Community TV groups call for C-18 amendments to include non-profit, small broadcasters

The Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) and the Fédération des télévisions communautaires autonomes du Québec (the Fédération) have expressed concern that Bill C-18, the Online News Act, does not include small, not-for-profit news organizations like community broadcasters.

The two associations, which represent community TV, as well as other associations representing community broadcasters were unanimous in their briefs to the Heritage Committee studying Bill C-18 that — based on the Australian experience — community media will likely be left out of the news compensation scheme unless amendments are made,” CACTUS stated in a press release, noting C-18 is based on similar legislation in Australia aimed at encouraging Google and Facebook to compensate producers for the online news that they redistribute.

“Since community media are often the only media present in smaller communities, ensuring that local news and information continues to be available in Canada’s hinterland is at issue,” CACTUS added.

The two organizations take issue with testimony given to the Heritage committee from Australian witness Rod Sims, professor with the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University, who said the Australian scheme was good for small news media businesses, which Cartt.ca wrote about here.

The brief submitted to the Heritage committee by the National Community and Campus Radio Association (NCRA) and the Community Radio Fund of Canada (CRFC) “reports that of 452 community radio stations in Australia, fewer than a dozen have been able to negotiate any compensation for their online news from Google or Facebook,” according to the CACTUS press release.

“The NCRA also tested the current clause in the draft C-18 that states that Canadian companies will be eligible for the scheme if they ‘are qualified Canadian journalism organizations as defined in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act’. While four NCRA members attempted to qualify — even though they meet the published eligibility criteria — their applications were rejected,” the release says.

“It seems these rules were created for print media, not for broadcasters,” said Catherine Edwards, the executive director of CACTUS, in the release.

Amélie Hinse, director of the Fédération, added: “The other problematic stipulation in the draft bill is that there be a minimum of two full-time employed journalists in order for a news organization to qualify. Community media that serve smaller communities are powerhouses of local news production because they work with citizen journalists and local organizations, but they may have only one or two employees altogether.”

The organizations are recommending alternate language that would recognize not-for-profit broadcasting undertakings as being eligible, saying their inclusion “will help ensure that local news and information continue to be available in the hundreds of small and diverse communities they serve.”