Memo to myself:  Never take a cell phone call from a reporter when you’re in the middle of a busy shopping centre. When Canadian Communications Reports called to get my reaction to Vision TV’s recent licence renewal, I should have asked them to call back. I had much more to say (CCR, Nov. 22/01). The CRTC’s decision to reprimand Vision TV with a short-term licence, and to deny its application for a rate increase, suggests to me that the commission has an increasingly disdainful attitude toward public service broadcasters. Vision TV’s unintended failure (by 2 or 3 per cent) to fully meet its Canadian content commitments should not be seen in the same light as failures by for-profit broadcasters. The undisputed private-sector mandate is to do everything possible, and legal, to enrich their bottom lines, hewing as close to the regulatory line as possible. It’s natural for them to push the envelope as hard as they can, as often as they can. Vision TV is a not-for-profit charity that has always operated frugally, always putting the highest possible percentage of revenues into programming. It has nothing to gain by fudging the regulations. No one at Vision gained a dime by failing to meet the letter of the Canadian content regulations. No shareholders received dividends, no executives got bonuses. Vision TV’s sins can be attributed to counting errors in a system where what appears to be Canadian content (programs made in Canada by Canadians) is not Canadian content unless it has the right numbers. The numbers have to fit into a system that is at best convoluted, at worst designed more for the convenience of the regulator than for the regulated.  Vision’s real commitment to the highest principles of Canadian programming is reflected in the fact that for years, no other network broadcast more documentaries by small independent producers, from every part of Canada; documentaries that explored significant social and ethical issues. No other network, before and behind the cameras, so completely reflects the multicultural, multi-faith nature of our country. When Vision TV went on the air in 1988, you could count the number of specialty channels on your fingers, and have fingers left over. In today’s environment, the network competes for audiences in a mushroom field of specialty channels. And, it competes for programs that fit its mandate within a very small pool of Canadian producers anxious to sell to bigger, higher paying corporate networks. The cost of programming, of course, goes up. Has this impaired Vision TV’s ability to broadcast quality Canadian programs? The impact has been staggering. Does Vision TV need a rate increase just to keep doing what it has always done? You bet it does. Today, under new management, Vision is a minnow in a pool of whales, struggling for survival in a new broadcasting environment where corporate giants seem to have their way with the CRTC, whose very existence they challenge. I will support any decision they take to play hardball, and take the CRTC to court. The trouble with a regulator that plays favourites is that the regulated dare not complain because of the very real possibility of future retaliation. Earlier versions of the CRTC went on record to praise Vision TV for the valuable public service it provides Canadian viewers. Vision hasn’t changed – the CRTC has. Fil Fraser is an Adjunct Professor at Athabasca University in Edmonton. He is the former president/CEO of Vision TV.