Canada's largest media union says the CRTC is eroding its parliamentary obligation to serve the public interest and consequently is forced to take a critical CRTC broadcasting decision to federal court.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) has filed an application for leave to appeal a CRTC decision denying CEP's request for a public hearing into restructuring plans announced by Canwest Media Inc. last October. Canwest is moving control and production of its television stations' local newscasts to four broadcast centres, laying off two hundred people in the process.
"Canwest is changing the face of Canadian broadcasting by introducing central casting, where each local television station's local newscast is produced, packaged, assembled and transmitted from one of four broadcast centres," said CEP Vice-President, Media, Peter Murdoch. "Programming from its Halifax station will actually come from Vancouver. If central casting becomes the norm because of the savings it brings broadcasters, Canadians will be left with a very different broadcasting system, one without truly local newscasts. As well, hundreds of jobs will be lost."
CEP sent a detailed complaint about Canwest's plans to the CRTC last November. In February, the CRTC dismissed CEP's complaint, stating that Canwest's stations had complied with their licence terms from 2006 to August 2007, and that the CRTC could, if necessary, assess Canwest's plans sometime in 2009 when Canwest's licences come up for renewal. Canwest's first Broadcast Centre begins operating this spring, and all will be in operation by early next year.
"By failing to inquire into the nature and consequences of central casting now, we believe the CRTC is in breach of its duty to supervise and enforce Canada's broadcasting legislation," said Murdoch.
"The CRTC has for years been deregulating to serve private broadcasters' financial interests," said Murdoch. "But when it comes to enforcing the rules in the public interest, the Commission refuses to act. CEP believes the central casting model poses real risks to the system and should not be adopted without proper regulatory scrutiny."
CEP is one of Canada's largest unions, with more than 150,000 members in Canadian broadcasting, telecommunications, energy, print and forestry companies. CEP is also Canada's largest union of media workers, with over 25,000 members who work at major Canadian radio and television stations, specialty programming services and print media across the country.
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