Unifor, the union representing staff at most of Canada’s private television stations, applauded today’s decision by the CRTC to call the five OMNI TV stations licensed to Rogers Broadcasting Ltd to an early public hearing to account for deep cuts to OMNI’s ethnic programming announced in late May 2013.
Between April 2012 and May 2013 Rogers cancelled 25 ethnic news and information programs, representing 31.5 hours of first-run programming, and laid off more than 60 staff from the OMNI stations, including reporters and program hosts, many of whom are represented by Unifor, Canada’s newest union.
The CRTC ruled however that Rogers’ programming cuts to Chinese, Polish, Punjabi, Tamil, Italian, Portuguese and other ethnic local shows did not technically violate minimum license requirements at the five OMNI stations in Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary.
However the CRTC immediately cut short these licenses due to expire in August 2015 by one year and in a public hearing will force Rogers to address the Commission’s “concerns” at the “apparent lack of local programming on some of the OMNI television stations.” The early license renewal for the OMNI stations will be folded into Rogers’ group license renewal for its national chain of City TV stations next August.
“Thanks to Unifor and all the community interveners raising this issue,” said Howard Law, Unifor’s Media Sector Director. “Rogers is now on the spot. Rogers will obviously have to deliver better and binding commitments to local programming at the OMNI stations if it wants to get its City TV licenses renewed.”
In its ruling the CRTC expressed frustration at not being able to tell from Rogers’ programming logs how much was original broadcasting, and how much was just repeats. It noted however that the current OMNI terms of license on minimum local programming included repeats in the stations’ quotas.
But the Commission also noted that Rogers might be violating the CRTC Ethnic Broadcasting policy on the level of local programming, even if it was meeting its minimum license requirements.
Unifor was formed Labour Day weekend with the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. It represents more than 300,000 workers across Canada, including representing 15,000 employees in broadcasting and other media industries.
The CRTC decision 2013-657 can be accessed on-line at: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/whatsnew.htm