ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 95-855

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Ottawa, 24 November 1995
Decision CRTC 95-855
Trinity Television Inc.
Winnipeg, Manitoba - 941347700
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 Trinity Television Inc. (Trinity) for a broadcasting licence to carry on an English-language television programming undertaking at Winnipeg, operating on channel 36 with an effective radiated power of 15,000 watts, to broadcast religious programming from local studios and other Canadian sources as well as programming originating from foreign sources.
Trinity proposed to operate an independent television station at Winnipeg offering religious programming that would be predominantly Christian in orientation. In a separate application also heard at the 5 June hearing, Trinity applied for another licence to operate a single-faith, religious television station at Edmonton. In further decisions issued today, the Commission has denied this and five 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.
Trinity proposed to broadcast 10 hours 30 minutes of balance programming in each week of the first year of the licence term, increasing to 14 hours each week beginning in the second year. The Commission notes, however, that only some 7 hours of this programming would be original; the remainder would be repeats aired at other times during the week.
The Commission is also concerned that none of the balance programming proposed by Trinity would be scheduled during the evening broadcast period when the largest audiences are available. In fact, Trinity proposed to broadcast 3 hours 30 minutes each week of alternative viewpoint programming at 5:00 a.m.
At the hearing, Trinity stated that it was reluctant to accept a condition of licence requiring it to broadcast a minimum amount of balance programming during the evening broadcast period. Trinity claimed that, since it is a single-faith undertaking aimed at serving a Christian audience, the broadcast of programming during prime time that is focused on other faith groups or otherwise devoted to ensuring balance would be financially detrimental to the applicant's plans. Given the size and diversity of the Winnipeg market, the Commission considers that the applicant's plans to broadcast 7 hours each week of original, balance programming, particularly in light of the scheduling proposed, are not adequate to ensure that a reasonably consistent viewer is exposed to a variety of points of view.
One of the methods that Trinity proposed to offer balance was through the provision of air time to other 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 Winnipeg, the Commission also considers that commitments to broadcast programming from other local faith groups are particularly important as a means to serve the needs of the community.
In a letter dated 26 October 1994, Trinity stated that it had contacted a number of other faith groups. While Trinity indicated that some of these groups had agreed to participate in the proposed station, it did not provide any concrete evidence that local, non-Christian faith groups would, in fact, provide programming. At the hearing, Trinity stated that it had generally received a mixed reaction from non-Christian groups about producing and appearing on programs. Trinity acknowledged that, if other faith groups in Winnipeg did not provide programming, it would have difficulty finding the human resources to provide programming that reflects other faiths. The Commission is not satisfied that the applicant has formulated clear plans for the broadcast of programming reflecting alternative viewpoints in the event that it is unable to secure the participation of local, non-Christian faith groups.
The Commission is also not convinced that other programs proposed by the applicant to present alternative viewpoints would actually provide balance. For example, "Religious Forum" is described by Trinity as offering diverse groups the opportunity to share their views and attitudes on social issues. Trinity, however, did not provide any firm evidence that local, non-Christian faith groups in Winnipeg would participate in this program.
"Winnipeg Today" is described by Trinity as a program that would include public service announcements, promote religious events and feature religious leaders speaking about their respective faiths. The Commission, however, does not consider that public service announcements and the promotion of religious events would necessarily expose viewers to differing points of view. Moreover, Trinity failed to provide details regarding how often religious leaders would be featured on the proposed program, nor did it demonstrate evidence of interest in participating on the part of religious leaders of other faith groups.
At the hearing, Trinity stated that, within four months of going on air, it would begin producing "Religion Today", a magazine program featuring different points of view on religious issues and other social issues. Trinity, however, did not provide sufficient details describing the format and the nature of the proposed program to enable the Commission to determine whether the proposed program would offer balance.
Trinity stated that it would institute a Regulatory Board, composed of religious and community leaders from a variety of denominations, including representatives of the station and at least one member of a non-Christian faith group, to monitor the station's programming and to ensure that balance is respected. The Commission considers, however, that Trinity failed to provide sufficient details regarding how the Board would monitor balance and what corrective action it would take if balance were not achieved. The Commission also notes that Trinity did not indicate who the potential representatives might be, nor did it give any evidence that it had attempted to solicit interest in participation.
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 considers that the lack of commitment from other local faith groups in Winnipeg to provide programming for the applicant's proposed station, and the lack of alternative plans to provide multi-faith programming, call into question whether Trinity would, in fact, be able to provide programming to reflect the diversity of the community it is proposing to serve.
Business Plan
Because Trinity failed to submit sufficient documentation to support the proposed financing for its undertaking, the Commission is unable to assess the financial viability of the applicant's proposal or its capacity to fulfil its programming commitments. The Commission also notes that Trinity's financial and programming plans were based on the assumption that other religious television stations would be licensed, and that Trinity would join them in a co-operative network to share resources, primarily programming. At the hearing, Trinity claimed that there is a shortage of Canadian religious programming. Trinity also acknowledged that, in the event that its proposed undertaking were the only religious station licensed, it would have difficulty providing quality programming. In the Commission's view, based on Trinity's projections for programming and the financial resources available to the applicant, Trinity would have difficulty operating the station at all, as a stand-alone, independent undertaking.
Moreover, the Commission is not satisfied that Trinity has put forward a clear and viable business plan. For example, Trinity did not distinguish between the financial costs of maintaining its existing ministry and those that would be incurred in carrying on its proposed television undertaking.
In the Commission's view, the uncertainty surrounding the applicant's business plan raises questions regarding the adequacy of its overall planning and preparation and places further in doubt Trinity's ability to meet its programming commitments, including those with respect to the provision of balance programming on a consistent, long-term basis.
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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