Prior to the founding of ICI, Sam Norouzi's father produced a Persian program for Télévision Ethnique du Québec (TEQ), a cable access channel that was the precursor to CJNT, which went on the air in 1997. CJNT was sold to Western International Communications (WIC) in 1999, and became owned by Canwest as a CH/E! station when Canwest bought WIC in 2001. Canwest in turn sold the station to Channel Zero in 2009. Over the years, the station's commitment to producing local ethnic programming declined. When it was owned by Channel Zero, it didn't produce any such programming at all.
Rogers Media announced it was purchasing CJNT on May 3, 2012, with plans to convert it into an owned-and-operated station of its Citytv television system. In the purchase application published on September 5, 2012, Rogers asked the CRTC for permission to convert CJNT from a multicultural to a full English-language station with programming and conditions of licence similar to the company's other Citytv stations. In exchange, Rogers proposed to support a new multicultural station, ICI (standing for International Channel/Canal International), whose application was made public for the first time on the same date. The CRTC heard both the application for the sale and conversion of CJNT and the application for ICI on November 7, 2012, and approved them on December 20, 2012. As promised, Rogers is supporting ICI with $1.07 million in funding as well as free access to 200 hours a year of programming from Rogers' ethnic Omni Television network. In addition, Channel Zero is offering the station a $1 million loan and free master control services for five years. The station turned on its transmitter for testing on August 21, 2013, and started programming on December 11, 2013, assuming CJNT's former role as Montreal's only multicultural station.
The station's call letters were to be CFHG-DT, but this was changed to CFHD-DT prior to launch.
On March 25, 2013, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filed a lawsuit against Norouzi, requesting that the ICI trademark be expunged and the new station refrain from using ICI as its name. Its French arm, Radio-Canada, had registered a series of 31 trademarks surrounding the word "Ici", and ultimately announced plans in June 2013 to re-brand all of its media outlets under brands prefixed with Ici (such as "Ici Télé" for Télévision de Radio-Canada, but revised to "Ici Radio-Canada Télé" after widely publicized complaints). Norouzi's trademark application for "ICI" was submitted in August 2012 and registered in September 2012, prior to the submission of the station's license application with the CRTC, while Radio-Canada's "Ici"-related trademarks were registered the following month. However, the CBC argued that his trademark was invalid because the division had used the phrase "Ici Radio-Canada" as part of its imaging since the 1930's, and that Norouzi's trademark application improperly declared that he had begun using the name in commerce, even before the station was officially unveiled or licensed.
In response, Norouzi considered the lawsuit and the CBC's ability to assert a trademark over an adverb to be "ridiculous", and stated that he intends to retain the ICI name and fight the corporation in court.
The station is structured as a producers' co-operative, where producers of local ethnic shows buy airtime on the station and sell their own advertising. TEQ was operated in a similar way. The Norouzis believe this will work better than the commercial model employed at other ethnic stations in Canada because producers are closer to their communities and therefore best positioned to find advertisers. While the station's licence allows for it to air some non-ethnic programming, it airs an entirely ethnic lineup with most of it being locally produced. CFHD-DT airs programming in Italian, Greek, Arabic, Portuguese, Persian, Romanian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish, French, English, Armenian, Polish and Creole. Programming is directed at the Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Algerian, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Romanian, Pakistani, Indian, Iranian, Haitian, Jewish, German, Ukrainian, Polish, Turkish and Filipino ethnic communities in Quebec.