It therefore seems clear to many that the establishment of a dedicated local community and access programming fund would help solve the underfunding problems experienced by the groups that produce this programming. That is also the federation's view. Furthermore, if such a fund included an infrastructure funding component, there would undoubtedly be increased interest by various local organizations in obtaining a community-based television programming undertaking licence, be it low power or digital.
The CRTC recently announced the establishment of a Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF). We were surprised and stunned that the CRTC put the fund in place in the context of the Diversity of Voices hearing, which must first serve private local broadcasters. We view that fund as the very essence of what we have been seeking for more than eight years, but which will now serve others.
Even though the CRTC indicated that it will consider whether it is appropriate to open the LPIF up to community producers, we can now state that it will be unable to adequately meet the needs of private broadcasters. Sixty million dollars is the amount we considered necessary for independent community production in Canada. How can $60 million be enough to meet the financial needs of both private broadcasters and community producers? Even if the LPIF received twice the planned funding, its structure would nevertheless result in endless quarrels between private broadcasters and community producers. It will be impossible to square the circle if the second fund is not established.
Since 2002, community television stations have been allowed to air sponsorship messages with an animated visual presentation with the maximum of 15 seconds. However, this type of advertising may not show the goods and prices. This restrictive principle deprives the independent CTVs of substantial revenue from local merchants who would like to advertise on television at an affordable cost. No conventional advertising is permitted. That is why the federation is asking the CRTC for a softening of rules to permit 12 minutes of conventional, commercial and local advertising.
The independent CTVs need new income sources to enhance the amount and quality of local and access programming. However, they also need new funding sources to keep up with technological developments that force us to adjust to the transition to digital and high definition.
The federation is in favour of funding through conventional advertising because, as a result of the independent CTVs' non-profit structure, the resulting revenues would be entirely allocated to access programming and to the technological upgrades necessary for digital production.
The community channel, as an immediate tool of community and information, should be able to promote local development and help reduce the amount of lost business. To do this, we would like you to recommend that the CRTC review subsection 27(1) of the regulations, which restricts the type of advertising messages that can be distributed on the community channel.
The CRTC has also observed that the various bodies it has put in place over the past three years or so have brought reaction from community television craftspeople across the country, particularly those in Quebec. Authorities have, concerning the diversity of voices, the Canadian Television Fund and the broadcasting distribution regulatory review, raised fears in the community television environment even further. That is why the oversight agency has announced that there will be a specific review of community broadcasting in the fall of 2009.
That review should spearhead a consolidation of the community element as recognized in the Broadcasting Act. We should not wind up with a weaker community broadcasting sector at the end of this exercise. The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage must take an active part in the debate by sending a clear message to Canadian citizens that it will defend the maintenance and consolidation of a strong community broadcasting system.