ARCHIVED - Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2002-60

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Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2002-60

Ottawa, 28 February 2002

The Miracle Channel Association
Lethbridge, Bow Island and Burmis, Alberta

Application 2001-0237-7
Public Hearing at Vancouver
15 October 2001

Short-term licence renewal for CJIL-TV

The Commission renews, from 1 March 2002 to 31 August 2004, the broadcasting licence issued to The Miracle Channel Association (MCA) for the religious television station CJIL-TV Lethbridge and its transmitters (CJIL-TV-1 Bow Island and CJIL-TV-2 Burmis). The licence will be subject to the conditions specified therein, as well as to those set out in the appendix to this decision.The Commission will use this period of two-and-a-half years to thoroughly monitor and assess the licensee's performance in response to the very serious concerns discussed below.

These concerns include the licensee's manifest failure to comply with the minimum regulatory requirements with respect to the airing of Canadian content during the broadcast day in each of the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 broadcast years. The shortfalls in Canadian content were acknowledged by the licensee, and were substantial - 40.7% or almost a third below the regulatory minimum of 60% for the broadcast day in 1999-2000, and 34.6%, or more than 40% below that minimum in 1998-99. There was a further, albeit smaller shortfall in Canadian content during the evening broadcast period in 1998-99 (49.2% instead of the regulatory minimum of 50%).

The Commission is particularly apprehensive about what it considers to be either the licensee's lack of understanding of the balance requirements contained in the religious broadcasting policy, or worse, its inadequate appreciation of the importance of these requirements and their objectives. This concern stems from the licensee's vague and unfocused responses to questions at the hearing regarding how its programming exposes viewers to differing views on matters of public concern, and on religion in particular. The Commission is not confident that the licensee's efforts to provide such programming have been applied consistently or conscientiously over the licence term. The Commission especially notes in this connection the licensee's failure to adhere to its commitment (and to the Commission's expectation) regarding the establishment of a regulatory review committee to monitor the station's performance in meeting the balance requirements and the guidelines on ethics that are set out in the religious broadcasting policy.

While the Commission gave serious consideration to granting a shorter licence term than the two-and-a-half years noted above, it considers that this period will provide sufficient time to fully examine the licensee's performance in response to the concerns documented in this decision, with a view to determining whether and on what terms a subsequent renewal may be warranted.


Decision CRTC 95-129


The Commission licensed CJIL-TV Lethbridge in Decision 95-129 (4 April 1995). The licensee, MCA, is a not-for-profit society and, in accordance with its licence application, was subject to a condition of licence that it broadcast no advertising material. This condition is retained in the renewed licence. The station was founded by and operates under the auspices of Victory Christian Fellowship of Lethbridge (1983) Inc. (Victory). The licensing of CJIL-TV followed publication by the Commission of its religious broadcasting policy (Public Notice CRTC 1993-78 dated 3 June 1993). CJIL-TV became the first over-the-air television service dedicated solely to the provision of religious programming and operated under single faith ownership. In subsequent decisions in 1999 and 2001, the Commission authorized MCA to establish transmitters of the Lethbridge station at Bow Island and Burmis. These transmitters expanded the size of the station's potential audience to include residents of the Medicine Hat and Pincher Creek areas (Decisions CRTC 99-71 and 2001-491, respectively). The licensee's potential audience was further expanded in 2000, when the Commission added CJIL-TV to the List of Part 3 Eligible Satellite Services (Public Notice CRTC 2000-7).


MCA is regulated under the Television Broadcasting Regulations, 1987 (the "Television Regulations"). Under section 4(6) of the Television Regulations, the licensee must ensure that Canadian programs account for a minimum of 60% of all programming broadcast by the station between 6:00 a.m. and midnight each day, averaged over the period of a broadcast year. MCA is further required by section 4(7) to provide a minimum of 50% Canadian content in the programming aired during the evening broadcast period (6:00 p.m. to midnight), again calculated as an average over each broadcast year. In Decision 95-129, the Commission noted the applicant's proposal to broadcast much higher levels of Canadian content during those two periods, but nonetheless chose to require adherence by the licensee to the lower levels stipulated in the Television Regulations.


The Broadcasting Act stipulates that programming offered by the Canadian broadcasting system should provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to differing views on matters of public concern. In Decision 95-129, the Commission noted that, in order to satisfy this balance 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 added that it is generally of the view that the balance requirement would be met where a reasonably consistent viewer is exposed to a spectrum of views on issues of public concern within a reasonable period of time.


Accordingly, the Commission's decision noted the licensee's commitment to produce and broadcast a minimum of 7 hours each week of "religious affairs" programming. This programming was to include 3 hours 30 minutes each week of interviews with invited guests representing various denominations and faith groups, as well as documentaries about various denominations and faiths, and programs dealing with topics of public concern. The remaining 3 hours 30 minutes was to consist of phone-in programming designed to present differing views on matters of general public concern and, in particular, on religion. The applicant indicated at the time that it would screen calls to ensure that diverse points of view are aired. The applicant further proposed to make a 24-hour-per-day phone line available for viewers to express their opinions, for later broadcast during the phone-in program.


The decision also noted the applicant's commitment to further assist in meeting the balance requirement, and the needs of the community, by broadcasting a minimum of seven hours each week of programming from a variety of faith groups and denominations in the local area. Victory had advised the Commission that it would actively solicit programming from other faith groups and denominations on an ongoing basis, and that it would make "reasonable efforts" to assist groups that do not have the resources to produce programming. In the event that these groups failed to submit a sufficient amount of programming to adequately reflect other views, Victory was to find alternative means to ensure that balance is provided on its service.


Decision 95-129 stated the Commission's expectation that the applicant, in line with its commitment, "establish and maintain a regulatory review committee to monitor the station's performance with regard to balance and adherence to the guidelines on ethics". Meeting monthly, the committee was also supposed to monitor the sale of air time to ensure that other faith groups and denominations are given fair and equitable access. Three of the committee's six members were not to belong to the applicant's congregation. Rather, these three positions were to be reserved for representatives of other faith groups or for leaders of the broader community. The Commission specifically encouraged the applicant to recruit members from non-Christian traditions for nomination to the regulatory review committee.


Further, with respect to service to the deaf and hard of hearing, the Commission's decision encouraged the applicant to provide such service to viewers, and noted the applicant's "intention to provide closed captioning of locally-produced programs during the licence term".

Events preceding the Vancouver Public Hearing


Early last year, in preparation for its consideration of CJIL-TV's licence renewal, the Commission examined the licensee's program logs. Subsequently, on 29 March 2001, the Commission wrote to MCA asking for the licensee's comments on figures generated by the computerized system used by the Commission to read program logs. These figures indicated the licensee's apparent non-compliance, in each of 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, with the regulatory requirement for the provision of Canadian content during the broadcast day (34.6% and 40.7%, respectively). There was a further apparent shortfall in Canadian content during the evening broadcast period (49.2%) in 1998-1999. The Commission's letter also brought the licensee's attention to other figures derived from the CJIL-TV program logs indicating the absence of any closed captioned local programs during 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, and captioning levels of only 5.5% and 37.6% of all programming in the first and second of those same years, respectively.


In its response dated 8 April 2001, the licensee accepted as accurate the Commission's calculations of the amounts of Canadian content and closed captioning in the programming broadcast during the two years in question:

We are not disputing the deficiencies that have been identified through this process and we take responsibility for our actions.


In a second letter dated 8 April 2001, in reply to yet further questions from the Commission concerning MCA's balance programming, the licensee submitted information indicating that it had either met or exceeded its quantitative requirements for the broadcast of such programming. However, the descriptions of the programs, as provided by the licensee in its letter or as found on its web site, call into question the extent to which these programs have actually served to expose the station's audience to religious views differing in substance from the evangelical Christian beliefs held by the operators of CJIL-TV.


One such program, Lifeline, is described as featuring "interesting and well-known guests, talented musicians and singers, and a time of ministry when the Dewerts pray for the needs of viewers. Prayer partners take calls during each Lifeline program as well as praying for the needs expressed through email and letters". Another program, MC Magazine, is described as one featuring, in part, crafts and recipes.


Moreover, in this second letter, the licensee acknowledged that, contrary to the Commission's expectation, it had never established a regulatory review committee to monitor the station's performance with regard to balance, adherence to the guidelines and provision of access to air time:

We have.lacked the structure to implement a formal working regulatory review committee, partly because we have not diligently pursued individuals who would be interested in sitting on the committee.


According to the licensee, a body known as the Lethbridge Ministerial and composed of representatives of various faith groups had agreed to act as a mediator in place of a review committee. MCA added, however, that no issue has arisen that required mediation.


In light of the matters discussed above, in the notice of public hearing pertaining to the current licence renewal application by MCA, the Commission called the licensee to appear at the Vancouver hearing. It also put the licensee on notice that it wished to discuss with MCA at the hearing the possibility of a short-term licence renewal.

The public hearing and the Commission's determinations

Canadian content


At the hearing, the licensee suggested that the shortfall in Canadian content was due to a number of factors. These included the collapse, just before the hearing of its original licence application in 1994, of an arrangement through which it had expected to gain access to a steady supply of Canadian religious programming. MCA also stated that, in anticipation of opposing interventions from local broadcasters, it had taken a decision before the original licence hearing to pursue a business model that would be independent of advertising revenues. It found that its decision to forego this potential revenue stream subsequently forced a greater dependence by the station on revenues earned through the sale of airtime to U.S. religious programmers.


The licensee claimed that station management only became aware of the shortfalls in Canadian content in the fall of 2000, when preparing the current application for licence renewal. MCA admitted that station management personnel had neglected to allocate the staff and other resources required to monitor adherence to Canadian content levels and other regulatory requirements before that point, essentially because of their inexperience as broadcasters and their preoccupation with the station's survival.


The licensee stated that it has since implemented measures to ensure that CJIL-TV is operated in compliance with the regulatory requirements for Canadian content:

Presently, our in-house data entry person has taken the responsibilities of traffic coordinator. He is directly responsible for following, calculating, and monitoring Canadian content levels, reviewing errors and omissions, reports, resubmitting reports, maintaining a regular contact with the CRTC staff, and making corrections and adjustments. We are confident that.the changes that we have implemented, will ensure compliance in the future. We also believe that once fully implemented, our present staffing will be able to monitor Cancom compliance.


As with all broadcasters, the broadcasting licence held by MCA is a privilege, carrying with it a number of important responsibilities. These include MCA's obligation to adhere rigorously and at all times to the Television Regulations, including those governing Canadian content. The licensee's explanation as to why it failed to comply with these regulations - indeed why it failed even to monitor Canadian content levels - namely that this was due to a lack of broadcasting experience on the part of station management, does not constitute a valid excuse. That the licensee claims now to be adhering to the Television Regulations and has committed to remain in compliance is encouraging, but it also constitutes nothing more than what is expected of any television licensee, as a minimum.


The Commission wishes to be assured of the ongoing effectiveness of the steps taken by the licensee, as described above, to remain in compliance with Canadian content requirements. It will thus monitor this matter closely. For this reason, and because of the further concerns discussed herein, the Commission has decided to issue MCA a short-term licence renewal, from 1 March 2002 to 31 August 2004. It has also attached a condition to the renewed licence requiring the licensee to achieve a minimum level of 60% Canadian content during the broadcast day, with compliance to be assessed on the basis of six-month measurement periods beginning on 1 March 2002. Normally, the measurement period that applies to licensees under the Television Regulations is one broadcast year. This and other conditions of licence applicable to CJIL-TV are set out in the appendix to this decision. The Commission will review the licensee's compliance with these conditions at the time of licence renewal.



The Commission questioned MCA at the hearing about the content of the various programs in its schedule that it claims satisfy the licensee's quantitative obligations for the provision of programming that would expose its audience to different points of view on religion. According to the licensee, its "anchor" program Lifeline features:

.a variety of denominational groups, specifically those that are indigenous to the Lethbridge and area, including [Aboriginals]. We've had Manford Northpegan on numerous times talking about First Nations issues because we have one of the largest First Nations reserves just a few miles from Lethbridge.. We've had various groups as far as Jewish groups. We've had in fact the consul general of Israel on the program [and] many denominations that have a wide variety of different views on certain topics.. Other than that, that's basically what it is, interviews, a few documentaries thrown in, as well as of course the music programming that we have including some ethnic music from time to time.


Judging by the licensee's description of this particular program, a description that applies to many hundreds of episodes that have been aired to date, there is little reason to conclude that the station's audience has consistently been exposed to a spectrum of religious views that would differ from those generally held by followers of the Christian tradition.


At the hearing, the licensee identified the program MC Magazine as another of its programs that provides balance in the presentation of different points of view on religion. In the application, however, this program was described as a magazine show featuring community interviews, crafts, cooking, fashion and home decorating. When asked to explain how a program featuring such elements could be categorized as one providing different points of view on religion, the licensee replied:

What we found in Lethbridge as in all over Canada is that ethnicity and religion tend to go hand in hand. This is one of those programs in which we're able to bring out the ethnicity of our area in terms of things like cooking and crafts and culture.. We've had Japanese people on, of course, because Lethbridge is known with its rich Japanese tradition with the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens and their traditions of food and culture and wardrobe and that sort of thing, and it gives them an opportunity to be able to talk about their traditions, be they religious and/or cultural.


The licensee also claimed that its phone-in programming generates a variety of opinions, but then gave as an example a call the station received from "a Hindu gentleman" who expressed agreement with the views generally expressed by evangelical Christians in opposition to abortion.


Based on these discussions at the hearing about the licensee's programming, and about balance in the expression of differing views on religion, the Commission is concerned that MCA appears to equate the participation of members of different ethnic communities, and the presentation of topics dealing with ethnicity, with the presentation of non-Christian religious views.


The obligation to provide balance in the presentation of religious views extends beyond the presentation of different perspectives emanating solely from within the Christian, or indeed the Judeo-Christian tradition. Further, views on issues of public concern that are expressed in the context of the licensee's evangelical or any other programming must be balanced by the presentation of different views.


In general, the licensee's unfocused responses to questions at the hearing have done little to convince the Commission that MCA's efforts to seek out differing views on religious matters have been consistent or persistent over the licence term. Accordingly, the Commission puts the licensee on notice that, at the time of next licence renewal, it intends to require MCA to submit clear evidence documenting how the programming it airs during the upcoming licence term meets the Commission's requirements for balance. The Commission emphasizes the importance it places on the effectiveness of the licensee's effort to seek out, and present on air, differing views on religion. The Commission therefore encourages MCA to become much more active in its efforts to seek out the participation of other local faith groups in CJIL-TV's programming, and to encourage these other groups to develop their own programs for broadcast on the station, with MCA's production assistance and expertise as required.


The Commission has maintained, as a condition of licence, the requirement that the licensee provide a minimum of 14 hours per week of programming that presents differing views on religion and matters of general public concern, including four hours weekly of such programming between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. The Commission notes in this regard the licensee's renewed commitment to ensure that this balance programming include 3 hours 30 minutes each week of interviews with invited guests representing various denominations and faith groups, as well as documentaries about various denominations and faiths and programs dealing with topics of public concern. As part of this commitment, an additional 3 hours 30 minutes per week is to consist of phone-in programming designed to present differing views on matters of general public concern and, in particular, religion.


At the hearing, with specific reference to the substantial population of First Nations people living in the vicinity of Lethbridge, the Commission raised with the licensee its important responsibility to offer in its local programming a reflection of the cultural and religious diversity present in CJIL-TV's expanded local coverage area. The Commission thus notes and encourages the licensee's stated plans "to continue and increase our programming to Aboriginal viewers".

Regulatory review committee


In reply to a question by the Commission prior to the hearing, the licensee indicated that a body known as the Lethbridge Ministerial, and consisting of representatives of various faith groups, had been given responsibility for mediating and resolving any complaints that might arise concerning the programming aired on CJIL-TV. At the hearing, the licensee stated that it was prepared to transfer this responsibility from the Lethbridge Ministerial to a regulatory review committee that would be formed within the first six months of the new licence term.


At the hearing, the Commission asked MCA whether it had in the past considered the Lethbridge Ministerial, tasked only with responding to complaints, as being an adequate substitute for a formal regulatory review committee, one responsible for monitoring, on a regular basis, the station's performance in meeting the balance requirements and guidelines on ethics. If not, the Commission asked why it should take the licensee a full six months of a new licence term to establish a regulatory review committee to replace the Lethbridge Ministerial. In response, the licensee stated as follows:

I think part of the problem was there initially was a neglect on our part to understand the full issues dealing with the regulatory review committee in that the responsibilities went much beyond just monitoring, dealing with dispute issues. [We] recognize now the seriousness of it, that it's not only dispute resolution but maintaining this is a body that to ensure that we are, in fact, meeting all our conditions of license. So we recognize now what's involved with that as far as reporting with the committee.. Going through the review process, recognizing where we were deficient in our non-compliance, we recognized that if we would have had this body in place, functioning the way in which it was envisioned and created to function, we most likely wouldn't find ourself in the situation today, explaining why we've been in non-compliance.


The Commission notes the licensee's acknowledgement of the essential role to be played by a regulatory review committee in monitoring the station's performance in meeting its balance requirements. The Commission also notes MCA's tacit recognition of the possibility that such a committee, in discharging its responsibilities, might well have detected the licensee's non-compliance in other areas, at a much earlier date than was the case.


MCA gave a commitment to have a regulatory review committee in place within 30 days. The licensee must file a report, within 30 days of the date of this decision, confirming that the regulatory review committee has been established and has assumed its responsibilities, and that its composition and mandate conform to the terms set out in Decision 95-129.

Service to the deaf and hard of hearing


At the hearing, the licensee acknowledged the total incongruity between its intention, noted in Decision 95-129, to provide closed captioning of locally-produced programs during the licence term and its actual performance in this regard. In defence of its performance (in 1999-2000, no local programs and only 37.6% of all programming was closed captioned), MCA made various claims about the costs associated with providing captioning programming. The licensee's position was that the necessary equipment and software to do captioning in-house would cost as much as $60,000, while the cost of contracting out closed captioning would be in the range of $500 per half hour. MCA indicated that it was willing to increase the amount of captioned programming it broadcasts. It did not, however, undertake to bring about any immediate or early increase. Rather, it proposed ".some form of graduated application of closed captioning" in its schedule.


The Commission understands that providing closed captions for live programming in-house is not cost effective for most broadcasters, and that the majority of Canadian television licensees contract this work out. Nevertheless, the Commission considers that the licensee has significantly overestimated the costs of providing closed captioning, particularly those that might be incurred in contracting out the closed captioning function to a third party.


The Commission notes that the licensee's actual revenues from broadcasting exceed its projections. The Commission believes that this performance can reasonably be expected to continue or improve due to CJIL-TV's presence on the List of Part 3 Eligible Satellite Services, due as well to the station's transmitters at Bow Island and Burmis, and the consequent increase in CJIL-TV's potential audience.


For these reasons, the Commission expects the licensee to begin, immediately and without delay, to bring about an increase in the amount of closed captioned programming aired on CJIL-TV, using whatever means as are available to do so, including the contracting out of this task to third parties. More specifically, the Commission expects the licensee to close caption as many of its local programs as possible during the upcoming licence term, and to arrange for captioned versions of its acquired programming, to the extent that its resources permit. The Commission will closely review MCA's performance in meeting this expectation at the time of next licence renewal.

Other matters


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.


The Commission acknowledges the letter submitted in support of CJIL-TV's renewal application by Jim and Marian M. Proc.

Secretary General

This decision is to be appended to the licence. It is available in alternative format upon request, and may also be examined at the following Internet site:


Appendix to Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2002-60


Conditions of licence for CJIL-TV Lethbridge


The licensee shall devote to the broadcast of Canadian programs not less than 60% of the total time devoted to broadcasting during the aggregate of the six broadcast months that make up each broadcast semester of the licence term.


The licensee shall not broadcast advertising material.


The licensee shall broadcast, at a minimum, 14 hours weekly of programming that presents differing views on religion and matters of general concern, including 4 hours weekly of such programming between 6:00 p.m. and midnight.

Date Modified: 2002-02-28

Date modified: