01/31/2014 01:55 EST | Updated 04/02/2014 05:59 EDT

Radio wars: B.C. stations vie for coveted licenses

Hundreds of people packed a CRTC panel hearing Thursday night in Richmond as broadcasters jockeyed for new FM and AM frequencies for the Vancouver-Surrey radio market and the promise of lucrative advertising dollars.

Gurdial Badh's Radio Sher-E Punjab already broadcasts from Washington State, but he wants a stronger signal.

"We're asking to reward our listeners by helping a station that they hold dear, provide a better signal on a Canadian transmitter." he told the CRTC panel.

RED FM general manager Bijoy Samuel wants the same thing.  He told the hearing, his station has repatriated tens of thousands of Canadian listeners, who were tuning into U.S. stations aiming their broadcasts toward Canada. 

But now, he says, a Bellingham radio station's more powerful transmitter is overpowering RED FM's weaker signal. He's asking for the 107.7 frequency, which the CRTC says is the strongest and most sought after frequency of the two available for Surrey.

The hearings even had a little drama.  A Punjabi singer opposed one South Asian broadcast applicant, alleging the station told him to buy advertising in exchange for air play.

Former attorney general Wally Oppal put in a surprise appearance, acting as a lawyer for another contender, New Vision, which hopes to broadcast in Punjabi.

"Many of the social issues that arise, dowries, violence against women, those often involve people who speak a limited amount of English and a large amount of Punjabi," Oppal told the hearing.

Pardeep Sahota, with South Asian Link radio, had a bit of a twist to his request.

"We applied for a station that will be broadcast in a Canadian Punjabi that we fondly call Punglish."

The CRTC is taking a few months to consider the various applications, with a decision expected in April.