ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 88-887

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Ottawa, 23 December 1988
Decision CRTC 88-887
CJRN 710 Inc.
Niagara Falls, Ontario -873528400
Following a Public Hearing in the National Capital Region on 12 April 1988, and a three-month licence renewal granted for administrative reasons in Decision CRTC 88-403 dated 9 June 1988, the Commission renews the broadcasting licence for CJRN Niagara Falls from 1 January 1989 to 30 June 1990, subject to the conditions specified in this decision and in the licence to be issued. This term will enable the Commission to assess, at an early date, the licensee's performance in response to the concerns set out in this decision and in Public Notice CRTC 1987-196 dated 1 September 1987.
At the hearing the licensee pointed to CJRN 710 Inc. (CJRN)'s position as the "leading radio station in the Niagara Peninsula", and outlined the capital improvements made since its licence renewal in 1983 to maintain this position. According to the licensee, these improvements have included the purchase of a new transmitter and mobile facilities, refurbishment of its studios and office space, and the installation of a multi-track production facility. The licensee also stressed its community involvement and made a commitment to maintain its financial support of the Niagara Falls Festival of Lights and children's theatre. The station's contributions to these two organizations last year were $4,500 and $2,000 respectively.
The licensee also indicated plans to continue to operate in its present format, which features 50 hours per week of softer rock music and places an almost equal emphasis on spoken word programming, including news, play-by-play sports coverage and open-line programming.
It was the licensee's open-line programming that was the subject of Public Notice CRTC 1987-196. In that notice, the Commission censured the licensee for racially offensive remarks broadcast by CJRN during three episodes of the John Michael Talk Show in the spring of 1987. The remarks, which followed a visit by the South African Ambassador to the Peguis Indian Reserve in Manitoba, consisted of derogatory comments concerning Canada's native Indian population made by the program host and some of his callers. The remarks drew complaints from the Niagara Regional Native Centre and the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre (the Native Centres), and from the Peguis Indian Band. Among other things, the complainants argued that the licensee had contravened paragraph 3(b) of the Radio Regulations, 1986 (the regulations) which prohibits the broadcast of:
any abusive comment that, when taken in context, tends or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
The Commission noted that this censure was not the first instance in which it had expressed serious concern about comments made by Mr. Michael on CJRN. It rejected as unacceptable any suggestion that what had occurred had been beyond the licensee's control. The Commission also found an apology broadcast on CJRN to have been entirely inadequate and the licensee's offer of air time, by way of redress, to have been irrelevant.
Although noting the measures proposed by the licensee to ensure that the station's obligations under the Broadcasting Act (the Act) and the regulations were properly understood and adequately fulfilled, the Commission expressed the expectation that the licensee "... take whatever additional steps are necessary to ensure compliance." The Commission also noted that the public would have the right to comment further on this issue at the time of licence renewal.
Interventions opposed to CJRN's licence renewal application heard at the 12 April 1988 hearing were submitted by Brenda Gibson, Cheryl Ray, the Peguis Indian Band and the League for Human Rights of B'Nai Brith Canada (B'Nai Brith). A joint intervention was also filed by the Native Centres. All of the interveners objected in the strongest terms to the licensee's behaviour in connection with the incidents referred to above. Three reiterated the view that the licensee's actions had contravened paragraph 3(b) of the regulations. Two interveners, the Native Centres and B'Nai Brith, appeared at the 12 April 1988 public hearing to present their views.
The spokesperson for the Native Centres, Mr. James W. Moses, made the following statement:
We are looking for adequate redress to prevent this from happening again.... If we don't render the kind of attitude displayed by Mr. Michael obsolete, we are looking for a lot of trouble in the future that can be prevented quite easily.
Mr. Dolf Vonberg, speaking on behalf of B'Nai Brith, expressed the concern:
... that there be in place formal guidelines and policy and a comprehensive understanding in this situation of both the Act and the regulations, and that that policy be adhered to and be reviewed internally.
The Commission questioned the licensee specifically with regard to what guidelines or control mechanisms it had put into place, following the Commission's censure, to ensure that the licensee's regulatory obligations and responsibilities are met at all times. The licensee confirmed that its lawyer had met with station staff to discuss the regulatory obligations set out in the Act and the regulations, and that ready access to legal advice on these and other matters would continue to be available to staff on an ongoing basis. Copies of relevant documents, such as the regulations themselves and the public notice containing the Commission's censure, were also made available to station staff. The licensee stated further that discussions between station staff and management would take place on a continuing basis with a view to ensuring compliance.
The licensee acknowledged, however, that it had not prepared any written guidelines to assist station staff in interpreting the Act and regulations, nor had it any written policy setting out what action would be taken should on-air personalities fail to adhere to regulatory requirements. Rather, the licensee indicated that it continues to rely upon the experience and good sense of its staff to ensure compliance:
We may very well put down more strict guidelines of our own internally. But we prefer to believe that these are experienced broadcasters.... We are dealing with people that we pay a lot of money to, that have worked in the business a long time. We expect them to adhere to the Act and the spirit of the Act.
Prompted by public reaction to the abusive remarks broadcast by CJRN, as well as by complaints from listeners and viewers of open-line programming broadcast by CJRN and some other licensees, the Commission requested comments on a set of proposed guidelines for open-line programs intended to assist licensees in understanding their regulatory responsibilities with respect to open-line programs (Public Notice CRTC 1988-121 dated 29 July 1988). As announced in Public Notice CRTC 1988-213 of today's date, however, based on the views and concerns expressed in response to the earlier notice, the Commission has decided not to issue guidelines at this time. Rather, the Commission has decided to encourage licensees who broadcast open-line programs, and who do not currently have guidelines or other control mechanisms in place, to establish their own internal mechanisms to ensure that their regulatory obligations and responsibilities with respect to open-line programming are met at all times.
Nevertheless, as stated in today's notice, in instances where the Commission considers licensees to have shown themselves to be unable to meet the provisions of the Act or regulations, the Commission has decided to require such licensees to develop and submit for the Commission's approval a copy of their internal guidelines and a description of the mechanisms they have developed to address the requirements regarding abusive comment, balance and high standard.
The Commission considers that, in the case of CJRN, there is a need for appropriate written guidelines and control mechanisms that go beyond the licensee's reliance on the experience of its on-air staff. In the Commission's view, such a need is strongly indicated by the incidents that led to the Commission's censure.
Accordingly, the Commission requires CJRN within three months of the date of this decision, to file with the Commission for its approval guidelines and a description of other control mechanisms for open-line programming. The Commission reminds the licensee that it will continue to monitor CJRN's performance closely, with particular emphasis on the program which gave rise to the censure contained in Public Notice CRTC 1987-196. The licensee's conduct with respect to its open-line programming and the effectiveness of the guidelines and control mechanisms it puts into place will be reviewed at the time of licence renewal. The Commission also reiterates that the occurence of any situation similar to that dealt with in Public Notice CRTC 1987-196 will result in stringent action on the part of the Commission.
On another matter, the Commission notes that on four occasions during the past licence term the licensee submitted logger tapes that were either incomplete or unintelligible. Subsections 8(5) and 8(6) of the regulations require all licensees to retain and furnish to the Commission upon request "a clear and intelligible tape recording or other exact copy of all matter broadcast" for four weeks from the date of broadcast.
The Commission reminds the licensee of the importance of complying with the logger tape provisions of the regulations and requires that it submit a report, within 60 days of the date of this decision, confirming that the equipment is in place, operating and capable of meeting the requirements of the regulations.
In this context, the Commission notes the licensee's assurance at the hearing that it has installed a second logger tape machine designed to begin operating automatically if the first machine fails. The licensee also indicated that a sound check and a visual inspection of the logger tape equipment is made at hourly intervals to ensure that it is functioning properly.
With regard to Canadian content, the regulations require that a minimum of 30% of all musical selections broadcast each day by AM stations be Canadian. The Commission conducted an analysis of the music broadcast by CJRN on 10 July 1987 which revealed a Canadian content level of 26.3%. A subsequent analysis conducted by the Commission of the music broadcast on 27 November 1987, however, indicated that the station was in compliance with the regulations with a Canadian content level of 34.1%. The Commission reiterates the importance of ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to make certain that the Commission's regulations are adhered to at all times.
It is a condition of licence that the licensee adhere to the CAB's 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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