Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, we are here before you today to remind you that the Broadcasting Act provides that the Canadian system comprises three elements: public, private and community. We are representatives of the community element.
The television stations we represent are non-profit organizations established by the members of their communities. They are media players that offer local news in their own way, commensurate with the meagre financial resources available to them. The independent CTVs or community television stations are part of the range of news voices and they need better financial support.
CTVs welcome many volunteers whom they train in technical aspects of production, hosting, and whom they involve as members of their board. Community television is a medium available to all, accessible and close to the people. This medium plays a crucial role in local economic, social and cultural development.
The total budget of an independent community television station varies considerably, ranging, according to our latest figures, between $30,000 and $400,000. The CTVs' main funding sources are the following, but not necessarily in this order: self-funding activities, member recruitment campaigns, Quebec government advertising, the Quebec government community media operation support program, local sponsorships and cable company contributions. We will return to this last source below.
As you are no doubt aware, the community television experience has not all been positive. Far from it! Following the first revision of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations in 1998, Canadian companies lost access to their community channel, which had become a competitive advantage for the cable companies that now had to compete with newcomers, such as satellite distribution undertakings. Citizens' right to their own television was called into question.
In 2000 and 2001, in response to pressure by the CTVs, the federation and a number of other stakeholders, the CRTC launched a revision of the Community Channel Policy. The result was the publication of the Policy Framework for Community-Based Media, on October 10, 2002, under Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2002-61. In this new policy, the CRTC finally acknowledged the contribution of independent CTVs to the Canadian broadcasting system and formally included them in the new Policy Framework for Community-Based Media as undertakings promoting community access to community programming. Quebec independent community television stations could consider this recognition as an unprecedented historic gain.
Apart from the recognition of independent CTVs, the policy framework put in place guidelines for the operation of community channels that were maintained by cable companies. However, this recognition has not forced cable companies to fund the independent CTVs for the local and access programming they produce. And yet if a cable operator decides to maintain a community channel, under section 29 of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations, it may deduct all or part of the percentage of its gross revenue that must go to Canadian programming to fund community programming. However, a number of cable operators prefer to retain the money for their own production teams and little or nothing goes to the independent CTVs.
We note that, since there is no funding obligation, these contributions are uneven from one cable operator to the next, from one CTV to another, and many receive absolutely nothing. An appropriate way must be found to fund local, independent community television stations. We believe that the solution lies in the creation of a dedicated local community and access programming fund.
My colleague Mr. Gérald Gauthier, of the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec, will continue.