Letter Asking for Support of Canadian Community TV

Dear Friends of Community TV, I want to thank all of you for your interest and interventions so far on behalf of community television in Canada. We are slowly being heard. The CRTC "Diversity Hearings" held in the fall of 2007 received over 1500 interventions on behalf of community television, even though the focus of that hearing was not community TV. In the spring of 2008, the cable distribution hearings, which proposed to remove the community channel from the basic cable tier also received many interventions in opposition. The CRTC last week released their rulings from this hearing. For now, the community channel is safe in the basic cable package, although it (and other channels in the basic cable package) no longer necessarily have low numbers.Because of the number of interventions on behalf of community television, the CRTC also committed to do a full review of the community TV sector in 2009. In preparation for those hearings, on the strength of my research into community TV policy and practices in other countries, I have been asked to write a report summarizing my findings. So all this is good news, and it has only been possible because of the interventions of many of you at each of these hearings. As a CRTC policy analyst whom I met at the Quebec Federation of Independent Community Television stations told me two weeks ago, they get lobbied by the cable industry and invited to events all the time, hearing that industry's point of view. It is much more difficult for them to get an accurate picture of how the public feels, unless we persist in writing to them at hearing time. Consequently, I would like to ask for your support via another intervention this coming week for Campbell River Community Television. It is cable co-operative (owned by its 13,780 resident members) on Vancouver Island that has been providing cable service and a community television channel run by volunteers for 50 years. As such, it's one of the few remaining community channels in English Canada that has genuine access by its community. In April of this year, Shaw Cablesystems received approval (without a public hearing) from the CRTC to offer competitive service within their license area. Shaw mailed an offer to buy the cablesystem for $3,000 per member to each household in the community (which is not legal... the proceeds of a non-profit society cannot be distributed among its members) and rumours also started to be circulated that if the co-operative didn't sell to Shaw, that Shaw would have the power to cut off or interfere with the co-operative's access to channel signals and bandwidth. In fact, the latter is also not legal under CRTC regulation. (It's like different long-distance telephone providers all being allowed to use the Bell/Telus phone network.) The co-operative also had a clause in its constitution that stipulated that 75% of the total membership had to approve any sale in writing. That clause was rewritten to be only 75% of the members present at any given meeting (a process that the BC Societies Act has also confirmed as not legal), and fewer than 500 members present at an August meeting voted to sell to Shaw. This week, the CRTC is asking for public opinion on the sale of the co-operative to Shaw, and the dead-line for comments is next Thursday, November 13th. This hearing is also a "closed hearing", in that the commissioners who will decide will do so on December 8th in Ottawa/Gatineau, with no opportunity for the Campbell River residents to appear in person. So, while you may not wish to comment on details of a sale process about which you know very little, CACTUS, and the "Save the Campbell River TV" committee would like to ask for your help in writing in this week to share your experience of: a) the importance of community TV channels that are genuinely accessible by the community (please share any details of what participation at your local community channel in the past has meant to you) b) for those of you who live in areas serviced by Shaw, your first-hand experience of what happens to community TV in a Shaw service area c) your support for the idea that no further sales should be approved that could further weaken the position of the few surviving genuine community-access television channels in English Canada, prior to the sector review in 2009. If you have a specific interest in the details of the transaction in Campbell River, the attached document is CACTUS' draft intervention to this process, which outlines the key events that have occurred, with links to the Campbell River Television Association's own web site and to relevant documentation. But even without knowing all the details, it is CACTUS' view that a sale of a 50-year-old locally run cable service and community channel should not be allowed to pass until all information are openly available and understood by the community. We would like the CRTC to delay this hearing and to move it to the community in question, so that a full and open process can occur. If you would like to lend your support: 1) Click this link before next Thursday: http://support.crtc.gc.ca/rapidscin/default.aspx?lang=en&applicant=n2008-13 2) Click to put a checkmark in the box next to: 200811879 Shaw Cablesystems. Then Click "Next". The rest of the process is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case... 3) If you oppose the sale to Shaw, click the drop-down box that says: "My comments are in OPPOSITION". 4) On that same page, either: a) Type your comment directly into the comment box, or b) Attach a document with your comments. If you type your comment directly into the comment box, copy it (highlight and click Ctrl-C), because you will be required to send a copy of your comment to Shaw later in the process. Click "Next". 5) If you want to present your point of view in person, indicate this and why on the next page. Click "Next". 6) On the next page, fill out your contact information, and make sure you click the final box, indicating that you are going to send a copy of your intervention to Shaw. If you don't do this, your intervention will not be included on the public record. Click "Next". 7) Click "Submit". 8) Either mail, fax or e-mail a copy of your comment and your contact information to: Shaw Cablesystems Limited 630 - 3rd Avenue North-West Calgary, Alberta T2P 4L4 Fax: 403-716-6544 E-Mail: michael.ferras@sjrb.ca Thanks and good luck! Your support does make a difference. Cathy Edwards Canadian Association of Community TV Users and Stations (CACTUS) cactus.independentmedia.ca 1 (819) 772-2862