Satires sans license

MONTREAL — In an unprecedented move, Canuck broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has ordered the CBC-controlled all-news web Newsworld to drop two of its most popular shows.

In response to complaints from Baton Broadcasting, CHUM Ltd. and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the CRTC ruled that the satirical comedy shows “The Royal Canadian Air Farce” and “This Hour Has 22 Min-utes,” do not qualify as news programming and fall outside the range of shows the specialty news channel is al-lowed to air.

It is a controversial decision that is already being hotly contested by CBC executives, and it could have significant implications for the slew of new specialty outlets due in Canada over the next two years.

Jim Byrd, vice-president of CBC’s English Television Networks, said there have been no viewer complaints about the airing of “Air Farce” and “This Hour” on Newsworld, and the public broadcaster plans to appeal the CRTC ruling.

The CBC’s argument to the CRTC was that the two shows, which routinely savagely lampoon the country’s politi-cians, fit within the category of news and information programming because they tackle political issues.

“This issue is going to crop up more and more if the categories are defined narrowly,” said Byrd. “Maybe it’s time to revisit the categories.”

“Air Farce” and “This Hour,” which also air on the main CBC network, are the two top-rated programs on News-world, each drawing weekly auds of between 250,000 and 300,000 viewers.

This is not the first time Baton execs have shown an interest in the fate of these popular comedy shows. Last year, Baton president Ivan Fecan unsuccessfully tried to convince the producers of “Air Farce” and “This Hour” to leave CBC and join the private Baton system.

Baton’s new all-comedy channel, due later this year, has already expressed an interest in running old episodes from the “Air Farce” vaults.

The two shows have been taken off the air on Newsworld, but CBC management is planning to ask the CRTC to modify the channel’s license requirements to allow it to bring the shows back.

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