ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 96-773

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Ottawa, 4 December 1996
Decision CRTC 96-773
Crossroads Television Network
Hamilton, Burlington and Toronto, Ontario - 951573500
Proposed Over-the Air Television Station Devoted to Religious Programming - Denied
Following a Public Hearing in the National Capital Region beginning on 8 July 1996, the Commission denies the application by Crossroads Television Network (Crossroads) for a broadcasting licence to carry on an English-language television programming undertaking at Hamilton, operating on channel 36 with an effective radiated power of 486,000 watts, to broadcast religious programming from local studios and other Canadian sources as well as programming originating from foreign sources.
In a related decision issued today, (Decision CRTC 96-774), the Commission has also denied an application by Trinity Television, Inc. (Trinity), for a licence to carry on a new religious over-the-air television programming undertaking at Toronto. Today's decisions are accompanied by Public Notice CRTC 1996-152 in which the Commission reiterates its expectations regarding the provision of balance in religious programming, and provides further guidance for future applicants proposing to offer such services.
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 their audiences to different points of view on religion. The Commission generally takes the view that balance will be achieved where, within a reasonable period of time, a reasonably consistent viewer or listener is exposed to a spectrum of views on issues of public concern.
The Commission generally also expects an applicant to make appropriate commitments related to the provision of balanced programming and to provide evidence of its ability to meet its commitments. In Public Notice CRTC 1995-198, the Commission stated that applicants for broadcasting undertakings devoted to religious programming:
 ...must also be able to substantiate their proposals for achieving balance with concrete and viable plans for their implementation.
In its original application, Crossroads set out its commitment to broadcast a minimum of 23 hours per week of balance programming, of which 18 hours would be required by condition of licence.
At the hearing the applicant confirmed that the weekly total of 23 hours in its original application included only 13 hours of programming which would be provided during the broadcast day (6:00 a.m. - midnight), and that the remainder would be broadcast in the overnight period.
During further discussions at the hearing, Crossroads altered its original plan as set out in its written application, by agreeing to adhere to a condition of licence requiring the provision of 18 hours per week of balance programming during the broadcast day. The applicant's plans for the production of this balance programming focused on three proposed programs: "Talk Back TV", "Summit Meeting" and "Faith Forum". In addition, Crossroads made a further commitment to adhere to a condition of licence requiring that a minimum of eight hours per week of its original balance programming be broadcast during the evening broadcast period (6:00 p.m. to midnight).
In response to questions at the hearing, it became apparent that Crossroads' proposed program schedule provided for only 13 hours per week of balance programming during the broadcast day. With respect to the five additional hours of balance programming required to meet its proposed condition of licence, the applicant admitted at the hearing that it was not in a position to indicate where these hours would appear in the schedule, other than that they would be scheduled between 6:00 p.m. and midnight, and possibly on weekends.
The applicant suggested that Vision TV (the national specialty service providing inter-faith religious programming) could be involved in co-productions with Crossroads to provide the required programming, although Crossroads stated that it was prepared to adhere to its commitments regardless of the level of participation of Vision TV. In an exchange of letters placed on the public file subsequent to the hearing, Crossroads confirmed that no formal plans for co-production with Vision TV had, in fact, been developed. No other firm plans were proposed.
The Commission notes that Crossroads was unable to provide a source for the additional five hours of balance programming which was not included in its proposed schedule, and for which it was willing to accept a condition of licence. The Commission considers that Crossroads has failed to substantiate its proposals with concrete and viable plans for continuing to meet its commitment to provide 18 hours of balance programming weekly. The Commission thus does not consider that Crossroads has demonstrated its ability to meet its commitments in respect of balance programming.
At the hearing, the Commission also discussed with the applicant efforts made to secure commitments from other faith groups for their participation in balance programming. The applicant stated:
 ... we have not had the kind of discussion which asked another faith to make a commitment, but we have had general discussions....we did not make a specific proposal...we are promising you that we will have those religious expressions proportionate to their reality within our society...
As set out in Public Notice CRTC 1996-152 which accompanies this decision, the Commission considers it essential that applications proposing to serve large urban centres include firm commitments for the participation of other faith groups in the production and provision of programming.
In this respect, the Commission notes its statement in Public Notice CRTC 1995-198 that "... it would expect each applicant to demonstrate that the programming it proposes will adequately meet the needs of the community it serves. In some cases, in particular those communities with diverse populations, this may mean providing multi-faith programming".
The Commission considers that, while the applicant promised to produce certain types of programs reflecting the views of other faith groups, it did not substantiate such proposals. Further, as previously noted in this decision, while Crossroads indicated that it had discussions with other faith groups, it did not seek or obtain specific commitments from those groups to participate in its balance programming.
Given the diverse makeup of the population in the areas proposed to be served by the applicant, the Commission considers the applicant's efforts to ensure participation in its programming by other faith groups to be inadequate in this case.
With respect to the monitoring of the provision of balanced programming, Crossroads set out a plan for a six-member "Internal Compliance Committee", to be appointed by the Board of Directors, to oversee and monitor all program guidelines. The applicant made a commitment that at least three members of the Committee would be recognized community members. The applicant did not, however, make a commitment to include representation on the Committee of any specific faith group.
The Commission considers that the lack of specific plans for the participation of multi-faith groups on the Internal Compliance Committee demonstrates an inadequate commitment to reflect the concerns of the diverse religious community in southern Ontario.
In view of the foregoing, the Commission is not satisfied that the applicant has provided the necessary evidence that the proposals set out in its application would be implemented and consistently maintained. In addition, also as discussed above, the applicant's lack of firm plans for the representation and reflection of other faiths is not reassuring to the Commission in terms of the achievement of the very important balance requirement of the Act. For these reasons, the Commission denies this application.
The Commission acknowledges the many interventions submitted both in support of and in opposition to this application, as well as the applicant's responses thereto.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

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