Montreal’s sole independent ethnic station serves 17 cultural communities
The entrepreneurial family behind one of Canada’s most ambitious multicultural broadcast media ventures hosted a celebration for its many loyal clients and supporters in Montreal last week to mark the anniversary of its first decade of operation.
ICI Television, an independent multicultural station with its transmitter near downtown Montreal on top of Mount Royal, has seen its share of challenges over the past 10 years.
David vs. Goliath
But, as in the storied biblical tale of David and Goliath, ICI Television overcame initially great odds against a mighty foe, to gather a loyal following of supporters and a comprehensive schedule of programming in 17 languages.
Although ICI Television has undergone several transformations over the years, the station’s most recent incarnation dates back to 2013. That’s when Mohammad Norouzi, a Persian Montrealer, struck a deal with Rogers Media to support ICI Television.
ICI first started airing programming in December 2013, taking on the role as Montreal’s sole dedicated multicultural television broadcaster.
CBC’s pre-emptive strike
However, not long before this, the aforementioned Goliath (a.k.a. CBC/Radio-Canada) came along. The federal government-owned national network claimed in a lawsuit, filed pre-emptively in March 2013, that ICI Television’s branding violated a Radio-Canada claim to “Ici” as a registered trademark.
In spite of that, ICI Television has managed to survive and even flourish for 10 years in an increasingly turbulent mass media environment.
As for the CBC, they recently announced a hiring freeze, as well as plans to cut 600 jobs to help make up for an anticipated $125-million shortfall. This in spite of the more than $1 billion in funding CBC/Radio-Canada receives from the federal government annually.
The ‘power of dreams’
“A decade ago, an ambition was realized when ICI Television was born,” Sam Norouzi, Mohammad’s son who is senior vice-president and general manager of ICI, told a gathering of several hundred guests at the Volare Plaza Hotel on Côte de Liesse Rd.
They celebrated with beverages from an open bar, before enjoying a lavish seafood buffet and a full-course meal.
Sam called the station’s success “a testament to the power of dreams, hard work and the unwavering support of our viewers, partners and dedicated teams,” while adding that “we have strived to provide quality content that entertains, informs and resonates with our diverse audiences.”
Video clip from Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who normally might issue a written congratulatory statement on a PMO letterhead when acknowledging a significant milestone by a person or organization, sent a videotaped message several minutes long, suggesting the high regard he has for ICI Television.
“To everyone celebrating this evening and to all of you who’ve worked so hard in the past 10 years, thank you – here is to many more years of success,” said the Prime Minister.
In an interview with Newsfirst Multimedia, Sam Norouzi pointed out that of the many ownerships ICI Television has been through, the current one under the Norouzi family is the first to have lasted a full ten years. “So, it’s quite a milestone, it’s quite humbling, and it’s a very exciting experience,” he said.
Coping with the turbulence
As these are turbulent times for everyone with a stake in mainstream media, Sam acknowledged that ICI Television is not an exception to this trend – although it is managing to cope while maintaining a positive outlook towards the future.
“With the phenomenon of cord-cutting and ad revenues transitioning to streaming services, that effect is compounded and multiplied for ethnic media, because we have to play the same game but with one hand tied behind our back,” he said, noting they don’t have access to big advertisers because of differences in how ICI’s viewership gets rated.
“So, it is a difficult situation,” Sam added. “Still, we’ve been able to survive so far through very responsible management. And, for that reason, we are very optimistic about the future.”