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Canadian Radio-television Commission dismisses ATN’s plea against Zee TV Canada

MUMBAI: The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has dismissed a petition filed by Asian Television Network International Limited (ATN) against Zee TV Canada.

ATN, which runs South Asian Television (SATV), had directed its complaint against Ethnic Channels Group Limited (ECGL), which is the licensee of the third-language niche channel Zee TV Canada.

ATN had filed a complaint with the CRTC regarding the programming of Zee TV Canada and alleged that the third-language niche specialty Category B service is operating as a general interest service.

ATN stated that only 18.5 hours of the programming provided by Zee TV Canada is directed at women. It further stated that the public policy objectives, under which the W Network was licensed, are not directly supported by Zee TV Canada.

On 29 July 2013, the Commission received a complaint by ATN against ECGL regarding the niche status of Zee TV Canada. After posting the complaint on its website, the Commission received over 300 interventions.

The interventions supported ECGL’s position and opposed the position of ATN. A large proportion stated outright that Zee TV Canada’s programming does target women as a viewing audience, while others voiced general support for the service or characterised Zee TV Canada as family focused.

According to ECGL, Zee TV Canada was adhering to its nature of service, and its marketing activities focus on the same. It argued that to reclassify Zee TV Canada as a general interest service would have the effect of significantly expanding the scope and impact of the above-noted buy-through requirement.

The Commission examined the programming offered by Zee TV Canada with a view to determine whether a reasonably frequent viewer in watching various programmes broadcast on the service would conclude that the service targets women or not.

In this regard, and despite the differences in the public policy objectives behind the licensing of Zee TV Canada and W Network, the Commission considered it appropriate to use W Network as a baseline for comparison in its examination of Zee TV Canada’s programming due to the considerable weight placed by both parties on comparing the two services.

Having examined the programming broadcast on Zee TV Canada, the Commission found that majority of the programmes broadcast are consistent with those that one would expect a niche service targeting women to air and are comparable to those found on W Network.

Ethnic Channels Group co-founder and CEO Slava Levin said, “The overwhelming support we received from Zee TV Canada viewers has been truly heart-warming.”

“The complaint had no basis to start with, and we are glad that justice has prevailed,” stated Ethnic Channels Group president Hari Srinivas.

ATN argued that Zee TV Canada would offer programming from the same programme categories authorised for SATV, with the exception of news and sports, and could therefore target a broad, family-oriented demographic. It further argued that ECGL’s application should be denied on the grounds that the proposed service was incorrectly categorised as a niche service, and should be considered a general interest service.

In its reply to the intervention, ECGL indicated that the proposed nature of service was modelled after the nature of service definition of W Network, a service recognised as providing a specific genre of programming intended for women. Further, it submitted that the programme categories from which it intended to draw programming for broadcast were almost identical to those for Mehndi HD TV, a Category 2 specialty service licensed to FDR Media Group Inc, which also targets Hindi women. Finally, ECGL stated that it would limit, by condition of licence, the broadcast of certain types of programming (comedy series and sitcoms, some drama programming, music video clips and music video programmes), if deemed appropriate by the Commission.