Cabinet to consider Torstar appeal of CRTC decision


Kitchener, Ont. - The federal cabinet will formally consider appeals of a decision that denied a bid by Torstar Corp. to establish new television stations in Kitchener, Ont., Hamilton and Toronto.

``There is an appeal. It's official,'' Denis Carmel, a spokesman for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, said Tuesday.

The appeal was triggered by what are technically called ``petitions'' to cabinet from Liberal caucus chairman Stan Keyes,
the member for Hamilton West, and independent television producer Alan Aylward, also of Hamilton.

They are strongly in support of the Torstar application, largely because of its commitment to 118 hours weekly of local and regional programming.

In interviews this week, both Aylward and an assistant to Keyes were unsure whether their letters asking cabinet to review a decision by the CRTC to deny the Torstar bid were sufficient to instigate a formal appeal.

But Carmel said the Broadcasting Act allows any member of the public to file a petition and ``the minute they send a letter
invoking sections of the (Broadcasting) Act, it means an appeal process has been launched.''

None of the five original applicants has yet filed an appeal but they have until next Thursday to do so.

``Our position remains that we are seriously considering our options but we have not announced whether we are going to appeal or not,'' said Catherine Yates, a spokeswoman for Torstar, which owns five southern Ontario daily newspapers.

In a 3-2 split decision on April 8, the CRTC awarded two licences for Toronto stations one to Craig Broadcasting of Calgary and the
other to Rogers Media of Toronto. The two dissenting commissioners, along with CRTC staff, favoured the Torstar application.

Len Westerberg, a spokesman for the Department of Canadian Heritage, said Tuesday that the appeals to cabinet will be forwarded to Heritage Minister Sheila Copps ``and then the minister will take it to cabinet.''

Cabinet has 45 days from next Thursday to deal with any appeals.

It can deny them, quash the CRTC decision or send it back to the commission for reconsideration.

In the latter case, the CRTC would hold another hearing, likely with a new set of commissioners, who could either uphold the
original decision, amend it or rescind it.

If rescinded, Carmel said the process is ``back to square one.''

Torstar's proposal involves separate TV stations with their own, independent editorial staff in each of the three markets serving the
Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo areas.

The Global Television Network was the only other applicant proposing separate stations with their own staff in each of the
three markets. But its local and regional programming would have been more limited, at 30 hours weekly, and it would not include
local news.

The winning Rogers bid calls for a new ethnic channel to be called CFMT Too, a sister station to the company's current UHF
multicultural channel.

The Craig application is for Toronto One, an English-language service with a rebroadcasting transmitter in the Hamilton area.

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