Cabin Radio files with the Federal Court of Appeal

Cabin Radio has asked the Federal Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the CRTC’s decision that Yellowknife cannot sustain another commercial FM radio station, and is simultaneously seeking judicial review of that decision.

You can view the materials we filed with the court here:

Here’s Ollie’s explanation of why Cabin Radio is taking this step:

Our simple goal is to get on Yellowknife’s FM dial. We believe the quickest way to do that is by immediately reapplying to the CRTC, as we’ve already said we will do. We’re working on that fresh application.

However, the CRTC has previously indicated it may enforce a two-year waiting period before accepting any further application for the Yellowknife market (on top of the 42 months taken for the first, flawed decision).

That would mean at least a six-year wait before the CRTC even opens the application, which is manifestly inappropriate.

With that in mind, we must preserve all available options – one of which is taking our significant concerns regarding February’s decision to the Federal Court of Appeal and asking the court to first set aside that decision, then order that the CRTC fairly and reasonably consider our application.

There is only a short window after CRTC decisions within which appeals must be filed, which is why this step is being taken now.

Crucially, we’re being represented pro bono (i.e. at no charge) by Lawson Lundell, and I’d like to place on record our huge thanks to Toby Kruger, Tim Syer, Catherine Haid and the Lawson Lundell team in Yellowknife for their assistance. They reached out almost immediately following the CRTC’s February decision and have since been working extremely hard on Cabin Radio’s behalf.

We think the materials filed with the Federal Court of Appeal raise important questions that also extend beyond our specific circumstances.

We contend that the CRTC had no jurisdiction to refuse to consider our application on purely economic grounds and, in doing so, ignored its responsibilities under the Broadcasting Act. The regulator cannot operate without consideration of the public interest and there is no statutory basis for the CRTC to act in the manner it did, conjuring a gatekeeping role that protects incumbents at the expense of diversity and original programming.

Beyond that, we contend that the CRTC obviously failed to be procedurally fair and just in this process. To understand that, you need only read my affidavit. We also point out that the CRTC ignored relevant evidence while taking into account some irrelevant stuff.

Even two of the CRTC’s own commissioners thought the decision was wrong. As stated in the dissenting opinion of Commissioner Joanne T Levy, Yellowknife “is also a cultural capital. Diversity of voices is an important driver of Commission policy. Assessing the needs of a northern community should allow for a more open process that allows those voices to be heard.” In failing to consider the importance of having a locally owned and operated commercial FM radio station in Yellowknife, the CRTC not only erred in law but also arbitrarily restricted the community from having its own voice.

Our filing represents a test of procedural fairness, of economic conjecture versus the public interest, and of how the North is understood and its residents’ interests protected by national public bodies. We believe those tests are important and the ramifications significant but, ultimately, we really just want to be on FM in Yellowknife, as many residents have requested for the past five years.