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History The term likely originated in the early 1990s when CanWest Global Communications, then a fledgling owner of independent stations that aired common programming, began using "CanWest Global System" (CGS) as a secondary brand for its various stations. Soon after, the Baton Broadcast System launched as a secondary "affiliation" linking another station group. In that sense, the term "system" was intended to give the impression of a full network service without any of the additional regulatory responsibilities, such as enhanced Canadian content requirements, that are associated with a CRTC-issued network licence. Much like today's systems, however, both CGS and BBS operated in relatively few markets compared to full "networks" such as CBC or CTV.

CGS was subsequently rebranded as the Global Television Network (adopting the brand that had been used by CIII in Paris since it launched in 1974, and maintaining a largely uniform programming schedule outside of news programming and certain substitutions for acquired programming), but never applied for a network licence from the CRTC. BBS's operations were eventually folded into CTV, which surrendered its own network licence in 2001. Indeed, as defined in Canada's Broadcasting Act, a "network" is an operation whereby the programming of a station is controlled by a different company.<ref>Broadcasting Act, 1991</ref> As both CTV and Global now own stations serving virtually every Canadian market, a national network licence would be redundant. Nevertheless, such "station groups" are now regulated in much the same way networks were regulated in the past.

Based on their national reach and the very limited differences in programming between stations, CTV and Global are both considered "networks" by the media and by the general public, notwithstanding the legal definition.

For a time, in the few markets where CTV does not own its own stations, programming was provided through a network licence that applied only to the applicable markets.<ref>Decision CRTC 2001-507</ref> Global, meanwhile, simply sublicenses its broadcast rights to local stations (as such, stations pay for programming, as opposed to the once-traditional North American model of networks paying stations).


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