TORONTO - If Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet was looking forward to a summer of pre-election serenity sprinkled with the sunshine of friendly outdoor activity, it will have to recalibrate its approach. Thanks to the CRTC’s recent decision on a “must carry” (9 (1) h) license – CRTC Decision 2019 172 an Order 2019 173 - it now has at least two Petitions to Cabinet on which it must render a decision prior to August 22, 2019. The political fallout may be obvious to all but the stones in the desert.
Readers will recall that the CRTC issued a Call for Applicants to submit interest in providing a multi-lingual news and current affairs service, national in scope and from a Canadian perspective, that would also provide ethnic programming.
The call had been issued in 2017 because the holder of the license, RogersMedia’s OMNI Regional, had proven unwilling or unable to meet the expectations of the license, the Broadcasting Act and the Multiculturalism Act.
In 2016, it had abandoned all pretense of providing news, local or otherwise, and shut down that component of its service.
It was a purely business decision. However, the CRTC, at the time, determined that it left a need, a void in public policy that perhaps another applicant might wish to fill. Rogers was allowed to re-apply.
Eight applicants in total answered the Call, Corriere Canadese among them. The CRTC, to the surprise and consternation of almost all Applicants, decided to vest Rogers OMNI with the license once again.
As required by law and the Regulatory process, Applicants who object to the Decision must file a Petition to Cabinet for redetermination (instruction to the CRTCto reconsider its decision). Corriere Canadese (the Corrcan Media Group) was first to do so, last week, after it had alerted, out of courtesy, the Cabinet, in a three-page letter, of its intention to follow through.
That (our) Petition is a 13-page document outlining public policy, legal and procedural reasons for altering the decision.
On substance, the Corrcan application is the only one that is news and current affairs oriented, for twenty language groups, daily, with production of all programmes – news and otherwise - via Canadian Independent Production companies.
As reported by Greg O’Brien of CARRT, an industry online news outlet, on or about June 23,2019, another Applicant, ICTV- MTL, from Montreal also submitted a Petition to Cabinet. A copy is not yet available to the general public.
Another Applicant, Telelatino, is also expected to file a petition. In any event, the Trudeau administration must now determine whether it is in the public interest to dismiss the petitions. Corrcan is supported unanimously by the membership of the National Ethnic and Media Council of Canada, from which a large segment of journalists and Canadian Independent Producers for its station will be sourced.