Specialties respond to CRTC programming mandate queries


It’s a truism in Canadian TV that specialty broadcasters will sometimes stray from their original programming mandates by rebranding before the CRTC’s gravity attempts to reel them back in.

In the TV regulator’s latest scrutiny of specialty channel programming schedules, the CRTC has questioned MTV Canada on how U.S.-originated MTV reality shows conform with its original all-talk format.

“It would appear that several of your programs are not consistent with your nature of service, such as Jersey Shore, Cribs, Downtown Girls and Teen Mom,” the regulator told MTV Canada-parent CTVglobmedia in a July 27 letter.

In similar informal query letters also issued on July 27, Rogers Media has had to explain how shows like The Office and Mantracker reflect the mandate of its computer and Internet-themed channel G4, and Canwest Broadcasting has been asked how airing Project Runway Canada and Last 10 Pounds Boot Camp on TVTropolis is fitting for a specialty channel originally licensed for over-50 year-old viewers.

Each broadcaster offered a robust defense of their specialty programming mandates via written responses to the CRTC.

Kevin Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTVglobemedia, in an Aug. 27 letter to the regulator said the MTV series Jersey Shore is characterized by “unscripted forms of conversation.”

He added that the popular cable reality series “documents the private discussions of a group of young New Jersey residents as they navigate issues affecting their lives, including, but not limited to, dating, careers and parties.”

Over at Canwest Global, Charlotte Bell, senior vice president of regulatory and government affairs, sprang to the defense of Project Runway Canada and Last 10 Pounds Boot Camp by pointing to BBM Canada PPM data that indicated significant audiences for both series among over-50 year-old viewers.

“Despite appearances, it is difficult to look at individual titles and simply conclude that a certain show does not belong on a given service. Underlying audience data may be very different than first supposed and there are always contextual factors to consider,” Bell told the regulator.

And Susan Wheeler, vice president of regulatory, media for Rogers Media, in an August 18 written response to the CRTC, said G4 has had to evolve beyond its original programming mandate after the 1990s dot.com boom went bust and young Canadians in recent years have become less in awe of the Internet and digital technology.

“People are a lot more ‘tech-savvy’ and the Internet has lost its original allure. As a result, audiences are less interested in programming niches like technology business news or ‘tech-ed’ segments,” Wheeler argued.

So Rogers Media has built G4’s audience with programming more varied, and so of greater interest to ‘e-generation’ viewers than the specialty’s original mandate allowed.

“However, in building our schedule we recognize that there are certain shows that fall directly and squarely within G4’s nature of service and that other programs such as The Office only do so in a more indirect way,” Wheeler conceded.

The CRTC’s informal programming mandate query comes ahead of upcoming license renewal hearings.

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