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Gatineau, Thursday, November 26, 2009 – CUPE representatives appeared before the CRTC today stated in no uncertain terms that conventional television stations—key broadcasters of Canadian culture—are teetering on the edge of the financial abyss. According to CUPE, the CRTC must act now and allow conventional TV stations to demand payment for broadcasts from their channels.

We are in a very strong position,” said Richard Labelle, vice president of the “Conseil provincial du secteur des communications” (Provincial Council of the Communications Sector). “We represent thousands of employees working for both broadcasters and distributors—the very same two groups of companies who’ve been battling it out in television ads for weeks.” CUPE feels that conventional TV is threatened and that this cornerstone of our cultural life may be facing decline. “Consumers want local programming—quality Canadian programs—without seeing huge hikes in their bills. Any adjustment to the balance must come at no cost for the consumer. To reach that goal, the CRTC should set royalty scales in order to control the cost of TV for the consumer,” he explained.

According to CUPE, the crisis that took down TQS and is currently threatening CTV and Global, not to mention the problems facing the CBC and TVA, are partly due to the appearance of specialty TV channels on the advertising market coupled with an exodus of advertising money towards the Internet. Another source of problems is the royalty system, which only benefits specialty TV channels and offers nothing to conventional TV stations. According to Statistics Canada, in 2008, pay channels and specialty channels made over 99% of the profits from private TV in the country. CUPE feels that imbalance is unacceptable.

According to the country’s largest union, greater value must be placed on broadcasts via conventional channels, and be negotiated with distributors based on local markets. CUPE recommends adjusting rates according to a variety of factors, distinguishing between basic service and optional services. In addition to giving conventional TV access to new funds, strict requirements must be introduced with regards to Canadian content and local content, particularly the news.

No to groups

As for the suggestion that Canadian content be measured according to a group-based approach rather than by license, CUPE sees it as problematic for the regions. “We would most likely see a greater centralization of programming, resulting in even further loss of autonomy for regional stations in each group and an increased focus on Montreal in available programming. This path would allow major broadcasters to manipulate the requirements of conventional TV stations,” says Réjean Beaudet, President of the “TVA-Montréal union”.

Apart from its 7,250 members in the Quebec communications sector, CUPE is also active in a number of other sectors, particularly health and social services, education, urban and air transportation, provincial corporations and public organizations, energy, and municipalities. With nearly 105,000 members, it is the largest FTQ affiliate.

This press release and other information are available at scfp.qc.ca