Sports writing website The Athletic expands to Montreal

The Athletic, a website started by former Globe and Mail writer James Mirtle in Toronto and staffed with writers who have either left or been laid off from jobs at newspapers and other publications, is coming to Montreal.

Arpon Basu, frequent local sports commentator and until last month managing editor of the NHL’s French website LNH.com, announced today he’s been hired as the editor-in-chief of both the French and English versions of the Montreal section of the website.

His first post for the website is short on details about the future but has perspective on Basu’s career up until now. (Among his previous gigs was writing amateur athlete profiles for the Montreal Gazette on a freelance basis.)

In follow-up tweets, Basu and Mirtle say they’re “going to go big on Montreal, with several writers on the Canadiens” and covering other sports as demand warrants. No other hires have been announced, but announcements should be expected “in the coming weeks” and coverage to begin this fall.

The Athletic, which costs $10 a month or $58 a year, is an ad-free paywalled site with occasional free content. Its writers cover sports teams in Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and the San Francisco Bay area. Mirtle explained the website’s business model in a blog post in February.

Cult MTL turns 5, a little healthier and focused on its mission

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cult MTL as the newspaper celebrates its fifth anniversary is how little has changed since it first launched a monthly print edition.

There has been a tightening of the editorial focus, and some experiments that didn’t work out (including a short-lived biweekly publishing schedule), but mostly the publication has stayed true to its purpose: An alternative source for information about local arts and culture for a young audience.

Born out of the ashes of the Montreal Mirror, unceremoniously shut down by owner Quebecor Media in June 2012, Cult MTL began as an online outlet, then a monthly print newspaper very similar to its spiritual (but in no way legal) predecessor. Several of its contributors, including editor-in-chief Lorraine Carpenter, were Mirror employees. Regular Mirror features such as the Best of Montreal readers’ poll and the Rant Line resurfaced.

“I feel that we’re somewhat established as a brand, but it happens fairly frequently that we come across people who have never heard of us,” Carpenter told me in an interview on Friday, noting that the Mirror had 27 years to build its brand (and most of that in an age before the Internet vastly increased the number of news sources). “We still feel pretty fresh in a sense, but a lot of people do know us. One of our continuing challenges is getting the next generation to come to us online and in print as well. That’s why every year we put out the student survival guide and appeal to students.”

Five years in, the paper’s financial situation has stabilized, and its revenues are slowly growing. “We’ve had, especially this year, quite an increase in business,” Carpenter said. “It’s pretty much all local companies with a few exceptions that have been showing us a lot of support.”

She said local cultural institutions, who were hesitant during the first years, are now on board with ad support. “You can see that in the size of our issues this year compared to just last year or two years ago.”

They’re not exactly rolling in the cash, though. Freelance rates are still very low, at $25 to $50 a story, which Carpenter acknowledges isn’t enough. “We’re hoping to raise our rates soon,” she said.

The paid staff is small, with five or six people, working a mix of full-time and part-time hours. There are about a dozen regular freelancers, and many more who contribute rarely or only once.

Pitch me

Carpenter said she’d like to see more. “We don’t get nearly enough pitches from people,” she said. And it’s not because they’re not interested. They get plenty of CVs and proposals to write for them, but “they don’t actually pitch, they just want to be hired and given assignments.”

So if you got an idea for some artistic event you’d like to preview, some artist you’d like to interview, or some aspect of culture you’d like to write about, they’re all ears.

I asked Carpenter what kind of stories she likes to see pitched to her. “We like to preview events that are coming up in the city,” she said. “We like to include interviews. We don’t generally do these rehashed press-release-type articles or a flimsy photo with a few words. Something a little more substantial.”

Once a month is enough

In 2013, as Cult celebrated its first anniversary, it tried going biweekly during the summer, hoping to double ad revenue. But advertisers, most of whom had fixed budgets, couldn’t just double their buys because the newspaper was printing more often.

“In the beginning, for the first six months of Cult MTL, no one was getting paid,” Carpenter explained. “So just through the advertising money that was coming in, we technically had enough money to print twice a month, but then when we started paying people we were just getting into the red.”

So they went back to a monthly schedule. Now they print 11 issues a year, at the beginning of every month except January.

Which is fine by them. “We’ve never had the goal of going weekly, doing what the Mirror used to do,” Carpenter said.

Unlike the Mirror, Cult’s website is very active, with a lot of content that never makes it into the print edition. Stuff that’s more newsy generally ends up there, rather than waiting up to a month for the next print edition.

Motivation

I asked Carpenter if the motivation has worn off after five years of hard work. She said no.

“I was at the Mirror for a really long time, 12 years or so,” she said, noting that it was only at the very end that she was an editor with some decision-making power. “Being able to be at the helm of something, I definitely don’t have any trouble staying motivated. My motivation now is the same as when we just started. It’s to give something to support the local cultural scene.”

Fortunately for Carpenter, she no longer has to personally distribute the paper, as she did in its first few months, loading a van every month and bringing copies to dozens of locations. They’ve hired a team of people to distribute the paper for them, despite offers from professionals (notably Diffumag, which distributes Voir) to take them on as clients.

I asked Carpenter about what she’s learned after five years, what advice she could give a 2012 version of herself.

“In the early days we were definitely overextending ourselves trying to do too much stuff, trying to appeal to too many groups at the same time,” she said. “There was a phase where I found some of the stuff we were putting online was too clickbaity.”

So, she said, she’d tell herself: “Chill our a little bit and try to focus on what our real purpose is.”

Demographics

Like The Mirror and others, Cult’s main selling point is the audience it can reach: young, hip urbanites. Though Carpenter said they have a mix of readers, and the responses to the Best of Montreal polls made that clear.

“You can tell it’s the same people in their 40s and 50s who have been filling out the same form for the Mirror for years,” she said, but there were also answers, particularly in the nightlife section, that showed a different crop of younger people.

Changes in media technology have meant doing things that the Mirror never had to worry about. Like maintain a Facebook page and use it to engage readers.

“We’ve had to learn how to write headlines and excerpts for Facebook,” Carpenter said, to make people want to read stories without resorting to the clickbait gimmicks. Instead, they want to “get our message across: This is what this is.”

Five years into its adventure, Cult MTL Has just over 20,000 likes on Facebook, 70,000 followers on Twitter and 20,000 followers on Instagram.

The future

So what’s in store for the next five years? Probably more of the same, but better. A website redesign is coming “soon”, Carpenter said. As revenue increases, they want to start paying freelancers better, and eventually add to their staff. “It’s always been my goal to expand our editorial team,” she said. “It would be nice to have an extra person.”

But as far as the content is concerned, it’s still going to fulfill its mandate: to inform readers about what’s going on in the soul of this city.

Cult MTL celebrated its fifth birthday with a party at SAT on Saturday, Aug. 12. For information about Cult MTL, go to cultmontreal.com. To pick up a free copy of their print edition, visit one of the places listed on this page.

Media News Digest: Rouge FM gets a new logo, Cult MTL turns 5, Sue Montgomery runs for office again

News about news

At the CRTC

  • Besides formalizing previously approved changes to regulations about discretionary channels and television and television distribution (the latter including allowing vertically integrated companies to divert money from community channels to local TV stations), and asking for comments about adding dispute resolution measures to video-on-demand services, the commission has been pretty quiet this week.
  • The other group that was left empty-handed in the urban Indigenous radio station proceeding is also appealing the result. VMS Media argues that CRTC commissioner Linda Vennard, who sat on the panel for the proceeding, was in a conflict of interest because she accepted gifts from an ethnic broadcaster that the commission argued would be negatively affected by VMS’s proposal for a hybrid ethnic-Indigenous format. Vennard had already been found in a conflict for those gifts in an unrelated proceeding.

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Rouge FM’s new logo

Print

  • Cult MTL is celebrating its fifth birthday this week. And it’s holding a party on Saturday for people interested in celebrating.
  • Employees at the Halifax Chronicle Herald, who have been on strike for 18 months, look like they could be heading back to work finally, with news of a deal in principle with the union. The deal must be ratified by employees before the strike ends.

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Amanda Stein leaves TSN 690 for New Jersey Devils

Amanda Stein

Amanda Stein, sports reporter at TSN Radio 690, used her famously impeccable handwriting to deliver news she’s been teasing for a bit: She’s leaving the station next month, moving to New Jersey and going to work for the Devils.

Her last day on air in Montreal will be Friday, Aug. 18.

Stein writes she was honoured to have the job at TSN. “It is now time, however, to move on, challenge myself in different ways…”

Stein is one of several young women to get their broadcasting start reporting for Montreal’s all-sports station, a list that includes Andie Bennett (now at CBC), Jessica Rusnak (now filling in for Bennett’s mat leave) and Robyn Flynn. If TSN is going to hire someone to replace Stein, Rusnak would be an obvious choice.

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Media News Digest: Four anchors for The National, Bell tries again for Super Bowl ads, Brooksy moves to Toronto

After a week off that we’ll pretend was planned all along, here’s what the media has been up to since the last time.

News about news

At the CRTC

TV

Radio

  • Some Bell Media Radio stations have been made available again on the TuneIn app, including CJAD, TSN 690 and CHOM. My random selection of various Bell Media stations suggests that the only ones that are still unavailable are the Virgin Radio stations. It’s still unclear what the issue it. Bell had earlier said that it didn’t ask TuneIn to pull the stations from its app.
  • Sportsnet 650 Vancouver has announced more hirings: Scott Rintoul and Andrew Walker host the drive show. The station, which has acquired Vancouver Canucks broadcast rights, launches Sept. 4.

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The magic of Just For Laughs and the Goddamn Comedy Jam

It’s the height of the Just For Laughs comedy festival, and I’m having a great time burning two weeks of vacation from work. Not to humblebrag, but I got to sit in an aisle seat in row F for the Colin Jost and Michael Che gala last night, laughing enthusiastically as the audience-reaction camera guy pointed his camera at seemingly everyone just above, below and across from me in the aisle. (Note to self: Next time bring pretty lady to sit next to me.) The best seat I’ve ever had for a JFL gala, and probably ever will until I start making Anne-France Goldwater money.

But the highlight of the night for me didn’t come from the gala seat, which would have cost about $100 had I not gotten them on the JFL pass (insane value, folks). No, it came from an under-attended Off-JFL show that I only went to because there was nothing else available at that hour.

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Can Brian Wilde make independent Habs reporting work?

Updated with details of the new project below.

Would you pay $4 a month to hear Brian Wilde talk about the Canadiens?

That’s the question Wilde put to his Twitter followers today, proposing to become an independent hockey reporter supported directly by his audience through subscriptions. He’ll go ahead if he has enough interest, with a launch in August/September.

With almost 1,000 votes to the Twitter poll in two hours, the results are split, with 56% saying yes. But that doesn’t mean 560 people are guaranteed to sign up and remain subscribed.

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A list of Montreal broadcasters cut from other stations that CFQR 600 could hire

One of the consequences of a new independent English-language commercial AM station taking half a decade to launch is that it’s been brought up so many times when people get laid off or otherwise cut from other radio and TV stations.

Favourite radio personality loses their show on CJAD or The Beat? That new AM station should hire them and we’ll listen to them there instead!

TTP Media has already indicated that their on-air personalities will include names familiar to Montreal audiences. And since there haven’t been any unexplained high-profile departures from the major stations in the past month, we can assume that some of these names will probably come from the list of those who have been removed from jobs elsewhere and haven’t found better ones elsewhere.

To give you an idea of how many people we’re talking about, I made a list of the on-air personalities who have been cut (laid off, fired, constructively dismissed or otherwise left) from commercial radio and television here in the past decade or so. Some have found part-time or fill-in work, some are working in a different industry (and may or may not be willing to come back) and some may have simply decided to retire.

I’ve excluded managers (Wayne Bews, Mark Dickie, Mary-Jo Barr) and other off-air people, people who have full-time broadcasting jobs elsewhere (AJ Reynolds, Ted Bird, Tasso, Al Gravelle, David Tyler), those who left jobs at campus and community stations (Java Jacobs, Lance Delisle), and the many young interns and temporary workers who simply ran out of contracts.

The list is almost certainly missing some names, so feel free to add others in the comments.

Here’s what I got off the top of my head, in alphabetical order:

  • Tanya Armstrong, cut from The Jewel
  • Heather Backman, cut from CHOM (currently filling in at The Beat)
  • Sarah Bartok, cut from The Beat (currently filling in at Toronto’s 93.5 The Move)
  • Claude Beaulieu, cut from CJAD
  • Paul Beauregard, cut from CHOM
  • Sol Boxenbaum, cut from CJAD
  • Tom Buddo, cut from Virgin Radio
  • Patrick Charles, cut from Virgin Radio
  • Sean Coleman, cut from CTV Montreal (currently part-time at TSN 690)
  • Jim Connell, cut from AM 940/Global Montreal (currently working with TTP Media)
  • Andre Corbeil, cut from CTV Montreal
  • Brandon Craddock, cut from CHOM
  • Richard Dagenais, cut from Global Montreal/MAtv
  • Mike Dall, cut from Virgin Radio
  • Suzanne Desautels, cut from CJAD
  • Chantal Desjardins, cut from CHOM, CJAD and Sportsnet
  • Alexandre Despatie, cut from City Montreal
  • Olga Gazdovic, cut from CJAD
  • Abe Hefter, cut from TSN 690 (currently at University of Hartford)
  • Kevin Holden, cut from CJAD
  • Peter Anthony Holder, cut from CJAD
  • Dave Kaufman, left CJAD (moved to UK but has since moved back and is filling in)
  • Patrick Lejtenyi, cut from CJAD
  • Laurie Macdonald, cut from CJAD (currently in real estate)
  • Ronny Mack (Ron Mackinnon), cut from CHOM
  • Pete Marier, cut from CHOM and Ottawa’s Boom 99.7
  • Barry Morgan, cut from CJAD
  • Ric Peterson, cut from CJAD
  • Claude Rajotte, cut from MusiquePlus (currently working as a DJ)
  • Jessica Rusnak, left TSN 690 (currently filling in at CBC)
  • Murray Sherriffs, cut from Virgin, The Beat and Ottawa’s Boom 99.7
  • PJ Stock, cut from Sportsnet
  • Randy Tieman, cut from CTV Montreal
  • Dennis Trudeau, cut from AM 940
  • Wilder Weir, cut from City Montreal
  • Brian Wilde, cut from CTV Montreal
  • Sharman Yarnell, cut from CJAD

Media News Digest: New CRTC chair, Bell dropped from TuneIn, no love for francophone music

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Media News Digest: Licence renewals for CKIN and CJRS, Joanne Vrakas is pregnant again

News about news

  • Be careful about your questions, journalists.
  • A high school newspaper spotted a cellphone number for the U.S. secretary of defence on a piece of paper photographed by the Washington Post and used it to conduct an interview with the guy.

At the CRTC

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Media News Digest: CP makes it Indigenous, Sportsnet 650 morning team, Order of Canada appointments

News about news

At the CRTC

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Tootall retiring from CHOM

Tootall in 2012.

Tootall is a rare animal in the radio business. One of the few living legends still on the air, a leftover from the days when DJs picked their own music, and a modest, unassuming guy who knows his music and is generally liked by everyone.

But what might make him the rarest of radio personalities is this: He’s one of the few on-air people who gets to decide when he leaves. (Well, almost. His bosses convinced him to stay a bit longer.)

And so on Wednesday morning, during what was teased as a “big announcement” on the morning show, CHOM announced Tootall’s retirement.

His last day is Sept. 29.

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CFQR 600 AM launches with hours to go before deadline

For the first time in decades, Montreal has a new full-power commercial English radio station on the air that isn’t replacing an existing one.

CFQR 600 AM, the English-language station owned by TTP Media, officially went on the air on Friday evening, the deadline the CRTC set in its final extension given to the station last fall.

Whether the station made the CRTC’s deadline hasn’t been confirmed. The station has not completed its testing phase, and is broadcasting a message asking people with reception issues to call them in. The authorization first granted in 2012 says the station must be “operational” to meet the deadline, and a licence will be issued “once the applicant has informed the Commission in writing that it is prepared to commence operations.”

But the commission probably won’t nitpick over a few days or weeks when we’ve been waiting almost five years for this station to launch on a frequency no one else has had any interest in for almost 20 years.

Like CFNV 940, CFQR is broadcasting an automated music playlist, with recorded messages promising regular programming “soon”.

Jim Connell.

The messages feature the voice of Jim Connell, the former 940 News host who appeared in front of the CRTC during TTP Media’s initial licence application in 2011 but took a job with Global Montreal while the group was getting its act together. This is a strong indication that he will be involved with the station when it launches regular programming.

The two messages, being broadcast at regular intervals, are below:

This is CFQR 600, a new English voice in Montreal. Soon, we will be offering the communities on and surrounding the island of Montreal a better blend of information and conversation on this heritage frequency. In the meantime, stay tuned for updates, and enjoy some of your favourite music as we continue building this new voice on Montreal’s airwaves.

You are listening to CFQR, a new English-language radio station serving the greater Montreal area, broadcasting at 600 kilohertz on the AM band. We are currently testing our signal and invite you to contact us toll-free at 1-833-600-1006 if you are experiencing interference because of our signal or if the signal is causing any other reception problems. Our regular programming will be starting soon. Stay tuned.

TTP Media partner Nicolas Tétrault tweeted some pictures from inside the transmission facility on Route 138 in Kahnawake, that houses the two stations.

At 10,000 watts daytime and 5,000 watts nighttime, CFQR’s signal isn’t as powerful as CFNV’s 50,000-watt clear-channel signal, but it should be good enough for Montreal and surrounding areas. The power and transmitting antennas are identical to the old CIQC, so the reception should be similar.

With the station on the air, the new focus should be programming. As I wrote previously, there are some deals in place with talent, and the group remains committed to talk programming.

Media News Digest: Another departure at CRTC, cuts at Bell TV1, CBC debuts Seat at the Table

News about news

At the CRTC

  • Peter Menzies, vice-chair telecommunications, is stepping down on July 15, a year before the end of his mandate. This departure leaves only four permanent commissioners when there can be up to 13. Five positions — and all three senior positions — are listed as vacant (one of which, the chairperson, is being temporarily filled by Judith LaRocque, and another is in dispute as Raj Shoan continues his legal battles). The federal government needs to get moving on replacements.
  • A notice of hearing for Sept. 7. Besides the radio compliance issues are other applications:
    • An application by CIHW-FM Wendake to upgrade from a 50-watt low-power station to a 400-watt regular-power station. The increase in power would allow the station to be received in nearby Quebec City, to serve the indigenous population living closer to the provincial capital.
    • An application by Stingray for new licences for Stingray Juicebox, Stingray Loud, Stingray Retro and Stingray Vibe. These music video channels that Stingray bought from Bell Media had their licences revoked because they had fewer than 200,000 subscribers and so qualified for an exemption from licensing. Stingray says all four now have had more than 210,000 subscribers for three consecutive months, being distributed by Rogers, Shaw Cable, Eastlink, Telus, Sasktel, Cogeco, Zazeen and others.
    • An application by Vintage TV Canada for a discretionary service licence. Similar to Stingray, this is an existing channel that no longer qualifies for an exemption because of the growth in subscriber numbers.
    • An application for the sale of CJUI-FM Kelowna, B.C. (103.9 Juice FM), from Vista Radio to Avenue Radio, for $650,000.
    • An application by CKRW in Whitehorse to replace its main AM transmitter with an FM one. (It currently has temporary authority to use its FM transmitter as its main.) The new transmitter in Whitehorse would have a power of 4,400 watts.
  • The commission has agreed with a request from RNC Media’s CHLX-FM Gatineau (WOW 97,1) to remove a licence requirement that 20% of its music be jazz. The CRTC found that the station met the requirement, continued to lose money, and that deleting the requirement would not unduly impact other stations in the market, and so approved the request. The station was first licensed in 2001 as a classical music station, and in 2008 it got the CRTC to remove most of its specialty music obligations, leaving only the 20% jazz requirement, as it shifted to an adult contemporary format.
  • CKLX-FM Montreal (91.9 Sports) as well as CKXO-FM in Chibougamau have had their licences renewed for a full seven years until 2024.
  • AM-to-FM conversions approved in Norman Wells, NWT (CBC Radio One) and Mount Pearl, N.L. (VOAR)

TV

City Montreal softball team

  • Members of City Montreal and Breakfast Television, including Elias Makos and Derick Fage, took part in a charity softball game on Tuesday against (but in support of) the McGill Memory Clinic and Jewish General Hospital. The TV team lost 11-2, which they consider better than CBC’s 25-10 loss a week earlier.
  • Like Shaw and Rogers before it, Bell has made cuts at its community channels in large markets to redirect that money to local commercial television stations, per the new CRTC policy. This includes about 20 staff at TV1 in Montreal. I asked Bell to confirm the cuts, and their response was this: “Our ability to now redistribute funds in support of local news presents the opportunity to ensure that our communities continue to receive coverage of the issues that matter most to them. We don’t discuss actual staffing numbers, but there has been some restructuring within Bell TV 1.”
  • Forgot to mention this last week: The nominations for the Prix Gémeaux, Quebec’s television awards, were announced. One of the biggest hits of the year, the daily drama District 31, hasn’t been nominated, because it is the only eligible series in its category, and the rules therefore exclude it. This goes back to the feud between the Gémeaux and producers (Fabienne Larouche and Julie Snyder in particular) that was settled when the Gémeaux split its drama categories into “daily”, “annual” and “seasonal” categories based on the number of episodes a year.
  • The Netflix series Sense8 has been uncancelled long enough for a two-hour finale after overwhelming pressure from the audience.
  • Rupert Murdoch’s proposed $20 billion takeover of Sky has become a political issue in the U.K.

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CRTC says it doubts CPAM’s commitment to licence compliance for CJWI 1410 and CJMS 1040

The CRTC isn’t happy with Jean-Ernest Pierre and the two Montreal-area AM radio stations he owns, both of which have gone through a third straight licence term where they have failed to comply with their regulatory obligations.

The commission is considering further options, up to and including revoking or refusing to renew their licences.

On Thursday, the commission issued a notice of hearing for Sept. 7, during which it will consider the licence renewals of CJWI 1410 AM (Haitian station CPAM Radio Union) and CJMS 1040 AM (the country music station based in St-Constant). Both were set to expire Aug. 31, but have been extended a year to give the commission time to consider the compliance issues.

The notice lists a series of regulations and licence conditions the station has apparently failed to meet.

For CJWI 1410:

  • Failing to file annual returns on time (CPAM blamed this on the accountant)
  • Failing to file a form relating to the National Public Alerting System (blamed on the provider of the NPAS system and lack of familiarity with the form)
  • Failing to provide audio recordings and information on licence compliance following a CRTC request (blamed on lack of clarity on the form they were asked to fill out)
  • Failing to provide a detailed music list (CPAM said it sent one when asked)
  • Failing to provide proof of payment of Canadian content development contributions (CPAM said it was paid on time, gave no explanation for failure to provide proof by deadline)
  • Failing to broadcast word-for-word a notice of non-compliance as ordered under the previous licence renewal (CPAM said it believed it was acceptable to follow the spirit of the demand rather than the letter)

For CJMS 1040:

  • Failing to file annual returns on time (CPAM blamed this on the accountant)
  • Failing to file a form relating to the National Public Alerting System (blamed on the provider of the NPAS system)
  • Failing to provide audio recordings upon request (CPAM said host Pascal Pourdier sent them in November — eight months after the CRTC’s request — but apparently the commission never received them)
  • Failing to provide proof of payment of Canadian content development contributions (CPAM said contributions prior to 2014 were the responsibility of the previous owner, but it has paid the amount owed; for contributions after the acquisition, they were paid on time, but no explanation was given for failure to provide proof by deadline)

CJMS has requested a licence amendment to relieve it of the obligation to pay $500 a year to Canadian content development. That request might have been granted (the commission has since made it a policy that stations with small incomes shouldn’t be forced to make CCD expenditures, and the $500 a year was a commitment the group chose to make when it acquired the station in 2014) except that the CRTC also has a policy not to relieve stations of licence conditions when those licence conditions have not been met. (In other words, the commission prefers you ask for permission instead of forgiveness.)

For both stations, the owner passes the buck on responsibility, blaming the accountant, the alerting system provider, an on-air host and even the commission itself for its failure to comply with its licence conditions. The CRTC won’t like that.

But it especially won’t like the fact that these stations had already been called to order on these issues. CJMS’s last licence renewal came with two mandatory orders (which can be enforced by federal court) requiring the station comply with licence conditions. That order came after a bizarre in-person hearing during which the previous owner blamed his father’s dementia for the station’s failure to comply. Though CJMS has a new owner, this is the fourth straight licence term that the station has been in non-compliance, and the third straight time that a short-term renewal has failed to bring the station into line.

For CJWI, there was no mandatory order or tense public hearing, but there were also repeated short-term renewals because of licence non-compliance — in 2008 for four years because of a failure to provide an annual return on time, 2015 for two years because of failures related to annual returns and CCD contributions. Like CJMS, CJWI doesn’t have a single licence term where it has complied with all its licence conditions.

What will the CRTC do?

The commission has a policy on how to deal with non-compliant radio stations, based on how severe the non-compliance is, whether the non-compliance has been a chronic problem, and how the owner has responded to being informed of the apparent non-compliance.

The commission could do nothing, if it determines that the non-compliance was minor or just a communication issue. The next step is usually a short-term licence renewal, which it has already done repeatedly for both stations. It could impose additional CCD contributions (a de facto fine), it could require the station broadcast a notice of its non-compliance (which it did for CJWI), issue mandatory orders (which it did for CJMS), and in the most extreme cases, it could suspend, revoke or refuse to renew the licenses.

Normally, for that extreme measure, the commission would call the licensees to an in-person hearing to give them a chance to explain themselves. That’s what it did with CJMS’s previous owner, and for Aboriginal Voices Radio before revoking its licences. But this notice says the CRTC does not expect to require the licensees’ presence in person. This makes licence revocation unlikely.

Nevertheless, for both stations, it said: “Given the recurrence of the station’s non-compliance over the past several licence terms, the Commission has concerns regarding the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner.”

That should be worrying to any radio station owner, and a strong sign that the commission’s patience is wearing thin.

Other stations in non-compliance

The hearing is also looking at three other stations that have compliance issues:

  • CICR-FM Parrsboro, N.S. The community radio station got its first licence in 2008, and was renewed for a short term in 2015. Its compliance issues relate to annual returns, program logs and requests for information from the commission.
  • CFOR-FM Maniwaki, Que. The commercial station has gone through a third licence term failing to comply with licence conditions, including a condition imposed in 2015 about broadcasting its failure to comply. The application does not include explanations for these latest failures.
  • CKFG-FM Toronto (G98.7). This commercial station owned by Intercity Broadcasting Network Inc. has so many compliance issues that the commission says it “could conclude that the licensee has demonstrated that it does not understand its regulatory obligations.”

Comments on these applications and others in the public notice are due by July 31 and can be submitted here. Note that all information provided, including contact information, becomes part of the public record. The commission could choose to invite people to the public hearing if it decides based on public comments that such an invitation is warranted.