Tuesday, November 9, 2004
CRTC to consider Niagara TV bid
By ERIK WHITE
Niagara is one step closer to having its own television station. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced Monday it will consider granting a TV license to a Niagara broadcaster.
In a news release, the commission said it has received an application from Television Niagara (TVN) and is asking for any rival bidders to submit their proposals by Feb. 7.
“We’re totally thrilled to be finally moving to the public part of the process and really look forward to telling Niagara the whole story,” said TVN president and CEO Wendell Wilks, who first pitched the idea of a local station three years ago.
TVN filed its application last October. Wilks said its trip through the bureaucracy was slowed by technical problems dealing with which channel the proposed station would be carried on.
Once it has reviewed all applications and challenges from established local media, the CRTC will hold a series of public hearings, after which it has 45 days to make a decision.
A number of other cases will be heard at the same hearings, which could be held anywhere in the country. Wilks has requested that his case be heard in Niagara.
“For us, it was important to have the hearings here as it would allow Niagarans to participate in the public process,” said Wilks, 63. Aye or nay, at least Niagara would have its day in court”.
Originally, Wilks was aiming to be on the air in fall 2003. Now, he’s hoping the CRTC will make its decision by next summer and TVN can sign on before the end of 2005.
While the TV industry veteran faced some “doubting Thomases” as the beginning, he said their ranks seemed to swell as the project appeared to stall.
“It was discouraging continually having to explain to the community I intend to serve ... what a peculiar process this is,” Wilks said.
After a long career producing musical specials, and being involved in the launch of Edmonton’s ITV and Burlington-based Christian channel CTS, Wilks moved to St. Catharines in 2002.
He envisioned an intensely local TV channel in a region traditionally served by stations in Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo.
The TVN application calls for 40 hours of local programming produced by some 95 employees at studios in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, as well as smaller operations in Welland and on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford.
The programs would include a range of daily news and current affairs shows, as well as weekly musical and drama programs.
But reaching the Toronto advertising market is also vital to TVN, and the bulk of the annual $12 million to $13 million operating costs would be generated by a weekly lineup of 40 classic movies.
Wilks has also argued a TV station would be a boost to the region’s economy, with lifestyle and tourism programs luring visitors from across the lake.
“It’s been a tortoise-like process,” Wilks said. “And if I remember, the tortoise won the race.”
Listen to TVN's CEO Wendell Wilks on a radio interview from CHSC.
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