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Multicultural media in Canada


Multicultural media in Canada

Multicultural media in Canada also referred to as “ethnic media” or “third media” (as it does not use either French or English language) is media, which responds to the needs of ethnic minorities of Canada.[1] The objective of multicultural media in Canada is to create a voice for a community of a particular ethnic background, challenge social injustices, and foster cultural pride for minority and immigrant Canadians. Ethnic media do not always target new immigrants, though much of this particular media works to eliminate feelings of isolation in the dominant culture.[2] Multicultural media also services Canadian-born individuals of a visible minority as well as diasporic ethnicities.[3] Ultimately, multicultural media in Canada, whether it is delivered in English, French or the respective language of the culture, is to contribute to the cultural maintenance and ethnic cohesion of the culture in question but also help members of minorities to integrate into larger Canadian society.[4] The third-language media are especially important for new immigrants, as they are usually the main source of information for those who have yet to become proficient in one of the official languages. Thus, third-language media provide crucial information on education, training, and job seeking for these immigrants.[5]

The promotion of multicultural media began in the late 1980s as the multicultural policy was legislated in 1988.[5] In the Multiculturalism Act, the federal government proclaimed the recognition of the diversity of Canadian culture.[5] Thus, multicultural media became an integral part of Canadian media overall. Upon numerous government reports showing lack of minority representation or minority misrepresentation, the Canadian government stressed separate provision be made to allow minorities and ethnicities of Canada to have their own voice in the media.[6]

Today ethnic media is available across Canada from small newspapers to full-fledged broadcasting stations run by the private sector, such as OMNI TV.[5] Due to the difficulty of acquiring licensing and space on the electromagnetic spectrum due to costs and threshold of the spectrum itself, many ethnic cultures in Canada have third-language channels through satellite television. However, this still creates exclusion of minorities from mass media as found in Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's review of the 1999 Ethnic Broadcasting Policy found technological access and financial constraints hindered many ethnic minorities from accessing specialty television.[7]


  • Policy and Legislation 1
  • Media 2
    • Radio 2.1
    • Newspaper 2.2
    • Television 2.3
  • Issues 3
    • Newspaper 3.1
    • Television 3.2
    • Satellite Television 3.3
      • Grey Market Satellite Systems 3.3.1
      • Al Jazeera 3.3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Policy and Legislation

In 1971 Canada became the first country to introduce a Multiculturalism policy.[5] By 1988, the policy became an act of Parliament known as the Multiculturalism Act.[5] The act proclaimed the federal governments policy to recognize the diversity of cultures in Canadian society.[5] It also provided the overall framework for management of ethnocultural and racial diversity in Canada. Similarly the Broadcasting Act of 1991 asserts the Canadian broadcasting system should reflect the diversity of cultures in the country.[8]

The CRTC is the governmental body which enforces the Broadcasting Act.[8] The CRTC revised their Ethnic Broadcasting Policy in 1999 to go into the details on the conditions of the distribution of ethnic and multilingual programming.[5] One of the conditions that this revision specified was the amount of ethnic programming needed in order to be awarded the ethnic broadcasting license. According to the act, 60% of programming on a channel, whether on the radio or television, has to be considered ethnic in order to be approved for the license under this policy.[5] However, this quota does not specify which language this programming be in thus not considering the needs of the ethnic audiences.



In most major Canadian cities ethnic radio is available. Whether it is an ethnic designated time slot on a commercial station, on community or campus radio, or a 24-hour multilingual operation, ethnic radio is accessible.[4] An example of the latter is CHIN radio.[4] Created by Johnny Lombardi in 1966, CHIN radio has become the largest multicultural and multilingual radio station in Ontario.[9] The station is delivers programming in more than 30 languages to 30 different cultural communities in the southern Ontario and Greater Toronto Area region. Have branched out to the Ottawa and Gatineau region, CHIN also delivers programming in 18 languages there as well. The success of the station can be credited to CHIN’s unique way in providing quantitative research about their audiences to advertisers. Using custom studies and current demographic records provides CHIN the accurate numbers behind their audiences, making advertisers support the ethnic broadcaster.[10] Due to the success of CHIN, many companies have begun to specialize in ethnocentric demographic and lifestyle data to help predict not only the media preferences of ethnic audiences but also their spending habits.[10] No longer merely relying on Statistics Canada for information on minorities in the nation gives a more of a well-rounded look at the complexities of Canadians of various cultural backgrounds.[10] This information is crucial in perfecting how to market to ethnic audiences.

Recently CHIN Radio has been reaching out to the official language speaking audiences.[9] This includes the children of immigrants who grew up with English and French as their dominant language but want to learn more about their heritages traditional music, cuisine, and fashion. To reach to this segment of the population, CHIN has added a few English shows to their airwaves. CHIN also holds the popular CHIN Picnic every year to further attract non-ethnic listeners.[9]


There are hundreds of ethnic newspapers available throughout the country. These papers have become increasingly more high-level in both the way they are run and the stories they cover. The larger dailies are Ming Pao, Sing Tao Daily, the World Journal (Chinese) and Corriere Canadese (Italian).[4]

Some other notable papers are Ghanaian News, a monthly newspaper that focuses on news relating to Ghanaian immigrants now living in Toronto or Montreal, the cities the paper is distributed in.[3] Its contents mainly pertain to news from Ghana as well as news on Ghanaian Canadians. Mostly Ghanaian News stresses cultural retention and investing back into the home country.[3]

The Montreal Community Contact is another minority paper serving the Montreal black public.[3] Founded in 1992 by Egbert Gaye, the Montreal Community Contact contains stories pertaining to all black regardless of country of origin (unlike Ghanaian News).[3] Ninety per cent of the paper is devoted to issues confronting foreign and Canadian born black people in Montreal.[3] The stories in the Montreal Community Contact go in-depth on issues concerning the black community.[3] The paper also reports stories on small business started by members of the black community as well as successful black Canadians.[3] However the paper does its best to not be biased as it also reports on conflict and crime within the community it serves. Ultimately however the Montreal Community Contact tries to promote a positive image of the black community.[3]


The role of ethnic television media is to provide informational programming, which pertains to the needs of the various cultural communities within Canada. The information provided by these programs gives these communities information that the mainstream media does not provide.[4]

Omni Television provides ethnic programming to cities in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.[11] Their programming is mostly produced in Canada with a few shows from the various diasporas.[11] The television system's three stations are offered on basic cable and show 60 percent or more of their programming in 40 languages to 50 ethnocultural communities.[10] Knowing the importance of appealing not only to recent immigrants but also to the second and third generation immigrants, Omni, along with the other Canadian ethnic television stations, have started to raise the quality of programming.[9] These shows are much slicker and better produced than ethnic programs of the past.[9] Furthermore, shows produced at Omni, such as Canadian Desi, understand the complexities of the minorities they serve. The show, which can be understood by both Urdu and Hindi speaking audiences, understands the vast cultural differences of these audiences. As such, generic words with no particular cultural weight are used as well as subtitles in either language when necessary.[11]

CJNT-DT is a multicultural broadcast television station in Montreal owned independently from Omni Television (owned by Channel Zero since 2009), whose roots are traced back to a public access ethnic cable channel that launched in the 1980s called La Télévision Ethnique du Québec (TEQ). The station broadcasts approximately 60 percent of its programming in seven languages. The station has the unusual distinction of being the only multicultural television station to be affiliated with an English-language television system as it served as an affiliate of CH (later E!) from 2001 to 2009 under the ownership of Canwest; as a CH/E! affiliate, the station aired select programming from the system in varied languages such as Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, in order to partially fulfill its language requirements.[12] In May 2012, Rogers Media announced the purchase of CJNT from Channel Zero, with the intent to affiliate the station with its primary television system Citytv rather than affiliate the station with Omni Television (though some of Omni's ethnic programming will likely be supplied to fulfill ethnic programming requirements).[13]

Another Canadian ethnic television service is specialty cable channel Telelatino. Serving Italian and Spanish Canadian audiences, the station is available in 3.5 million Canadian homes on the second tier.[9] Telelatino is also committed to reaching out to a bigger audience outside of first generation immigrants. It has tried to grab a larger audience by introducing third-language programming in English as well as dubbing a second audio in English over its third-language programming.[9] As it is majority owned by Corus Entertainment, TLN also shows children shows from YTV and Treehouse TV dubbed in Spanish.[9] The audiences of ethnic stations are large enough to matter to advertisers, and this was made most obvious in the case of Italian-Australian comic Joe Avati's local Canadian tour. With TLN's promotion of the tour, Avati sold out 1800 seats for $50 each in 15 minutes. With this success due in part to TLN’s promotion, Avati expanded his tour by seven more shows in southern Ontario and Montréal.[9] TLN subsidizes their 60 percent third language shows by showing 40 percent English programming. Many ethnic broadcasters use this 60/40 model.[9]



The need for ethnic newspapers is high as the representation of ethnic minorities is low in mainstream Canadian newspapers.[3] The newsgathering staffs of 37 newspapers from across the 10 Canadian provinces only have 3.4 per cent non-white individuals.[3] In fact, 22 out the 37 newspapers have an all white staff.[3] With no diversity in ethnicities the stories being presented through the mainstream papers do not present issues of interest to minorities or present an accurate picture of minority culture to the mainstream audience. This is in part due to the lack of structure in funneling minorities into the reporting and editing sphere, a structure that is present in the United States.[3] As such the black community in Montreal, for example, receive limited coverage in mainstream papers. This coverage is usually around “black” events such as Black History Month in February or during summer for Nuit D’afrique and Carifestival.[3] This “calendar journalism” presents a very limited view of these communities and only further removes them from being included in to mainstream discourse as this coverage further perpetuates otherness. If the black community does get coverage in the mainstream English papers of Montreal, it is to highlight a black athletes success at a sporting event, or to highlight a violent crime.[3] This only further perpetuates stereotypes of the black community both good and bad. The reductionist coverage of black individuals in the cities mainstream print publications is undoubtedly related to the lack of diversity in the newsrooms. Ultimately the Multicultural Policy, which was created to avoid this under and misrepresentation, does not address the racism that causes these structural inequalities in the media.

Thus the Montreal Community Contact has not changed the mainstream coverage of the black community in their city. Once one looks at the numbers, this is not hard to understand. Despite the 159 000 Black people in Montreal in 2001, the contact only had a circulation of less that 8000 papers. Only 7% of the community read the paper that year.[3] Furthermore, there is limited mainstream access to the paper. The Montreal community contact is distributed by being left at ethnic stores or Black community centres.[3] This is a common distribution strategy for many ethnic newspapers in Canada.[3] This is problematic as by making the paper only available to the ethnic audiences, little impact is made in changing the image of minorities to the mainstream population. Furthermore, the papers cannot impact the community’s image of itself as its not accessible to all members of the community.


One of the problems ethic television station face is the lack of both qualitative and quantitative research information about their audiences.[10] Audience measurement numbers such as the A.C. Nielson and BBM do not have the metrics to provide accurate tacking of ethnic audiences.[11] This problem led to OMNI’s purchase of the Manifold Data Mining to provide the numbers to verify the Chinese and South Asian markets purchasing power to advertisers.[10] However, other channels that wish to corroborate their ethnic audience numbers do not have such tools thus severely effecting they’re funding from advertisers.

Another issue, which affects the ethnic broadcasters, is the way their audiences have come to see their news coverage. In Minelle Mahtani’s article “Racializing the Audience: Immigrant Perceptions of Mainstream Canadian English-Language TV News”, Mahtani found that ethnic audiences are unconvinced of the TV news channels geared towards minorities.[14] In a focus group of Iranian immigrants conducted in Vancouver one participant stated “If I’m really looking for information I will turn to CBC…if I want serious information I wouldn’t watch Channel M.”[14] Other participants of the focus groups deemed ethnic channels as “fluffy” or not providing information relevant to them.[14] What is more is, these participants felt that ethnic media did not represent their lives in a less reductionist manner than mainstream media.[14] Thus the audiences of ethnic media still do not feel their cultures’ complexities are represented accurately or at all. The ethnic broadcasts that focused on cultural events did not serve their needs and the ethnic audiences wanted more “inclusive and representative storytelling”.[14] The ethnic television stations lack of legitimacy in mainstream realm further affects the minorities’ view of them. By tackling this issue of legitimacy, the ethnic broadcasters will not only help their image to mainstream audiences but also to their target audiences.

Satellite Television

Grey Market Satellite Systems

Recently, Canada has seen the advance of the “Grey market satellite system”.[7] These are subscription based TV services not owned by Canadian companies but have subscribers in Canada. In September 2002 the President of the Canadian Cable Televisions Association estimated as many as 700,000 illegal satellites were in Canada.[7] Most of these dishes are not purchased from Canadian companies. This revenue could have gone to licensed Canadian companies such as Bell ExpressVu or Rogers Digital Cable.[7] Immigrants who want and need programs and stations from their native home countries purchase many of these dishes.[7] The figures point to a need for an expansion of third-language media as well as a lack of satisfaction of existing third-language media in Canada. Despite the need to grow third-language media further, in 2003 the government rejected adding more foreign-language broadcasters.[7] In the same year, the CRTC stated in a report “Canadians enjoy access to a wide variety of ethnic services”.[7] This statement was extremely problematic as at that time, though there were 93 foreign-owned channels licensed for broadcasting in Canada but only 10 were in languages other than English or French.[7] Also, though most third-language broadcasters are approved by the CRTC they do not have carriers, making them inaccessible to Canadians.[8] Furthermore, in the 14 largest TV markets, only 4 analogue specialty services were available which only catered to Italian, Spanish, Cantonese, South Asian and Greek communities.[7] With the limited numbers of ethnic programming provided by the legal means, the immigrant and ethnic communities’ reliance on “illegal” satellite services only grows.

In February 2004 there was an attempt to amend the Radiocommunication Act to increase the penalty for transmitting or decoding unauthorized satellite signal.[7] As the CRTC refused to add more third-language channels to the existing cable and satellite services, many saw this amendment as a direct attack on the minorities whose needs were not being met by the framework set in place.[7] The amendment did not go through as it was seen as an attack on cultural diversity.[7]

By mid-2004, the CRTC allowed access to more third-language channels but only to subscribers who already paid for ethnic channels based in Canada.[7]

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera English was approved for broadcasting in Canada by the CRTC in 2004.[7] There was support for the station by the Muslim and Arabic communities in Canada.[7] However, the Canadian Jewish Congress was less than enthusiastic about the networks availability in Canada. They stated “Under the guise of a seemingly legitimate news agency, Al Jazeera has provided hatemongers and terrorists with a platform for their view.”[7] Ultimately, many in the Jewish communities found the station allowed and promoted anti-Semitic sentiments. The CRTC eventually concluded that though Al Jazeera had not promoted any such hateful views yet, it could potentially.[7] This finding is extremely problematic as it gives any community or lobbyist the power to influence what channels are and are not approved by the CRTC. Any station can potentially promote hateful or spiteful messages. To allow any segment of the population to influence the CRTC’s decision on an ethnic channel can keep any third-language station off of Canadian airwaves legally. In the case of Al Jazeera, the CRTC made it the responsibility of the cable and satellite distributors to alter or delete any “abusive comments” made on Al Jazeera programming.[7] The censorship power is otherwise forbidden to distributors.[8] The authorization of this censorship can be seen as an act of racism on behalf of the CRTC as they only granted this censorship authority for this Arabic station. This marked the Arabic message as a deviant and ultimately unCanadaian message, further perpetuating a growing Muslimphobia in the post 9/11 landscape. Furthermore, by passing the responsibility of censorship to distributors, the CRTC ensured the network would not receive carriage by the Canadian cable and satellite distributors.[8] As Shaw Communications President Peter Bissonette explained by taking the responsibility which came with Al Jazeera, meant having a human monitoring the channel for 24 hours, who was fluent in Arabic, and knew contemporary broadcasting standards.[7] Due to this demand in human and technological services, Al Jazeera is still not viewed on television in Canadian homes legally.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Fleras, Augie (2009). "Theorizing Multicultural Media as Social Capital: Crossing borders, constructing buffers, creating bonds, building bridges". Canadian Journal of Communication 34 (4): 725–726. 
  2. ^ Mahtani, Minelle (2001). "Representing Minorities: Canadian media and minority identities". Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal 33 (3). 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Ojo, T. (1 August 2006). "Ethnic print media in the multicultural nation of Canada: A case study of the black newspaper in Montreal". Journalism 7 (3): 343–361.  
  4. ^ a b c d e  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mansell, Robin (2011). The Handbook of Global Media and Communication Policy. John Wiley and Sons. 
  6. ^  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Taras, edited by David; Bakardjieva, Maria; Pannekoek, Frits (2007). How Canadians communicate II : media, globalization, and identity. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. pp. 66–76.  
  8. ^ a b c d e f Marc Raboy; William J. McIver; Jeremy Shtern (15 April 2010). Media divides: communication rights and the right to communicate in Canada. UBC Press. p. 104.  
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hyatt, Laurel (Feb 2002). "Ethnic Media Goes Mainstream". Broadcaster 61 (2): 14–15. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "The Numbers Behind Multicultural Marketing in Canada". Marketing 111. May 2006. 
  11. ^ a b c d Rickwood, Lee (1 October 2005). "OMNI Celebrates 25 Years of Diversity Programming". Broadcaster. 
  12. ^ CJNT: Multicultural American celebrity news
  13. ^ Citytv expanding into Quebec & Western Canada, CityNews, May 3, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d e Mahtani, Minelle (2008). "Racializing the Audience: Immigrant Perceptions of Mainstream Canadian English-Language TV News". Canadian Journal of Communication 22 (4): 639–660. 
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