Oprah vows to smarten up OWN. Will the CRTC buy it?

The Rosie Show launches Oct. 10 on OWN

BEVERLY HILLS, CA—Oprah Winfrey says she wants to turn OWN into “the world’s biggest classroom.” Will that be enough for the Canadian broadcast regulator who this week threatened to revoke OWN Canada’s license?
Winfrey made a brief appearance Friday at the Television Critics Association press tour. She was here mainly to shore up support for the new network, which has had three CEO’s—including, now, Winfrey herself–since going on the air at the start of the year.
She also introduced Rosie O’Donnell, who will headline The Rosie Show on OWN starting in October.
Winfrey re-affirmed that the network was the culmination of a dream. She made the “classroom” comment at the start of her remarks. Corus officials will likely seize those words as they prepare to address concerns the CRTC raised earlier this week that OWN Canada is not educational enough to hold onto its current broadcast license.
When it launched OWN Canada in March, Corus re-purposed an existing specialty channel which historically had more of an educational focus. Under the terms of the license, OWN shows had to have a formal link with courses taught at Canadian educational institutions.
The CRTC is not buying Corus’ argument that The Gayle King Show or In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Bertram can be studied on any Canadian curriculum.
The Commission wrist-slapped Corus for skirting the terms of the original license, suggesting tying OWN content to courses in television and media shouldn’t count. The CRTC further found that “those programs are not inherently educational” and fell basically into the category of “lifestyle programming.” It noted that a lot of OWN content is similar to what viewers can already find on Corus’ sister station W.
The Commission has given Corus until March 1, 2012, to bring the service into compliance with its nature of service.” Otherwise, Corus risks surrendering OWN’s Category A license and could only re-apply for a less desirable Category C—a designation that could drop OWN far down the cable and satellite ladder.
It remains to be seen if the CRTC will accept the plan Winfrey shared with reporters Friday to make her channel more educational: re-purposing the close to 5000 episodes of her old daytime talk show in order to “use them as a teaching tool.” She’ll shoot new intros and re-edit the shows into specific topics. The idea, she says, came to her recently in her kitchen.

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