A twinstick, in Canadian broadcasting, is a term for two television stations, broadcasting in the same market, which are owned by the same company. The term derives from the use of "stick", in broadcasting industry jargon, as a term for a broadcast transmitter tower.

In the United States, a broadcast operation of this type is more commonly known as a duopoly.

Although broadcasting companies are also permitted to own multiple radio stations in a given market, the term "twinstick" is not generally used in reference to radio.


Officially, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) policy mandates that a broadcaster may only own one television station in a particular language in any given market. However, there are two types of exemptions which may be granted:
# small markets, in which one or more stations may be in financial jeopardy due to limited advertising revenue;
# large markets, in which one or more stations may be in financial jeopardy due to audience fragmentation or the cost of programming rights.

The policy does not prevent companies from owning multiple stations in a market provided that the stations broadcast in different languages. In recent years, this has been interpreted as meaning that a single company may own both an English-language station and one or more multicultural stations with some English-language content, which in itself may be considered a form of "exemption".

Also, the policy is not interpreted as preventing a single company from owning both a "commercial" general-interest station and an educational station in the same market, even if the latter airs advertising, as with Access in Alberta. [ Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2007-165] , para. 29]

Although the small and large market exemptions have a financial criterion in common, there are notable differences between the two. A small market twinstick may involve major network affiliates licensed to the same community, and is not obligated to provide distinct local news programming on the two stations, while in a large market the stations must be licensed to serve different communities or different programming niches, and "cannot" merge their news programming into a single operation. Small market twinsticks commonly share their branding across both stations, while twinsticks in large markets generally do not.

As well, while small market twinsticks generally involve private affiliates, major market twinsticks are virtually always owned-and-operated stations (O&Os) of their associated networks or systems.

In a few isolated cases, the CRTC has permitted "triple-sticks", or triopolies, where a single broadcaster operates "three" stations in a market. These are only possible under unusual circumstances which are discussed as they arise below.


Twinsticks were first allowed in 1967, as a way to help expand CTV service to smaller markets. In the original twinstick model, the second station was a rebroadcaster of a CTV station in a larger market, to which the small market's existing CBC affiliate would be granted the advertising sales rights.

As the company's advertising revenue grew, the CTV transmitter would eventually become an originating station in its own right, and in theory would eventually be sold to another broadcaster. However, in many cases the subsequent sale never happened, as the community's economic growth failed to lend itself to competition between multiple television broadcasters. In other markets where the CRTC had licensed competing broadcasters, such as Northern Ontario, twinstick mergers were subsequently allowed to permit the survival of both television stations after similar economic difficulties were encountered.

With the cross-national consolidation of media ownership, many of the original twinstick stations no longer share ownership with their former twin stations. However, the second type of twinstick, involving media consolidation in larger markets, began to arise in the 1990s.

mall markets

Outside of Quebec, twinsticks of this type always involve CTV and CBC affiliates:

* Lloydminster - CITL / CKSA (Newcap Broadcasting)
* Thunder Bay - CHFD / CKPR (Dougall Media)

Within Quebec, twinsticks may consist of any combination of SRC, TVA and TQS affiliates:

* Gatineau - CHOT / CFGS (RNC Media)
* Rouyn-Noranda - CKRN / CFEM (RNC Media)

From 1997 to 2002, CTV directly owned several CBC twinstick stations it had inherited from Baton Broadcasting (CKNC, CHNB, CJIC and CFCL in Northern Ontario, which were part of the MCTV system, and CKBI and CKOS in Saskatchewan), but these were sold to the CBC in 2002.

One "triple stick" also exists, in which a single company, Télé Inter-Rives, operates all three licensed stations in Rivière-du-Loup: CKRT, CIMT and CFTF. An unofficial triple stick also exists in the Rouyn-Noranda area, as RNC Media, the licensed owner of that city's twinstick, also operates CFVS, the sole station licensed to the nearby city of Val-d'Or. These unusual situations arise because of the unique circumstances of francophone television stations in Quebec — with virtually no sources for syndicated programming, the stations are effectively constrained to network programming at all times and thus operate in a context already significantly divorced from the CRTC's policies on diversity of ownership.

As noted above, historically twinstick operations were locally owned. With the cross-national consolidation of media ownership in Canada, however, most twinstick operations are now owned by major media conglomerates. The Thunder Bay Television stations (CHFD/CKPR) are the sole remaining locally-owned twinstick anywhere in English Canada. The aforementioned Télé Inter-Rives is similarly unique in Quebec, although it is itself "partially" owned by Quebecor.

Until August 2008, Cogeco owned three twinsticks in Quebec: CKTV / CFRS in Saguenay, CKSH / CFKS in Sherbrooke and CKTM / CFKM in Trois-Rivières. The situation however changed when Radio-Canada decided to acquire its former affiliates (CKTV, CKSH and CKTM), while the TQS affiliates (CFRS, CFKS and CFKM) were acquired by Remstar Corporation, the new owner of TQS.

Major markets

In the mid-1990s, the CRTC also began to allow private companies operating in large markets to acquire smaller stations. In all such cases, the twinsticks are permitted because a diversity of broadcast voices already exists in the market, and the stations are normally licensed to serve different communities in the metropolitan market or different programming niches. The stations must also be operated independently of each other, although they are permitted to cross-promote each other's programming. They may also air a very limited amount of common programming, although in practice this privilege is rarely used.

The companies that currently own multiple major market twinsticks operate each pair of stations under different branding: CTVglobemedia uses the CTV, A and Access brands; Canwest Global uses the Global and E! identities; and Rogers Media uses Citytv and Omni.

* Calgary: CFCN / CIAN (CTVglobemedia)1
* Edmonton: CFRN / CJAL (CTVglobemedia)1
* Ottawa: CJOH / CHRO (CTVglobemedia)
* Toronto-GTA: CFTO / CKVR (CTVglobemedia), CIII / CHCH (Canwest Global), CITY-TV / CFMT-TV / CJMT-TV (Rogers Media)2
* Vancouver-Victoria: CHAN / CHEK (Canwest Global), CIVT / CIVI (CTVglobemedia)

1This is not strictly an exemption as Access (CIAN/CJAL) is an educational service and is not covered by the common ownership policy.

Under the language exemption, Rogers was permitted to retain the multilingual Omni stations in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton and to acquire the multilingual station in Vancouver.

Additionally, in Calgary and Edmonton, CanWest owns CICT and CITV (respectively) as well as Red Deer's CHCA, which is available on cable in both markets and has recently been licensed to add rebroadcast transmitters in both larger cities. This is not considered a true twinstick as CHCA is not based in the larger markets, and does not have permission to solicit local advertising in those markets. It does, however, have simultaneous substitution rights.

Unlike the situation in smaller markets, this type of "consolidation" twinstick is becoming more common.

Multiple languages

In many major markets, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation operates both CBC Television (English) and Radio-Canada (French) stations.
* Edmonton - CBXT / CBXFT
* Montreal - CBMT / CBFT
* Ottawa - CBOT / CBOFT
* Regina - CBKT / CBKFT
* Toronto - CBLT / CBLFT
* Vancouver - CBUT / CBUFT
* Windsor - CBET / CBEFT
* Winnipeg - CBWT / CBWFT

In Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, Rogers Media's acquisition of the Citytv system puts those stations in twinsticks with the multilingual Omni Television stations. In Toronto, Omni Television has its own twinstick, giving the company a nominal "triple-stick" in that market. The two Omni stations in Toronto each serve different segments of the market's multicultural audience, and thus are "also" permitted under the language exemption.
* Calgary - CKAL / CJCO
* Edmonton - CKEM / CJEO
* Toronto - CFMT / CJMT / CITY
* Vancouver - CKVU / CHNM

In Montreal, CanWest Global owns both Global station CKMI and multicultural / E! station CJNT.

CTV was formerly a part owner of the francophone TQS network in Quebec, meaning that TQS' owned-and-operated CFJP in Montreal was a partial twinstick with CTV's CFCF for most of the 2000s. CFCF was, in fact, the original "owner" of TQS, meaning that the stations were once a true twinstick under the language exemption, although the two stations went through very different sequences of ownership changes after 1995.

See also

* Monopoly
* Duopoly


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