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Unifor calls for expanded local news and ethnic programming

GATINEAU, QC, Nov. 30, 2016 /CNW/ - Appearing before the CRTC as it discusses the future of local TV news in Canada, Unifor called for strong measures to boost local news programming, including calling for restoration of expanded programming in Italian, Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin.

In his address to the hearings, this afternoon, Unifor Media Director Howard Law told the commissioners that the major English-language broadcasters' proposals for local news fall well short of the bar set by the Commission in its landmark policy announcement in June 2016.

"We don't think that the broadcasters' joint request on weekly minimum exhibition of local news, and the expenditure required to support that minimum, comes anywhere close to meeting the spirit of 2016-224," Law said.

Unifor also called upon the Commission to prohibit the major broadcasters – Bell Media, Corus and Rogers—from substituting talk shows for local news, and "for allowing broadcasters to regard local presence ---- bureaus, local reporters, and local editorial control---- as nice-to-haves, aspirational goals rather than what they are: the core of local news."

On OMNI, the ethnic language broadcaster owned by Rogers and broadcasting in Italian, Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin, Law backed the company's idea to charge TV distributors a fee of 12 cents per cable or satellite subscriber, but called for the fee to be 15 cents instead of 12 cents.

"For three pennies a month more we can restore the level of free over the air local news programming to these four major linguistic communities that English and French language communities are fortunate enough to take for granted," Law said.

As conditions of license, Law also called for OMNI Regional to broadcast an hour of news programming a day in each language, for OMNI to maintain full editorial control of its news and for Rogers to fully account for how the extra fees are being used.

If Rogers is not able to meet these conditions, or at least be able to meet the local TV requirements, he urged the CRTC to consider opening up the OMNI license to a company that would.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.