VEQ denounces poor local coverage by English-language television stations

John Klassen2.jpg
Photo: Scott French

VEQ President John Klassen holding a copy of the organization’s brief to the CRTC denouncing poor local coverage English language television coverage

The Voice of English-speaking Quebec has denounced the lack of English-language local television coverage in a brief submitted to national broadcast regulator the CRTC. The regulator began hearings at its head office in Gatineau Tuesday to review the state of broadcasting services in minority language communities across Canada. VEQ has argued local news and events are essential in both French and English minority communities to reinforce both local and national identities and to encourage its members to preserve their linguistic culture.

"Having locally produced television enhances a sense of belonging," VEQ President John Klassen indicated.

"From the outside looking in, local television highlights a dynamic community. When you belong to a community, there is a sense of attachment and when you lose a TV station, you lose some of that attachment as well," added Jean SĂ©bastien Jolin Gignac, the organization's executive director.

The brief bemoans the utter lack of local English language coverage in Quebec City by CBC and Global TV, and suggests that local events are only covered in the evening newscasts when they are of a "sensational nature." Jolin Gignac added that the coverage of the National Assembly cannot possibly be considered local coverage.

Both men agreed the possible dangers of not having a minority community's stories told include either assimilation into the majority community or out-migration to the other communities.

The brief suggests this can be quelled in part by locally produced programs and news "where the advertising base can support such programming." It also proposes that these shows be broadcast nationally to foster the idea of a bilingual national identity

Following the closure of its Quebec City television bureau in 2007, Global TV cited the CRTC's ban on seeking local advertising revenue as a reason for the closure of its studio.

In its own brief, Canwest, the CKMI-TV Global Quebec parent company, highlighted this fact.

Even more problematic, Canwest argues in its brief, is that the station is not carried by satellite providers Bell TV and Star Choice -- a fact that continues to put "the only English language regional station" in "financial peril," according to the company.

Carriage of Global TV by both satellite providers should become a condition of license for these providers.

Bell TV, meanwhile, was unable to comment by press time. An opportunity to further explain its situation was declined by Canwest.

Klassen said that he remains "cautiously optimistic" about the possibility that Global TV's Quebec City bureau will return. VEQ will discuss whether to intervene in Global TV's CRTC re-licensing hearing in April, a possibility that Klassen admitted was likely.