Cartt: Radio Hearing: B.C. Can’t Supp...
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Cartt: Radio Hearing: B.C. Can’t Support Two Separate Aboriginal Radio Broadcasters
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GATINEAU – Northern Native Broadcasting told the CRTC on day two of the Aboriginal radio station hearing Tuesday that Indigenous peoples in British Columbia would be best served by a single radio broadcaster covering the entire province.

Just as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have, in effect, regional systems to serve their First Nations communities, British Columbia should have the same, the company added. NNB, which has a radio station in Terrace, in the northern part of the province, noted that having two separate radio broadcasters would negatively affect the economic viability of both operations.

Ron Bartlett, general sales manager at NNB, pointed to the advertising synergies which a province-wide radio station could enjoy such as delivering Vancouver-based advertisers to an audience in the North. As well, the financial impact that AVR (the former license holder, which had its licenses revoked by the Commission) caused when it entered the market should be a good lesson learned, he added.

“The advertisers in British Columbia were splitting the Aboriginal buy giving part to AVR and part to us and it cost us money,” said Bartlett. “And if we were to right now have another competitor in B.C., we would directly lose about $100,000 of revenue through our existing network if another licence was given in our province to a competing corporation for an Aboriginal (radio station).”

NNB has proposed a largely music-driven station with some spoken word. The format would be similar to its Terrace classic rock station but would include selections that fall outside the genre such as deep album cuts, non hits and blues intermingled with original Aboriginal artists.

The proposed Vancouver station will also feature 25 hours of spoken word programming each week with seven of them being in Aboriginal languages.

“Our focus on urban Aboriginal programming is to showcase, as an example, some First Nations role models, up and coming artists [as well as] musicians, artisans and elders who we know will share some stories,” said Greg Smith, CEO at NNB.

VMS Media and First People’s radio panned

Tuesday also saw the hearing enter (and complete) Phase II where applicants were given the opportunity to criticize competing applications. Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA) said licensing VMS Media in the Calgary and Edmonton markets wouldn’t provide enough Aboriginal relevant content to listeners.

(We reported on VMS and other applicants yesterday.)

Bert Crowfoot, CEO of the AMMSA, noted that if VMS were to be licensed it would result in one and a half Indigenous stations and two and a half ethnic stations in Edmonton and one-half Indigenous and two and a half ethnic station in Calgary.

“We believe a part time Indigenous radio station is not in the spirit of the CRTC’s call. We see the application as an attempt to get in through the back door, after their recent failed attempt for a licence in Edmonton,” he said.

The licensee for that ethnic station in Edmonton appeared during the intervener stage to criticize the VMS application. Sharnpreet Buttar, a director and shareholder with 11811258 Alberta Ltd., told the CRTC that it’s clear that VMS was mostly interested in serving the ethnic communities in the city.

The Commission made it clear in licensing an ethnic radio station for Edmonton that the city could only support one such station. “With VMS Media Group targeting the key revenue targets of our new operations, their proposed operations will have a material detrimental impact on our ability to successfully launch our ethnic service,” said Buttar.

AMMSA was also critical of the First Peoples Radio (FPR) application, noting that it appeared to be a TV company applying for a radio station – Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) is a backer of FPR. More importantly though, the financials of the application don’t make sense.

FPR suggested that it would be on the air in two years after receiving a licence, yet are predicting a break even point in two years, and this comes at a time when Alberta is recovering from a recession, said Crowfoot.

“This is an ambitious goal considering they will not be broadcasting at the beginning of their first two years, with little advertising revenue coming in,” he said.

The Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) argued in its intervention that the Commission should reject the applications from VMS Media and FPR on four grounds: sovereignty and the duty to consult; second, station board structure; third, news and language programming; and fourth, education and employment opportunities.

Based on an assessment of the news and language programming element, the AMMSA, NNB and Wawatay applicants are far superior in this regard. For example, Wawatay has committed to 33% of its broadcast schedule to Indigenous language programming and 24.6% of its broadcast week to news. This compares to FPR’s proposal for 7% of Aboriginal language programming after three years and 4.8% for news programming.

The hearing enters the final stage on Wednesday with each applicant offering their replies.

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