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Omni TV aims to loosen ethnic restraints 0

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

Multi-lingual channel, Omni, is asking the CRTC to loosen requirements mandating it show 100% ethnic programming during prime-time. Omni says it already produces more domestic and ethnic content than other Canadian stations, such as Bollywood Boulevard. (SCREENGRAB)

Multi-lingual channel, Omni, is asking the CRTC to loosen requirements mandating it show 100% ethnic programming during prime-time. Omni says it already produces more domestic and ethnic content than other Canadian stations, such as Bollywood Boulevard. (SCREENGRAB)

Requests submitted by Omni Television for its upcoming licence renewal could allow the multi-language channel to run U.S. programming in prime time. 

With its licences for stations in Vancouver and Victoria expiring in August 2015, Omni, in its renewal application, is asking the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission to “delete” the requirement for 100% ethnic programming between 8-10 p.m.

If accepted, the change could mean Omni will be able to run English-language programming from the United States, raising concerns from some the channel could let down its ethnic viewers who rely on it for content in their language.

Madeline Ziniak, national vice president for Omni at Rogers Communications, the channel's parent company, said the changes were needed so the channel can fiscally support domestic and ethnic content.

“We’re looking not to be constrained,” she said. “It’s asking for a little bit of a level playing field for Omni.”

Ziniak said because it is an over-the-air channel Omni doesn’t receive money from cable companies and relies solely on advertising.

Omni is also not rated by market research company Nielsen, which makes selling advertising difficult as it becomes a good faith agreement, she added.

Queenie Choo of the immigrant assistance foundation Success said any changes leading to U.S. programming could be a “loss” for ethnic communities.

“Fundamentally, of course, I would like to see many multilingual ethnic television programs,” she said. “They are very appealing to many ethnic groups.”

While Choo understood Omni’s revenue concerns, she wanted to find out more about the proposal and see where ethnic programs would be placed if moved from the prime-time slot.

Ziniak said the relaxed rules could mean programming from other countries, such as China or India, could also be placed in prime time, not just U.S. shows.

Rogers has also asked the CRTC to amend Canadian content regulations between 6 a.m. and midnight to be relaxed to 40%. Currently they dictate programs have not less than 60% Cancon.

The applications, along with others from Rogers, will go to a hearing April 8.

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