Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/1/2010 (4386 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Did you know that one of Guy Maddin's first contributions to pop culture was acting on a show called Survival that lampooned Cold War paranoia on VPW 13?
Cable companies spend in excess of $100 million of subscribers' money annually for "community channels," yet no longer give most of those subscribers (or anyone else) access.
Once upon a time, fledgling Guy Maddins could walk into a cable studio and make a program. While shows like Math With Marty gave the sector its alternative edge, the medium was used in its heyday in Winnipeg and across Canada by thousands of community organizations -- ethnic, political and linguistic minorities, city councils, MPs, lawyers, filmmakers, sports teams and more.
These channels wove a colourful ribbon of culture, free speech, and public discourse from coast to coast.
Canada was the first. Over 30 countries have followed our lead, from Sweden to Fiji, but with one difference. Everywhere else, "community TV" channels are owned by communities.
So what happened in Canada? In 1997, facing competition from satellite for the first time, cable operators began to "professionalize" community TV. They consolidated staff and studios in larger centres, recycling programming from one region to another.
In Manitoba, Shaw cablecasts all the same staff-produced programming from Winnipeg, between replays of the Armed Forces News, the WHL and curling from other provinces.
Only the Westman community-owned systems continue to produce volunteer television about their own communities. Neepawa produced over 20 hours of new programming last week.
Why Neepawa and not Winnipeg? Because Neepawa owns its own channel, broadcasting over the air and on the Westman cable system. Could Winnipeg do the same thing? Absolutely.
At the CRTC community TV policy hearing this April, CACTUS, (the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations) will urge the CRTC to free community TV from the leash held by cable companies.
CACTUS will propose that the hundreds of millions that cable companies spend on "their" community channels as a condition of licence be used to help more communities set up multimedia centres that would teach new media as well as traditional TV and radio. Communities would again have a place to meet to create content for broadcast.
But if Canadians ignore this issue, so will the CRTC. Feb. 1 is the deadline for the public to comment on how community television should function, at www.openmedia.ca/action
Cathy Edwards is the spokeswoman for CACTUS.