The owners of Hamilton’s CHCH made a pitch last month to the CRTC that would see the beleaguered broadcaster receive a share of the money that currently funds Cable 14. Under the present system Cable companies contribute two percent of their gross revenues to fund the community channels they operate across Canada. Channel Zero CEO Cal Millar argued that in markets like Hamilton, where there is a local TV station as well as a community cable channel, there is “duplication of service,” and that the over-the-air broadcaster should take precedence over the cable channel when it comes to accessing funds for local news. Divvying up the fund would be entrusted to an independent body.
The Channel Zero proposal suggested that a station like CHCH would carry a greater amount of the hyper-local programming that is currently the responsibility of the Community Cable channel. Given that the money to support the programming would come from the cable industry, some observers were scratching their heads at Channel Zero’s suggestion that one of the benefits of the proposal would be that consumers could now get their community programming without having to subscribe to cable. Reflecting the unique ownership situation of CHCH, which is one of only a couple of stations in Canada not owned by a large vertically integrated operation like Bell, Shaw or Rogers; Channel Zero recommended that stations owned by the big players not receive funding. They also recommended that CHCH be allowed to participate in the Small Market Local Programming Fund from which CHCH has previously been excluded because of the reach of its signal in the GTAH.
Channel Zero co-owner Cal Millar stressed there was urgency to get a fund established, “especially for independent television stations and in small and medium-sized markets. The sooner this is put in place the better for Canadians, in our view. In any event, it should be implemented for the next broadcast year”.
Contacted by the Bay Observer Cable 14 issued the flowing statement, “Cable 14 is carefully monitoring the many proposals submitted at the hearings to review community and local television services in Canada. Based on the many submissions to date, we do not support, endorse or oppose any single proposal or model. We will abide by any of decisions or outcomes as determined by the CRTC in the coming months as they relate to community television for the foreseeable future”.
A decision by the CRTC will come later this year.