February 10, 2015 4 years 5 days ago

CRTC decision on Vidéotron’s MAtv falls short, says community TV association

OTTAWA — The CRTC’s decision last week that Vidéotron’s Montreal MAtv community channel is in violation of community television policy and thus must rectify the situation before its cable licence renewal in August 2015 does not go far enough, according to the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS).

As reported last week, after a complaint was filed in January 2014 by Independent Community TV (ICTV) of Montreal, the CRTC reviewed program logs submitted by Vidéotron for MAtv. In its Broadcasting Decision 2015-31, the CRTC concluded Vidéotron’s operation of MAtv “is in non-compliance with the requirements of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations and is not respecting the objectives of the community television policy relating to access programming and local reflection.”

Specifically, the CRTC’s investigation of MAtv’s program logs concluded that during the week in question, the channel devoted only 30.2% to access programming (the required percentage is 45%) and just 37.2% to local programming (the required percentage is 60%).

In addition to its complaint to the CRTC, ICTV submitted an application to allow the non-profit organization to take over operation of Vidéotron’s community TV channel in Montreal.

“The CRTC’s decision does not address ICTV’s application for approval to operate the community television service in Montreal on a not-for-profit basis. ICTV filed its application following the letter of the CRTC’s community channel policy,” said CACTUS spokesperson Catherine Edwards, in a press release issued today.

“The policy states that if a cable company does not comply with CRTC policy, a not-for-profit group within the licence area can run the community channel using the budget collected for this purpose from cable subscribers. This clause has been in CRTC policy since 2002, because Commission audits have shown chronic and systemic abuse of community TV channels by cable companies since the late 1990s,” Edwards added.

Laith Marouf, ICTV project coordinator and steering committee member, is quoted in the CACTUS news release as saying, “We spent four months preparing our application, including canvassing local groups and organizations that could use a genuine community channel to get messages out. We developed a model for a fully multilingual channel that would work with indigenous and multicultural communities, to ensure Montreal would have a genuine platform for citizen dialogue. We will continue our efforts towards this goal.”

As part of its decision last week, the CRTC ordered Vidéotron to take “concrete steps” to comply with local and access programming requirements before MAtv’s next licence renewal in August 2015. The CRTC also said Videotron must form a citizen advisory board by March 15 that will determine the mix, scope and types of programs that would best serve the needs and interests of the greater Montreal community, and “provide proof” no later than April 1.

According to CACTUS, the onus will be on the public to prove that Vidéotron is in non-compliance in August, “effectively lumping a cable company’s ability to offer community media services in with its ability to offer cable services,” it said in its news release.

“Videotron owns the cable infrastructure in Montreal. The Commission is not going to take away its right to manage that infrastructure; that’s Videotron’s core business. Its ability to effectively offer community media services should be dealt with separately — as is provided for under the current policy,” Edwards stated.

“It’s time to turn the licence over to a community-run entity. This is the way it works everywhere else in the world but here,” Edwards added.