ARCHIVED - Public Notice CRTC 84-233

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 25 September 1984
Public Notice CRTC 1984-233
In CRTC Public Notice 1984-22 dated 23 January 1984, the Commission announced its intention to convene a public hearing in Windsor to consider the broadcasting situation in that area, particularly the consequences arising from its proximity to a major American city of the size of Detroit. Later, in a Notice of Public Hearing CRTC 1984-46 dated 14 May 1984, all interested parties were invited to submit comments on the Windsor broadcasting environment.
As a result of this call, comments were submitted from ten parties, including four that appeared at the hearing which commenced on 4 July. Oral representations were heard from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Polaris Recording Studios Ltd., Radio Windsor Canadian Ltd., and Russwood Broadcasting Ltd. The latter two are Windsor's commercial radio licensees, each of which operates an AM and an FM station of long standing.
Issues raised by representations
Discussion at the hearing revolved almost exclusively around the increasingly pronounced trend on the part of Windsor residents in recent years to listen to American radio stations, especially Detroit FM stations. This has resulted in a significant decline in audience and revenues for the Windsor commercial licensees.
Representatives of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of the Government of Ontario said that the deteriorating audience situation for Windsor radio licensees was a direct result of certain Commission regulations and policies for FM radio, and that Windsor is only the leading edge of a trend by Canadians across the country to seek out American FM stations which supply programming services which Canadian licensees are not permitted to provide.
Randy Leipnik of Polaris Recording Studios Ltd. of Windsor, asserted that diversity, a major objective of the Commission's FM policy, would be achieved by responsible broadcasters without regulation, and that the Commission should regulate the amount of Canadian music in a flexible manner, proposing the possibility of varying quotas for different regions of the country.
Mr. Geoff Stirling of Radio Windsor Canadian Ltd. stressed that the Windsor situation demonstrates that audiences, especially youth, simply refuse to tune to stations that do not give them what they want, regardless of regulatory objectives.
Russwood Broadcasting Ltd. also stressed the fact that over 90% of teen-listening (12-17) in Windsor is to American radio, mostly FM stations, and stated that the reason for this was that this group preferred the "Contemporary" or "Top Forty" rock format that the Commission has not permitted on Canadian FM. In Windsor, according to Russwood, this format is readily available to the teenage audience through the Detroit FM broadcasters, unlike other areas in Canada, where Canadian AM radio stations provide this format.
The representations further stated that Canadian regulatory requirements, such as adherence to the Promise of Performance, spoken word, Foreground format, station format and Canadian content requirements, place Windsor FM stations at a competitive disadvantage with U.S. stations which are not subject to these requirements. They stated that this disadvantage has caused severe economic damage to Windsor licensees, jeopardizing their ability to provide service in Windsor.
Some interveners recommended that a special case be made for Windsor by exempting the Windsor stations from the requirements of the FM regulations and policy, while the Government of Ontario recommended that the Commission significantly modify or abandon the FM Policy and regulations not only in Windsor but for all radio licensees.
The Windsor environment
A distance of less than 1,000 meters separates the downtown areas of Windsor and Detroit. Metropolitan Windsor has about 250,000 inhabitants; Detroit is the centre of an urban area with over 4 million residents. Many Windsorites work in Michigan; many more regularly attend cultural and sporting events in Detroit. Windsor-originated television programming addressing local issues and concerns from a truly Canadian perspective is available only on the CBC English and French-language stations but most particularly through CBET; seven Detroit television stations are available to Windsorites. Other than the CBC and student radio stations, Windsor has four local commercial radio outlets while Detroit has more than twenty-five. The Detroit broadcasters have available to them all of the expertise and financial resources usually required to compete in major U.S. markets.
Windsor residents cheer for Detroit sporting teams, shop and work in Detroit, attend concerts, plays and dances in Detroit and increasingly listen to Detroit radio stations. The weather, much of the news and various community events reported by these stations are of interest to many Windsorites. This is reflected by national advertisers who, wishing to reach Windsor listeners, purchase time on Detroit rather than Windsor stations.
In the Commission's view, these special characteristics set Windsor apart from all other Canadian markets. While the Commission has not been persuaded that the audience and revenue problems described at the public hearing are caused by its policies and regulations, it is in agreement with the majority of the interveners that the Windsor market has special features, unparalleled anywhere in Canada, which warrant an extraordinarily flexible regulatory approach.
It is the seriously deteriorating radio audience situation faced by these Canadian stations, in combination with this distinctive local broadcasting environment, which requires attention.
A special approach
In 1975, the Commission published its FM Policy, which required FM radio stations to play a major role in the provision of a varied and comprehensive broadcasting service of high standard. To this end, FM broadcasters were expected to provide a variety of music and spoken word programming different in both form and content from that available on AM. Recently, the Commission announced changes in its FM regulations and practices intended to update and streamline the implementation of the goals of the FM Policy. These changes include lessening the amount of information required in the Promise of Performance, a simplification and reduction in the number of formats accompanied by greater flexibility in their implementation, the inclusion of additional material in foreground programs, and the elimination of enriched spoken word guidelines.
While the Commission is convinced that this additional flexibility will aid all of its licensees to respond more quickly and directly to the changing tastes and needs of their audiences, it is willing to attempt to assist the Windsor licensees further by taking additional steps to counterbalance the heavy Detroit presence in the community.
The Commission, in licensing Canadian radio stations assesses programming proposals in light of Section 3 of the Broadcasting Act, which requires, inter alia, "that the programming provided by the Canadian broadcasting system should be varied and comprehensive ... and the programming provided by each broadcaster should be of high standard, using predominantly Canadian creative and other resources".
The Commission also assesses radio applications for their ability to provide programming relevant to the community to be served, for their contribution to the exposure and development of Canadian talent and for their contribution to the diversity of programming content within their service area. In this particular case, the Commission is of the view that its objectives in Windsor will be achieved by programming services that reflect a firm Canadian orientation in their approach to the provision of spoken word and music programming.
The Commission's FM policy that establishes the goals and the standards for Canadian FM radio is set out in the Radio (F.M.) Broadcasting Regulations, in general statements of policy and, to varying degrees, in its decisions concerning specific applications. The Commission has the discretion of departing from its policies, expressed in general statements and in decisions, whenever it has reason to do so either with a view to taking into account the special circumstances of a situation or in order to chart a new course.
The Commission acknowledges that the environment within which CFXX-FM and CJOM-FM operate offers special circumstances. The present Regulations, which are binding on the Commission and which can only be modified by way of amendment, do not contain provisions for taking into account such special circumstances. In this regard, the Commission is in the process of drafting amendments to these regulations that would allow the regulatory flexibility to deal with special situations. However, the public and statutory requirements for the processing of such changes will take several months to complete.
With respect to the requirements of the FM Policy that are not contained in the Regulations, the Commission is prepared to vary them to take into account the environment within which CFXX-FM and CJOM-FM operate. The Commission, therefore, invites the licensees of these stations to amend the Promises of Performance filed as part of their applications which were published in the Canada Gazette but were not heard during the course of the 4 July 1984 Windsor hearing. In proposing any such amendments, the applicants will be expected to take into account the Commission's position as set out in this notice, and to outline clearly in their revised applications how they will meet the particular needs and interests of the Windsor area, and remain a Canadian service.
While recognizing that a flexible approach is desirable, the Commission is aware that the competitive situation in the Windsor area may be so difficult that, regardless of the regulatory environment, the Windsor FM licensees may well continue to experience financial difficulties, particularly if the demographic group described by both licensees as their prime audience, is not large enough to support both stations.
The Commission will, therefore, expect the applicants to demonstrate how each will contribute to diversity through the creation of a realistic business plan that is financially viable.
Revised Promises of Performance must be filed with the Commission within thirty days of the date of this Notice.
Fernand Bélisle Secretary General

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