Following Thursday’s CRTC decision maintaining OMNI Regional as Canada’s national, multi-ethnic television service, Rogers says the service’s current programming slate will remain status quo until its new licence term starts on Sept. 1, 2020.
Colette Watson, SVP of TV & Broadcast Operations, Rogers Media, told Broadcast Dialogue in an email that more details of what shape OMNI’s expanded programming will take will be shared in the coming months.
“Plans are underway to expand our programming to meet the needs of the evolving composition of Canada’s ethnic communities. I can tell you that part of our plans include expanding OMNI Regional’s commitment to news with the launch of two new national newscasts,” said Watson. “We look forward to the increased financing OMNI Regional will receive beginning Sept 1, 2020 with our new licence, at which time we look forward to unveiling our new programming commitments.”
The CRTC has increased the channel’s monthly mandatory carriage allowance during its new three-year licence term from the current $0.12 per subscriber to $0.19.
With Canadians increasingly moving their television viewing online, Rogers is now tasked with balancing declining revenue from a shrinking cable subscriber base with increased programming commitments that include broadcasting a minimum of six daily, original national newscasts, seven days per week in at least six different third languages, in addition to more regional programming.
Watson said the licence renewal is good news for both the more than 60 independent producers the channel works with, as well as OMNI employees.
“As part of our licence renewal, we will source additional independent productions from regions such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Atlantic Canada. And in fact, our Programs of National Interest (PNI) commitments will double (to 5% from 2.5), which will increase work for national independent producers,” added Watson.
Unifor, which represents OMNI employees at the broadcaster’s two largest locations, Toronto and Vancouver, said while the CRTC’s decision is a vote of confidence in the quality of TV programming that union members are delivering, it’s disappointed the commission failed to implement its recommendations around staffing levels.
The union had recommended licence conditions that would require proper staffing of news operations and a ban on contracting out broadcasts to low-wage media companies.
The union previously filed grievances with both the CRTC and Rogers in 2017 over the contracting out of Chinese-language broadcasts to Vancouver-based Fairchild Television, accusing Rogers of trying to save money by subcontracting to the lower-paying Fairchild.
The union also has concerns about how new programming commitments will be met.
“The CRTC raised both the news programming obligations and the subscriber fees required to pay for it,” said Howard Law, Unifor Media Director. “But capping it at 19 cents for three years without regard to rising costs and falling advertising revenues is troubling. We don’t want to see quality undercut by more contracting out or layoffs.”
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