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National online survey launched: Stewarding community media into the digital future

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Photo: flickr/ Marcie Casas

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Nobody likes to be ignored. A national citizen's group has launched an online survey to ask people across Canada what they think about community media, the first of its kind in Canadian history. Media activists are elated that someone is finally paying attention.

"The survey is a historic first of its kind," said Sid Tan, long-time media activist and current executive producer of ACCESS Community Television. "My feeling is this survey and the results will strengthen and grow community media into the social, cultural and political force we want."

The survey was created by the Community Media Policy Working Group, a coalition of advocates, practitioners, academics and high-profile political figures like former Chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Clifford Lincoln, and former Chair of the Working group on Broadcasting Policy, Florian Sauvageau.

According to Cathy Edwards, spokesperson for the group, their goal is to "draft a national community media policy that takes into account the emerging realities of a digitally networked 21st century."

Edwards, who is also the executive director of CACTUS, the Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations, said that Canadians have two-weeks to fill out the survey online in order to have their comments included in the drafting process.

The survey and policy initiative was launched in preparation for a major review of community TV regulations announced by the CRTC last Spring. A formal announcement has yet to be made, possibly due to a letter campaign earlier in the summer asking for a delay. Academics across Canada have asked the CRTC to postpone its review until after a major gathering of community media stakeholders in Ottawa, scheduled for Nov 22-24.

Rumours have been circulating that the CRTC wants to spend some of the $130 million earmarked for community television on failing commercial broadcasters. The CRTC has been tight-lipped about its plans, but comments made by Commissioners at the Let's Talk TV public hearings last September suggest that this is one of the ideas being considered.

Advocates would like to see the $130 million support community-based media centres that would offer digital media skills training and equipment access on all new and old media, including radio and television, web and online tools, and community-focused gaming, which is a growing in importance.

"Canadians want cable companies to be accountable for $130-million they receive annually community television," said Tan. "This has not been forthcoming for over a decade now. This money should be used to fund and strengthen community-based media centres offering media skills training and equipment access. More attention should be on community media ‘needs’ which are seemingly secondary to cable companies' corporate greed."

The Community Media Convergence Conference will take place Nov 22-24, at Carleton University.

Photo: flickr/ Marcie Casas

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