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CAB supports Commission's rights in CHOI case

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CHOI-FM Sillery
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OTTAWA - The Canadian Association of Broadcasters has filed a motion to intervene in the CRTC/CHOI-FM court case.

On Friday, the CAB went to the Federal Court of Appeal asking for leave to intervene in the case of Genex Communications Inc. (owners of CHOI-FM) and the Attorney General of Canada and the CRTC, but not really to take sides.

In case you've been living on a media-free deserted island for the past few months, at issue is the CRTC's decision not to renew the radio station's license due to dozens of complaints made by listeners over rather objectionable content. The station had been warned on many occasions by the Commission to clean up its act and had its last license renewal shortened as punishment, but the content didn't change and commissioners declined to renew its license this summer.

CHOI has appealed the decision to the Federal Court.

That led to a torrent of publicity, protests, editorials and then promises by CHOI to clean up its act, for real this time. CHOI is being permitted to broadcast past its license expiry date of August 31, 2004, pending the outcome of its appeal of the CRTC decision.

"The CAB has asked the court for an opportunity to make submissions on the issue of the CRTC's jurisdiction to regulate broadcast content," said Glenn O'Farrell, president and CEO of the CAB. "The CAB takes no position on the specifics relating to the CRTC decision with regard to CHOI-FM."

"If the court grants the CAB intervener status, a submission would be made to demonstrate that the CAB has a long and consistent tradition of supporting the CRTC jurisdiction over broadcasting. Parliament has stated that the Canadian broadcasting system is "a single system", and that the objectives of the broadcasting policy for Canada, including that related to high standards of programming, "can best be achieved by providing for the regulation and supervision of the Canadian broadcasting system by a single independent public authority" [Section 3(21) of the Broadcasting Act]," says today's CAB press release.

"Private broadcasters, represented by the CAB, are accountable to that single authority and have a direct interest in the extent of its powers. As far back as 1982, the CAB adopted a code of ethics, and was a founding member of the Canadian Broadcast Standard Council (CBSC), launched in 1990, to serve as a self-regulatory mechanism for dealing with audience complaints. This is an important element of the broadcasting regulatory environment."

"While the CAB and our members do not always agree with every CRTC decision, it is our view that the integrity of the broadcasting system and the protection of the public interest are best served by a single, central, expert body complemented by a self-regulatory agency, to regulate the broadcasting system," added O'Farrell.

"The CAB supports the framework of the Broadcasting Act, the principles of broadcasting policy reflected in section 3 of the Act, and the jurisdiction of the CRTC to supervise the system.

"Private broadcasters across Canada have an interest in the outcome of this case," added O'Farrell. "The CRTC's powers apply to the broadcast industry as a whole, and the result of the challenge to these powers will have repercussions for each Canadian radio and television station, and specialty, pay, and pay-per-view service."
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