MTV Canada under fire for 'Jersey Shore'

CRTC cites violation with programming mandate

TORONTO -- MTV Canada has received a slap upside the head from the country's TV watchdog over "Jersey Shore," a Canadian cable ratings juggernaut.
Seems the CRTC, which polices the Canadian airwaves, wants to know what The Situation, Snooki, JWoww, Pauly D, Sammi and Hungadunga, not to mention other U.S.-originated MTV shows, have to do with MTV Canada's original programming mandate to operate an all-talk format.
"After a review of your broadcast schedule, it would appear that several of your programs are not consistent with your nature of service, such as 'Jersey Shore,' 'Cribs,' 'Downtown Girls' and 'Teen Mom,' " the regulator told MTV Canada-parent CTVglobemedia in an July 27, 2010 letter that requested clarification of the channel's programming strategies.

What may also have caught the CRTC's eye is "Jersey Shore" is a ratings phenomenon on Canadian TV, and this summer closed in on "The Hills" as the best-ever performing reality show on cable TV north of the border (HR, Aug. 30).

Representatives at CTVglobemedia offered no comment Friday on the CRTC intervention, and added their response to the regulatory query will be made public before the end of the year.

CTVglobemedia wasn't the only domestic broadcaster to be shown a wagging regulatory finger for straying from their original terms of license.

Rogers Broadcasting was also called to task in a July 27 letter for its G4 cable channel apparently departing from its original mandate to air computer and Internet-related programming by featuring episodes of "Mantracker," "Which Way To" and "The Office."

And Canwest Global Communications Corp. received its own July 27 missive from the CRTC why TVTropolis, a cable channel in 2004 designated as a cable channel for "adults over 50 years of age, was airing series like "Project Runway Canada" and "Last 10 Pounds Boot Camp."

The CRTC also wants to know why the Canwest Global website points to 68% of TVTropolis's viewers falling into the 18-49 demo prized by advertisers.

Executives at Rogers and Canwest Global were not available for comment at press time.

The CRTC from time to time shows Canadian broadcasters who's their daddy by not allowing them to air popular U.S. shows, or Canadian shows outside their original licensing format, to boost ratings and impress advertisers.

The CRTC in April told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to stop airing urban-themed dramas and comedies for a cable channel originally licensed as Country Canada for a rural Canadian TV audience.

And the regulator told Alliance Alliance Communications in 2007 to remove "CSI: NY" from its History Television schedule after rejecting the broadcaster's argument that the popular CBS cop drama was a "September 11-themed series."

Canadian broadcasters usually breach the CRTC's original licensing obligations when they rebrand cable channels, as CTVglobemedia did with MTV Canada, originally licensed as Talk TV Canada, and TVTropolis, transformed by Canwest Global from an original Prime channel.

What's more, Canadian cable channels often follow a tortured path from first entering the local market to eventual rebrands to build and sustain audiences in an increasingly fragmented landscape.

MTV first ventured into the Canadian market in partnership with then Craig Broadcasting as MTV Canada, only to raise the hackles of rival broadcaster Chum Ltd., which had a programming supply deal with the U.S.-based MTV Networks.

Eventually Craig failed in the Canadian marketplace, and MTV Canada went away.

But the U.S. MTV channel eventually returned to the Canadian market, this time in partnership with CTVglobemedia and transformed from Talk TV license into MTV Canada.