OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network (Canada) seemingly has learned nothing from nearly having its licensed revoked last year. The network announced on Monday that they’re airing Tyler Perry’s awkwardly named soap The Haves and the Have Nots on April 8th with not one but two episodes, back to back starting at 9 PM.
This is almost a year to the day when the CRTC threatened OWN with a “mandatory order” to change its programming to follow the terms of its license. The primary discrepancy was that it wasn’t airing programs featuring educational programming linked to university and college courses as it requires (or at least not enough), but it’s also notable that the CRTC said that OWN couldn’t air, movies, sitcoms and dramas…and what’s The Haves and the Have Nots? Isn’t it a drama? Can you argue that it’s educational? That would be one hell of an argument to try to make.
So unless OWN’s license has since been amended to allow it to air dramas, The Haves and the Have Nots is a clear violation of its license. Also considering one of the many reasons why OWN received the “mandatory order” was for airing just two feature films when it’s license says it can’t air films at all, airing an entire series of programming it shouldn’t be airing in the first place is sure to piss the CRTC off.
If The Haves and the Have Nots isn’t enough of a problem, OWN was also in trouble for overlapping with W Network and was supposed to revise its schedule to only air less than 10 percent of W Network programming. The CRTC is referring here to shows currently airing on W Network or shows that previously aired on W Network. Right now, though a large chunk of OWN’s schedule consists of shows like Devine Design, Ghostly Encounters, All for Nothing?, He Said, She Said, Undercover Boss Canada, Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag and The Shopping Bags all of which air or aired on W Network. Even W Network’s new show The Audience is supposed to be simulcasted on OWN.
You may think these restrictions are unfair and wonder how OWN got stuck with such of a limited license to begin with. It’s because the channel is actually a rebrand of Canadian Learning Television (CLT), and CLT logically went to air with a license carrying a heavy emphasis on educational programming. Corus bought OWN after its owner Chum was gobbled up by what is now known as Bell Media and for whatever reason wanted to turn the channel into a women’s network. I don’t know why, perhaps they thought it would be an easy way to make it more profitable and since they already had a host of women’s programming on W Network, they could easily re-air some of W Network’s shows on their rechristened CLT without it looking out of place.
The educational content heavy license didn’t stop OWN from airing whatever the hell it wanted. Corus nudged the channel into female skewing programming when they rebranded the channel as Viva, and it went fully off course (at least in my opinion) from an educational channel to a channel geared to women when it was rebranded as OWN.
From what I understand, OWN was aware of the trouble they might run into with their license, so they applied for a new one (a Category B license) but they were denied, partially because it would compete with their own W Network.
I think the plan was along the lines of what happened when Discovery Kids morphed into Nickelodeon. The two are actually separate channels with separate licenses. It’s just when Discovery Kids went off the air it was immediately replaced with Nickelodeon and its new license and you could barely tell the difference as most cable and satellite providers just popped Nickelodeon in Discovery Kids place since they both target kids.
So using that logic, Corus wanted to get rid of the education heavy license and subtly replace it with one more inline with their vision of OWN. Since they were denied, they went ahead with their plans for OWN anyway, perhaps tweaking it to ensure it covered the license requirements, but what they did change, if anything at all, obviously wasn’t enough.
Remarkably, after the clash with the CRTC last year, OWN found ways to claim its shows are educational and tie into credit-based courses as its license requires. The Globe and Mail got hold of some ways they’re arguing their content is educational, and they’re a riot.
OWN claims What Would You Do? tests people’s character and therefore qualifies as educational programming because it could be used to teach law and ethics. Take OWN’s celebrity interview/biography program Oprah’s Master Class as another example. OWN argues it could be used to teach Media Career Discovery, a class available at Mohawk College. As The Globe and Mail put it, they’re essentially arguing that Oprah’s Master Class is a show teaching you how to make a show. Crazy isn’t it?
With that logic, almost anything ever aired on television could qualify as educational. They could air Scooby Doo and tie it into a random obscure college class that covers, voice acting or animation and claim it’s educational. The CRTC isn’t that stupid and can see right through that BS, I hope.
The whole OWN situation with the CRTC makes me question its usefulness and purpose. It goes out of its way to make broadcasters go through hoops to get licenses, and when they don’t comply, they simply get a slap on the wrist. The media companies seem to bully the CRTC into doing things that have questionable benefits for Canadians, like when the CRTC allowed Bell Media to gobble up Chum and then Astral to become a behemoth of a media organization. Then don’t even get me started about that ridiculous crackdown on porn channels for not airing enough Canadian content.
Anyway, I attempted to get in touch with a representative from OWN to find out how the channel is actually complying with its license, but unsurprisingly I haven’t heard anything back from them yet. Regardless, I think unless OWN’s license was amended that it is threading on thin ice and especially so with The Haves and the Have Nots. Who knows maybe the CRTC might not buy the spin Corus is selling, grow a backbone and take OWN off the air for good.