CRTC approves new Montreal TV stations


By Steve Faguy, THE GAZETTE December 20, 2012

Montreal is about to see its first new TV station in 15 years.
On Thursday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved two related applications that will see the Citytv network officially come to Montreal, and the launch of a new television station, ICI, that will offer local ethnic programming.

In the first decision, the CRTC approved a $10.67-million purchase of CJNT by Rogers Broadcasting Ltd., and its conversion from an ethnic station into an English commercial station. CJNT, branded Metro 14, is owned by Toronto-based Channel Zero Inc., and has been an affiliate of Citytv since June. Channel Zero bought CJNT in 2009, along with Hamilton, Ont.’s CHCH, for a combined $12 (plus $500,000 in commitments to keep the station running) from Canwest Global Communications Corp., the former parent company of The Gazette.

Rogers Media president of broadcast Scott Moore told The Gazette the deal should close by the end of January, and CJNT should assume the full Citytv prime time schedule on or around Feb. 4.

“We started about an hour ago putting the system in place,” he said.

CJNT is already carrying a good chunk of the Citytv schedule, including some popular U.S. programs like How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family and Revenge, as well as original Citytv productions like Cityline, Canada’s Got Talent and The Bachelor Canada. But most of its schedule has been ethnic programming because the station was licensed as an ethnic station.

Rogers has committed to producing a three-hour local morning show on weekdays and a weekly half-hour local sports show, resulting in 20 to 30 new jobs. The CRTC has given Rogers until Sept. 1 to launch this new local programming. Moore said Rogers has an August target for launching the morning show, which will be set in a new downtown studio, and is exploring options for local programming in the meantime.

Citytv Montreal’s local morning show will compete with one set to launch this spring on Global Montreal.

New ethnic channel will be producers’ cooperative

In the second decision issued Thursday, the CRTC also approved a new television station called International Channel/Canal International, or ICI. The station, owned by Montreal’s Norouzi family, would carry only ethnic programming, and most of it local. Because it will broadcast over the air on digital channel 47, the station would be distributed to all local cable television subscribers.

ICI will run as a producers’ co-operative, meaning individual shows would buy airtime in half-hour blocks and then sell their own advertising. The station’s owners believe this is a better business model than the commercial models of CJNT’s previous owners because show producers are closer to their communities and would be in a better position to sell advertising.

The commission expressed concern about whether such a model would be viable, but ICI provided letters from 16 producers committing to time buys of $17,650 a week, or $917,800 a year, with 38 per cent of its schedule still unsold. Station manager Sam Norouzi told The Gazette on Thursday that they have received calls from other ethnic communities interested in starting programs on ICI.

“We were waiting four full years for this,” Norouzi’s father, Mohammad, said.

“Now the real work starts,” Sam Norouzi said. “We’re going to prove that this is going to work once and for all, that ethnic media in Montreal is going to be profitable.”

Sam Norouzi said they expect to launch the station in late-spring or early-summer, once the transmitter is installed, firm contracts signed with producers and the schedule finalized.

Both Rogers and Channel Zero have also committed to help ICI get off the ground. Channel Zero is providing a $1-million loan to ICI, which the station will use only if it needs to, as well as master control services free for five years. Rogers is providing $1.07 million in programming funding (10 per cent of the purchase price for CJNT, which the commission requires be spent on onscreen initiatives) as well as 200 hours a year of programming from its OMNI ethnic TV network, free of charge. The Norouzi family is also committing the resources of its production company, Mi-Cam Communications Inc., to get the station running.

ICI has committed to offering programming in the following languages: Italian, Greek, Arabic, Portuguese, Persian, Romanian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish, French, English, Armenian, Polish and Creole. Programming would also be directed to the following ethnic groups: Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Algerian, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Romanian, Pakistani, Indian, Iranian, Haitian, Jewish, German, Ukrainian, Polish and Turkish.

Though it expects to greatly exceed this requirement, the new station is required to provide at least 14 hours of original local ethnic programming a week.

Channel Zero CEO Cal Millar said his company will use the money from the sale of CJNT to support CHCH in Hamilton, as well as finance expansion elsewhere in Canada. He said submissions have been made to the CRTC for the acquisition or launch of television stations, though he would not get into details until those applications are published by the commission.

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