Star Ray TV muted by the CRTC

Broadcast regulator denies abrasive TV entrepreneur a license

By Kara Aaserud

   
   

Jan Pachul takes on the CRTC

About six years ago, Jan Pachul decided to launch a low-power TV station that would represent a return “to the basics” of television programming.

That is, his goal was to look at the needs of ordinary people, and create a broadcast service that would concentrate on the community. Pachul wanted to create a television station that would grasp programs such as junior hockey games, local talent features, and “poly-forum programs on issues that never see the light of day”.

East Toronto was his focus. Pachul hoped that “by concentrating on the neighbourhood, by focusing on the quality of life of individuals and families in the neighbourhood, a truly lasting, truly unifying contribution could be made to the country.” Thus, Star Ray TV was born.

But Pachul has been on shaky Canadian soil since the very beginning. The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission) is not showing any sign of granting a license to Pachul, which would give him permission to broadcast Star Ray TV legally.

The CRTC did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

Pachul continued that he was turned down for an applied technical and marketing trial run. The main problem here is that he senses that the CRTC isn’t being clear about the reasons behind their decision and seem to be going directly against the Broadcasting Act which “aims to encourage programming that will safeguard, enrich and strengthen cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada.”

“Originally, all I really wanted to do was run a television station,” said Pachul regarding the issue. “I’d seen the state of television in Toronto and I thought I could compete.”

He believes that some of the most popular television stations are being “propped up by the CRTC.” And without sufficient finances to support the station, the CRTC turned a blind eye on Star Ray TV. This has literally forced Jan Pachul to run his station illegally in order to achieve his dream.

   

The Star Ray TV studio

   

“I had the best of intentions when I started this,” said Pachul. “It was never my idea to be an activist, but the CRTC has made a criminal of me.”

Truth be told, Pachul does little to help his own cause at times. He’s abrasive, sarcastic, and his opinions of the CRTC are more often than not, acid-laced.

"A couch potato that watches 40 hours of TV a week would be more qualified and preferable as a CRTC commissioner than a lawyer," he’s said of the federal organization.

He holds a dual Canadian/American citizenship and he is adamant in his belief that his fight with the CRTC has done nothing but prove Canada is not as democratic as many would like to believe. He admits that the station is of “modest means” and has some financial problems, but the collection of broadcast equipment over the years from donors has assisted in achieving a fully functional TV station with a small maze of studios and offices.

Pachul's argument with the CRTC is that if 2,200 stations are on air in the United States, 1,000 in Russia, and thousands more throughout the world, shouldn’t he be aloud just one small community local low power station in Toronto? To him, it doesn’t seem very democratic at all.

“They used to say ‘go west young man.’ I think it should have been ‘go south young man,” he said. “The only problem is that I’m not young anymore, I’ve wasted six years with this fight – and it has made me a bitter man.”

Worn down from the continuing battle, Pachul vows to fight the CRTC until the end. His focus has turned dials from being solely about the television station itself, to exposing the undemocratic practices of the CRTC, he said.

Community support of the station was significant in the beginning, he said, but it has dropped off because people are beginning to think Star Ray TV is a futile effort.

- Aaserud is currently in the post-graduate journalism program at Ryerson University in Toronto.

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