Newspaper article The Canadian Press

CRTC Hearing Will Look at Educational Aspect of Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

CRTC Hearing Will Look at Educational Aspect of Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada

Article excerpt

CRTC questions educational aspect of Oprah TV

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The federal broadcast regulator is taking on television queen Oprah Winfrey with a hearing into whether her Canadian network's programming fit the channel's educational mandate.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will hold a hearing next Tuesday to determine whether the Oprah Winfrey Network Canada's shows --from "Dr. Phil" to "In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman" -- are educational enough to meet licensing requirements.

Nothing in OWN's licensing requirements prevents educational content from being "entertaining and engaging," said Corus Entertainment Inc., which holds the licence for the channel in Canada.

"It bears repeating that OWN represents a brand that is all about education and self-improvement," Sylvie Courtemanche, Corus vice-president of government relations, said in a recent letter to the CRTC.

The CRTC could insist on changes to OWN programming, request it apply for different operating licence and, in a worst case scenario, could pull its licence, possibly jeopardizing the specialty cable channel's operation.

Almost a dozen interveners will speak at the hearing in Gatineau, Que., with a number submitting briefs in favour of OWN's programming. Celebrity Oprah Winfrey is not on the list.

The challenge facing OWN is that it used to be the Canadian Learning Television channel when its licence was originally granted by the CRTC. The channel was rebranded as VIVA, a women's entertainment channel and then rebranded again as Oprah Winfrey Network in March 2011 by Corus (TSX:CJR.B).

The CRTC says OWN is required to honour the original licensing agreement and provide formal and informal educational programs that generally focus on adult education.

"The commission found that while OWN's programming was focused on 'enhancement programming,' it did not provide basic adult education, job development skills or professional development as reflected in its nature of service definition," the CRTC said in its notice about the hearing. …

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