Surrey’s Punjabi radio stations facing CRTC ban

SURREY — Two radio stations operating out of Surrey could be slapped with mandatory cease-and-desist orders come October.

According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Radio India and Radio Punjab have offices in the city, but do not hold licenses to operate in Canada. Signals have been transmitting from Washington state, but their frequencies can be heard across the Lower Mainland.

In a notice of hearing, the CRTC states Radio India has an agreement with the licensee of KVRI 1600 AM in Blaine, Wash. Meanwhile, Radio Punjab is linked to New Age Media Ltd., the licensee of KRPA 1110 AM in Oak Harbour, Wash. A third radio station, Sher-E-Punjab, has studios in Richmond, but has an arrangement with BBC Broadcasting Inc., the licensee of KRPI 1550 AM in Ferndale, Wash.

The CRTC argues the broadcasting companies are skirting format and content regulations under the Broadcasting Act.

The CRTC will host a hearing on Oct. 15 in Gatineau, Que., allowing the stations to show cause as to why the commission should not issue the ban.

"Once we receive whatever documents, we’ll analyze them and come up with a decision. I don’t know how long it will take," said Patricia Valladao, manager of media relations for the CRTC.

Businesses advertising on these airwaves could also take a hit. The commission notes section 19.1 of the Income Tax Act, which says deductions cannot be made "for an advertisement directed primarily to a market in Canada and broadcast by a foreign broadcasting undertaking," which includes a transmitter located outside Canada.

The issue of cross-border transmission into Surrey has been a thorn in CRTC’s side for more than a decade. The problem first surfaced in 1998 when the commission discovered programming was being transmitted via satellite. In 2001, a letter was sent to the radio stations involved, letting them know they needed a license to continue their operations. The stations then informed the CRTC satellite distribution had stopped.

In 2005 during a licensing hearing, the commission noted applicants Sher-EPunjab and Radio India were operating from Washington state, but programming was heard in the Vancouver market. Both were denied a license.

This past January, the CRTC held hearings in Surrey to license two more radio stations. Radio India was late in getting its application in and was rejected an extension. Sher-E-Punjab also applied and told the CRTC it would stop transmitting from the U.S. if it was granted the license for 600 AM, which it did not win.

The broadcasting companies had until Aug. 28 to submit comments to the CRTC in advance of the October hearing. Several interveners have filed documents, specifically regarding Sher-E-Punjab and a controversial proposal to build radio towers in Point Roberts, Wash.

Radio Punjab told the Now it will be at the hearing, while Radio India was unable to be reached for comment by press deadline. Jasbir Singh Badh, general manager of Sher-E-Punjab, said the station will "most likely" be attending.

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