Do you folks recognize and relate to the image above? These broadcast trucks were used for the delivery of video content to the local community for such events as sports, local government meetings, and news, at a time when it was part of your daily routine to check on local events. Well, as Bob Dylan has told us, The Times They Are A-Changing. Over-the-top delivery of video content, the globalization that was the result of the Internet, and the devices we view content on have changed our behaviour. I hope to help you reminisce on the impact of local events and how they shaped your life, directly and indirectly. Enlighten you to current trends and the services that are now supported. Finally, I would like to point out some options that make it easier than ever to cover local community content.

Brief History of Canadian Community Television

Community television has a long history in Canada. In 1971 the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission required cable companies to provide public access to broadcast facilities. Community access remained in place until 1997 when the CRTC deregulated community television in Canada, but vocal advocates pushed cable companies to continue to provide access. This resulted in the CRTC decision 2002-61 which revived elements of community television. While community channels can be run by independent community groups, up to one-half of the channels’ time had to be made available to independent community producers.

2016 rolls around and the CRTC enacts a policy that a community channel may now allocate funding that once went towards community television, to news departments of the local broadcast station. This resulted in losses of community channels in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Brampton, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, and Toronto.

We are now waiting for Bill C-10 and the possible ramifications on internet-delivered content. There is an intention to provide guidelines for Canadian content. What that bill looks like when it passes through the Senate, we will be watching closely.

While many community channels have disappeared, there are some locations that local content is going strong. Access in Regina and CHCH in Hamilton come to mind.

Globalization and the New Reality of Content Consumption

I have touched on the changes in human behaviour towards technology in a previous blog. Basically, with the growth of the Internet and access speeds for personal use not reaching gigabit speeds and beyond, how we take in content has changed, significantly in the case of younger generations. 

If you were looking for local content on the internet, today’s search engines do not necessarily provide easy access or non-biased access to links that you may have been looking for. I hate to sound like a person with tin foil on their head, but the reality is these search engines know a bit too much about you to provide objective search results. The power of an algorithm uses your past browsing history to give you what it thinks you want. This is not necessarily a good thing unless you are an advertiser with a global customer base.

While television channels mean little to the new generation, those communities that offer local content have found ways to reach the internet generation and still provide linear channel access.

What Drives a Strong Community?

I grew up in a town that no longer exists due to amalgamation. Bramalea was unique, created as the 1st satellite city in Canada in the 1960s. We had streets arranged in alphabetical order, we had a festival with a unique name, the Nitty Gritty Brama Ching Wing Ding, strong community groups such as the Lions Club, a world champion majorettes’ team and a very successful junior B hockey team in the Bramalea Blues. We did have a community television station, but in honesty, we were people on the move. Friday nights we gathered at the arena to watch our Blues compete, we skied on the Chinguacousy bump, we hung out at the Bramalea City Centre Mall. I felt pride in my community and that pride is still reflected online with a Facebook group that reflects on the good old days of Bramalea. We had something in common.

Well, many changes happened, including the shutdown of the community television channel. 

Every kid has a cell phone with which they can watch videos from creators around the world. Especially now with the effects of the COVID pandemic, there is not the gathering of people that I once experienced. Yes, the kids now text each other, but instead of talking about the local hockey game, for example, they talk about a Tik Tok video made somewhere in the US. Why? Easy access! Access to content that has no relevance to local events, sports, business, or politics for that matter. And as a result, the sense of community and belonging has diminished.

Since the internet is the main source of content, we lose touch with that local sports team that needs your support to be successful. We lose the community TV bingo hour that funds the local boys and girls club. We lose the advertising from the local unique pizza restaurant, the local music festival, and the local art exhibit.

There is Hope

If anything good can come of Bill C-10, hopefully, there is a push for local content. And quite frankly, it does not need to be a burden on the taxpayer. If the internet infrastructure has taken away the ability to stumble upon relevant local events, it has also provided us a path for a very cost-effective distribution of local content in a secure manner. It is now extremely easy and cost-effective to provide access to that local hockey game, the town council meeting, coverage of the grad ceremony, the music event is the local bandshell, etc. No need for that satellite truck, the same connectivity can be provided at one one-hundredth of the cost, utilizing broadband connectivity that is at our fingertips.

Create the content and make it accessible and they will come! They will now have the desire to come to that concert, or that hockey game, or that town council meeting that has a direct effect on them. There is the ability to build the sense of community we are losing, and the answer must come from the same infrastructure that is blurring our sense of community. It is crucial for us to be aware we can take back our community without breaking the bank and giving the big carriers excuses to push funding away from the community.

Want to Learn More?

At WISI, many of our customers have already seen the benefits of SRT, versus traditional video distribution.  In response, we have incorporated this new protocol into our entire product line.  We can help you understand this new protocol, and evaluate where it may make sense for you.

By Gord Mummery

Director of Canadian National Accounts

With over 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, Gord has worked with companies across North America, Europe and Asia to deliver industry-leading video and data solutions. Based in Toronto, Ontario, if you can’t find Gord in a customer headend or boardroom working to solve the next challenge, you just might catch him fishing in a tournament.