ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 95-849

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Ottawa, 24 November 1995
Decision CRTC 95-849
Dominion Broadcasting Society
Edmonton, Alberta - 940879000
Proposed Over-the-Air Television Station Devoted to Religious Programming - Denied
Following a Public Hearing in Winnipeg beginning on 5 June 1995, the Commission denies the application by Dominion Broadcasting Society (Dominion) for a broadcasting licence to carry on an English-language television programming undertaking at Edmonton, operating on channel 39 with an effective radiated power of 17,200 watts, to broadcast religious programming from local studios and other Canadian sources, as well as programming originating from foreign sources.
In further decisions issued today, the Commission has denied six other applications for licences to carry on new religious, over-the-air television programming undertakings at various locations in western Canada. Today's decisions are accompanied by an introductory public notice, which provides a summary of the Commission's religious broadcasting policy and its background, and highlights certain of the concerns common to many of the applications considered at the Winnipeg Public Hearing (see Public Notice CRTC 1995-198).
The Broadcasting Act (the Act) specifies that programming offered by the Canadian broadcasting system should provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern. The Commission generally expects that, in order to satisfy this requirement, licensees of over-the-air undertakings devoted to religious programming should, in particular, expose the audience to different points of view on religion. The Commission generally takes the view that balance will be achieved where a reasonably consistent viewer or listener is exposed to a spectrum of views on issues of public concern within a reasonable period of time.
Prior to the hearing, Dominion revised its proposals for the broadcast of balance programming and submitted an amended application. Dominion again revised its proposals at the hearing ultimately to reflect a commitment to broadcast 14 hours each week of alternative viewpoint programming, including 4 hours each week between 6:00 p.m. and midnight.
The Commission notes that 7 of these 14 hours would be made up of programs entitled "Perspective Forum" and "Community Bulletin". However, only 1 hour 30 minutes of these 7 hours would be original episodes; the remainder would consist of repeat broadcasts of those original hours. Given this heavy reliance on repeat broadcasts, the Commission questions whether the programming would adequately ensure the provision of balance on the proposed station, particularly given the size and diversity of the Edmonton market.
Moreover, the Commission is not convinced that the programs proposed by Dominion to present alternative viewpoints would actually provide balance. For example, Dominion describes "Perspective Forum", its main balance program, as an interactive television and telephone talk show that would encourage participants to discuss religious and other issues of public concern. While Dominion stated that it would encourage members of other faith groups to participate in this program, it did not provide adequate evidence that it has contacted potential guests from other faith groups, or that such parties would be willing to participate. Dominion stated that, if members of other faith groups in Edmonton did not wish to participate in "Perspective Forum", it would broadcast, instead, a similar program proposed by Victory Christian Fellowship in its application for a licence for a single-faith, over-the-air television station at Lethbridge, Alberta (see Decision CRTC 95-129). In the Commission's view, while an interactive talk show program produced for a Lethbridge audience might provide balance, it would do little to fulfil Dominion's obligation to serve the interests of residents of Edmonton. This issue of local reflection is raised again later in this decision.
"Community Bulletin", another program proposed by Dominion to provide balance, would be a community service program offering information on upcoming events sponsored by Christian and other faith groups, as well as interviews with guests from these other faith groups. The applicant, however, did not provide details concerning how often such interviews with those from other faith groups would occur. Moreover, the Commission does not consider that the promotion of upcoming events by other faith groups would necessarily expose viewers to differing points of view on religious issues and other matters of public concern.
As part of its commitment to offer balance, Dominion proposed to provide a further 7 hours of air time each week to local faith groups. The Commission considers that the provision of air time to local faith groups can be an effective means to provide balance. Given the size and diversity of the community Dominion proposes to serve, the Commission also considers that concrete and realistic commitments to broadcast programming from other faith groups are essential to ensuring that the needs of the community are met.
While Dominion did provide evidence that it had contacted other faith groups through letters and that it had received written responses from three organizations expressing interest in the proposed undertaking, the applicant did not submit any evidence that these groups would actually produce programming. Dominion indicated that, in the event other local faith groups chose not to provide programming, it would obtain documentaries presenting other perspectives from Crown Video, a local video supplier. The applicant, however, failed to provide sufficient details on the nature of the programming or on the amount that would feature non-Christian religions to assure the Commission that balance would be provided. Thus, in the Commission's view, Dominion failed to demonstrate that it would be able to fulfil its commitment to broadcast 7 hours each week of programming provided by other local faith groups.
Dominion stated that it would establish a Regulatory Review Committee that would meet monthly and would have six members, three of whom would come from diverse faith groups, or would be community leaders who are not adherents of the applicant's faith. When questioned at the hearing, however, Dominion was often unable to elaborate in more detail on the provisions set out in its policy manual regarding the Committee's composition and responsibilities. In particular, Dominion failed to provide sufficient details on how the Committee would monitor balance and on what corrective action it would take if balance was not being achieved. The Commission also notes that Dominion provided no indication of potential representation on the Committee, nor did it give any indication that it had attempted to solicit interest in participation.
The Commission expects licensees to ensure that all religious programming broadcast on their respective undertakings complies with the guidelines on ethics set out in Public Notice CRTC 1993-78.
Dominion stated that it would adhere to the Commission's guidelines on ethics, and that its Regulatory Review Committee would administer the guidelines on ethics and monitor compliance with them. As noted earlier, however, Dominion was unable to elaborate on details regarding the Committee's composition and the procedures it would follow. Moreover, when questioned at the hearing, the applicant was not clear as to how it would monitor programming to ensure compliance with the guidelines on ethics. Specifically, Dominion did not indicate who would be responsible for monitoring, how often this would be done and how it would monitor foreign-language programming.
In light of the foregoing, the Commission considers that the applicant failed to demonstrate that it has formulated detailed plans regarding how it would monitor compliance and what action it would take if programming violates the guidelines.
Local Reflection
As stated in Public Notice CRTC 1995-198 introducing this and other decisions released today on applications for licences to operate over-the-air television stations devoted to religious programming, the Commission has assessed the adequacy of the plans and commitments put forward by the applicant to provide local reflection, taking into account the size and diversity of the community it proposes to serve.
The Commission notes that many of the programs identified as local programming in Dominion's schedule for its proposed Edmonton station appear as local programs in the schedule contained in Life Broadcasting Inc.'s application for an over-the-air television station devoted to religious programming at Winnipeg. Thus, in the Commission's view, it is not clear how much of the progrmaming proposed by Dominion as local programming would, in fact, reflect the Edmonton community. Moreover, given the lack of commitment on the part of non-Christian faith groups in Edmonton to participate in Dominion's proposed station, the Commission questions the applicant's ability to provide programming that would reflect the diversity of the community it is proposing to serve.
For these reasons, the Commission is not convinced that Dominion has demonstrated that it would reflect the needs and diversity of the community it proposes to serve.
Business Plan
Dominion stated that the initial financing for its proposed undertaking would consist of $500,000 to be received from Trinity Broadcast Network of the United States, and $150,000 in pledges and donations that it expected to receive prior to the Commission issuing its decision on this application. In view of the fact that, at the time of the hearing, Dominion had received only $25,000 in commitments for donations, the Commission questions whether the applicant would be able to raise the remaining financing in donations. As a result, the Commission is not convinced that Dominion would have the financial resources to fulfil its programming commitments, particulary with respect to the provision of balance programming.
In view of all of the foregoing, the Commission is not satisfied that an approval would serve the objectives of the Act and, accordingly, denies this application.
The Commission acknowledges the many interventions submitted both in support of and in opposition to this application, and the applicant's responses thereto.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

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