Category Archives: Self-Promotion

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.