ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1996-152

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 4 December 1996
Public Notice CRTC 1996-152
Introductory Statement to Decisions CRTC 96-773 and 96-774 - Denial of Applications for Broadcasting Licences to Carry on New, Religious Television Programming Undertakings at Toronto and Hamilton/Burlington, Ontario
At a Public Hearing commencing 8 July 1996 in the National Capital Region, the Commission considered two applications for broadcasting licences to carry on religious, over-the-air television programming undertakings, one at Toronto and the other at Hamilton/Burlington, Ontario.
In Decisions CRTC 96-773 and 96-774 that accompany this public notice, the Commission has denied both of these applications for the reasons stated therein.
In Public Notice CRTC 1993-78 dated 3 June 1993 and entitled "Religious Broadcasting Policy", the Commission amended its policy on religious broadcasting, and set out the criteria for the licensing of single-faith groups to carry on broadcasting undertakings offering religious programming.
The main elements of the religious broadcasting policy relate to the issues of balance, and adherence to a number of guidelines on ethics for religious broadcasting. The policy also emphasizes the importance of local reflection, and the need for applicants to demonstrate that their proposed programming will meet the needs of the communities to be served.
In the case of the two current applications, the Commission is generally satisfied with the applicants' commitments regarding adherence to the ethics guidelines. However, it has concluded that they did not provide sufficient, detailed information as to how they would carry out their proposals for the provision of balanced programming.
The purpose of this notice is thus to reiterate the Commission's expectations regarding the provision of balance in religious broadcasting, and to provide further guidance to these and any future applicants proposing to offer such services.
The Religious Broadcasting Policy
The Commission's expectations regarding balance in religious programming stem from the requirement contained in the Broadcasting Act (the Act) that the 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". Since the Commission considers religious matters to be of public concern, the Commission's policy as set out in Public Notice CRTC 1993-78 states that licensees who broadcast religious programming must expose their audiences to "... differing views on matters of general public concern and, at the same time, must expose the audience to different points of view on religion itself."
In the 1993 public notice, the Commission set out the criteria that would be applied in assessing proposals to satisfy the balance requirement. In general, a broadcaster need not provide balance in each program or series of programs, but rather should schedule its programming in a manner that ensures that a reasonably consistent viewer or listener will be exposed to a range of views on issues of public concern within a reasonable period of time.
In Public Notice CRTC 1994-110 dated 30 August 1994, the Commission outlined its expectations and requirements regarding the provision of balance and adherence to the ethics guidelines for over-the-air television programming undertakings that broadcast religious programming.
Subsequently, in Public Notice CRTC 1995-198 dated 24 November 1995, the Commission provided a summary of its religious broadcasting policy, and highlighted a number of concerns raised by one or more of the seven applications denied in Decisions CRTC 95-849 to 95-855, which accompanied that public notice.
Expectations Regarding Balanced Programming
When considering applications for religious programming undertakings, the Commission will examine an applicant's plans for the provision of balance by examining the methods it proposes to use in providing different views on religion and other matters of public concern, as well as the safeguards and other mechanisms that will be put into place to guarantee that the commitments for ensuring balance are effectively maintained over the long term.
In Public Notice CRTC 1994-110, the Commission set out a number of methods that could be used to achieve balance, including the provision of open-line programming, programming produced by other religious groups, and the broadcast of documentaries about other religions.
The Commission also noted that, although these methods constitute valid means of achieving balance, there may be other methods that would be effective in exposing the audience to other religious viewpoints.
The Commission expects applicants to make commitments regarding the minimum amount of balance programming, and particularly the amount of original balance programming, that will be broadcast, including the number of hours that will be aired during the evening broadcast period. As the Commission stated in Public Notice CRTC 1995-198:
 A heavy reliance on the repeat broadcast of balance programs and ... the absence of plans to schedule any balance programs during the evening hours when the largest potential audiences are available, raise concerns about whether such programming could be truly effective in providing balance...
Furthermore, in order to ensure balance and also to ensure that the proposed programming adequately reflects the diverse make-up of larger urban centres, the Commission considers it essential that applicants in such areas include plans for the participation of other faith groups in their proposals for the production and provision of religious programs, and on the consultative committees that would monitor adherence to programming guidelines.
In cases where applicants propose to provide air-time to various faith groups, letters of commitment should be submitted from these groups, documenting their willingness to participate in the provision of programs, as well as the amount and type of programming to be supplied.
Applicants who propose the production of balance programming, with or without the participation of other faith groups, should include detailed budgetary commitments, the number of hours and descriptions of the proposed programs and, in the case of co-productions, copies of agreements with the co-production partners.
Proposals involving the acquisition of balance programs should include a description of the programs, the number of hours of programming to be acquired, and written confirmation from the distributors of this programming that it is available for acquisition.
Applicants should also submit letters of commitment from other faith groups confirming their willingness to participate on the consultative programming committees.
The Commission also expects applicants to provide detailed plans on how balance will be monitored, and what corrective action will be taken in the event that the requirement for balance is not being met.
The Commission remains open to the licensing of undertakings devoted to religious programming, and encourages applicants for such licences to be guided by the religious broadcasting policy of the Commission and to include firm commitments in their proposals supported by concrete evidence and detailed plans that will ensure the achievement of the objectives of the Act.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

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