Category Archives: Self-Promotion

The CRTC Wants You To Talk About TV

Today the CRTC released its public consultation on the state of the Canadian broadcasting system.  I assume that most of my readers are involved in the Canadian broadcasting industry and are not members of the general public (I’m not sure about you readers from Russia or the former SSR of Georgia).  So you may be asking yourself “should I get involved in this stage or wait for the industry consultation next spring?”*  You might want to get involved now.  If you are part of a member-based organization then I definitely think that you should get your members involved now.  We’re all part of the public, right?

The CRTC has set up a lot of different ways to get involved.  Find the official invitation here.  You can call, email or fax your thoughts.  There is a discussion forum, similar to past public consultations such as the ones on the wireless code or the CBC.  And new for CRTC public consultations is the encouragement to hold “Flash!” Conferences.  I don’t know the logic behind “Flash!” – flash mob?  It has nothing to do with the software.  The CRTC wants Canadians to gather, talk about the issues, and send the CRTC a report.  Interesting.  There’s a toolkit to facilitate the “Flash!” Conferences and the CRTC has limited funds to subsidize the cost of running them for smaller organizations (apply by November 13, 2014).  There doesn’t seem to be a push to get Canadians to use social media other than the request to use the hashtag #TalkTV (Note:  I may cave but at the moment I’m not using #TalkTV because it is already an active hashtag for people to talk about Canadian and US talk shows.  I’ll stick to #CRTC and #CdnTV for now.)  Update:  The FAQ suggests that there will be Twitter chats and a Reddit AMA.  Should be interesting.

What are the topics?  In most of the material there are only three general topics mentioned.

Programming:  What do you think about what’s on television?

Technology:  What do you think about how you receive television programming?

Viewer toolkit:  Do you have enough information to make informed choices and seek solutions if you’re not satisfied?

Those are pretty vague and general topics but if you dig into the Notice of Invitation you’ll find more detail on the questions and context for them.  I’ve put them all together in one place for ease of use (for you and for me).

Programming

1. What television programs are most important to you (children’s programming, comedy, documentaries, drama, feature films, news, sports, reality TV, variety, other)? Why?

2. Do you know which of the television programs you watch are Canadian? If so, how do you know which programs are Canadian? Would it be important for you to know which programs are Canadian? Why?

3. What programs do you consider to be local television programming—programs about your city, your province, other? How important is local news to you? Why? How important is community access programming and “community TV” to you? Why?

4. Do you think the programming on television is fully reflective of Canada’s cultural, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and demographic diversity? If not, what’s missing? How important is reflection to you? Why?

5. What do you think programming will look like in the next 5 to 10 years? Why? Would you be satisfied with that situation? Why?

Technology

1. How do you prefer to watch television—on a traditional television set, online, on a smart phone, etc.? Why? How do you usually watch television programs—live, on-demand, recorded on a PVR, other? Why?

2. If you subscribe to cable TV or satellite TV, how satisfied are you with the way your channels are packaged?

3. What type of television service do you subscribe to—cable TV, satellite TV, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) or other?  Do you intend to stay with your type of television subscription in the next few years or switch to something else? What would make you stay? What would make you switch?

4. How do you think we will receive and watch television in Canada in the next 5 to 10 years? Why? Would you be satisfied with that situation? Why?

Viewer Toolkit

1. How satisfied are you that your television service provider supplies the information you need to understand your service options, including packaging and pricing?

2. Are you experiencing barriers that prevent you from changing your television packages or switching to another television distributor? If so, what are those barriers?

3. How satisfied are you that your television service provider supplies the information you need to make informed choices about programming that you may consider inappropriate for you or your family?

4. Do you have a visual or hearing impairment? If so, how satisfied are you with the tools available to enable you to share in our television culture?

5. Do you know where you can voice your concerns over television content, your television services and bills?

6. How do you think we will make informed content choices as program viewers and consumers in Canada in the next 5 to 10 years? Why? Would you be satisfied with that situation? Why?

I think these are really great questions.  All of us would like to know what the general public thinks of these questions.  For too long at public hearings all sides of the industry have tried to speak for the general public and what they want from our broadcasting system.  I just wonder how the CRTC is going to get people motivated to get involved.  There isn’t any hot button issue like there is whenever you deal with the CBC or want Canadians to talk about their cell phone bills.  This is big picture thinking that most Canadians, I think, would rather someone else do for them.  I suspect that organizations with agendas will be the easiest to motivate.  We know how important this is so perhaps we should start with our own people.  Gather and have a “Flash!” Conference in the next two months so that a report on the conference can be filed by January 10, 2014.  [Shameless Self-promotion – you can hire me to help you do that.]  I assume that anything gathered will be useful as well in the industry consultation.   Spread the word about the consultation.  The more ‘general public’ who hear about this and get involved the better for the industry.

*As part of this invitation to the public, the CRTC released its updated schedule on the industry consultation on the state of the Canadian broadcasting system.  There will be a call for submissions Spring 2014 and a public hearing September 2014.  Expect that one to be a doozy!

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Social Media Musings – Personal Rule re My Industry

As I have mentioned before, I don’t believe in a set of social media rules that should apply to everyone.  I think however that everyone should create their own set of rules that govern how they interact in social media and some of those rules might be universal but others will be very specific.  I’ve talked about my personal rule on politics and now I’m going to talk about my personal rule on how I tweet about my industry.  If you also work in film, television and digital media this could be directly applicable to you.  If you don’t then think about how you could adapt this rule to your industry.  If you play the role of an advocate, whatever your sector, then I think my rule might be helpful.

I have spent my entire career working on or advocating for Canadian content film, television and digital media.  Social media gives me a great platform to talk about Canadian media, promote it and advocate for positive change.  Positive is the key word here.  I take a very positive approach to my social media activity.  I will sometimes question whether a policy or program is the right one but even then with the utmost respect and politeness (I think).  I will not be negative about media that I have seen but if I love it then I will shout it from the rooftops.  You may think that this is a biased approach and it is but hear me out.

It is tough to work in Canadian media.  We could all be making more money easier – I am convinced of that.  The vast majority of us who work in this field, whether we are creators or administrators or even wonks, do so because we have a passion for Canadian media.  We work hard to get the best content possible in front of Canadian audiences.  So I hugely respect the work that people do, even if sometimes I don’t like the outcome.  It’s all a crapshoot and sometimes the elements that kill a project are outside anyone’s control.  The broadcaster didn’t promote it or the producer couldn’t get enough financing for a decent budget or the wrong actors were cast or the script needed a rewrite.  What are you going to do.

If it’s great then it needs help to get seen.  That’s just a reality in our world.  I did my best with “Michael Tuesdays and Thursdays” but it needed more than me and the other handful of advocates.  Sigh.  I’m a Listenerd and a member of the Clone Club.  And I’m a big, vocal, fan of a few other shows that don’t have cute names for their fans.

There is a place for critical review of media, both by regular people and professionals.   There have been many conversations about how we need to be more critical of our Canadian media – it isn’t all great and some of it needs to be much better.  Sometimes it makes sense that a television show is cancelled or a feature film doesn’t get a big audience.  I just feel too close to the content and know too many of the people involved to have the necessary distance to play that role.  So I don’t.  And sometimes, I have to tell you, it’s really hard.  But that’s my rule.

[Note – I have also been called an incurable optimist so this ‘rule’ may just be who I am.  You decide.]

 

 

Social Media Musings – Politics

As some of you might have guessed, I was totally biting my tongue (or my virtual tongue) on Twitter during the federal cabinet shuffle today.  It occurs to me that it might be useful to explain why I do that so readers can decide how they want to approach moments like that.

As I mention in my social media training workshops, I don’t have a set of rules that I share but principles that I encourage others to consider as they create their own rules.  First, there is no such thing as a personal-only Twitter account.  Tweets are public and can be found by anyone looking to see what you said.  Your audience is not just your followers.  It is very easy for your tweets to reflect on you and your job.  You should have an idea of the persona that you want to have in social media and you should consider whether that persona could in any way impact your ability to do your job – before you start tweeting or posting.

What that means for me is that even though I have definite personal political perspectives, I keep them off my main twitter account.  That’s the decision that I have made.  I totally respect those who include partisan tweets in their feed but it is not something that I am comfortable with.  I would like to be able to advocate on behalf of whoever engages me with the government of the day.  If I, or my clients, have problems with a specific policy then that is fair game but partisan tweets are not.   [Now and then one slips out but this is the rule that I TRY to follow.]

So while I tell people that they need to share their personality on Twitter in order to build trust and engagement, there are limits to how much personality you may want to share.  Where you draw the line is up to you.

If my social media musings are useful, then I might share a few more over the summer.  It’s hot and I don’t want to get into anything terribly wonky in this weather.

New Broadcasting Participation Fund

Last Spring, as part of the CRTC’s approval of the Bell-CTV transaction in 2011, the CRTC approved Bell’s proposal to create a Canadian Broadcasting Participation Fund. The goal of the Fund is to help public interest and consumer groups participate more often and more effectively in CRTC broadcasting proceedings. The Fund will reimburse internal and external costs of lawyers, expert witnesses and consultants necessary to draft submissions and attend at hearings. There is a grid for approved costs for the lawyers, expert witnesses and consultants but also for reimbursement of travel, accommodation and meals.

The guidelines are modeled on the guidelines that support reimbursement of costs in telecommunications proceedings. Unfortunately those guidelines are drafted in a way that assumes that the reader has also read the various decisions that support the process of reimbursing costs of participation in telecommunications proceedings. So they’re not that clear. For example, an Applicant is defined as someone who applies. The goal is to support nonprofit public interest and consumer groups and individuals (though the forms are drafted as applicants are only groups and not individuals). I did confirm with the Fund that individuals could apply. Public interest is not defined but there is the suggestion that it includes ‘advocacy and service groups’. The Fund confirmed that two of the key determining factors in eligibility are that the applicant’s intervention is relevant to the proceeding and that they are non-commercial (i.e. no broadcasters).

Bell allocated $3 million of their mandatory benefits to the Fund. They have also proposed allocating another $2 million to the Fund from the upcoming Bell-Astral2 acquisition, so if approved the total Fund will be $5 million. The Fund was  launched last Friday and it is now accepting applications for reimbursement. As the Fund was initially approved March 26, 2012, it will reimburse costs from participation as of that date.

Participation in broadcasting proceedings can be expensive. A submission can be more effective when at least reviewed if not drafted by someone with experience with the rules and regulations of the CRTC, including the details of the Broadcasting Act. Hearings are fairly formal proceedings where commissioners will challenge intervenors on their position to better understand them and get information on the record. There are a number of organizations that have to pick and choose which proceedings they will participate in because they just can’t afford to weigh in on all the ones that affect them or their membership. Few individuals and small organizations attend, particularly if they are located outside Ottawa. It is hoped that this Fund can address those concerns and help the CRTC hear from more than the usual suspects.

[Yes, this post could possibly sound self-serving but honestly, I’m interested in sharing widely the availability of this Fund because I think it will increase the quality of discussion even if intervenors were to use it just to cover travel costs. My heart goes out to those passionate individuals and small groups who find the issues important enough to spend their own money to attend. I’d like to see more of them, more of the Marjorie’s, and I would like them to be able to get some help.]

TV, Eh? Podcast Guest

I interrupt the regular policy wonk discussion to do a little shameless self-promotion.  This week I was a guest of TV, Eh?’s weekly podcast where Diane Wild and Anthony Marco discuss the week’s news in Canadian television.  Last week they had talked about co-productions and Diane had mentioned my blog post about it.  So this week I was invited to expand on it a bit and explain how co-productions work.  It ended up being a very far ranging discussion including vertical integration, enforcement of licence conditions, mandatory carriage and even co-ventures.  And some of the ways that you can conjugate the word ‘wonk’.

If you don’t know TV, Eh? and you care about Canadian television – well, you should.  Diane aggregates all the press out there about Canadian television and now adds her own interviews and articles and the podcast with Anthony Marco.  It is a great resource for people who work in Canadian TV.  She does it for fun.  So if you see Diane – buy her a drink – you owe her.    Listen to the podcast and you’ll get an idea of what she likes to drink.  You could also donate to the cause through the site.

I’m not just saying this because Diane said such lovely things about me.  I mean it!

Prime Time 2013

I won’t go through the whole two days – that’s what the tweets are for (search #PTiO).  I just want to share some impressions of the CMPA Prime Time 2013 conference with you.

First, I think this was the most tweeted Prime Time.  Sure, I was tweeting up a storm and so were a number of the usual suspects but there were a lot more newbies including, I was pleased to see, a number of producers.  (Self-promotion aside – if you would like to become active in social media yourself, I have developed a Social Media for Media Executives workshop that I am currently making available to companies.  Contact me if you are interested.) So you may be thinking – is it possible to just stay home and read the tweets?  In my opinion, no.

Tweets are good if you can’t make it to Prime Time but you miss out on a lot if you’re not there.  Prime Time is half panel discussions and half networking.  There is no facilitation of the networking (see my earlier CrossmediaTO post) but it is a great place to build relationships with most of the top television producers, broadcast executives, funders, guilds and associations and a smattering of government people in attendance.  And of course a number of independent consultants such as myself.  There also seems to be a growing number of digital producers.  One year soon, there will be no such distinction and we’ll be talking only about screens.  (And on a personal note, if you’re going through another transition in a fairly long career, Prime Time is a great place to spread the word and feel the love.)

There were two big buzzwords from this year’s conference – disruption and destruction.  Disruption of business models (is international licensing dead?) and outright destruction of markets (video game rental certainly is).  Panelists sometimes disagreed (is it a disruption or just a challenge – does that distinction matter?) but the theme of the conference was that the world has changed and we all – from cable companies to broadcasters to producers to talent – better start thinking creatively if we hope to ride the wave.  Some in attendance already know this and are out in front but there were plenty in the room who need to hear this message oh, a few more times probably, before it sinks in.

Jean-Pierre Blais, Chair of the CRTC, continued the theme with his keynote speech.  It was quite a surprising speech.  Blais told producers that they need to be creative  in their business approach.  He told them to be discontented with the status quo in order to be truly entrepreneurial.  Find new partners and new markets.  He coined a new word when he told the room that under his watch the CRTC would not be ‘protectionist but promotionist’.

There were some key messages here that I think we all should keep in mind over the next little while.  The Canadian independent production industry is very well funded right now with the BDU contribution to the CMF,  the hard won CPE (Canadian Programming Expenditure) requirement and a rather large amount of benefits money.  Benefits will expire and the walled garden that is regulated broadcasting is being disrupted.  I think Blais is telling us here that we need to find new business models and new partners or five years from now we will wake up and find ourselves without CPE or CMF or benefits and there will be no way to finance Canadian television.

The other key message revolved around another buzzword of the conference – discoverability.  In a regulated world with scheduled programs and a TV guide, the audience can find our programs, if they aren’t moved around too much.  But when content is available on multiple platforms without regulation to protect and ensure access then ways to enable the audience to discover Canadian content becomes key.  I am not sure what tools are at the CRTC’s disposal to allow it to be ‘promotionist’ but the message is an important one, and one that carried through to several other panels that day.

‘So think big.  Give us WOW.  Help us discover what we want to watch.’ – Jean-Pierre Blais

P.S. I’ve been asked to finish my Bell-Astral2 post now that the PNI is out and I will get on that shortly.  There’s also a request for a post on the new co-pro policy framework and I’ll get on that one too soon.  But first – some work that pays the bills!!

Welcome!

That’s original.  Well, I had to start somewhere.  I’m really not sure about this format but there are limits to the 140 character format so I’m going to give this a try.  I’m no longer constrained by a single focus employer (the Writers Guild) or specific policy goals so my aim with this blog is to, as many people do, chat about what interests me.  Please feel free to comment or engage me on Twitter.  Oh, and what’s with the Butter Tarts and Brown Drinks?  Butter Tarts are one of my fave Canadian things.  Brown Drinks – you know what those are.  You can’t do policy work without them.  So grab a tart or pour yourself a drink and let’s see if we can find some interesting topics to chat about.

Oh and the best butter tart that I’ve ever had were once sold in the North end of the St. Lawrence Market.  They were made with maple syrup and were thick – not runny.  And no raisins.

Update:  I needed a butter tart for the header photo.  Loblaws was all out (shocking!) but I picked up some very tasty ones at Bobbette and Belle.  Verdict – a little runnier than I’d like but yay – no raisins!  Lovely pastry.  The brown drink in the photo is Spice Tree blended Highland scotch that was a birthday gift from my cousin.