Ottawa, 7 November 2001
President & C.O.O.
9 Channel Nine Court
Dear Ms McQueen:
This is in response to your letters of 26 October 2001 setting out changes to the manner in which CTV's local programming will be delivered to viewers in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins and Huntsville. Since CTV announced these changes on 18 October 2001, the CRTC has received hundreds of complaints from the public affected by the proposed elimination of separately-hosted supper-hour newscasts in Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins.
In CRTC Decision 2001-457-6, renewing the licences of the MCTV stations in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins and Huntsville, the Commission noted CTV's commitment to provide a minimum combined total of 15.5 hours per week of local programming to the communities served by the MCTV stations.
Since 1995 the Commission has permitted CTV to serve communities in northern Ontario through regional newscasts to which all the stations contribute. In these cases, each station that contributes to the newscast may consider it to be local. A similar approach has been used for CTV stations in the Maritimes and Saskatchewan.
In your letter of 26 October, you clarify that the changes proposed by CTV will result in a new format for the supper-hour newscast. The new program will be hosted from Sudbury and will include segments of local news that will be seen "separately and distinctly in each community." In addition, "The balance of the hour will draw on the stories from trusted local journalists from each community which will be shot and edited at the originating station and fed to Sudbury to be produced and broadcast across all five stations." The Commission also notes CTV's commitment that, ". outside of the news, all local specials such as telethons and political debates will continue."
In light of the above clarifications and commitments, the Commission considers that the changes proposed by CTV are consistent with the requirements of the licence decision of the MCTV stations.
Nevertheless, the Commission wishes to express its concern about CTV's proposed reductions in resources dedicated to local programming in northern Ontario. In the Commission's view, one of the benefits of strong corporate ownership of local television stations is that such owners should be able to adjust to a fluctuating economic environment and support local services that, on their own, may be not be profitable. These advantages were discussed with BCE and CTV during the past year at the public hearing addressing BCE's purchase of CTV in Sept.2000 and again at CTV's group licence renewal in April 2001.
In Decision CRTC 2000-747, approving BCE's acquisition of CTV, the Commission expressed its confidence that the approval would ". ensure the ongoing growth and improvement of the services offered by the national television network, the local television stations operated by CTV Inc., as well as the various pay and specialty services in which CTV Inc. has an ownership interest."
In Decision CRTC 2001-457, renewing the licences for the CTV group of television stations, the Commission noted that CTV had discussed at the public hearing the benefits to its conventional television service resulting from common ownership of its various media interests. As noted in the above decision, "CTV indicated that although doing business in some of its markets was challenging at times, it considered that, as a large organization, it could work to ensure its various local stations continue to exist."
In light of the above, the Commission expects CTV to fulfill the spirit, as well as the letter, of its commitments to provide local programming to the public in the communities it serves.