A column about media, broadcasting and the regulatory environment.
The CRTC has released a new edict commanding all TV news services to broadcast local news to the communities they are licensed to serve. Large market outlets must produce at least 14 hours of “locally relevant programming” weekly, and employ full-time journalists or establish bureaus in the markets where they are licensed.
Smaller markets, such as Thunder Bay, and independently owned OTA broadcasters – most notably Channel Zero’s CHCH – will be eligible to dip into a Local News Production fund that will help pay for producing enough news product to meet the new requirements. To help stations struggling to generate advertising revenue, the CRTC said larger stations would be able to redistribute available resources, allowing them to spend up to $67 million more on local news content.
Television service providers currently set aside 5% of their revenues to help fund the creation of Canadian programming. The new policy leaves the overall amount in the fund largely unchanged. However, beginning Sept. 1, 2017, companies such as Bell, Rogers and Quebecor will be allowed to dip into some of the $156m currently spent on community programming to local news production instead -- on condition they keep all their stations open. The new regs take effect next Jan.
The CRTC has issued its new regulatory framework for local and community programming, following a process that began in September 2015.
During this process, Canadians reiterated that they place great importance on local news to stay informed.
Average weekly viewing hours for Canadian news and actualities broadcast by Canadian television services is over 23% of total hours viewed in the English market and over 28% in the French market.
The emergence of new technologies allowed Canadians to easily have access to local and international news. However, new digital media do not yet have adequate funding and the expertise necessary to replace traditional local news.
There are currently sufficient sources of funding within the system to fund the creation of locally produced, locally reflective programming.
Canada’s television system provides a strong foundation on which to build for the future. It employs nearly 60,000 people and invests more than $4 billion in public funds alone each year in the creation of content made by Canadians.
The allocation of some of the funding sources has been reviewed to ensure that local programming continues to be of high quality and receive adequate funding.
The CRTC expects broadcasters to fulfill their social responsibility to produce programming that informs and reflects local communities.
English-language stations will be required to broadcast at least seven hours of locally relevant programming (especially news) per week in non-metropolitan markets, and 14 hours per week in metropolitan markets (namely Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary).
French-language stations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, using a benchmark of five hours of local programming per week.
Canadians still value community television programming, especially in smaller communities.
In the digital era, it is increasingly easy to create and share content online at lower cost. Community channels are encouraged to make content available on multiple platforms to all Canadians.
The CRTC today also published a notice of consultation that launched the renewal process for television licences owned by large ownership groups.
The public hearing to review the applications from the French-language ownership groups, namely Bell, Corus, Québecor and Groupe V, will begin on November 22, 2016, in Laval, Quebec.
The public hearing to review the applications from the English-language ownership groups, namely Bell, Corus and Rogers, will begin on November 28, 2016, at our headquarters in the National Capital Region.
“We are rebalancing the considerable resources already in the system to ensure that the quality, quantity and capacity of local newscasts are maintained. However, the flexibility that we are giving to the large private broadcasters is not to be taken lightly. They have a responsibility of continuing to provide adequate funding for news and to produce high-quality local programming that informs Canadians and reflects the communities they serve. Holding a broadcasting licence is a privilege, and in exchange of that privilege broadcasters have public service obligations, especially with respect to local news and information.” – CRTC Chair & CEO Jean-Pierre Blais
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