An eight-day hearing on the future of local television continues Tuesday as Canada’s broadcast regulator hears dire warnings from private networks about funding troubles in a changing media landscape.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is hosting a public forum in Gatineau, Que., to determine what rule changes may be necessary to ensure the survival of local television stations.
Nearly half of the country’s local TV stations could be off the air by 2020 without a boost in revenues to pay for local programming, according to a study submitted to the Commission in advance of hearings that opened Monday and wraps up on Feb. 3.
Those channels have found their traditional financial model under threat amid a changing landscape for advertising and consumer viewing habits.
Canada’s broadcasters spent roughly $4.1 billion in 2012-13 to produce programming with approximately $1.3 billion of that coming from government-backed subsidies of one form or another. The rest of the money comes from the broadcasters themselves.
In launching the hearings into local TV, the regulator said it’s convinced there’s already enough money in the broadcasting system to ensure stations can create quality local programming, including local news coverage.
But it said there may have to be a rebalancing of resources within the system.
Management at CHEK-TV Victoria is calling on the CRTC for assistance in the wake of diminishing ad revenues. Ian Morrison of the partisan org Friends of Canadian Broadcasting said from Toronto that Canada has 23 independent television operators that are essential to their communities. A spokesperson for the CRTC says it is considering a number of options to help independent broadcasters, including the creation of a fund.
Canadians are invited to share their opinion on the issues and on any other topic raised at the hearing in anonline discussion forum. They have until the end of the hearing on February 3 to do so!
The forum is intended to serve as a platform to answer questions such as the following:
- Do you feel that local events in your region are sufficiently covered by television in terms of quantity and quality? If not, give us some ideas about what could be done to improve coverage.
- Other than local TV, what other sources of information do you consult to stay informed of local events and why?
- What types of community channel broadcasts interest you and why?
- What could be done, if anything, to improve your community channel? For example, should community channels operating in small markets broadcast local professional news to meet the various needs of their communities?
During an earlier Let’s Talk TV proceeding, the regulator identified several challenges faced by local and community television in this digital age, where both content and viewers are increasingly moving towards online services.
Moreover, a survey conducted as part of that proceeding revealed that 81% of Canadians believe that local news is important. In light of this, the CRTC wishes to discuss future approaches to ensuring access to local information and community access programming on multiple platforms.
- The CRTC has published a working document intended to propose potential approaches and stimulate discussion. The CRTC does not prefer one approach over another.
- The CRTC wishes to ensure that Canadians have access to local news and community access programming that meets their needs.
- The CRTC is interested in hearing other proposals for using digital platforms to ensure that a sufficient amount of high-quality local information is made available to Canadians.
- The CRTC is holding a public hearing in the National Capital Region from January 25 to February 3, 2016, to discuss the issues surrounding local and community television.
- Average weekly viewing hours for Canadian news programs broadcast by Canadian television services is nearly 23% of total hours viewed in the English market and nearly 28% in the French market.
- The percentage of Canadian households subscribing to cable, satellite or Internet protocol television (IPTV) services was 82%, or 11.6 million households, in 2014.
- In 2013–2014, over $150 million was spent on community channels.
- Source is FYI Music