The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced today that, for the 2009-2010 season, it is increasing the Local Program Improvement Fund from $68 million to over $100 million (read the full CRTC release here). On a series of local CBC radio stations today, I'll be advocating that the lion's share of that money should go to local investors buying into local community programming--like Channel Zero, the Mississauga-based group behind the new acquisitions of Hamilton's CHCH and Montreal's CJNT.
The money is meant for broadcasters in markets of less than a million people to "to maintain their spending on local news and other types of local programming." The money is coming from you and I and everybody who pays a satellite or cable bill (it amounts to 1.5% of the gross revenues of Shaw, Rogers, Bell and others. Think of it--over $100 million is 1.5% of the cable-satellite gross broadcasting revenues. Holy Lord!).
While Rogers and Shaw scream bloody murder, watch CTV, Canwest and Rogers start shrinking their markets and spinning their hilarious "Save Local TV" campaigns to try and pry the lid off this new cookie jar.
The CRTC has also called for further hearings on the state of conventional broadcasting in late September. On the agenda: Canadian programming commitments by English-language television broadcasters. Go Konrad!
I'll be the voice of reason on the following CBC radio stations today across Canada: Cape Breton (3:10 p.m.), Charlottetown (3:20), Ottawa (3:40, Halifax (3:50), Montreal (4:20), Vancouver (4:30), Sudbury (4:40), Toronto (4:50), Calgary (5:15), Whitehorse (5:25) and Edmonton (5:50).
UPDATE: One shocking little detail buried in the fine print in today's CRTC funding announcement: after all that whining from broadcasters--yes, those same "Save Local TV" guys--about how all those local news costs are breaking their business models, the CRTC has lowered the minimum local programming levels to 14 hours a week in big cities and just seven hours a week in "non-metropolitan markets." That is an hour a day. So here is more money--go out and do less.