Who should get the loot? That’s the question being asked by the CRTC about the newly created Local Programming Improvement Fund. The CRTC has renewed its investigation into ‘who should get what’ in connection with ongoing changes to how broadcasters get and keep their broadcast licenses. For instance, should community-based, not-for-profit, and independent television and film producers have access to the money? The CRTC is asking for input from Canadians.
The LPIF was created last year “to improve the quality of local programming provided by conventional television stations serving non-metropolitan markets of less than one million people” (see CRTC 2008-100). But the continuing economic crisis and sideways slippage of the big media companies has CRTC officials more nervous than usual.
The economic downturn has touched all parts of the economy, but the havoc being wreaked in the media sector is unprecedented. Some suggest that it is a “perfect storm“ of not only economic downturn, but the changes being wrought by new media technologies and changing online consumption patterns. Still others point to debt loads incurred by the big media companies to finance their buyouts of small local media organizations across the country. All of these factors are probably playing a role (although which factors dominate remains contentious because, for example, if it’s the servicing of buyout debt that is driving the closures, then the media companies have largely dug their own graves). But no matter the cause, dozens of communities across Canada are facing the loss of their local television affiliates, all local programming and the loss of local papers. Canadians in many communities are losing easy access to local information, coverage, political accountability and cultural reflection.
So what can the LPIF do? The proposal is for 1% of cable company revenue to be made available to fill the local news and local reflection gap on television. In CRTC 2009-70-1, the CRTC wants Canadians to, among other things, help write the terms for eligibility to access the fund.
Write to the Commission and tell them what you think.
If you think independent producers, community-based and not-for-profit media groups should benefit from the LPIF, tell the CRTC.
The deadline is April 23, 2009 for written submissions.