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OpenMedia.ca's Submission to the CRTC: 2010-649 (Sun TV News)

OpenMedia.ca's Submission to the CRTC: 2010-649 (Sun TV News)

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"We are no way opposed to the proposed service, Sun TV News, receiving a standard Category 2 broadcast licence, or operating with the same freedoms as any other broadcaster. However, we do have serious concerns about the nature of the application. Quebecor’s incentives for gaining mandatory carriage for the station are based around the hope of regaining lost revenue from its operation of CKXT- TV, or Sun TV, rather than the interest of offering a substantial contribution to television journalism."
"We are no way opposed to the proposed service, Sun TV News, receiving a standard Category 2 broadcast licence, or operating with the same freedoms as any other broadcaster. However, we do have serious concerns about the nature of the application. Quebecor’s incentives for gaining mandatory carriage for the station are based around the hope of regaining lost revenue from its operation of CKXT- TV, or Sun TV, rather than the interest of offering a substantial contribution to television journalism."

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Published by: OpenMedia_ca on Oct 05, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/06/2011

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1424 Commercial Drive, PO Box #21674Vancouver, BC, CanadaV5L 5G3 CRTCSecretary General of the CommissionOttawa, OntarioK1A 0N2 30 September 2010 
 Notice of Hearing,
Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2010-649 (Ottawa, 1 September 2010)
1.OpenMedia.ca is a national network of organizations that represents nearly 700,000 people acrossCanada who want a diverse and democratic media system. We feel it is very important that this diversityextends into news broadcasting, and that a variety of views and opinions flourish on Canadian airwaves.
 2.The proposed creation of Sun TV News is certain to be an influential development in this area. We thanthe CRTC for this opportunity to provide input on the matter, and hope that all key decisions are handledin the most appropriate manner possible. We expect that the regulatory process will be fairly maintainedfor this submission, just as it is for all other applicants.
 3.OpenMedia.ca requests the opportunity to appear before the CRTC to expand on its views and torespond to the applicant. 
 Introductory Remarks
 
4.OpenMedia.ca’s goal is to ensure a diverse media environment in Canada, which includes a substantialvariety of news sources and viewpoints. We make great strides to ensure that television journalism isbroad and diverse in this country.
 5.We are no way opposed to the proposed service, Sun TV News, receiving a standard Category 2broadcast licence, or operating with the same freedoms as any other broadcaster. However, we do haveserious concerns about the nature of the application. Quebecor’s incentives for gaining mandatorycarriage for the station are based around the hope of regaining lost revenue from its operation of CKXT-TV, or Sun TV, rather than the interest of offering a substantial contribution to television journalism.
 6.In particular, Quebecor has failed to justify its request for preferential treatment. Allowing theapplication to pass as proposed would not oly compromise the regulatory system, but also carry negativeimplications for the future decisions of other local broadcasters and their owners.
 
 
 
 Preferential Treatment
 
7.OpenMedia.ca opposes Quebecor's request to provide Sun TV News with any kind of mandatory accesswindow. We ask that the Commission not give the new service special treatment and only issue it astandard Category 2 licence.
 8.We understand that, at the end of August, the CRTC announced it would not accept any applicationsfor specialty services to be carried as part of the any basic digital tier until October 2012. Yet Quebecoris now applying for precisely this kind of carriage for its first three years. Only after that three yearwindow will it agree to be treated like any other TV service that has to negotiate carriage with cable andsatellite distributors.
 9.We refer to the Commission’s decision in CRTC 2009-732 wherein the Commission set out new criteriafor mandatory carriage in the basic tier for digital cable and satellite. Sun TV has not provided evidenceof the “exceptional importance of its service to the achievement of the objectives of the BroadcastingAct” as required under 2009-732, nor has it provided evidence that it will offer Canadian expression andreflection that will “significantly exceed” that normally made by a Category 1 service.
 10.According to Quebecor itself, the station will not be able to launch without mandatory access for allcable and satellite TV distributors. While Quebecor insists that the nature of the station justifies what isessentially an equivalent to Category 1 classification, it should be emphasized that the station’s currentincarnation has a deficit of $50.3 million. We don’t see any reason why Quebecor should be given whatamounts to a regulatory bailout for a failed business project that is indirectly subsidized by cable andsatellite subscribers. 
The Risk of Other Local Broadcasters “Format Jumping” 
 
11.Of particular concern to us are the implications behind Sun TV’s proposed change of format. The ideaof a local broadcaster that has lost a substantial amount of money being given a free “upgrade” into aspecialty format which appears more lucrative is troublesome. Doing this may create a precedent thatwill drain other broadcasting companies of any incentive to keep their local broadcasting propertiesoperational.
 12.Allowing Quebecor to utilize an alleged loophole to change their unprofitable local station into amandatory cable and satellite service will potentially open the floodgates for other media companies todo the same with their locals. As such, we are opposed to the CRTC making any kind of exception forQuebecor, since it is bound to undermine the Commission’s regulatory authority, and encourage othercompanies to act in a similar fashion.
 13.In the proposed scenario, Quebecor will see nothing but gains from the licence adjustment it hasrequested, despite the fact that Sun TV failed despite having an ad market as large as Toronto to profitfrom. The company is attempting to abandon CKXT-TV without consequence. In order to successfullytransfer the station over to a new format, Quebecor must be forced to make a compromise in terms of finances and exposure, which it is not currently willing to do.
 
CKXT-TV’s Local Broadcasting Commitments
 
14.Whether Quebecor’s application for a standard Category licence is approved or not, OpenMedia.ca calls
 
on the CRTC to request that Quebecor return its licence for an over-the-air television undertaking toserve the residents of Toronto and Hamilton, and issue a call for the use of that licence.. Since Quebecoris abandoning Sun TV's format as a local broadcasting station in Toronto, CKXT-TV’s commitmentsas a local broadcaster still need to be fulfilled and properly accounted for. The Commission is normallyvery supportive of preserving local broadcasting services, and the complete disappearance of localcontent and the services it provides to its community needs to be prevented.
 15.We would like to ensure that CKXT-TV’s old license as a local broadcaster winds up in the hands of an independent company that will utilize it to serve as a valuable resource for its local community. Thestation was originally created in 2002 as a local station with an ethnic focus, as well as a commitment of hiring First Nations reporters. We feel that the publicity of Sun TV’s format change has caused both theCommission and the public to lose sight of the regulatory commitments that it will be abandoning as aresult of the proposed transition.
 16.If the output from from large and established media conglomerates such as Quebecor is going to beincreased through undertakings such as Sun TV News, then the Commission must act to ensure thatmore diversity is supported in our media environment by fostering independent companies. Ensuringthat a local media outlet is created in the wake of Sun TV News’ birth would be an ideal way of maintaining balance and true diversity in the arena of Canadian television.
 
 Journalistic Priorities of Sun TV News
 
17.Quebecor’s argument for being granted special privileges is further undermined by the mismanagementof its current news resources.18.If Quebecor has intentions of brightening the current news landscape, we must ask why the companyis not doing so with its current outlets. For example, a total of 253 journalists from the
 Journal de Montréal
, which for years was North America's highest-circulation French-language newspaper, havebeen locked out by the paper's parent company, Quebecor, since 24 January 2009.
 19.This is not the first time the company has employed such tactics. In April 2007, Quebecor locked out theoffice and editorial staff of the
 Journal de Québec.
If Quebecor wants to invest in journalism, it needsto start with its current projects. We invite the CRTC to consider new mechanisms for ensuring thatthe balance and diversity that Canadians are entitled to through the
 Broadcasting Act 
are maintainedthroughout our broadcast journalism sector.
 20.Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on this important issue. We look forward to theopportunity to present our views in person before the CRTC’s hearing panel, and to respond to theCRTC’s questions.Sincerely yours,
Jesse Betteridge
OpenMedia.ca 

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