In February, following a complaint by an independent group that wanted to start up their own community TV station in Montreal, the CRTC gave Videotron a deadline of Aug. 31 to put MAtv in compliance with its conditions of licence.
According to the group that filed the original complaint, Videotron has failed to do so. And so it has filed another complaint.
Dated Nov. 5 and posted today, the complaint by ICTV (Independent Community Television) alleges that MAtv fails to meet the requirement of 50% community access programming, and not just in Montreal but in eight of nine zones that MAtv operates in. It also notes that Videotron has no programming for an aboriginal audience, which is expected of community services (though there’s no quantitative quota for it).
It also cites the lack of advisory boards outside of Montreal, and the fact that the Montreal advisory board does not include any representatives of ICTV. (“This exclusionary behaviour by Videotron crossed the line when MAtv General Manager we quoted by the press to have implied his station is at war with ICTV, and by extension the communities we represent,” the application states, without giving a source. While it’s true that Videotron has made no effort to approach ICTV, I am unaware of any effort from ICTV to approach MAtv in a constructive way either.)
ICTV comes to its conclusions by studying the program grids posted online over a sample week (Oct. 8-15 for Montreal, Oct. 21-27 for the other eight zones). By looking at where the program was produced, and by whom, it calculates the amount of access programming per region. According to its analysis, these are the levels of access programming for the various regions:
Quebec City: 27.98%
Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean: 45.98%
Only Granby meets the 50% minimum, and even then only barely, ICTV says.
The complaint includes a spreadsheet showing the number of hours devoted to each program and how ICTV has categorized it. No doubt Videotron will take issue with some programs being categorized as not being public access.
ICTV asked the CRTC to seek logs from MAtv to confirm its accounting, and the CRTC has in turn asked Videotron to supply those logs.
If the CRTC confirms what ICTV has claimed, it could take serious measures against Videotron, including revoking the licence for MAtv. At that point, an independent community TV service operating in the same region could replace it and get access to its funding. ICTV wants to be that service, though there is also Télévision communautaire Frontenac, which also operates in Montreal and unlike ICTV has a licence.
The CRTC gave Videotron an August deadline because that was when Videotron’s distribution licence was to expire. In July, the commission renewed that licence for a year to give it more time to deal with it.
You can download the application here (.zip file). Comments from the public are being accepted until Dec. 17. You can file comments online here. Note that all information provided, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.