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Window on CANADA

 A Free Ethnic Channel in 18 languages  



Madeline Ziniak

  Leslie Sole

April 8 was a great day for Rogers Broadcasting of Toronto and Calgary-based Craig Broadcasting, when Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) granted licences for new UHF-TV stations in the lucrative Toronto viewing area, a market of up to five million people.

The winning Rogers bid was for a new ethnic channel to be called CFMT Too, a sister station to the company's current UHF (ultra high frequency) multicultural channel.


“We are pleasantly surprised, motivated and a little bit in awe,” says Leslie Sole, CEO of Rogers TV, about the ruling.


Madeline Ziniak, Vice President, CFMT, said, “It was really a surprise. And we are delighted that it has come through.”


“I believe we effectively illustrated a need that was current and continuing to grow and that we were experienced at doing that,” says Sole.

He says two CFMTs will mean many more minority groups in the Toronto-Hamilton area -- in particular Asian and African groups -- can be served by the broadcaster.


Sole says Rogers will also be pursuing access to the London, Ont., region, possibly through a re-broadcasting transmitter.


In February, the CRTC awarded an ethnic TV licence in Vancouver to a group of local entrepreneurs, effectively crushing Rogers' eight-year struggle for a TV presence on the West Coast. CFMT had appealed against the Vancouver decision and got a review by CRTC only to be turned down again.


Some wonder whether the awarding of a second Toronto licence to make amends for Rogers' Vancouver defeat?


CFMT Too!, is the proposed multi-lingual, multi-ethnic channel to be set up in the Toronto-Hamilton golden (the richest advertising market in the country) horse shoe by Roger's Broadcasting.


“We hope to be up and running by September this year,” says Madeline Ziniak. CFMT Too will start by reconstructing their current building to accommodate the new challenge. They would also be hiring people to help run the new station.


The new station will be a free over the air 24 hour channel which will be also accessible on basic cable. The Rogers' Broadcasting will soon assign a Cable Channel through which CFMT Too can be accessed. The current multicultural station, CFMT, would continue in its present format.


CFMT will get a lot of ethnic-based programme proposals for consideration. “We have already received so many proposals even before the decision,” confirms Madeline.


CFMT is committed to spend $45 million in the next six years toward developing ethnic programs in several languages including Tamil, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, and English which is considered the link language for the South Asian community. “We will be funding documentaries and dramas from independent producers,” says Madeline.


Based on the commitments made by CFMT Too in their application, CRTC, while issuing a partial license to CFMT Too, has laid down some stipulations, which states (in part) 


“Diversity in the languages used by the new station will be ensured by a condition of licence requiring the use of at least 18 different languages, as well as by the requirement that no more than 15% of all broadcast time each month be dedicated to programs in any one foreign language, for the first two years of operation. That level may be increased by 1% in each of the following years, to a monthly maximum of 19%.


“Ethnic programs, as described in the Ethnic Policy, will make up at least 70% of the broadcast day on CFMT Too. At least 55% of the programming during the evening hours (6:00 p.m. until midnight) will be made up of ethnic programs, and not less than 80% of all programming between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. during each broadcast year will consist of ethnic programs. No more than 45% of all broadcast time between 6:00 p.m. and midnight shall be devoted to non-ethnic programs from sources other than Canada.


“CFMT Too will be required, as mandated by the Television Broadcasting Regulations, 1987 (the Television Regulations), to devote a minimum of 60% of the broadcast year to Canadian programs, and to devote at least 50% of the time between 6:00 p.m. and midnight to Canadian programming.


“Rogers stated its intention that local news programming will be a priority for CFMT Too. As with CFMT-TV, a central news gathering and production team will act as a facilitator for news production on CFMT Too, although the individual staff teams responsible for third-language newscasts will have editorial autonomy. Rogers also stated that it would establish a number of regional news bureaus in Markham/Scarborough, Mississauga/Brampton, Woodbridge as well as Hamilton. The new station will also have access to CFMT-TV’s existing bureaus in Ottawa and in Toronto at Queen’s Park.


“The cross-cultural programming series "Multicultural Canada" will provide opportunities for members of ethnic communities to exchange views and share ideas. The program will feature community, national and international news, discussion groups and cross-cultural interactive segments. It will be produced in conjunction with CJNT-TV Montreal and aired on that station as well as on CFMT-TV and CFMT Too. Multicultural Canada is planned to consist of 44 original one-hour episodes for broadcast during the evenings.”


Finally, the Commission reminds the licensee that “the expectations set out above with respect to cultural diversity are over and above the longstanding and more general expectations concerning employment equity. Specifically, the Commission expects the licensee to continue to ensure that the on-air presence of members of the four designated groups (women, Aboriginal persons, disabled persons and members of visible minorities) is reflective of Canadian society, and that members of these groups are presented fairly, accurately and in a manner free of stereotypes.”


According to the findings by CRTC, it “is convinced, given the large ethnic community in the Toronto area and its growing diversity, that additional television service devoted to a wider range of ethnic communities is warranted, and is consistent with the objectives of the Act. The Commission agrees with Rogers' position that new ethnic services will stimulate growth in the ethnic advertising market. It also finds that, since the focus of the new station will be on service to local communities, any negative impact on other services will be limited.”


This is the best news for the creative and the enterprising within the South Asian community, who will, hopefully, start playing a major role in the media.


Leslie Sole says it was the “ethno-graphic present and future of the city of Toronto” that tipped the ruling in their favour.


It is important that, as Binoy Thomas, editor of Weekly Voice, a local ethnic weekly, writes, “CFMT Too and Craig Broadcasting do not take the audiences for granted and dish out programs just for the sake of qualifying as 'ethnic'.”