OMNI will remain Canada’s national multi-ethnic, multilingual television service, however it will re-launch by the fall of 2020 with a larger commitment to local news and regional programming.
The CRTC has granted Rogers Media a three-year licence to continue operating the service in 20 languages following a competitive process that included three days of hearings in November.
The new service, which succeeds the existing OMNI Regional, will be provided on four feeds serving B.C., the Prairies, Ontario & Atlantic Canada, and Quebec.
Set to launch Sept. 1, 2020, Rogers increased commitment includes:
- broadcasting at least six hours of local original newscasts per week from Vancouver, Calgary/Edmonton and Toronto
- broadcasting a minimum of six daily, original national newscasts, seven days per week in at least six different third languages
- produce at least two hours of programming in Manitoba and/or Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada each week
- devote 100% of the schedule to ethnic programs, and no less than 80% to third-language programming, and
- devote a minimum of 70% of all programming to the broadcast of Canadian programming.
In Quebec, Rogers will:
- broadcast at least three hours of original, local, ethnic programming in French per week
- provide a minimum of one and a half hours of local, original French-language programming
- broadcast at least 30 minutes of local, original English-language programming per week, and
- devote no less than 90% of its schedule to ethnic programming and 60% to third-language programming.
OMNI Regional’s new licence will expire on Aug. 31, 2023, with the CRTC explicit that there should be “no expectation of renewal.”
The expanded commitment addresses some of the concerns the CRTC had expressed when it granted initial approval for OMNI Regional in 2017. Those concerns included ensuring a sufficient reflection of Canada’s third-language communities; that OMNI Regional lacked commitment to original, first-run programming; that only a small portion of the program schedule was allocated to news; and that Rogers did not include specific programming relevant to each region of the country.
The CRTC decision doesn’t assess the other seven applications put forward, only saying that “having considered the criteria and evidence that was submitted as part of the record by all applicants and interveners, the Commission finds that of all the applications, Rogers’ proposed service, along with its associated commitments, best meets the needs and interests of Canada’s diverse population and the criteria established by the Commission.”
The new service will be available on all digital basic television packages throughout Canada. While Rogers had requested an increase in the current wholesale rate per month per subscriber for OMNI Regional from $0.12 to $0.19 in the first two years of the new licence term, and then $0.20 in years three and four, and $0.21 in year five – in part to mitigate the effects of projected declines in subscribership to BDUs – the commission has set the wholesale rate at $0.19 for the duration of the three-year licence term.
The commission also imposed a condition of licence to ensure Rogers upholds a commitment to operate OMNI Regional on a break-even basis and to reinvest any profits from the service into its programming.
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