Omni Television

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Omni Television
TypeBroadcast television system
CountryCanada
AvailabilitySemi-national terrestrial coverage
National mandatory cable/satellite distribution through Omni Regional
SloganDiversity Television
OwnerRogers Media
Launch date
September 3, 1979 (independent Toronto station)
September 16, 2002 (launch of the Omni system)
Former names
Channel M (2001-2004)
Sister channels
Official website
www.omnitv.ca

Omni Television (corporately styled as OMNI Television) is a Canadian television system and specialty channel that is owned by the Rogers Media subsidiary of Rogers Communications. It currently consists of all six of Canada's conventional multicultural television stations, which are located in Ontario (two stations), British Columbia, Alberta (two stations), and an affiliate in Quebec. In addition, Rogers also briefly operated religious television stations in the Vancouver and Winnipeg television markets under the "Omni" brand before divesting them in 2008.

In September 2017, Omni began to be distributed throughout the remainder of the country, as a group of specialty channels with mandatory carriage, corresponding to the four general regions where it operates. This group is licensed under the blanket name Omni Regional; Rogers argued that revenue from mandatory carriage was necessary to restore and sustain the stations' local programming. Although the CRTC did not believe that Rogers' proposal adequately addressed the provisioning of programs for regions of Canada not currently served by an Omni broadcast station, or was financially sustainable, the Commission granted Rogers a three-year interim licence term, and began the process of soliciting proposals for a national multicultural specialty channel.

Etymology[edit]

Derived from the Latin word "omnis" meaning "all", "Omni" is not an acronym, although the name is written all in capital letters.[1]

History[edit]

Omni Television at 545 Lake Shore Boulevard West.

Toronto's CFMT launched in 1979 as Canada's first multilingual/multicultural television station, owned by Multilingual Television (Toronto) Ltd. The station was originally referred to as "MTV" before using its call letters to identify on-air in 1983 due to confusion with the American music video channel. As its initial format was 100% ethnic, the station experienced financial difficulties, and was on the verge of bankruptcy when Rogers stepped in and purchased it in 1986. Rogers then attempted to launch a similar multicultural station in Vancouver in 1996,[2] 1999[3] and 2002,[4] but all three attempts were rejected by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). It was, however, given a second multicultural licence in Toronto to provide room for additional multicultural programing,[5] and launched CJMT as a sister station to CFMT in fall 2002. It was at this point that the "OMNI Television" brand was introduced, with CFMT and CJMT branded as "OMNI.1" and "OMNI.2" respectively.

The Omni brand was expanded in 2005, when Rogers acquired two religious TV stations, CHNU in the Vancouver market and CIIT in Winnipeg, from Trinity Television. CHNU was rebranded from "NOWTV" to "OMNI.10" in September 2005, while CIIT went on air as "OMNI.11" on February 6, 2006.

Omni Television logo used until late 2018

2007 realignment[edit]

Several proposed changes to the Omni system were announced, either by Rogers or by the CRTC, during a one-month span from June to July 2007. First, on June 8, the CRTC granted Rogers licences to operate new multicultural stations in Calgary and Edmonton, beating out a competing proposal from Multivan Broadcast Corporation (which won the bid for the Vancouver multicultural licence in 2002 against Rogers and launched CHNM-TV).

On June 28, Rogers made public its offer to sell the religious-licensed Omni stations in Winnipeg and Vancouver as part of its contemporaneous purchase of Citytv (which the CRTC ordered CTVglobemedia to sell them off as part of the CHUM Limited takeover deal). Rogers indicated, however, that it viewed retaining the multilingual licences in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton (effectively creating twinsticks in those three markets) as compatible with CRTC policy, since they are licensed to serve a different programming niche than the general interest Citytv stations.[6]

On July 7, Rogers announced an agreement to purchase the aforementioned CHNM, finally securing a true multicultural television licence in Vancouver.[7] The fact that Rogers had acquired the Calgary and Edmonton multicultural licences, beating out Multivan's competing applications, was cited as a major reason for the sale.

On September 28, the CRTC approved Rogers' takeover of the Citytv stations, giving the company one year to divest itself of the religious Omni stations. A tentative deal to sell the stations to S-VOX, owner of VisionTV, was announced on November 6. On March 31, 2008, the CRTC approved both Rogers' acquisition of CHNM[8] and its sale of CIIT and CHNU to S-VOX.[9] CHNU was rebranded as "CHNU 10" on October 31, 2007, a year before the Omni brand was transferred to CHNM. CIIT was rebranded "CIIT11" in July 2008, after S-VOX took control of the station. Both stations rebranded as Joytv on September 1, 2008; CHNM rebranded as "Omni BC" on the same date. The two new stations in Calgary and Edmonton launched on September 15, 2008 under the call letters CJCO and CJEO.

Recent developments[edit]

Rogers announced an agreement to acquire the one Canadian multicultural television station it did not already own, CJNT-DT Montreal on May 3, 2012,[10] from Channel Zero, after having passed on the opportunity when the station was previously put up for sale in 2009 by Canwest during its financial difficulties.[11] While intending to relaunch it as a Citytv station, Rogers did not rule out the possibility of requesting that CJNT be re-licensed as an English-language station,[12] but in the meantime CJNT aired Omni programs (including Omni News) to fulfill much of its ethnic programming requirements after it became affiliated with Citytv prior to the sale.[13] As part of the sale, Rogers requested that the CRTC convert CJNT to an English-language station, on the condition that both Channel Zero and Rogers provide services and resources to CFHD-DT, a newly proposed, locally owned multicultural station. Both were approved by the CRTC on December 20, 2012.[14][15]

In recent years, the Omni stations have struggled financially; Rogers Media president Keith Pelley explained that between 2011 and 2014, advertising revenue had fallen from $80 million to $35 million. On May 30, 2013, Rogers announced the shutdown of production facilities at CJCO and CJEO, ending the production of local programming and news content from the Omni Alberta stations, and as a result, the discontinuation of the South Asian newscasts.[16] On May 7, 2015, Rogers announced further cuts affecting Omni, including the re-structuring of the Omni News programs, the cancellation of V-Mix and Bollywood Boulevard, and the elimination of redundancy in technical staff between the Omni and City stations.[17][18]

Programming[edit]

All Rogers-owned Omni stations are licensed to air programming in no less than 20 languages to communities encompassing at least 20 cultures—ethnic programming comprises 60% of the Omni stations' schedules. The Toronto-based Omnis are differently licensed with respect to the languages and communities they serve: CFMT airs programming for European and Caribbean language communities, while CJMT airs programming for the Pan-Asian and Pan-African audiences.

Omni stations also once aired a small amount of English-language entertainment programming aimed at mainstream audiences during part of their weekday lineups; in the past, these have included syndicated sitcoms, talk shows, and game shows. In essence, these English-language programs served to attract advertising revenue, which could then be used to finance the multicultural programs. As of the 2015-16 television season, all of these programs have been dropped in favor of additional multicultural shows and documentary programs. The Omni stations do not normally air primetime programming simulcast from U.S. networks, but may do so in the event of scheduling conflicts with sister network Citytv, allowing Rogers to maintain their simsub rights in its duopoly markets. Omni regularly simulcasted the CBS late-night talk shows Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show under hosts Tom Snyder[19] and Craig Ferguson until their conclusions. When hosted by Craig Kilborn, and for a brief period under Ferguson, The Late Late Show aired on Global, while the current incarnations of the programs with Stephen Colbert and James Corden air on Global and CTV respectively.

While under Rogers ownership, CHNU and CIIT aired many of the same types of programs as CFMT and CJMT, despite the difference in the nature of service of multicultural and religious stations. CHNU and CIIT had previously aired many of the same types of syndicated sitcoms and multicultural programs shown regularly on the Omni stations in Toronto, and the Toronto stations carried some religious teaching programs. The common brand allowed cost savings for promotions and for the acquisition of the general-entertainment programs that all of the Omni stations had used to generate most of their revenues. However, due in particular to Vancouver multicultural station CHNM (while under Multivan ownership) and Toronto religious station CITS, which both opposed Rogers's acquisition of Trinity's religious stations, the Omni stations' core formats remained intact.

Sports[edit]

Omni Television stations have occasionally aired sporting events in minority languages, and in English as an overflow for Citytv or Sportsnet. Prior to their move to Citytv and the eventual acquisition of late games by CTV, the Omni stations aired late-afternoon NFL games for a period, and in the 2014 season, simulcast selected Thursday Night Football games with CBS and Sportsnet. During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Omni stations broadcast coverage of the games in minority languages, and on June 27, 2013, Omni.2 in Toronto broadcast Mandarin-language coverage of a Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball game started by Taiwanese player Chien-Ming Wang, marking the first ever Canadian MLB broadcast in the language.[20][21]

Rogers acquired national media rights to the National Hockey League in November 2013.[22] Beginning in the 2014-15 NHL season, the Omni stations added Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition, which broadcasts Punjabi-language telecasts of NHL games on Saturday nights, and selected playoff games. The Punjabi broadcasts are a continuation of CBC's past digital coverage of games in the language.[23][24][25][26]

News[edit]

Omni produced a national newscast in Punjabi. In addition, the Omni stations in Toronto and Vancouver produce regional newscasts in the following languages five days a week:

Omni Alberta (CJCO/CJEO) also produced newscasts in Cantonese and Mandarin, as well as an English-language South Asian newscast, from its launch in 2008 until 2011.

The programs featured coverage of Canadian news stories in the language, along with stories from foreign broadcasters in countries in which the language is natively spoken (or the Indian subcontinent, in the case of the Punjabi edition).

On May 7, 2015, Rogers announced a restructuring of Omni News programs as part of cutbacks that led to the loss of 110 jobs across the company. The existing newscasts would by replaced by new public affairs-oriented programs produced in Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi. The new programs feature in-depth discussion of local issues, and do not feature original news reporting.[17][18][27] Colette Watson, Rogers' vice president of television, explained that the decision to drop the newscasts was financially motivated; the newscasts only brought in $3.9 million in advertising revenue per-year, but had production expenses of $9 million.[28]

Rogers' decision to drop ethnic newscasts resulted in criticism by Julian Fantino, Member of Parliament for Vaughan, who described the loss of Italian-language news coverage to be "devastating"; Vaughan has a notably large population of Italians,[29] Following an unsatisfactory response by the company, Fantino called upon Rogers representatives to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.[28] As part of the Omni Regional service, Rogers stated that it would restore half-hour national newscasts in Cantonese, Italian, Mandarin and Punjabi languages.[30]

Rogers subcontracted production of Omni's new Chinese-language newscasts to Fairchild Media Group, owner of the Cantonese Fairchild TV and Mandarin Talentvision channels. This decision was criticized by community groups and Unifor, who asserted that this reduced the diversity of media voices, and noted that Fairchild had historically been conservative in its news output. It was also suggested that the arrangement violated Omni Regional's CRTC licence, as it states that the service would "produce and broadcast" half-hour national newscasts in multiple languages, but leaving it unclear whether they must be produced in-house by Rogers, as with the Italian and Punjabi newscasts. Rogers defended the partnership as being in compliance with its CRTC licence, and stated that it had editorial control over the newscasts. Unifor stated that it would file a grievance and a complaint with the CRTC over this agreement.[31][32][31] In April 2018, the CRTC dismissed these complaints and ruled that Rogers was in compliance with the licence. The commission argued that Rogers' leverage over the subcontracted newscasts, including editorial control and limits on content sharing with newscasts on Fairchild's own channels, were sufficient as to not reduce the diversity of media voices. The commission also held that the word "produce" was broadly defined, as not necessarily meaning the newscasts had to be produced in-house by the licensee.[33]

Omni Television stations[edit]

Owned-and-operated stations[edit]

City of licence/market Station Channel
TV (RF)
Calgary, Alberta CJCO-DT 38.1 (38)
Edmonton, Alberta CJEO-DT 56.1 (44)
Toronto, Ontario CFMT-DT 47.1 (47)
CJMT-DT 69.1 (51)
Vancouver, British Columbia CHNM-DT 42.1 (20)

Secondary carriers[edit]

City of licence/market Station Channel
TV (RF)
Year of
affiliation
Owner
Montreal, Quebec CFHD-DT 47.1 (47) 2013 4517466 Canada Inc. (Norouzi Family)

High definition[edit]

In the fall of 2004, Omni launched high definition simulcasts of both Toronto stations, CFMT and CJMT. However, at the time both stations were only available through digital cable. In the summer of 2008, both stations began broadcasting digitally over-the-air. In December 2009, CHNM began broadcasting an over-the-air digital signal and broadcasts in standard definition.

Omni Regional[edit]

Omni Regional
ICI Quebec
LaunchedSeptember 1, 2017
Owned byRogers Media
Picture format480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
CountryCanada
Broadcast areaNational, through regional feeds
HeadquartersToronto, Ontario

On June 14, 2016, Rogers announced that it had submitted an application to the CRTC for a new, national specialty service known as Omni Regional. The service would consist of four feeds; "Pacific", "Prairies", "East", and "ICI Quebec". These channels mirror the programming of the corresponding Omni Television O&O and affiliate stations in their respective regions (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal).[30] Rogers received a provisional a 9(1)(h) must-carry status for the service, which requires it to be offered on the basic service by all Canadian digital television providers. In regions where Omni already operates terrestrially, providers may be relieved from carrying the Omni Regional version of the service on their lineups, or vice versa.[34]

The East feed specifically mirrors CJMT (Omni.2), which primarily focuses on the south and east Asian communities. CFMT (Omni.1), which focuses on European and Latin American communities, retains its existing distribution in southern and eastern Ontario.[34]

Colette Watson, Rogers' vice president of television, stated that Omni Television was "not sustainable in its current state"; the company stated that must-carry status for the Omni Regional channels would result in an additional $14 million in annual revenue from carriage fees, which it planned to mostly invest into the production of daily half-hour national newscasts in the Cantonese, Italian, Mandarin, and Punjabi languages—programming that had been cancelled in 2015 in the previous round of cuts. Omni also pledged to increase its investments in original domestic content.[35] The CRTC approved Rogers' application and must-carry status for Omni Regional on May 15, 2017, with reservations. It launched on September 1, 2017.[31]

In its approval, the CRTC felt that the service's business model was financially unsustainable, as there were no significant plans for new original programming beyond newscasts, and that Rogers did not sufficiently demonstrate that the service would "ensure a sufficient reflection of Canada's third-language communities", as its structure does not sufficiently serve regions not currently served by an Omni station (such as Atlantic and Central Canada).[30]

As such, the CRTC recognized that there was "[an] exceptional need for a national, multilingual multi-ethnic programming service that can provide Canadians with news and current events programming in multiple languages from a Canadian perspective", and made a formal call for a national, multicultural specialty channel that would receive must-carry status. In the meantime, the CRTC granted a three-year, provisional must-carry status to Omni Regional.[36][30] The CRTC announced the eight applicants on April 17, 2018 (which included competing proposals by companies such as Bell Media, the Corriere Canadese, and Ethnic Channels Group); Rogers' application proposed that it maintain the existing structure of the Omni service, but add national newscasts in Arabic and Spanish languages, local newscasts on the East, Pacific, and Prairies feeds in Mandarin and Punjabi, and in Italian on East (replacing the Italian national newscast, due to the concentration of Italians living in the region), increased investment in original scripted and factual programming, and programming acquired from independent producers (including at least two hours per week of programming reflecting the Atlantic provinces, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan).[37][38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Network Style Guide
  2. ^ Decision CRTC 97-39, January 31, 1997 - CIVT-DT (now a CTV station) was licensed instead.
  3. ^ Decision CRTC 2000-219, July 6, 2000 - CIVI-TV and CHNU-TV were licensed.
  4. ^ Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2002-39, February 14, 2002 - CHNM-TV was licensed.
  5. ^ Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2002-82, April 8, 2002
  6. ^ Rogers offers to sell two stations Archived January 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., Grant Robertson, The Globe and Mail, June 28, 2007
  7. ^ Rogers Media to Acquire Vancouver's 'Channel M' From Multivan Broadcast Corporation, Rogers press release, July 6, 2007
  8. ^ CRTC Decision 2008-72.
  9. ^ CRTC Decision 2008-71.
  10. ^ Citytv expanding into Quebec & Western Canada Archived May 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., CityNews, May 3, 2012.
  11. ^ Grant Robertson, "CanWest puts E! up for sale" Archived February 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. The Globe and Mail, February 6, 2009
  12. ^ Rogers Media buys Montreal TV station Metro 14, The Gazette, May 3, 2012.
  13. ^ New METRO14 Schedule Starting Monday[permanent dead link], Channel Canada, June 1, 2012.
  14. ^ Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2012-697, December 20, 2012.
  15. ^ Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2012-696, December 20, 2012.
  16. ^ "Calgary's immigrant community dealt a blow with loss of OMNI programming". Calgary Herald. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Rogers cuts 110 jobs, ends all OMNI newscasts". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Rogers axes OMNI news programs, cancels Breakfast Television in Edmonton". CBC News. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  19. ^ TV Guide (Canadian Edition). 1996.
  20. ^ "OMNI to air Blue Jays vs Red Sox in Mandarin, Thursday". Citynews.ca. Rogers Media. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
  21. ^ "OMNI TV To Air First Mandarin Broadcast of MLB Game in Canada". Broadcaster Magazine. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
  22. ^ "What the new Rogers-NHL deal means for Canadian hockey fans". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. November 26, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  23. ^ "Stanley Cup Playoffs broadcast schedule". Sportsnet.ca. Rogers Media. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  24. ^ "2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 schedule". NHL.com. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  25. ^ Sax, David (April 26, 2013). "A Punjabi Broadcast Draws In New Hockey Fans". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  26. ^ "Canadians to Experience NHL Content in 22 Languages, This Season on OMNI Television". Rogers Media. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  27. ^ "Rogers Media Inc cutting 110 jobs, mainly at Omni multicultural TV stations". Canadian Press. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  28. ^ a b "Rogers resists government pressure to reinstate ethnic newscasts". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  29. ^ "NHS Profile, Vaughan, CY, Ontario, 2011". Statistics Canada. May 8, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  30. ^ a b c d "Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2017-152 and Broadcasting Order CRTC 2017-153". CRTC. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  31. ^ a b c Wong, Tony (2017-08-31). "OMNI Regional launches Sept. 1 amid controversy over contracting out newscasts". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2017-09-15.
  32. ^ "Unifor challenging OMNI subcontracting". Unifor National. 2017-09-06. Retrieved 2017-09-15.
  33. ^ "Complaints against Rogers Media Inc. alleging non-compliance with OMNI Regional's third-language news requirement". CRTC. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  34. ^ a b "Various broadcasting distribution undertakings – Licence amendments". CRTC. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  35. ^ "Rogers seeks to revive multicultural OMNI newscasts in CRTC proposal". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  36. ^ "CRTC grants Rogers mandatory distribution of OMNI newscasts". Financial Post. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  37. ^ Faguy, Steve (2018-04-19). "Eight proposals to replace OMNI". Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  38. ^ "Notice of hearing - 15 October 2018 - Gatineau, Quebec". CRTC. Retrieved 2018-04-18.

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