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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