Methodology

An Assessment of Regulatory Compliance of Community Television Regulations by Licensee and License Area (“The Compliance Assessment”)

 

Introduction

This website (www.comtv.org) is a repository for informaton about the assessments of community television services across Canada conducted by newwest.tv. This document explains how to use the site and provides a background to how the assessments were made.

Overview

Deepak Sahasrabudhe of NewWest.tv conducted an extensive analysis of the Community television services provided by Broadcast Distribution Undertakings (BDUs) in about 87 licence areas across Canada, not including Quebec. This analysis was undertaken in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) to provide a current assessment of compliance by BDUs in CACTUS' Cross-Canada Status report on Community television.

The assessment reviewed all of the programs that were broadcast in 87 licence areas in Canada in one week periods using the web-based program grid that most cable services provide for their subscribers. The program information available in a broadcast grid includes the program title and broadcast times for each program. This information was captured and input to a web-based database. The data were used to populate several interactive displays that provide users with pertinent information about a program that can be easily accessed online.

Over one week, each community channel broadcasts programs covering 336 half-hour broadcast slots (24 hours x 2 x 7 days = 336).The Compliance Assessment has captured information about and assessed almost 30,000 broadcast slots in the 87 licence areas, and identified and catalogued more than 2,100 unique programs.

NewWest.tv has made the Compliance Assessment available to the public on this website to enable all stakeholders to frame their assessments and comments based on a common set of information. In the event that any erroneous information has crept into this initial iteration of almost 30,000 entries, NewWest.tv will be able to make corrections when justified.

The stored records are used to compile a weekly program grid for the licence area. Each program displayed in the grid has a link to a program record, which shows program descriptions, program format, producer information and local and access determinations along with a rationale for the local and access determination. It also shows episodic information, including the number of times the program was broadcast and detail about individual episodes in a series.

The program information is also output to a Program Report which provides a tabular summary of the unique programs that were broadcast, including program descriptions, local and access status and the rational for the local and access designations.

The CRTC list was used to initially indentify communities to be assessed, but the investigator found CRTC lists to be incomplete and maps indicating geographic boundaries not available.

An All-Canada Summary report provides single line summary report of the local and access results for all 87 license areas in a single report.

1. Licence Areas Identified

1a) CRTC list

CRTC's Terrestrial (Cable and DSL) Licensees, a list of 66 licence areas, was initially provided by CRTC. This list included about 20 zoned licence areas that are amalgamations of many licence areas that had been combined into a zones for administrative purposes, especially in eastern and central Canada, and about 46 licence areas that appeared to be single municipalities.

1b) Missing Licence Areas

Terrestrial (Cable and DSL) Licensees provides incomplete information about communities that receive cable services.

In BC, cities such as Surrey (population 468,000) and Abbotsford (population 123,000) are missing from the list, yet the list includes New Westminster (population 66,000).

The list shows the zoned Greater Toronto Area as a single licence area, but the listing does not include all of the communities in the area. The listing includes:

Ajax, Aurora, Bolton, Brampton, Caledon, Claremont, Etobicoke, Georgetown, King City, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, Nobleton, North York, Pickering, Toronto Peel / Mississauga, Toronto Downsview, Toronto Etobicoke, Richmond Hill, and Toronto York and Toronto (Scarborough).

The CRTC list does not include Newmarket or Vaughn. The omission of some communities in a list of communities included in a zone make it difficult to properly assess the entire zone.

A complete and acccurate list is required by the public to properly assess the cable services that communities are receiving from Licencees.

1c) Licence Area Maps not Available from CRTC

When asked, CRTC indicated that it did not have maps identifying the geographic boundaries of Licence Areas even though the regulations refer to specific geographic places when referring to “local” areas. The term “local” as used in the CRTC Regulations sometimes seemed to mean “Licence Area”, sometimes “Municipality” and sometimes “community”. For the purpose of consistency, the study deemed “local” to mean “municipality”.

2. Programs

The Local and Access assessments have been done for each program that was broadcast over one week period in a licence area. Because a majority of programs shown on community television are half-hour long, the 24 hour broadcast day is divided into 48 half-hour slots. Over 7 days there are 336 half hour slots.

The programming schedule (the Program Grid) is shown as a 7x48 cell grid. Each of seven columns display one day of the week and the 48 rows display half-hour slots through a 24-hour day.

2a) Source Information for Program Grid

Most community television services have a web-based TV guide shown as a grid that identifies what is being shown each day over one week. Because each community channel displays the information in its unique way, our first step was to make a consistent grid for each Licence Area.

To accomplish this, Show Titles and broadcast day and broadcast time for each of 336 broadcasts over the week were captured and inserted into a consistent format that could be uploaded into comtv.org. The software then displays this information as the Program Grid.

Once the show titles and broadcast times were inserted, each program was researched, first on licencee websites, and then using google to discover information about program creators, hosts, and anything else that could be found. Google searches delivered details about the programs on various websites, facebook pages, video on demand of episodes and other information that enabled the investigator to get a good sense of the program, who made it and where and how it was made.

This information was entered in summary in the fields of the Program Form View to provide a permanent record of the findings. This information was used to assess a program as Local and as Access, and a brief statement by the investigator about the rationale for the Local and Access assessments.

This study assessed over 2,100 unique programs. While most programs were straightforward to assess, there were a number of programs that required some thought, and some programs did not have sufficient information for making a clear and fair determination.

The regulations for assessing Local are made difficult by the absence of a definition of “local” and the lack of maps indicating clear geographic boundaries. Access determinations are complicated because regulations have been set out in different documents and no single document sets out all the relevant rules. One example of a difficult decision would include a program where the host of a community program about fitness is involved in business selling fitness services. If the TV host is also the owner of the fitness business then the show would not be Access because of the benefit that accrues to the business. What about an author who sells books? It would depend on more facts than may be available.

The purpose of the Program Form View is to identify specific program details and provide the basis for program creators and program assessors to come to a consensus of what comprises local and access programs.

2b) Calculation of Local and Access Percentages

The website software groups all broadcasts of a program under its title. A unique Program Form View is automatically created for each title. The Program Form View has two parts: a) information about the Program at the top of the page and b) a listing of each time the program is broadcast during the week. The assessor is able to indicate a determination of a program as being Local and as being Access by selecting “Yes” or “No” on the dropdown selector for Local Program and Access Program.

The software automatically updates dropdown selectors for each episode broadcast through the week. This feature allows the ability to record details for one episode that has different content than other episodes broadcast during the week, thereby requiring a different assessment. This permits, for example, an episode aired on Friday that was videotaped outside the licence area to be assessed as not local while all other broadcasts aired during the week that were videotaped within the licence area to be assessed as local. The Access Dropdown selector works in the same way.

Programs that are longer than half an hour are listed as several half hour blocks shown on both the Program grid and in the Program Form View.

Electronic bulletin board broadcasts are selected with the Program Class Dropdown selector located in the Program Form View. Per the CRTC regulations, bulletin board broadcasts are not included in the local and access calculations.

There are 336 half hour blocks during the week (7days x 24 hours x2 = 336).

Each Licence Area is assessed for a specific week of programming. The number of half-hour blocks assessed as Local=”Yes” provides the numerator value for the fraction of programs that are determined to be local (LV) and the number of half-hour blocks assessed as Access=”Yes” provides the numerator value for the fraction of programs that are determined to be Access (AV).

The denominator value is calculated as 336 less the number of electronic bulletin board broadcasts to provide an adjusted denominator value (“ADV”).

Local programs are calculated as LV/ADV and Access programs are calculated as AV/ADV. These values are converted to percentages for the presentation of the values in the various reports provided by the website.

2c) Using the Program Grid

Two drop-down selectors allow the user to select one of the Licence Areas and to select an Assessment week. Once these two have been selected, the user can click on the “View” button to display the Program Grid.

Some supporting information is also provided, including Licencee name, the button “Source Info” provides the source information used to create the content for the program grid. “Local” and “Access” summary is shown as is some notes regarding the location of studios in the liocence area and Reviewer notes.

Clicking on the title of a show in the Program Grid takes the user to the Program Form View where detailed information about eacg program is provided. Everyone can view the information in the Program Form View, but only authorized account holders can change the information in the cells.

2d) Program Report

The Program Report provides a summary information about the programs shown in the assessment week. It is accessed by clicking on the blue "Program Report" button on the Program Grid.

This report provides the titles of the programs broadcast during the week (Title), The number of times the program is repeated during the week (B'casts), a brief description of the program (Description), the Local and Access determinations, Producer Name, Copyright Owner, anmd Rationale for Local and Access determinations. It also provides some summary information, including the number of unique programs broadcast and total broadcasts. This form can be output as a pdf document by clicking on the “Print” button at the top right of the page.

2e) Program Form View

As mentioned above, anyone with web access can view the information in the Program Form View, but only account holders can change information.

The Program Form View has two sections. The first provides information about the overall series, and the second part permits details about each episode, which is valuable when different episodes of a program are broadcast in a week.