OMNI adds Arabic, Filipino national newscasts as new licence term begins

Anchor Reham Al-Azem hosts OMNI News Arabic from the Montreal studio.

As of Sept. 1, the OMNI television channels have entered into a new CRTC licence term, which means a higher wholesale per-subscriber fee ($0.19 per month, up from $0.12) and some new obligations, including more news.

OMNI made good on that last part last week by launching OMNI News in Arabic and Filipino (Tagalog). Like the existing Italian, Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese newscasts, which don’t look like they’re changing, the new newscasts have journalists in different cities. I was told they wouldn’t have anchors, but it’s clear they do. OMNI News Arabic was hosted its first week by Reham Al-Azem out of the Montreal studio (built for the former Breakfast Television Montreal), while OMNI News Filipino was hosted by Rhea Santos in Vancouver.

Both newscasts are also produced in part out of Toronto.

When it won the battle for the rights to mandatory subscriber fees in 2019, OMNI promised six national newscasts, as well as six hours a week of local news in Toronto, Alberta and Vancouver, where the OMNI stations are based. OMNI also includes local newscasts under the “Focus” brand in those same languages, including Focus Punjabi, Focus Mandarin and Focus Cantonese in Toronto and B.C., Focus Cantonese in Alberta and a radio-on-TV thing from Edmonton’s World FM it has branded Focus Punjabi. It also has weekly shows like Focus Portuguese (Toronto).

For the national newscasts, this means two anchored out of Montreal (Arabic and Italian), two anchored out of Vancouver (Punjabi and Filipino) and two that are produced out of Toronto by Fairchild in which the anchors appear to be standing in front of green screens so they can appear virtually in front of the Montreal TV wall:

It’s nice to see two more languages getting funding, but I expected a bit more than this with a more than 50% increase in funding.

Rogers gets three years of the mandatory per-subscriber fee, after which the CRTC will re-evaluate its performance and consider replacing OMNI with another provider, likely one of the many that lost to Rogers in that hearing and are still angry that the commission selected what they would describe as familiar mediocrity over ambitious new proposals.

In Quebec, ICI airs OMNI News Arabic Edition at 5pm daily and OMNI News Filipino Edition at 11pm.

6 thoughts on “OMNI adds Arabic, Filipino national newscasts as new licence term begins

  1. Frank Scherer

    There is no Filipino language since the country has several languages, the main one is called Tagalog… just so you know

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The most common languages by mother tongue in Canada, after English and French, are Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic, German and Italian in that order, according to Statistics Canada.

      Hebrew is way down the list with less than 20,000 speakers nationwide (more people speak Bulgarian and Czech) and Yiddish is even further down. Tagalog and Arabic have more than 20 times as many speakers. The better question might be why there isn’t a Spanish newscast.

      1. Anonymous

        And on top of that, there are no longer very many Hebrew or Yiddish speakers who do not already speak fluent English or French.

  2. Dana

    I am so happy (and surprised) to see that all those Breakfast Television staffers are still gainfully employed. Could this be the end to City News? It is unwatchable. I have tried. I have tried……..

  3. Bill Blum in New York

    Great article on OMNI’s national ethnic newscasts. Fascinating how Canada embraces it’s multi-lingual speakers, versus how they are treated here in the States. We have many Spanish language channels and networks, but in a country with as many different languages as Canada, you will find very few programs on radio or television in a language other than English or Spanish, except in the very largest cities, and then only locally.


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