These digital media centres would teach not just audio and video production, as in the past, but also web design and gaming. Their content would be distributed not just on cable TV, but over the air, on satellite, on the Internet, and on mobile devices. This $150 million is enough to fund 250 digital community media centres, restoring service to all communities of 5,000 people or more and to many smaller communities as well.
The CRTC did not heed our request. To prepare for the CRTC's most recent local and community TV policy review, we teamed up with community radio, as well as online community media and the gaming community, to propose a single coherent policy to bring community media in Canada into the 20th century. This research and policy proposal was distributed to you in both official languages.
The relevance of digital community media centres to your study is threefold.
First is skills training. The mere existence of the Internet doesn't mean that everyone knows how to use it or that journalistic standards are met. The community sector can produce an hour of content for less than one-tenth of what it costs in the public and private sectors—$500 compared to over $6,000—because we leverage volunteer labour and community infrastructure, but it still takes facilities and professionals to train the public.
Second is more media for more communities. At the recent CRTC hearing on local and community TV, we heard that there are public and private TV stations in just 59 Canadian cities, almost all having populations over 100,000. Even if a news fund were created from the $150 million currently earmarked to support community TV, for example, as some parties have proposed, it would primarily support existing big-city stations, and everyone acknowledged that such a fund would at best be a band-aid, not a long-term solution.
CACTUS's proposal to create a community access media fund, on the other hand, would lead to the reopening of not just television studios but full multimedia production and training centres in almost 200 Canadian population centres in addition to the 59 biggest. No other sector can make this commitment to you. Community media can serve francophone minorities in small to mid-sized markets and in at least some of our more than 500 first nations. The 2012 report from this committee, entitled “Emerging and Digital Media: Opportunities and Challenges”, endorsed our call for digital community media centres.
Third, it would restore diversity. As you've heard from Professor Winseck, Canada's media ownership concentration is extremely high. The more concentrated it has become, the less sense it has made for the same large entities to control the so-called community sector, whose mandate is to provide the very diversity of voices that were lacking.
Our recommendation is that Canada needs a new vision for community media that will equip our citizens and youth with the digital media skills they need to generate their own content, to compete internationally, and to have meaningful dialogue with one another that's not limited to 132 characters on Twitter or fragmented platforms such as Facebook. The community sector offers the biggest bang for the buck to reflect our communities in all media. The money is there; it just needs to be deployed effectively.
Therefore, our recommendations are, first, the Department of Canadian Heritage should develop a digital community media policy for Canada that includes old and new media; second, we should create a community access media fund to support community-operated digital production centres; third, we should direct BDU subscriber revenues for community TV to this fund; and last, the service delivery via the fund and community centres needs to be coordinated with four other ministries, which include the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Economic Development and the Ministry of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour regarding the digital skills training mandate, the Ministry of Democratic Institutions regarding the civic and democratic mandate of community media; and finally, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities, because community media centres represent significant infrastructure.
Thanks a lot for doing this study. It is much needed. We look forward to your questions.