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CRTC ruling upholds Rogers' responsibilities to multilingual programming
TORONTO, July 31, 2014 /CNW/ - A Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruling today rebuffed Rogers Broadcasting Limited's request for sweeping regulatory relief for its OMNI ethnic television chain in spite of recent financial losses at those five stations.
In the same decision, the CRTC will require Rogers to enhance its commitments to original local programming broadcast from its national chain of City stations.
"Multiculturalism is part of what makes Canada great, and we fought to keep ethnic and third language services alive in Rogers' licence," said Unifor Media Sector Director Howard Law. "Rogers Communications is a very profitable corporation and can easily afford to maintain the current level of programming at OMNI, diminished as it is."
Rogers applied for a renewal of their City and OMNI licences in the fall of 2013 with a proposal to reduce commitments to ethnic and Canadian programming, particularly during the prime time evening period. Unifor testified before the Commission in April 2014, arguing that Rogers' claims about revenue problems at the OMNI stations were over-reaching and under-documented.
"This ruling is a victory for growing newcomer communities who rely on this programming," said Law. "We are very pleased the Commission stood firm. But we feel strongly that Rogers can do even better for ethnic and local programming in the future."
Unifor was founded Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged. With more than 305,000 members, Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector.
Over 70 Bargaining Unit Positions Declared Surplus
Bell Media has posted noticed and informed members that 72 bargaining unit positions are being "declared surplus effective October 13th, 2014." The company has started meeting with affected members and informing them of their options.
Local 723M executive would like to remind all members, that you may have bumping rights even if the company does not outline them for you. Please consult Article 9 of the collective agreement or any union representative to review all of your options.
Bumping will start to occur and even if you were not initially told of a layoff, you may be affected. It is imperative that everyone review the seniority list to see where you stand. If you have any issues with the list, please notify the local immediately.
BellMedia Notice of Layoff
Members that require a seniority list to exercise bumping rights need to contact the local office or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This is one of the more significant and impactful layoffs for our local. The iconic MUCH station has dropped almost all of their original programming. Stations M3 and MTV have also taken significant reductions to their staff and in-house production.
Vacations and Layoffs halt negotiations until mid-August
Negotiations between Local 723M and Bell Media Inc. have been adjourned until August 17-18 to accommodate vacation schedules of the six union and five management participants. In addition the Company has dropped the spectre of layoffs occurring within the next two months if “National Advertising revenues do not improve”. The Company gave no specifics except to say that Toronto would be affected in any restructuring. The Company’s spokesperson also said its intentions would be made clear in future announcements.
Your Collective Agreement remains in full force and effect until a new agreement is negotiated and ratified, or until a strike or lockout occurs.
While we are waiting for negotiations to resume and layoffs, if any, to take place your bargaining committee will be providing members with analysis of the Company’s proposals from Unifor’s research department.
Please follow us on Twitter @uniforlocal723m for information and updates from your bargaining committee.
Local 723M Bargaining Committee:
Rogers’ cuts to OMNI chip away at Canada’s cultural mosaic
Despite cuts to OMNI, Rogers Communications has the necessary resources to make quality local ethnic broadcasting work.
Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. is right now asking the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (our national broadcast regulator) to rewrite the rules governing ethnic television in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta – and not to the benefit of ethnic communities.
Rogers wants to direct its multilingual OMNI programming to fewer ethnic audiences, eliminating those it deems unprofitable. They are asking for the ability to remove half of the ethnic communities served. Rogers wants more flexibility to broadcast non-Canadian programming and feels that local community-based programming is too onerous, and wants to cut that, too. That likely means less local news for ethnic and third-language communities.
The company (one of Canada’s largest and wealthiest media corporations) says ethnic broadcasting isn’t paying the bills, that it’s a money loser.
We know that multicultural and multilingual television programming is vitally important to many newcomer communities across Canada. Ethnic broadcasting not only fosters a sense of connection to Canada’s cultural mosaic, it builds communities (through native language story-telling), provides employment opportunities (with in-house technical production, journalists and on-air personalities) and informs the public (through local news reporting in various languages).
Above all, it fosters greater participation in Canada’s democratic life.
It’s no surprise, then, that Canada’s immigrant and newcomer communities were stunned when Rogers announced job and program cuts impacting OMNI stations in May 2013, the latest in a series of ethnic television cuts over recent years.
Our union filed an official complaint with the CRTC, arguing that Rogers had breached the terms of its license. Canadians agreed. Many expressed frustration with the declining level of programming quality and local-ness in community ethnic television.
At OMNI-1 in Toronto, for instance, local programming has been cut in half since 2000/2001, according to the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications. Since 2005, staff in Toronto (arguably the most multi-cultural city in the country) has been cut by 80 per cent – barely above a skeleton crew today. In Alberta, OMNI stations in Edmonton and Calgary don’t employ a single local journalist reporting community news. In 2010, Rogers decided to dissolve community advisory boards, originally created to solicit input and feedback on OMNI programming – losing touch with its ethnic audience.
This consistent decline in resources dedicated to OMNI raises serious concerns about the future of ethnic broadcasting in Canada. Young viewers won’t tune in, if what they see isn’t relevant. And it won’t be relevant if it continues to be starved out.
In fairness to Rogers, the playing field among ethnic broadcasters is tilted. OMNI’s main source of revenue is advertising, and that’s becoming less lucrative as new ethnic specialty channels come online. Some specialty channels can charge viewers subscriber fees, a source of revenue not available to “over-the-air” broadcasters like OMNI (meaning that programs can be watched, for free, through a television antenna). This imbalance must be addressed by the CRTC, and we hope it frames part of the commission’s Ethnic Broadcasting Policy review set for 2016.
But if Rogers thinks the best way to solve its competitive woes is by taking away airtime for ethnic communities (to broadcast more lucrative U.S. programming), then that begs the question: Is Rogers still the most appropriate carrier of Over-the-Air ethnic programming? Ultimately, we think it is. Not only because Rogers has ethnic broadcasting experience, but also because it has the necessary resources to make quality local ethnic broadcasting work.
Rogers Communications is a multi-billion dollar operation that raked in $1.7 billion in profits in 2013. Rogers Media, its subsidiary, earned a healthy $161 million in profits. Dividend payments to shareholders topped $870 million. If Rogers continue to produce ethnic and multilingual programming, without any changes to its license, it would cost OMNI $2 million annually – a relatively small price to pay so that small-market and third-language communities are well-served. Ethnic broadcasting is about serving the public interest – not solely about padding a corporation’s profits.
The voices of our ethnic communities must speak out. The CRTC is holding hearings on April 8 to decide on Rogers proposed cuts. Rogers has had the privilege of delivering this vital service to our communities, for years. Let’s ensure they continue providing quality service for years to come.
Jerry Dias president of Unifor, which represents 660 workers at Rogers, including 60 at OMNI and 370 at City.
Published by the Toronto Star on March 26, 2014.
Welcome to Unifor
Unifor strives to protect the economic rights of our members and every member of the workforce (employed or unemployed). We are committed to building the strongest and most effective union to bargain on behalf of our members, working with our members to improve their rights in the workplace, and extending the benefits of unions to non-unionized workers and other interested Canadians.
Unifor was officially formed on August 31, 2013, at a Founding Convention in Toronto, Ontario. It marked the coming together of the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) – two of Canada’s largest and most influential labour unions.
The birth of Unifor represented a sign of hope for the Canadian labour movement, and working people more generally.
For decades, union membership (as a share of total employment) had been in steady decline – particularly in the private sector. Running parallel to this decline in union density had been a sharp rise in income inequality, growing threats to retirement security, chronic unemployment and underemployment (particularly for young people) and a noticeable rise in insecure, precarious forms of work, especially among newcomers. The decline of union influence coincided with the rise of grossly imbalanced business-friendly policies, starting in the 1980s, that included tax cuts, labour market deregulation and corporate-led free trade deals.
Unifor was a bold answer to the question: "How do Canadian unions respond to the changing economy and these challenging times?"
Its large and diverse membership (that includes nearly every sector of the economy), makes it one of the most representative voices of our national economy. Its representative organizational structure and innovative forms of membership means it can better address regional economic and political matters on behalf of working people. Its core mandate – to be an effective union that is built by its members and deeply rooted in community – brings Unifor’s work into the day-to-day lives of Canadian families.
The Unifor project began as a discussion about union renewal in the fall of 2011 between former CAW President Ken Lewenza and former CEP President Dave Coles. Informal discussions led to formal talks among union leadership and staff. A formal discussion paper was prepared, which lead to a comprehensive, open and inclusive union revitalization project, spanning 20-months. Members were invited to follow developments of the New Union Project through regularly published reports, a frequently updated website, and were also asked to participate in telephone town hall meetings and online polls.
From its inception, Unifor has become a source of optimism and inspiration that a fairer, more secure future can be won for working people, that unions can adapt to changing times and remain a relevant voice for workplace and social justice.
CLC One Minute Message
The Canadian Labour Congress is pleased to announce that Michael Rouse is the first place winner (Solidarity Video) of this year's One Minute Message Video contest.
The objective was to come up with the best message and best video in just under a minute about how unions stand up for fairness, how unions deliver good jobs and better lives, how unions fight for a better deal for everyone. What does the “Union Advantage” mean for you, your family and your community?
Workers' Rights ALERT
Harper and Hudak are promoting changes to labour law that would drive down wages and harm Canadian society
Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak has announced that he will weaken unions by making major changes to labour laws – if he wins the next Ontario election.
Prime Minister Harper has already pushed through Bill 377. This legislation was designed to disrupt unions by requiring extraordinary financial reporting. Harper may soon try to silence labour’s progressive political voice.
Read more about how the conservatives are trying to silence unions here.
Support Our TVO / Notre TFO
Dear CEP members and allies,
I am writing to invite you to join "Our TVO / Notre TFO" – a campaign coalition of families, educators, artists, and employees of TVO and TFO who, as citizens of Ontario, value public educational broadcast media and want a greater voice in shaping the future of TVO and TFO.
Please visit www.OurTVO.ca or www.notreTFO.ca and sign the letter to Ontario's premier, Kathleen Wynne, right away.
These are challenging times for the people of Ontario. We are dealing with a struggling economy, acrimonious public policy debates, and rapidly changing technology. At these moments we seek agencies that we can trust, that can unite us, and that can serve as a resource for information and enlightenment. For more than 40 years in Ontario, TVO and TFO have been such institutions.
However, this is a period of great uncertainty for public educational media in Ontario. Both TVO and TFO are doing more with less funding in real dollars than in years past. In the last Ontario Budget, the provincial government warned that TVO must "reduce its reliance on government funding." What exactly this means is unclear, although TVO announced the cancellation of three signature shows on November 13: Big Ideas, Allan Gregg In Conversation, and Saturday Night at the Movies. Many of our members also lost their jobs.
TVO and TFO belong to all of us. We all have a voice in shaping their future. This campaign is intended to help people and organizations like ours to raise our voices.
I sincerely hope you will accept my invitation to join the "Our TVO / Notre TFO" campaign.
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
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