CRTC increases local TV programming fund
Published Monday, July 6, 2009 6:04PM EDT
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has increased funding for local television and approved one-year licence renewals for English-language TV stations across the country.
The CRTC says that the Local Programming Improvement Fund will increase from $68 million to $102 million for the 2009-2010 broadcasting year. Cable and satellite companies will have to contribute 1.5 per cent of their gross broadcasting revenues to the fund, an increase of 0.5 per cent.
The CRTC says the contribution bump is temporary.
The ruling comes as local television stations are facing significant revenue shortfalls, with advertising dollars well down during the recession.
Three local television stations owned by CTVglobemedia and five owned by Canwest have been either been put up for sale or face possible closure this year, and their fates remain unknown.
"Canadians have made it abundantly clear that they value local programming," said Konrad von Finckenstein, CRTC chairperson, in a news release. "We have taken steps to ensure that broadcasters, and particularly those in smaller markets, continue to provide Canadians with programming that reflects their needs and interests."
CTVglobemedia spokesperson Paul Sparkes said the CRTC's move to establish the market value of broadcaster's signals is what the television industry has been looking for.
"Having the ability to negotiate fair market value for the distribution of our programming is key to the future viability of local television and the commission recognizes that," Sparkes said.
"Obviously there's a lot of work to do before we get to that point but the commission seems in their statements today to be very adamant that there is value in local television and we just need to find a way to be able to negotiate with the cable companies compensation for that."
John Douglas, a spokesperson for Canwest, called the ruling a "good first step."
The Local Programming Improvement Fund was created in October 2008 for stations in markets with less than a million people.
With the ruling, the CRTC says that local stations must provide at least seven hours of locally-produced television.
The CRTC says there will be public proceedings into the future of conventional broadcasting starting in the fall.
The CRTC is proposing that future licence renewals be given on the basis of ownership groups rather than the current model of categories which splits specialty cable stations from the main network stations.
The networks have argued for a fee-for-carriage model to be implemented, so that cable and satellite providers pay for carrying network televisions, as they do for specialty channels. The CRTC has twice rejected that request.
Cable providers criticized the ruling, saying it was a tax on consumers.
"The CRTC is seeking to impose another new tax on consumers. The only question outstanding is how much more consumers will have to pay to watch the same television signals they watch today," Rogers vice-chairman Phil Lind said.
Rogers said the ruling will cost consumers an extra $50 to $100 a year, depending on their cable package.
Consumers lobby CRTC on web-throttling
The Consumers' Association of Canada has told the CRTC it is up to Internet service providers to prove they have to restrict web traffic.
The association says the major ISPs have not shown they need to manage web traffic.
The CRTC opened hearings Monday into what conditions ISPs such as Bell, Rogers Communications and Quebecor can control traffic on their networks.
The ISPs have said they need the ability to throttle traffic during peak times, to fight off congestion on their network.
With files from The Canadian Press