Speech Article from
Opening remarks by Jean-Pierre Blais to the Public Hearing on Local and Community Television
Good day to everyone. Welcome to this public hearing.
I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting here today on the traditional territory of the First Nations. I would like to thank the Algonquin people and pay tribute to their elders.
During this hearing, the CRTC will be looking at television programming that is the closest to Canadians, namely, local and community television.
Thanks to this programming, Canadians have access to local news and current affairs that keep them informed of events and issues that are pertinent to their community. It exposes them to local points of view and creative programs that reflect the community in which they live. This type of programming promotes the democratic process by keeping citizens informed and engaged.
In 2013, the CRTC launched the “Let’s Talk TV” initiative, a country-wide conversation during which Canadians voiced their opinions on their television system. It was during this process that the CRTC identified a number of issues faced by local and community television in a media environment that is increasingly shattered.
We cannot ignore the fact that the world of television and audio-visual content has radically changed. More and more, Canadians are availing themselves of multiple platforms for information, entertainment and to broadcast their own content. The many changes happening in the media world recently, like the adoption of electronic newspapers and shifting of resources towards online platforms, are proof of this new reality.
In recent years, the revenues derived from local television news have fallen short of the associated delivery costs. This trend is putting additional pressure on the broadcasters who wish to maintain high quality programming. Need I remind everyone that offering local news and information is a public service obligation imposed on local commercial television stations in return for the privileges of using public airwaves to broadcast programming.
During this hearing, the CRTC wishes to discuss future approaches that will enable local news and community access programming to adequately serve Canadian citizens, as well as methods they can use to adapt to the multitude of platforms in this digital era.
It is also imperative that we keep in mind the importance of local news in the eyes of Canadians. A survey conducted as part of “Let’s Talk TV” found that 81% of Canadians attach great value to local news.
Thus, the future of local and community television stirs up many emotions and raises many questions. As you know, the CRTC intervenes only when it is necessary to do so. You know as well as we do that this review is timely and necessary.
In the course of this hearing, the CRTC wishes to broach certain topics with the interveners in order to keep our eyes fixed firmly on the future and revitalize this important programming. So here are some questions that my colleagues and I will be raising with interested parties.
First of all:
Given that the economic model for the production of news and local information programs is under stress, should the CRTC intervene to guarantee the production and long-term viability of these broadcasts? And if the answer is yes, what type(s) of action should the CRTC take?
More and more, digital technology is playing the role of the traditional community element by giving Canadians a range of opportunities to personally produce and disseminate content for their community, and they can do so at very low cost. Is it still necessary and relevant for the CRTC to intervene to ensure that Canadians have access to the community element of the traditional broadcasting system? And if the answer is yes, what type(s) of intervention should continue or emerge?
Financial contributions to local expression have been increasing for many years, despite the losses incurred by local news services. How can existing resources be apportioned between the community element and local television stations so as to maximise the benefit to Canadians?
With these issues in mind, I would also direct your attention to two proposals that we wish to discuss and that are elaborated in a working document that was published by the CRTC on January 12th of this year in order to stimulate discussion.
The first proposal concerns the creation of a fund to subsidize local news. Under the second proposal, the broadcasting of local professional news on community channels would be stimulated in markets lacking a traditional television station. These two proposals will of course be discussed during these proceedings, but we are also interested in hearing other proposals.
It is evident that this process will neither achieve its goals nor be effective without the participation of Canadians of all ages and backgrounds and from all regions of the country. After all, the CRTC makes transparent decisions that are based on evidence and exhaustive public records. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your contribution, and I take this opportunity to once again solicit comments.
The CRTC therefore invites Canadians to share, on an on-line discussion forum at crtc.gc.ca, their views on the approaches proposed in the working document and on any other topics discussed during the hearing. This forum has been open since January 12 and will remain so until February 3, which is the final day of this hearing.
Finally, I would like to make a few introductions.
The panel consists of the following people:
- Candice Molnar, Commissioner – Region of Manitoba and Saskatchewan;
- Stephen Simpson, Commissioner – Region of British Colombia and the Yukon;
- Yves Dupras, Commissioner – Region of Québec;
- Christopher MacDonald, Commissioner – Region of Atlantic and Nunavut;
- And myself, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.
The CRTC team that will assist us includes:
- Guillaume Castonguay and Jean-Pierre Lefebvre, hearing co-managers;
- Shari Fisher and Megan Maloney, the hearing’s legal team; and
- Jade Roy, hearing secretary.
I will now invite the hearing secretary to explain the procedure that we will follow.
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