CBC/Radio-Canada is astonished by the CRTC‘s decision to eliminate support for local television programming by discontinuing the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF). 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.
“Local television is a priority under the Broadcasting Act, yet this decision suggests that it is not important to the Commission,” said Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada. “The LPIF was a great success. It was achieving its objective of strengthening local television stations. This decision is sure to reverse many of the local programming improvements that the Fund achieved, because the rationale that led to the LPIF’s creation still exists today: the financial model for local television continues to be challenged. Two years from now, when the Fund disappears, we’ll be back to where we started when the CRTC decided to create the Fund.”
“Let’s not pretend that this is good news for consumers,” continued Lacroix. “It’s hard to see how this decision will lower cable rates. Rates are not regulated by the CRTC. It only means that instead of some of that money going to support local programming, it will go towards the bottom line of cable and satellite companies.”
CBC/Radio-Canada drew over $40 million annually from the LPIF to improve service for viewers in 20 different markets. That’s important funding that the Corporation will not be able to replace from other sources given that it comes on the heels of a $115 million reduction of its parliamentary appropriation. This will mean a big blow to viewers in the small markets that benefited from the Fund.
“There’s no question that this will negatively impact local television programming in smaller markets. For us, it will mean adjustments in terms of level of service, how we deliver service and the territory that our journalists can cover,” continued Lacroix. “Improving local service is one of the Corporation’s top priorities. This decision doesn’t change that, but it does present a major challenge that could limit our local television activities and our presence in those communities.”