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Guild seeking local program fund at CBC licence renewal hearing

The Canadian Media Guild is asking the CRTC to establish a fund to support local programming by public, provincial and community broadcasters when it renews CBC/Radio-Canada’s broadcast licences. Public hearings begin this morning in Gatineau and the CMG will appear before the Commission on Friday.

“The programming that CBC provides is more important than ever in a media system dominated by a small number of huge private companies,” says Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the CMG at CBC. “CBC provides daily local programming in 57 Canadian communities in English, French and eight indigenous languages. No other media organization in Canada does this and yet CBC funding keeps shrinking and private media empires keep growing. The CRTC can and must help address this imbalance.”

The CRTC committed in 2010 to address “the distinctive situation and needs of the CBC” in this licence renewal hearing.  The fund CMG is urging the CRTC to establish would come from cable and satellite revenues, which totaled $8.6 billion in 2011. CMG is recommending that 0.75% of broadcast distribution revenues, or approximately $65 million per year, be devoted to supporting public and community broadcasters to provide an essential diversity of local programming to Canadians.

“CBC consistently proves that it makes excellent use of dedicated funding for Canadian programming,” points out CMG staff representative Karen Wirsig. “That’s true of CBC’s overwhelmingly Canadian schedule on prime-time TV, and it’s true of the use CBC has made of the disappearing local program improvement fund.”

Highlights of major CMG recommendations

– Establish a fund from approximately 0.75% of gross BDU revenues for incremental local and regional programming by public, provincial and community broadcasters

– Guarantee mandatory carriage of CBC News Network in French-language markets and Réseau de l’information in English-language markets

– Require the CBC to report to the Commission on a plan and implementation to better reflect the “multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.”

– Undertake or commission systematic research on the impact of the loss of local news and other programming on the communities that lose it.

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Read the full CMG submission.

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