Dear Minister Moore,
Here’s my planned five minute presentation to be made at the CRTC’s LPIF hearing next week.
CRTC 2011-788 – Review of the Local Programming Improvement Fund
Intervener: Steven James May, PhD Candidate in Communication & Culture, Ryerson and York Universities. steven(dot)may(at)ryerson(dot)ca.
Date of presentation: April 17, 2012.
Please check against delivery.
1) Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, fellow Canadians. My name is Steven James May. I am an over-the-air (OTA) television advocate and a PhD Candidate in Communication & Culture at Ryerson and York Universities in Toronto. Thank you for the five minutes to speak here at the CRTC in Gatineau, Québec.
2) You’ll note I have a prop with me today. At the end of this broken shovel handle is a $45 television antenna that I ordered online from the United States. Along with a $100 digital-to-analogue converter box I purchased in Napanee, Ontario, this antenna allows me to pull in free-to-air digital OTA TV signals in my rented flat north of Bloor Street West in Toronto. As a student paying $900 a month in rent, I appreciate the OTA signals that this antenna provides me. This lovely object receives about 20 TV stations at my residence, 10 Canadian and 10 American. I’ve had trouble pulling in CHCH from Hamilton following Canada’s digital television transition last August but I’m glad to hear CHCH has received approval to move to Sun News Network’s abandoned spot on the dial in the Greater Toronto Area. I truly enjoy the local television programming that this antenna pulls in and I use it daily.
3) Getting back to the reason for this hearing, I would like you to keep this antenna in mind when considering the LPIF objective of ensuring that “viewers in smaller Canadian markets continue to receive a diversity of local programming – particularly local news programming” (my italics). I will be focusing on the receiving part of this LPIF objective.
4) As I have mentioned to the Commission as part of my previous interventions related to other television hearings, I am interested in ensuring that Canada’s television broadcasting system serves all Canadians. I feel that the best way to do this is to deliver television signals to our citizens in the most affordable and accessible fashion. Over-the-air television broadcasting, specifically digital over-the-air television broadcasting, is the clear winner in terms of delivering local television programming to Canadians in an affordable and accessible manner.
5) In response to your question, “should the LPIF be eliminated?”, my answer is no. As for the impact this would “have on the amount and type of local programming produced”, I’m confident that based on the fragile state of television broadcasting in Canada that the elimination of LPIF payments to broadcasters would indeed impact “the amount and type of local programming produced”.
6) In terms of “methods or incentives available to ensure that local programming will continue to be produced?” as noted in my intervention I feel that the LPIF should be temporarily increased to 2% of BDU gross revenues for a period of five years with a minimum of 0.5% of the LPIF funds being earmarked solely for the purchase and installation of digital television transmitters by broadcasters.
7) Delivering local television to Canadians involves the effective and efficient broadcasting of over-the-air television signals to citizens. The Government of Canada decided long ago that switching from an analogue to digital OTA television broadcasting system would be in the best interest of Canadians. Continuing to delivery local television programming will rely in part on the purchase and installation of more digital television transmitters so that local programming can be received by Canadians. It is for this reason that I propose a temporary increase in the LPIF and that the increased portion be earmarked for digital transmitter expenses.
8) I am currently able to receive local television programming via digital OTA television signals in my student apartment in Toronto. However, I know firsthand that my friends and family who live in non-mandatory digital television markets across Canada have either already lost, or stand to lose, their access to local television programming due to a lack of local digital television transmitters. My proposed temporary LPIF increase seeks to help remedy this problem.
9) With regards to how LPIF funds are divided among television broadcasters, I have no issue with a disproportionate amount going to CBC/Radio-Canada. They need it.
10) I ask that the Commission put a stop to BDUs passing the cost of making their LPIF payments onto their customers in the form of a monthly fee.
Steven James May