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There's a line that stands out in The Women's Television Network's (WTN) specialty channel license application to the CRTC. The license clearly outlines that WTN was to be by, for and about women. It also reads: "This proposal also responds directly to several important policy objectives ... namely, the need for more positive portrayals of women in programming, less stereotyping, and the need for more on-air representation of women."
Let's turn on WTN. "Coming up on today's Flare TV, we're in the city of lights to unveil the latest designs from Europe's top fashion designers. Then to Germany to cover the latest in lingerie and resort collections. The wunderkind of supermodels, Flare TV talks to Claudia Schiffer...."
Is this what Canadian women need? Are these positive portrayals of women? It's been over two years since Canada's channel for women was launched. Can a channel that dreamed of combatting stereotypes survive in a market that only thinks of the bottom line?
It depends on who you ask.
There's no argument that WTN had it rough from the start. After receiving its license, a snarky press began nipping at its heels. Add to that the cable billing brouhaha (over negative-option billing). After its first month on the air, WTN ended up being the most discussed and, ironically, least watched specialty channel, with a mere 23,000 viewers by the end of February 1995, according to Maclean's (Discovery drew in 80,000 viewers).
The channel launched an ambitious 20 new shows January 1, 1995, most acquired from independent production houses. It was a tough beginning-the licenses for the new speciality channels were granted in June 1994 for launch January 1, 1995, leaving the channels only six months to prepare.
"My honest opinion is we were too ambitious. We tried to do too many original shows right off the top," says Barbara Barde, former vice-president of programming for WTN, now president of Up …