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ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 97-294

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Decision

Ottawa, 4 July 1997
Decision CRTC 97-294
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Montréal, Quebec - 199616505
Approval of application to convert CBM Montréal to FM
1.  Following a Public Hearing in Montréal beginning on 24 February 1997, the Commission approves the application by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to carry on an English-language FM radio programming undertaking in Montréal on the frequency 88.5 MHz, channel 203B, with an effective radiated power of 4,040 watts.
2.  The applicant currently operates the AM radio programming undertaking CBM Montréal; this application was filed with a view to converting the station to FM. The Commission notes that the Promise of Performance of the new FM station is identical in all respects to that of CBM.
3.  Subject to the requirements of this decision, the Commission will issue a licence expiring 31 August 2001, subject to the conditions specified in this decision and in the licence to be issued.
4.  The licence term granted herein, while less than the maximum of seven years permitted under the Broadcasting Act (the Act), will enable the Commission to consider the renewal of this licence in accordance with the Commission's regional plan for CBC radio programming undertakings.
5.  The Commission examined the CBC's application in the context of the guidelines set out for the first time in 1983 and reiterated in Public Notice CRTC 1991-102 entitled Review of CBC Long Range Radio Plan. In that notice, the Commission concluded that the Corporation's basic radio service should continue to be delivered on the AM band wherever possible, including large cities like Montréal and areas where FM frequencies are in short supply. With regard to replacement of the Corporation's AM transmitters by FM, the Commission indicated it would be prepared to consider such applications on a case-by-case basis. The Commission also set out the criteria it would use to assess such applications, these being the existence of poor night-time coverage and where replacement would result in a significant improvement in service, as well as where coverage deficiencies could not be corrected by other means.
6.  At the public hearing, the CBC stated that one of the key elements of its future strategy is to transfer its English-language Radio (AM) service offered at Montréal from the AM band to the FM band, in order to reach all listeners, wherever they may be, by the best available means at the lowest cost. In this regard, iIt cited subparagraph 3(1)(m)(vii) of the Act, which states that "the programming provided by the Corporation should be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose".
7.  At the public hearing, the CBC stated: "... we are not proposing to abandon the AM band. We are making a small number of specific applications on a case-by-case basis where we cannot deliver our mandate on AM any longer". The CBC's argument is essentially that, given the current state of radio in Montréal, the AM band is no longer the most appropriate or efficient means of delivering its public broadcasting service to the population. Based on its own analyses of the situation as well as BBM data, the CBC noted in this regard that half of the population in the Montréal market under the age of 50, and between 70% and 80% of the population under 35 years never listen to AM. In the circumstances, the CBC is concerned about the future of public radio because of the great difficulty it will face not only in maintaining its listeners, but especially in renewing its audience in the coming years. It, therefore, would like to take advantage of the technical possibilities of FM to make its AM service available to the broadest possible audience in this market.
8.  The CBC also mentioned the listening problems inherent in the AM frequency, pointing out that one CBM listener in four experiences difficulties receiving the signal, particularly in downtown Montréal. The CBC further submitted that digital radio, which should be introduced in Montréal by the end of 1997 and is expected eventually to replace existing analog radio services, will not be available to the public at large for another 10 to 20 years. It argued that it must, therefore, continue to deliver its programming via analog broadcast during the transition period. In support of its application, the CBC also noted that since its English-language AM radio service is a non-commercial service, transferring this service to the FM band will in no way affect the advertising base of the other Montréal broadcasters. The CBC added that the Official Languages Act requires it to provide listeners with equivalent levels of service in the two official languages.
9.  Having weighed all of the available evidence, a majority of the Commission has determined that the use of the frequency 88.5 MHz will lead to a significant improvement in the service offered by the CBC to Montréal's English-language population and that it is in the public interest. Accordingly, the Commission considers an exception to its policy on conversion to the FM band of the CBC English-language Radio (AM) service broadcast by CBM Montréal is justified in the circumstances.
10.  The Commission considers that adding the CBC English-language Radio (AM) network service to the FM band will bring new diversity to the broadcasting services already offered on this band in Montréal and that this approval is also likely to make a potential new audience more readily available to the CBC, particularly among young people, who listen more to the FM band. The Commission also took into account the special role played by the CBC in the Canadian broadcasting system and its special obligations under the Act, according to which, as a national public broadcaster, the CBC must, in particular, provide a radio service that is made available to the greatest possible number of Canadians. The Commission also notes that the frequency to be used by this station is a non-commercial educational frequency selected from among the remaining frequencies available in the Cornwall market.
11.  When asked at the public hearing about its current and proposed signal coverage areas, the CBC indicated that there will be no loss of signal for its audience. It indicated that listeners will be able to receive its signal from Montréal or from its other transmitters which basically rebroadcast the same programming. The Commission further notes that the CBC committed to make the necessary corrections if its signal is deficient in certain areas, either by modifying the radiation pattern or installing additional transmitters.
12.  The CBC has also indicated that it intends to shut down its AM transmitter within six months of the date on which the new transmitter becomes operational. During this six-month transition period, the CBC will simulcast CBM's programming on the new FM station and on the AM band. The Commission expects the CBC to cease the operation of CBM within this time frame and to inform listeners during this period of the changes herein approved.
13.  It is a condition of licence that the Corporation not broadcast any commercial message of Category 5 (Advertising) except:
a)  during programs that are available to the licensee only on a sponsored basis, or
b)  as required to fulfil the requirements of the legislation of the Parliament of Canada pertaining to elections, or
c)  in communities where there is no other programming undertaking broadcasting in the same language.
14.  It is a condition of licence that 50% or more of the category 2 music selections broadcast each broadcast week be Canadian and that these selections be scheduled in a reasonable manner throughout the broadcast day.
15.  It is a condition of licence that 20% or more of the category 3 music selections broadcast each broadcast week be Canadian.
16.  It is a condition of licence that the licensee adhere to its self-regulatory guidelines on sex-role portrayal as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission and, as a minimum, to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Sex-Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming, as amended from time to time and approved by the Commission.
17.  The Commission notes that this licensee is subject to the Employment Equity Act that came into effect on 24 October 1996 (1996 EEA), and therefore files reports concerning employment equity with Human Resources Development Canada. As a result of a consequential amendment to the Act, the Commission no longer has the authority to apply its employment equity policy to any undertaking that is subject to the 1996 EEA.
18.  This authority will only be effective and the licence will only be issued at such time as construction of the undertaking is completed and it is prepared to commence operation. If the construction is not completed within twelve months of the date of this decision or, where the applicant applies to the Commission within this period and satisfies the Commission that it cannot complete construction and commence operation before the expiry of this period, and that an extension of time is in the public interest, within such further periods of time as are approved in writing by the Commission, the licence will not be issued. The applicant is required to advise the Commission (before the expiry of the twelve-month period or any extension thereof) in writing, once it has completed construction and is prepared to commence operation.
19.  The Department of Industry has advised the Commission that this application is conditionally technically acceptable, and that a Broadcasting Certificate will only be issued once it has been determined that the proposed technical parameters will not create any unacceptable interference with aeronautical NAV/COM services.
20.  In accordance with subsection 22(1) of the Broadcasting Act, the Commission will only issue the licence and the authority will only be granted at such time as written notification is received from the Department of Industry that its technical requirements have been met, and that a Broadcasting Certificate will be issued.
21.  The Commission acknowledges the interventions submitted in regard of this application.
This decision is to be appended to the licence.
Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
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