I recently wrote about OWN Canada and how it seemingly ignores the requirements of its license, and pretty much airs whatever it pleases. I’ve looked into some of Corus’ other channels and it seems like OWN Canada isn’t the only one bending the rules. Both W Movies and Sundance Channel have gone radically off course and seem not to be meeting their license requirements at all.
As you may know W Movies was originally known as SexTV, but what you may not know is what the CRTC says W Movies should air. I found this regarding W Movies in a 2011 CRTC document: The licensee shall provide a national English-language specialty Category B service devoted exclusively to programming related to love, romance, marriage, relationship-themed game shows, sexuality and gender issues, family planning, relationship breakdown and magazine-style programming featuring romantic vacation resorts. [Emphasis mine.]
What are we getting with W Movies exactly? According to Zap2It (via TV Guide Canada) movies and shows such as:
The Longest Yard: “At a Texas penitentiary, jailed NFL veterans train their fellow inmates for a football game against the guards.”
Little Nicky: “The youngest son of Satan must go to New York City and bring back his brothers, whose absence is wreaking havoc in hell”
Rags to Red Carpet: “Women in desperate need of a makeover are given the glitz and glam of Hollywood”
Hollywood’s Ten Best: “Categorizing the best Hollywood has to offer, from single ladies and men without shirts to the 10 best breakout roles, college stories and sex scenes.” Some are applicable to the license, “Eye Candy,” “Single Ladies” some are not, “Movie Makeovers,” “New York Movies,” “Kid Stars,” “Tough Girls.”
Ice Quake: “Liquid methane triggers a series of devastating earthquakes that threaten the planet.”
Unscripted: “Hollywood entertainers, politicians, authors, journalists and spiritual guides tell their stories, in their own words, in this anthology series.”
Styleography: “’Styleography’ follows some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and their evolving looks.”
Adventureland: “A college grad takes a lowly job at an amusement park after his parents refuse to fund his long-anticipated trip to Europe.”
Training Day: “A rookie cop meets a corrupt Los Angeles narcotics officer who wants to include him in his schemes.”
From the descriptions provided by Zap2It, it’s hard to argue that most of the above falls inline with what the service should air.
To be fair, W Movies does air some programs that sound more inline with what they should broadcast such as The Love Guru, Wedding for One, The Good Wife, The Dating Coach, Don’t Cry Now and Walking the Halls. These programs and movies cover the love, romance and marriage part of the license, but what about the relationship-themed game shows (Give us our Love Connection, damn it.) to the “sexuality and gender issues, family planning, relationship breakdown and magazine-style programming featuring romantic vacation resorts?” As far as I can tell W Movies doesn’t even touch that part of its license.
Sundance Channel is perhaps even worse when it comes to abiding by its license. Here’s what the CRTC says Sundance Channel should be airing: The licensee shall provide a national English-language specialty Category B service devoted to programming for adults 18-49. Programming will consist of Drive-In B movies and series, as well as occasional magazine-style shows focusing on the genre. The schedule will cover the entire drive-in genre, including selections from horror and thriller movies, beach party movies, car chase movies and social issues B-movies (juvenile delinquency, unwed mothers, biker gangs, etc.).
Instead, Sundance Channel airs things like Dream School, London Live, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Push Girls, Shameless (UK), The Hour and Iconoclasts. Those are probably as far as you can get from B movies.
In fact, even Corus’ own description of Sundance Channel contradicts what CRTC says it should air. Here’s how Corus’ corporate site describes Sundance Channel: Offering a lineup of award-winning, diverse and engaging titles, Sundance Channel features the best in feature films, festival-selected shorts, documentaries and innovative original series . [Emphasis mine.]
So unless these licenses were amended to allow these types of shows/movies, both W Movies and Sundance Channel are in clear violation of them. Even if the CRTC did approve these changes, why would they suddenly turn around and let them air whatever they want? Weren’t these licenses issued because the CRTC felt a need for the programming that the licenses required the broadcasters to air?
Even in that 2011 document, CMT appeared to be straying from its “nature of service.” The CRTC questioned how shows like “According to Jim, Home Improvement, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Gilmore Girls and Pick a Puppy” were consistent with its nature of service. The CRTC document says, “Corus stated that all programming on CMT reflected its nature of service as it was in keeping with the general themes of country living – family values, wholesomeness and trust.” [Emphasis mine.] Corus also said that CMT is a family channel and at the time, it was requesting amendments that would allow for a mix of programming that fit its vision for the brand.
CRTC denied the request for amendments to its license, which asked for music video programming to be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent, and that drama and comedy be increased from 15 to 20 percent because they felt it would be “inconsistent with CMT’s current nature of service as its programming might no longer predominantly consist of music videos.”
Currently, CMT airs shows such as Wife Swap, Just for Laughs Gags, Pizza Wars, Burger Wars, Fear Factor, Reba and America’s Funniest Home Videos, but those shows typically take up half of the schedule, usually 6 PM-6 AM, music video programming takes the 6 AM-6 PM half. So CMT is essentially airing the maximum amount of non-music video programming it can (give or take a few hours, let’s say if they air special programming for a holiday or something). So I think CMT meets its license requirements, just barely.
It’s odd though that Corus has not one, but three channels (OWN, Sundance Channel and W Movies) in such clear violation of their licenses. I’m thinking there has to be a perfectly good reason they’re airing what they’re airing, and with some loophole it’s all kosher, but I can’t seem to find anything yet.
What’s even stranger is that these channels are broadcasted coast-to-coast and there’s been virtually no noise about Canadian channels not following their license (except OWN, which I wrote about last week and G4, a Rogers channel that was busted with OWN, but quickly made dramatic changes to comply with their license). The public should be outraged, considering they’re the ones paying for these channels.
You subscribed for a channel expecting to get one type of content, but Corus pulls the rug from under you and you wind up with something very different. Now if you wanted to watch a documentary about family planning on SexTV you’ll have to settle for something like Little Nicky, a movie about the son of Satan, or if you want to watch Plan 9 From Outer Space you’ll find Seth MacFarlane and Norah Jones doing God knows what on Iconoclasts.
However, if we were to play devil’s advocate here, why shouldn’t Corus be able to change the focus of their channel’s as they see fit? They paid for the channels, why should the government intervene? If they found a way to make a channel profitable and it gets viewers, what’s the problem then? Heck in the US it seems they can do whatever they want. The US FXX was originally Fox Soccer. However, rules are rules, and shouldn’t Corus have to abide by them?
I’m going to do more digging on the issue and I’ll keep you guys posted if I find anything else.