CRTC orders Corus to obey OWN’s educational mandate

The Canuck regulator issued a rare mandatory order to have the broadcaster of the Canadian version of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network fall in line with the original mandate for the specialty channel, or risk losing its license.
March 15, 2013

Canadian regulator the CRTC today (March 15) told Corus Entertainment to fall in line with an educational mandate for OWN Canada, or face losing its broadcast license.

That call came via a rarely-issued mandatory order from the regulator to ensure that the Canadian version of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network complies with an original 1996 licensing mandate for Canadian Learning Television to “provide formal and informal educational programming and learning opportunities” that generally focus on adult education.

Corus subsequently rebranded CLT as Viva and then as OWN Canada, to bring Oprah Winfrey’s female-skewing network to Canada.

Corus issued a statement in the wake of the CRTC decision indicating it was “pleased” with the decision to allow OWN Canada to continue operating as a category A service. “Corus will work within the guidelines set out by the commission and will ensure that OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network (Canada) continues to provide a compelling service to its viewers,” the broadcaster said.

Corus gave no details on how it will meet the guidelines and monitoring requirements imposed on it. Today’s events follow a December 2012 hearing where Corus argued it was acting in good faith and complying with the educational mandate of OWN Canada, and the CRTC finally ruling it remains in non-compliance with the nature of service definition.

The regulator insisted Corus has had “ample time” since its license renewal in 2011 to comply, and that ignorance of OWN Canada’s educational mandate terms provided no defense. “Although Corus expressed confusion about what is meant by its requirement to offer a ‘full spectrum of basic, credit-based, skills related and life enhancing programs,’ the commission considers that its intent in this regard was clearly set out in the Corus group renewal decision,” the regulator stated.

The CRTC also denied a request from Corus to broaden its broadcast day from 18 hours to 24 hours to “result in more Canadian content,” and also denied another application for a proposed category B service to be known as OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

The regulator said it viewed non-compliance with original licensing obligations “as a very serious matter.”

It added that it would consider pulling the broadcast license for OWN Canada if the channel repeated breaches of its nature of service definition, “or any of its other regulatory requirements.”

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About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.