CMG is disappointed that the CRTC has excluded CBC/Radio-Canada and other public service media from its local news funding decision.
The CMG provided evidence before the CRTC earlier this year showing that Canadians rely on the CBC as a key provider of local and regional news and are concerned about the cuts to CBC’s local and regional news in their communities. The union made the case that public service media such as CBC/Radio-Canada should be included in any positive measures to stop the decline in local news coverage. Instead, the decision focuses only on private broadcasters.
Interestingly, with the well documented financial challenges facing media and news services on the one hand, and the significant profits Internet service providers and other emerging players are taking from the system on the other, the CRTC recognizes that “the digital outlets present many advantages and opportunities for traditional media and innovators, but are not ready to replace traditional news sources.”
“We would have preferred the CRTC take a sophisticated and long-term view of the entire system, and grapple with the local news crisis we face whether in public and privately owned media, and on all platforms,” says Carmel Smyth, President of the Canadian Media Guild. “The CRTC decision leaves it to others to deal with the conseuqences of persistent downsizing and consolidation in the media industry, and the rapidly decreasing professional sources of news available to Canadians.”
Smyth noted that, for example, CBC only allocated $3.5 million, or less than 5% of this year’s new additional funding of $75 million, to local news in English Canada. “This is clearly insufficient to fix the holes left by cuts to CBC newsrooms in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Atlantic Canada and in the North.”
CMG had advocated for the creation of a general fund accessible to all news providers – public or private – on all platforms, which would be an expanded version of the over $100 million Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF) the CRTC cancelled after several years of positive and promising results. CBC drew about $40 million from the LPIF to help fund local news.
Smyth also took issue with the CRTC`s claim that there is enough money in the system. “We are heartened by the Commission’s recognition of the importance of local news for Canadians and the role it plays in supporting democracy, but we don’t believe the CRTC has made a persuasive case that the current funds in the system are sufficient, given that, for example, the decision relies on shifting money from needed and valuable services like community programming to give it to a small number of local news providers, an approach that undermines the diversity of voices in our television system.”
CMG had proposed a bolder approach, urging the CRTC to consider for the future obtaining contribution from larger Internet service providers – the newest broadcasting distributers – that are making enormous financial gains from the fact that the Canadian population is increasingly watching videos online, on mobile phones and on other devices, but are contributing nothing to ensuring local news continues to be available across the country and Canada’s creative community thrives.