The battle begins for Surrey's radio frequencies

The battle begins for Surrey’s radio frequencies

SURREY — A bidding war for rights to local radio frequencies is set to heat up this week as 17 applicants try to convince the Canadian Radio Television Commission (CRTC) that their content is best for local airwaves.

Up for grabs are the rights to a few FM frequencies, the strongest and most sought after of which is 107.7, as well as a couple AM frequencies, with 600 being the most desired. The hearing is notable in that if an applicant is awarded their bid, they could become the first Surrey licensed radio station.

Currently, 93.1 RED FM operates out of Surrey, but with a Vancouver licence. RED FM is also one of the applicants hoping to snag the rights to 107.7 FM, claiming that they experience some interference with the current frequency.

Other applicants are taking the hearing as an opportunity to pitch new radio station concepts for the region, with many heavily focused at capturing the growing ethnic community south of the Fraser River.

One applicant, Surdel Broadcasting Inc., is looking to target the area’s English-speaking South Asian community, a demographic they feel is underserved by the current media offerings.

“We’re not going after the grandmas and grandpas, the folks that are home all day long and call in to the talk shows, we’re going after what we’re calling the second and third-generation Indo-Canadians,” said Vinnie Combow, an associate of applicant Rajesh Gutta for Surdel Broadcasting.

“So the station is for the second and third generations who live the life of Canadians. They go to nightclubs, wear Canadian clothes and communicate in English to each other and even to mom and dad. They don’t want to leave the culture, they still want to be connected to their roots but connected with more modern stuff.”

Combow said while other South Asian stations may focus more on Indian politics or traditional music from the culture, there isn’t really anything aimed at the newer demographics who might want to connect with their culture, but in a more modern way.

“They want music, they want music that they can relate to in everyday life, being Canadian but they also want stuff connected to their roots,” he said.

Several other applicants have also have focuses tailored toward the South Asian communities.

Another applicant, Mosaic Media, is hoping to serve the area with an Adult Hits radio station with about 37 per cent of the airtime being devoted to ethnic programming.

Speaking with the Now, Andrew Forsythe, a consultant for Mosaic, said the station they are proposing would be aimed at providing Surrey residents with quality programming from a Surrey perspective.

“Nobody talks about Surrey and when they do it’s usually about something bad happening, not the things that are interesting and contribute to the fabric of life here,” said Forsythe. “So the people putting this application together are thinking it’s time that Surrey had it’s own radio station targeting specifically Surrey and we’re doing so in a very inclusive manner. We’ve applied for an English licence but with a component of third language programming involved in it as well.”

According to the application, Mosaic would offer hit music programming complete with talking segments scattered throughout. The ethnic portions would be the same, albeit in languages reflective of the many cultures in Surrey, such as Chinese, Filipino and Punjabi.

“Surrey is a different place from Vancouver and we’re very passionate about it being from a different place and it’s time for Surrey to listen to things from a Surrey perspective,” said Forsythe.

Other radio applications are for talk radio stations that would focus on local content, as well as two applications for stations with a religious theme.

The hearings kicked off Monday at Surrey’s Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel and are expected to continue until the end of the week. Once the 17 applicants have had a chance to make their case, interveners will then be given an opportunity to have their say. Following that, the CRTC will likely take a few months to consider the proposals.

To view the proposals by all 17 applicants, click here.

The CRTC will also be updating via twitter at @CRTChearings.

cpoon@thenownewspaper.com