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Ottawa, 7 December 2007
Sent by Fax: 613-234-2997
Mr. Michael Ferras
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs
Shaw Communications Inc.
440 Laurier Ave W. # 330
Ottawa, ON K1R 7X6
Dear Mr. Ferras,
Re: Second complaint of non-compliance with section 27(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Distribution (BDU) Regulations: sponsorship messages on cable community channels – Shaw Communications Inc.
This is further to a second complaint by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), dated 6 June 2007, regarding the airing of sponsorship messages on a number of cable community channels distributed by Shaw Communications Inc. (Shaw).
A previous complaint on the same subject was submitted by the CAB in November 2005 and the Commission determined in May 2006 that the sponsorship messages in question were in breach of the relevant provisions of the BDU Regulations, directed Shaw to rectify the situation immediately, and to advise the Commission as to what measures had been taken to ensure its compliance in this area.
The CAB submits that Shaw is disregarding the Commission’s policy on community channel sponsorship messages, as well as the Commission’s specific findings of May 2006 in response to its previous complaint.
In Policy framework for community-based media, Public Notice CRTC 2002-61, 10 October 2002 (the 2002 community policy), the Commission reaffirmed its 1991 policy that the role of the community channel should be primarily of a public service nature, facilitating self-expression through free and open access by members of the community. The Commission also stated that it continued to be of the view that the public service orientation of the community channel could best be achieved through stable funding provided by cable licensees, with limited reliance on advertising revenues.
In light of these objectives, the Commission determined that community channels would continue to be limited to sponsorship advertising and that:
Such messages, contained in community programs, may consist of oral or written acknowledgements, including a moving visual presentation of no more than 15 seconds. Where a person provides direct financial assistance for the community programming in which an acknowledgement is contained, the acknowledgement shall mention no more than:
- the name of the person, their address and telephone number; and
- a description of the goods, services or activities that are being sold or promoted by the person.
Accordingly, Section 27(1)(h) of the BDU Regulations was amended to provide as follows:
27. (1) If a licensee elects to distribute community programming under paragraph 19 (f), except
as otherwise provided in subsections (2) and (3) or under a condition of its licence, a licensee shall not distribute on
the community channel in a licensed area any programming service other than
(h) an oral or written acknowledgement, that may include a moving visual presentation of no more than 15 seconds per message, contained in community programming that mentions no more than the name of a person, a description of the goods, services or activities that are being sold or promoted by the person, and their address and telephone number, if the person provided direct financial assistance for the community programming in which the acknowledgement is contained;…(emphasis added)
Description vs Promotion
As stated in the findings of the previous complaint by the CAB, the key to determining Shaw’s compliance with Section 27(1)(h) of the BDU Regulations would appear to lie in the interpretation of the phrase “a description of the goods, services or activities”.
Circular 348 provides guidance on the interpretation of this provision, stating that “Words that promote goods or services are not acceptable” and that “Company slogans (or jingles) are not permitted in credit, sponsorship or contra messages, as they usually relate to reasons for buying the product, rather than to the types of goods, services or activities offered by the sponsor of the program”.
After reviewing the sponsorship messages in question, the Commission concurs with the CAB that a number of the messages clearly do not comply with Section 27(1)(h) of the regulations.
- they contain words that mention more than a description of the goods, services or activities being sold;
- they promote goods or services; and
- they relate to reasons for buying the product, rather than to the types of goods, services or activities offered by the sponsor of the program.
For example, the Calgary Suzuki advertisement includes the phrase:
“No matter where you’re going, the journey’s a lot more fun in your new Suzuki Swift. It’s easy to drive and designed to turn heads. Calgary Suzuki – make the smart move”
This text contains words that promote, rather than simply describe, goods or services being sold and words that create a favourable image of the sponsor.
Similarly, the Saskatoon Credit Union advertisement includes language that promotes goods and services and is related to reasons for buying the product, rather than to the types of goods, services or activities offered:
”Money can’t buy happiness, let’s just shoot for rich and content… Investments made easy – Saskatoon Credit Union.”
Another example, the Boston Pizza advertisement, also contains words that promote, rather than simply describe, goods or services being sold and words that create a favourable image of the sponsor:
A father with two children in a store with a llama and other exotic animals: Hey guys, pick whatever you want. [Buzzer sounds with large “X” superimposed on screen] Father with two children in Boston Pizza: Hey guys, pick whatever you want. [Chime sounds with large check mark superimposed on screen] Voiceover: It ’s not wrong, if you’re in the right place. Boston Pizza - you’re among friends.
In view of the Commission’s determination that a number of the sponsorship messages contain more than a description of the sponsors’ goods or services contrary to Section 27(1)(h) of the regulations, the Commission finds Shaw in breach of the BDU Regulations, and hereby directs you to rectify this situation immediately.
Since this constitutes the second case of non-compliance in this regard, the Commission further directs Shaw to file monthly reports, confirming compliance with Section 27 of the BDU Regulations, for the duration of the current licence term.
Please be advised that this repeated non-compliance will be further examined in the context of your licence renewals, including the possibility of being dealt with at an appearing public hearing.
A copy of this letter and all relevant correspondence will be placed on the licensee’s public file.
Please quote Case # 348491 in any subsequent correspondence to the Commission on this matter.
Robert A. Morin
cc. Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB)
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