CBC-Radio-Canada appeared before the CRTC yesterday to make the case for the preservation and strengthening of the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF). At stake is the quality of local television programming, diversity of voices, and service to minority language communities.
“The LPIF has been a tremendous success that has helped to stabilise local television stations during the recession and enabled CBC-Radio-Canada and other independent broadcasters to strengthen and enhance their local programming offering in smaller markets,” said Steven Guiton, Vice President and Chief Regulatory Officer at CBC-Radio-Canada. “The Commission got it right in 2008 when it recognized the importance of local programming to the broadcasting system. It also recognized in 2008 that the economics of the Canadian broadcasting system have shifted over the past decade or more, so that BDUs are getting more and more of the revenues and profits, while the financial model for local television has become ever more difficult. ”
“CBC Television is extremely proud of what it has done with the funding,” said Kirstine Stewart, Vice-President of English Services. “We’ve increased the local news in our LPIF-eligible markets by almost 30 percent. Our supper hour news shows have been bumped up from one to one and a half hours in seven of eight eligible markets. And we’ve added new late-night newscasts in all eligible markets and enhanced statutory holiday newscasts in seven out of eight markets.”
Louis Lalande, Executive Vice-President of French Services also highlighted the improvements that the funding has enabled at Radio-Canada, saying that “This year, our twelve LPIF-eligible stations will broadcast a combined total of more than 5,000 hours of local programming – that’s 23% more than pre-LPIF levels. We’ve increased local news programming from five to seven days a week in most markets, and increased supper hour news shows by 30 minutes in three markets, bringing one-hour newscast to all of our stations.”
CBC-Radio-Canada has made two recommendations to the Commission for ensuring that Canadians get the maximum benefit from the LPIF. Both are intended to encourage broadcasters to increase their investment in and augment their production of local programming:
- Modify the eligibility criteria so that in order to have access to the Fund, a local station must broadcast more local programming per week than is required by its conditions of licence
- Modify the allocation formula so that one quarter of funding be allocated equally among eligible stations – instead of the current one third – and that the remainder of funds continue to be allocated according to local programming expenditures
The LPIF was established by the CRTC in 2008 to increase the quantity, quality and diversity of local programming produced by conventional TV stations in non-metropolitan markets. It was created in response to a decade-long decline of the financial model for local TV production in small markets, while cable and satellite companies that distribute the programming continued to generate record profits.