Each year the CRTC sets aside over $100 million for local, independent and activist television. Canadians have until February 1, 2010 to tell the CRTC how well this money is being spent, and how to spend it better in the future.
If you didn’t know about this amazing amount of money, you’re not alone. Community channels have in been in slow decline as cable companies have increased their stranglehold on access and programming over the past 15 years. What was once a vibrant network of tens of thousands of volunteers, activists and artists has dwindled through lost opportunities and in many cases outright hostility by the cable companies to community participation.
It’s time for Canadians to take back their community media resources from the cable companies.
A key issue is what to do with community television in a digital future. One of the big ideas being put forward is to use the $100+ million annual funds to build a network of community media centers, like local libraries, but with the emphasis on access to digital media training, production, and distribution through online and low-power broadcast opportunities. It is an idea being put forward by CACTUS, a national community tv advocacy group.
Since their creation in the early 1970s, community channels have attracted well over $1 billion in mandated funding. This money has been spent on training, programming and the creation of a network of television production facilities across the country required to “provide and encourage citizen access” and give communities the “widest opportunity for self-expression”. Community channel resources are like a public trust, and it is time Canadians got the benefit of this trust rather than it’s being squandered on cable company self promotion.
If Canadians do not speak out now, these opportunities could be lost forever.
To review the CRTC’s call for comments, check out Broadcasting Notice of Consultation 2009-661.
Photo by Matt Hampnel.