Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2013-19
Oral Remarks by: Alliance of Aboriginal Media Professionals
CRTC Hearings – May 1, 2013
Re: APTN License Renewal
1. My name is Barbara Hager and I represent the Alliance of Aboriginal Media Professionals. AAMP is a registered not-for-profit association of First Nations, Inuit and Metis producers, writers, directors and other professionals who work in the film, digital media and television sectors in Canada. The majority of our 70 members are television producers who license their programming to APTN. We are recognized by APTN, Telefilm and the Canada Media Fund as the voice of the Aboriginal production community in Canada.
2. AAMP supports APTN’s license renewal application, including its request for a fifteen-cent increase in monthly subscription fees, and the continuation of its mandatory carriage status. AAMP endorses APTN’s plans to increase programming for Aboriginal youth, the fastest growing demographic in Canada. We feel the most effective method to achieve this goal is to specifically concentrate on the development and production of multi-platform programming for young people. We applaud APTN’s plan to increase the amount of independently produced programming it commissions from Aboriginal producers to 80% of its programming expenditures.
3. Since the launch of APTN 13 years ago, the number of independent Aboriginal producers in Canada has increased significantly, from about 10 in 1999 to close to 100 in 2013. Aboriginal production companies produce between 50 and 60 television series and specials a year and employ thousands of Canadians in creative and technical jobs.
4. APTN commissions the vast majority of its original programming directly from the Aboriginal production community in Canada. These companies produce programming in a wide range of genres including comedy, drama, children and youth, variety and documentary. APTN commissions such a high volume of programming from independent producers that in 2011/12, it was the lead broadcaster on 20% of children and youth programming and 14% of the documentaries that were funded through CMF’s combined English and Aboriginal envelopes.
5. In its license renewal application, APTN proposes to increase its programming expenditures associated with independent production by as much as $100 million over the next license term, if it receives its requested subscriber increase.
6. This increase would result in significant growth in the Aboriginal production sector. We are prepared to meet this demand with a healthy selection of established production companies. These senior producers will actively mentor emerging producers, and every production will offer training opportunities for Aboriginal people. With youth representing close to 50% of the Aboriginal population, our producers will be in the position to offer young people who have completed their training, well-paid high tech and creative crew positions.
7. The Canada Media Fund recently announced its English and French broadcaster performance envelopes for 2013/14. APTN’s funding was cut by $4.7 million from last fiscal year’s levels as a result of newly implemented factor weights that rank the major broadcasting groups against the small independent broadcasters. In 2011/12, APTN allocated a similar dollar amount of its BPE to 18 television licenses. The loss of this many television productions in the coming year will have a serious impact on the Aboriginal production sector and will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs.
8. Our organization understands the urgent need to attract more viewers to APTN, as it will continue to impact APTN’s BPE allocations in the future. AAMP is committed to working closely with APTN to grow its audiences in every demographic group and in every region of Canada, through every means possible such as promotional campaigns and social media networking. We are confident that when more Canadians are made aware of the vibrant and diverse programming on APTN, they will become loyal viewers.
9. In our letter of intervention, AAMP recommended that the Commission request the following information from the applicant:
a. A business plan that provides information on how additional subscription fees, if approved, would be used; and
b. An explanation of the business relationship, board composition and licensing arrangements that currently exist and are planned for the term of the license for APTN’s arms-length production companies.
10. We understand that APTN has submitted to the Commission a response to our queries regarding a business plan for the fee increase and full disclosure of its plans for any arms-length production companies.
11. AAMP will continue to monitor APTN on behalf of its members during the license term to ensure that it fulfills the mandate set forth in its 1999 CRTC license application, which stated that its programming would be “predominantly produced by Aboriginal production companies.” We interpret this as meaning that Aboriginal producers must maintain creative authority and majority financial ownership of productions licensed by APTN.
12. Finally, we want to inform the Commission that AAMP and APTN are now engaged in Terms of Trade negotiations. APTN provided our organization with a draft agreement in September 2012 and they have patiently waited for us to incorporate and carry out a comprehensive consultation with Aboriginal producers across Canada. APTN is cooperating fully with AAMP in these negotiations. While the CMPA is providing AAMP with legal consultation during the negotiations, AAMP is the designated signatory to the APTN Terms of Trade Agreement. We are confident that APTN and AAMP will finalize a Terms of Trade Agreement in a timely manner.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments for the Commission’s consideration