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ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 96-544

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Decision

Ottawa, 28 August 1996
Decision CRTC 96-544
Niagara Television Limited
Ottawa, Ontario - 952286300London, Peterborough, Muskoka District, Kingston, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins, Ontario - 199603288
Licence amendments for CHCH-TV Hamilton - Approved in Part
Following a Public Hearing in the National Capital Region beginning on 15 April 1996, the Commission approves the application by Niagara Television Limited (Niagara) to amend the broadcasting licence for the television programming undertaking CHCH-TV Hamilton, by authorizing the licensee to add a transmitter at Ottawa, operating on channel 11 with an effective radiated power of 25,000 watts. The application by Niagara for authority to add transmitters at London, Peterborough, Muskoka District, Kingston, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins is approved in part. The Commission authorizes the licensee to add transmitters as set out in the table below.
 Location/ Channel/ Effective radiated power/
Endroit Canal puissance apparente d'émission
 London 51 715,000
 Muskoka District/ 67 702,000
  District de Muskoka
 Sudbury 41 19,200
 Sault Ste. Marie 38 5,000
 North Bay 32 5,000
 Timmins 11 1,500
The Commission denies the application for authority to add transmitters at Peterborough, Kingston and Thunder Bay.
Niagara is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Newco Niagara Television Limited which in turn is 100% owned by Westcom TV Group Ltd. (Westcom TV). Westcom TV is 100% owned by WIC Western International Communications Ltd., the ultimate control of which rests with Western Broadcasting Company Ltd., which is in turn controlled by the Griffiths family trust, represented by Emily G. Griffiths.
At the public hearing, Niagara estimated that approximately 60% of the programs on CHCH-TV's current schedule is not presently available in the markets it proposed to serve. The applicant argued that approval of its applications would thereby significantly increase the viewing choices available to residents in these areas.
Interventions to these applications were submitted by several parties, including CanWest Global Communications Corp. (CanWest), licensee of the regional Ontario broadcaster CIII-TV (Global) and Baton Broadcasting Incorporated (BBS), licensee of television undertakings in several of the markets in question. Both CanWest and BBS argued that the addition of a CHCH-TV rebroadcaster in the proposed markets would compromise the Commission's policy requiring the provision of local programming serving the particular needs and interests of those living in the geographic areas served by television undertakings. Such approvals would indicate, according to the interveners, that TV stations could henceforth expand their coverage to non-contiguous areas without the obligation to serve their new audiences. CanWest and BBS also argued that it would be unfair for CHCH-TV to expand its coverage area, bringing it into competition with Global, without agreeing to alter its fundamental nature by assuming the type of special programming obligations that Global has, together with a restriction on airing local advertising.
In its applications, Niagara set out its intention to not sell any local advertising in the affected markets while continuing to sell locally in its current coverage area, and to not engage in local programming. The licensee stated in its applications that the changing landscape of the Ontario television industry has led many national advertisers to buy commercial time on services that reach the top four Ontario markets, and to look for "spill" to cover the rest of the province. The four markets generally considered in this context are Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener and London. Niagara expressed its concern that CHCH-TV was at a competitive disadvantage to any undertaking that reaches all of these markets. The applicant argued that the largest part of incremental revenues related to an increased reception area for CHCH-TV would be due to a potential increase in national advertisers wishing to reach CHCH-TV's expanded viewership.
The Commission notes that Ontario can be described as a television market with a unique structure. The undertakings which make up the Ontario television landscape include a large number of local stations providing local programming and selling local advertising, many of which are controlled by a single strong licensee, BBS, which capitalizes on its many licences by also selling advertising regionally. Ontario also has local/regional undertakings with local programming and local advertising sales related to their core markets, but also with the ability to sell regional advertising in some markets. Finally, a major force in Ontario television is Global, a very strong regional licensee with a strictly regional mandate, and no local advertising. The Commission is satisfied that, within the unique broadcasting structure in Ontario, an expanded regional reach for CHCH-TV is appropriate, and does not threaten the Commission's policy requiring the provision of local programming.
In the cases of the locations where it has approved transmitters, the Commission is of the opinion that the Niagara proposals meet the requirements of the Distant Canadian Television Signals Policy, as set out in Public Notice CRTC 1985-61. It is satisfied that the addition of the CHCH-TV service in the approved areas will increase the diversity of Canadian programming provided to viewers while maintaining adherence to the local programming commitments in its existing licence. The Commission is also convinced that, since no local programming will be provided and, consequently, no local advertising will be solicited, there will be no undue harm to local broadcasters in these communities. In addition, the Commission notes that with respect to BBS, recent enhancements of its holdings and influence have convinced the Commission that BBS will be able to withstand competition in the communities for which the Commission has approved transmitters for CHCH-TV.
The Commission is convinced, however, that in the Thunder Bay, Kingston and Peterborough markets, the potential for harm to local broadcasters outweighs the benefit of increased viewing diversity. Accordingly, as noted above, the Commission has denied the applications for authority to add transmitters at Thunder Bay, Kingston and Peterborough.
As discussed with the applicant at the hearing, and consistent with the Commission's policy linking the authority to solicit local advertising to the provision of local programming, the Commission prohibits Niagara, by condition of licence, from soliciting local advertising in Ottawa, London, the Muskoka District, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins.
As a part of its applications Niagara put forward a commitment, amended at the hearing, to increase its spending on, and exhibition of, Canadian programming. In addition to its existing expenditures on Canadian programming, Niagara proposed to spend $1,250,000 annually in each of the four broadcast years commencing 1 September 1998, for licence fees to independent producers of Canadian drama, variety and music programs. Niagara also proposed, for each of the five consecutive broadcast years beginning 1 September 1997, to broadcast a minimum of four hours of Canadian drama, variety, music and dance programs in the hours between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. A minimum of one hour of this total would be original.
The Commission notes that Niagara's enhanced programming commitments will bring CHCH-TV's level of expenditures in line with the industry average for comparable stations, and expects the licensee to adhere to these commitments.
In the light of circumstances at the time of the next renewal of CHCH-TV's licence, as well as that of all similar local/regional Ontario broadcasters, the Commission will wish to examine the level of Canadian programming expenditures and, in cases where overall Canadian programming expenditures have been below average, it may require additional programming commitments.
This authority will only be effective and the licence will only be amended at such time as construction of the transmitters is completed and they are prepared to commence operation. If the construction is not completed for any of the transmitters within twelve months of the date of this decision or, where the licensee applies to the Commission within this period and satisfies the Commission that it cannot complete construction of those transmitters and commence operation before the expiry of this period, and that an extension of time is in the public interest, within such further periods of time as are approved in writing by the Commission, the licence will not be amended. The licensee is required to advise the Commission (before the expiry of the twelve-month period or any extension thereof) in writing, once it has completed construction and is prepared to commence operation.
The Commission acknowleges and has considered all of the interventions submitted with respect to these applications.
This decision is to be appended to the licence.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General