ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 99-93

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Ottawa, 29 April 1999
Decision CRTC 99-93
Métromédia CMR Montréal inc.
Verdun, Quebec - 199708007
7 December 1998 Public Hearing
in Montréal
The Commission renews the broadcasting licence of radio programming undertaking CKVL Verdun for a period of three years only, from 1 September 1999 to 31 August 2002. This renewal term of less than the seven years provided for under the Broadcasting Act is warranted by the Commission's concern regarding the licensee's performance.
The Commission is seriously concerned about complaints it has received with respect to on-air comments made on CKVL and the manner in which the licensee handled these complaints. Métromédia CMR Montréal inc. (Métromédia) has tabled a revised version of the Guide déontologique et politique interne (Code of Ethics) proposed with its application, as it agreed to do at the hearing. This Code of Ethics, which applies to all of CKVL's programming, must be respected in accordance with the condition of licence set out at the end of this decision.
The Commission is also concerned that the licensee failed to comply with regulatory requirements regarding the broadcast of French-language vocal music. It will monitor closely the licensee's compliance with these requirements during the new licence term.
1. The Commission renewed the licence for CKVL for a period of one year on 28 August 1998, for administrative reasons. In Notice of Public Hearing CRTC 1998-7 dated 2 October 1998, it called Métromédia to the 7 December 1998 public hearing to discuss complaints it had received following on-air comments broadcast by the station. The Commission notified the licensee of the possibility that it would require, as a condition of licence, that the licensee comply with the Commission's Policy Regarding Open-Line Programming (Public Notice CRTC 1988-213).
The complaints
2. The Commission decided to examine eight of the complaints it had received concerning comments made during the open-line program hosted by André Arthur which is broadcast by CKVL, specifically:
· two complaints filed on behalf of Groupe Jean Coutu inc., a well-known family business that specializes in the distribution and retailing of pharmaceutical, parapharmaceutical and other products. Le Groupe Jean Coutu inc. addressed these complaints at the hearing.
· a number of complaints filed by Mrs. Louise Cadieux;
· five complaints filed by Mrs. Marie Marra on behalf of "les amis du général de Gaulle," branch of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, Mr. Charles Durand of the same organization, and Messrs Jean-Louis Tremblay, Mario Cusson and Gilles Rhéaume.
3. Groupe Jean Coutu inc. and the members of the Coutu family emphasized, in their intervention, how host André Arthur relentlessly seeks to discredit them in his on-air comments on CKVL, using innuendo as well as defamatory, offensive and injurious remarks that question their honesty and integrity and damage their reputation.
4. Mrs. Cadieux's complaints focused on the discriminatory and disparaging terms used by Mr. Arthur in reference to disabled persons. Mrs. Cadieux was also outraged that the host invaded her privacy by repeatedly giving her name, address and telephone number over the air on CKVL.
5. In its letter replying to Mrs. Cadieux, the licensee apologized for its host's remarks and indicated that they did not reflect the opinions of the management of CKVL. It had warned Mr. Arthur to use language that is more respecful and meets desirable standards of broadcasting.
6. The five other complaints all focused essentially on the host's coarse and insulting remarks about General de Gaulle, France and French people.
7. During the hearing, the Commission gave the licensee every possible opportunity to present its side of the story and justify the on-air comments in question in the light of, among other things, the Code of Ethics proposed by CKVL for information and phone-in programming, and the requirements of the Broadcasting Act (the Act) and the Radio Regulations, 1986 (the regulations).
8. According to Section 3(1)(g) of the Act, the programming originated by broadcasting undertakings should be of high standard. Section 3(b) of the regulations states that a licensee shall not broadcast any abusive comment that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.
9. In the Commission's view, the licensee trivialized the importance of the host's remarks by citing the polemic nature of such programming and the context in which the comments were made, the use of verbal caricature and the interpretation of the terms used. Métromédia also expressed certain reservations about implementing control mechanisms to ensure the high quality of Mr. Arthur's program. Lastly, the licensee pointed out that it had never received any complaints about CKVL in the past.
10. The Commission disagrees with the position taken by the licensee in this regard. Following a lengthy discussion, the licensee agreed that the host's comments failed to meet the quality standards established by the Act and the provisions of its proposed Code of Ethics relating to privacy. It also acknowledged that Mr. Arthur's comments about disabled persons contravened the provisions of the regulations.
11. The Commission further noted during the hearing that Métromédia's proposed Code of Ethics contained no provisions concerning the right of reply. It asked the licensee to take appropriate steps to guarantee a real right of reply, in which a balance of opinion is assured, to any listener who feels aggrieved.
12. Métromédia agreed to revise its proposed Code of Ethics in order to address these shortcomings. Such shortcomings also pertain to the lack of provisions concerning insults and coarse and vulgar remarks. Following review, the Commission accepts the revised version of CKVL's Code of Ethics.
13. In response to the Commission's concern that the licensee does not always respond to the complaints it receives or that it takes too long to do so, the licensee has agreed to respond to complaints within three weeks of their receipt. The Commission expects the licensee to abide by this commitment.
The Commission's conclusions
14. The Commission deplores the licensee's apparent trivialization of the comments made on-air by the host, comments that the Commission has deemed unacceptable in other past cases. It also deplores the tolerance shown by the licensee towards programming of less-than-expected quality. The Commission reminds the licensee that it is obligated to ensure that its on-air hosts respect the provisions of the Act and the regulations at all times.
15. Given the seriousness of the comments made by the host, the Commission has decided to require the licensee, as a condition of licence, to abide by the revised version of its Code of Ethics. This condition is set out later in this decision.
French-language vocal music
16. According to the Commission's analyses of programming broadcast from 7 September to 13 September 1997, the licensee did not attain the 65% level of French-language vocal music prescribed in the regulations. Public Notice CRTC 1998-7 noted this non-compliance.
17. The licensee explained that, because CKVL is a talk-based station, even a minor change in its musical programming could result in a substantial divergence from the quotas it had set for itself. The licensee added that, in the future, its hosts will not broadcast musical excerpts or jingles without first notifying the programming staff in order to ensure that such excerpts or jingles are entered and accounted for on the station log. According to the licensee, every possible measure has been taken to guarantee its future compliance with the regulations.
18. The Commission will monitor the licensee's performance closely during the new licence term in order to ensure that it complies with the regulations at all times.
Conditions of licence
19. The licence is subject to the terms and conditions set out in the licence to be issued. Further, as conditions of licence, the licensee must:
· abide by the Guide déontologique et politique interne of CKVL, as approved by the Commission;
. make an annual payment to MusicAction of $27,000 as set out in the condition of licence with respect to Canadian talent development which appears on the licence.
Other matters
20. The Commission expects Métromédia to:
· inform it as soon as possible of any legal action against CKVL or any judgment or out-of-court settlement resulting from legal action against CKVL or CKVL program hosts relating to on-air comments; and
· provide a copy of its Code of Ethics to CKVL program hosts and to any person who requests it.
21. Public Notice CRTC 1992-59 dated 1 September 1992 and entitled Implementation of an Employment Equity Policy announced that the employment equity practices of broadcasters would be subject to examination by the Commission. In this regard, the Commission encourages the licensee to consider employment equity issues in its hiring practices and in all other aspects of its management of human resources.
22. The Commission acknowledges the interventions submitted with respect to this application.
This decision is to be appended to the licence. It is available in alternative format upon request, and may also be viewed at the following Internet site:

Secretary General
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