Corus proposes new western Canadian net

Applies to operate broadcast network for 64 local TV markets

TORONTO -- A week after securing court approval for a controlling stake in a restructuring Canwest Global Communications, cable operator Shaw Communications is getting deeper into broadcasting, this time with a local community focus in western Canada (HR, Feb. 22).

Corus Entertainment, Shaw's broadcast division, has applied to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to operate a new broadcast network aimed at 64 local TV markets in western Canada, including 28 communities in British Columbia.

The proposed network, with a working title Local1, is being sold as a "hyper-local" TV alternative to major networks like CTV and Canwest Broadcasting as they close local TV stations and cut back on programming expenditures to deal with increased competition from cable channels and the Internet.

Corus in its CRTC application said Local1 will "focus on the provision of local information customized for each community in which it is distributed."

Enticing audiences with local content rather than pricey U.S. series has been successfully executed in Hamilton, Ontario where indie broadcaster Channel Zero transformed a Canwest Global local TV affiliate modeled on the U.S. E! Entertainment cable brand into an all-news and classic movie channel targeted at southwestern Ontario.

Corus' overture to the CRTC for a new western Canadian TV network also comes as parent Shaw Communications awaits Canwest Global's emergence from court-directed creditor protection before it assume operational control of the struggling broadcaster and its TV assets, including the Global Television network.

The CRTC will consider the Corus application for Local1 in the coming months.