Ottawa won't overturn CRTC ruling allowing Oprah network to broadcast in Canada

The Canadian Press
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Oprah is here to stay on Canadian TV

Oprah is here to stay.

The federal Liberal cabinet has sided with the country's broadcast regulator to allow the Oprah Winfrey Network to continue broadcasting in Canada, a decision that could have far-reaching implications for television stations and content producers struggling to survive an ever-changing media landscape.

The order in council, issued Tuesday, comes as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission holds hearings on the future of local TV.

The ruling upheld a 2015 CRTC decision that allowed Corus Entertainment Inc. to amend its broadcasting licence so it could keep airing programming from U.S.-based OWN Inc.

In the wake of that decision, a group representing Canadian TV producers petitioned the government, accusing the CRTC of abandoning critical safeguards designed to protect independent producers in their dealings with the country's largest private broadcasters.

Without those so-called “terms of trade” safeguards in place, thousands of jobs are now at risk, warns the Canadian Media Production Association.

“Hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses across the country are put in jeopardy if there is no reversal of this decision,” says association president and CEO Reynolds Mastin.

“You could see, over time, the evisceration of an entire industry ... without some kind of competitive safeguard.”

Making Canada's media concentration problem even worse, said Mastin, was the announcement last week of Corus's plan to buy Shaw Media Inc. from Shaw Communications Inc.

The CRTC imposed terms of trade in 2011 as a way to balance the bargaining power between content producers and the big broadcasters and media conglomerates that distribute content.

But starting April 29, companies including Corus, Shaw, BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc., can apply to have the terms removed from their licences, giving them leverage to negotiate favourable deals with content producers.

Corus launched a Canadian version of OWN in March 2011 as a rebranding of its female-focused entertainment and lifestyle channel, known as Viva, which itself was a rebrand of Canadian Learning Television, CLT, a channel the company acquired in a 2008 deal with CTVglobemedia.

“Hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses across the country are put in jeopardy if there is no reversal of this decision,” Reynolds Mastin

In the spring of 2013, the CRTC threatened to revoke OWN's broadcasting licence for failing to comply with its mandate to air formal education programming - a holdover from its days under the Canadian Learning Television banner.

The regulator had argued that while Oprah Winfrey may have taught her viewers the importance of self-esteem and the value of a good book, the network's programming didn't live up to Canadian educational content standards in place at the time.

But last October, the CRTC lifted the requirement to air adult education programming as part of broader regulatory changes stemming from the agency's Let's Talk TV hearings.

The CRTC welcomed Tuesday's decision, suggesting it was confident the government would uphold other moves designed to ensure Canadian television “adapts to the technological realities of the future and the changing habits of Canadians.”

“The CRTC is confident that content made by Canadians can compete with the best in the world,” the regulator said in a statement.

Advocates for local TV have warned the CRTC that nearly half of the independent stations across the country could cease to exist within the next four years as a result of declining advertising and other revenues.

A study provided to the regulator by the group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting said recent changes to CRTC regulations, such as the unbundling of TV packages under so-called “pick-and-pay” rules, will cause revenues to drop even further.

Effective March 1, cable and satellite TV service providers will be required to offer customers a small basic service, capped at $25 a month, along with a menu of a la carte channels and any bundles of TV programming they have on offer.


Organizations: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Corus Entertainment Inc., Canadian Media Production Association Shaw Media Shaw Communications Inc. BCE Inc. Rogers Communications Inc. CTVglobemedia Canadian Broadcasting

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa, U.S.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Kevin
    February 11, 2016 - 18:41

    More junk from Jan and Kees for the many colonial minded Canadians.

  • Hate TV
    January 28, 2016 - 13:07


  • Palladini
    January 28, 2016 - 10:19

    I have KODI running on a computer, which is hooked to my HD TV. We have an Antenna on the roof, which gives me local news. I watch NASCAR, and since there is so little coverage in Canada is why I have no cable or Satellite feed into this house, because we cannot get Fox Sports or NBC sports in Canada, but I can watch those channels live on KODI. I do not care for or watch any other sport broadcast, I stopped watching unionized sports back when the Baseball folks went on strike back in the early 90s

  • Everyone in canada
    January 28, 2016 - 10:03

    No one wants the CRTC to control programming. Just cost control. They force awful programming and simply do not do their job. They haven't been even been able to force CBC to regulate their audio between commercials and programming, and don't get me started on the tax money wasted CBC programming. Really - another Anne of Brown Gables. The programming ideas are as old as the genre they depict. AWFUL