“The Crtc decision defies logic: it’s unfair and wrong”

di Francesco Veronesi del June 4, 2019

TORONTO – From words to deeds. Corrcan Media Group is on a war-footing to reverse the the CRTC’s decision of may 23, 2019. In it, the CRTC granted to the Rogers Media Group (OMNI) a “must carry” license for a further three years.

The CRTC is tasked with regulating Canada’s radio and television sector. Its decision has not been well-received and risks political as well as legal ramifications.

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and individual members of his Cabinet, Corrcan Media Grp’s VP for Regulatory Affairs, Jean Brazeau, expressed his disappointment and announced that Corrcan is launching a formal Petition to Cabinet asking for a redetermination, a change, in the decision.

Mr. Brazeau states bluntly in the letter that “the decision defies logic; is an affront to the concept of respect for the integrative process lived by newer Canadians, disdainful to the concept of Multiculturalism as a reflection of the Canadian reality, and, defiant of the procedural fairness Canadians might expect in the mechanisms outlined in calls for proposals”.

He adds “This decision is both unfair and wrong… [ignoring] the widespread and intense dissatisfaction with Rogers Media Inc.’s performance in respect of its minimal conditions of license for OMNI Regional to serve the multi-lingual multi-ethnic community of Canadians [in the past].”

The VP for Regulatory Affairs expressed his frustrations further noting that, “when Rogers applied for license renewal in 2017, the CRTC expressed its dissatisfaction by issuing a public notice requesting applications for a “… unique … national, multilingual multi-ethnic television service offering news and information programming”. These were the conditions and parameters outlined by the CRTC in its Call for proposals.

He points out, “this proceeding was made necessary, as the Commission stated in BD CRTC 2019-172, because “what was proposed by Rogers at the time did not fully meet the criteria for a service of this type … would not likely ensure a sufficient reflection of Canada’s third language communities … lacked exceptional commitments to original, first run programming … and only a small portion of the program schedule was allocated to newscasts …” And it is precisely on this point that a “short-circuit” occurs.

As Brazeau emphasizes, in 2019 the CRTC decided to grant, once again, the license to Rogers, notwithstanding its “di«culties” in fulfilling the conditions of license and its expectations a mere two and a half years ago.

There’s more, he says that in some critical areas the licensee is required to provide even less than originally outlined in the Commission’s Call. He adds: “Shockingly, the CRTC “lightened” the conditions of license under which Rogers is currently obligated to deliver news and current a£airs for one hour, in prime time, in four specific language groups every day. With last month’s decision, Rogers/OMNI is required to produce only six thirty-minute segments of news, per day, in six language groups - without identifying any specific one, and without any current affairs.

Moreover, Rogers/OMNI is “required” to provide similar opportunities to sixteen other language groups – calculated monthly; for a total of eight hours. Also, the license is now allowed to focus on ensuring regional programming and not national, as originally mandated.”

On this point, the VP for Regulatory Affairs of the Corrcan Media Group – in which the Corriere Canadese is a majority partner – underscores that this distinguished its own application from the seven others. “By way of comparison, he said, the Corrcan Media Group (CRCMG) – ALONE among the applicants -scheduled 20 one-half hour news and current affairs programming in 20 different language groups, live, every weekday, produced in Canada, by Canadians, from a Canadian perspective. It will use journalistic talent from the twenty largest linguistic groups identified by Census Canada among the 7,000,000 Canadians who can, and do, function in those languages.

Brazeau maintains that “the CRTC choice is an a£ront to its original Call for a unique service, to the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and to the constitutionality of the principles of equality inherent in the Multiculturalism Act.

On this point, the Honourable Joe Volpe, publisher of the Corriere Canadese agrees: “We are faced with an incomprehensible, unjustifiable decision with which we disagree strenuously. And, we are weighing the options of legal remedies that may lead to a Constitutional challenge to the CRTC’s decision”.

In the meanwhile, there is an imminent procedural appeal to the CRTC on administrative procedural points. “Cabinet should forthwith direct that the CRTC redetermine the decision.

Furthermore, it should direct the Commission to restore conditions contained in the original Call, requiring the winning applicant to focus on delivering Canadian news and public a£airs programming, produced by and for ethnic and multilingual communities that the licensee is expected to serve".

The competition for the television license for a multilingual multi-ethnic community seems to still be alive.

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