CRTC skeptical about CJNT, ICI applications

As with all ownership transactions it is the responsibility of the seller or its representative to prove that a transaction is in the public interest. The Commission has been abundantly clear about this recently. This means that the burden of proof lies with Rogers and Channel Zero. This is not simply a matter of promising to invest a certain amount of money in the Canadian broadcasting system, many other factors must also be taken into consideration, including the impact on the Montreal market and the Commission’s various policies.

This was the statement at the beginning of last month’s hearing by Jean-Pierre Blais, the chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Combined with the grilling that the commission gave to the three parties involved in two applications related to the purchase of CJNT by Rogers, it’s clear that the commission’s hard line about acquisitions wasn’t just a one-off for Bell’s sake.

Rogers: using the “back door”

First up at the table was Rogers, whose acquisition of CJNT is setting this whole thing in motion (though the idea of offloading ethnic broadcasting obligations on a third party actually precedes the acquisition).

We have a few more details about Rogers’s plan for an English Citytv station in Montreal. The morning show, which would carry the same Breakfast Television brand as those it has in other markets, would be three hours, from 6am to 9am weekdays, and would employ “27 or 28” of the 30 to 35 people at the station. The rest would work in sales or for the weekly sports show.

Of the morning show employees, it would break down like this, as explained by Rogers Broadcasting President Scott Moore:

  • “A minimum” of three on-air people, including a host, weather presenter and roving reporter
  • Six to eight segment producers “that book guests that worry about what the individual segments on the show are on a day-to-day basis.”
  • A director and other technical people, who Rogers stresses “would all be based in Montreal”

The commission seemed particularly concerned that this station would have no evening newscast. Rogers reiterated that with three existing players already, it makes no sense to go up against them, especially when starting from scratch.

“So for us to get into the news game late we’d be banging our head against the wall for a number of years,” Moore said.

Rogers Media President Keith Pelley even added that if they decided to expand local programming, it would probably be to launch a daytime lifestyle show like Cityline before trying an evening newscast.

From Moore: “The one phrase that stuck with me in my head, and I’ve used it several times, is one of the cultural group leaders came up to me and said the only way Anglo Montrealers see themselves on television is if they’re involved in a murder or involved in a traffic accident because the only local production in Montreal is hard news. And we feel that the market deficit in Montreal was in lifestyle.”

That’s an exaggeration, of course. CTV invites guests who have not been murdered or arrested to discuss non-hard-news topics  every day on its noon newscast. Global’s weekly Focus Montreal show similarly has interviews with people who are involved in the community, and even has musical guests on a regular basis.

But there isn’t a regular outlet on local television that’s not either part of a newscast or having a newscast feel to it.

As a matter of record, the commission asked Rogers if it would accept a condition of licence requiring an evening newscast. It said if such a condition were imposed, it would not accept the deal.

When commissioners suggested that an evening newscast might be an eventual goal of Citytv outside of Toronto, Rogers again poured water on the idea, saying if anything they would launch a different type of show that doesn’t compete directly with competitors and takes into account changing habits about consuming news.

Rogers was also asked about a weekend morning show, but also said that this wasn’t feasible in any of its markets, and likely wouldn’t be in Montreal either.

Regarding the other proposed local show, a half-hour weekly sports show, Moore compared it to what used to air on CFCF on Saturday nights. SportsNight 360, which was right after the half-hour 6pm newscast and acted as an anglo Canadiens pregame show, was cancelled four years ago. He admitted that its discussions would almost certainly be heavy on Canadiens hockey talk, because that’s what Montrealers care about. But he also said it would be an outlet for stories about amateur sports. Expect it to be similar to the kinds of stories that CTV Montreal’s sports department puts out on a daily basis, profiling amateur athletes and regularly visiting university teams.

The commission asked about financial effects of giving Citytv an outlet in Montreal, whether it would drive up the cost of acquiring foreign programming, or hurt the existing stations. Rogers responded by pointing out that the U.S. border stations (WPTZ, WVNY WCAX and WFFF) still sell advertising in Montreal, and that most of Citytv’s local advertising would simply be repatriating that money by taking advantage of more simultaneous substitution.

There was some discussion of Plan B: Rogers acquiring CJNT but being forced to maintain it as an ethnic station. This was actually the original plan, until Rogers learned of a deal between Channel Zero and ICI to propose a new ethnic TV station. Naturally Rogers jumped at this idea. Still, it says if the CRTC won’t accept the plan it is willing to take ownership of CJNT and keep it ethnic, provided it is relieved of the obligation to ensure that 75% of programming from 8pm to 10pm is ethnic. That condition cuts out a lot of revenue for a station that would be heavily dependent on U.S. primetime programming to fund itself.

The commission didn’t hint at where it might go with that, but did ask Rogers a simple question: If it can’t run CJNT as a fully ethnic station, what makes it think that ICI could?

The response from both Rogers and Channel Zero was that ICI’s cooperative model is the difference here. Rather than try to duplicate the OMNI model, which failed for both Canwest and Channel Zero and which even Rogers admits is looking less viable these days, the new channel would offload some risk onto members by having them sell ads.

Channel Zero’s Cal Millar put it this way: “What struck us probably most powerfully about their proposal is the co-op model, because those, let’s say 25 producers that are working with them on shows, are also 25 sales reps who are embedded in the community who already have access to advertisers and know these people with relationships going back many years.”

We’ll see if that argument convinced the commission. As we’ll see below, they’re skeptical of ICI’s viability.

Finally, Rogers was asked to account for the process used, paying $10.3 million for a station that never made money and then asking that its very nature be changed. Was there any value in the station itself, or was Rogers just shelling out this cash in an order to get around regulatory problems?

The application itself puts more than 90% of the value itself in the licence, with the rest going to tangible things like the transmitter. So that would seem to support the idea that this acquisition only has value if the CRTC accepts Rogers’s demands.

Rogers countered that the value of the application should be judged by the commitments Rogers is prepared to make, not the $10.3 million being spent to acquire CJNT.

Blais, the CRTC chair, pointed out the main concern: “It might be suggested by a third-party observer that this might look, however, like a back-door entry into the Montreal market for you. I understand your views of wanting to create a third private national presence, but there may have been a more front-door approach to that by actually applying for such a licence and maybe it would have resulted in a call, one doesn’t know but, in any event, how would you respond to somebody who would raise this as this really looks like a back door entry?”

Rogers reiterated what it told me, that the intention was to move as fast as possible, not undermine CRTC process. It also hinted that an open call for applications probably wouldn’t result in any, given that there’s little interest in starting new over-the-air television stations in Canada, and nothing new has launched in Montreal since 1997.

If the CRTC decides to approve this plan, it will have to come to the same conclusion.

Channel Zero: unacceptable logs

“Okay, let’s get to the ugly — logs, if we can still call them that.”

That was how vice-chair Tom Pentefountas began questioning of Channel Zero’s Millar on his company’s three years in control of CJNT.

Millar said it was only in July, when alerted to it by the commission’s staff, that his company was made aware that the logs submitted for CJNT were not in the proper format. Looking at the before-and-after logs for CJNT, it’s hard to notice much different. It’s all lists of all the programs and commercials the station aired for a given month, with the start time, length, title and type. Programming is also tagged with some categorical information, like what language it’s in.

It seems as though it’s the tagged information that was most faulty, because based on those logs the commission came up with some pretty crazy numbers:

  • Only 8.56% of its evening (6pm-midnight) programming was ethnic, while the licence requires at least 50%
  • Only 20.58% of its primetime (8-10pm) programming was ethnic, while the licence requires at least 75%
  • Only 45.34% of its daily (6am-midnight) programming was Canadian, while the licence requires at least 50%
  • 89.6% of its daily (6am-midnight) programming was non-ethnic, while the licence sets a cap of 40%
  • Only 14.06% of its programming was closed-captioned, while the licence requires 100%

Another condition of licence, that 40% of evening (6pm-midnight) programming be Canadian, was met, according to the logs.

Channel Zero said the logs must clearly be faulty, because they have been meeting their licence requirements as far as ethnic programming. They pointed to their schedule, which meets those requirements. And they’re right here. I can’t speak to closed-captioning or to Canadian programming, but clearly there were some ethnic programs that were not properly categorized as such and threw off the CRTC’s calculations.

Channel Zero promised to correct the logs, but said doing three years’ worth of logs would take months. They proposed to redo a month of logs – the commission would pick which month – to demonstrate that they’re fulfilling their licence obligations.

The commission, while reiterating that logs are not a trivial matter and are taken very seriously, nevertheless accepted the proposal, and told Channel Zero to redo the logs for September 2012.

A document it later filed with the commission confirmed that, based on the schedule of programs it broadcast in September 2012, it was in compliance with all its conditions of licence.

There was another licence obligation that I didn’t mention above. It’s not strictly a “condition of licence”, but rather a “commitment” – the distinction legally isn’t clear. It goes like this:

The licensee will broadcast 14 hours of original local ethnic programming each week.

There are three key words in there: local, ethnic, and original. That means that the station must produce 14 hours of local programming every week, that it has to be ethnic in nature, and that it has to be original (supposedly meaning no repeats).

This obligation is actually slightly higher than it was under Canwest, at the request of Channel Zero, according to the CRTC’s 2009 decision granting the transfer of ownership of CJNT.

But when Pentefountas brought that up, he said the CRTC had concluded that the amount of such programming the station was producing every week was zero.

Nothing, nada. No original local ethnic programming at all.

Pentefountas asked Channel Zero specifically about that, where that can be found on the schedule:

600 COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Okay. And where is the original ethnic programming in your week’s line-up? Do you see any of that?

601 MR. MILLAR: I do. You see it from Monday to Friday in Metro Debut.

602 COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Okay.

603 MR. MILLAR: It’s 15 hours a week.

Metro Debut is a show that airs weekdays from 7am to 10am and consists mainly of music videos and short film clips. It’s hosted by this guy:

Evan Arppe hosts Metro Debut, weekdays from 7 to 10am

In between clips that Channel Zero can scrounge from its library, Arppe gives traffic information, weather and local headlines. He’d be fine as a radio DJ (except for the poor-quality audio), but it makes for pretty boring TV.

It’s local (even though it’s shot in Toronto), and it’s definitely original (it doesn’t air on any other channel), but is it ethnic? That is, at best, debatable.

When I asked Millar about this licence obligation on two occasions, he twice told me he didn’t think that was what the licence said and that it was enough that it was local programming. Now Channel Zero seems to be recategorizing it, pretending that the whitest guy on television is hosting an ethnic show.

Up until it became a Citytv affiliate, CJNT thought it was meeting its local ethnic programming obligations by airing years-old reruns of local ethnic programs that were produced in the Canwest era. That led to some pretty embarrassing situations where outdated information made it to air repeatedly, and cultural events that happened in 2009 were being promoted in 2012.

We’ll see how the commission decides on this. They’ll no doubt review the programming to determine if it really meets the obligations.

But what if the commission finds that the station is ignoring its licence? Channel Zero doesn’t want to own CJNT anymore. Would they deny the sale, forcing Channel Zero to keep the station? Would they revoke its licence, killing the city’s only ethnic station and forcing Rogers to start from scratch? Or would they issue some sort of mandatory order that Rogers would inherit when it buys the station? It all seems a bit moot to me.

The chair alluded to a requirement that a change in ownership application requires coming forward with “clean hands” in terms of complying with a licence. That might suggest that a significant enough violation of that licence would mean denial of a sale. But that would just delay the inevitable.

ICI: Show us the money

For ICI, the ethnic television station project being proposed by the Norouzi family, the CRTC had no question as to its motives or its benefit to the broadcasting system. ICI is proposing to fill its schedule with ethnic programming, including a very large amount of original local programming.

The commissioners’ concerns were more on matters of dollars and cents. The financial projections, they suggested, seemed optimistic, perhaps to the point of being unrealistic, particularly in terms of advertising revenue.

“You are all very confident that your producers will be able to secure their advertising. I wish you could give me something to make me confident,” said commissioner Candice Molnar.

Her colleague Tom Pentefountas added concerns about startup financing and the Norouzis’ personal stake in the project. The application came with no specific financial commitment from the owners, and no financing commitments from third parties, beyond the $1 million from Channel Zero and the proposed $1 million from Rogers, either of which could be in jeopardy depending on how the CRTC decides on CJNT’s acquisition.

Sam Norouzi explained that the owners’ stake in ICI would be intangible, through their production company Mi-Cam. If the station was unprofitable, the group would forgo Mi-Cam’s revenue as a producer, and the production company would work for free for ICI for as long as it took. In addition, they fully expect to secure commitments from others to help with financing, but such commitments are hard to come by when a licence has not yet been awarded.

Norouzi also explained that he felt very confident the model would work, because it’s not based on the OMNI/CJNT model of paying for U.S. shows to broadcast in primetime. Rather, as a producers’ cooperative, the revenue would come from fees they pay to air their shows on the station, and the producers would be responsible for selling advertising. Having the producers sell the ads would mean more people doing ad sales, and those people being closer to the communities they serve.

Norouzi backed up his claims that the ICI model is sound with a later filing with the commission, showing letters of intent to purchase programming blocks from sixteen producers. With the rates set for each time slot (as low as $25 per half hour for overnight, to as high as $200 per half hour for weekend prime time), they were able to calculate a weekly revenue from these commitments alone of $17,650, which works out to an annual revenue of $917,800, slightly higher than the projected revenue in their financial projections:

Schedule shows commitments from independent producers to buy slots on ICI's schedule.

Schedule shows commitments from independent producers to buy slots on ICI’s schedule.

ICI also managed to get additional commitments from Rogers and Channel Zero: Rogers would provide up to 200 hours of programming from OMNI a year for five years (or 1,000 hours total) at no cost, and Channel Zero would provide master control facilities worth $20,000 a month for five years at no cost. Plus Mi-Cam would provide its production services at no cost, if necessary, to ICI.

If the CRTC rejects ICI’s application, the only reason will be a lack of confidence in its financial viability. But with almost $200,000 a year in committed revenue, and programming and facilities provided for free for five years, it’s harder to make the argument that this can’t succeed financially.

Plus, I suspect the potential benefit to the Montreal broadcasting scene will be too tempting to reject this station for this reason. Expect the CRTC to approve the applications as presented, with Rogers getting its Citytv station, ICI getting its ethnic station, and Channel Zero getting its money. The commission could set conditions on the sale, but it’s too much of a win-win to give it an outright no.

See also: Will Citytv find a place in Montreal? – Broadcaster Magazine

UPDATE (Dec. 14): The CRTC has announced that the decisions related to these applications should come next week (Dec. 17 to 21). That’s not absolute, so it could change, but the decisions are definitely coming soon.

23 thoughts on “CRTC skeptical about CJNT, ICI applications

  1. Alex H

    I think the bigger risk for the CRTC here is rejected ICI, trying to pin Rogers to running the existing station as an Ethnic station, and having both of them say “no thanks” and pull the plug on the entire thing.

    CJNT cannot continue in it’s current format or current operations without end, there just isn’t enough money in it to justify it’s existence.

    This is a case where the CRTC has pretty much been handed a bill of goods, and it’s an all or nothing set of choices. Rejecting any part of the package is likely to have the whole thing fall apart. Smooth move by Rogers in this case, they certainly spotted a good opportunity to get into the game in Montreal on the cheap, and they have left the CRTC with little they can say against it without losing not only City but the ethnic station as well.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I think the bigger risk for the CRTC here is rejected ICI, trying to pin Rogers to running the existing station as an Ethnic station, and having both of them say “no thanks” and pull the plug on the entire thing.

      Rogers told the CRTC it is prepared to run CJNT as an ethnic station (in fact, they expected to do that when they first wanted to buy it), provided the requirement that 75% of programming between 8pm and 10pm be ethnic is dropped, along with the requirement that 14 hours a week of local ethnic programming be original (which Channel Zero is arguably ignoring anyway).

      Smooth move by Rogers in this case, they certainly spotted a good opportunity to get into the game in Montreal on the cheap, and they have left the CRTC with little they can say against it without losing not only City but the ethnic station as well.

      I wouldn’t call a $10 million purchase of a television station “cheap”, especially when the purchase includes no physical assets beyond the transmitter. And especially when you consider that CJNT and CHCH were sold to Channel Zero for a combined $12 in 2009.

      Also, the ICI plan to offload ethnic requirements wasn’t Rogers’s idea, it was Channel Zero’s. The original plan was for Channel Zero and ICI to come to the CRTC together with this plan, so CJNT would become an English station owned by Channel Zero and ICI launches with some financing from Channel Zero. ICI actually submitted an application under this plan, then Rogers came along and bought CJNT, only finding out about the ICI plan after the purchase.

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        Yes, they are willing to run it as an ethnic station as long as they don’t have to run it as an ethnic station at the times that really matter for sim-sub and other income generating times of the day. Channel Zero’s failure on local ethnic programming is a pretty good indication that the station was broken and was soon to die under it’s current circumstance, their excuse with the morning show being ethnic wouldn’t pass the laugh test at a pure renewal hearing.

        While Rogers may have been somewhat in the dark about ICI, Channel Zero was already trying to get out of the ethnic market, which is exactly why Rogers could see the value. As an ethnic station, the value probably is much closer to the $12 figure than 10 million. However, as probably the last ever english broadcast TV license to get issued in Montreal, it’s an incredibly valuable place to be. I think Rogers could see that the CZ plan would very likely not pass the CRTC, with a lack of real financing to make the local station go. Rogers gets to step in, put some good money on the table, help secure the future of ethnic programming, and give Montreal a real alternative voice that could potentially expand over time to be one of the bigger players. Montreal is a perfect place for a City TV station, because they tend to be more willing to do the cheap and cheerful local programming that arrogant companies like Bell don’t want to touch anymore.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          However, as probably the last ever english broadcast TV license to get issued in Montreal, it’s an incredibly valuable place to be.

          I don’t know if it’ll be the “last ever” – there aren’t many people applying for new over-the-air licences, but it’s not zero either. And there are TV channels still available in Montreal.

          I think Rogers could see that the CZ plan would very likely not pass the CRTC, with a lack of real financing to make the local station go. Rogers gets to step in, put some good money on the table…

          Channel Zero offered a $1-million loan. Rogers is offering $1 million in financing for programming. Is Rogers’s $1 million better than the $1 million from Channel Zero?

          Reply
          1. Alex H

            I think “last ever” is pretty accurate. The size of the anglo market in Montreal is not increasing, the amount of money available for advertising is somewhat limited (especially for stations with too small of a market to be part of national based advertising), and there is only so much programming that can be sim-subbed for profit. The market barely supports Global as it is, a new player is only going to fracture that market even more. It’s touch and go if Rogers’ application will make it as it is, let alone ANOTHER player after that. It’s just not very likely. Further, all indications are that, in a wired society, the concept of OTA broadcasting is being lost. The percentage of people without cable, dish, or IPTV is getting smaller all of the time, and the costs related to OTA don’t go away. Don’t be shocked to see within the next 10 year that the very concept of OTA slowly fades, possibly with the advent of “local affiliate” stations with no OTA presence.

            “Channel Zero offered a $1-million loan. Rogers is offering $1 million in financing for programming. Is Rogers’s $1 million better than the $1 million from Channel Zero?”

            Rogers’ offer comes with much more, including a ton of OMNI programming that will make all the difference for the new channel. A million bucks ain’t really much money in itself. Having a big brother the size of Rogers really isn’t a bad thing. While Rogers won’t have ownership or control, they certainly will have at least in the short to middle term a vested interest in making sure the channel gets up, running, and does what it is suppose to do. I suspect that they will stay committed in many ways until their next license renewal, where they can point and say “see, it worked!”. CZ is basically exiting stage right, they have no interest besides “here’s the money to make the deal work”.

            I think you will find that this is sort of the end play in anglo OTA in Montreal. 10 years from now, you can look back and remember the last time there was any major shakeups. Don’t think so? How long ago did Global back door their way into the market?

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Rogers’ offer comes with much more, including a ton of OMNI programming that will make all the difference for the new channel.

              Rogers’s offer comes out to about four hours of OMNI programming a week. I don’t know if I’d call that a ton. (Though it’s unclear if that would be something like the daily newscasts, or documentaries and other programs that can be repeated ad nauseam.)

              CZ is basically exiting stage right, they have no interest besides “here’s the money to make the deal work”.

              I’ve been very critical of how Channel Zero has handled CJNT, but I wouldn’t describe this as them walking away from the deal. Rogers just needed the station more, and when they were offered $10 million for it they weren’t about to say no. They’ve said they plan to use the money to acquire or launch other local stations in Canada.

              How long ago did Global back door their way into the market?

              Global Quebec launched in 1997, though I don’t know if I’d qualify it as a “back door”. There was a public hearing at the CRTC, and CFCF made use of every opportunity to oppose the new station.

              Reply
              1. Alex H

                “Rogers’s offer comes out to about four hours of OMNI programming a week. I don’t know if I’d call that a ton.”

                I would say that a station with a limited budget to acquire programming would find having 1 hour a day on the weekdays taken care of would be quite happy. That would be about 2% of their daily programming budget saved.

                ” I wouldn’t describe this as them walking away from the deal”

                I don’t know. They took over the channel, and by your own comments, they have pretty much stopped producing new content, using stuff that is incredibly out of date, effectively meaningless even to the communities it was meant to serve. Their Montreal “ethnic” programming is a white guy in Toronto in the mornings. I would say that they pretty much left this sucker for dead, keeping it functional enough only hoping someone else (like Rogers) would come along and pay for it. I don’t see any other intention from their actions.

                “Global Quebec launched in 1997, though I don’t know if I’d qualify it as a “back door”. ”

                They set up shop in Quebec City pretty much to avoid having to deal with the Montreal issue, and then slid into the Montreal market. It’s sort of like 94.7 Hits being located in the comparative middle of nowhere, but essentially being a Montreal station without having to justify it’s existence as such. That’s a back door into the market.

                I honestly cannot see another application for the Anglo commercial TV market getting approved, this will almost certainly be the last to serve a shrinking market.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                I would say that they pretty much left this sucker for dead, keeping it functional enough only hoping someone else (like Rogers) would come along and pay for it. I don’t see any other intention from their actions.

                I think Channel Zero was too focused on CHCH in Hamilton, and didn’t know what to do with CJNT at first. They were going to concentrate on CJNT now that CHCH is up to speed, including bringing its production to Montreal, but then Rogers came along.

                They set up shop in Quebec City pretty much to avoid having to deal with the Montreal issue, and then slid into the Montreal market.

                But they did deal with the Montreal issue, when they applied for a licence to operate a regional station. CFCF protested, but eventually lost. It’s hard to see how it would have been different had Global simply applied for a new licence to operate a station in Montreal.

              3. Alex H

                “But they did deal with the Montreal issue, when they applied for a licence to operate a regional station. CFCF protested, but eventually lost. It’s hard to see how it would have been different had Global simply applied for a new licence to operate a station in Montreal.”

                The trick is that they didn’t directly try to hit the Montreal market head on, and instead treated Montreal as a “secondary” coverage market. As a regional station, the objections from CFCF regarding ad revenues was rendered moot, because Global wasn’t selling as a local station in the market. All of the time from 1997 until 2008 or so, Global played “outside” the market. Even when they shifted their transmitter to Montreal, they still remained a Quebec City station until they finally applied to be transferred to Montreal. By that time, they were already effectively a Montreal station, so again, the CRTC was handed pretty much a done deal.

                What Rogers is doing here is actually pretty similar – they have taken over an existing station, changed it over (within the limits of it’s existing license) to be City TV, and now is asking for permission to do what they have pretty much already done. Refusing the Rogers deal would also lead to either the ICI application being denied, or the Channel Zero license being revoked, as Montreal does not need two ethnic stations. It might further complicate things by making it less likely for CZ or Rogers to help ICI out, possibly taking the current station off the air and making the replacement an impossible dream. Rogers I think clearly understands the position they have put the CRTC in, and expect a positive outcome because there are not a lot of good options that don’t end up costing Montreal viewers a station.

  2. ATSC

    I suspect the CRTC will let Rogers Media go ahead with purchasing CJNT-DT. Along with the decrease in the ethnic programming during prime-time. But, I don’t think they’ll let them off the hook when it comes to also being a ethnic station. So, I suspect CJNT-DT will become a City & Omni station. Something it currently is. But with less ethnic programming.

    That ICI plan just doesn’t seem like it can fly alone. It may survive with some help from Channel Zero and Rogers for several years. But long term. I doubt it.

    But, what does that mean for local ethnic producers having a outlet? They say that ICI wants each producer to purchase air time, and then sell their own spots during their show. Well, why can’t they buy some time off any one of the other stations as well. CFCF-TV use to run a greek and a italian show back in the 70’s. Why can’t some producer do the same, and buy a one hour block. Don’t infomercials do the same anyway?

    For that matter, why can’t CJNT-DT just add a 480p sub-channel that it can sell time to local ethnic producers on it. Rogers Media would get some money that way. What the hell would a sub-channel cost them anyway. It’s part of CJNT’s signal. And local ethnic producers can then have a local outlet for local ethnic shows. And in prime time for that matter. No new transmitter. No new maintenance, and installations costs. No, extra electrical bill. And no big question as to whether a new licensed ethnic channel can survive. I think it’s the safest route for all parties, and decreases the burden of starting up a whole new station. Especially a all ethnic station.

    Come to think of it, CKMI-DT already has a sub-channel on 15.2. It’s currently just a SD duplicate of 15.1. What does that cost them? Probably nothing! If they were smart, they should sell some time on their 15.2 to local ethnic producers and get some extra cash into CKMI. I’m sure they would need CRTC approve to run their sub-channel that way. But, if there is a demand from local ethnic producers as the ICI applicants indicate. Why not!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      That ICI plan just doesn’t seem like it can fly alone. It may survive with some help from Channel Zero and Rogers for several years. But long term. I doubt it.

      Why? If the producers are willing to buy the airtime, and that covers the cost of running the station, why wouldn’t it work? Plenty of community stations have far less promising business plans.

      Well, why can’t they buy some time off any one of the other stations as well. CFCF-TV use to run a greek and a italian show back in the 70’s. Why can’t some producer do the same, and buy a one hour block. Don’t infomercials do the same anyway?

      You’re not going to buy an hour of primetime on CFCF for $400. And I don’t think they’re interested in being aired at 3am.

      For that matter, why can’t CJNT-DT just add a 480p sub-channel that it can sell time to local ethnic producers on it.

      For one thing, ICI wants to be in HD. And that’s not a trivial thing. If it decides it wants to make some money through simultaneous substitution in the future (which it’s leaving the door open to by having non-ethnic programming be English in the licence), it needs an over-the-air HD signal.

      And the physical costs associated with running a television station aren’t so great that they need to find compromise solutions like this. The biggest costs with running a TV station are programming and administration, and those remain the same regardless of how the signal goes out.

      Finally, having ICI be a subchannel of CJNT removes any possibility of ICI making use of its own ability to multicast in the future. Multicast of ethnic stations has possibilities that I think are worth exploring.

      Reply
      1. ATSC

        I don’t know how old you are, but CFCF-TV ran the two ethnic language shows on Sundays from 9:30 am – 12 noon. There is plenty of crap on lot’s of stations week-end mornings. Time can be sold to ethnic producers to buy in those hours of the day. Everything does not have to be prime-time. Nor at 3am in the morning.

        As for ICI possibly multicasting in the future, don’t kid yourself. I doubt they’ll survive five years before some huge communications company buys them out, and turns it into CTV2. And looking back at the history of CJNT, it’s been in the hands of several larger owners since 1997 because of its failed business plan.

        Also, what makes you think that ICI would be allowed to add sim-sub qualified programs in the future. Would they complain to the CRTC that their plan for an all ethnic channel isn’t going as planned. And that they need help, and want to run US programs in prime-time. Again, sounds very much like CJNT’s past.

        I don’t know what you know about 480p. Yes it’s not 720p nor 1080i to qualify as full HD. But it’s DVD quality. And if you have ever download or viewed a movie trailer over at the apple site with 480p, you can see that the quality is excellent. For talking head ethnic shows, it’s more than enough.

        480i – 720 x 480 (4:3)
        480p – 853 x 480 (16:9)
        720p – 1280 x 720 (16:9)
        1080i – 1920 x 1080 (16:9)

        You seem to also think that the technical demands for running a station are nothing. Are you kidding me? You need full time technical maintenance crew. Machines break, servers choke up. Miles of wiring need to be installed in their control rooms, and edit suites. Equipment needs to be purchased. Technical maintenance crews need to be trained on how to service new equipment. A transmitter needs to be bought, rent needs to be paid on a tower. Why do you think CIVM-DT, and CFJP-DT opted not to use the tower on Mont-Royal. Do you think it’s cheap to place it there? Then you have electrical costs, and the line that has to be rented to send the stations signal to the transmitter. What, this is nothing! Are you sure?

        A sub-channel on one of the exiting channels would not have this problem. That is why so many existing channels in the US are using multicasting as a way to generate extra revenues without having to build a new station. It works. And it can work ASAP in the Montreal area for ethnic producers to get their programs to their viewers.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          There is plenty of crap on lot’s of stations week-end mornings. Time can be sold to ethnic producers to buy in those hours of the day.

          I suppose. But ICI already has commitments to buy 71 hours worth of programming. You can’t fit that all in weekend mornings.

          CJNT had some bought time on weekends under Channel Zero, but the quality of the programs was extremely poor.

          I doubt they’ll survive five years before some huge communications company buys them out, and turns it into CTV2. And looking back at the history of CJNT, it’s been in the hands of several larger owners since 1997 because of its failed business plan.

          The Norouzi family would argue that the failed business plan comes from the fact that the station was owned by such large companies. People stopped advertising because they felt it wasn’t necessary any longer to support a big corporate giant vs. a small community station.

          Also, what makes you think that ICI would be allowed to add sim-sub qualified programs in the future. Would they complain to the CRTC that their plan for an all ethnic channel isn’t going as planned. And that they need help, and want to run US programs in prime-time. Again, sounds very much like CJNT’s past.

          Their licence, if granted as requested, would allow them to air programs in English. They would not need to request additional authority from the CRTC to run U.S. programs during (some of) prime time. To be clear, though, this is not in their immediate plans. They just want to leave the door open if they decide to go this route.

          Reply
        2. Fagstein Post author

          For talking head ethnic shows, it’s more than enough.

          ICI wants to move away from this stereotype of poor-quality talking-head shows. They want to make quality productions. Maybe that’s unrealistic, but that’s their plan.

          You seem to also think that the technical demands for running a station are nothing.

          No, but they’re not much compared to the cost of programming and administration. And Rogers has already offered to help ICI with the technical side, since one team can maintain two transmitters.

          Miles of wiring need to be installed in their control rooms, and edit suites. Equipment needs to be purchased.

          ICI already has some equipment through Mi-Cam, and plans to purchase the rest. But that would be needed regardless of how the signal goes out.

          Why do you think CIVM-DT, and CFJP-DT opted not to use the tower on Mont-Royal. Do you think it’s cheap to place it there?

          No, and it’s not technically easy, either. That’s why neither CJNT nor the proposed ICI transmitter are on the Mount Royal tower.

          Then you have electrical costs, and the line that has to be rented to send the stations signal to the transmitter. What, this is nothing! Are you sure?

          The transmitter isn’t that powerful, and the line to it will be supplied by Bell (since it’s a Bell tower).

          In all, ICI is budgeting $20,000 a month for technical expenses, which works out to less than a quarter of non-programming expenses. Again, it’s an expense to be sure, but it’s not the main one.

          A sub-channel on one of the exiting channels would not have this problem.

          You would still need to get the signal to the transmitter, and still have plenty of other technical expenses. The channel would still need to be programmed. The only thing that changes is that ICI doesn’t have to run its own actual transmitter, and in return it can’t broadcast in HD.

          Reply
          1. Alex H

            “You would still need to get the signal to the transmitter, and still have plenty of other technical expenses. The channel would still need to be programmed. The only thing that changes is that ICI doesn’t have to run its own actual transmitter, and in return it can’t broadcast in HD.”

            Not correct. There is plenty of bandwidth to actually support 2 HD channels, albeit at a slightly lower bandwidth each:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_subchannel#Technical_considerations

            Example, you can do one channel at 1080i and a sub at 720P.

            Considering that the CRTC has finally approved at least one sub-channel HD installation, this again shows that the future of OTA isn’t exactly as we see it today. Putting ethnic programming on a sub-channel, even in SD, might be the real way to get these markets covered for a much lower overall cost.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              There is plenty of bandwidth to actually support 2 HD channels, albeit at a slightly lower bandwidth each

              I wouldn’t call half “slightly lower”. It would make each HD signal about the quality you’d see on cable, which some people already complain is too degraded. If you’re downgrading the signal to 720p, it loses quality, and I don’t think Rogers would want to do that. One could even make the argument that since a 720p signal is not as good as a 1080i signal, cable companies would not be required to do simultaneous substitution.

              Putting ethnic programming on a sub-channel, even in SD, might be the real way to get these markets covered for a much lower overall cost.

              I agree. But in this case, both companies are willing to set up their own transmitters. And I still think subchannels make more sense if ICI decides to do it itself once it gets on its feet.

              Reply
              1. Alex H

                Cable quality is generally at or under 10mbs, and that is “post re-assembly”. A 1080i at 11MB would be quite reasonable. In fact, you can go look at WCAX as a great example, they are running 1 HD and 2 SD sub-channels, which means they are likely running no higher than 11MBs. So there is space on a transmitter for a second 720P signal, which would be pretty excellent for a local ethnic channel to have, don’t you think?

                Since most OTA channels are not actually sending out a 19MBs full signal anyway, the drop wouldn’t be half. Further, since most people get their signals from cable / sat and not OTA, the change at this level wouldn’t be significant to them.

                “But in this case, both companies are willing to set up their own transmitters”

                Actually, I think you know that until very recently, the CRTC didn’t approve of sub-channels in Canada, instead requiring a full licensing hearing to use them rather than just allowing services to be added under the main license. I don’t think that many have really considered this an option in the past, so I am not surprised to see it not be part of this discussion.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                In fact, you can go look at WCAX as a great example, they are running 1 HD and 2 SD sub-channels, which means they are likely running no higher than 11MBs.

                According to someone who measures these things, WCAX uses 14Mbps for its main 1080i HD signal, and another 2.7Mbps for its secondary SD channel (WCAXtra), or an average total of 15.5Mbps total. Enough room for another SD signal, but not much more than that.

                until very recently, the CRTC didn’t approve of sub-channels in Canada, instead requiring a full licensing hearing to use them rather than just allowing services to be added under the main license.

                I’m not sure what “a full licensing hearing” means (Part 1 applications don’t need to involve public hearings), but yes subchannels would need to be licensed.

              3. Alex H

                “I’m not sure what “a full licensing hearing” means (Part 1 applications don’t need to involve public hearings), but yes subchannels would need to be licensed.”

                I would say that any normal OTA channel application would require not only licensing, but generally would have a public hearing, especially in a marketplace like Montreal. Without it, CTV could easily add CTV2 onto their transmitters and make it a must carry for local cable, as an example, or create some other new channel and make it a manditory carry because it would be OTA in the city.

                OTA seems to pretty much always lead to a full public hearing.

              4. Fagstein Post author

                I would say that any normal OTA channel application would require not only licensing, but generally would have a public hearing, especially in a marketplace like Montreal.

                I would imagine that’s true only because it doesn’t happen often enough for the CRTC to set a standard policy on it. If it did become commonplace, there would probably be simplified rules.

                Without it, CTV could easily add CTV2 onto their transmitters and make it a must carry for local cable, as an example, or create some other new channel and make it a manditory carry because it would be OTA in the city.

                It’s not clear by CRTC regulations that subchannels would get the same mandatory carriage requirements, or benefit from the same simultaneous substitution or other advantages. The commission has said, however, that they would be subject to the same rules as the main channels in terms of logging, local programming and other requirements.

                OTA seems to pretty much always lead to a full public hearing.

                It depends. Small technical amendments don’t. Neither did transitions to digital where stations used their allocated channels.

  3. DraicKin

    Concerning Channel Zero’s local original ethnic programming , as you said there’s 3 key words:
    is it original? yes
    is it ethnic? as you said That is, at best, debatable
    is it local? if it is shot in Toronto then for me it’s not local, it’s not enough to have Montreal’s headlines or weather, for me local means on screen and behind the screen as well.

    Concerning Omni offering programming to ICI , unless something changed , there’s nothing that said on the CRTC application that OMNI programming will be free to ICI, the application only mentioned that it will be available but didn’t specified free programming.

    For me , all of this is just a scam what if the CRTC refuse and send everyone back to square one.
    Channel Zero would be stuck with a losing money ethnic channel.
    ICI would simply disappear off the radar, right now it’s just a smoke screen to allow CJNT to be converted into an english station (the main plan, that is!)
    and Rogers would simply make a proper application for a new station , they want to expand City TV , don’t they?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      unless something changed , there’s nothing that said on the CRTC application that OMNI programming will be free to ICI, the application only mentioned that it will be available but didn’t specified free programming.

      According to a document filed after the hearing, Rogers and ICI came to an agreement that 200 hours a year of OMNI programming would be provided free of charge to ICI for five years.

      For me , all of this is just a scam what if the CRTC refuse and send everyone back to square one. Channel Zero would be stuck with a losing money ethnic channel.

      Actually, it would be stuck with an ethnic channel that’s an affiliate of Citytv. It’s not clear if, with that affiliate fee and the advertising that Rogers is selling for it, it is still losing money.

      ICI would simply disappear off the radar, right now it’s just a smoke screen to allow CJNT to be converted into an english station (the main plan, that is!)

      I think that’s an unfair characterization of the ICI plan. The Norouzi family and these independent producers weren’t invented by Channel Zero or Rogers. They came forward because they wanted to bring ethnic TV programming back to Montreal, and then came up with the two-station idea with Channel Zero. Nothing about their plan is fake.

      Rogers would simply make a proper application for a new station , they want to expand City TV , don’t they?

      They do, but they want to do it quickly, and applying or a new licence could take a year or more. By comparison, CJNT has been a Citytv affiliate since June.

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        “Actually, it would be stuck with an ethnic channel that’s an affiliate of Citytv. It’s not clear if, with that affiliate fee and the advertising that Rogers is selling for it, it is still losing money.”

        Not really. If Rogers could not operate within their desired parameters, they would likely have called the purchase off, and possibly pulled the CityTV mark as well. Very like it would have gone back to being a money losing ethnic station playing out of date content, heading pretty rapidly towards shutting down over time (or possibly sold to ICI at some point).

        Thankfully, the CRTC figured out the alternatives and went along with Roger’s deal. It’s the best for all consumers.

        Reply

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