The CRTC's local television fund discriminates against stations that serve religious and minority communities, small broadcasters told CRTC commissioners at a hearing this week. “There is no policy rationale for discriminating against a broadcaster for providing faith-based local content as compared to non-faith content,” Bill Roberts, president of ZoomerMedia Ltd. told commissioners Thursday at a hearing on the future of the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF). “They should not be treated as second class citizens within the broadcasting regulatory regime, so why have these … stations been excluded?” he asked. Zoomer said its four local TV stations in Winnipeg, Man., and Surrey, B.C., are among a handful of over-the-air stations offering local programming in non-metropolitan areas that have been denied LPIF funding. “All four are religious stations,” Roberts noted. “This may be their Albatross.” Zoomer said the stations were deemed ineligible to collect from the fund due to their lack of local news programming. The company said all independent stations offering local programming in non-metropolitan markets should have access to LPIF funding. On Friday, the Quebec English-language Production Council and the English Language Arts Network (ELAN) urged the commission to let minority English-language stations in Quebec draw from the fund. Earlier in the week, Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. said their minority language or ethnic stations were unfairly prevented from collecting LPIF funds.