Channel M finally takes to the air in B.C.

Vancouver: The much-debated and delayed Channel M, Vancouver's first over-the-air multicultural station, finally went live at 7 p.m. local time June 27, though its final home on the dial is still undecided.

Vancouver: The much-debated and delayed Channel M, Vancouver’s first over-the-air multicultural station, finally went live at 7 p.m. local time June 27, though its final home on the dial is still undecided.

‘The channel allocation process is taking longer than anticipated,’ says Art Reitmayer, president and CEO of Channel M, which was approved Feb. 15 last year and withstood an appeal that stalled development for three months. ‘However, rather than delay our launch, everyone at Channel M is excited about going to air… to fulfill our commitment to the community, our advertisers and the CRTC,’ says Reitmayer.

The station, which will broadcast in 22 languages, including Cantonese and Punjabi, launched on National Multiculturalism Day on channel 8 in the Lower Mainland and channel 10 in Victoria and Nanaimo. The new signal bumps CTV Newsnet in Vancouver and a TV listings channel in Victoria.

Reitmayer says the station’s goal is for a single channel for the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island markets, but won’t disclose which channel he has proposed. The CRTC’s determination could come at anytime, he says, with up to 60 days after that to make the channel switch, if required.

Also known as Multivision Television, Channel M has cost $17 million to launch in terms of capital investment: the building at 88 East Pender in Chinatown, the improvements and the equipment. Marketing the launch will cost $500,000 through an advertising campaign. And the local owners – Vancouver entrepreneurs Joe Segal, Robert Lee, Geoffrey Lau, James Ho, Douglas Holtby and Reitmayer, who together are Multivan Broadcast Limited Partnership – have promised the CRTC to spend $54 million over the term of the seven-year licence. Break-even is projected for year three.

The novel summer launch, as compared to the more traditional fall launch, allows the station to gain public profile at summer festivals and events and gives it some track record for advertisers planning fall campaigns, says Reitmayer.

With its transmitter on Mt. Seymour, Channel M will broadcast to an overall audience of three million.

While 50% of the summer schedule is in English – required, says the broadcaster, to subsidize low ad revenues from the ethnic communities – most of the 51.5 hours of weekly local programming (eventually increasing to 54.5 hours per week) is local news in Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Korean and Tagalog.

Meanwhile, Channel M and CTV British Columbia have announced an arrangement to share television news footage and explore cross-promotional opportunities. Channel M will access local, national and international news feeds from CTV BC and, in return, CTV BC will be able to use Channel M’s coverage of local events and ethnic communities.

‘This arrangement positions both TV stations to better reflect the diversity of our audience and advertisers,’ says Jim Rusnak, VP and GM of CTV BC.

Channel M’s 65-episode, half-hour morning shows Living Yoga with Padma and Tai Chi – Mind and Body, produced in-house in May and June, have both sold to toronto|one.

Other in-house programming includes Cafe M, a half-hour English-language cooking show with host Dennis Simpson. The half-hour German Today is produced by local German personality Bernadette Berry and presents the people, places and events that shape the German-Canadian experience. One-hour World Beats is produced and cohosted by Cal Koat and explores world music as an international ‘language.’

Channel M, meanwhile, has dedicated $4.5 million to independent production and $800,000 to script and concept development over the term of its licence.

Imported Toronto-based programs include Macedonian Heritage Hour (Bill Yancoff, producer), Ukrainian magazine Kontakt (Uri Klufaf, producer), Romanian program Noi Romanii (Raul Dudnic, producer) and English-language Planet Africa (Silvertrust Communications).

Versioned shows (programs that are translated from English such as Beastmaster in Spanish and Total Recall 2070 in Portuguese) are being acquired from suppliers such as Rogers Broadcasting, South Asian broadcaster ATN and broadcaster Telelatino. English-language standards like Wheel of Fortune and The Late Show with David Letterman will run in primetime simulcast.

Channel M operations take up 25,000 square feet of the 37,000-square-foot building. Ninety people make up the employment roster, with Reitmayer saying additional hiring will happen on an as-needed basis.