The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is drawing criticism and allegations of bias for denying two separate applications from an individual and a corporation seeking to start two Christian radio stations in the Ottawa area, just weeks after the commission approved a pornographic television station. The case again directs attention to Canada’s onerous broadcasting regulations which require religious stations to provide programming space for other religious faiths.
Christian Hit Radio Inc. (CHRI) had arrived at the commission hearing in Ottawa with 780 letters of support for its new proposed FM station that would have played Christian music, hymns, and classical music while targeting an older audience, the Ottawa Citizen says. A certain Fiston Kalambay Mutombo also attended the hearing to propose a French-language Christian radio station.
Of the two open radio broadcasting slots, one went to Astral Media Corp., which had 77 letters of support for its soft adult music station targeting an audience of older women, while another went to a blues station.
According to the commission web site, the decision ruled that the proposed station format of the applications by Christian Hit Radio Inc. and Fiston Kalambay Mutombo was “already available in the market through the programming of the specialty radio station CHRI-FM.”
According to the Ottawa Citizen, CHRI co-founder and vice-president Robert du Broy said he didn’t know why the Ottawa area needs two more secular stations. Other American cities of comparable size average four Christian radio stations.
CHRI’s current station reportedly targets a young audience and has between 30,000 and 40,000 listeners for its contemporary Christian music lineup.
The CRTC’s recent approval of an Alberta-based pornographic cable channel was cited by critics who believe the commission is biased against Christians, though there were hundreds of available cable slots in comparison to the two open radio channels.
Don Hutchison, director of law and public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said the cable channel’s approval was “quite offensive.”
"The CRTC has, for the past 15 years, sent a strong message they don't like Christian broadcasting, but they will allow it with heavy restrictions," he claimed.
“It's really getting tough to be a Christian in a country that was founded on Christian values,” charged David MacDonald, an Ottawan who once had his own Christian radio program.
De Bray knew his proposal would face difficulties because of CRTC regulations requiring balance for religious broadcasters, the Ottawa Citizen reports. The rules require that a Christian station’s talk programs must be countered by discussions of other faiths.
The CHRI proposal would have included about 71 minutes of programming for other faiths, particularly Judaism.
The CRTC has reportedly eased some of its requirements for specialty cable channels on religious programming, but some dissenting commissioners opposed the decision on the stated grounds that “religious intolerance” foments other forms of intolerance in worldwide conflict zones.
"We are disturbed by the extent of social, cultural, and racial intolerance which is often rooted in religious intolerance," they asserted. "One need only look to Bosnia, the Middle East, India, Northern Ireland, South Africa and other world 'trouble spots' to observe this phenomenon in its most violent form. Such cultural and racial intolerance is less dramatic and violent, but no less real, in Canada."