Evidence of meeting #18 for Canadian Heritage in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was stations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

André Bureau  Chairman of the Board, Astral Media Inc.
John Cassaday  President and Chief Executive Officer, Corus Entertainment Inc.
Michel Roy  Chair, Board of Directors, Telefilm Canada
S. Wayne Clarkson  Executive Director, Telefilm Canada
Michael Harris  Vice-President and General Manager, Corus Entertainment Inc.
Pierre-Louis Smith  Vice-President Policy and Chief Regulatory Officer, Canadian Association of Broadcasters
Tara Rajan  Vice-President, Research and Policy, Canadian Association of Broadcasters
Sylvain Racine  Director of des Moulins Regional Television, Treasurer to the Board of Directors, Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec
Gérald Gauthier  Research and Development Officer, Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec
Michèle Fortin  President and Chief Executive Officer, Télé-Québec
Tim Caddigan  Manager, Regional Programming, TVCogeco Peterborough
Maureen Tilson Dyment  Senior Director, Communications and Programming, TVCogeco Peterborough
Jean LaRose  Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
Charles Allard  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Super Channel, Allarco Entertainment Inc.
Malcolm Knox  President and Chief Operating Officer, Super Channel, Allarco Entertainment Inc.
Rick Arnish  President, Jim Pattison Broadcast Group
Scott Sterling  President, Newfoundland Broadcasting Company
Douglas Neal  Senior Vice-President, Newfoundland Broadcasting Company
Stanley James  Chair, Board of Directors, Northern Native Broadcasting, Yukon
Richard Paradis  Business Affairs and Government Relations, Allarco Entertainment Inc.
Sophie Green  General Manager, Northern Native Broadcasting, Yukon

5 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Okay.

Allez-y.

5 p.m.

Research and Development Officer, Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec

Gérald Gauthier

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.

5 p.m.

Director of des Moulins Regional Television, Treasurer to the Board of Directors, Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec

Sylvain Racine

In closing, independent community television remains a prime alternative to the reduction of time allocated for local and regional news by the major networks. It is the people themselves who organize around a community media outlet rather than allow themselves to be organized by the business interests. Of course, money is required to maintain a media outlet, whatever it may be. The independent CTVs are unfortunately no exception to that rule, and are in most cases very poorly funded. The transition to digital technologies requires the acquisition of new production equipment. On the other hand, the very production of programs, particularly news and public affairs programs requires more and more qualified and better-paid human resources. In tough financial times, there is therefore a risk of financial exhaustion.

Despite the financial and technical challenges, the independent CTV is a true complementary solution to the media that reduced their supply of local or regional news. Our elected representatives and communicators must state this. They must also come to its defence because it adds another voice to our television landscape: the voice of “Television for Citizen Values”.

We thank you for your attention.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Thank you for that presentation.

Now we move on to Télé-Québec.

5:05 p.m.

Michèle Fortin President and Chief Executive Officer, Télé-Québec

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I want to start by thanking you for your kind invitation to come and share with you our ideas and concerns about the future of television in Canada and the consequences of our future decisions for our fellow citizens.

Because our time is limited, I do not intend to get into all the topics that are of concern to us. I will however be happy to answer any of your questions to the best of my knowledge.

Like my colleagues, today I would like to draw to your attention television networks that are often overlooked in our debates on the future of the major systems, but which play an essential role in ensuring program diversity both for young people and for local communities. I am speaking of the educational networks.

Created by the provinces and financed entirely or very largely by them, educational networks are explicitly referred to in the Broadcasting Act as an integral component of the broadcasting system. There are five educational networks, which form the Association for Tele-Education in Canada, or ATEC: Knowledge in BC, SCN in Saskatchewan, Tele-Quebec in Quebec, and TVO and TFO in Ontario.

In all discussions held here, they are paid little or no attention. They are public networks, but they are outside CBC/Radio-Canada, the national public broadcaster. They are governed by federal legislation and obtain their licences from the CRTC, but their mandates are provincial. They are among the off-air networks, but they do not belong to any of the major integrated groups that dominate the industry. They have specific, targeted mandates, and are distributed either over the airwaves or on cable, but they are not specialty channels and thus do not have access to the economies of scale or the fees that the latter enjoy. They are aimed primarily at audiences in their own regions and often are not distributed outside their own province. But they are not considered local, either because they do not carry local news programming or because their coverage area has more than 1 million inhabitants.

And yet educational networks, it is important to emphasize, contribute more to diversity than so-called local television, because their entire programming, and not just news bulletins, is aimed at a regionally-defined population. They are with the exception of CBC/Radio-Canada the only networks that offer children and parents free access to a wide range of programs for children, without violence and tailored to promote their development and mental growth. They are also the only networks whose mandate is to reflect their regions. To the extent their resources allow, they strive to carry out this mandate by focusing on the production and broadcasting of documentaries, series and public affairs programs that reflect their regions and make the residents of their province known to one another.

The situation may seem different for Tele-Quebec, because French-language networks are in fact aimed primarily at a Quebec public. However, the Tele-Quebec Act explicitly calls on it to reflect the regional realities and the diversity of Quebec society. We are involved in the regions through the production of a public affairs program promoting cultural activities in different areas, the production and broadcast of documentary, drama and variety series, and the presence of regional personalities. We have 9 regional offices, and are involved in more than 250 partnerships with local organizations. Our association with Canal Savoir brings to the screen a considerable amount of programming from institutions of higher learning and cultural and educational organizations in the regions.

What are the key issues for educational television channels? Like the broadcasters that have appeared before you, educational networks must maintain an adequate level of resources to carry out their mandates and expand access to their products on new platforms, given the increasing importance of the new technologies for its public and particularly for young people, who make up a large proportion of their clientele. Unlike other types of networks, they cannot rely on auxiliary sources of revenue, and the provincial governments on which they depend have been seriously hurt by the economic crisis. It is thus vital that the educational networks not be excluded from any program that may be set up to assist the industry. It must be borne in mind that there is more to television in Canada than CBC/Radio-Canada on the public side and private networks on the other. Neither performs the same role as the educational networks.

It is also important that the unique features of educational networks be taken into account when new rules are formulated for funding allocation by the new Canada Media Fund, as it is now called.

The emphasis placed on market share takes into account neither the mandate nor the coverage areas of educational networks, some of which do not even have real audience-share measures. Educational television targets particular publics, is distributed mainly on the territory of one province, and does not necessarily seek commercial success. It is for these very reasons that it makes an invaluable contribution to the diversity of television in Canada, and is appreciated by a steadily growing number of Canadians.

This is why the educational networks have the following priorities: that the Minister of Canadian Heritage require—because he is in a position to do so—that the board of the Canada Media Fund recognize the special character of educational television networks and take this into account in its policies; that a protected envelope be set aside for the production of programming for children, who are a non-commercial clientele and a priority for all Canadians; that the definition and criteria for the production of documentaries be clarified; that the mechanisms for protecting and enhancing regional production be maintained; lastly, as desired by the whole industry, that the proposed changes be introduced gradually so that there can be a smooth transition for both producers and broadcasters.

One final issue for the future of educational networks is distribution. With the shift to digital, the restricted obligations on satellite distributors, and the possibility of a hybrid strategy for a shift to digital in more remote regions, it is becoming increasingly crucial to ensure: that it be mandatory to distribute educational television networks on all platforms available in their province of origin; that educational networks be able to obtain distribution throughout the country if they so wish, based on negotiated terms and conditions; that the French-language educational networks be made accessible throughout the country, given the limited supply of French-language products for the country's francophone minority communities; that Canadian networks' HD television signals be given priority distribution by satellite throughout the country. It is wrong that our HD signals cannot be carried by satellite because of a lack of capacity, while distributors give preference to American channels.

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for giving me this opportunity to remind you of the existence and contribution of the educational television networks to the diversity of Canadian television programming and the well-being of our fellow citizens.

I would be happy to answer your questions.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Thank you very much.

We'll now move to our last presentation from this group, TVCogeco Peterborough, please.

5:10 p.m.

Tim Caddigan Manager, Regional Programming, TVCogeco Peterborough

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, committee staff, and ladies and gentlemen.

First, thank you for the opportunity to appear at your hearings to address the committee's concerns about diminishing local television coverage. My name is Tim Caddigan, and I'm a regional manager with TVCogeco in Ontario. With me is Maureen Tilson Dyment, senior director of communications and TVCogeco programming, and Yves Mayrand, vice-president, corporate affairs.

We would like to apprise the committee of our role in providing our communities with an alternative form of local coverage so that we can fill in the picture, so to speak, regarding the spectrum of local television services that many of your constituents receive. We will provide a brief background regarding our evolving roles and responsibilities, the scope of our TVCogeco community channel operations, and where we see our future direction. And we will provide illustrations of our content and local impact.

While no longer a requirement of licence, Cogeco continues its significant support for the ongoing development of local cable television. Like the broadcasters, we utilize a wide range of technologies in the acquisition and delivery of our content, such as digital formats, mobile production trucks, web streaming, and even satellite uplinks. Our studio facilities are open to the public, as is training in television production, which is provided by our experienced and dedicated employees.

These resources provide a powerful means of local expression, one that our public partners eagerly embrace to get their messages heard. Together we provide a rich diversity of programming that contributes to the dynamic and unique character of our communities.

5:15 p.m.

Maureen Tilson Dyment Senior Director, Communications and Programming, TVCogeco Peterborough

Numbers also tell a story regarding our performance and impact. Cogeco's community television channel, TVCogeco, serves both Ontario and Quebec. We operate 36 local television channels, serving communities from Windsor to Cornwall, from North Bay to Niagara, from Trois-Rivières to Gaspé, and from Baie-Comeau to Sherbrooke.

We partner with close to 700 core community volunteers in the creation of our local programming. These enthusiastic and civic-minded individuals range in age from 15 to 73 and provide their time and talents as community producers, crew members, editors, and on-air hosts. Many develop their skills through our training programs, and they contributed an amazing 60,000 volunteer hours in the creation of local content in the past year.

Last fiscal year we created 12,130 hours of original 100% local Canadian content, including public affairs, sports, arts and culture, community events, and local news and information, and in Ontario alone, 43,721 no-cost public announcements were posted by local groups and organizations on our channel and website to inform their communities about local events and activities.

Viewers like what they see. Our annual surveys indicate that 490,814 viewers are tuning in to TVCogeco. That's an average of 44% of the total households served. Our 2008 Environics customer satisfaction study reveals that an overall average of 90% of respondents believe we provide a valuable service to the community, and 88% perceive the channel as providing an overall quality product. In comparison, a recent Polaris study on the CBC shows that 40% of their respondents watch CBC on a weekly basis.

Our viewers are most likely to watch our local community news, event coverage, and politics and current affairs programming, including municipal councils, and the demand for hometown hockey appears almost universal.

Our newsmagazine shows are very popular. For example, the number one show in Quebec is Autrement Vu featuring local activities, resources, personalities, and issues twice a week. In Ontario we have a similar format called The Source. As an example, one of the recent segments in our Burlington-Oakville area alerted viewers about a door-to-door energy scam operating in their neighbourhood and subsequently informed them on how to get off the grid. Our larger systems update their Source magazines daily.

We're always open to innovation, since changes are constant and we know we need to reinvent ourselves, so when challenges appear, we develop a new model. In our last presentation, we illustrated our flexibility through the transition of our North Bay system to hard news coverage, presented each weekday in addition to traditional community content. We launched the daily half-hour news program when the local broadcast affiliate made the decision to cut back on their local news coverage. Our 2008 viewer survey indicates that 92% rated the channel as providing a valuable service. We will also upload North Bay news highlights onto our website in the coming year.

Local news coverage, however, costs well above our regulated allocations. As noted before, we could do more if we had access to our own local resources for that purpose.

The value of our community involvement is also reflected through our commitment to fundraising efforts. Many key charitable organizations and agencies rely on our promotional partnerships in order to continue their valuable and essential support roles. TVCogeco has helped our service groups, agencies, and institutions to raise close to $4 million in the past year through telethons, TV auctions, and other joint fundraising activities and promotions.

5:20 p.m.

Manager, Regional Programming, TVCogeco Peterborough

Tim Caddigan

As much as the on-air product is important, there is another key service that local television provides. We are a training ground for the television industry. Our dedicated employees work hard to teach volunteers the art of television through practical experience with technology, helping students to gain a broad working experience that is not available anywhere else. In some cases, colleges turn down applicants to their broadcasting course because of a lack of experience. Students with a good academic standing and experience in local television tend to fare much better.

Successful volunteers have gone on to complete their post-secondary training and have found employment in the broadcast television industry across the country, while others have returned to their roots, preferring to stay in the type of media that introduced them to their love of television. In fact, with the Peterborough TVCogeco channel as a model, all employees are former volunteers, some of whom have returned to our industry after graduation, either immediately or after a taste of broadcast.

Our unique structure and flexibility enables us to cover aspects that are of importance to our community in a greater depth than most local broadcasters are able to provide. For instance, most regional broadcast stations are not able to provide the same full local coverage of municipal elections as we do. During federal elections, many regional broadcast entities have quick inserts as part of their national coverage, provided by their parent networks.

We cover most ridings in their entirety, with interviews and analyses from our studios or mobile facilities. In the most recent municipal election in Peterborough, TVCogeco was the first to declare winners in each race. We are a credible media entity, so much so that candidates, local political junkies, and high-profile citizens visit the studio during election coverage to watch, to take part, or simply to be where the most up-to-date information can be found.

TVCogeco and our colleagues in other cable companies have also stepped in to pick up events that are not covered by broadcast but that still hold considerable interest to our viewers. We are adept at utilizing multiple transmission formats to provide our viewers live coverage of sporting events that are of specific interest to them. Events such as provincial curling championships draw a very vocal and active audience. Our cooperative efforts to provide sports fans live coverage of their home teams playing away games is hugely appreciated.

TVCogeco Peterborough is also an active partner with other media entities within the municipality. Politically Speaking is a program involving three media partners: two from print and one from radio. Additionally, the local broadcaster regularly uses footage produced by us in its news, and we've even co-produced coverage of the local Christmas parade with CHEX-TV.

We believe that our local television is an important part of the television landscape in Canada, providing a very valuable asset to the communities we serve.

5:20 p.m.

Senior Director, Communications and Programming, TVCogeco Peterborough

Maureen Tilson Dyment

We hope this brief overview of our operations provides you with a greater understanding of our contributions to local television in our communities. Like the broadcasters, we're facing great changes. To continue to provide a valued service and meet growing viewer expectations, we're preparing for the transition to the widescreen HD format. As well, we're introducing a web 2.0 site to encourage viewer interaction and continued citizen participation in our electronic forum.

Over the years we have adapted to technological and social changes. Originally, people were awed by the mystique of television. Now they own it. We continue to invest in our traditional media but are also adapting to the cyber universe. As television viewers migrate to the Internet, we see that the original concept of participatory local programming is perfectly suited to the emerging social media. We look forward to the future.

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Thank you.

I remind everyone to try to be as brief and specific as possible.

Mr. Simms.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

I'll try to be specific and very clear. Please don't think of me as rude if I interrupt you at any point to go on to someone else.

I'll leave you with a question on how you summed up your presentation. I'm not trying to put you in a corner here, but here's my situation with what you just described.

You provide a community event--the community aspect that is the third pillar of the Broadcast Act--but do you emphasize more of the community aspect by way of telethons, raising money, and community coverage, or are you filling a void left over from the regional broadcaster that has vacated town? You put a lot of emphasis on election coverage, news, and that sort of thing, but is that truly where your emphasis will be over the next little while, as we try to piece our way through policy and talk about revenue?

On the community aspect, they gave us some really good and intelligent examples of what they do as a community broadcaster. Can you provide me with an example of what you're doing right now in community television? I think both groups have incredibly valid points. It's a pillar that's overlooked as part of the Broadcast Act.

You seem to have a huge problem with revenue, but in addition to that you have a mandate from the province. Now we're getting into a digital transition, and it seems to me you're going to face an incredibly difficult time, as an educational network, getting that message out. There are a lot of people out there receiving that analog signal, and it's going to be lost in this. Your programming to the nation--not just your specific example--is going to be lost.

To the CAB, you're in a bit of a pickle because it's nasty on fee-for-carriage. We've seen it here time and time again, and the CRTC is dealing with it. It's kind of like passing over the Rubicon to the next business model of television. Essentially we're looking at a new revenue model here as one of the most important things. With the proliferation of technology, the old regimes are slowly dying, and the old regimes were set up for revenue.

Now you're talking about all your stakeholders in the LPIF and the types of models where funding is given by the government, with certain stipulations in certain markets. There are all kinds of regulations tied to this. You like it and you have a percentage in it, but is what's being talked about enough? Do you think it should go further, as opposed to issues of regulation? In other words, especially to the guys who were up earlier, should it be a free-for-all? Should there be no such thing as basic cable, and should we let them do as they wish? Should the fee-for-carriage proponents make their own deals with the BDUs? You say here you want mandatory carriage. Is that correct?

Before you answer that, I apologize because I have to get this all out in five minutes.

I want you to also comment on the digital transition. It's a huge issue right now in the United States. President Obama has made it one of the five issues that has to be done now, and we have to be done by 2013. Are we ready? To be ready, what do you require of government?

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

It will be tough to get these answers back in a minute.

Mr. Simms has asked questions to each of our witnesses, so could you respond in writing through the chair? It won't be fair to anyone otherwise, because I don't think there are yes or no answers to all of those questions. Right now you have 30 seconds. I know I've taken up some time.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

That'll be fine. Please keep it short, but if they want to provide anything else in writing, I'd deeply appreciate it.

Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Thank you.

Mr. Pomerleau.

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Good day to everyone. Thank you for having travelled to come here and meet with us.

Mr. Smith, your third recommendation calls for government support for the shift to digital television. First of all why would digital television be mandatory? Second, what is in it for the consumer?

May 4th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.

Vice-President Policy and Chief Regulatory Officer, Canadian Association of Broadcasters

Pierre-Louis Smith

I will provide a brief answer and then defer to my colleague Tara Rajan.

It should be noted that it is the government that insisted on a shift towards digital television. Given the small size of the Quebec and Canadian markets, we are seeking hybrid solutions which could enable us to convert to digital while keeping the costs of any transition down to an acceptable level.

Tara, did you have something to add?

5:30 p.m.

Vice-President, Research and Policy, Canadian Association of Broadcasters

Tara Rajan

Thank you, Pierre-Louis.

When it comes to private television, we mostly see costs, but at least in the short term, we do not really see great business opportunities. We have to shoulder costs of $328 million by August 31, 2011.

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Very well.

My next question is for Mr. Gauthier or Mr. Racine. You say you do not have the same access to sponsors as other television companies do. Can you expand a bit on that? I was unaware of that fact.

5:30 p.m.

Research and Development Officer, Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec

Gérald Gauthier

Originally, it was because cable companies could allocate, out of the 5%, gross profits to be spent on Canadian programming. They can set aside a part of this percentage to operate a community channel. Under current licensing categories, a category 1 broadcaster with over 20,000 subscribers can allot 2% out of the 5% amount; a category 1 broadcaster with fewer than 20,000 subscribers can use the entire 5%, a category 1 cable company with fewer than 20,000 subscribers can use the entire 5%, as can a category 2 cable company. As for category 3 companies, they're under no obligation to contribute to Canadian programming nor community channels.

Because of this cash inflow, advertising was taken away from us. In fact, we were never entitled to traditional local advertising under the pretext that those who were funded solely through advertising did not have access to this money. Well, today, everyone wants cable fees and distribution fees as well as access to advertising revenue.

Independent community television does not have equal access to this funding for cable companies. Some CTVs do, whereas others receive nothing. We believe we should be entitled to traditional local advertising because the average Mont-Louis hairdresser cannot always afford television ads in Rimouski or on CHOT-TV, for instance.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gary Schellenberger

Do you have any further questions, Ms. Lavallée?

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Yes.

Ms. Fortin, you referred to the new Canada Media Fund. Did you ever receive funding from the previous television fund?

5:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Télé-Québec

Michèle Fortin

Those who produce educational television shows have access to the current fund; that would be the case for Télé-Québec, TFO and TVO.

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Do they have direct access to these funds?

5:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Télé-Québec

Michèle Fortin

They have access to it through independent producers. Without access to the Canada Media Fund, I could not have produced any of my children's dramas.