Posted in Montreal, Radio

Ted Bird joins K103 morning show

Ted Bird

It’s gratifying that I was able to say what a lot of people in radio want to say but can’t, even if it meant dynamiting every professional bridge in my wake.
Well, not every bridge. There’s still the Mercier.

-Ted Bird, on his blog

Even he admits it was the worst kept secret ever: Ted Bird, who left CHOM-FM over “creative differences” in January, will be one of the co-hosts of the morning show at CKRK 103.7 FM in Kahnawake, starting April 19.

This will be in addition to his weekly segment on CFCF television, as well as those blogs he isn’t being paid to maintain.

Mike Cohen broke the news on his blog based on “reliable sources” about a day before what should have been a Gazette exclusive Monday morning, followed by an official announcement from the station.

After getting the news from a “reliable source” of my own, I got Bird to confirm the news under the condition that I hold off publishing it until the first editions of the Gazette were published at midnight. Basem Boshra’s article on Ted Bird headlines Monday’s Arts & Life section. There’s a similar piece at KahnawakeNews.com with a photo of the three new hosts.

What the hell is K103?

The 250-Watt station on the south shore isn’t exactly burning up the ratings. In fact, most Montrealers probably haven’t even heard of it. But it was the only one that could offer Bird what he needed: a radio job in (or rather near) his city that could offer him a salary and complete creative freedom, he tells me via email:

I’m really excited.  K103 is about the only place left on the dial where the announcers are left to their own creative devices, and that’s hugely appealing to me.  Also, because of who it is and where it is, there’s a pirate radio element to it.  The main differences are that instead of pirates, it’s Mohawks, and if it doesn’t work out I won’t have to walk the plank, although they may tie me to an anthill and smear me in honey.

Paul Graif

Bird won’t be alone on the morning show. Joining him will be Paul Graif, the former local TV sportscaster who rejoined the station in February, and James “Java” Jacobs, a CKRK veteran who, you know, actually lives in Kahnawake.

“The worst that will happen is I’ll have a shitload of fun doing the kind of radio you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else,” Bird says. “I defy you to name me another morning show with a West Island WASP, a Kahnawake Mohawk and a Hampstead Jew.”

The show will run 5:30am to 10am, which is a slot Bird is used to. Fans of his regular segments Bird Droppings (sports commentary) and Revisionist History (just making shit up about the past) will be pleased to know that he’s planning to bring them with him to his new gig, at least as long as Astral Media doesn’t sue.

One-year deal

Bird says he’s committed to the station for at least a year, and while the salary is nowhere near what he got at CHOM, the ability to keep his integrity and freedom is more important than the money. He’s hoping that bringing a big name to the station might also give it an increased audience, which might bring in sponsors. A big “if”.

“It’s definitely not a between-radio-jobs job,” Bird says, “because the only way I would ever go back to mainstream commercial radio is on my own terms, and there’s not much chance of that happening, considering the fine job I’ve done of dynamiting professional bridges in my wake – a circumstance with which I’m totally at peace.”

Oh, and one more thing: Bird said the day he joins CKRK is the day he shaves his hair into a mohawk. So he’s doing exactly that (as a publicity stunt, mind you).

So when you see him on TV on April 19 with a half-shaved head, now you’ll know why.

Bird blasts CHOM PD

Meanwhile, Bird has opened up on why he left CHOM in January. Saying his contractual obligations to the station expired on April 1, Bird posted on his blog that:

Within the past five to ten years, CHOM and most of the rest of the country’s radio stations have been acquired by corporations who jettisoned the majority of the creative people in favor of bean counters beholden only to shareholders. The impact was swift, enormous and predictable. By the time I left CHOM, it was about as much fun as working at the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture.

Though he points to a trend happening at radio stations across the country, Bird takes particular aim at Daniel Tremblay, CHOM’s program director:

He barely paid lip service to the insights and opinions of staff members who’ve been on the front lines of English radio in this town for decades. That spoke volumes to me, and I could not in good conscience continue to work for someone who was making decisions in a vacuum that were running a treasured Montreal institution into the ground.

Bird also says CHOM offered him a lesser job – at reduced salary – after he quit. Says Bird: “He was – or at least appeared to be – genuinely surprised that I took offense at being thrown a bone on the assumption that I was desperate and could be lured back on the cheap.”

As the featured guest on Mitch Melnick’s web show Melnick Underground, Bird also let lose on CHOM and Tremblay and the state of modern commercial radio. Melnick can relate, as he also values his creative freedom and has found one of the few jobs left in commercial radio that lets him do what he wants.

I’ve been invited by Tremblay to meet with him to discuss what’s going on at CHOM. Once that happens I’ll try to get his side of this story.

UPDATE (April 12): Bird himself discusses the new job, as well as the elephant in the room of a white guy working for a Mohawk radio station. A Facebook group has been setup welcoming Bird to the community.

A more critical Facebook group has also been setup, with some saying Bird’s hiring is directly tied to budget cuts at the station and other people losing their jobs. Bird comments on the group, saying he doesn’t recall saying anything derogatory about the community.

22 thoughts on “Ted Bird joins K103 morning show

  1. ATSC

    CKRK-FM 103.7 is really easy to pick up in your Car radio. I’m sure they’ll get some sort of ratings spike. Good to see that there is an option out there for both the audience and those that work in the industry.

    Reply
      1. ATSC

        For Cars that have the antenna built into the the back window, radio reception car be a problem. I have of friends who own Hondas, Lexus etc… and they complain to me about having problems picking up WYUL-FM 94.7, WBTZ-FM 99.9 and a few others. I own a GM/Saturn that doesn’t have the antenna built into the back window and I have no problems picking up stations that are outside the metro Montreal area.

        Reply
  2. lr

    ok, I listened to 103 this morning (thinking Ted was on today) and I’m sorry but I’m not going back.
    Typical older male market is what this station is gearing to and I suppose Ted will fit right in. Good Luck to them!
    The jokes on air this morning were pretty lame!

    Reply
  3. Sheldon

    First off, K-103 won’t get a spike in their ratings or, at least if they do, it won’t get registered simply because no one bothered to have the free PPM encoder installed on the transmitter, simply because no one followed up on it. So, even if they had the money to pay for the ratings info, their station, at least at this point, wouldn’t register on the PPMs.

    The underlying story in all of this that isn’t being addressed by anyone is the fact that a number of Native Mohawk staff at the station have either been laid off or let go in the past few months, apparently as cost cutting measures. Now the morning show will be hosted by 66% non-Native broadcasters. Country music is featured on K-103, the only station in the Montreal market to do so, but recently the DJs who were hosting the country music programming block, from Friday evenings after Bingo through to Sunday afternoon at Noon have all been removed from the air, leaving the country music blocks completely automated.
    It appears that cap space was being made in order to bring Bird and Graif, and their salaries on board

    CKRK’s mandate, since its inception, has been predominantly to serve the community of Kahnawake; not to attempt to get into a ratings game with Montreal mainstream radio. In monitoring newscasts at the station for the last few days, it now seems that news of local Mohawk and other Native/Aboriginal news and information has been eliminated and replaced with mainstream Montreal and other news stories that can be heard on any other Montreal radio station’s newscasts.

    Music by Aboriginal artists who don’t get exposure anywhere else in the market, except for the occasional song on CBC radio, is basically being ignored by the station. If these hard working, dedicated artists can’t get their music played on an Aboriginal station, where will their music be heard?

    Six hours a day, Monday to Thursday, from 6 pm to Midnight, the station airs “Street Sounds”, an urban format show hosted by Don Smooth, also not Native, which draws its biggest audience from outside the community of Kahnawake, predominantly Verdun, Lasalle, Lachine, NDG, etc.

    Other than the one-hour Partyline Talk Show, heard weekdays from Noon to 1 PM, which deals with issues, concerns, events, news, activities, etc. within Kahnawake and the Native community, the Friday night Radio Bingo, and daily historical vignettes called “We are the Iroquois” (a series created by K-103′s founder Conway Jocks), listeners might actually be hard pressed to realize that this is a Native community radio station.

    With the addition of mainstream broadcasters from outside the commnity such as Bird and Graif, it seems that the some of the priorities and the direction of the station have changed.

    It will be interesting to see how the community of Kahnawake reacts to this apparent change of direction.

    Reply
    1. ATSC

      It’s very interesting what you point out about the untold story going on with CKRK-FM. Who knows what this all means for the station with this new direction.

      One thing though that I would ask is, can a Mohawk owned and operated station be a populous station with non-Mohawks also? Is it a problem if we accept that the station wants to broaden it’s audience. I personally don’t think so. In the end, it may bring in more revenues, and thus make it a better station for all.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I don’t think the worry is that CKRK will become too popular with non-Mohawks. I think the worry is that what was once a community station owned and operated by members of that community and serving that community will become a populist station trying so hard to compete with the mainstream that it ceases to have a purpose.

        Reply
  4. Alex H

    Mr Bird says in public what I had said only on this blog and a few other places: Radio isn’t getting killed by the internet or anything like that, it is getting killed by bean counters at large media corporations who worry about pennies instead of product. They don’t realize that without product, the pennies go away.

    The montreal radio landscape has been forever scarred by the (some would say horrible) choices made by the CRTC to allow a very few media companies to control much of the radio marketing. Astral, Corus, and a very few others own the vast majority of the radio market, and in the case of english radio, Astral pretty much owns it all outside of the “Q” and this station Ted is headed off to. Corus has slashed, burned, automated, then closed more stations than anyone in the last 10 years.

    There is something wrong here, but how can you get the CRTC to listen?

    Good luck Mr Bird, you have now given me another reason to change the presets on my car radio (which already does not include the Astral triad of blah).

    Reply
  5. CJ

    It is interesting how none of the articles on the net about Ted’s K103 move mention the people losing their jobs so he can have his “creative carte blanche…” as the new morning show.

    I really don’t see what all the hooplah over him is. Toilet humour and witty retorts, oooh… how entertaining…

    Reply
  6. Seth

    The guys going to work at a native reserve, and he mentions being tied to an anthill and covered in honey? All he knows about natives, did he pick it up from John Wayne movies? This is up there with Toronto’s former mayor, Mel Lastman, mentioning that he didn’t want to end up in a boiling pot on a trip to Africa.
    In an online Gazette from the late ’60s, an ad for the Playboy Club said Myron Cohen was appearing. I bet the anthill joke would have gone over well there.

    Reply
    1. seth

      Have natives said they found your joke funny? For a more reliable reply, I should ask natives themselves. Saying “lighten up” is a way of trying to avoid blame, criticism or debate, and doesn’t prove a point. Besides, if it actually was a joke, it would’ve been funny.

      Reply
  7. Jim P

    On the Radio in Monteal website, Sheldon has the link to a Facebook site that questions the need for Ted Bird to join the K103 station in light of the recent firings and layoffs.

    Reply
  8. rock hurt

    tried to tune in to 103.7 for the ted bird morning show. I’m 50 miles west and got nothing but static. too bad, i would have liked to listen in….

    Reply
  9. toddandgirls@videotron.ca

    chom was nuts to let bird go,lucky 103.7 for getting him,chom sucks now,and they will loose more listeners,Im gone to 103.7 but gotta get the signal a little stronger…

    Reply
  10. Missinglink

    As a Mohawk From Kahnawake, I can tell you that Ted Bird is welcome on the Mohawk Airwaves. If anybody knows anything about Mohawks from Kahnawake, we have a sense of humour, in fact we teach through teasing. Mr. Bird’s humour adds another element to the K103 airways and the fabrick of the community. We know it and accept it. Of course when the he came on the air and the morning team was shuffled it took time for everybody adjust to the new chemestry. (You know like getting rid of Kovalev and Koivu and adding Gionta and Gomez, nobody was happy at first but people adjusted, and ontreal went to the Stanley Cup semi finals) So as a Mohawk I can tell you if you like it great, if you don’t in the words of my father (An Iron Worker who helped build the World Trade Center,) “You could kiss my big black, bald headed Indian Ass!!!” The Bird Man stays at K103.

    Reply
  11. bob bellini

    bring back the country music.birdman got to go.laurie and olga got to go also.so get going and get the country back.lets go start running and dont come back,take your rap with you.get get get.GET OUT–GET OUT.

    Reply
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  14. Sheldon

    A little lesson for those hoping that the K-103 signal gets a little stronger. It’s not just as simple as bumping up the power of the signal.

    First off, the station is limited by the maximum power output capabilities of its transmitter. The transmitter is rated at 250 watts, but has been measured at approximately 220 watts. Give the age of the transmitter, getting up to its full 250 watts might be possible, but would take some work.

    The station has specific guidelines that it must abide by with relation to the frequency it operates on and other stations on the frequency and adjacent to it that it must protect, plus images that it could generate on other frequency bands, particularly the aeronautical band.

    A change in the location of the antenna could possibly help, but an application to the CRTC would have to be made requesting a change in the location and technical parameters. If approved, they would have to be off the air while the antenna was moved, and a period of test transmissions, monitored by Industry Canada, would need to be conducted. This obviously would not be able to happen overnight.

    For several years now, in the winter months, there have been icing problems on the antenna as well. When this has happened, the output has been diminished to about 10% of its capacity. The antenna does not have heating elements incorporated to melt the ice build-up when it happens. There are basically two solutions. One would be to send out the antenna for retro-fitting of heating elements. This would result in the station being off the air while the antenna is taken down, sent out for the re-fit, returned and re-installed. It is also costly; about the cost of purchasing a new antenna, equipped with the heating elements. This would be the more logical solution. It has been suggested on numerous occasions, but nothing has happened.

    Another possible, but unlikely solution their the signal problems, would be a request to the CRTC to change frequencies. The major issue here is that there are very limited choices available in the Montreal market. Ironically, one of the best frequency options would be 106.7 MHz., which right now is occupied by the non-licensed station KKIC-FM Kahnawake!

    One of the most intriguing options on the table would be to apply for an AM radio frequency to either switch K-103 to or, in turn, put an AM relay on the air of the 103.7 MHz frequency. This offers a lot of interesting possibilities. First off, there are plenty of AM frequencies in this market available for the asking. There is real-estate in Kahnawake available (the 690 and 940 AM station site on Highway 138). With a simple, one tower omni-directional antenna, perhaps 1000 watts, similar to the operationos of Concordia, Radio Shalom and CPAM Radio, the station would quadruple its power output, thus its reach. It would be able to completely cover the Montreal metropolitan region, as well as reaching several other Mohawk reserves without any difficulty, including Akwesasne, Kahnesetake, etc.. It would also offer up an attractive and more affordable cost option.

    Anyway, hopefully this explains things a little more clearly. It just isn’t as easy as jacking up the power on 103.7 MHz.

    By the way, Ted Bird has been heard to say on the station, when responding to issues of poor reception, that K-103 is “working on the signal problems”. It will be interesting to see just what that means.

    They are talking about being available soon on the Bell Expressvu satellite service and I even heard that a K-103 app is coming!

    Time will tell. Until then, those with difficulty receiving K-103 who want to hear the station should be looking at ways to improve things from their side, by means of antennas or more sensitive and selective receivers. In the short term, these are more likely solutions to the problem.

    Reply

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