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CHOI-FM feels abandoned by CAB, demands response
7/19/2004

 
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CHOI-FM Sillery
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CRTC/Regulatory - Radio
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QUEBEC CITY and OTTAWA - Genex Communications, owners of CHOI-FM, the Quebec City radio station which lost its license last week, has told the Canadian Association of Broadcasters that, "You are dangerously withdrawing from your mandate."

Genex CEO Patrice Demers made public a letter which he sent to CAB president and CEO Glenn O'Farrell saying his company was left on its own to defend freedom of expression for radio in Canada and that the CAB, through its inaction on the case, can no longer claim to represent its membership.

It feels wronged by the CRTC decision to deny its license renewal, but it also says its own association did not adequately come to its defense.

"This wrongful decision will also have an impact on all Canadian broadcasters, your members, who should henceforth be concerned that the CRTC might restrain, in any way possible, their freedom of expression, their freedom of the press or any other means of communication. By what? By some commissioners who might choose to deprive them of their business. Who will be the next target? Who the CRTC would now want to muzzle? Who will be the next one sacrificed on the alter of rectitude and in the name of what? Who will unduly see his business taken away?" asks the letter.

(The letter, translated from French to English by Genex for the benefit of we in the English media, trips a bit over English syntax, but you'll get the drift. See the entire text of the letter at the end of this story.)

"Your categorical and unjustified refusal to help Genex in its battle constitutes a harsh and a deliberate omission to fulfill your mandate, which is to defend and promote the interests of all its members, and to help them increase their profits. Does the CAB refuse to defend the interests of Genex since the latter is a small local broadcasters?" queries the letter.

It also gave the CAB a deadline of 48 hours to respond and issued something of a warning to the association, saying in the closing paragraph of the letter:

"Genex is ready to conceive that the extent of this battle which will be fought in the next weeks, even the next months, is of such magnitude that it forced the CAB to take a step back in order to reflect on how it will contribute to support and help CHOI and the rest of its members. Nevertheless, your apathy cannot last forever. Genex enjoins you to stand up for them and confirm your intention by writing, in the next forty-eight (48) hours from the receipt of the following. If you fail to obey in time, Genex will pursue the battle for CHOI FM and for the interests of all your members and you apathy will be denounced on all the relevant forums," it says.

The CAB responded with a press release today saying:

"The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) will not take a position regarding the decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) (Broadcasting Decision 2004-271) to deny the application by Genex Communications inc. for the renewal of the French-language commercial radio station CHOI-FM Qu�bec.

"Historically, the CAB has refrained from taking a position in order to remain neutral on issues where CAB members have taken opposing views," said Glenn O'Farrell, CAB president and CEO, in the release. "In this particular case regarding the renewal of the licence of CHOI-FM, the positions of CAB members were diametrically opposed as is reflected in the CRTC decision issued on July 13, 2004.

"It is unfortunate that the circumstances were such that the CRTC concluded that the only course of action was to revoke a broadcasting licence," added O'Farrell. The CAB declined further comment when contacted by www.broadcastermagazine.com.

Below is the full text of the English-translated letter sent to CAB president and CEO by Genex Communications CEO Patrice Demers.

----------

Quebec City, July 17th, 2004

CANADIAN BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION
C.P. 627, Succ. B
Ottawa (Ontario)
K1P 5S2

To: Mr. Glenn O'Farrell, President

RE: Non renewal of CHOI FM licence

Mr. President,

I, the undersigned, Patrice Demers, am the president of Genex Communications Inc., the rightful holder of the broadcasting licence of the French speaking commercial radio station CHOI FM, located in Quebec City.

Following the decision of the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (hereinafter referred as: the �CRTC�) in the Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2004-271, rendered on July 13th, 2004, in which the CRTC refuses to renew the licence of CHOI FM, I am making this present request.

This decision creates a dangerous precedent, since it is the first time in Canada that the licence of a commercial radio station has not been renewed based upon the verbal content of its programs. The sanction imposed to Genex is disproportionate, excessive and unreasonable taking into account the circumstances as well as the gradation of the sanctions provided in the Broadcasting Act (hereinafter referred as: the �Act�).

In a society of law, where individual as well as collective freedoms are based upon fundamental rights and freedoms which are provided in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. One of those freedoms that means more than anything to all Canadians is the freedom of expression. It appears clearly that the Parliament never intented to give to the commissioners of the CRTC such power to restrain without any limits, without an appropriate and defined legislative structure, without a notice or in a totally excessive manner, that freedom of expression.

The consequences of this excessive decision, which evidently goes against the principles and foundations of a society as our, will reflect on all Canadians whose freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, freedom of thought and other fundamental freedoms are subjected to be restrained by some commissioners sitting out in a hearing.

This wrongful decision will also have an impact on all Canadian broadcasters, your members, who should henceforth be concerned that the CRTC might restrain, in any way possible, their freedom of expression, their freedom of the press or any other means of communication. By what? By some commissioners who might choose to deprive them of their business. Who will be the next target? Who the CRTC would now want to muzzle? Who will be the next one sacrificed on the alter of rectitude and in the name of what? Who will unduly see his business taken away?

The freedom of expression consists of not only the freedom to express freely ones ideas, but also the right to listen to the ideas expressed freely by others. Thus, it is in close correlation with the freedom of thought provided in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, it means that every citizen is free to listen to the radio station of his choice. The asaid decision precisely denies the citizen his freedom of choice and consequently denies his freedom of thought.

It is in that context that Genex requested the support of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (hereinafter referred as: the �CAB�). Genex is a registered member of that association for all its radio stations, including CHOI FM. The CAB must defend the interests of all its members. Now, you indicated us that you have no intention of fighting this worthy battle. CHOI FM's interests as well as all your other members' interests seem not be your first priority any more. We are hoping that the importance and the extent of this issue explain your shyness to take position for your members. You are dangerously withdrawing from your mandate, so therefore you cannot claim any longer your ability to represent adequatly your members.

This situation is even more disturbing for small broadcasters which need the support and the help of the CAB to be heard. How would react a member of an union before the total apathy of that union? What is the use of an association which systematically refuses to help its members regarding such a major stake?

Your categorical and unjustified refusal to help Genex in its battle constitutes a harsh and a deliberate omission to fulfill your mandate, which is to defend and promote the interests of all its members, and to help them increase their profits. Does the CAB refuse to defend the interests of Genex since the latter is a small local broadcasters?

Genex is ready to conceive that the extent of this battle which will be fought in the next weeks, even the next months, is of such magnitude that it forced the CAB to take a step back in order to reflect on how it will contribute to support and help CHOI and the rest of its members. Nevertheless, your apathy cannot last forever. Genex enjoins you to stand up for them and confirm your intention by writing, in the next forty-eight (48) hours from the receipt of the following. If you fail to obey in time, Genex will pursue the battle for CHOI FM and for the interests of all your members and you apathy will be denounced on all the relevant forums.

Sincerely yours

GENEX COMMUNICATIONS INC.

Patrice Demers
President and General Manager
 
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