Rogers Media’s new national multilingual channel OMNI Regional debuted Sept. 1 with half hour, daily national newscasts in Cantonese, Italian, Mandarin, and Punjabi. Regionally-focused, weekday current affairs programs are also being produced locally in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver. Focus Cantonese, Focus Mandarin and Focus Punjabi offer provincial, municipal, healthcare and business news. In Quebec, Rogers has partnered with independent ethnic broadcaster ICI Television to offer local information, lifestyle and entertainment programming on the channel, in both French and English. Branded as ICI Television in Quebec, it will also carry OMNI’s daily, national newscasts. OMNI Regional is being offered nationally on all digital basic television packages with top stories from the day available online at

UNIFOR, the union representing OMNI workers, says it plans to file complaints with both the CRTC and Rogers over the contracting out of Chinese-language broadcasts to Vancouver-based Fairchild Television. The union says the company is trying to save money by subcontracting to the lower-paying Fairchild and that the definition of “produced” under the conditions of OMNI Regional’s licence need to be clarified. While Rogers says it retains full editorial control over the newscasts, the Chinese & South Asian Legal Clinic is among those voicing concerns about handing news production off to a competitor in a medium with limited voices. Critics from the Chinese community have likened Fairchild’s conservative leanings to Fox News.

The CRTC has approved an application from Shaw Communications, on behalf of Shaw Cablesystems and Star Choice, exempting it from having to distribute OMNI television stations as part of the basic service of its broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) in Ontario, Alberta and BC, and of its direct-to-home satellite BDU Shaw Direct for Southern Ontario. They’ll instead distribute the regional feeds of OMNI Regional, which will provide the same programming. Similarly Quebecor Media, on behalf of Videotron, is relieved from distributing ICI (International Channel/Canal International) as part of the basic service. The condition will expire if the mandatory order for the distribution of OMNI Regional is no longer in effect.