Shaw Continues to Fail
Thrive on Regulatory Entitlement
Independent community television producers
have staked their claim on the Shaw cable community channel in the
Led by the not-for-profit ICTV Independent
Community Television co-operative, a temporary accord for regularly
scheduled community-based programs has been reached with Shaw
Cablesystems. The continued David versus Goliath battle, first begun for
access, now shifts to whether Shaw should continue to administer the
funds regulated to the community television public trust. Even as ICTV
volunteers moved into the old CFRO co-op radio studio at 337 Carrall Street, they increased the output
of programs for broadcast. Meanwhile, Shaw recently cut its "News4"
daily news magazine show without any warning or explanation to viewers.
Citizens gained regulatory access to
Shaw's cable community channel via two recent federal government
pronouncements. In December 2002, the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission affirmed registered community television
production co-operatives, such as ICTV, could access up to four hours of
program time on cable community channels. In June 2003, the Common's
Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage stated it "believes that
citizen access to community television facilities should be a CRTC
requirement, rather than an expectation." For two years prior to April
2003, Shaw had denied ICTV access to community television broadcasts.
The sudden demise of "News4,” the Shaw
flagship show, came without a public explanation from the company. Shaw
TV, as Shaw calls its cable 4 channel, incorrectly interpreted or
ignored community television policy expectations. Shaw TV developed,
produced and broadcast "News4" with community television money. The
inability to meet the new requirements saw workers and the public again
pay the price. Shaw will continue to try programming strategies to
brand and commercialize this public trust.
Shaw discontinued "News4" because immense
amounts of community channel resources were dedicated to a show that
clearly was not community television. Community television should seek
and give opportunity for expression to individuals and groups and
promote citizen access and training programs. This would engender a
high level of citizen participation and community involvement to present
innovative ideas and alternate views. "News4" never did meet the
regulatory volunteer participation and training expectations. The slick
daily newsmagazine did not complement but worse, competed with the
public and commercial broadcasters.
Shaw receives close to $5-million a year
through the community channel levy for community television in the
Lower mainland. This subscriber- funded money is delivered by the CRTC
back into the hands of cable companies, estimated at $80 million in
total across Canada last year. For $5-million,
Shaw TV gets to showcase its brand of community television featuring
constant repeats and promotion of its goods and services, doing little
the past two years to promote at large community involvement and
In Vancouver, the growth of ICTV has been
adapted to the changes in the regulatory environment they have help
create. For seven years, ICTV and Community Media Education Society
have challenged the proprietary attitude of Rogers and Shaw towards
community television. Their success is evident. Community-based
programming is now on with a regulatory vengeance on Shaw's cable 4.
But the view from the new ICTV studio at Pigeon Park at Hastings and Carrall is a
reminder the struggle still continues.