ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 88-694

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Ottawa, 29 September 1988
Decision CRTC 88-694
Vancouver Co-Operative Radio
Vancouver, British Columbia -873250500
Following a Public Hearing in Victoria commencing 7 March 1988, the Commission renews the broadcasting licence held by Vancouver Co-Operative Radio (Co-op Radio) for CFRO-FM Vancouver from 1 October 1988 to 31 August 1991, subject to the conditions specified in this decision and in the licence to be issued. This term will enable the Commission to assess how the licensee is meeting its obligation under the Broadcasting Act to provide reasonable, balanced opportunity for the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.
While the Commission has, in general, been satisfied with CFRO-FM's performance during its current term of licence, it called Co-op Radio to the hearing to address a complaint that the licensee has failed to provide balance in its programming on matters of public concern, and to discuss the licensee's adherence to the Radio Regulations, 1986 concerning the maintenance of logger tapes.
The Commission first licensed Co-op Radio to operate a community FM radio station in Decision CRTC 74-116 dated 7 May 1974. In that decision, the Commission noted that, in considering community groups applying for FM licences, it was vitally concerned with the originality and quality of their programming plans and the potential for community service. It also viewed as important such factors as identification with the area to be served and the type of public participation that the applicant proposed to implement with respect to the policies, programming and ownership of the station. The Commission also reminded the licensee of its responsibility under section 3(d) of the Broadcasting Act (the Act) to provide reasonable, balanced opportunity for the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.
Co-op Radio is funded through membership fees, grants and limited sponsorships by local businesses. There are four full-time and one part-time paid staff members. Its written programming policy states that CFRO-FM strives to provide programming that is non-sexist, non-racist and non-ageist. As a community-based station, according to this policy, CFRO-FM's programming is aimed primarily at people who do not have access to the established media.
According to Co-op Radio, the mandate of CFRO-FM is to give "voice to the voiceless". Its programming policy states that CFRO-FM provides air time "to social movements denied access by conventional media, such as labour, women's gay liberation, environmental and peace movements." Its policy also states that CFRO-FM attempts "to cover issues and events from the perspective of social movements concerned with and affected by those issues and events".
The Commission notes that, at present, over two hundred volunteers are involved in the production of some seventy different weekly programs broadcast on CFRO-FM. These programs include a show dealing with women's issues, one about the environmental movement, another about trade unions, an avant-garde audio art show, a program about music from around the world, several weekly music programs featuring local musicians and three hours per week of programming "done by, about and for Native Indians."
Twelve hours of programming per week are offered in Cantonese, with a further hour in each of Armenian, Italian, Punjabi and Serbo-Croation.
According to its renewal application, Co-op Radio's format will continue to be made up entirely of foreground and mosaic programming. It will also broadcast 42 hours of category 6 music (mainly jazz, folk and classical), and 16 hours of category 5 music which will be almost entirely non-hits.
Various individuals and a wide range of organizations and groups submitted interventions supporting the renewal of Co-op Radio's licence. These interveners included the National Black Coalition of Canada, the Chinese Cultural Centre, the British Columbia Coalition of the Disabled, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Vancouver Status of Women, and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.
Opposing interventions were submitted by the Vancouver Chinese Merchants Association, the Chinese Media Council and the Chinese Friendship Association.
Complaint Concerning Balanced Programming
In letters to the Commission dated 15 October and 25 December 1987, Mr. Werner Cohn complained that the licensee had failed to provide balance in its programming on matters of public concern. Mr. Cohn requested to appear as an intervener at the 7 March hearing to present his complaint.
Mr. Cohn claimed that while the licensee "professes to serve the community by giving access to the airwaves to a broad range of community groups ... a study of the station's offering reveals a very narrow range of groups that actually get on the air".
In particular, he complained about the licensee's treatment of the Jewish community in the weekly program "Voice of Palestine", stating that the licensee "has taken upon itself to use the publicly-owned airwaves of this station to broadcast very strongly-worded Arab views while completely barring the Jewish side on the present crisis in the Middle East".
In the context of dealing with Mr. Cohn's complaint, at the hearing the Commission discussed with Co-op Radio how it ensures that balance is provided and the matter of public access.
According to the licensee, the role of CFRO-FM is to satisfy the needs of specific interest groups. With respect to balance, Co-op Radio stated that it takes as its starting point the "community of interest" to which its specific interest programming is directed and "does not debate the relative merits of ... any other point of view that is outside the mandate of that particular program".
At the hearing, Co-op Radio stated:
... we find it hard to believe that the interpretation of balance as it relates to community radio would require us to establish programs that give voices to sectors of society that already have voices in the media.
The licensee also maintained that it is the Canadian broadcasting system as a whole, not each station, that is responsible for providing balance pursuant to the Act and that, by balancing the program offerings provided by other stations in its market area, CFRO-FM contributes to a balanced broadcasting system.
When questioned as to how it responds to complaints alleging a lack of balance in programs broadcast on CFRO-FM, Co-op Radio replied that a complaint could be referred to its internal programming committee, or to the producer of the program in question who could offer the complainant air time. The licensee also stated that "disaffected listeners" could apply to the station to produce a program of their own.
The Commission's Position
In various public notices and decisions the Commission has consistently taken the position that the requirement in section 3(d) of the Act to provide reasonable, balanced opportunity for the expression of differing views on matters of public concern must be met by each individual licensee, not only by the broadcasting system as a whole. In Public Notice CRTC 1983-112 dated 2 June 1983, for example, the Commission stated:
... with regard to programming that is controversial in nature and therefore likely to elicit differing views, the Commission has concluded that the most effective and appropriate way to achieve the objectives of the Broadcasting Act is to require that balance be attained by each individual station in the programming it broadcasts. (emphasis added)
At the hearing, Co-op Radio acknowledged that it was aware of the Commission's position in this regard.
The Commission is not satisfied with Co-op Radio's response to the matters of balance and access as raised, for example, in Mr. Cohn's complaint. Section 3(c) of the Act provides that the responsibility for programs broadcast rests with the licensee; accordingly, the responsibility to provide balance in CFRO-FM's programming on matters of public concern rests with Co-op Radio as the licensee and cannot be delegated to individual program producers.
The licensee's responsibility to provide balance arises whenever it presents one particular viewpoint on a matter of public concern, not simply after a complaint is received. Should a complaint be received, the licensee may attempt to achieve balance by offering the complainant airtime. Such an offer must be genuine and reasonable and provide a real opportunity for the complainant to prepare and present an alternative view. However, a licensee does not fulfill its responsibility to balance merely by offering airtime to a complainant: if the complainant refuses the offer and the matter at issue is one of public concern, the requirement of balance still exists and the licensee must find another manner in which to provide it. This may involve the licensee actively seeking other groups or individuals who would be qualified to present a differing perspective from that already aired.
In order to achieve balance, it is not sufficient for Co-op Radio to state that those with differing views may apply to produce their own regularly scheduled programs on CFRO-FM. The Commission considers that the application process for such programs is too onerous and potentially intimidating for those who simply wish to hear or provide an alternative perspective on a particular matter of public concern.
The Commission views with concern Co-op Radio's lack of adequate internal guidelines to ensure that it complies with the balance requirement. Accordingly, the Commission requires the licensee to submit a report within six months of the date of this decision outlining in detail how it intends to meet this obligation. The report should take into account Public Notice CRTC 1988-161 entitled "Balance in Programming on Community Access Media", of today's date. In that notice, the Commission states that, in its view, the balance requirement is satisfied in the following manner:
a) Each undertaking must comply with the requirement of the Act regarding balance in its own programming.
b) Not all programming need be balanced, only that relating to matters of public concern.
c) In general, balance need not be attained in each program or series of programs but rather in the overall programming offered by each undertaking over a reasonable period of time.
d) To attain balance, equal time need not necessarily be required for each point of view. Rather it is expected that a variety of points of view will be made available in the programming offered by the undertaking to a reasonably consistent viewer or listener over a reasonable period of time.
The Commission also expects the licensee to demonstrate in the report its willingness to allow access on CFRO-FM to persons sharing viewpoints that do not coincide with Co-op Radio's programming philosophy on matters of public concern.
The Commission has renewed CFRO-FM's licence for a period of 34 months in order that it may closely monitor the station's efforts to satisfy the balance requirement as set out in the public notice, having regard to the mechanisms suggested by the Commission.
Logger Tapes
At the hearing, the Commission also questioned Co-op Radio's adherence to an important element of the Radio Regulations, 1986 (the regulations).
Subsections 8(5) and 8(6) of the regulations require each licensee to retain and furnish to the Commission upon request "a clear and intelligible tape recording or other exact copy of all matter broadcast" for a period of at least four weeks from the date of broadcast.
In this regard, the Commission requested the station's logger tapes of the programming broadcast on 13 and 14 October 1987 and on 5 January 1988. The October tapes were not provided due to equipment failure, while portions of the January tape were found to be unintelligible. The licensee informed the Commission that it had installed a new logger machine in February and that two tape recorders had been converted to work as back-up loggers. The licensee also stated that, in addition, a light now goes on in the control room and an irritating sound emanates from the logger machine if for any reason it is not running in record mode.
While the Commission notes the licensee's assurance that it has taken concrete measures to ensure that its logger tape equipment is being operated to ensure compliance with the regulations, the Commission reiterates the importance of ensuring that the regulations are adhered to at all times and will closely monitor the licensee's performance in this regard during the next licence term.
Other Matters
It is a condition of licence that the applicant not broadcast more than an average of 4 minutes of advertising per hour per day, with a maximum of 6 minutes per hour, in accordance with the community radio policy for Type B stations.
It is also a condition of licence that the licensee adhere to the CAB self-regulatory guidelines on sex-role stereotyping, as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission.
Fernand Bélisle
Secretary General

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