Community TV channel may fade to black

CRTC mulls redirecting two per cent local cable TV levy to private stations

NDP leader John Horgan on a recent appearance on Voice of B.C.

NDP leader John Horgan on a recent appearance on Voice of B.C.

A federal review of community access TV could lead to the shut down of Shaw Cable’s channel 4 and end televised broadcasts of city council meetings and other local niche programming.

A two per cent levy on all cable TV bills now goes to community TV program development and one option for reform the CRTC is considering is to reallocate that money to local commercial television stations to help them produce more local news.

That scenario could eliminate the community channel altogether, according to Metro Vancouver regional district officials who intend to speak against it at a CRTC hearing Feb. 2.

“Our concern is that in its desire to assist the private sector in dealing with the challenges of a changing marketplace, the CRTC will rob Peter to pay Paul,” Metro states in a draft response to the CRTC.

“The community channel is a vital element of the broadcast system and should remain so.”

City council meetings in the region are often streamed online but the demise of a community channel on cable would end televised access.

Metro produces its own regional issues show for community cable called The Sustainable Region as well as Metro Vancouver Close-up, which shows how municipalities and community groups are promoting sustainability and regional goals.

Other local programs that might lose their place on cable TV include the provincial politics show Voice of B.C. and The Animal Show, which promotes dogs and cats up for adoption at local shelters, as well as live coverage of elections, parades and telethons.

Redirecting the two per cent community access levy to commercial stations would amount to a $60 million cash injection nationally for private broadcasters. Within Metro Vancouver, it would be worth about $5 million.

Metro has been critical of Shaw Cable in the past, accusing it of gradually cutting away local community-driven access to the channel in favour of its own productions, while the CRTC did nothing to stop that.

“Where we once had thousands of volunteers engaged in community expression we now have less than a hundred,” the Metro paper says.

Metro officials have also been irked that their Sustainable Region show usually airs in the middle of the night.

The explosion of online video and the ease at which anyone can produce and post a YouTube video is part of the CRTC’s rationale for redeploying the community access levy to private news outlets.

But Metro argues they are unlikely to use commercial TV time on the sort of dialogue- and discussion-intensive shows now found on community cable.

It also says community programs posted online are unlikely to get as many viewers as on television, and not everyone has online access.

A second option contained in a CRTC discussion paper is to provide incentives to broadcast professional local news on community channels in markets where there is no over-the-air television.

That could effectively convert community channels in rural areas to commercial channels with much more advertising and less community access, according to Metro.

It wouldn’t affect the Metro Vancouver area directly but the regional district sees it as a potential future precedent in urban areas.

Instead, Metro will push the CRTC to mandate stronger community channels, with greater accountability for where money goes.

Shaw Communications is seeking looser rules on how community channels operate and the freedom to explore alternate delivery systems, such as video-on-demand. It opposes redirection of the cable levy.

Just Posted

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

poster
Drop-in Covid vaccine clinic in Mission June 17-18

Neighbourhood clinics complement appointment-based clinics currently operating in Mission

Stock photo by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Drop-in vaccination clinics slated in Abbotsford for construction workers

Among three sites in Lower Mainland holding no-appointment clinics in June and July

A CH-149 Cormorant from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox on a training exercise in Chilliwack on June 16, 2021. (William Snow photo)
VIDEO: Military search and rescue training in Chilliwack Wednesday

CH-149 Cormorant and CC-115 Buffalo from CFB Comox participated in downed aircraft rescue simulation

(Black Press Media files)
Get ready for mosquito season

Fraser Valley Regionsl District has already taken measures to curb the number of mosquitos

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read