaming service for Canadians featuring more than 160 curated channels of free television. There is no subscription required. I am pleased to report that 50 of Pluto’s channels are Canadian‑themed entertainment, news and weather provided by traditional Canadian broadcasters. We launched with such a robust variety of Canadian channels because it was a smart business decision, not because of regulatory requirements.

5603 Paramount is represented by the Motion Picture Association of Canada, and we adopt the policy positions taken by MPA Canada in their appearance before you on November 20th. In particular, we agree with MPA Canada’s position that an initial base contribution is based on the false premise that Canadian broadcasting undertakings are the only ones contributing to the Canadian broadcasting system. We also agree with MPA Canada that there is no urgency to establish a mandatory base contribution before the Commission fully considers and establishes the overall contribution framework in the months ahead.

5604 Paramount supports the Commission’s objective to adopt a new, flexible, outcomes‑based approach to regulation. Our streaming services are new to Canada. We have limited resources. An initial base contribution may force Paramount to divert financial resources from the projects Tom and Susan are going to highlight today. Worse, it may lead to rate hikes for Canadian subscribers and require another generation of Canadian producers to become specialists in drafting fund paperwork instead of pitching us the next great Canadian show.

5605 As the Commission has heard, Canadian programming is expensive to produce, given the small size of our market. That equation needs to be flipped. We want to bring Canada to the world. We believe the government recognized this when it added an objective to the Broadcasting Act to, I quote, “foster an environment that encourages the development and export of Canadian programs globally”.

5606 The future success of Canadian content requires reach, discoverability and commercial viability. This is what Paramount Canada does best.

5607 Canadian creatives share this goal. They are keen to work with us. And I’m going to throw it over to Tom now to discuss how Paramount is already developing Canadian content for audiences in Canada that we believe will travel around the world.

5608 MR. HASTINGS: Thanks very much, Doug.

5609 This past June, a few months after I started at Paramount Canada, we released to the public our Canadian Originals Development Slate. We did this with great pride, as we wanted it to be known as loudly and as quickly as possible that we are a welcoming new home for Canada’s creative communities, an encouraging, optimistic place for writers and producers to bring their ideas to be developed not just for their fellow Canadians but also, through us, to the world. Our announcement, after months of thoughtful in‑person collaboration with hundreds of individuals and organizations across the country not only includes a list of the creative teams we are developing scripts with, it also describes our acquisition of hundreds of hours of Canadian programming and films. Our acquisitions slate includes an impressive roster of critically acclaimed series, docs and features. And we’re thrilled we announced by name and by title our first round of original development projects with the very best Canadian artists and talent in the country. And since June, we’ve bolstered our development slate even further.

5610 Just yesterday, we announced two more comedy projects in development with the Emmy award winning Canadian producers at Boat Rocker. And we have, once the paperwork is done, several more scripted drama projects, including a truly inventive film from Eva Thomas, soon to be announced as in development.

5611 I’d now like to present just a few highlights.

5612 First is “500 Days in the Wild”, a stunning Paramount+ Original feature doc that is having its world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival this upcoming Friday. The doc follows the journey of Canadian filmmaker Dianne Whelan as she became the first person to travel the 24,000 kilometre TransCanada Trail, the longest trail in the world. Six years later, not 500 days later, Dianne returned home to BC, not worn out but wiser, more hopeful, and with 780 hours of Go Pro footage that she, with us, has distilled into a beautiful, breathtaking two‑hour doc that is a love letter to Canada.

5613 After screening at Whistler, “500 Days” will release in theatres before it then lands on Paramount+ in Canada.

5614 Next is “Hate the Player: The Ben Johnson Story”, a scripted comedy. Yes, a comedy, an audacious, buzzy comedy about the scandal you know and don’t know about Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson. We are working with hilarious Canadian writer Anthony Q. Farrell and the cutting‑edge team at New Metric Media.

5615 We also have “Carpe Demon” and “They Drive at Night”, two really fun drama projects in development with Emily Andras and Craig Wallace, two of Canada’s top sci‑fi genre showrunners.

5616 Living in Canada, each is followed by a massive built‑in global fan base so we’re honoured that both Emily and Craig chose Paramount+ in Canada because of our local roots and our global reach as the home to develop their next series.

5617 And lastly, I want to highlight “Len & Cub”, an event drama series we are proudly developing that is based on a treasure trove of old photos found recently at an estate sale in rural New Brunswick. These early 20th century photos were never meant to see the light of day as they privately, secretly documented the romantic relationship between two young Canadian men in the Maritimes.

5618 On this ground‑breaking project, a true story, we are partnered with Muse Entertainment in Quebec and Maritimer Elliot Page’s Page Boy Productions.

5619 All these projects celebrate Canada, which is our first priority. “Canada First” describes our commissioning strategy and “Canada First” is at the beating heart of our development slate.

5620 MR. SMITH: Thank you, Tom.

5621 I think you can see that these projects are very personal to us and they truly represent a diverse and very Canadian slate.

5622 Meanwhile, Pluto TV Canada is also expanding its partnership with respected Canadian content companies including Corus Entertainment, Blue Ant Media, OUTtv Media, Pelmorex, the National Film Board of Canada, Elevation Pictures, Level Film and Mongrel Media.

5623 We have a lot going on and what better way to prove it than with a short video.

‑‑‑ Video presentation

5624 MR. SMITH: Everything you just saw was filmed in Canada with Canadian crews and featuring many stories written by Canadians.

5625 I’ll throw to Susan now to share how we are working to do even more.

5626 MS. MAKELA: Thanks, Doug.

5627 Paramount is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging worldwide. We believe that our company must reflect, celebrate and elevate the diversity of our audiences, and one way we can do this is by supporting diverse content creators on and off camera.

5628 We are committed to playing a role in building a more diverse, sustainable production community in Canada. Over the last year, we have built partnerships with respected organizations across the country that support equity‑seeking and ethnocultural creators in Canada to create opportunities that position them for success.

5629 In addition to our support of Canadian content as described by Tom, Paramount Canada recently announced training and mentorship programs with the Black Screen Office, the Shine Network Institute announced just this morning as well as the National Screen Institute in partnership with BIPOC TV and Film. We look forward to more announcements coming very soon.

5630 These programs not only help BIPOC creators hone their talent and promote their programs worldwide, they also provide important business mentorship to help creators build and sustain their companies into the future. All these partnerships were developed following meaningful consultations with key stakeholders. We are excited to continue our work and collaboration with these and other partners directly.

5631 MR. SMITH: Thank you, Susan.

5632 These initiatives represent over 12 months of work. We view our Canadian‑ness and our desire to work with Canadian talent as our greatest strength. Our concern today is that an initial base contribution will divert financial resources away from these projects described today.

5633 Reading statements into the public record is actually not our strength. Talking about our shows and our services, that we love.

5634 We are grateful for the time you afforded us and we now look forward to answering your questions and beginning our consultation with you.

5635 Thank you.

5636 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you so much. Thank you for the presentation and for sharing your projects with us. I know we have a lot of questions, so I think we'll just dive right in. We'll go over to Commissioner Levy to kick things off. Thank you.

5637 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Well, welcome this afternoon. Very, very happy to see you with your Canadian team, people who I am looking forward to talking to because you understand the Canadian system that we're trying to change, essentially.

5638 And inquiring minds will probably be asking you about what's going to happen to Yellowstone, but I'm not here to do that. I'm here to talk about Canadian content, so we'll do that.

5639 Starting with earlier, I think it was yesterday, IATSE was here and proposed in its intervention that the Commission consider foregoing a mandated initial base contribution entirely in favour of a single overall contribution requirement that individual undertakings could allocate in their discretion among various contribution options.

5640 Under that approach, what would Paramount's overall direct financial contribution be?

5641 MR. SMITH: Thank you, Commissioner. I think if I understand the question, and I have to be honest, I didn't listen to all of IATSE's presentation yesterday, but I think our position is that the initial step in step one, it's difficult for us to commit to a contribution to a fund when we have the projects that you just heard us present this morning or this afternoon already in progress. I'm not sure if that answered the question specifically, but I mean, we're ‑‑

5642 COMMISSIONER LEVY: As much as you can. I appreciate that at this stage you might want to go off and think about that, perhaps come back to us at the second ‑‑

5643 MR. SMITH: I think ‑‑ I think at least for me ‑‑

5644 COMMISSIONER LEVY:  ‑‑ at the [indiscernible ‑ multiple speakers] ‑‑

5645 MR. SMITH:  ‑‑ Commissioner, I want to make sure I answer your question. You know, our initial position, which I might repeat during this conversation a few times, is that we're not opposed to being a part of the system and contributing to the system. That's entirely not what we're saying. We're just saying in this moment, before we get to step two, that we would prefer to continue with the projects that we've already described.

5646 And our biggest challenge, which I think IATSE touched on a little bit, is that we only have a finite amount of resources in market. And we can't do both at the same time. So our preference in step one right now is just to continue with the projects that we've already invested in. And then as we get through step two and better defined Canadian content, I think we'd be able to comment more fully on how we might be able to contribute.

5647 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Just on ‑‑

5648 MS. HELLER: Could I ‑‑ oh, sorry.


5650 MS. HELLER: Could I just add a little bit to what Doug had to say about that particular question, and again emphasizing that we are here as constructive participants in this, and we certainly recognize that we are going to be making an overall contribution.

5651 But in terms of giving a specific financial requirement at this time, we just feel that we aren't able to do that because there are just so many things that are unknown to us at this stage that are critical pieces of information for us, such as, you know, what is the definition of Canadian content, to what extent are the contributions that we just described to you, how would those be factored in, how much will they count, you know, will we have equitable access to production funds. So there's just a lot of open questions that make it very challenging for us to answer that question at this stage of the process.

5652 COMMISSIONER LEVY: And this goes to the people on the international side: does Paramount currently contribute to any funds in other countries or have any other investment obligations in other countries?

5653 MR. MURPHY: Hi, Commissioner. Keith Murphy. I can take that one.

5654 So Canada isn't the first to analyze some of these questions and specifically the issue of investment levies and program expenditures. You heard in the MPA Canada panel quite a bit about Europe. There are other countries like Australia that are looking at a lot of the same questions.

5655 I think it's fair to say that it is not a global policy, that there aren't dozens of countries that have moved in this direction. And as near as we can tell, there isn't any country that has a adopted an investment levy that has done so on an interim basis.

5656 And we think we have quite a lot to offer to the conversation around how you all can calculate and quantify our participation and our contribution. If Canadian programming expenditure is best suited to us, there may be other flexible options that we want to look at as well.

5657 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Which raises the question, in your worldwide experience, what are the most effective practices?

5658 MR. MURPHY: So quite simply, we think incentives are the most effective practice, right. Requirements, obligations, taxes, right, they tend to be disincentives to the kind of investment that we're making, that we want to make, that is part of our strategic business model for Canada.

5659 We described for you quite a lot of original Canadian content we're working on, Canadian programming that we're acquiring. We're doing that because we want to succeed in Canada. That's what Canadians want to see. They know us for our global content, but they want to see Canadian stories and faces. And we intend to deliver that, and that's what we're working on now.

5660 And when the Bill passed, I think it was our understanding that that was a real advantage for us. And we would come to you and demonstrate our commitment and our sincerity and describe some of those projects. And you would say, That's fantastic. Let's encourage you to do that by counting that and letting you use your strength in directing it to Canadian culture.

5661 We still hope to do that. But we're here in this phase of the hearing on the initial question. And I think our perspective is there may be consequences that are antithetical to the goals you're trying to achieve if we jump ahead and move to an initial base contribution when we are just getting started in Canada and have, we think, a very impressive development slate. And we don't want to divert resources, and that is what a base contribution would do to us.

5662 So I think the question for you all is: Is the trade‑off worth it? We submit that it's not. And we don't have to decide all of the questions today at this phase. We just hope we can delay until we can consider all the issues, I hope, starting at the beginning of 2024.

5663 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Counting is a big part of this. You know, you've obviously made very good faith efforts to commission, develop, program, acquire Canadian content, which is all, you know, highly laudable. But how do we measure how that stacks up when we're looking at trying to inject some equitable outcomes into the system?

5664 MR. SMITH: If I can take that, Commissioner. It's a good question. I think that's partially what we uniquely bring to the table today. Everyone in Canada, and it's a team of 70 people who work for us, are very committed to growing our services in Canada.

5665 And I still want to emphasize that the slate and the various projects and programs that we presented today were initiated well before the thought of these hearings were on our mind. We're doing it because all our executives are Canadians who've grown up in the Canadian industry. And we believe that the smartest way to grow our services in Canada is differentiating ourselves with Canadian content that our viewers want to watch.

5666 So in an interesting way, where our interests overlap is we view this as a commercial opportunity, not so much as an obligation, because this is a reason for Canadians to want to see programs on our service that will add to subscriber base.

5667 MR. MURPHY: Commissioner, you can measure it by the budget that we spend on that. But you can also measure it on the reach and the value we add through promotion, marketing, by promoting it into the rest of the world, right. And I think all of these things can be quantified. I don't think they're all qualitative measures. And you know, our investment in Canada is substantial and growing. And I think that the more inducement, recognition we have for that and hopefully success in your eyes will allow us to go back to the folks that control that budget and say, There's even more here, and the return on investment is fantastic, so let's do more in Canada.

5668 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Well, that's again another laudable goal.

5669 To the Canadian members of your team, as I mentioned before, you're very well‑versed in how the Canadian system has run up until this point. We have a once‑in‑a‑generation opportunity to make substantive changes. And as you assess what has existed up to now, what do you see as the main points of how we could change things to create a better, more equitable system? And then we'll start talking about some of the social policy issues that have to be covered off as well.

5670 But at this moment, I'm just really interested in the opportunity ‑‑ you started with Paramount Plus because you saw some opportunities to do something quite different. This gives you an opportunity to use what you know to make some suggestions that you know can be grounded in Canadian values. So I want to know what you've come up with.

5671 MR. SMITH: I think that's my favourite question, so I'm glad you asked it, and then I'll throw it to Tom who can some more colour to this conversation.

5672 I think it's important to note that through the various studios that our company has represented over the years, that we were one of the first studios to come to Canada to produce. We've been here for a very long time. It's been a good relationship and one that we're glad to continue.

5673 But there is one point that I always like to come back to, and that issue is that the way we define our Canadian content by points can be incredibly restrictive. There are other countries that have a slightly broader different point‑base system.

5674 And so for me, I like to use this as an example because I'm a big fan of Canadian service production and what they bring to our country. And they are two very different goals, perhaps, but I think it's worth noting that if we applied the same constraints to our Canadian service productions as we do to NHL hockey players, in any other room other than this one, people would say, He's a Canadian hockey player. But if you look at the real history, he is not a Canadian hockey player, and he should not have been able to win the Lou Marsh Trophy in 2007, in 2009, and he wouldn't have been ineligible to score the golden goal for Canada in Vancouver because he is a Canadian citizen but he works for a man in Pittsburgh, a team in Pittsburgh. He works in a league that has 32 NHL teams, 25 of which are American, only seven are Canadian. He actually only comes to Canada on the occasional business trip. The NHL is controlled by Americans. It has an American commissioner that moved the NHL head office from Montreal to New York City, taking jobs away from Canadians. But I don't think anyone would argue that he is a Canadian hockey player. No one would call Sidney Crosby a service hockey player.

5675 So I think it's time for us to take a look at so many of our shows that are really close to qualifying as Canadian content fail to qualify because there are so many people who work on our shows that don't, by the way the definition is written, count as Canadian, which I think is an incredibly unfair moment. That includes our crews, second production, hair, makeup, special effects. There are vast contributors to the shows that are currently not captured.

5676 So my first request would be to expand that definition, which will help not just people who produce in Canada but I actually think that will give more flexibility to our broadcast partners who are willing to work with and want to work with. It will help the production community, and I think it will help all of us keep more of that Canadian service production in Canada.

5677 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Well, yeah, the Canadian service production and the line you are pursuing is probably going to be more relevant to a future phase of our deliberations.

5678 But as it relates to the very beginnings of what we're trying to do, you know, starting with the initial base contribution that you don't want to talk about but that we are here to talk about, you know, what can you see as moving us in a direction that would achieve our goals in the new broadcast landscape?

5679 MR. SMITH: Thank you, Commissioner. I am going to throw it to Tom for some more colour on this right away. But I do just want to say that if one of the priorities is to be flexible and fast, we think the quickest way to get this content on screen is for us to continue with our development slate that Tom is working on. I think even by some of the testimony that was already provided, some of the funds would require time before they could actually distribute the cash, whereas we think we could inject it into the programs right away.

5680 But Tom, over to you.

5681 MR. HASTINGS: Thank you, Commissioner. In my answer, I get to tell my boss how many meetings I've taken the past year, so thank you very much for this. The reason I say that is because I swim in the world of Canadian talent and artists and I work with writers and have for many years. And I'm very happy to jump in to the question.

5682 In my introductions, I mentioned several times a Canada first approach. And we did that on purpose because I want to state again, from my perspective, I work at Paramount Plus Canada, Paramount Plus in Canada. And I feel that the job I'm tasked with and the team that I work with is to bring Canadians to Paramount Plus in Canada. We use the phrase “buzz and subs”: to create buzzy content, content that stands out, that we can promote, that's going to get attention, and it will drive subscribers.

5683 I believe the way to do that ‑‑ and I've been across the country, come this February I will have literally gone from St. John's to Victoria to talk to writers. I've taken about 1,200 pitches. There is a need, demand, desire from Canadian writers and producers to do more Canadian content in Canada.

5684 So the first thing that we offer is a door, a commissioning door, a new place to knock. And they're knocking loudly. The slate that you heard me announce is just the start. We've almost doubled it since we announced it in June. So the first thing is we offer a place for Canadian writers and producers and artists to make content.

5685 Now, what we not only offer as a new place but a new way of doing business, Canada first, the programming that we've chosen has to work first and foremost here in Canada. Yes, I described a couple of sci‑fi shows, but let me tell you about one, They Drive at Night. It's about a vampire and a werewolf on a road trip. But they're going across Canada, from Victoria to St. John's. So everything we do, we feel, we double‑down on our Canadian‑ness. It's meant to bring content to Canada that Canadians want to watch and will watch.

5686 It's also meant to travel globally. We have the opportunity with the reach that we offer to take Canadian writers' content and producers' content to the world. That's what I hear all the time when I'm working with producers and writers. They want to work with us because they can work quickly and directly with us.

5687 And they also have flexibility of model, as Doug has mentioned. All the projects announced were minimum six out of 10. So we're deeply invested in Canadian producers and writers and the community. But we also have flexibility of model that we offer writers and producers where we could have Canadian service productions. The thing I hear is another place, please, to offer Canadian talent and artists a place to work for content that works here but also has the opportunity through us, we can offer it, to go around the world.

5688 MR. MURPHY: Commissioner, one last thought. In the context of step one, I think what you're hearing is less reliance on legacy production funds and more reliance on the incentives that already exist and that you can enhance for us to invest directly in diverse Canadian programming where we're partnered with I think precisely the people you want us to be partnered with, and give us the opportunity to continue to do that and not get distracted by sort of a backward‑looking legacy regulatory model, and really embrace the new flexibility that we're bringing in and that I know is part of your objectives.

5689 COMMISSIONER LEVY: We have to account for that flexibility in some way. So that's why the emphasis on measuring and counting, so that we have some notion of how we balance it all out.

5690 And when you're talking about diversity, as you know from the policy directive and the Act itself, we're also tasked with I won't say catering to equity‑seeking groups, because I think that diversity is its own reward. I think you get more out of the creative community when you're engaging it in the broadest possible way and giving people as many opportunities as possible. But all of that has to be accounted for and counted, or it doesn't have a ‑‑ it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. And we don't know how much you're doing vis‑à‑vis any of the other streaming entities that we welcome in the system.

5691 So how do we square that?

5692 MR. MURPHY: Well, Commissioner, you have welcomed us into your system, and we're happy to be here. We commit to provide you with the data you need to measure these contributions. We'd prefer to make them confidentially, of course. But so that you can verify ‑‑ you can trust us, we hope ‑‑ and but verify our contributions, we commit to provide that data to you.

5693 MS. HELLER: I would also just add that, you know, you are asking of course a very complex question. And we certainly don't have the answer to it today. But we feel that that's partly why this process needs to be done holistically, right, because there are so many inter‑related issues that all need to be worked out. And so that is partly, you know, what we're asking for as part of this process is not to rush into an initial base contribution, but to take time to let us supply you with that information and come up with a holistic framework that will be measurable and, you know, workable for the system.

5694 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Can you tell us a little bit more about the partnerships with underrepresented communities that you've worked with. For instance, I think that you mentioned that you worked with racialized producers in addition to the Black community and LGBTQ+.

5695 MR. SMITH: Thank you. Yeah. Commissioner, I am going to throw Susan for you to add a little bit of colour to this.

5696 It's obviously something we're incredibly proud of. It's these are initiatives that have been under work for over 12 months. And in many cases, I think what we're most pleased about is that it's not just putting cash in hands; it's meaningful consultation. And I think that's what this group brings to the table.

5697 But Susan, maybe you can add more to that.

5698 MS. MAKELA: Thank you. Thank you for the question.

5699 So Tom and I joined Paramount just over a year ago. We started to have some meaningful consultations with respected organizations working to promote access to equity‑seeking groups. And we landed on some key themes that we were hearing. And one of them was there's a lot of support currently for emerging producers. What was lacking in the system was maybe some support for those mid‑level creators to get to the next step in their careers and to position them for success.

5700 Once we heard that, we spoke with some respected colleagues of ours, key stakeholders, the National Screen Institute, BIPOC TV & Film, the Black Screen Office, and we found we were aligned in a lot of our objectives to promote growth in the diverse community.

5701 So some of the programs we landed on quite happily are the Elevate program, which is initiated by the National Screen Institute in partnership with BIPOC TV & Film. It supports the mentorship and business development of BIPOC production companies. We felt this was very timely. As you may know, there has been an influx in production funding for BIPOC‑owned productions, but there wasn't really a way to equip these companies to build their companies beyond individual projects. So this program will help facilitate growth and stability for those production companies, and it’s an intensive 13‑month program that closes applications on Thursday. We have already heard that the response has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re quite excited to see where that lands. It will start in 2024.

5702 We also partnered with the Shine Network Institute, which was founded by Jennifer Podemski, and it supports the professional development mentorship of Indigenous women in the film/television/ media sector. We are happy to partner with the Shine Network Institute on an intensive budget course which will be offered online to Indigenous women but then also offered more widely to Indigenous creators.

5703 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Have you commissioned or put into development any work by Indigenous communities and producers?

5704 MS. MAKELA: I’ll throw to Tom, here.

5705 MR. HASTINGS: Yes, we’ve just started. We have two projects, both of which we haven’t discussed in too much detail, Commissioner, because while both projects are created by really fantastic, preeminent Indigenous writers, we’re working with them right now to make sure the project is also belonging to an Indigenous‑owned production company. So, we feel that that helps with issues of narrative sovereignty and that we’ve heard are important and valuable to us as well. So, I did, in my opening statement, mention a comment about our developing a project with Eva Thomas, and that is one that is in the process right now of being set up through Eva’s company, but we also have some other announcements that we’ll be making soon. It just ‑‑ sometimes, paperwork takes a little bit longer than you might like it to.

5706 MR. SMITH: If I can jump in, just to comment on that, because Tom would love to announce a lot more today and I’m unfortunately the bad guy who has to say we can’t say it until the deal is done. But I think the most important comment that I just wanted to add to punctuate the question is simply this. We were very active ‑‑ Tom in particular ‑‑ traveling across Canada, but our entire executive team has been attending almost all the major Canadian festivals and markets this year, including Banff in June, which was a fantastic experience.

5707 And there was an amazing experience for me where it became very clear what our company, Paramount’s greatest strength is in the moment, is that producers have developed to the point now where they’re not looking for that first opportunity, as Susan had just described. They want scale and they want to reach an international market, and that’s one of the objectives of these hearings. That’s what a lot of my conversations were about. How do you get reach? How do you get out of Canada? How do you grow audiences? And through those investments I think we’re moving in the right direction. But I think it also illustrates how we can provide unique hands‑on experienced guidance for the people that we meet with.

5708 And I just want to be clear ‑‑ Tom is not exaggerating. I’ll show you his book. He’s met with pretty much anyone who had asked him for a meeting, which is really fantastic. But I just want to share ‑‑ the mood in Canada has changed. It’s not what it was before. Before, it was Canada exclusively, and maybe it was a bonus if you got out of the market. I think a lot of the producers today are already highly skilled ‑‑ and very competent producers, and they are looking to take their businesses to the next level, and that’s what we’d like to do.

5709 COMMISSIONER LEVY: As part of the ‑‑

5710 MR. HASTINGS: May I add one ‑‑


5712 MR. HASTINGS: May I add one thing, Commissioner? That’s a great question, and I just wanted to say in addition, the slate that we announced was put together very thoughtfully by a group of people here who have worked for a long time in this industry. I’m the former Head of Drama at CBC and the former Director of Drama at Bell Media. So, I know, having worked in multiple institutions, how critically important it is to reflect Canada back to Canadians in the content that they commission.

5713 So, in addition to the slate reflecting BIPOC diversity, it also reflects other things that I think are critically important, where we’re conscious of regionalism ‑‑ that we were working with as many producers and writers across the country and in different provinces as possible. Gender equity was important to us as well. Working with the LGBTQ+ community was important. So, many things regarding diversity which are unique to Canada. The size of our country, different communities, different productions in different provinces, gender equity were equally important, and I think that the slate, which is just the start ‑‑ our first slate reflects as much as we possibly can our understanding and acknowledgment of the need for reflecting truly Canada back to itself.

5714 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Reflecting Canada really can’t happen unless you also talk about Quebec and French language production. The Motion Picture Association last week indicated that, although they recognize that original French‑language programming is a very important objective under the Act, the services covered by the MPA are designed as English‑language services, but you also indicated that while Paramount doesn’t have any original French‑language programming on Pluto TV today, it’s certainly something that could happen in the future and there might be flexibility when it came to how best to contribute to this very important objective in Canada.

5715 So, I’d like to open it up to a discussion of that. For instance, do you have any idea what portion of Paramount+ subscribers are from Quebec?

5716 MR. SMITH: Thank you, Commissioner. It is an important topic and question for us to discuss today. We can get that for you. I’m sorry, off the top of my head, I don't know. I do know, because the interesting thing about streaming services is you get very rich data in real time, and when we’ve looked at this more from a marketing perspective, we’ve seen it pretty reflective of the provincial population bases, so I would say proportionately it’s we’re probably well‑represented in Quebec and in French‑speaking Canada.

5717 But more specifically to your first point, it wasn’t an omission that we, if I can say, failed to discuss French Canadian content as part of our presentation. It’s simply that right now is not our strength, and we’re trying to lean into what we think we can do best inside of the framework you’re working in as well. I’m just, you know, happy to sort of share that we’ve been selling content, and I work on the studio side as well, which is the licensing side of our business, which is different than streaming, and we license our content across all the major French Canadian services in Canada. They’re our broadcast partners, and when we first explored turning Paramount+ on in Canada ‑‑ or launching the service in Canada ‑‑ one of our first decisions was not to enter the French Canadian market more specifically because it’s well‑served and there are partners there that are already doing very well with the content.

5718 Where I think we can do better, and where we want to work with them ‑‑ and we’ve discussed it, but very informally ‑‑ is in a curious way with English Canada ‑‑ and I’m saying this as a generalization; I want to emphasize that ‑‑ but in English Canada, a lot of the talent that we work with are looking for opportunities to reach outside of Canada and bring their content to the world.

5719 The strangest thing in French Canada is no one produces French Canadian content better than the producers in French Canada. It’s world class content. One of the comments they made to me is that no one in English Canada watches their shows, and so, we have discussed the idea of possibly windowing on Paramount+, and certainly with Pluto giving an opportunity for that content to be discovered, which is a big part of these hearings, which is quite interesting. There is an opportunity here to allow for that content to travel within Canada and maybe be discovered by new people within Canada.

5720 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Okay. I think I will leave that because obviously you do recognize the quality of the work coming out of Quebec and are considering ways to take best advantage of that.

5721 I just want to follow up again on ‑‑ you have talked about existing funds needing to be accessible for foreign online undertakings in a nondiscriminatory way. What is that nondiscriminatory way? Let’s make sure that we are clear what that means.

5722 MR. SMITH: Thank you. I also want to be clear, in this particular reference, it’s more of a procedural one which is we’re referring to us having access to the funds if we are asked to contribute to them. That’s what ‑‑ I think that’s what we’re specifically referring to. Again, I really want to be into step two and beyond, we’re willing to work with the Commission in any way that’s appropriate for the framework. It’s just in step one, we’re really kind of keen to continue on the projects we’re working on. But if there is an involvement in step two that involves funds, we just want to make sure that we have an equal opportunity to access those funds.

5723 And to go further, I’d just like to emphasize that we already do a lot of partnering with broadcasters in Canada, both in English and French Canada, and I just want to slightly emphasize that the opportunity to have incentives to even work with a broadcaster for a Canadian window along with our streaming service is something we would be happy to explore and fully support.

5724 COMMISSIONER LEVY: I just want to address some of the gaps in the system right now, and make sure that we have on the record your approach to things such as the Broadcasting Participation Fund and other funds that support equity‑seeking groups and so forth.

5725 MR. MURPHY: Thank you for that, Commissioner. That is an area where perhaps there really is urgency around funding the Broadcast Participation Fund or the Accessibility Fund, and finding a way to meet that need in the near term. You know, with respect to legacy production funds and the funding of Canadian programming, we don’t see the urgency; we don’t see a step one need for that, but these other public interest funds, I think we acknowledge that there is an urgent need there.

5726 COMMISSIONER LEVY: And as I wrap up my side of this ‑‑ yes, I am wrapping up, because I know my colleagues have some questions as well ‑‑ I just want to talk a little bit about Pluto TV.

5727 We note that you said that it provides the free advertising‑supported television FAST channels, features 57 Canadian‑owned channels including in partnership with Corus, Blue Ant Media, OutTV, and Pelmorex, as you mentioned. How much of Pluto TV’s advertising revenue is tied to Canadian broadcasting services? And what do you anticipate will happen to that revenue in the coming years? I’m sure you’re going to say it’s going to increase, but do we have a notion?

5728 MR. SMITH: Thank you for the question. I am glad we are talking about Pluto as well. Like when you have two children, it’s tough if you only talk about the older one. You know, first of all, I want to emphasize the ‘free’ in FAST. It’s free. I think it’s quite remarkable when you look at the quality of this service and what’s available, and what’s even more remarkable is if you’re not familiar with the service, you could add it to your phone in the time that it takes me to describe what’s going on. It’s very simple to access and it’s really accessible to all Canadians.

5729 The revenue model ‑‑ I just want to emphasize when there are no subscription fees on the frontend and it’s free ‑‑ totally free, if I haven’t said that enough times already ‑‑ it survives based on ad revenue based on the content that that is watched. I am emphasizing that. Not even the whole service, not the whole platform ‑‑ the content that is watched in the moment when the ad is served in that show ‑‑ that’s the rev share that happens.

5730 So, when you ask about how the model works, I’d like to be a little bit vague because I don’t want to get into specifics, but it is revenue share. It’s based on, like I said, the commercial viability of the product and the number of people who are watching when the ads are served. But it is a very quick and efficient way to get cash back to those producers and those content rightsholders. I do want to emphasize ‑‑ all the content on the service is curated, and all the content that is on the service is contracted with those rightsholders so they understand what the terms are for us to do the rev share deal with them.

5731 COMMISSIONER LEVY: So, are you growing the market for advertising, or are you redirecting advertising within the Canadian system?

5732 MR. SMITH: I think that is an important question. The best I can do to answer that is to emphasize that Pluto is also a perfect example of a very collaborative and innovative project in Canada because our partner is Corus. Corus sells the advertising for Pluto in Canada. There is a generally understood trend right now, and I’m sure you have seen the data, that advertising dollars are starting to shift from maybe traditional cable. I have to be perfectly honest; that would be happening whether we had this service in Canada or not. But in our case, where we’re probably still trying to level the playing field a little bit in equitable distribution of those revenues is the amount of Canadian content that we have on the service, because those participants still participate in the revenue.

5733 I’m not sure ‑‑ did that answer your question?

5734 COMMISSIONER LEVY: Yes, I think ‑‑

5735 MR. SMITH: Yeah?

5736 COMMISSIONER LEVY:  ‑‑ it did ‑‑ very, very well. I thank you very much for your patience, and I thank my colleagues for their patience. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, and I’m sure that they will have lots of good questions for you too. Thank you.

5737 MR. SMITH: Thank you.

5738 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you, Commissioner Levy.

5739 Let’s go over to Commissioner Naidoo.

5740 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Thank you so much for being here today. I wanted to find out a little more about what your views are regarding the role of global online undertakings in both contributing to the Canadian economy while also maintaining and enhancing Canadian national identity and cultural sovereignty. And how do you suggest to apply your principles of fairness, equity, and proportionality in the contributions of both domestic broadcasters and also global online undertakings to cultural objectives?

5741 MR. SMITH: Tough question. Can we break that into parts, ‑‑


5743 MR. SMITH:  ‑‑ Commissioner, please? Could we do the first part first?


5745 MR. SMITH: Do you mind just repeating that ‑‑

5746 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Yes, not at all.

5747 MR. SMITH:  ‑‑ first question, and then we’ll do all of them.

5748 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: So, your views regarding the role of global online undertakings in contributing to the Canadian economy while also maintaining and enhancing Canadian national identity and cultural sovereignty.

5749 MR. SMITH: Okay, that ‑‑ that could be a Ph.D.‑level essay, Tom.

‑‑‑ Laughter

5750 MR. SMITH: So, I’ll try to do that in a soundbite. Okay. The service production that we describe ‑‑ the Canadian service production ‑‑ if I haven’t already stated, I just want to make sure I say it out loud again ‑‑ we’re in the tune of one billion dollars that we’re investing. I think it’s important just to specifically call out the fact that that’s real dollars spent with real Canadians whom it helps put food on their tables. That’s real. I think that’s significant; it’s measurable, and it’s an incredible success story in Canada. And we’re not alone in that. I think you saw in the MPA’s testimony it’s now probably ‑‑ well, it is the biggest contributor to the growth of the production business in Canada.

5751 So, on that level, I think maybe one of the ways I’ll touch on that ‑‑ we also invest in physical assets in the country. We run a studio. We run a state‑of‑the‑art augmented reality facility in Mississauga, so we’re also investing that way. So, I think it’s very measurable. I mean, I’m trying to be brief on this because I’d love to talk about this more, but I’m not sure you want more detail ‑‑ but I’ll give it to you if you would like for it.

5752 But the second topic I just want to dance around very gingerly here, which is it’s challenging for all of us in what is essentially a heritage meeting to be talking about commerce. Like, when you listen to a lot of the hearing, it’s a commerce ‑‑ there’s commerce, commerce, commerce ‑‑ it’s business, it’s dollars.

5753 And, you know, there’s a role ‑‑ it’s a big market ‑‑ there’s a role for everyone to play in this conversation, but specifically, because I thought it was an interesting question, I can’t help but point out that one of the first ‑‑ well, it was the first round of cable channels in Canada ‑‑ was the launch of C Channel and two pay TV services called First Choice Superchannel.

5754 C Channel was a hundred percent cultural and arts, and it lasted five months. It was the shortest‑running service in Canadian history, and that’s simply because, when you’re going a hundred percent art and you’re going at the same time a hundred percent commerce, the Canadians decided that they preferred the premium content that was available on First Choice Superchannel. First Choice Superchannel, as I’m sure you know, eventually turned into premium pay television, and today goes by the name of Crave. So, Crave has had a 40‑year head start in the streaming business in premium pay television.

5755 But I think to your question, when we’re trying to bridge culture and art, it’s challenging. There’s a spectrum here. I think there’s great institutions in Canada that cater a little bit more to the art side. As I like to say, the art we make I want people to be able to buy and hang in their homes. Some people want to make art for a museum, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but certainly in the conversation we’re engaging in with you right now, it’s an artform, believe me, but it’s commercial art.

5756 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Okay. And I will simplify the second part of my question just so that it’s easier. Basically, how do you keep things fair? I think that’s a good simplification. How do you keep things fair in the contributions of both domestic broadcasters and also global online undertakings, to meet our cultural objectives?

5757 MR. SMITH: Again, great question. I think ‑‑ listen, I listened with great attention with all of the presentations from the broadcasters because they’re my clients. Like, I really want to emphasize that our licensing business in Canada is very significant. We do business with all the major English and French language services. We even do ‑‑ we are one of the few people left doing it ‑‑ local syndication still. Like, not a lot of people still do that. We do that because we support just about every service in Canada.

5758 I’m sorry ‑‑ I lost my train of thought on the question, Commissioner. Can you remind me where I was?

5759 MR. MURPHY: Actually, Commissioner, if you don’t mind, I could jump in. I think on the question of fairness, there is a difference embedded in the Act, right, between Canadian broadcasters and foreign online undertakings. There’s a different requirement around the use of human resources, for instance. There’s a directive that it be equitable, which is different than equal. And we have a unique way to contribute, which we hope you will recognize, but we also think it’s important to recognize that we are not Canadian services; right? We are global services that have appeal to Canadians, and we’re building a business in Canada that already means we are incented to tell Canadian stories and partner with Canadian creatives.

5760 So, we’re different and distinct. I don’t think we’re a substitute for Canadian broadcasters. I think the foundation of your system and contributions to that system should be Canadian broadcasters. We should not bear the burden of their contributions, but we have a fair share to contribute. We commit to do that and we think we have a special way to do that, that we hope the Commission will recognize.

5761 MR. SMITH: (Indiscernible)

5762 MS. HELLER: And last ‑‑ oh.

5763 MR. SMITH: Just real quickly. Thanks, Keith, for bailing me on that one.

5764 Yeah, where I was trying to go with my meandering answer is that we work with the broadcasters and I think there’s a lot to be done; we’re in this new undertaking that there’s incentives for us to do that. Because I think I want to be really clear: I really do believe that it’s critical for the broadcasters to remain strong. Like, I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree that we should be doing that.

5765 MS. HELLER: And just very quickly, I think there is also just a last consideration, which is that we’re not situated exactly the same as domestic broadcasters here; right? We’re not afforded the same type of regulatory protections, and so, I think that is another factor that must be weighed by the Commission as it goes through these proceedings to determine what is equitable.

5766 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Lots of big issues to tackle, for sure.

5767 Before I hand it back to the Chair, I just wanted to get some clarification on, I think, one of your favourite topics, which is Pluto. I just wanted to find out, if you could just explain a little bit more ‑‑ you had touched on it very briefly ‑‑ your ad revenue model. Would you mind just expanding a little bit on that?

5768 MR. SMITH: Yeah, inasmuch as I can without disclosing commercial terms ‑‑ and it’s really not that complicated, so if I told you the commercial terms, you’d go, like, “That’s pretty obvious.” It is pure rev share. So, essentially, it’s curated content. So, I just want to emphasize it’s not a never ending, expanding list of channels. It’s obviously something we invest very heavily in, which is another point I’d like to make, is that we spend a lot of money marketing these platforms. Like, there’s content contribution through acquisition and original production, but there is also a significant investment in marketing, at times maybe the same as the investment in acquisition of content.

5769 In the case of Pluto, that’s what we’re essentially doing. We’re creating a brand ‑‑ free for Canadians, where they can come and watch quality content. It’s something that’s so revolutionary in Canada that, you know, Canadians often don’t believe it when we explain it to them, because it’s free. There is no subscription. There is no sign‑up. It’s just free. When it’s free, though, you are ‘survival of the fittest’ on what people want to watch because they just tune in, and they tune in to what they want to watch.

5770 So, we can give a home for content. Some of that can be niche. Some of that can be very commercial. But at the end of the day, it really is the ad revenue generated from what people are actually watching that gets them paid, and that goes straight ‑‑ directly back to the content supplier.

5771 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: You mentioned Corus as well; right?

5772 MR. SMITH: M’hmm.

5773 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Can you just expand on that?

5774 MR. SMITH: Well, Corus ‑‑ I mean, I think this is something that I am happy to discuss in front of the Commission. I think it’s something that was a very smart and innovative detail that helped them launch into FAST and helped us properly launch into FAST by taking advantage of the local market expertise. We do a lot of business with Corus. So, we were excited when we were able to find a way to make this work, and Corus has been known for decades now, if you go back to the beginning, for being really successful at taking Canadian content and making it accessible and popular in Canada.

5775 So, for us, it was very logical to partner with them because we want Canadians to want to watch Pluto, and they provide a lot of content ‑‑ not the least of which, I should emphasize, is news. We have 14 news channels on Pluto. One is Global National. We have 13 regional news channels on Pluto. We have a weather service on Pluto as well, and the point I just want to really emphasize ‑‑ at a time when there might be other undertakings that are walking away from this, we are running into it, and we want to do more of it.

5776 And the audience on Pluto, which is worth discussing in front of the Commission today, is a very, very different audience than traditional linear television. So, you know, it’s a completely new demographic for us.

5777 In some cases, we found more in the data in the U.S., but I think it’s becoming apparent in Canada as well that the average viewing age can sometimes be 20 years younger. So if a show airs on linear television, you can just almost subtract 20 years and that’s your audience in a service like Pluto or on Paramount+. So they’re very different people, so it's expanding the pie of viewers.

5778 COMMISSIONER NAIDOO: Thank you. That's all I have.

5779 Back to you, Madam Chair.

5780 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you so much. So we have a lot of questions.

5781 Let's go to Vice‑Chair Barin.

5782 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Thank you. Very interesting discussion.

5783 I have a couple of follow‑ups on stuff you’ve already covered.

5784 So back to the French language market, I heard you say your global undertakings French language content is not your strength. So why would you not contribute to a fund that supports French language content?

5785 MR. SMITH: My interest is always first to develop our relationship with the partners in French Canada. They’re experts in their market and they know how to make the best French Canadian content.

5786 So my reluctance there is same but not the same on the English side. On the French side, if we’re going to really play to our strengths, it’s working with them to build their audiences in ways that they’re not currently building their audience. That could include more accessibility and discoverability in English Canada, which I think right now is a smart move and I would welcome that conversation.

5787 I think it also means potentially working with them to try to get some scale for international as well if the shows can travel.


5789 And my second question goes to the partnerships that you talk about with Canadian companies.

5790 So we have a government Policy Direction that directs us to, and I’m quoting, “where appropriate, foster collaboration between Canadian and foreign broadcasting undertakings”. So when you talk about partnerships with companies like Outtv and Corus, what do you mean by partnerships and how does that differ from a partnership that you would have for ‑‑ with a foreign owned channel? What distinguishes it?

5791 Like the way I see it, you’re acting as ‑‑ you’re giving carriage, but it doesn’t seem to be a partnership that is broader than that.

5792 MR. SMITH: I just want ‑‑ maybe a point of clarification. When I’m using the word “partnership” at times, I’m using it in sort of a layman’s expression of we’re getting along and doing business together, not a formal joint venture partnership or something like that. So from this point on, if it’s an actual joint venture partnership I’ll flag that.

5793 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: SO then what’s is the nature of the partnership?

5794 MR. SMITH: Yeah, it’s a commercial business relationship. I think that’s what’s exciting about what we do in Canada and with everybody that we work with is that, you know ‑‑ to be honest, I didn't get this grey hair from watching TV, it’s from selling it.

5795 It’s ‑‑ like this is a difficult business. It is really, really difficult. And the people who succeed in this business are the ones who find new ways to do innovative deals and to, layman term, partner with people to bring new solutions to old problems.

5796 So I think where Canada is so uniquely positioned in this moment is that for the last 30 years, we’ve all been scrambling to find ways to get our shows made and how do we get them on screen, so it truly is just old‑fashioned meetings.

5797 Tom was referring to how many meetings he took in Canada. We attend all the festivals, all the markets. On our content licensing business, we travel the country. We meet with our clients. We talk.

5798 And every single conversation is primarily centred around commerce, how do we both make more money together. And when you start the conversation that way, sometimes you’re kind of surprised where the conversation ends up.

5799 And so between our services of Pluto and Paramount+ in Canada, which are excellent vehicles to allow for more collaboration and partnership and also the reach ‑‑ I just want to emphasize. This is what is important about our presentation to you today.

5800 The other half of my job ‑‑ do I have three half jobs? Like I do. The other half of my other two jobs is working for the studio based out of the U.S. and our international sales team. And we have a direct line to that group to say, “Hey, are you interested in a show like this? Will it travel?”.

5801 That could be a conversation about where it airs in the U.S., that could be a conversation about who might want to buy it in the U.S. That might be a conversation about how that team can take it and sell it to the rest of the world. But these are very fast, very fast, very fluid conversations, and I think that’s, frankly, our strength.

5802 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Just indulge me one last one.

5803 Mr. Murphy, you mentioned incentives. How could we as a Commission incent partnerships between Canadian and foreign broadcasting?

5804 MR. MURPHY: Well, I think the simplest way to incent that, right, is to make it an element of our contribution, right, to first recognize that a partnership with an Outtv that involves promotion, discoverability, marketing of Outtv in Canada and the world counts as a contribution and maybe it counts one and a half times the standard contribution or three times the standard contribution, right. There are ways, I think, to take account of what we’re doing, recognize it.

5805 We have an obligation to you all to contribute and I think in the counting of those contributions and in the types of contributions you recognize, you give us an incentive to do that more, right. And it allows Doug to work with the budget teams and to make the case that there’s even more and better reasons to do this, right, rather than going back and saying we have yet another regulator that wants to extract money from us that will divert funds from what we, you know, use to get a return on investment and have a profit and loss business. And instead, the regulator wants to partner with us and provide incentives to us to do what they want and have a win for us.

5806 And we really thank you for having that approach in this hearing, that you seem genuinely to be looking for a win‑win approach to this. And we know that there are pressures on you to resist that and maybe to stick with the existing system and to sort of favour inertia, but we really think that the opportunity here is one that Canadian audiences win, Canadian creatives win, you meet the objectives of the Act, we get to run a profitable business that serves cultural goals and it’s built around incentives, you know, carrots rather than sticks.

5807 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON BARIN: Thank you. A very complete answer.

5808 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Vice‑Chair Barin.

5809 Let’s go to Vice‑Chair Scott.

5810 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: A very complete answer that I’m nonetheless going to drill down further on.

5811 So I was really intrigued by that answer and I was really pleased that in your opening remarks you started with the good business decisions that you’re making that also serve Canadian broadcasting policy objectives. And if market forces advanced the full range of our broadcasting objectives, then our job would be very easy.

5812 So I want to dig in on that theme of there are ‑‑ so there are clearly some areas where our interests are aligned and you’re doing things that are advancing things we want to see advanced. At the other end of the spectrum, there are public policy objectives that are never going to be economically supported, that I don’t think there’s an economic case for support for the Broadcast Participation Fund, as one example.

5813 Increasingly, we’ve been hearing throughout this hearing that news is a money loser despite being fundamentally important to Canadian society and democracy.

5814 So while I recognize your concerns with the sequencing of how we’re rolling out, would you nonetheless acknowledge that there are a category of things that we’re not going to get to through incentives and economics where, frankly, a cash contribution to a fund might be the easiest, most transparent, clearest way of supporting some really clear objectives?

5815 MR. SMITH: I think it’s an excellent question. I’m going to try to handle it first.

5816 I haven’t said this yet, but I think it’s very important to mention that Paramount in Canada runs as an isolated business within the parent company and we have to defend our business plan and lobby and ask for investment in our market. It’s not like a line of credit that we can go back and just pull money from.

5817 And so you know, one of the things I haven’t had the chance to comment on yet is that there’s only a finite amount of money. I know there’s a lot of people who sort of generalize with this conception that there’s a lot of internet money out there. I’m just saying right now, we’re not there yet. We are a big company, but we’re not there.

5818 I think news is important. I think supporting cultural initiatives is important. I think ‑‑ although it may not be for me to state, I always like to make this comment. I’ve been working in the U.S. studio system for over 20 years. When I meet people in New York and L.A. and they’re a little bit surprised that I’m from Canada, I like to remind them, as I will in front of the Commission today, that I was Canadian before I joined that company and I’ll be Canadian after I leave that company. I’m still a Canadian. So I support the initiatives that you’re describing.

5819 The issue for me is, first and foremost, as a Canadian citizen, I’m a little bit concerned with the idea of foreign undertakings funding news. I just thought I’d put that out there for a second. That is an important topic that, as Canadians, we should be discussing.

5820 I think allowing the broadcasters to use their own investments in their CPE towards news might be part of the way to solve that. I would love to explore a solution that allows for news to be solved in Canada with Canadian dollars.

5821 As it relates to supporting the culture and arts, again, if anyone else wants to jump in, they’re welcome to. We are supportive of that and I just want to be really honest, like especially my own personal view of watching television, I’m often delighted when you come across something that you didn’t think you’d watch and you watch it and it’s sometimes the most enjoyable television I do watch.

5822 So I suppose it getting made, but I’m also coming back to what our strengths are. There are institutions in Canada and there are other platforms that are specialists in promoting the arts and culture and I want to support them and we want to work with them, but I just also want to be really clear that’s not exactly our line of specialization for Canada.

5823 MS. HELLER: And if I could add to that a little bit, and we very much appreciate the question and, you know, certainly want to say that we support the objective of local news and how important it is to culture in Canada. But at the same time, there are many, many objectives under the Act, of course, as ‑‑ I don’t need to tell you that. And we don’t feel that it makes sense for every player in the system to have to contribute to every objective. And you know, for us, we feel strongly that, you know, the way that we can contribute the best are through the ways that we’ve spoken about earlier.

5824 There may be other players in the system for whom that is not the case and so a contribution to local news may make more sense for other players. And also, I think it’s important with local news in particular to not lose sight of the fact that that is, you know, the purview of conventional TV broadcasters, right, and that they have an obligation as a condition of having their licences and access to public airwaves to offer local news to their audiences, right. And you know, if they’re allowed to renege on some of that and pass it along to companies like ours, we just want to keep the focus a bit on the trade‑offs for something like that and, you know, the immediate impact that having to contribute to things that don’t align with our business model could, you know, divert funds from some of the Canadian productions that we’re working on.

5825 So we just think it’s very important to keep focused on that aspect.

5826 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: A skeptic might say that there’s a risk that the objectives that you’re contributing towards have some degree of economic viability, while some of the objectives you’re expecting others to contribute to are non‑economically viable.

5827 Do you see a fairness issue there?

5828 MR. SMITH: I’ll just go first. Thank you for the question. It’s one I’m keen to answer.

5829 You know, depending on how far back you want to go back in time, but you can go all the way back in time. You know, arts are funded through commerce. Like that’s the oldest story in culture.

5830 Cultures flourish when the economy is strong. So my answer to that is still going to be the, you know, trickle‑down effect of production, of getting people trained and experienced and having access to first‑rate equipment and studio equipment, in our case executives like the ones you’ve met today, you know, I really want to emphasize this. It’s a silly thing for me to say, but making TV shows and movies might be the hardest thing to do. It is hard. It is not easy.

5831 This is not like ordering a dishwasher or a washing machine and having it delivered to your home. The kind of conversations that we share in our office are passionate and most of the time commerce sort of comes up afterwards. But you know, I joked about this, but at one point Tom and I had a conversation and he was so disappointed with my answer that he sent me a picture of a painting from Henry Wallace. That’s how he communicated with me.

5832 I replied with a poem from Alexander Pope. Like I don’t know what that means, but that’s how we talk.

5833 So I think when you talk about art and culture, we’re there. Like we really are. But I really think it’s best funded when people ‑‑ with the right people who have the right idea, can work with the tools that have been provided.

5834 And I think there is ‑‑ and I mean this very sincerely. I think there’s a halo from all the Canadian service production in this market because I want to say it again, it’s hard to make content. It’s hard.

5835 Like I just want to just to ‑‑ we haven’t talked about this, but the courage it takes to pitch a show is remarkable. To have an idea in your head that you want to communicate with someone is not an easy thing to do and then you have to sit across from someone like Tom who’s like the friendliest person in the business but he has to listen to that and either say, “Yes, you’re pitch 1,252, but I can only look at four or five of them”.

5836 You know, it’s a very difficult business. So it marries there. It really does.

5837 But I just want to come back to our strength, and our strength is the commerce side. And I think there is a really positive halo effect, and it’s already there. It’s not Paramount, incidentally. All that Canadian service production creates a halo effect because people have to learn how to make television to make good television.

5838 MR. MURPHY: Vice‑Chair, I’ll just add that with respect to the Broadcast Participation Fund and the Accessibility Fund, it may be the case that the most sensible contribution by a company like Paramount Global would be a contribution to the fund, a financial contribution to the fund and ‑‑ even on an initial basis.

5839 You know, I think there are other elements and other objectives that may be market ‑‑ in that bucket of market failures that don’t necessarily need to be addressed by every participant, sort of Martha’s point about this.

5840 And with respect to our company, as you consider which of our dollars to use and for what, you know, I think if we can narrow the list to, you know, the most urgent needs around the public interest funds and with respect to production, Canadian production and French language production and other things, we think we have other really desirable ways that we can contribute.

5841 VICE‑CHAIRPERSON SCOTT: Thank you for both those perspectives.

5842 Thanks, Madam Chair.

5843 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thanks very much. I think you’ve covered both of your children equally now.

5844 We would like to turn things back over to you for any concluding remarks.

5845 MR. SMITH: Thank you very much.

5846 I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity, so I thank you for your questions and allowing for us to have a consultation with you. It’s something that, on a personal level, I’ve been involved in the business for over 30 years and I’ve never had the opportunity, so it’s just very refreshing for me to be in the room and share that with you.

5847 I think I just want to touch on a couple points, maybe briefly, which is just to re‑emphasize the importance of incentives and collaboration. We threw the word “partnership” around rather loosely, but for me, the most exciting part of this conversation is trying to find ways to maybe marry two groups that perhaps people outside of this room don’t think are natural partners because streamers and broadcasters are actually excellent partners for each other and there’s a great opportunity for us, I believe that wholeheartedly, to work with them to make ‑‑ and this is the key part ‑‑ better content.

5848 You might be surprised to know, and I won’t name them by service, but we’ve talked to other streaming services and they share the same idea because we all want to make content that people want to watch and to bring it to the world.

5849 So there’s a lot of interest in trying to find ways for people to work together. That includes French Canada, that includes programming of national interest that can fall in our sweet spot, which is something that’s important for me to emphasize.

5850 So incentives work. Anything that encourages collaboration and partnership is something I’d be very keen to do, and that includes working with you, as strange as that sounds. We are very keen to get your point of view and how we can fit into that framework.

5851 And although I don’t think it’s something that I need to repeat now, but we are going to work with you in the new framework. I want to be really crystal clear. We’re not saying we’re resisting and please don’t. We’re actually just saying let’s understand the rules and let’s get to work.

5852 So is there anything anyone else wants to add before I do my closing? No.

5853 All right. We’re in the home stretch, everybody.

5854 So anyways, thank you for your questions today. I guess I feel it’s important for me to clarify that we are excited and willing to work within the frameworks of these hearings.

5855 I’m clearly in favour of keeping consumers in mind. Choice, affordability should not be overlooked during your deliberations, but the primary purpose of these conversations are around step 1, is to discuss an initial base contribution which I think we’ve been clear we oppose.

5856 The production studios that CBS has built in Mississauga is real. The state‑of‑the‑art augmented reality special effects set we built in Mississauga for Star Trek is real. The production investment Paramount has made in Canada, which is over $1 billion a year, is real money paid to real Canadians who do really great work. This is a real contribution.

5857 The work Tom and Susan have done in the last year, the projects and programs that we’ve initiated, the work of our entire Canadian office, these are real contributions. We are asking, at this stage, to please let us continue this work so that we can pick up the consultations at step 2, and what an interesting opportunity we have before us.

5858 I ask in this moment that we consider widening our vision. Canadian service production has been an unqualified success. We have the best talent in the world here in Canada. We have an opportunity to make meaningful change for Canadian audiences, producers, broadcasters and streamers.

5859 As Canadians, we have everything we need to succeed. It’s already been built. We have world‑class locations, world‑class facilities, world‑class crews, world‑class talent and creative. Let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. This truly is our moment in Canada.

5860 If we were the aerospace industry, we’d be looking around and asking, “What do we do with all these highly‑skilled scientists and technicians, all these engines and engineers, all this jet fuel, all these launch pads?”.

5861 I think they’d say, “We should be building a rocket”.

5862 Let’s super‑charge this. If we want viewers to watch more Canadian content, then together, let’s make more content Canadian viewers want to watch.

5863 Thank you.

5864 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. And we’ve have covered a lot of ground, obviously, this afternoon. Really appreciate you answering all of our questions.

5865 Thank you.

5866 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.

5867 This concludes this ‑‑ the hearing for today. We will be back at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Thank you.

‑‑‑ Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 2:57 p.m., to resume on Wednesday, November 29, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.

Deana Johansson
Monique Mahoney
Lynda Johansson
Tania Mahoney
Brian Denton

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