APTN Appears at CRTC License Renewal Hearings

(April 26, 2013) APTN’s CEO Jean Larose, along with a panel of about twelve senior managers at the national network, appeared before the CRTC Commission in Gatineau on April 25. APTN is seeking a seven-year license renewal, continued mandatory carriage on Canada’s cable networks, and a fifteen cent per month per cable subscriber increase.
The following are some of the highlights of APTN’s 15-minute presentation and approximately one hour follow-up discussion, led by CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.
– Jean Larose stated that in 1999 there were about 10 Aboriginal producers in Canada and today there are about 110.
– Mr. Larose mentioned four or five productions as examples of successful programming – Blackstone, Cashing In, Fish out of Water and Dene: A Journey.
– APTN’s goal is to reach 50% of Aboriginal youth through TV and digital offerings in the future.
– The CRTC asked Daniel Vandal, Chair of the APTN board of directors, if a smaller number of board members and its subsequent cost savings has been considered (APTN’s 1999 CRTC license required a 21-members board). Mr. Vandal said that he supported best practices and that the 21-member board was cumbersome. However, he said that it was important that the board reflect the diversity of Aboriginal communities across Canada.
– Mr. Larose mentioned the $4.7 cut in their CMF BPE, and said that the subscriber fee increase was even more important as the cut at CMF will impact programming commissioning.
– The CRTC asked why APTN hasn’t been able to generate more advertising revenues and Aimee Powell, Director of Sales and Business Development, stated that APTN frequently sells out their prime time advertising but the rates are modest due to the BBM viewership audience numbers. She explained that the Aboriginal viewership, which is significant, is not counted and therefore is not used to establish advertising rates.
– The CRTC asked APTN why they projected that 1/3 of their increase would go to inflation adjustment and operational costs and why they hadn’t already trimmed their budget if they are facing budget constraints. Darcy Smith, CFO, said that APTN has trimmed $5 million in their operating budget over the past two years, and need to use part of the increase to get back to their former budget levels. The cuts included $2.2 million in operations, $2.2 in communications and marketing, and $600,000 in administration.
– The CRTC asked numerous questions about APTN’s youth audience and its on-line service, the Digital Drum. The CRTC Chair wanted to know how APTN intends to reach young people on its digital platforms. Lisa Squire, Director of Marketing, gave a detailed answer about how the Digital Drums was a user-generated on-line community where Aboriginal youth could go to meet other Aboriginal youth. Ms. Squire mentioned that they would be commissioning youth to create content and possibly airing user-generated content on APTN TV as “specials.”
– CRTC asked if APTN had considered requesting designation as a Category “A” channel, which is mandatory carriage but which requires the broadcaster to make its own deals with the cable companies. Mr. Larose said they had looked at that model, but it would substantially reduce their revenue and subsequently programming by Aboriginal independent producers.
– The CRTC asked APTN what the impact would be if they received less than the fifteen cents monthly subscriber fee that they were seeking. Mr. Larose said they could not achieve all their goals with less than fifteen cents, however if APTN received less than their request, they would reduce the three planned uses of the increase (operations, programming and Aboriginal language promotion) proportionally.
– The CRTC asked several questions about closed captioning and described video, and APTN responded that about 96% of their drama programming has described video and 100% of new commissions are captioned.
APTN’s executives will appear before the CRTC Commission again on May 2, 2013 for Phase III – Reply by the Applicants and Licensees – of the CRTC hearing.

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APTN to Appear at CRTC License Renewal Hearing April 25, 2013

(April 22, 2013) APTN’s executives will appear before the CRTC Commission in Gatineau, Quebec on April 25, 2013 to make a presentation as part of its broadcast license renewal application. APTN is seeking a seven year license term, the continuation of mandatory carriage, and a .15 monthly subscriber fee increase.

More than 800 people submitted intervention letters to the CRTC in support of APTN’s license renewal. Several media companies, including Shaw and Rogers, will be intervening at the hearings asking the CRTC to deny APTN its requested subscriber fee increase.

The CRTC’s Spring 2013 license hearings, which involve several Canadian broadcasters, take place from April 23 to May 2 at the Conference Centre, Phase IV, 140 Promenade du Portage, Gatineau, Quebec. The public is welcome to attend the hearings. APTN is scheduled to appear on April 25 and May 2.

The Alliance of Aboriginal Media Professionals is scheduled to speak in support of APTN’s license renewal application on May 1.

The CRTC license renewal hearings are broadcast on CPAC’s cable channel and online at http://www.cpac.ca.

APTN’s CMF Broadcaster Envelopes Cut by $4.7 million

April 15, 2013 — The Canada Media Fund (CMF) announced its 2013-2104 Broadcaster Performance Envelope allocations on April 12 and APTN’s French and English envelopes saw a total of $4.7 million in cuts from 2012-13 levels. CMF’s allocation to APTN’s English envelope was reduced by 46% from the previous year, dropping from $8,827,528 to $4,049,632. The French envelope was cut 40%, from $874,620 to $516,496.

According to the CMF website, “In December 2012, the CMF announced the factor weights used to calculate the 2013-2014 Performance Envelope allocations. A Performance Envelope is calculated by measuring a broadcaster’s performance against that of other broadcasters in each genre and language, based on five weighted factors: audience success – total hours tuned, audience success – original first run, historic performance, regional production licenses, and digital media investment.”

Using this new measurement formula, broadcasters like APTN, Knowledge and Zoomer (formerly Vision) must now compete against broadcasting giants like CBC and major broadcasting groups such as Bell Media, Shaw, Rogers and Corus. Knowledge received a $460,570 cut in their CMF allocation and Zoomer saw a $547,986 reduction, despite the fact that together with APTN, they broadcast more Canadian programming than nearly every other broadcaster in the country. APTN, Zoomer and Knowledge are also known for licensing the majority of their programming from small and medium sized production companies.

AAMP anticipates that APTN’s loss of $4.7 million in BPE funding will result in significant reductions in programming licenses to Aboriginal production companies during the next fiscal year. In 2011-2012, for example, APTN allocated approximately $4.7 million of its English BPE to six children and youth series ($1,863,247), nine documentary series ($1,499,544), two variety series ($355,000), and one drama series ($1,029,000). These 18 productions productions represented hundreds of technical and creative positions throughout Canada.

The Alliance of Aboriginal Media Professionals has submitted a letter to executives at the Canada Media Fund outlining its concerns about the deep cuts to APTN’s BPE, and we will follow up with meetings in the coming weeks.