Letter to CRTC regarding dismantling the CBC in rural Canada

880 Hillside Drive

Valemount, B.C., V0E 2Z0

June 13, 2012

CRTC

Ottawa, ON

Sirs,

I reside in a village on the west slope of the Rocky Mountains. Our population is in decline with approximately 1000 residents. We are a community with a short yet rich history. We are geographically isolated with the nearest communities of similar size an hour’s drive (Jasper AB, McBride BC, Blue River BC; and trading centres of Prince George or Kamloops some 3+ hours distant. In this part of Canada we do not measure distance in kilometers or miles, but by time as in hours and days.

When my wife Kathy and I moved to Valemount in 1978 CBC TV was the only television broadcast undertaking by any means available in the community. Likewise CBC radio (now CBC Radio One) was the only radio available. The transmission tower was on the top of Canoe Mountain, a formative geographical landmark.

Around that time some energetic citizens formed the Valemount Entertainment Society with a vision to rebroadcast distant broadcast undertakings. I remember full well a citizen with a clipboard coming to our door one dark and snowy night, collecting donations and signatures to get their dream off the ground. Eventually there was a successful Regional District referendum providing for property tax dollars to fund the initiative.

In the late 1980s the Society took the next logical step. In the spirit of the era, whereas cable TV companies were required by law to provide community access to broadcast, and recognizing the values of self expression, community building, and opportunity to embrace emerging communications technologies CHVC-TV (Valemount Community Television, known locally as VCTV) was born. The maiden broadcast was on Christmas Eve, with three grown men driving to the head-end to patch-in the elementary school’s Christmas Concert; a fitting present/presentation to the community.

I headed the committee as a volunteer with well over 40 hours a week for the first year. This was in my earning years and my wife was hinting to me that I had to generate income. The following year, the society mustered a small (part time) wage for me, enabling me to continue this essential work. I have many stories that I would like to tell you, but they are beyond the scope of the purpose of this letter. Let me say this however, it was reported in a media publication at the time that Valemount Community Television was the only community access television broadcast undertaking in English speaking Canada not associated with a cable company.

After 8 or 9 years it was time for me to retire from this more than full time preoccupation, and hand it over to others. CHVC-TV continues today, a legacy of the pioneer spirit; however, it’s intention and that of the distant signal rebroadcast activities of the Valemount Entertainment Society was never intended to replace the National Broadcaster (CBC), but rather to complement, emulate, and perhaps contribute content to it.

The CBC is as essential today as it was at it’s inception, to tie the country together, to enable us to tell each other our stories, and in it’s role of providing an alternative to the American media behemoth.

In addition to a “digital divide” effect, there is also a real and present danger that an urban bias may have a deleterious effect on the rural cultural landscape; an urban/rural divide as well as an economic divide exists if the only way rural Canadians can access the national broadcaster is dependent upon subscription to a satellite or cable broadcast undertaking. For these reasons, I ask that a decision suitable for rural Canadians would protect the existing “electronic easement”… “civil society communication corridor”.

Likewise, CBC Radio One is an essential service on a regional scale. We have no other regional communications links other than Daybreak North’s morning programming which includes such essentials as highways and weather conditions, PSAs, and interviews related to regional current events and issues. This can often result in real time life and death decisions.

Further, specific to my location I pray that a decision is forthcoming which will at a minimum enable the continued RF broadcast of CBC-TV and CBC Radio One in Valemount and surrounding area by transfer of the rights to broadcast as well as the broadcast facilities to the not-for profit Valemount Entertainment Society, in recognition of their valuable service to community for so many years. This measure of goodwill would serve as impetus to continuing other broadcast undertakings, and enabling it’s continued evolution by taking a threat and turning it into an opportunity. On a broader scale it is my hope that other rural communities will be given every encouragement and advantage in securing said equipment in their respective communities for a seamless continuation of an RF signal of the national broadcaster where a signal exists today. This and other policies friendly to the recognized benefits to a healthy Public, Education and Government (PEG) access to broadcast media for the purpose of expression cannot in my opinion be overstated.

In closing, I wish to remind you of the wisdom contained in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights [http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml ] , to which Canada is a signatory and which states in part:

Article 19.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Imparting information is only possible in a country as vast as Canada with the amplification enabled by access to the means to communication, broadcast and receipt of said signal, otherwise we devolve to more feudal times of media Lords and voiceless serfs, Dukes and Diggers.

I respectfully offer the above observations and opinions in good faith. If I am in error on any single point, I hope that will not compromise any of my other input in this matter.

Thank you for your kind attention in this matter. If you need clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me directly via email [ grogan_email(at)yahoo.ca ] or telephone [h] 250 566 xxxx.

Sincerely,

John Grogan

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