Last month, when CHUM axed local newscasts across the country -- killing nearly 300 jobs -- it went in default of its conditions of licence. At least that's what the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) charges. (Boldface is mine.)
Chum Limited is in violation of its TV station licences and the CRTC should call an inquiry into the issue and require that the broadcaster fulfill its licence obligations and commitments, says Canada's largest media union.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada has filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio/Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in which it is asking the CRTC to declare CHUM Limited in violation of its TV station licenses as a result of recent program cancellations at various stations across the country.
"The dramatic reductions in local programming run counter to explicit commitments made by CHUM to the CRTC. The cuts also have the effect of reducing local content to such a level that at some locations, CHUM is no longer in compliance with its conditions of license," a CEP complaint filed with the CRTC states.
Stations most dramatically affected by the cuts, mainly in local news coverage, include A-Channel Ottawa; A-Channel Victoria; CityTV Calgary; CityTV Edmonton; CityTV Vancouver; and, CityTV Winnipeg. Local news coverage, the complaint adds, has also suffered at the A-Channel in Barrie, Ontario.
Recall that the news cuts came on the same day of the announcement that CHUM was being sold to Bell Globemedia for $1.4 billion. At the time, CHUM CEO Jay Switzer insisted -- and I still believe him -- that the job cuts had nothing to do with the sale, and that they had been in the works for 9 months.
Still, they were draconian and, in some cases, eviscerated local operations.
I haven't had a chance to study the licences of all the relevant stations but I have looked at this, the 2004 CRTC decision which awarded CHUM the Craig group of stations, which included some of the operations hard hit by the cuts. Boldface, again, is mine.
13. CHUM stated that it would increase the quality and extent of coverage of local news and other events for the newly acquired stations in Alberta and Manitoba. CHUM added that it would bring its "street-front/store-front" style of television to as wide an audience as possible by establishing storefront bureaus in Red Deer and Lethbridge, Alberta. CHUM submitted that these bureaus would help ensure that viewers in rural areas are reflected in the local programming broadcast on the Edmonton and Calgary stations.
14. CHUM anticipated that at least a half-hour per week of programming would come from each of the storefront bureaus. This programming would highlight and showcase the opinions and events in the more rural areas of Alberta, where a significant proportion of the audiences for the Edmonton and Calgary stations resides.
Seems like a slam dunk for the CEP, right?
But will the CRTC let CHUM and, by extension, Bell Globemedia get away with it it?
H/t to Carla.