NEWS

CRTC Imposes New Broadcast Rules To Inject Up To $90 Million Into Local TV News

Thursday, Jun 16, 2016

Local TV news stations struggling to retain viewers and remain profitable as eyeballs shift online got a boost on Wednesday from Canada’s broadcast regulator, which changed its rules to reallocate up to $90 million of existing funds to local news.

Local TV news stations struggling to retain viewers and remain profitable as eyeballs shift online got a boost on Wednesday from Canada’s broadcast regulator, which changed its rules to reallocate up to $90 million of existing funds to local news.

Up to $67 million a year will be reallocated to local news from local expression programming under the new rules. Independent stations are eligible for the money, but there’s a catch for vertically integrated broadcasters such as BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. They must keep all of their existing local stations open in order to get a piece of the funding.

The CRTC will also require licensed broadcasters to devote 0.3 per cent of their annual gross revenue (included in the five per cent) to the newly created Independent Local News Fund, which it estimates will pull in $23 million annually. This money will go to independent stations in smaller markets such as Kamloops, B.C., Thunder Bay, Ont. and Gatineau, Que.

The fund will replace the Small Market Local Production Fund and will not be available to vertically integrated broadcasters such as Bell and Shaw Communications Inc. as of Sept. 1. This means Bell’s station in Dawson Creek, B.C. and Shaw’s station in Kenora, Ont. will lose funding.

The CRTC also upped its requirements for the amount of local news that must be broadcast. Metropolitan and small market stations still must play 14 hours and seven hours of local programming per week, respectively. But in order to get their broadcast licences renewed, the CRTC will require they spend a certain amount on local news annually based on historical spends. (The TV licence renewal hearing for large broadcasters starts in November.)

The new rules come after a January public hearing on how to ensure local programming survives in a changing media landscape. Eighty-one per cent of Canadians place “great value” on local TV programming, according to a CRTC survey during its Let’s Talk TV hearings.

Canadians are the big winners under the new system, CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in an interview.

Despite that fact that viewers, particularly millennials, are flocking to the Internet for their news, Blais said local TV news is still watched and valued more than community programming. The new rules give broadcasters the flexibility to acknowledge this preference while still providing both services, he said.

“The fact is we’re going through a very large disruptive change. The commission is facing from time to time some rather difficult choices, and we’re trying to do our best to respect what Canadians value the most,” he said.

“Rather than be forced because of our rules to put more and more money into the community channel… (broadcasters) can move some of that money and get credit if they’re spending on local news.”  

Community programming rules remain fairly static, but the CRTC will now require broadcasters in markets with more than one million people to set up citizen advisory panels to ensure diverse representation on the screen. It also encourages broadcasters to post all community programming online.

The announcement comes a day after Rogers applied to the CRTC to get priority access to basic TV packages for a new multilingual national channel under its OMNI brand with daily newscasts in Italian, Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi. Rogers said in a statement it is optimistic the decision will help sustain newscasts.

 

Source : financialpost.com