1424 Commercial Drive, PO Box #21674 Vancouver, BC, Canada V5L 5G3 CRTC Secretary General of the Commission Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2 February 1, 2010

Review of community television policy framework, Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2009661 (Ottawa, 22 October 2009) 1 2 We would like to appear at the public hearings. We thank the CRTC for the opportunity to address these proceedings. A review of community channel policy within the Canadian broadcasting system is long overdue both in terms of regulatory effectiveness and changing patterns of cultural participation brought about in part through new media technologies. OpenMedia.ca is a national network of organizations that represent nearly 700,000 people across Canada who want a diverse and democratic media system.


Introductory Remarks - Community Television as a Public Trust 4 Cable operators have been required as a condition of their licensing from the 1970s forward to contribute financially to the creation and presentation of Canadian programming. As the Commission is aware, this obligation takes the form of a ‘cable levy’ against gross cable subscription revenues. In recognition of the importance of citizen participation through local reflection within the broadcasting system and the inability of the public and private elements to ensure its pride of place alongside conventional programming, 2/5 of the cable levy from the larger cable licensees can be allocated in the form of a community access channel. The community media element in the broadcasting system is the only element intended to facilitate public expression independent of market limitations (for example, the presence of rural v. urban interests, ethnic and aboriginal representation, diversity of points of view, etc.).




Should a cable company elect to allocate cable levy funds to a community channel, in essence they elect to act on behalf of the Canadian public with respect to the monies collected to meet CRTC local reflection policy objectives. In other words, the community channel is like a public trust, and those who would take on this responsibility (to manage community channel resources on behalf of the Canadian public) should be held to high standards. In that the community channel is to some degree a public trust, there must be full public disclosure of the monies collected and spent in its operation. Such disclosure should be retroactive to at least 2002 when the public interest framework for the operation of the channel was reintroduced in Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2002-61. The history of community channel policy in Canada demonstrates a long-standing commitment on the part of Parliament and the CRTC to ensure that Canadians have significant opportunities to participate in Canadian culture through the broadcasting system. This concern encompasses both the production of cultural expression, especially that which reflects local concerns and interests, and also the availability within the broadcast system to the kinds of cultural experiences and expression that local reflection can provide. Throughout the history of community channel policy, the CRTC has not wavered in its understanding of the vital link between the well-being of communities in Canada and the ability of citizens to address issues of public concern through mass media. What the community channel has historically provided is a way for Canadians to generate and view cultural expressions which complement commercial programming rather than duplicate it. The CRTC has acknowledged for more than 30 years that the public and private elements of the broadcasting system - while excellent, informative and entertaining - do not on their own adequately reflect the diversity of Canadian experience nor allow for the full range of issues of public concern. The community channel has been a vital means for communities to address matters of local public concern – concerns that otherwise would not have been expressed. In this regard, we would like to direct your attention to Appendix A, Communicating Community Capital: A Framework for Evaluating the Role of Local Television, a study prepared for OpenMedia.ca of how community television impacts local communities. Local expression through community programming has played an under-appreciated and yet highly significant role in community life in matters such as: + the preservation of local history + community building through the expansion of physical, financial and ecological capital + future planning + problem solving and conflict resolution + skills development + linguistic and cultural preservation + events listings and local market exchange + entertainment reflective of local settings and cultural experiences





11 12

Community-owned and operated local television continues to play a vital role in the communities where it is allowed to flourish. Central to our position in these hearings is the observation that the failings of existing community television policies can most readily be addressed by the independent management of community channel resources.



By independent, we mean management of community programming resources independent and arm’s length from the cable companies who cannot realistically be expected to fulfill their obligations to investors in complicated and rapidly changing markets while simultaneously carrying out the trust-like obligations imposed by community media policy goals and objectives. In fact, it is the failure of the cable companies to negotiate the competing authorities of market exigencies as against the public interest goals and objectives of community channel policy that has so limited and, as others have suggested, crippled the community element of the broadcasting system.


Burden of Proof and the Experience of Ordinary Canadians 15 Since 1997, and the introduction of the failed regulation that allowed cable companies unfettered control over the community channel and which resulted in the decimation of volunteer networks across the country; and since 2002, with the reintroduction of a public interest framework for the community channel, there hve been widespread complaints to the effect that cable companies do not honour the goals and objectives for community access television. One of the difficulties that the public faces in public hearings regarding the broadcasting system is lack of resources and expertise. The public by definition is scattered, decentralized and unorganized. It lacks the organizational and more particularly monetary resources to monitor a $100 million sector of the Canadian broadcasting system. Indeed, we can see the importance of centralized organization and funding to submission numbers reflected in the thoughtful responses on behalf of independent community access channels in Quebec who do receive direct financial support from BDU contributions. And yet, the kinds of community channels these letters support are substantively different from those operated by cable companies in that they set out to and meet the access and participation objectives of the regulations. The present hearings raise questions such as whether or not and the degree to which community channel objectives are ignored; the degree to which volunteer access has been limited or eliminated in regions across the country; the absence of notices in cable billing inserts indicating volunteer and training opportunities as required under the regulations; the extent to which applications for air-time by independent producers are denied in violation of the regulations; the degree to which community channel resources are not shared with the community. The Canadian public does not even have access to the program logs from the cable company community channels – even though the cable companies are required to keep this information, the CRTC has the authority to request it, and the public has asked that the CRTC make this request to no avail. We refer the Commission to our letter dated January 20, 2010 wherein we requested the programming logs and to which we did not receive a reply. It is our understanding that other groups have also unsuccessfully requested this information. Neither does the public have access to the accounting records for how community channel monies are being spent. Even the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage had trouble getting the cable companies to reveal this information for their study Our Cultural Sovereignty.









Despite these profound informational, resource and expertise limitations, the burden of proof for how well the cable companies are complying with the letter and spirit of community channel regulation is placed on the Canadian public. We ask that the Commission take this into account – not only in terms of future policy considerations in the community sector where competing interests pit an unorganized and underresourced public against the lawyers for some of the largest companies in the nation – but in terms of testimony and submissions. The testimony of ordinary Canadians, individuals and community groups about community programming and cable operator diligence should be received in light of this profoundly unfair position that the Canadian public finds itself in.


Part I (a) and (b): Regulatory Objectives and Community Channel Roles 24 25 Q1. The current objectives are not being met in letter or spirit by the cable company managed community channels according to the testimony of Canadians from across Canada. Specifically, the cable companies fail to meet these objectives and the roles set out for the community channel as follows: + by failing to foster and encourage a diversity of voices and alternative points of view and ways of expression, and failing to foster and encourage public participation + by diminishing and in many instances eliminating volunteer opportunities + by failing to actively promote training programs or to provide training + by failing to seek out alternative views or to encourage and support programming that reflects the cultural diversity of Canadian society including economic differences, ethnic diversity, and sexual orientations + by failing to publicize program schedules for independently produced community programming We refer the Commission to complaints received since the implementation of 2002-61, and in this hearing submissions from CACTUS, ACCESS-TV, EMTSET PRODUCTIONS, and the thousands of submissions from ordinary Canadians who believe that the community channel resources are not being properly managed. 26 Q2. We recommend first and foremost that community channel resources be allocated to one or more community representative non-profit organizations who operate at arms length from the cable operators in order to ensure that the primary management goal of community programming operations is to meet the goals and objectives of community channel policies in as efficient a manner as possible. We support the submission by CACTUS in regards to the funding of an independent not-for-profit community programming organization. Second, we recommend strict financial accountability and transparency in every instance of community channel spending, including the public availability of programming logs, applications for air-time by independent producers, publicly available criteria for denying air-time, volunteer training opportunities.


5 28 Third, we recommend the creation of a community programming ombudsperson office, a position that would oversee complaints in the community channel sector - a public interest element of the broadcasting system worth over $100 million annually. An ombudsperson office of community programming could be established and run with as little as 1% or less of current community channel resource allocations. Q3. Existing objectives for the community television framework are acceptable if those responsible for carrying them out sincerely strive to do so in good faith. We do however recommend that the objectives expressly articulate a high standard of accountability, something like fiduciary responsibility on the part of those entrusted to manage community channel resources on behalf of the Canadian public. Q4. The primary difference between local programming from conventional broadcasters and community programming is in its origination. Community programming originates (1) through entities whose production and distribution efforts are made on a not-for-profit basis; (2) through organizations who are independently constituted and representative of the community wherein programming originates, and (3) where there is substantive community participation in the organization’s operations, especially (but not exclusively) in production. Q5. The roles and objectives as set out continue for the most part to be appropriate. The problem remains a lack of good faith willingness on the part of cable companies to meet these objectives. In this regard we have three recommendations: (i) That community channel resource management be structured in such a way that those responsible for the resources are structurally independent of cable operators and widely representative of the community. That there be real accountability and transparency for how hundreds of millions of dollars of public money are being spent in achieving these roles and objectives. That we support the submission of CACTUS, the Canadian Association of Community Television Groups and Users. In a time of changing technologies and patterns of citizen participation in culture, we recommend that the Commission consider the CACTUS proposal for using community channel resources to establish community media community resource centers akin to local libraries but with the emphasis on cultural production and distribution. We return to this recommendation below under part IV.




(ii) (iii)

Part I (c): Community-based television services 32 Q7. It is important to recognize the difference between “uptake” in organizational form, and “uptake” on the part of communities through citizens and independent producers. It is our understanding that communities have been clamoring for opportunities to participate in community programming through independent producers and volunteers but lack the opportunities to participate, access to production resources, and access to air-time. There is no modesty in this uptake, but rather a restriction on their ability to participate. In terms of why so few organizations have applied to become independent community-based television services, the CRTC must first look to its decision to deny the one application it has received by independent community group to do so and the ways in which this might create an


6 atmosphere of discouragement. We direct the Commission’s attention to their decision in CRTC 2008-19 denying Community Media Education Society’s application to provide community programming services for Telus. 34 The Commission should consider two key aspects in determining why the public haven’t applied on more than four occasions for a community license under the new framework: (i) skills and capacities; and (ii) financial resources. To apply for a community-based television service would require capacities and skills and trust and collaborative determination to create and operate a community television station. Where, the Commission should ask, would members of the public – by definition who are not professionals in the field - get these skills? The answer to this question goes to the heart of why community television remains relevant in a much transformed new media context. One of the great strengths of a community television sector that encourages and facilitates widespread public participation – and one of the a significant differences between community channel production and online opportunities such as Youtube - is the way in which community channel production facilitates and encourages social and community growth. We refer you again to the report in Appendix A. Community channel production brings together groups of people into collaborative production processes. These groups have access to otherwise prohibitively costly facilities: studios, sets, lighting, sound technologies, sound proofing, mobile studios. These resources open opportunities for programming: live broadcasting, daily news shows, dramatic television, etc. The Internet does not replace the kinds of mentorship, education, and community service experiences or sense of place that is engendered through collaborative community production. Under stewardship of the cable companies, according to the testimony of Canadians dating back to 2002, these diverse opportunities and potentials for community growth have been diminished or eliminated altogether. We also refer the Commission to the submissions in these hearings including CACTUS, ACCESS-TV, EMTSET PRODUCTIONS and the thousands of individual submissions from ordinary Canadians. Further, CRTC regulation attracts a relatively small reading audience. Unless efforts are made to make Canadians aware of their opportunities to participate in the broadcasting system through community-based television services, it seems unlikely that they would come to the awareness on their own. And finally, lack of resources plays a significant role in limiting interest in community-based television services. If, for example, community channel monies were made available to support independent community-based television services, it seems certain that the number of license applications would increase. We point to the situation in Quebec where Ministry of Culture monies are made available and independent channels have proliferated. The Keeble Report also comes to a similar conclusion, that adequate funding is required for success in the community programming sector. Q8. We recommend that community channel resources be managed independent of the cable operators, and that the resources be made available to support independent community-based services.







7 41 We also support the CACTUS proposal for community channel resources to be allocated in part through the establishment of community media resource centres much like local libraries across the country.

I (d): Direct-to-home satellite services 42 Q11. We support including direct-to-home satellite services within the community channel framework. We recommend that like cable operators the DTH provider contribute to local programming as a percentage of gross revenues. These resources could be used to help fund the community element of the broadcasting system: independent applications for community-based television services; the CACTUS proposal for community media resource centres; a community programming ombudsperson office; in short, all of the strategies outlined in our submission for revitalizing community access programming and meeting its public interest policy objectives.

II: Access programming 43 44 Q12 – Q14. This is perhaps the single-most evident failure of community channel policy since restructuring began in 1997. Since 2002, individuals and organizations across Canada have complained that access opportunities at cable company managed community channels are limited or non-existent. In many areas there are no volunteer opportunities. In others, there has been a steady decline in volunteer opportunities including production opportunities, creative decision-making and in producer and management roles. We refer the Commission to the testimony, evidence and complaints of ordinary Canadians that have been directed to the CRTC since the implementation of 2002-61, and those submissions in these hearings including CACTUS, the Community Media Education Society, ACCES-TV, EMTSET PRODUCTIONS and the thousands of individual submissions from ordinary Canadians. A significant barrier to addressing these concerns from the public’s perspective is access to adequate and relevant information. As it stands, the public does not have access to detailed financial accounting, programming logs, access requests and volunteer involvement for cable company managed community channels. We first recommend that those responsible for managing community television assets be held to a high standard of accountability including transparency of spending, decision-making and operations. Ideally, those who manage community channel resources must do so in trust for and on behalf of public interest. The existing requirements and obligations for citizen participation should be changed to better reflect the goals and objectives of the community channel regulations. In this regard, we recommend three changes: (i) community channel funds should be administered as a public trust and by independent, not-for-profit organizations who are representative of the communities they serve; (ii) those who are responsible for community programming resources should be held to a high standard of accountability and record-keeping with an emphasis on transparency and public accountability regarding financial and programming decisions; and




8 (iii) provision for how to proceed in the event that community programming objectives are not being met – either through inability, negligence, or mala fide intent. We refer the Commission to our earlier recommendation that the Commission establish from existing funds an ombudsperson office of community programming to address complaints and regulatory compliance in the sector.


The goal of citizen participation in cultural production is relevant to democratic governance regardless of the technologies at play, i.e. whether cultural networks are terrestrial or online. Citizen participation in public discourses and cultural expression helps to ensure that the interests of all Canadians get heard, aids in conflict resolution and negotiation over scarce resources, creates opportunities for Canadians to challenge ideas and offer innovation, to solve problems, and to preserve cultural memory . It is also worth pointing out that despite new opportunities created through networked patterns of cultural connectivity, online consumption habits are in fact more concentrated within fewer sources than in traditional media systems.1 Despite arguably wider access to sources of media, patterns of use suggest even higher concentrations of audience attention. There also remain significant and unresolved barriers to online connectivity in the form of digital divides: rural and urban, wealthy and poor, skilled and unskilled, etc. Networked information economies do not in and of themselves solve the problems and concerns regarding citizen participation in civil society. The problems and limitations persist, but manifest in different ways. Furthermore, the ways in which community programming facilitate community building, mentorship learning, collaborative creativity are not replicated by posting a video on Youtube. Ensuring citizen participation in the cultural life of a society where dominant modes of communication appear to converging to online and digitally networked forms (while still for the time being remaining firmly rooted in a terrestrial distribution system) prompts a rethinking of the ways in which we conceive citizen participation and the ways in which we might mobilize resources to encourage and expand that participation. In the same ways that technologies of production and distribution are proliferating platforms and facilitating their convergence into overlapping networks of distribution, we recommend that the CRTC consider approaches to citizen participation in programming that also reflects these trends. One such approach is the proposal by CACTUS for community-owned and operated multimedia access production and distribution centres, much like local libraries, but with an emphasis on local cultural reflection. Community channel policies emerged from a desire to use a small fraction of the resources generated in the markets created and regulated through the broadcasting system – markets which are dependent on both public and private resources - to address deficiencies in the ways those markets encourage or discourage public participation, diversity of voices and points of view, local reflection, cultural preservation and histories. With this in mind, we support the CACTUS proposal for using community television resources to establish community media resource production and distribution centres.



52 53






9 Part III (a) (b) & (c): Advertising, LPIF & BDU contributions advertising 58 59 Q15 – Q17. Advertising restrictions should not be removed. To allow the unfettered sale of air-time on community channels could negatively affect the local advertising markets of conventional broadcasters thus siphoning already shrinking revenues away from struggling local broadcasters. Allowing commercial advertising on the community channel in effect grants the cable companies licenses for television channels without the benefit of a public hearing. Allowing commercial advertising on the community channel would inevitably drive programming in the direction of conventional television which is clearly not the goal of community channel policy. The goal of community-based programming is to complement rather than duplicate commercial programming. LPIF 62 Q18. The LPIF could be used to fund the production of community programming on independently operated community television services, although with over $100 million annually available through the community channel levy, it is hard to understand why the levy funds wouldn’t be used to support community programming rather than the LPIF. BDU contributions 63 Q19. The current level of BDU contributions is adequate. As indicated in the CACTUS submission, the amount collected in 2008 ($116,000,000) is enough to operate multi-media community-access resource centres within the reach of 90% of Canadians. We also recommend that for the long-term health of the community sector, that this levy also be collected from direct-to-home satellite companies. Q20. As stated, the BDU contributions should be managed by arm’s length independent community representative not-for-profit organizations. In any event, at a very minimum, BDU contributions should be allocated towards access programming in the same proportion of community channel programming which must be made available for access programming under the regulations (50% of the 60% of total programming which must be produced locally). Or in other words, at a bare minimum 30% of the BDU contributions should be earmarked and made available to support access programming. These access programming funds should be administered by an independent not-for-profit organization. A useful model for administering the funds is to be found in the federal government’s Canada Council for the Arts. The access programming funds should not be rolled in with the LPIF. Community access programming is the most vulnerable, least organized and least well represented of the three elements in the broadcasting system. The clear and present danger of allowing these funds to be

60 61

64 65 66



10 administered through the LPIF is that they will be eventually and we suggest inevitably swallowed up by these more dominant and well organized and funded concerns. 69 Q.21 Community-based television programming undertakings should have access to BDU contributions for local expression.

Part IV (b): New technologies (b) 70 Q.24-27 Community-access channels, as the third legislatively recognized element of the broadcasting system should receive the same consideration regarding new technologies in due course as the private and public elements. Like the private and public elements, community programming has also begun to migrate to online platforms and will in all likelihood continue to do so. Like the private and public elements, online distribution does not replace terrestrial distribution nor render terrestrial distribution irrelevant, inconsequential, unnecessary. In Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-329 the CRTC set out its intent to continue to exempt new media broadcasting services from its regulation. As such, exempted services should not be considered a valid replacement (i.e. “internet-only community broadcasting”) for community programming services within the broadcasting system any more than they should for the private or public elements. The community programming created through bona fides uses of community access programming resources is unique in process and content, and the role that it serves in Canadian communities that is not replicated or replaced by unregulated new media cultural activities. We again refer the Commission to the report in Appendix A and the ways in which community programming undertakings can provide important opportunities for the expansion of community assets. It has been demonstrated that community programming services over time can play a direct role in expanding community strength in terms of financial capital, ecological assets, skills and knowledge, political capabilities, cultural preservation, conflict resolution, and local physical infrastructure. The kinds of synergies that coalesce through community production processes that are wellresourced and have access to production facilities, mentorship opportunities, skills sharing, technical training and opportunities to participate in creative problem solving are not replicated by atomized new media activities. And yet, as with the other elements of the broadcasting system, new media platforms are playing an increasingly important role in terms of access to programming and distribution opportunities. There may be new ways of rethinking how best to achieve the goals and objectives for community programming through access channel resources. In this regard, we support the proposal by CACTUS that community-access channels work toward achieving distribution:

71 72 73 74







11 (i) (ii) Over the air, as a primary platform, so that the programming is free to all and the distribution infrastructure is in community hands On cable, as part of the basic service tier (under current policy, this is automatic with an over-the-air license). Most Canadians have cable, so community media needs a presence here. Over the Internet, both live and on-demand Through satellite services in the long term, as Canada experiments with spot-beaming (and as already occurs in the US). On new media, such as broadcasting to wireless devices, and podcasting,

(iii) (iv) (v)

and that this be achieved through local, community media resource centers. 81 Community production through community-media resource centres can be thought about like local libraries in the sense of an accessible means for citizens to participate in the cultural life of their community and wider society. But whereas libraries provide an essential archival and research respository for communities, the community media centre would offer access to the training and tools needed to take an active voice in the community and in Canadian society at large. Community media resource centres could act as new-media incubators that lead to job creation, community empowerment, and media innovation, and could provide media education and production training accessible to Canadians from all backgrounds. Community media resource centers would provide access to skills development, leadership and job training for everyone, including marginalized citizens like at-risk youth. At a time when traditional patterns of cultural production are being transformed by emerging networked information economies, creative approaches to journalism and media are urgently needed. Who is going to fill the vacuum where traditional forms of local public affairs programming are in decline? The crisis in the traditional media industry combined with the proliferation of new and networked models of cultural participation through the Internet has produced a historic opportunity to make culture more participatory, innovative, and responsive. Community media through neighbourhood media resource centers could partly fill this void. We refer to recent comments by the National Film Board’s Chairman Tom Perlmutter on Canada's digital strategy. He said recently that Canada needs to figure out how to “create a vital Canadian space" and that part of the solution is to provide facilities that enable Canadians to express their culture and values themselves. Providing funds for community media resource centres would be a large step in the right direction. We refer the Commission to the W2 media center in Vancouver, a community media resource center - the first of its kind in Canada - and referred to in other submissions. W2 provides an excellent model for how a community media resource centre might operate in a larger urban community. W2 also provides evidence for the desire of communities to have such a facility available for community members. Briefly, W2 is a community media arts centre in Vancouver's DTES (Downtown Eastside) opening in Spring 2010. W2 will feature a 150-capacity performance space, community TV studio, FM






12 radio station, gallery, social enterprise café, letterpress studio, telepresence and mobile media programs. The objectives for the Centre include: (i) providing opportunities for residents to experience the arts -- as audience, for personal growth and expression, as aspiring and practicing artists, and for personal and collective voice for advocacy on issues affecting the community. providing a platform for locally-led sustainable economic and social renewal in collaboration with local resident, community and business organizations. building bridges with people and organizations within and beyond the Downtown Eastside that strengthens understanding and appreciation for the people of this community and their accomplishments.

(ii) (iii)


The W2 community media centre project has limited financial support for its establishment from local and regional governments. The project’s longterm sustainability will depend on access to suitable funding from sources (like community centers and local libraries) other than through commercial markets. It is exactly the kind of project that could benefit from access to community channel funds, and it provides a model for the kind of community media resource centres proposed in the CACTUS submission. The availability of similar resources in communities across Canada would substantively help achieve the objectives and goals for community access regulation - namely widespread citizen participation, local reflection and diversity of voices.


Conclusion 89 90 In conclusion, OpenMedia.ca would like to urge the Commission to weigh carefully the public interest implications of community channel resources. Over the course of 30 years or so, well over $1 billion has been collected from Canadians and earmarked to be used to achieve specific and important policy objectives of which some of the more important ones include: citizen participation in and access to cultural expression through the broadcasting system, a diversity of voices in the broadcasting system, and the production of local reflection programming. These are public resources created to achieve public purposes but which are managed by cable companies on behalf of the Canadian public. In considering the future of community channel resources, management and policy, the Commission must ask itself if the cable companies have acted to a high, transparent and accountable standard. The increasing importance of the cultural realm in Canadian social and political life is undeniable, as are the profound changes brought about to the Canadian mediascape by emerging networked information economies and digital technologies. Community programming resources are a unique and remarkably forward looking policy creation and opportunity to help Canadians maintain a vibrant, healthy, diverse and reliable media culture.

91 92


13 94 Telecommunications companies make and make available cultural goods and they create wealth through consumer markets using private innovation and investment, but only in conjunction with public policy protections that have and continue to encourage large and globally competitive companies to emerge in Canada’s comparatively small economy. The resources used – airwaves, spectrum frequency, even the land base for terrestrial distribution services - are public resources. And the undeniably critical role that culture and information play in maintaining and strengthening democratic forms of government also infuses telecommunications decisions and outcomes with elements of public interest. The public interest element of community programming should be at the forefront of the Commission’s considerations in the matter of community channel policy.


On behalf of OpenMedia.ca, Steve Anderson National Coordinator, OpenMedia.ca Michael Lithgow, MA Research Associate / Community and Independent Media Policy Analyst Dr. David Skinner Associate Professor in Communication Studies at York University Dr. Leslie Regan Shade Associate Professor, Concordia University, Dept. of Communication Studies




Community Television & Community Capital:
A Case Study - Telile Community Television
Prepared for OpenMedia.ca by Michael Lithgow, M.A.

Community Television and Community Capital by Michael Lithgow is licensed (2009) under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License. To view a copy of this license visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ca/

Table of Contents


Introduction ........................................................................................................................................... 3 Method.................................................................................................................................................. 17 Telile Community Television .............................................................................................................. 18 Conclusions.......................................................................................................................................... 21 References............................................................................................................................................ 26


16 The current crisis in Canadian broadcasting, if we follow the news, will find its salvation in local programming – the elimination of local programming, that is. Faced with prospects of bankruptcy (CanWest Global is negotiating with creditors as this is written), declining advertising revenues (a full 93% reduction in profits from last year to this among private sector conventional TV stations, Kohanik 2009), and an economy spiraling downward in the wake of housing foreclosures in the United States, Canadian television broadcasters are agreed: the only way to save their networks is to significantly reduce and maybe eliminate local programs – or, have someone else pay for them. Last year’s federally created $60 million Local Programming Improvement Fund was a step in that direction, a fund designed to “ensure that viewers in smaller Canadian markets continue to receive a diversity of local programming, and particularly local news programming; improve the quality and diversity of local programming broadcast in these markets, and ensure that viewers in French-language markets are not disadvantaged by the smaller size of these markets” (CRTC 2008). And the government has announced interest in a $150 million rescue fund for Canadian broadcasters, a fund aimed at supporting the production of news and public affairs programs in rural areas. Fix the local programming problem, so it seems, fix the whole problem. It is surprising that few commentators on the current crisis in local programming mention community television, a sector of the Canadian broadcast system that receives in excess of $100 million annually. It is a surprisingly hefty figure for such an understudied and largely ignored aspect of Canadian television culture. Community television was recognized and mandated through regulation in 1975 to encourage and facilitate community participation in the mass medium of cable television. It was created to supplement commercial television not replicate it, and to provide “local reflection” – expression of local culture, stories, events, issues, places and people. Community television was a way to ensure the opportunity for Canadians to tell their own stories. What is rarely studied are the social outcomes of community television: What does it do? What do Canadians do with it? Mediated information exchange, television or otherwise, is widely recognized as one of the central ways that people participate in society, and lack of ability to do so is often an important component of social exclusion. Individual and groups use media to collectively solve problems, set agendas, test ideas, preserve languages, culture and memories, celebrate, and create social identities.2 Community television in Canada can be understood, in part, as one of the ways in which Canadians participate in all of thee activities, and one of the ways through which the experiences and concerns of Canadians excluded from dominant cultural forums (for example, rural Canadians) can contribute to public culture.3 The site for this research report is rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia where a small independent local television broadcaster, Telile Community Television, has been in operation since 2002. Telile was an outgrowth from a community channel production group who, under new regulations introduced in 2002 (CRTC 2002-61), decided to protect their presence on local cable by obtaining their own community broadcast license. This report is an abridged summary of a much longer study using an asset-based approach to community economic development as a framework for understanding the impact of community television on its local community.

2 Downing 2001, 2003; Habermas 1987; Howley 2005; Rennie 2006; Rodriguez 2001; Stein 2002; Waltz 2005

3 Fraser 1993


Method Community television in Canada can be understood as non-traditional media in the sense that it does not have as its central organizing principle the sale of air-time (or print space) to large corporate sponsors. There are two dominant forms of community television: cable company managed production, and independent community production. The latter form of production often involves groups whose expressly stated mandate is to provide content that is different from conventional television, and to exist as organizations that do not focus on profit.4 These groups (often referred to as citizens media or community media) often emerge in response to economic, ideological, and educational barriers to participation in the ‘public sphere’.5 Barriers to participation in public culture are linked to aspects of social exclusion systemic inequalities such as poverty, little or no education or skills training, racism, sexism, inadequate housing.6 The “dynamic process of being shut out” that social exclusion describes can be measured by examining patterns of social phenomena within different realms of social experience. It is these realms (e.g. the production, distribution, and availability of material goods; labour markets; land tenure; security; human rights; and macro-economic development strategies)7 that suggest a method of tracking how community media practices might influence social formation. This study employed participant observation (over a period of eight weeks), interviews with key station stakeholders (founding members, members of the board of directors, and station staff), and a community-wide survey designed to surface the memories and experiences of the community at large about how Telile had effected local social reality.8 This research is not – and it is important to emphasize this point –‘media effects research’ in the traditional sense. Traditional effects scholarship is founded on the troubling assumption of a gap between media maker and audience. In community media, those who make the media come from the communities that receive it. Among other things, conflating categories of producer and audience expands the unit of analysis when asking “what is the effect” to the community itself. This study is not concerned with just the effects of Telile TV on individuals, but rather the degree to which Telile TV increases the community’s overall ability to influence social, political and economic outcomes. In other words: does community television increase a community’s capacity to control their own future? The evaluation framework employed in this study was intended to map the community’s collective memories and experiences of how local television has influenced the latent capacities and strengths of the community where it produces and distributes programming. In particular, the framework was designed to locate indicators that existing community strengths had been expanded in some way in connection with Telile Community TV's operations. This approach to community development (called an asset-based approach, and sometimes referred to as community economic development, or CED), is intended to

4 Skinner 2004

5 Downing 2001; Howley 2005; Rodriguez 2001; Rennie 2006; Herman and McChesney 2003; Thussu 2000 6 Barata 2000. I am using ‘social exclusion’ in its redistributive sense, i.e. that social exclusion is linked to poverty and that solutions (steps towards social inclusion) will involve a substantial redistribution of resources and benefit payments. For further information about the different usages of ‘social exclusion’ see Levitas 2004. 7 Saloojee 2001 8 The survey was distributed along with bingo books into the community and made available online. The survey was promoted in local papers, on Telile, on the CBC Sydney website, and through church bulletins. The survey was responded to by 82 persons, over 90% of whom live on Isle Madame. Survey respondents were for the most part frequent Telile viewers (70% weekly).

18 strategically intervene in social formation in such a way that existing capacities are strengthened in order to increase a community’s collective abilities to solve its own problems. Within a CED framework, community strengths or capacities are understood as manifesting in a number of phenomenal categories: human capital (which encompasses skills, education and training, health, creative abilities); social capital (relationships, trust, cultural participation, the production of identity, and norms of behavior that facilitate collective action); physical capital (community facilities, public transit, hospitals, housing, telecommunications, water and sanitation); economic capital (savings, formal and informal credit, local enterprise ownership, entrepreneurial capacities); and natural capital (clean air and water, green-space, access to natural resources, adequate food supply).9 There is also the idea of ‘political capital’ -- the degree to which public and private institutions are responsive to community needs and can be made responsive to community needs.10 These categories are not intended to be exhaustive, nor do they describe rigidly separated attributes or phenomena within a community. They are meant to give a sense of where social change is thought to occur when communities expand control over aspects of their social reality. The second part of the framework is based on an abridged survey of community media literature in an attempt to find links between expected community media outcomes and the expansion of community capital. I identified four broad categories of outcomes (intended, expected and experienced): (i) the construction of meaning, (ii) negotiating proximities to power, (iii) the formation of social bonds and (iv) expanding personal capacities. In addition, within the first category of ‘the construction of meaning’, there is the important sub-category of the construction of social identities – the ways in which we use symbolic exchange to define ourselves in groups. These four broad categories were combined with the CED community capital framework to arrive at an Outcomes Mapping Framework (Figure 1). The left side of the chart indicates outcomes related to the production of collective identities; the right side indicates the four categories of outcome gleaned from the literature described above; and in the middle, the categories of community capital. Ties between community media outcomes and community capital are indicated with dotted lines. This is the evaluation framework tool that I took into the field. Telile Community Television Field research took place in the Fall of 2006, over a period of eight weeks at Telile Community Television (Telile) in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Telile was created in 1993 in response the closure of the cod fishery on Canada’s east coast. According to an original funding document, the Telile “project” had three aims: (1) to facilitate and enable community economic development (CED); (2) to create a non-profit business; and (3) to move Isle Madame to the information economy (Telile 1993). The closing of the cod fishery sent economic and social shockwaves


9 Kretzman and McKnight 1993; Markey et al. 2005; Prain 2006; Roseland et al. 2005

10 Smith and Bailkey 2006

19 throughout Canada's east coast. Before the closure, between 1989 and 1993, local wage earnings on Isle Madame had already declined over 70% (Telile 1993). The cod fishery closure threatened to eliminate an additional 500 Island jobs overnight. The Telile founders were responding in a time of impending crisis (Telile 1993): Isle Madame is facing an economic crisis entailing the loss of 500 jobs in a work force of only 1500. The crisis has been well documented in several reports…These reports make it absolutely clear that if Isle Madame is not to suffer catastrophic economic collapse and large-scale out-migration, the island’s people must pull together and commit themselves to [sic] vigorous program of community economic development. One early response to the crisis was to use the local community television channel to communicate messages of hope and alternative economic strategies to island residents. The Telile Community Television project received funding under The Atlantic Groundfish Strategy (or TAGS) program. Fourteen displaced fishers were trained over a 32 week period to produce television. Programming was distributed on the local community channel through Strait of Canso Cable TV.11 Early programming focused on responses to the fishery crisis, CED initiatives, and the “scroll” was created, a text-based message board on the television screen where local residents could (through Telile staff) post messages for community meetings, job opportunities, retraining programs, items for sale, community events – in short, just about anything including birthday notices, baby announcements, anniversaries, thank you’s, etc. The scroll is also where Telile sells advertising – local businesses pay for short text ads that form part of the scroll’s content. Also in these early years, Telile established its TV Bingo which, over Telile’s 14 years in existence, has provided it with most of its operating revenues. Under new regulations introduced in 2002, Telile applied for and received a license for a non-profit community-based television programming undertaking broadcasting with a 500 watt transmitter. By becoming a community-based broadcaster, Telile secured its place on local cable, and through its transmitter was able to reach communities and households who did not previously have access to cable services. In 2004, Seaside Cable (which services all of eastern cape Breton) asked if they could also send the Telile signal out onto their cable network. Today, Telile is carried on Rush Cable in Richmond County and Seaside Cable in eastern Cape Breton as far north as Glace Bay (see map below). Telile is funded primarily through a live bingo game which occurs once a week. Bingo cards are sold on Ilse Madame and in one community on Cape Breton Island (Louisdale). In 2006, bingo accounted for over $300,000 of Telile's revenue, or about 90% of total revenues (see map below). Telile has three employees: (1) a station manager, (2) a producer /advertising sales person, and (3) a bookkeeper / assistant producer. Generally, programming is produced by the station manager and producer. Student interns are also hired each summer to help produce programming for the coming year. Programming cycles are planned six to eight weeks in advance. Each month, Telile issues a TV Guide which is posted on the website, in the scroll (described below), and distributed in the community. A programming cycle of this length virtually precludes “current affairs” programs. Each week, one, two or three new shows are presented two or three times throughout the week. Most of Telile’s airtime is occupied with the “scroll” - a text-based listing of community events, meetings, dances, congratulations, notices, job postings, rooms for rent, items for sale, etc - which plays continuously between program blocks. The scroll is updated daily.


Subsequently renamed RUSH Communications.

20 Telile is located in Arichat, considered to be the largest community on Isle Madame with a population somewhere between 800 and 1,000. Arichat is where the municipal office for Richmond County is located. Telile serves two distinct cultural groups – Cape Bretoners, who are an Anglophone majority in the region (although a distinct minority within Canada, and even within Nova Scotia) and Acadians, a Francophone minority. Ilse Madame is considered one of the “centers” of Acadian culture in Nova Scotia.12 There are even two public school systems on the little island, one Acadian, one non-Acadian. According to the 2006 census, about half of the residents self-identify as bilingual (CDENE 2006). 30% of Telile Community TV’s programming is in Acadian French. The people who live in these small, coastal communities, like most Canadians, live in cultural milieux dominated by non-local media flows. Cable and satellite television bring hundreds of mostly foreign-owned channels to the island saturating the mediascape with images and sounds and stories that have little to do with the local culture, local history and local community events. Local radio is dominated by non-local (mostly American) music. Most newspapers are produced far enough away that if the island is mentioned in a news story, it is a noteworthy event. These commercial media flows make up the “public sphere” on the island, and, like the 18th Century version that German communications scholar Jurgen Habermas based his original theory of the public sphere on, there is much bracketing that goes on. Locals in fact have little to no access to these media flows in terms of making meaningful contributions, and Acadian culture is all but absent from available commercial media. Telile TV, on the other hand, creates programming of immediate relevance to the lives of local residents. Programming consists of the community scroll (described above); music – local, Acadian and Celtic music performed in local settings by local performers; interviews with local residents, elders, community leaders and artisans; the recording of local community events such as plays and pagents, talent shows, music and story-telling festivals, religious events, fundaisers. There is also a small amount of non-local programming, mainly consisting of a children’s show and an exercise show for seniors. Telile TV is a visible manifestation of local cultural production in the Cape Breton region.


Acadians were the French settlers in Nova Scotia forced into exile beginning in 1755 by the British colonial government. Most fled, but some stayed and hid in the coastal areas of Cape Breton.


Petit-de-Grat, Isle Madame. Photo: Michael Lithgow

Conclusions The interviews, the community survey and the review of Telile programming surfaced a range of responses concerning Telile’s role(s) in the community. Telile Community Television was organized in response to the economic and social crisis precipitated by the closure of the cod fishery. It was conceived as a vehicle to propagate and encourage community economic development strategies, to offer hope in a time of crisis, and as a small social enterprise in and of itself. It was an attempt by community leaders to hold the community together, to provide cultural stability, to influence local economic outcomes in such a way so as to preserve a way of life. This research indicates that Telile has been experienced within the community in many different ways (see Figure 2): as playing a role in the construction of local meaning (through Acadian cultural programming, valorizing local qualities such as the landscape and the people, and by making expert knowledge accessible to a wider public); as helping to negotiate relationships of power (through the televising of Richmond County council meetings, through live coverage of local elections, and by giving the community “clout” by having a “telecom” located in its midst); as having increased local social networks and bonds (by bridging divides between French and English communities, by having kept the community together after fishing crisis, through surfacing local communities of interest and overcoming geographic barriers between communities, by increasing community involvement); and by expanding individual capacities through skills sharing programming such as computer use for seniors and gardening shows, training videos, internships, workstudies. Telile is experienced as having played an active role in the construction and maintenance of Acadian identity, in negotiating cultural space for local experience and local values, and in preserving local history and stories. The ways in which local residents described Telile as having influenced community life touch

22 on every kind of community capital as described within an assets-based approach to community development. There were even two new genres of outcomes identified by local residents that did not easily fall within the prescribed schema: information flow about daily community events and the knowledge and expertise accumulated by Telile through successfully operating a financially independent community television station over 14 years. Community results also suggested that cultural capital and social capital, at least in this case, make more sense as distinct categories of capital rather than as a merged category as is generally found in the literature. The responses reveal descriptions of outcomes that correspond to all categories of community capital. A kind of outcome that did not easily fit into the community capital schema was also identified -- information flow. Information flow refers to a kind of information that is rooted in the practicality of day-to-day lives of community members, i.e. notices for meetings and community events, advertisements for good and services, real estate sales and apartment rentals, job postings, etc. In fact, information flow was the most frequently mentioned category of outcome in the community survey. Among informants, social and cultural capital were the areas of community life identified as most impacted by Telile. * * *

Rural communities in Canada experience levels of social exclusion and social fragmentation that suggests that they are not well served by dominant political and economic structures (Toye and Infanti 2004). Cape Breton, a rural community on Canada’s east coast, is no exception: 18% of the population in Cape Breton lives in poverty (Lee 2000). The unemployment rate hovers around 27% (CDENE 2006). Cape Breton has the highest cancer rates in Nova Scotia, and a cancer death rate 25% higher than the national average (GPI 2003). Deaths due to bronchitis, emphysema and asthma are a full 50% higher in Cape Breton than the national average (GPI 2003). Cape Breton has the lowest average disability-free life expectancy of Canada’s 139 health regions (GPI 2003). And a 2004 report suggests that upwards of 50,000 young people will leave Cape Breton between now and 2021 looking for better opportunities (CBC 2004). Cape Breton, like many rural areas throughout the world, appears to be caught in a web of social forces that increasingly marginalizes its population from the social and economic advantages created by the society in which it exists. The cod fishery collapse in the early 1990s brought into acute relief the vulnerability of these rural communities. When community leaders responded to the crisis, one of their first observations was that they had no way to communicate with local residents. The public sphere on Isle Madame was dominated by commercial and non-local media providers (much like it is today with the exception of Telile) leaving little room for local participation. The community decided to produce information independently and non-commercially through a community television channel. With hindsight, and looking at Telile’s role today, we can see that community leaders were groping towards an expanded sense of what Dick Stanley calls ‘cultural citizenship’ – enhancing a capacity for action, creating and retaining identity, modifying values and preferences for collective choice, building social cohesion, contributing to community development and fostering civic participation.13 It was a recognition and expectation that by controlling some aspects of the media in their community, the community as a whole stood a better chance of surviving the impending economic and social calamity of the closure of the fishery. i.e. that they would have more control over their collective economic and social fate if they could exercise more control over the media flows in their communities.

13 Stanley 2005

23 In this study community television was shown to not only play a role in nearly all aspects of community life, but in ways that expand community capital and diminish problems related to social exclusion.



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