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Unifor Letter to CRTC re: Reduced Winnipeg Programming

January 23, 2015

John Traversy Secretary General CRTC
Ottawa ON K1A 0N2 

Dear Mr. Secretary General, 

Re: Local programming changes and job cuts at City Winnipeg 

As the union representing workers at CHMI TV (City) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and on behalf of the members of Unifor Local 826M, I would like to provide the Commission with additional background information following the announced layoffs and programming changes at City Winnipeg.

On January 6, 2015 Rogers announced that it would be cutting City Winnipeg’s Breakfast Television morning show from its weekday broadcast schedule. This decision, which also eliminates 17 jobs, has obvious implications for station workers and their families. But the decision also raises important questions on matters of local programming – an issue the Commission has considered among the most pertinent in its recent Let’s Talk TV consultations. Questions around local programming will undoubtedly be raised during Rogers’ group-based license renewal scheduled for 2016.

For many years, Unifor (along with its predecessor union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada) has expressed concern over the Commission’s rather loose definition of local programming. In Broadcast Regulatory Policy 2009-406, the Commission articulated this definition (“programming produced by local stations with local personnel or programming produced by locally-based independent producers that reflects the particular needs and interest of the market’s residents”) and also prescribed mandatory local programming hours for stations operating in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan markets.

In past interventions, Unifor has called on the Commission to amend its definition of local programming, to capture “original” programming hours – eliminating a station’s ability to run repeat programming to cover their license obligations – as well as to delineate between “in- house” productions and those delivered by locally-based independent producers, among other elements.

Local Canadian television faces significant economic challenges, there is no doubt. This claim is not in need of empirical defence, and it’s not my intent to summarize Unifor’s position on this matter in this letter. The Commission has explicitly acknowledged the long-term pressure Canada’s local television industry faces, as a result of the changing structure of advertising as well as “audience fragmentation, decreases in advertising revenue and competition.”1 How the broadcast industry and its regulatory body could “foster local programming” was viewed as a key consideration in the Commission’s Let’s Talk TV hearings.

The situation unfolding at City Winnipeg is a salient example of the underlying challenges local stations face, and one that should force the Commissioners to exercise a greater level of diligence when assessing local programming requirements in the renewing of station licenses. The City example highlights the inadequacy of the Commission’s definition and the need for re- evaluation in the lead-up to the 2016 group-based license renewals.

City Winnipeg: an overview 

For licensing purposes, City Winnipeg operates in a “non-metropolitan” market. Therefore, it is required to broadcast no less than 7 hours of local programming each week.

City Winnipeg has changed ownership hands many times in recent decades and has seen its local workforce decline from a recent peak of 82 workers (in the Local 826M bargaining unit) to a low of 12, following the cuts announced by Rogers earlier this year.

The station had once served the Winnipeg community with a 30-minute evening and 60-minute nightly news broadcast each weekday

(along with two 30-minute daily weekend news broadcasts). Those broadcasts ended in 2006 following the CTV purchase of CHUM assets – assets that were subsequently acquired by Rogers, in 2008. These news programming cuts effectively eliminated 9.5 programming hours and 29 bargaining unit jobs. More importantly, it closed an important window for Winnipeggers into their community.

The station’s morning show (most recently known as Breakfast Television) survived these program cuts and continued to broadcast despite industry upheaval following the 2009 recession. In fact, City Winnipeg was the only Rogers-owned City station that received financial support through the Local Programming Improvement Fund. BT aired for three hours each weekday and focused programming on local community and ethno-cultural events, the promotion of local businesses, artists and amateur athletes, among other interest stories. Three-to-five minute local news, sports and weather segments would appear on the top and bottom of each hour.

On January 6, Rogers announced that BT programming would be cut. In its place will appear a morning radio-television show hybrid that will be simulcast on CITI-FM and CHMI, both Rogers- owned stations.

As a result of this decision to consolidate broadcasts, 17 jobs will be cut at CHMI. Despite City Winnipeg’s ability to claim no net loss in local programming hours (as per the Commission’s definition and conditions of license requirement) local interest news segments will be

1 CRTC Broadcasting Notice of Consultation 2014-190

significantly reduced, as a result of staffing cuts. The local community stories that had historically made up the lion’s share of BT’s programming schedule are expected to be reduced to approximately one-hour, per day (instead of three). On-air local expression and local presence will suffer, yet nothing currently obligates station owners to consider these matters when fulfilling their license requirements.

In 2007, when the Commission approved the transfer of control to Rogers of the various City stations, the broadcaster’s commitment to retain “localness” was identified as a “defining element” of City programming. Paragraphs 22 and 23 of Broadcasting Decision 2007-360 highlight this point:

22. Rogers Media stated that, under its ownership, the identity of the Citytv stations would be defined by their “localness”, urban reflection and reflection of the diversity of the communities served. Rogers Media further advanced that Citytv’s extensive morning news programming adds to the diversity of voices in its markets and provides in-depth coverage that none of its competitors provide. Rogers Media made a commitment to the maintenance of the independent management of its news departments and separate presentation structures for Citytv and OMNI.

23. In light of Rogers Media’s statement that it will make “localness” a defining element of the programming offered by the Citytv stations, the Commission directs the applicant, at license renewal, to review its strategy for local news on the Citytv stations in western Canada.

In light of the January 6 announcement, it is difficult to see how the company is considering “localness” – a stated objective that contributed to the decision granting Rogers ownership of the television station. It also reinforces the recommendation to maintain the Local Programming Improvement Fund – or a similar mechanism geared to support important local broadcasts – made by Unifor as part of the Let’s Talk TV consultation.

Unifor believes these recent changes are of concern to the Commission, just as they are of concern to our members and the people of Winnipeg who tune in to watch each day.

I would also ask the Commission, as they prepare for the 2016 group-based license renewal and as they continue to deliberate on how best to foster local programming, to consider this information that we have shared. A simple count of scheduled hours is an imperfect way to determine how well a community’s interests are being served through local programming. The question is as much about substance and quality as it is about quantity.

The current definition of local programming is ambiguous. It provides station operators too much flexibility to meet license requirements while cutting content and redirecting resources away from in-house production. The definition – and therefore the Commission’s ability to enforce its own licensing rules – does little to promote investment in quality programming that Canadians say they cherish and support.

It is not a stretch to assume that an overly-flexible definition for local programming is a contributing factor to the current, and seemingly untenable, crisis we face in local conventional TV – where savvy consumers will gravitate toward well-resourced, informative and high quality television, regardless of the platform it can be viewed on.

Unifor, our national Media Council and the thousands of members working in the television sector await the Commission’s final report of its conventional television review. We also look forward to sharing our views during the 2016 group-based license renewal.

Yours truly,

Howard Law
Media Director, Unifor 

HL:amcope343

CC: Scott Doherty, Assistant to the Unifor National President (via email)
Randy Kitt, Chairperson, Unifor Local 79M & Unifor Media Council Chairperson (via email)
Michael Draven, President, Unifor Local 826M (via email)
Susan Wheeler, Vice President Regulatory Affairs, Rogers Communications Inc. (via email)
Pierre Nantal, Official Opposition Critic for Canadian Heritage (via email)
Stephane Dion, Liberal Party Critic for Canadian Heritage (via email)
Brian Bowman, Mayor, City of Winnipeg (via regular mail)
Ron Lemieux, Provincial Minister, Manitoba Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection (via email)

DRAFT Local By-Laws, Nov 2014

 

BY-LAW AMENDMENTS

 

Submitted at the General Membership Meeting of Unifor 830M, November 13th, 2014.

The following motion is presented here by the Executive Board to the General Membership in accordance with By-Law 7.1 of the current (2005) By- Laws.

ARTICLE 7     AMENDMENTS

7.1 These Bylaws may be amended by two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of members in good standing at a General Meeting, provided that any proposed amendment is posted at least ten (10) days prior to such General Meeting.

Motion: 

That the current By-Laws (2005) for Local 830M be replaced by the following By-Laws (November 2014) and submitted for approval to the National Unifor Union for approval.

Procedure:

As noted above, amendments to the By-Laws must be made with 10 days prior notice to a general membership meeting at which the proposals are being presented to vote on. Because these By-Laws are replacing the 2005 By-Laws, amendments may be made at the meeting to the proposed new By-Laws. The support of a two-thirds of members in good standing at the meeting is required to pass these new By-Laws.

Explanation:

  1. To update the change from CEP to Unifor.
  2. To reflect and identify obligations and considerations of the Unifor Constitution (2013).
  3. To better organize and clarify the administration and operation of Local 830M for all members.

BY-LAWS Unifor830M Nov 13th-2014 (PDF Version)

 

Response to CRTC Decision 2014-399, July 2014

cropped-cropped-UNIFOR-local830M-CMYK-horizontal2.jpg  BARGAINING  UNITS COUNCIL

  Response to CRTC Decision 2014-399, July 31st, 2014

The Unionized employees at Rogers Media operations applaud many aspects of the CRTC’s decision, especially those that affirm the importance of local programming to Canadians and we look forward to working with both the Commission and Roger’s to protect and strengthen daily original local programming in the near future.

The Commission turned down many of Roger’s requests that would have effectively changed the multicultural nature of their OMNI operations.  We look forward to expressing a positive vision of local ethnic programming during next years review of the Ethnic Broadcasting Policy.

Rogers has been directed to apply for a network license for it’s National Hockey League plans and is now required through condition of license to calculate any local programming separately for NHL operations.

We are disappointed that Rogers did not take this opportunity to express a clear plan for programming that captures local multicultural issues and concerns.  We hope to work with Rogers through the creation of advisory boards, that should include the creative professionals we represent, to achieve a sustainable 100% ethnic programming model for OMNI’s future by August of 2016.

It is of great concern that the Commission is allowing Rogers to operate their OMNI Edmonton license with only 1.5 hours a week of local programming and their OMNI Calgary license with only 3.5 hours a week of local programming.

We disagree with the Commission’s determination that requiring 14 hours of local programming at it’s OMNI operations would cost $2 million and create “undue financial burden for Rogers”.  Rogers total revenues for 2013 were reported at $12.7 billion, $1.7 billion of that was in media with a $161 million adjusted operating profit.

This decision gives us hope for the future of multicultural and local programming and we look forward to working with Rogers and the CRTC in the future.

Stephen Hawkins, President Unifor Local 830M

Chairperson, Rogers Bargaining Units Council

president@unifor830m.ca

 

We need your help! Important Deadline to Support Local Multicultural Programming is August 12th!

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada has filed a Complaint at the CRTC against Rogers Broadcasting Limited and the cancellation of 21 programs aimed at 13 ethnic communities.

We ask that you support CEP’s application to the CRTC, which asks Rogers to reinstate its previous level of coverage of the local Chinese and other multicultural communities. Here’s how – but you must send in your support by Monday, August 12, 2013 to ensure the CRTC hears your views:

Go to this page on the CRTC’s website:  Scroll down to the tenth entry from the top – “OMNI-TV” “2013-0996-4.

Click on the submit button and say that you support this application. You will be guided to click through a few pages as you move through the link, so be sure to scroll down to the bottom of each page to click next. You will be asked your name and email address so that the CRTC can verify that you are a real person.

You only need to make a very simple statement. Here are some examples of what you can say if you submit: “Please call Rogers to a public hearing about the OMNI programming changes”, or “I support CEP’s application” or “I oppose the changes that Rogers Broadcasting has made to its OMNI TV stations, and support CEP’s request for the CRTC to hold a public hearing about this important issue”.

Please take 5 minutes out of your day to let the CRTC know how important LOCAL NEWS JOBS are!

More information can be found on Facebook at: OMNI Updates.

Please share this information with your friends and family and encourage them to support this important initiative.

Do you oppose Rogers’ changes to the OMNI TV stations?

An application has been submitted to the CRTC, the federal agency that regulates the OMNI TV stations, asking the CRTC to call Rogers Broadcasting Limited to a public hearing where people can present their concerns about the program changes.

The CRTC is asking for the public’s views about this application.  If you oppose the program changes, which especially hurt local news for Canada’s multicultural communities, you can tell the CRTC, as long as the CRTC receives those comments by Monday, August 12, 2013.  The CRTC will not consider comments it receives after this date.

If filing online, follow these steps:

The CRTC has a system to let people comment online – it seems long, but is mostly a series of clicks.

It is available on this CRTC web page: Broadcasting Part 1 Applications Open for Comment

SCROLL DOWN THE PAGE TO FIND CEP’s APPLICATION:  2013-0996-4

Then click on “Submit” (under 12 August 2013).  This brings you through several pages, follow the instructions.  You can either make your comments on their web site or attach a document file with your comments on it.

April 2013 Update

Collective Agreements

The new Collective Agreements have been distributed. If you haven’t received a copy, contact your Steward: Gautam Auora; George Badea; Rob Brownridge; Laura Cratty; Kristin Johnson (KJ); Eric Lai; Monica Lee; Carl Ngui-yen; Todd Simon; Nelson Wong.

The CBA is also posted on this website

OMNI Editorial Group

An application is now before the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to bring 18 OMNI editorial employees, whose jobs are similar to unionized positions at Citytv, into our Local as new members.

Media Council 2013

Your Local is sending three representatives to attend the annual Media Council meeting in Ottawa this May.  They will also be meeting with members of the Rogers Bargaining Units Council.

The New Union Project (the merger between CAW and CEP) will be one of the main topics of discussion.

CEP 830M Feb 2013 Update

CEP 830Update

BC’s New Family Day

As a federally regulated industry we have to negotiate new provincial holidays into our collective agreement.  During last years negotiations we attempted to get Family Day recognized and Rogers refused our request.

This means February 11th is a regular working day.  If you want it off, you can put in a vacation request or take your floater day.

New Union Project

Details are on the web site.  New Union logo and name questionnaire: www.newunionproject.ca

Response deadline is Feb 4th.

Seniority Date Confirmation

Carl Larsen and Cindy Leong have been working with our stewards to confirm membership information, including seniority dates.  If there is a difference between your company start date and the date your steward gave you, let Cindy or Carl know ASAP, so we can have the Company correct your date.

MorneauShepell Frequently Asked Questions

Who is MorneauShepell?

MorneauShepell is the  company Rogers employs  to administer and reduce the cost of employees short and long term disabilities claims

What is a “Triage Interview”?

This is the interview that a Morneau-Shepell case manager conducts with an employee after the employee  has been away from work for more than three days due to an illness.

What information do I need to provide the case manager?  Can I limit the amount of medical information MorneauShepell accesses?

You can limit the information you provide the case manager to relevant medical information to your current medical condition

You can also request that your doctor provides you with any information they provide MorneauShepell and to limit that information to your current medical condition

What should I do if I don’t feel comfortable with one of the case manager’s  questions?

If you feel your case manager’s question is not appropriate or relevant to your current medical condition; or if you feel it is an infringement on your human rights,  you can refuse to answer the question and confidentially contact your Union representative

July Update

THE BENEFITS OF BENEFITS

  • You have $500 coverage for each approved paramedical practitioner like Chiropractor, Physiotherapist, Naturopath, Acupuncturist, Podiatrist and Registered Massage Therapist (with a Doctors referral for the RMT). This coverage is renewed on January 1st of each year
  • Vision Care: once a year exams for children and once every two years for adults along with $200 for eye glasses every two years

SHORT-TERM DISABILITY

  • Rogers uses a third-party company, Morneau Shepell, to administer Short-Term Disability claims. There are several things you should be aware of if you find yourself dealing with this company regarding a claim. The Union’s website has a list of FAQs that can help you better understand this process

USE IT OR LOSE IT FLOATER HOLIDAY

  • Your “Floater Holiday”, which is additional to annual and statutory holidays.  It is a use it or lose it vacation so check with your supervisor to make sure it is used before August 31st

FALL UNION MEETING

  • Our annual general membership meeting will be in the last week of September
  • Elections for President and Chief Steward
  • Withdrawal from the Independent Broadcast Locals Council
  • Presentation of proposed by-laws for Rogers Bargaining Units Council