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Community TV that speaks to anglophone Montrealers

This summer hasn’t been great for local television in Montreal. All four mainstream stations have faced cuts. But there’s one place where local anglophones have access to TV in their language more than ever before: community television.

Until last year, Montreal had only a single French-only community TV channel. Now, Bell TV and Vidéotron each offer bilingual channels, and a third independent channel is planning to become bilingual as well.

Community television in Canada is funded through a rule enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. All licensed TV providers are required to spend five per cent of their gross revenues on Canadian programming. Since they can deduct two of that five per cent to fund their own community TV channel, most large providers choose that optionIn Canada, more than $150 million a year is spent by TV providers on local and community programming, according to the CRTC.

TV1 (Bell)

Bell Canada is adding community TV channels in major cities as it rolls out its Fibe TV service. Bell Local, now called TV1, launched in French in Montreal in 2013 and a year later in English. TV1 has no schedule. Instead, it’s an on-demand library of shows.

“We load (programs) when they’re ready, and people can consume them when they want,” explained Nicolas Poitras, vice-president of residential services at Bell.

Poitras said Bell surveyed its audience and found people want TV shows about food, people, and places and events. So TV1 prefers shows on those themes, but even if it’s not, “if we think it’s good then we still go ahead and produce it,” Poitras said. “Quality is the main criteria.”

MAtv (Vidéotron)

Quality is also a focus at Vidéotron’s MAtv. After getting slapped on the wrist by the CRTC in February because it wasn’t accessible enough to the general public and did not reflect various communities (including the anglophone community), MAtv reinforced the idea that its shows come from the public and began seeking English programming.

It launched five English series last month, with more to come in the winter. The community channel is devoting 20 per cent of its schedule to programming in English, roughly the same as the proportion of Montrealers who are anglophone.

Finding programs to fill that schedule has been a challenge.

“We didn’t get too many (proposals) in English, maybe 20 or so,” said Steve Desgagné, general manager of MAtv. “We have to make more of an effort.”

Of the five new English-language shows launched this fall, only three are produced by the community, and two of those are by the same group.

TCF (Independent)

Most Montrealers with cable TV get it through either Bell or Vidéotron. But there are some independent telecom companies rolling out their own TV distribution services. Colba.Net and Distributel also offer TV service in parts of Montreal, though their channel lineups aren’t as extensive and they don’t have as many features as the big players, like their own community channels.

Enter Télévision communautaire Frontenac, which was given a CRTC licence in August to operate as an independent community television service for Montreal.

TCF launched 20 years ago last month in the Tours Frontenac, an apartment complex of 784 units across the street from the Frontenac métro station. It operates with seven employees out of a converted apartment and is distributed inside the complex. It also shares programming with other community stations.

“There are community TV stations in the Gaspésie that have fewer subscribers than there are people here (in these towers),” explained program director Louis-Martin McArdle.

TCF is in the process of ramping up production from 200 to 300 hours a year. It plans to launch on Colba.Net and Distributel next month, and McArdle said the plan is to add English programming by the fall of 2017. Because of CRTC rules, any other TV provider that starts up in Montreal would also be obligated to add TCF if it didn’t have its own community channel.

Policy review

Catherine Edwards would like to see community TV in Canada be more of the TCF kind and less of the TV1/MAtv kind. She’s the executive director of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations, which will be pushing for a rethink of the community television model at a CRTC hearing in January.

Edwards said she would like to see community stations run by cable companies replaced with non-profit, community-based services like that proposed by ICTV, the group that complained to the CRTC about MAtv and proposed its own channel in its place. This summer, ICTV also sought approval to launch a class-action lawsuit against Vidéotron on behalf of underserved subscribers.

“Canada is the only country in the world that recognizes a community media sector where it’s not defined automatically by nonprofit citizen media ownership,” Edwards said.


The CRTC is currently reviewing its policy framework for local and community television. It’s accepting comments from the public until Nov. 5, and will hold a hearing in Gatineau starting Jan. 25.

To propose your own community TV project, visit or matv.caand fill out a form.


English-language programs on community TV

The Street Speaks (MAtv)

Filmmaker Paul Shore produces and hosts this half-hour, 12-episode series in which he interviews people on the street about a wide range of topics. Shore said he asked the people he spoke to if they’d ever been asked their opinion on a subject by a journalist, and “97 out of 100 said never.”

Unlike streeters that air during the local news, Shore stays away from the divisive topic of the day and focuses on broader issues. “I don’t have canned questions. I’m not looking for sound bites. I’m looking for people to have the opportunity to express themselves,” he said.

The interviews are edited together by theme, with two themes per episode.

Living 2 Gether (MAtv)

Produced by Vahid Vidah, each half-hour episode of this series gets a different aspiring filmmaker to do a short documentary that will “take a look at the social fabric of Montreal,” Vidah explains. Each episode also includes an interview with that filmmaker about their work.

Startline (MAtv)

Directed and hosted by Henri Pardo, this half-hour series profiles small businesses in the city, particularly in food, arts and multimedia, and “takes a look at the economic and business fabric of Montreal,” explains producer Vahid Vidah.

Montreal Billboard (MAtv)

Hosted by former Global Montreal anchor Richard Dagenais, this half-hour, twice-a-week series features interviews with representatives of such local community groups as food banks, shelters and other non-profits. It also profiles a “hero of the week.” It has the same format, and uses the same set, as its French equivalent: Montréalité.

City Life (MAtv)

Hosted by former CJAD reporter Tina Tenneriello, this hour-long weekly show is an English version of Mise à jour, a local current-affairs show that talks about politics, social issues and culture with regular columnists. It has been featuring candidate debates for West Island ridings leading up to the federal election.

Couch Talk (TV1)

Hosted by Cindy Charles, this talk show set in an art gallery is about “giving a platform to all the businesswomen and entrepreneurs of Montreal and showing them how being passionate about what they do has given them a certain level of success,” she explained. “I look for people who have an interesting life story.” It just finished its fourth 10-episode season, its third on Bell.

Indigenous Power (TV1)

Hosted by Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (and also a contributor to MAtv’s City Life), this series interviews aboriginal people in Montreal “who do amazing things,” she said. “I really wanted to show how aboriginal people should be portrayed” because when you hear about urban aboriginals in the news, “it’s always things that are really, really devastating.” Nakuset produces the show in her spare time, and is currently preparing a seventh episode.

Out’N Around (TV1)

Hosted by Jess Abran, this series plays tourist in our own city, visiting different neighbourhoods and learning places to visit.

Made in Montreal (TV1)

Host Alex Carruthers profiles neighbourhoods of the city by talking to manufacturing businesses in them, such as garment makers in the Chabanel district, artisanal creators in Mile End and wood workers in St-Henri.

The Reverse Angle (TV1)

Hosted by actress Katherine Cleland, this six-episode show features interviews with young student filmmakers in the city who are hoping to become the next Denys Arcand or Philippe Falardeau.

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