Craig, Rogers, win Toronto licenses

4/8/2002

Ottawa - As expected, the CRTC approved two new over-the-air television broadcasters for Toronto and Hamilton today. What wasn't perhaps expected was one of the license recipients.

The decision issued today awarded Craig Broadcasting Systems Inc. a licence to operate a new English-language television station in Toronto to be called "Toronto One". The company will also operate a re-broadcasting transmitter in Hamilton and will launch the channel this September, 2002.

In a separate decision, the Commission also approved, in part, an application made by Rogers Broadcasting Limited for an ethnic station in Toronto to be called "CFMT Too". The partial approval will allow the new station to begin operations when it receives approval for a channel other than the one for which it originally applied.

Both new broadcasters will have to be carried on analog by existing cable operators in the area.

As outlined in its application, Craig's Toronto One will serve Toronto and Hamilton by offering a variety of local programs. It has pledged to: broadcast 14.5 hours of local programming each week; offer eight hours of priority programming including drama, music, dance, variety and long-form documentaries weekly during peak hours; produce a local variety show each weekday evening; and broadcast a weekly thirty-minute Aboriginal newsmagazine program.

Craig will also devote $15.4 million over its seven-year licence to the New Voices Fund and the Priority Program Fund. Both funds will support independent productions. The New Voices Fund will support drama, documentary or music programs about the multicultural community. In addition, Craig will acquire roughly 12 hours of English-language ethnic programming. These plans represent new initiatives in conventional Canadian mainstream television.

As for Rogers' CFMT Too, this new station will offer: ethnic programming directed to communities of Asian and African origins; programming directed to a minimum of 22 ethno-cultural groups in at least 18 different languages; 70% ethnic programming over the broadcast day, with at least 55% ethnic programming between 6 p.m. and midnight.

CFMT Too will also dedicate $50 million over their seven-year licence term to a variety of initiatives such as independent production in foreign language, cross-cultural dramatic programming in English and community grants. Rogers' existing service CFMT TV, will refocus its programming to serve ethnic communities from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

In early December at a public hearing in Hamilton, the Commission heard applications from the Toronto Star, CanWest Global, Alliance Atlantis, Craig and Rogers for a coveted analog broadcast position in the Toronto-Hamilton-Kitchener market. The assumption across the industry was that Torstar had the inside track and, in fact, two commissioners, Joan Pennefather and vice-chair Andrée Wylie, preferred the Torstar application and said so in their dissents from the majority.

Both Chum Ltd. and CTV were against granting an additional license, saying the Toronto market was already well-saturated.

"It's an exciting day for our company," said Drew Craig, president Craig Broadcast Systems Inc. "Toronto One will not only provide a new level of local reflection for the Toronto market, it will create system-wide benefits for the Canadian broadcast industry."

Toronto can look forward to a fresh perspective and distinct editorial voice for the GTA and extensive coverage of the world class arts and entertainment scene, said the company in a press release issued today. "Craig Broadcast Systems is known for its niche programming in the local arena," Craig went on to say, "Toronto One is all about reflecting the diversity of Greater Toronto." Craig operates the successful A-Channels in Alberta and Manitoba, owns digital specialty channels MTV Canada, MTV2, TVLand and wireless cable operator SkyCable.

Highlights of Toronto One programming will include:
* "The Toronto Show," a live variety show which will run every weekday evening in prime time featuring music, entertainers, and personalities.
* "New Voices," an English-language multi-cultural program block that is meant to be young, fresh and inclusive.
* "Toronto Life" will bring the award winning magazine to the TV screen.
* "Second City Improv," will feature the best of the best in improv comedy.

"Craig Broadcast Systems reach of English Canada has now tripled," added Craig. "Canada has a new broadcast voice to tell its stories." System-wide benefits include eight hours of priority programming and $25 million in support for independent production. A complete review of Toronto One is available at www.toronto1.tv.

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