ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1990-95

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 18 October 1990
Public Notice CRTC 1990-95
Related documents: Public Notices CRTC 1984-94 dated 15 April 1984, 1985-58 dated 20 March 1985, 1986-177 dated 23 July 1986, 1989-27 dated 6 April 1989 and Circular No. 363 dated 13 July 1989.
With the exception of networks, television broadcasting undertakings are licensed to serve a specific geographic area, usually determined by the "B" contour of the transmission signal. The Commission, like the regulatory bodies that preceeded it, has always placed great emphasis upon the responsibility of television broadcasters to reflect the needs and interests of the communities they serve. Evidence of the importance the Commission places upon "local" programming is found in some detail in licensing decisions, public notices and in the quantitative commitments required in applications for new undertakings and for renewal.
In recent months the Commission has undertaken a review of its regulations and policies with respect to Canadian television programming. The objective of this review is to ensure the creation and distribution of high quality, popular and diverse Canadian programming. Concurrently, the Commission has been reviewing its broadcasting administrative processes with a view to improving their efficiency, streamlining decision-making procedures, and ensuring the effectiveness of the public hearing process.
As part of this review, the Commission has examined its policies with respect to local programming and with this public notice sets out for public comment the direction it proposes to take regarding local programming, effective 1 September 1991.
It is the statutory obligation of all broadcasters to provide programming of high standard, using predominantly Canadian creative and other resources. It follows, therefore, that the central objective for all television broadcasters must be participation in the production and distribution of Canadian programming. As a consequence, the Commission's regulations require all television licensees to achieve certain minimum quantitative requirements with respect to Canadian programs.
While Canadian programming is clearly the central concern for all broadcasters, each television licensee has a special responsibility to serve the public residing within the particular geographic area it is licensed to serve. It should do so through programs directed towards local concerns as well as programs of regional, national or international interest.
This concept of local reflection is founded on the principle that the right to use the public airwaves entails a responsibility to those members of the Canadian public in a licensee's service area. The Commission proposes, therefore, to continue to evaluate how television licensees meet the needs and reflect the interests and concerns of their audiences.
The Commission has been generally satisfied with both the quality and quantity of local programming currently offered by licensees. With very few exceptions, broadcasters have achieved or surpassed the minimum commitments set out in their Promises of Performance.
It is clear that the most effective and popular way for licensees to reflect local concerns is through station-produced news and public affairs programming. For most private broadcasters these categories represent between 70% and 80% of their commitment to local programming.
However, in other program categories the increasingly varied opportunities for complex co-production arrangements have made it difficult to define a program as "local" solely in terms of its producer. From the point of view of the audience it is the content of a program, not the producer, which gives the subject matter local relevance.
The Commission is also aware that some local broadcasters have been hesitant to participate in worthwhile Canadian programming initiatives unless the resulting programs qualify as local productions. In Circular No. 363 dated 13 July 1989, the Commission expressed its concernthat, as a result of its existing policies regarding local programming, some licensees may be discounting the value of non-local Canadian programs, particularly in under-represented areas such as drama, variety, music & dance, documentary and children's.
The Commission has concluded that the current requirement for a minimum quantitative commitment to local programming - other than news - is not producing the maximum benefits either for local audiences or the Canadian production industry. Not only have broadcasters been reluctant to participate in projects which won't qualify as local, they may have been tempted to produce and schedule local programs more to fulfill regulatory commitments than to meet genuine audience needs.
The Commission recognizes that in order for the broadcasting system as a whole to produce a critical mass of attractive Canadian programming, whether designed for local, regional or national audiences, broadcasters require flexibility to pool resources through co-operative ventures, co-productions and other imaginative partnership arrangements. Canadian broadcasters, producers, investors and funding agencies need to co-operate, in the most effective and efficient ways, to produce high-quality programming, particularly entertainment programming. Broadcasters can play a variety of roles in contributing to quality Canadian programming. Some licensees, on their own or with local independent producers, are capable of producing excellent programming in various categories to meet community needs. Others can best make use of their resources and of the talent existing in their communities by producing programs in co-operation with other broadcasters. The Commission encourages each licensee to undertake as much original programming as its circumstances permit. In addition, the Commission recognizes that the acquisition of good Canadian programming contributes to the Canadian broadcasting system. A strong domestic market will, in turn, be a great advantage to the Canadian production industry.
As stated above, reflecting local communities and programming for local audiences remains the particular responsibility of each television licensee. The Commission proposes to continue to require applicants for television licences to describe in detail how their program schedules would reflect the interests and concerns of the communities they intend to serve. At renewal, licensees would continue to be evaluated on how successfully local needs have been met. In making this evaluation the Commission would take into account the comments of individual viewers and representative community groups, as well as licensees' scheduling and expenditure practices. In the event that the Commission determines that licensees have failed to respond to legitimate community needs, appropriate action - including precise conditions of licence - could be taken on a case-by-case basis.
With this proposed new emphasis on licensee's overall performance with respect to local reflection, the Commission would no longer require television licensees to make quantitative commitments to local programming in categories other than news. Consequently, the definitions of a local program set out in Public Notices CRTC 1985-58, 1986-177 and 1989-27 would no longer be relevant.
Licensees are advised that the changes proposed in this public notice would not apply to any quantitative commitments accepted by the Commission as benefits in relation to an ownership transaction.
In the Appendix to this public notice are proposed changes regarding reporting requirements of television licensees.
The Commission proposes to continue to require television licensees to search out and develop local talent. In some cases local talent may be showcased in programs produced by the station or by local independent producers. In other circumstances the local broadcaster may promote local talent in co-operation with other broadcasters in the region or by assisting such talent to reach a wider audience through networks or other means of distribution. However it is done, the Commission would continue to expect local licensees to demonstrate that they actively develop, support and reflect local production and performing talent in as many ways as possible.
The Commission is confident that this proposed new approach to local programming will benefit the public, the broadcasting system, and the production industry and the creative community. With a renewed commitment to local reflection, but without artificial quantitative measures in non-news programming, the Commission is satisfied that the industry will have more flexibility to provide Canadians with a wide range of Canadian programming of the highest possible quality.
The Commission invites comments from interested parties on this proposed policy. Comments should be submitted by 30 November 1990 to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A ON2.
Alain-F. Desfossés
Secretary General
The Commission proposes that this policy come into effect on 1 September 1991. As of that date, the definitions of local programs found in Public Notices CRTC 1985-58, 1986-177 and 1989-27 would no longer apply.
Under the new policy the Commission would require licensees to meet their minimum quantitative commitments in respect of the weekly, average hours of original Category 1 (news) programming as recorded on the most recent Schedule I on file with the Commission.
The Commission would, however, expect all licensees to ensure that the programming they offer meets the needs and reflects the varied interests and concerns of the communities they serve, as generally described in their most recent licence renewal application and consistent with the principles set out in this proposed policy.
Those licensees with conditions of licence relating to local programs could apply to have the conditions changed to reflect the new policy.
2.Promise of Performance
The Commission intends to issue revised application forms reflecting these new information requirements prior to the implementation of this policy. All applicants would be required to outline their plans for Canadian programming reflecting the particular needs of their communities. Such programming could be produced or acquired by the licensee.
All applicants would be required to outline their plans for co-operative programming and programs co-produced with Canadian independent producers.
In a revised Question 11 of Part II of the application for a new (or renewed) television licence, applicants would be required to commit to a minimum average weekly quantity of station-produced news programming (Category 1).
3.Program Logs and Annual Returns
Applicable changes would be made as required.

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