ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 88-888

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Ottawa, 23 December 1988
Decision CRTC 88-888
Capital Radio Broadcasting Operations Inc.
Quebec City, Quebec -873747000
Following a Public Hearing in Quebec City on 7 March 1988, and pursuant to a three-month licence renewal granted for administrative reasons in Decision CRTC 88-403 dated 9 June 1988, the Commission renews the broadcasting licence of CHRC Quebec City from 1 January 1989 to 31 August 1990, subject to the conditions specified in this decision and in the licence to be issued. This term will enable the Commission to determine the extent to which the licensee has addressed the concerns outlined in this decision relating to its open-line programs and to consider the renewal of this licence at the same time as that of other radio stations in the area.
The Commission authorized the licensee to acquire the assets of CHRC on 22 May 1985 (Decision CRTC 85-361). At that time, it noted the licensee's statements that CHRC's programming was based on information and service. Its predominantly spoken word format is comprised mostly of open-line programs, of which it broadcasts 62 hours a week, and of news, with the addition of a daily hour-long news program.
The Commission also indicated in Decision CRTC 85-361 that it had discussed with the licensee the station's editorial policy and noted the measures proposed by the licensee to ensure that its news, public affairs and open-line programs would serve the public interest, be of high quality, and provide for the balanced expression of differing views. The licensee was expected to adopt specific guidelines in this regard and to furnish a copy to the Commission.
In June 1985 the licensee submitted guidelines for open-line, news and public affairs programs to which it committed to adhere. With respect to open-line or phone-in programs, the licensee's guidelines stipulate that the programs [TRANSLATION] "must serve the public interest, and that they are provided solely for that purpose". The licensee also indicated that the quality of such programs is assured by the work of its competent research teams as well as careful monitoring of all incoming calls prior to broadcast. In addition, the licensee indicated that, when necessary, the hosts of its open-line programs call upon specialists in order to have a better understanding of the issues and that supervision of the on-air staff ensures that [TRANSLATION] "they perform their work in an objective manner and treat the public with respect".
At the public hearing in March 1988, the licensee reviewed its accomplishments since the transfer of assets in 1985 and the station's subsequent increase in popularity. It emphasized that CHRC has been a presence in Quebec City for more than sixty years and, according to BBM surveys, it has been number one in that market since 1985. It also stated that, except for some specialized music programs, all of its programming is devoted to news and information, public affairs, sports and public service, and that these programs are hosted by well-known personalities who are active in the community. Other station personnel also contribute to the community and their numbers have increased from 50 to 97 since 1984, of whom 60 are directly involved in programming. The licensee also pointed to its involvement in social and community projects with a large number of organizations and associations in Quebec, including Opération Nez-Rouge during the Christmas season, its support for local cultural events, notably the Grand Théâtre and the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, and its efforts to promote amateur and professional sport in the community.
In terms of news and information, the licensee stated [TRANSLATION] "The resources that CHRC makes available for its news and information programming are on a scale unlike anything else in private radio in our area". It indicated that CHRC produces a total of 46 hours of news, information and public affairs programming each week, which represents an annual budget of $1.2 million. The station broadcasts 20 newscasts of three to six minutes each day, and a daily one-hour program from Monday to Friday consisting exclusively of news and information, which the licensee claims is unique among private French-language radio stations. CHRC's newsroom staff is comprised of 15 full-time journalists supported by a network of correspondents covering the surrounding area, including the Beauce, Charlevoix, Saguenay and the Lower St. Lawrence. CHRC also has correspondents in Montreal, Ottawa, Washington, Paris and London. The licensee further indicated that open-line programs currently comprise 62 hours 30 minutes of its weekly schedule and that a further 19 hours 30 minutes contain some degree of open-line programming.
The Commission further notes that CHRC is the originating station of a 42-station radio network that rebroadcasts hockey games of the Quebec Nordiques and that the station is affiliated to the radio network operated by Télémédia Communications Inc. for the purpose of broadcasting Montreal Expos baseball games and the "Festival de l'humour" programs.
Such activities are strong evidence of the efforts expended by the licensee since its acquisition of this station and of the popular success CHRC has achieved. In discussing its proposals for the upcoming licence term, the licensee stated at the public hearing that it intends to maintain the station's current format and [TRANSLATION] "even to enhance its position as Quebec City's number one radio station in terms of news and information". In this respect, it intends to increase CHRC's spoken word content from 67 hours to 77 hours 30 minutes a week while reducing its musical content from 27 hours to 15 hours 7 minutes a week. The licensee indicated that [TRANSLATION] "at CHRC, music plays an absolutely accessory role", and that for the most part it is broadcast in the early morning and during the evening when there are no sportscasts. According to the licensee, today's AM radio stations ought to play an active role in news and public affairs as well as in the local community.
At the hearing in March 1988, the Commission discussed with the licensee the effects of the implementation in recent years of the open-line guidelines noted earlier and the manner in which CHRC intends to direct its efforts in this regard in future. The Commission expressed its concern about this matter in light of the complaints and controversy surrounding some of the licensee's open-line programs in the recent past and the particular responsibilities incumbent on this licensee given the predominance of such programs in its schedule and the popularity of such programs with its audience.
At the hearing, CHRC's vice president of news and information acknowledged the difficulties inherent in broadcasting open-line programs in terms of achieving balance in light of the controversial nature of some topics addressed and the inherent spontaneity of this type of programming. He also acknowledged that the achievement of a balanced presentation of differing views could be affected by the host's personality and popularity, particularly if there is a tendency toward excess in the vocabulary used on the air. In order to counteract these risks, he indicated that the station emphasizes quality in its choice of moderators and invites a wide range of contrasting opinions, makes program preparation a joint effort, and stresses candour and personal ethics on the part of its hosts. It also stated that its moderators are responsible for seeking out individuals who do not share their own opinions, and that CHRC makes available to public figures a private telephone number which they can use to contact the station or a program moderator at any time.
Following the public controversy arising from some of the licensee's open-line programs and the complaints against CHRC and other licensees in respect of such programming, the Commission released for public comment Public Notice CRTC 1988-121 dated 29 July 1988 entitled "Proposed Guidelines for Open-Line Programs". In view of the opinions and the concerns expressed by the public, the Commission has indicated in Public Notice CRTC 1988-213 released today, that, rather than issue overall guidelines applicable to all licensees, it has decided to encourage those licensees who broadcast open-line programs to adopt their own guidelines or other control mechanisms in this regard.
In the Public Notice released today, the Commission indicated that, where it determines that a licensee has shown itself to be unable to meet the provisions of the Act and the regulations, the licensee in question must develop and submit for the approval of the Commission guidelines and a description of the control mechanisms proposed in respect of its open-line programming.
Having examined the station's guidelines submitted in 1985 and the statements made at the public hearing in March 1988, the Commission is not convinced that the measures that have been adopted by the licensee are either adequate or sufficient, considering the complaints that have been made against the licensee's open-line programs and in view of its obligations to serve the public interest.
Owing to the fact that the licensee places great emphasis on open-line programs, and in view of the particular responsibilities which this programming places upon CHRC in light of the requirements with respect to both balance and high quality programming set out in paragraph 3(d) of the Broadcasting Act, the licensee is required to submit to the Commission new guidelines and any other control measures it proposes specifically tailored to this type of programming and that respond to the concerns that have arisen over the existing licence term. This document must be submitted within three months of the date of this decision and will be subject to the approval of the Commission.
In view of the concerns it has set out in this decision and in Public Notice CRTC 1988-213 released today, the Commission intends to examine the licensee's performance in this area when considering the further renewal of its licence.
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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