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From the St. Catharines Standard

TVN makes its pitch for Niagara's airwaves

By Erik White

Local News - Friday, June 03, 2005 @ 01:00

Part 1 of a three-part series

After three years of planning and promising, Television Niagara will finally have its day in court next week.

At hearings set to begin Monday in Niagara Falls, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission will be analysing the application TVN filed in October 2003 and having the proposed station’s owners defend their admittedly ambitious project.

Basically, TVN would be a Niagara-focused station, balancing local programming with a lineup of classic movies to appeal to its target baby boomer audience.

While local advertising dollars and revenue repatriated from the Buffalo stations would feed TVN’s finances, the new station would depend on tapping into the rich Toronto and Hamilton ad markets.

The complete application can be downloaded from Here are some of the highlights.


“For 55 years, Niagarans have been bombarded by media from the north side of the Golden Horseshoe. The south side of the horseshoe continues to live in media darkness. TVN Niagara intends to bring light to that darkness.”

“Retirees and baby boomers are flocking to Niagara to escape the densely urbanized world of the north shore of Lake Ontario. These citizens have clearly identified a lack of communications among each other as one of the major obstacles to solving the very serious environmental and governance communications problems plaguing the area. They need a voice and judging by their support, they are demanding their own television station.”

“Many Niagarans are feeling that they are virtually left without power over the future shape of their lives, without access to, influence, or without any way to achieve some modicum of personal or political empowerment. There is a growing environment of helplessness which unfortunately tends to extend to an atmosphere of helplessness and negativism.”

• Of the 15 largest television markets in Canada, Niagara is the only one without its own local station. There are 58 TV stations operating in smaller markets than Niagara.


• 90 employees, 17 in the news department.

• 11 mobile news cruiser vans.

• St. Catharines studio — while at one point TVN coveted the entire Old Courthouse, where it has rented office space since 2002, it now plans on using the main floor and renting second-floor studio space as needed from the Carrousel Players theatre company.

• Niagara Falls studios — plans to erect a 30,000-square-foot complex on Niagara Falls Bridge Commission property near the entrance to the Whirlpool Bridge. Daily tourism information show would be broadcast from a second smaller studio overlooking the river gorge from a building owned by the Niagara Parks Commission.

• Some production work would be done in the teaching studio on the Welland campus of Niagara College

• Aboriginal programming to be produced by Seven Seeds Productions and Communications at their new facility in Ohsweken.

• One-million watt signal tower sending TVN as far north as Toronto, as far west as Brantford and to Buffalo in the east. Original plans to build the tower on land off Mountainview Road in Beamsville have been scrapped because of the province’s new greenbelt legislation. A new site has not been finalized, but TVN intends to put it on top of the escarpment, somewhere between Beamsville and Grimsby.

• Projected start-up costs are $800,000 for studio facilities and $2.3 million for the transmitter tower.


Thirty-six and a half hours of locally produced programming every week.

• Niagara Now — one-hour news magazine show airing at 7 a.m. and again at 11 a.m.

• Niagara Today — one-hour tourism information program aimed at hospitality industry workers and tourists. Broadcast at 8 a.m. and again at noon.

• News — 30 minutes of headlines at 5 p.m., followed by hour-long newscasts at 6 and 10 p.m. Half-hour sportscasts at 6 a.m., 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.

• Weathereye — TVN would employ a full-time meteorologist to provide weather updates every 30 minutes.

• Niagara Newsmakers — daily profile of the local people behind the headlines. Airs at 11:30 p.m. and rebroadcast at 6 a.m.

• The Buck Stops Here — weekly hour-long town hall forum discussing local issues. Hosted by TVN president Wendell Wilks.

• Village Square — 26-part series exploring Niagara’s ethnic communities in 30-minute segments to air twice a week.

• The Wines of Niagara and Garden City — 30-minute wine and gardening programs running three times a week.

• Six Nations Report — TVN has an agreement to provide free air time to the Six Nations of the Grand River near Brantford, who are also TVN shareholders. Initially scheduled for 30 minutes every Monday morning.

• $3.5 million set aside every year to purchase programming from local independent producers.

Future local programming

• Tiny Talent Time— revival of old CHCH children’s talent show.

• Talent Caravan — Idol-style talent contest ending in an annual gala where a winner is crowned.

• First Film — weekly interview with Canadian director followed by showing his or her first movie.

• Green Jeans Gang — Environmentally themed children’s series.

• Sports talk show to be hosted by CFL hall-of-famer Angelo Mosca and former NHL great Dennis Hull.

• Walter Ostanek’s Barn Dance

• Niagara Sportfishing

• Instructional golf show

• In negotiations to broadcast Buffalo Sabres games

Purchased Programming

• Four classic movies shown every weekday afternoon and evening, plus seven on Sunday. Aimed at baby boomers who remember “The Nabes,” neighbourhood movie houses killed by onset of television in the 1950s.

Other Projects

• Partnership with Quantel Ltd. to provide all programs in high-definition television. Also plans for an HDTV training facility at Niagara College named after Chippawa-born movie director James Cameron.

• Pledge to hold two annual telethons for the National Broadcast Reading Service, aiming to contribute $500,000 to research into audio-description technology for visually-impaired television viewers.

• Promise to donate $50,000 every year toward building a St. Catharines theatre complex.


“Niagara-based retail advertisers are eager for an opportunity to advertise their products and services on TV and are willing to expand or to allocate a significant part of their marketing budgets to TVN Niagara.”

• The application calls the Toronto market “seriously under-serviced in terms of advertising media weight” and says some businesses have “difficulty securing sufficient air time.”

• It also claims “there is substantial TV advertising revenue to be recovered from the border stations.”


• The application makes several references to CH’s slogan “Hamilton, Halton, Niagara” and questions how they can adequately cover Niagara with just one news reporter.

• It also accuses the media giants who own the Toronto and Hamilton TV stations of taking “the expression ‘greed and avarice’ to new heights” and predicts the only ones to oppose the application will be “the usual gang of self-serving nay-sayers and sob-sisters.”

• “This is a potential new voice that can get throttled before it starts if the juggernaut of media cross ownership of control succeeds in preventing TVN from being born in the first place.”


• There are 27 owners of TVN, none controlling more than 12 per cent of the company. Sixteen of the shareholders are from Niagara and together they own 56 per cent of the proposed station.

• Retired television director Paul Herriott controls 11.5 per cent. He was born in St. Catharines, but now lives in Effingham.

• Robert Kaplan, former Toronto-area Liberal MP and one-time solicitor general of Canada, controls 10 per cent.

• Retired advertising executive and former St. Catharines Stompers owner Terry O’Malley has a 9.75 per cent stake in TVN.

• Company president Wendell Wilks personally owns 7.5 per cent.

• Hamilton philanthropist and former racetrack owner Charles Juravinski was at one time the station’s principal owner, but now controls only 5.5 per cent.

• Other local shareholders include McDonald’s franchise owner Michael Katz, Niagara Falls developer Ashak Merani, the Niagara Growth Fund and Niagara-on-the-Lake winery owner Joseph Pohorly.

Saturday: The long and colourful career path of television executive Wendell Wilks brought him to Niagara three years ago for one last shot at giving birth to a TV station. Read a profile of the dreamer behind TVN.

Monday: As the hearings get under way in Niagara Falls, The Standard examines the state of the Toronto-Hamilton television market and hears what TVN’s competitors have to say about the proposed station.

Listen to TVN's CEO Wendell Wilks on a radio interview from CHSC.
A terrific interview in MP3 format, which you can stream from our site or download in four segments.

To download these files, please RIGHT-CLICK on the link and select "Save Target As" to save the MP3 files onto your computer.
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