ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 89-135

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Ottawa, 6 April 1989
Decision CRTC 89-135
Huron Broadcasting Limited
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario -881129100 -881128300
Following a Public Hearing in the National Capital Region on 22 November 1988, the Commission renews the broadcasting licences for CHBX-TV and CJIC-TV Sault Ste. Marie from 1 September 1989 to 31 August 1994, subject to the conditions specified in the appendices to this decision and in the licences to be issued.
Huron Broadcasting Limited (Huron) is the licensee of the CBC-affiliated station (CJIC-TV) and of the CTV-affiliated station (CHBX-TV) in Sault Ste. Marie, as well as of the local cable television undertaking serving that community. The company is 100% locally-owned and is ultimately controlled by members of the Hollingsworth family.
CJIC-TV, which commenced operations in 1954, is one of the oldest privately-owned television stations in Canada. According to the licensee, CJIC-TV broadcasts approximately 90% of the CBC network schedule, supplemented by some Canadian and non-Canadian acquired programming and an average of 71/2 hours per week of original local production.
CHBX-TV went on air in 1978 and is operated by the licensee as a supplementary CTV affiliate. As such, CHBX-TV shares in neither the costs nor the revenues of the CTV network. The licensee complements its CTV network programming with a certain amount of Canadian and non-Canadian acquired programs, and an average of 13 hours 45 minutes per week of original local programming.
The licensee stated that the Sault Ste. Marie economy depends heavily upon the fortunes of the local steel mill. According to Huron, Sault Ste. Marie ranks 38th out of 43 Canadian television markets, with a population of approximately 80,000. The licensee noted that CHBX-TV and CJIC-TV compete for this potential audience against the three major U.S. commercial television networks, the signals of which "can be received off-air with a modest antenna". Despite the potential volatility of the local economy, the relatively small size of the market and the strong competition for audiences, the licensee confirmed that it is in good financial health and performing ahead of projections.
Huron attributed its strong financial performance to a variety of factors, one of which is the complementary nature of its broadcast holdings in Sault Ste. Marie and, in particular, the many economies of scale associated with the joint operation of two television stations in the same community. As stated at the hearing by Huron's President, Mr. William A. Elgie: "I have to honestly say that we look at ourselves as one television station for the market". The licensee also credited the efforts of an expanded, more aggressive sales force and higher advertising rates for recent increases in the company's revenues.
Huron indicated that its success was further due to its "intensive" involvement with the local community, as exemplified by its participation in fund-raising drives and community events and by its production of programs on matters of particular local relevance and concern. Huron cited a number of examples of half-hour and hour-long documentary specials it has presented on CHBX-TV and CJIC-TV or plans to broadcast in 1988/89. The licensee also noted the success of its involvement with Mid-Canada Communications (Canada) Corp. (Mid-Canada), licensee of three twin stick operations in northern Ontario, in the co-operative production of "Image North", a series of programs on special events, historic sites and local talent in the region.
Huron noted that, while specials produced for broadcast on one of its two stations are often repeated on the other, it no longer simulcasts or repeats any of its local news programming. Simulcasting, once identified by earlier owners as being essential to the economic viability of the Sault Ste. Marie twin stick operation, was discontinued by Huron in favour of separate news packages on the two stations which the licensee affirmed has resulted in increased diversity and advertising revenues.
The Commission notes that the levels of local program production achieved by Huron throughout the current licence term have exceeded the licensee's commitments set out in the existing Promises of Performance for the two stations. Based on this accomplishment and on the licensee's record in other areas, the Commission is satisfied with Huron's performance during the current licence term.
Huron indicated that its strategy for the new licence term would be to continue its efforts to provide strong local programming services, particularly in the context of its news and information programs, and to maintain the high community profiles currently enjoyed by CHBX-TV and CJIC-TV.
In this regard, the Commission notes Huron's commitment, as set out in its Promise of Performance for CJIC-TV, to broadcast a minimum of 7 hours 30 minutes per week of original local programs, including 5 hours of news and 2 hours 30 minutes of programs in the music and entertainment category. The Commission expects the licensee to abide by its commitment to attain a weekly level of 7 hours 30 minutes of original local production, at a minimum, throughout the new licence term. The licensee currently produces the "Grace Pitt Show", a half-hour human interest program which is broadcast each weekday and features interviews with community leaders and prominent visitors, and provides coverage of matters of general community interest. This program is also taped for a repeat broadcast the same day following the late evening local news on CHBX-TV.
With respect to CHBX-TV, the Commission notes the licensee's commitment to broadcast a minimum of 13 hours 45 minutes per week of original local programs, and expects the licensee to maintain this weekly level, at a minimum. According to the licensee's Promise of Performance, 12 hours 45 minutes of this local production will be in the form of news programming. The licensee indicated plans to supplement its regular local news through the provision of "a minimum of four thirty-minute news specials on important local issues in the coming year and expand to six in the following years". Huron also confirmed that it would continue to work in co-operation with Mid-Canada to produce additional episodes of "Image North" this year, and expressed a desire to expand the amount of programming produced co-operatively with Mid-Canada in the new licence term. Further, the licensee stated that plans are underway for a series of 36 half-hour programs that will provide coverage of news and events at Sault Ste. Marie's six local high schools.
One hour per week of CHBX-TV's original local programming will be in the category of music and entertainment. The licensee indicated that it would meet this commitment in part through the production of specials and in part through programs such as "Back Pages", a half-hour series featuring interviews, music and information of interest to a younger audience, and "North Country", a series of hour-long programs featuring local country and western artists.
At the hearing, the Commission asked the licensee whether it had any plans to increase its involvement in the production of local programs in categories other than news and information, particularly in light of the company's healthy financial position. In response, Mr. Elgie acknowledged that there has been a strong emphasis on news and information programming, "... because it is something we can do easily". Mr. Elgie ruled out the production of local drama as being beyond the company's capabilities, but suggested that he would like to see Huron "... get into an ongoing production of, say, children's programming". The Commission encourages the licensee to investigate the possibility of pursuing this or other similar initiatives in the new licence term, either by itself or in co-operation with other licensees, with a view to developing more programs in areas other than news and information.
The licensee proposed capital expenditures over five years representing a combined total of $1,165,000 for both stations. Huron indicated that the largest portion of these expenditures would be made sometime before the end of the fourth year to replace the CHBX-TV and CJIC-TV transmitters, at which time stereo broadcasting capability will be introduced.
The licensee also outlined plans to purchase equipment in the second year of the licence term that would permit the closed captioning of local news. In view of the importance the Commission attaches to this particular issue, it expects Huron to acquire the necessary equipment to caption, at a minimum, headlines and appropriate scripted portions of the early evening newscasts on both stations within the first year of the new licence term.
In renewing these licences, the Commission authorizes the licensee to make use of the Vertical Blanking Interval. The Commission expects the licensee to adhere to the guidelines set out in Appendix A to Public Notice CRTC 1989-23 dated 23 March 1989 entitled "Services Using the Vertical Blanking Interval (Television) or Subsidiary Communications Multiplex Operation (FM)".
The Commission also expects the licensee to acquire a telephone device for the deaf (TDD) during the first year of the licence term and to install it in the master control room or wherever is most appropriate in order to ensure access to the stations, throughout the broadcast day, by deaf or hearing-impaired viewers .
According to the financial projections provided with the applications for the licence renewal of CHBX-TV and CJIC-TV, the licensee will expend $733,000 and $614,000, respectively, on Canadian programming in the first year of the new licence term. The Commission notes that, as discussed with the licensee and agreed upon at the hearing, these amounts include budgetary allocations for salaries and benefits that were identified in the projections as non-Canadian program expenses, but should properly have been identified as Canadian program expenses.
As stated in the Public Notice introducing this and other television renewal decisions issued today, the Commission expects licensees of television stations that earned less than $10 million in total advertising revenues in 1987/88 to adhere to their forecasts for first-year expenditures on Canadian programming, at a minimum, and to adjust such expenditures in subsequent years in accordance with the prescribed formula, which is linked to station advertising revenues. The Commission is satisfied that this approach offers a reasonable and fair means of ensuring the Canadian program expenditures of each station will keep pace with changes in its revenue. Accordingly, inasmuch as the revenues of CJIC-TV and CHBX-TV were, in each case, less than $10 million in 1987/88, this expectation applies in respect of both stations.
Huron not only owns the twin-stick operation, but also the cable system in Sault Ste. Marie. Consequently, Huron is responsible for providing community programming to local cable subscribers. In its application, the licensee stated:
Much of what cannot economically be done on our local TV can be provided on the community channel. Our divisions work closely together in order to provide our citizens more of the programming the Commission wants to see made available for ethnic groups, underrepresented categories, educational groups. etc.
In response to questions at the hearing, the licensee stated that, although housed in the same building as the television stations, the community programming channel for the cable system operates under its own manager, out of a separate studio, and using its own equipment.
In this regard, the Commission reminds Huron of its responsibility to ensure that the television programming it produces locally for broadcast on CJIC-TV and CHBX-TV reflects the interests and the needs of the entire population it is licensed to serve.
The Commission has reviewed the licensee's commitments for local programming during the next five years and considers them to be adequate and commensurate with Huron's financial and other resources. Moreover, the Commission is satisfied that these commitments, as well as the expectations contained in this decision, will be met by Huron and that the licences for CJIC-TV and CHBX-TV should thus be renewed for a full term.
The Commission acknowledges the interventions received from Mr. Joseph Fratesi, Mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, and from the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce supporting these applications. The Commission also acknowledges the intervention submitted by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters expressing support for the community service role of this local broadcaster and its contribution to the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.
Fernand Bélisle
Secretary General
Conditions of licence for CHBX-TV Sault Ste. Marie
1. The licensee shall operate this broadcasting undertaking as part of the network operated by CTV Television Network Ltd.
2. The licensee shall adhere to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' self-regulatory guidelines on sex-role stereotyping, as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission.
3. The licensee shall adhere to the provisions of the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children published by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission.
Conditions of licence for CJIC-TV Sault Ste. Marie
1. The licensee shall operate this broadcasting undertaking as part of the English-language television network operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
2. The licensee shall adhere to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' self-regulatory guidelines on sex-role stereotyping, as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission.
3. The licensee shall adhere to the provisions of the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children published by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission.

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