“Surrey would be better served by Surdel Broadcasting Inc.” – Dissenting opinion of Commissioner Raj Shoan
THE CRTC announced on Wednesday that South Fraser Broadcasting Inc. has been given a broadcasting licence to operate an English-language commercial FM radio programming undertaking in Surrey.
The CRTC also approved a broadcasting licence to operate an English-language specialty commercial FM radio programming undertaking in Vancouver to 0971197 B.C. Ltd. (Roundhouse Radio).
RAJESH Gupta, publisher of Indo-Canadian Voice newspaper, thanked the community for their robust support of his Surdel Broadcasting Inc. application, one of nine applications that were denied a broadcasting licence.
He said that he was keen to serve the Surrey community.
IN a strong dissenting opinion, CRTC Commissioner Raj Shoan noted: “Surrey would be better served by Surdel Broadcasting Inc.”
Shoan wrote: “This dissenting opinion pertains only to the decision of the majority to license South Fraser Broadcasting Inc. (South Fraser) on 107.7 MHz. I agree with the decision to license 0971197 B.C. Ltd. (Roadhouse Radio) on 98.3 MHz and to leave the 600 KHz, 91.5 MHz and 106.9 MHz frequencies vacant for the purposes of a future licensing proceeding in the hopes of attracting stronger applications for their use.
“With due respect to my colleagues, I cannot support the majority decision to license South Fraser for the following reasons:
“a. The licensing of South Fraser would call into question the integrity of the Commission’s licensing process; and
“b. Surdel Broadcasting Inc. (Surdel) had a stronger, more relevant application to serve the Surrey market.”
Explaining his view on the licensing process, Shoan pointed out: “Given Sukhvinder Badh’s connection to Sher-E-Punjab – comprising current ownership of the land upon which the transmitter that arguably broadcasts into Canada is located, past managerial capacity and familial relations with members of Sher-E-Punjab’s present management and ownership – the most appropriate course of action, in my view, is to deny his application until such time that a determination can be made into the nature of his past and present involvement with Sher-E-Punjab and whether that involvement constitutes, in some measure, the unauthorized broadcast of radio programming over the air to Canadians.
“Failure to conduct such an examination could result in the granting of a licence to an entity that may be involved in the act of broadcasting in whole or in part in Canada without a licence, a result that, in my view, would call into question whether the Commission’s licensing principles, which support the integrity of the licensing process, have been properly applied in this case. This would be, in the words of I.T. Productions, a “travesty of regulatory fairness.””
Under the sub-heading: “Surrey would be better served by Surdel Broadcasting Inc.,” Shoan wrote:
Leaving aside South Fraser’s ties to Sher-E-Punjab, I am further of the view that the strongest application over the course of the entirety of the public hearing was that of Surdel.
The majority decision, in two brief paragraphs, notes two essential features of Surrey; it is growing at a rapid pace and it is an ethnically diverse city. This hardly does Surrey justice; in many ways, Surrey is a unique phenomenon in the country. It is not merely growing quickly; it is growing more quickly than nearly any other metropolitan city in the country. It is not simply ethnically diverse; it is more ethnically diverse than virtually any other city in the country.
While Surrey counts a total of about 463,000 people, almost 45% of Surrey’s population reported a “non-official language” as its “mother tongue,” and 30% of the population indicated a language other than English or French as the “language spoken most often at home.” More particularly:
* about 142,000 Surrey residents are of South Asian background (or 30% of the total Surrey population);
* of the 104,000 people that identified Punjabi as the language spoken most often at home in the Vancouver census metropolitan area (CMA), 71% (or 73,620) are located in Surrey;
* visible minorities represented 53% of the total population in Surrey in 2011. South Asians represented by far the largest group, accounting for 58% of Surrey’s visible minority population and almost a third of its total population; and
* of the total 142,445 South Asian people in Surrey, almost 52,500 (or 37%) are of second and third generations.
So what is Surrey? Surrey is young, ethnically diverse (primarily South Asian) and growing quickly. In the face of these facts, my colleagues have decided to license the only English-language application that offers little of substance to this emerging demographic of the marketplace.
The majority decision offers little in the way of persuasiveness in terms of what aspects of South Fraser distinguish it from others in this proceeding and deserving of a licence. They note that the service will “fill a programming void by introducing a first local English-language service dedicated to a Surrey audience” and offer “local news and community information.” They further note that South Fraser’s application will add to the diversity of voices in the market and that it “submitted a good business plan with sound revenue projections for a service with broad appeal.”
While these statements may be true, the contemporary Triple A/AC format proposed by South Fraser is already offered by at least two stations in the Vancouver CMA marketplace (CHHR-FM and CKPK-FM) with several others offering elements of these formats in their music programming. Thus, there is little uniqueness to South Fraser’s offering.
Secondly, as an English-language service offering to the residents of Surrey, Surdel’s application offers:
a. more local programming (126 hours);
b. greater news programming (3 hours, 40 minutes); and
c. a healthy 18% emerging artist commitment
each of which exceeds the commitments offered by South Fraser.
Thirdly, in my view, Surdel’s proposed format is far more reflective of the Surrey market than that of South Fraser. It has proposed a specialty format with a strong focus on World Beat music.
In its application, Surdel stated that its “proposed new format would take into account the unique South Asian makeup of the Surrey/North Delta region, but would also recognize the advancing assimilation of the South Asian community into contemporary Canadian society.”
Surdel added that its service would “reach new mainstream audiences, an audience that has been missed both by conventional commercial radio and traditional ethnic radio.” Surdel also indicated that: ‘‘we must not approach them [i.e. its potential audience] with overt ethnic campaigns but a mainstream mentality that utilizes the appropriate vehicles to reach them, such as our fusion format.’’ It further indicated that its station is not about being an ethnic option but rather a radio station that melds its unique demographic’s various interests. Unlike South Fraser’s proposed format, Surdel’s format strikes me as specifically tailored to Surrey’s reality.
Lastly, Surdel’s application provided, in my view, the strongest financial projections of all of the applicants for the 107.7 MHz proceeding. Whereas South Fraser projects to barely break even after seven years of operation, Surdel confidently projected to turn a decent profit after year 2 and, over the full licence term, predicted a healthy surplus. Upon questioning, it confirmed that it already owned the building that would house the studio and would be aided by its experience as a newspaper entity. In my view, having established relationships with local advertisers in the marketplace, Surdel would have been ideally placed to launch an effective and successful radio station in both the short and long term.
In his conclusion, Shoan wrote:
“In sum, given the preceding arguments, I am of the view that Surdel Broadcasting Inc. should have been granted the 107.7 MHz frequency for use in Surrey. Furthermore, given Sukhvinder Badh’s past and present involvement with Sher‑E‑Punjab, I would have included him in an examination of the issue of broadcasting services transmitted from locations outside Canada which appear to serve Canadian markets.”
For the full report, go to: