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ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 99-70

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Decision

Ottawa, 25 March 1999
Decision CRTC 99-70
CTEQ Télévision inc.
Montréal, Quebec - 199806106 - 199806098
Applications processed by
Public Notice CRTC 1998-112-1
dated 30 October 1998
Summary
The Commission approves the application (199806106) for authority to effect a change in the ownership of 2922045 Canada inc., the company that controls CTEQ Télévision inc. (CTEQ), licensee of the multilingual television programming undertaking CJNT-TV Montréal, through the transfer of the 5,000 voting shares held by Marie Griffiths in 2922045 Canada inc. (45 Canada) to CF Television Inc. (CF Television).
The Commission notes that a question as to the ownership of the shares in 45 Canada not owned by Marie Griffiths and the ownership of CTEQ is currently the subject matter of litigation. The outcome of this litigation could affect the effective control of CJNT-TV.
CTEQ also applied for authority to make a number of changes in the programming of CJNT-TV. One of these changes is a decrease in the level of ethnic programming from 100% to 60%. The programming changes were the subject of a number of opposing interventions.
Until the matter of the ownership and control of CTEQ and 45 Canada has been resolved, the Commission is not prepared to rule on the programming component of the application (199806098). Once the question of ownership and control is resolved, the Commission intends to consider the application for programming amendments at an oral public hearing. This will allow for an in-depth discussion of the possible impact that the proposed programming changes might have on the licensee and on the Montréal television market.
Discussion and interventions
1. CF Television, on behalf of CTEQ, filed applications to effect ownership and programming changes at CTEQ, licensee of CJNT-TV, the multilingual ethnic television station in Montréal. CF Television requested authority to acquire the 5,000 common shares of 45 Canada owned by Marie Griffiths.
2. In addition to the ownership change, CF Television requested authority to effect a number of changes to CJNT-TV's programming. Specifically, it requested a reduction from 100% to 60% in the level of ethnic programming broadcast by CJNT-TV. The remaining 40% would be made up of non-ethnic English-language programming. In addition, CF Television requested that CJNT-TV's broadcast day be amended so that it would run from 6 a.m. to midnight, instead of the currently authorized 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. the following day. Finally, CF Television requested that, in the areas of non-Canadian non-ethnic English-language programming, ethnic programming and Canadian programming, it be given conditions of licence similar to those imposed on CFMT-TV, Toronto's ethnic station.
3. The Commission issued Public Notices CRTC 1998-112 and 1998-112-1 inviting comments on the ownership and programming changes proposed by CF Television.
4. The Commission received a total of 26 interventions. Three interventions, including a petition of 52 signatories, from a number of individuals and producers of ethnic programming were received in support of the applications. The remaining 23 interventions opposed the applications.
5. A large number of opposing interventions raised concerns on matters of programming, access and ownership.
Programming issues
6. Interveners expressed concern about any reduction in the percentage of ethnic programming on CJNT-TV. Ethnic communities in Montréal, expressed the view that they are already underserved and would not be served by an increase in English-language programming, particularly U.S. programming, which is already widely available on other stations.
7. Some interveners also pointed out that a number of ethnic communities tend to speak French rather than English as a second language. If a reduction in ethnic programming were contemplated, they argued that it would be more appropriate to provide some non-ethnic programming in French.
Access by independent producers
8. Independent producers of ethnic programming co-operating under the name Télévision ethnique du Québec (TEQ) submitted interventions wherein they stated that CJNT-TV is purchasing programming from other sources and that access is being denied to many local producers. In particular, many ethnic producers have been denied access by the introduction of a new technical standard at CJNT-TV. These producers have been unable to meet the expenses associated with the new format and as a result, some 20 ethnic communities no longer have access to any ethnic television programming in Montréal.
9. Interveners also reacted negatively to scheduling changes that would remove ethnic programming from prime time. The applicant proposed to broadcast four hours of English-language programming in the period from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.
Impact of changes on the Montréal television market
10. Approval of the English-language component of the application would introduce a fourth English-language television presence in the Montréal market in prime time. Some interveners felt that this would have a negative impact on English and French television stations as well as on other players in the market, including radio stations.
Ownership concerns
11. An intervention by Remstar Télévision internationale R.T.I. inc. (Remstar) indicated that litigation involving the ownership of the shares not owned by Marie Griffiths in 45 Canada, and the ownership and control of CTEQ, is presently before the Quebec Superior Court. Remstar requested that the Commission stay consideration of the applications.
CTEQ's reply
12. CTEQ replied that the ownership of the shares held by Marie Griffiths has never been contested by the parties involved in the litigation and is not included in that litigation. Therefore, the Commission could proceed with the application to transfer the ownership of those shares.
13. With respect to the programming changes proposed, CTEQ expressed the view that the amount of third-language programming would actually increase because the hours of operation of the station would increase by 24 hours per week. While the level of ethnic programming would be reduced from 100% to 60%, the overall hours of original ethnic programming would increase from 42.5 hours per week to 61 hours per week. This increase would generate additional multilingual program production in Montréal, thereby providing more opportunities for ethnic-language hosts, journalists and producers.
14. The applicant indicated that the addition of syndicated U.S. programming already available in the market would provide a measure of financial stability without disrupting the existing television markets, whether English or French. If simulcast, such programs would provide advertising revenues that would support the production of ethnic programming and repatriate viewers of U.S. border stations.
15. CTEQ indicated that, with the relatively limited market available to CJNT-TV, it did not wish to compete with French-language undertakings either for programming content or advertising dollars. In CTEQ's view, there would be more potential harm if CJNT-TV were to devote any portion of its schedule to French-language programming than if it were to offer English-language and U.S. programming, as proposed.
16. In the matter of access, the applicant stated that all TEQ producers were given an opportunity to participate in CJNT-TV when it was licensed, either by providing their own programming or being invited to host programs in respect of which all production costs would be paid by CTEQ. Twenty-two TEQ producers are thus actively involved in program production for CJNT-TV.
17. CTEQ pointed out that it is currently required, by condition of licence, to provide service to not fewer than 25 distinct ethnic groups in not fewer than 25 different languages. It has attempted to accommodate requests for more access, but it stated that there is a finite amount of airtime to be shared among the various ethnic communities. CTEQ also stated that, for the most part, its schedule has been representative of the relative size of the various ethnic communities in Montréal, based on Statistics Canada information.
The Commission's decision
18. The Commission notes that a question as to the ownership of the shares in 45 Canada not owned by Marie Griffiths and the ownership of CTEQ is currently the subject matter of litigation. The outcome of this litigation could affect the effective control of CJNT-TV.
19. On the other hand, the Commission notes that the ownership of the 5,000 shares held by Marie Griffiths has not been contested by the parties involved in the litigation. Accordingly, the Commission approves the application for authority to transfer 5,000 voting shares held by Marie Griffiths in 45 Canada to CF Television (application 199806106).
20. In approving this transfer of shares, the Commission is not making a determination on the issue of control of CJNT-TV. It notes however the possibility that a change in control will occur upon resolution of the litigation. In that case, the Commission will expect an application for authority to effect this change to be filed without delay.
21. With respect to the application to amend the licence for CJNT-TV by making various programming changes, the Commission notes the litigation surrounding the ownership of CTEQ and therefore its effective control, the number of interventions and the uncertainty surrounding the impact of the proposed changes on the Montréal television market. For these reasons, the Commission is of the opinion that it would be inappropriate at this time, to rule on the programming changes.
22. However, as soon as the litigation has been resolved and the control of CJNT-TV ascertained, the Commission intends to schedule the application proposing programming changes (199806098) for consideration at an oral public hearing in order to fully discuss the possible impact that the proposed programming changes might have on the licensee and on the Montréal television market.
Related CRTC documents
. Decision 95-569: Licensing of CJNT-TV
. Public Notices 1998-112 and 1998-112-1: CTEQ applications
. Decision 92-141: Renewal of CFMT-TV Toronto
. Review of the Broadcasting Policy Reflecting Canada's Linguistic and Cultural Diversity - Call
for Comments
: Public Notice 1998-135
Secretary General
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: www.crtc.gc.ca