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From Niagara This Week

'Son of TVN' Application Coming

Mike Zettel and Joe Fantauzzi

Dec 9, 2005

NIAGARA -- As far as Wendell Wilks is concerned, Niagara is distinct from Toronto and Hamilton and deserving of its own television station.

And to deny the region its own voice is to deny it its constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression, he adds.

When the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission denied TVN's licence application, the five-member panel cited a number of reasons -- mainly their belief there was not enough financing and the concern that Toronto is already an overcrowded market.

In its application, TVN expressed its intent to finance 34.5 hours of local programming -- including 19.5 hours of news -- by broadcasting classic movies, appealing to viewers between 25 and 45 years old in the Toronto market. Wilks, TVN's president, told This Week earlier that he was considering a back door route by purchasing blocks of time on American stations, an option later determined not to be economical.

But Wilks said he is not giving up.

"TVN Niagara will not apply further," he said. "But Wendell Wilks, who is the president and CEO of TV Niagara , has every intention of coming out with the son of TVN."

Wilks said he plans to appear before all the governments in the region, many of whom supported the initial application, to call on them to get behind him once more, this time in a constitutional challenge.

"All we want is fairness and the application of the law in an equitable way," he said. "And these are fundamental rights and they're not supposed to be able to be taken away from us. Do we care enough in Niagara ? And the answer is I believe we do."

Wilks appeared at Thorold city council Tuesday evening to pitch the idea to city staff, arguing the CRTC's decision violates Part 1, Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms, dealing with the right to the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

He argued that Niagara 's voice is being silenced while other communities in the GTA are being heard.

"In order for them to express themselves, what we get is a cone of silence," Wilks said.

City staff were directed by politicians to look at Thorold 's options for supporting Wilks' idea.

Reached in Toronto on Wednesday, Wilks said the appearance before council was as a private citizen and meant to urge Niagarans to fight for its rights.

"We're certainly ready as a region to ask the courts to decide," he said.

If the challenge is upheld, Wilks said, that is, if Niagara is deemed worthy of a station, he intends to file another major application.

The application would be filed under an entirely new company, 905 Niagara Inc., he said, adding the name demonstrate's the region's distinctiveness.

"905 is not Toronto ," he said. "416 is."

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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