Made-in-Manitoba TV?

NDP considers public broadcaster

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The Doer government has commissioned a study to see if there's room on the dial and in the pocketbook for an English-language educational public broadcaster in Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/08/2009 (4739 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Doer government has commissioned a study to see if there’s room on the dial and in the pocketbook for an English-language educational public broadcaster in Manitoba.

The province will fund a $15,000 study in partnership with On Screen Manitoba over the next few months to determine if the province can not only duplicate what exists in other provinces, but if it can take one step further, On Screen Manitoba executive director Tara Walker said.

On Screen Manitoba is the former Manitoba Motion Picture Industry Association.

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Walker said a provincial education public broadcaster would be a training ground for local filmmakers to tell stories, on TV and on the web, about Manitobans, for Manitobans.

It would also broadcast children’s programs, assist in long-distance teaching and learning and let far-flung communities communicate through a public network across the province.

"It’s part of infrastructure that’s missing," Walker said. "We’ve seen how the educational broadcasters benefit the independent production communities in Saskatchewan and Alberta and B.C. and Ontario and Quebec. Not having one here is sort of holding us back."

On Screen Manitoba first approached the province on the idea in the spring, but only recently was granted funding by the province to conduct the study. It’s expected to be completed early in the new year.

"The vision we’re presenting as an industry is that this carves out brand-new territory for broadcasting," she said. "It could be the first of the educational broadcasters created in an era of interactive digital media. This isn’t a traditional broadcaster of pushing the content out. It’s also drawing people in. They will have the ability to submit their own content and interact with whatever the platform is," said Walker.

The study will look at how such a project will fit into the province’s goal of increasing educational opportunities for people living in remote communities. Four government departments are involved: Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Sport; Education, Citizenship and Youth; Advanced Education and Literacy; and Competitiveness, Training and Trade. On Screen Manitoba will do the study with a government-appointed working group, which will meet for the first time in the coming days.

Walker said a public broadcaster would also make its material available on the web for long-distance education, and work on some programming with established broadcasters like CBC and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

"We could actually through this add much more rich material and much more interactive technology using many different platforms," she said. "There could be just plain web-based. There could be some televised. There’s also the possibility of maybe mobile content reaching people."

There has been discussion in the past about creating a Manitoba educational public broadcaster, but nothing substantive has happened until now. Other provinces have had their own public broadcasters for decades.

Walker said the concern of government at this time is the cost — the province does not want to commit to anything that will be a drain on the public purse.

A provincial spokesperson said the province agreed to cost-share the On Screen Manitoba study because it’s an innovative idea and could benefit Manitobans.

Walker said public broadcasters from other provinces, the Saskatchewan Communications Network and Ontario’s Canadian French-language educational public television TFO in particular, in the past approached Manitoba to develop programming in this province.

She said there’s no reason the local industry, along with government, couldn’t set up its own English language network.

"We didn’t oversell this. We said we don’t know what exactly this could be. But it’s an opportunity. It’s sort of window in the kind of availability of technology that can make this more cost-effective. Maybe this is the time that we should actually capitalize on this," Walker said.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

 

Who’s on the dial

Educational public broadcasters in Canada:

Saskatchewan Communications Network (www.scn.ca): A Crown corporation launched as a non-commercial TV network in 1991. SCN broadcasts to 90 per cent of Saskatchewan households, and a national audience via satellite, with educational programs. It primarily operates on a yearly grant from the Saskatchewan government; $5,997,000 in 2008-09.

TVOntario (www.tvo.org): Launched on Sept. 27, 1970. TVO is a registered charity and operates provincewide. Publicly funded through the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Education, which provides about $30 million annually. Also receives some corporate support.

Knowledge (www.knowledgenetwork.ca): Launched in B.C. Jan. 12, 1981, it provides British Columbians with commercial-free programming. It is funded through a $6-million annual provincial grant. It is currently ranked No. 1 in audience ratings for children’s programming in B.C.

Access Network (www.accesstv.ca): Launched June 30, 1973, and became a private broadcaster in the 1990s. ACCESS, in partnership with Alberta Education and Alberta Advanced Education, and educational institutions and educators, brings multimedia learning to all Albertans.

TFO (www.tfo.org): Canadian French-language educational public television network in Ontario. Formerly owned and operated by TVOntario, TFO became an independent agency of the Government of Ontario in 2007.

Télé-Québec (www.telequebec.tv): A provincial Crown corporation. On air since 1975, all programming is in French. The network runs commercials.

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