OWN – The Oprah Winfrey Network

On Tuesday, January 15, 2008,  Oprah Winfrey and the U.S. Discovery Communications company announced plans to create OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.  OWN was expected to debut in 2009.

On September 29th 2009, at which time OWN had not yet launched, the Oprah Winfrey Network announced that they had finalized a licensing agreement with Canada’s Corus Entertainment that would enable Corus to add the OWN Network to its portfolio of Canadian specialty services. 

In March 2011, Corus replaced Viva with OWN, which had debuted in the U.S. on January 3rd 2011. OWN  inherited committed cable and satellite exposure that would deliver the service to a potential viewing audience of around six million homes, and would contain Canadian elements in conformity with its licensing obligations.

Among the U.S. series planned for the OWN schedule were The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season, Oprah Presents: Master Class, In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman, The Miracle Detectives and Oprah’s Next Chapter.

On December 11th , the CRTC called Corus to a public hearing in Gatineau PQ to discuss concerns that OWN -The Opra Winfrey Network was not complying with the nature of service as defined by its condition of licence. Following a licence renewal hearing in 2011, OWN had been directed to either file a report detailing the measures it had taken to come into compliance or submit another proposal.

Corus had subsequently filed two applications on behalf of OWN, neither of which the Commission felt had been consistent with its directions. As a result, the Commission had not procesed the applications.

Consequently, the Commission had called Corus to a public hearing to discuss its apparent ongoing non-compliance in further detail. Corus was expected to show cause as to why:

• a mandatory order should not be issued requiring the licensee to comply with its conditions of licence, and 
• its licence should not be suspended or revoked.

On March 15th 2013  the CRTC announced that it was denying Corus’ applications to amend its broadcasting licence for the Oprah Winfrew network OWN, by amending the definition of the term “broadcast day” as it applied to its licence so as to mean the 24-hour period beginning each day at 6 a.m., as well as the application by OWN Inc. for a broadcasting licence to operate a national, English-language specialty Category B service to be known as OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

In denying the application to amend the broadcast day definition, the Commission said it “…does not consider it appropriate to approve an application for a licence amendment for which the objective appears to be to remedy a licensee’s non-compliance.”

Regarding the application for a Category B service, the Commission noted that, when questioned on its application at the hearing, Corus clarified that if the Commission determined that the two services would be competitive, it only sought a Category B licence for the OWN service if its Category A licence were revoked. The Commission considered that the specialty Category B service that OWN Inc. described in its application would likely be directly competitive with the Category A service that it currently operated. 

In light of this, and given OWN’s statement at the hearing that it only sought a Category B licence if its Category A licence were revoked, which was not the case, the Commission denied the application by OWN Inc. for a broadcasting licence to operate a national, English-language specialty Category B service to be known as OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

In summary, the Commission reiterated the importance it placed on a licensee’s compliance with its conditions of licence and other regulatory requirements. The Commission viewed any non-compliance as a very serious matter. The Commission noted that it might consider recourse to additional measures, including suspension, non-renewal or revocation of the licence under sections 9 and 24 of the Act, should OWN Inc. again breach its nature of service definition or any of its other regulatory requirements.

Further, to ensure that the licensee would comply with its conditions of licence relating to its nature of service and with the Regulations, the Commission directed OWN Inc. to adhere to the monitoring and reporting framework set out elsewhere in the decision.

Written by Pip Wedge – January, 2011

Ownership: Corus

Start Year: 2008