Operators must devote money to local TV ideas

Michel Arpin: Access to broadcasting system must be open

Welcome to amateur TV.

That's the prescription ordered Thursday by Canada's TV regulator to what ails homegrown public access TV channels tied to local cable networks.

The CRTC ordered cable operators to devote at least half of $130 million in subscriber revenue they collect annually for community TV broadcasts to shows whose ideas come from ordinary Canadians.

And the CRTC wants local members of the community to participate in all aspects of the shows' production, whether in front or behind the camera.

Access to the broadcasting system must be as open as possible, especially for people who are new to the production of television programming, CRTC vice-chairman Michel Arpin said in the regulatory ruling.

Encouraging local participation will mark a change from Canadian community TV that is currently big business.

Industry consolidation over the last decade has led to fewer and bigger cable operators as a condition of license creating regional networks to produce slick TV programming for their public access channels.

The CRTC held a public hearing last April where critics urged the regulator to restore the cable-backed community channels to being grassroots over-the-air TV broadcasts.

The regulator has given the cable operators until Jan. 1, 2014 to retool their public access channels for more volunteer-driving programming ideas and production.