CRTC should demand public accountability from broadcasters

    OTTAWA, April 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadians should be alarmed at the CRTC
hearing now underway about their broadcasting system, and must hope that
Parliament intervenes, says Canada's largest media union.
    "As Stephen Harper's CRTC gets ready to re-license major broadcasters, it
has not demanded public accountability. Communities across Canada are losing
their television stations and the only explanation they are getting is a
well-rehearsed chorus of 'times are tough'," says Peter Murdoch,
Vice-President Media for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
    "Doesn't it raise any questions when the billion-dollar media empires
that the CRTC created just in the last few years precisely because bigger
companies would protect smaller stations, now claim their very survival
depends on abandoning that promise? The CRTC has not even hinted at a
willingness to challenge this line -- and no-one else can either, since the
CRTC is literally going to throw Canadians out of the room when numbers come
up for discussion."
    "Broadcasting accountants are experts in shifting revenues, hiding
profits and highlighting losses -- but instead of an open, transparent and
informative CRTC hearing, the financial shell game that broadcasters are
playing with the CRTC behind closed doors will keep consumers in the dark,"
says Murdoch.
    "Contrary to its past practice, the CRTC has kept almost all actual
financial data off the public record, and will close part of its public
hearing to the public when it addresses broadcasters' real financial picture.
"How can broadcasters' claims be challenged," asked Murdoch, "when the
financials that are key to this entire hearing aren't available for review?"
    Murdoch noted the example of Canwest's complaint on Tuesday that it
couldn't sell its E-Channels. What Canwest didn't mention, he pointed out, is
that in some cases it has gutted the E! stations' production capacity. Instead
of a functioning TV station, buyers would be looking at little more than a
shell with four walls and a roof, said Murdoch.
    "If they want to save our communities' access to local TV news and
information, MPs must intervene. Parliament created the CRTC -- and if the
CRTC lets broadcasters abandon local cities' TV news to reduce their costs and
raise their profits, Parliament has a duty to demand why."

For further information:

For further information: Peter Murdoch, (905) 516-5720

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Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

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