Today’s decision by the CRTC in favour of guaranteed access to local television, including news is encouraging for Canadians who spoke out at the regulatory hearings last fall.
“Along with numerous Canadians and organizations, CMG opposed the shutting down of over-the-air transmitters that allow Canadians to watch local channels and news without a cable or satellite subscription, and we are pleased to see the CRTC is listening,” says Carmel Smyth, National President, CMG. “Accessible, local television is part of a healthy mix of broadcast offerings for Canadians. We hope broadcasters – and especially CBC – look for ways to innovate by offering free programming on mobile using their transmitters.”
Among the reasons for its decision, the CRTC noted that “news programming aired by local stations boasts a 40% viewing share”, and that “the vast majority of Canadians considered local news to be important, and rely on television stations in their communities.”
In addition we were encouraged to hear CRTC chairperson Jean-Pierre Blais share his concern about the lack of funding for original content, “the reduction in funding of local television stations by major broadcasters also gives me cause for concern. Media moguls are indeed allowed to be worried about profits, but both the public and private shareholders of broadcasting assets have a duty to ensure that news reporting and analysis continues to be properly funded.” Blais goes on to say that with the privilege of holding a broadcast license comes an obligation to “continue to deliver quality news and information to the communities they serve.”
The principles referenced in today’s speech by Blais on the importance of local news and information programming to Canadians as citizens, accessibility, journalistic independence, and broadcaster responsibility are fundamental. Unfortunately, the unique role of CBC/Radio-Canada, a major provider of local news and programming across Canada, was not directly addressed in the brief. CMG had suggested a public service media fund to help pay for Canadian programming and local news, on all platforms. And we are looking to the CRTC to address these issues in the next installment of the Let’s Talk TV announcements.