CRTC says yes to Bell English community TV in Montreal

Subscribers to Bell Fibe TV will soon have access to English-language community television programming in Montreal.

On Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved an amendment to Bell’s broadcasting distribution licence allowing it to spend 2% of its gross revenues on each of a French and English community TV service in most cities of southern Quebec and Ontario.

CRTC policy requires that large cable companies spend 5% of their gross revenues on Canadian content, usually through contributions to funds like the Canadian Media Fund. But it also allows these companies to spend up to 2 of that 5% on a community television service. And recently it has allowed distributors to spend another 2% on a second community television service in the minority official language, leaving just 1% for other Canadian content contributions.

Where Bell’s community TV service differs from existing ones is that it is being made available exclusively on Bell’s video-on-demand service. There’s no linear channel to tune to. The advantage is that nobody has to worry about filling a 24/7 schedule, the programming can be of any length, and people can get the shows they want whenever they want. The disadvantage is that it’s harder to discover the content, and it’s harder to broadcast live content (like junior hockey games).

Bell Local has so far launched in English in Toronto and in French in Montreal. With this new licence amendment, an English service in Montreal will be in the works. Louis Douville, station manager for CTV Montreal and Bell’s point person for the Bell Local project here, tells me that they will now finalize the budget and start hiring staff. “I expect we should start delivering some programs early in the new year,” he said.

Videotron, the main distributor in Quebec, has also applied to the CRTC for an English community channel. Unlike Bell’s, Videotron’s would be a linear channel with 24/7 programming.

10 thoughts on “CRTC says yes to Bell English community TV in Montreal

  1. Tim

    I don’t suppose there’s any chance of Bell or Videotron opening this content outside of their walled gardens? And make it available to, you know, the entire community?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t suppose there’s any chance of Bell or Videotron opening this content outside of their walled gardens? And make it available to, you know, the entire community?

      That issue was brought up at a meeting with Videotron about MYtv. Unfortunately cable companies consider community channels to be exclusive value-added things that they aren’t willing to give up to competitors. And the only way that will change is if the CRTC changes its policy on community television (which could happen in this upcoming review).

      That said, not all content is owned by Bell and Videotron. Much of it is acquired content, and the producers of those programs can do what they want with them.

      Reply
  2. John

    Whatever happened to the idea of the cable community channel being anyone could have a show on it? I have never seen a show on Vox or whatever it called now that wasn’t produced by Videotron.

    I want more of the amateur porn they show(ed) in New York City and a lot less of the Videotron crap. In either language is fine.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Whatever happened to the idea of the cable community channel being anyone could have a show on it? I have never seen a show on Vox or whatever it called now that wasn’t produced by Videotron.

      Those two aren’t mutually exclusive. Half of the programming on MAtv (and MYtv when it launches) must be “access” programming, meaning that it comes from the community. But because the channel has technical resources, people in the community can produce shows that don’t look too different from other stuff on the channel.

      It’s a legitimate criticism of community television that having them be run by the cable companies has made them seem less like cable access TV. The CRTC might look into that when it reviews its policy on community television. But in the meantime, both Videotron and Bell accept proposals from the community. If you have one, suggest it before complaining that they won’t take it.

      Concordia’s student-run television station CUTV has expressed an interest in having some of its material aired on MYtv. There may be others too.

      Reply
      1. John

        “But in the meantime, both Videotron and Bell accept proposals from the community. If you have one, suggest it before complaining that they won’t take it.”

        Seriously Steve?

        Having been involved in two community access shows in the past, I know how things have changed.

        Community access is now complete bullshit. It’s all about moving around money to fulfill regulatory obligations without allowing anyone access to the airwaves.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Having been involved in two community access shows in the past, I know how things have changed. Community access is now complete bullshit.

          I’d like to learn more about what brought you to this conclusion. The CRTC might, too. If you haven’t already, you might want to share your story with them as part of their review of television policy.

          Reply
  3. Dilbert

    I have to say that this still looks like a way to route money from the 5% fund back into the cable and sat companies. It means that their Canadian content contribution for independent producers is cut by 66%, and with Videotron doing the same thing that is a whole lot of money disappearing from that system.

    You can be sure that the content produced in house (the 50% or so) will enrich Bell the company, and others will be encouraged to “rent” the studio for their productions as well.

    I would have to say to that moving this to in demand sounds good on the surface, but it absolutely assures that unless someone is really looking for it, they will likely never see it. No chance of a channel surfer stopping by. Out of sight is out of mind!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I have to say that this still looks like a way to route money from the 5% fund back into the cable and sat companies. … You can be sure that the content produced in house (the 50% or so) will enrich Bell the company, and others will be encouraged to “rent” the studio for their productions as well.

      I don’t think Bell’s community television project has a studio. In any case, the community television policy specifically excludes counting technical and administrative expenses toward the access part of the community television budget. So if they “rent” anything, that doesn’t come out of the 50% that’s to be spent on access programming.

      I would have to say to that moving this to in demand sounds good on the surface, but it absolutely assures that unless someone is really looking for it, they will likely never see it.

      Indeed. And it seems to imply that providers like Videotron that have linear channels don’t also have those shows available on demand.

      Reply
      1. Steve W

        Any update? Has the Bell English Montreal Community TV channel launched yet on Fibe TV? It’s now April. Have they announced any programming for this channel?

        Reply

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