Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio

CRTC hears applications for 690 and 940 AM

In what is believe it or not considered an expedited process, the CRTC begins hearings Monday on five applications for the vacant frequencies of 690 and 940 kHz for commercial radio stations.

This story, in The Gazette on Saturday, gives the skinny on what the CRTC will be deciding. (Bonus points if you correctly point out that the file photo attached to the story is of the Mount Royal tower, which has no AM transmitters. Now get a life.)

Quick history lesson: These frequencies belonged to Radio-Canada (690) and CBC radio (940) for more than half a century, until both stations moved to FM (95.1 and 88.5, respectively) in 1998. A year later, what was then Metromedia launched Info 690 and 940 News on those frequencies. Both stations struggled, 940 in particular, for the next decade. Two format changes (news-talk with “940 Montreal” and then automated music with “940 Hits”) later, then-owner Corus put both out of their misery, shutting them down. They’ve been silent ever since.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and Cogeco, which bought Corus Quebec – including the unused transmitters – announces a deal with the Quebec government to run all-traffic stations in French and English, to the tune of $1.5 million per station per year. The deal requires the stations to be running by Oct. 31.

The CRTC application was supposed to be a simple thing, with approval easily acquired by the deadline. The frequencies had been unused for a year and a half, and it had been a year since the licenses for CINW and CINF were revoked, but there were no applications to use them. While the FM band is saturated in Montreal, there are plenty of AM frequencies that sit silent (600 and 850 are two other examples) because nobody wants them.

But the CRTC got quite a few interventions demanding an open call for applications. The CRTC agreed, and set a hearing date for Oct. 17.

Judging that far too late, Cogeco shut down CKAC Sports and replaced it with their French all-traffic station on Sept. 6. They subsequently withdrew their application for 690 AM, figuring they’re unlikely to be awarded a fifth French-language radio station in Montreal.

That leaves five applications for the two frequencies. You can download and read the applications from the CRTC’s website. Here they are in brief:

For 690 kHz:

  • Radio Fierté, a French-language music and talk station targeted at Montreal’s gay community, owned by Dufferin Communications/Evanov Communications, which runs PROUD FM in Toronto.
  • TSN Radio, currently at 990 kHz. The Bell Media all-sports station wants to change frequency to improve its coverage, particularly at night, when it has to modify its signal to avoid interference with other stations on that frequency. Bell says the former Team 990 has never been profitable, and probably won’t unless it gets better coverage.
  • 7954689 Canada inc., a company formed by businessmen Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy, which wants to start a French-language news-talk station. Tietolman (the son of CKVL/CKOI founder Jack Tietolman) and Tétrault (former city councillor and PQ/BQ candidate) unsuccessfully tried to present a counter-offer to Cogeco’s $80-million purchase of Corus Quebec, and part of their offer would have been to revive 690 and 940.

For 940 kHz:

  • 7954689 Canada inc., a corresponding English-language news-talk station with what is so far a nearly identical format.
  • Cogeco’s English all-traffic station, which it says would be operational by “mid-winter” if approved.

The agenda for the meeting has presentations from all these applicants on Monday, and support/opposition debates on Tuesday.

Scheduled to appear are, among others:

  • For Bell Media (TSN Radio), General Manager Wayne Bews, host Denis Casavant, Ringside Report host Dave Simon Bell Media Radio Engineering Director Dave Simon* as well as Bell Media Radio president Chris Gordon and Bell Media regulatory affairs bosses Mirko Bibic and Lenore Gibson
  • For Tietolman/Tétrault/Pancholy, the three owners, representatives of Léger Marketing as well as former CJAD program director Steve Kowch and morning host Jim Connell
  • For Dufferin Communications (Radio Fierté), Proud FM operations manager Bruce Campbell, sales manager John Kenyon, Evanov sales VP Ky Joseph, Proud FM announcer Bob Willette, Dufferin VP marketing Carmela Laurignano, Evanov VP finance Michael Kilbride, and lawyers Chad Skinner and Andrée Wylie
  • For Cogeco (Metromedia CMR), Richard Lachance, VPs Yves Mayrand, Daniel Dubois, and Mélanie Bégnoche, 98.5/CKAC assistant GM Michel Lorrain, The Beat 92.5 GM Mark Dickie and consultants Serge Bellerose and Maurice Beauséjour

On Tuesday, the presentations will get responses, mostly from the other applicants. (Astral Media, which owns CJAD and four music stations in the city, is certainly following this, but isn’t appearing at the hearing.) Radio Fierté and TSN Radio each have four supporters offering testimony to the hearing.

You can read all 226 interventions (many are repetitive, thanks to campaigns by TSN Radio, Cogeco and Dufferin to have people write to the CRTC, in many cases using form letters). All are on the record even if the writers aren’t appearing at the hearing.

The only intervenor appearing independently is Sheldon Harvey, the moderator of the Radio in Montreal group. Harvey submitted multiple interventions, supporting the applications by Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy and opposing those of Cogeco and Dufferin (he didn’t submit an intervention regarding TSN Radio). Harvey deemed the 50,000 watt clear channels “overkill” for an all-traffic station, and proposed Cogeco operate CKAC 730 bilingually instead. He also said a clear channel was “overkill” for Radio Fierté, and recommended they use another vacant frequency.

The deadline for interventions passed weeks ago, so the CRTC won’t be hearing any new opinions on these applications, but

The hearing takes place Monday and Tuesday, starting at 9am, at Delta Centre-Ville, 777 University St., room Régence AB. Audio from the hearing can be streamed online via the CRTC website. You can listen to the direct floor audio here or an English translation here.

*CORRECTION: Dave Simon of Ringside Report emails me to say it’s not him who’s appearing at the hearing. It’s actually another Dave Simon who works at Bell Media Radio. That is, unless there’s a third Dave Simon associated with TSN Radio. Only Cogeco provided titles for the people appearing with them (Tietolman/Tétrault/Pancholy has what companies they work for), hence the possibility of confusion in case there are other cases of people with the same name.

33 thoughts on “CRTC hears applications for 690 and 940 AM

  1. Marc

    I would like to see the clear channels go to the Tietolman group for news/talk stations. But there’s room for all these applications on the dial, if they would be willing to accept class-B frequencies 550, 600, 650, 850, 900, 1090, 1150 (others could also be used, but all would require an expensive directional array). Or if listening range isn’t an issue, then class-C’ers 1240 and 1340 are also free.

    BTW Steve, is that vintage Sony receiver yours?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      there’s room for all these applications on the dial, if they would be willing to accept class-B frequencies 550, 600, 650, 850, 900, 1090, 1150

      The CRTC is currently deciding on an application for 600 for an ethnic station targeting the South Asian community. But it’s a good point. Evanov/Dufferin basically said the reason they applied for 690 is because there was an open call for applications. They probably wouldn’t mind a Class B frequency as Plan B.

      BTW Steve, is that vintage Sony receiver yours?

      Yep, one of only two devices I own that can receive AM radio.

      Reply
      1. Marc

        The CRTC is currently deciding on an application for 600 for an ethnic station targeting the South Asian community.

        Yes, that one slipped my mind. From what I recall it was for just 50 watts of power. That may be audible within a few hundred yards of the antenna and that’s it. I’m guessing the people wanting to set it up don’t have much in the way of cash.

        Reply
  2. Jimmy Jack

    Give 940 and 690 to whoever wants to broadcast news. Clear channels cannot be wasted on traffic or sports.

    The traffic channel should be bilingual or uni lingual in Farsi for all anyone really cares. Every time I think the Charest government cannot possibly waste more money, they trump me by wasting even more money.

    I love how Team 990 hasn’t made any money for 10 years. How did they afford to buy the habs radio rights then?

    Reply
    1. Mike Berthold

      I think the TSN Radio application is the only one that makes any sense in this day and age.

      Who gets their news from the radio anymore? I can’t even think of the last time I tried to get news from the radio considering the numerous other sources that do the job better and far more effectively – Internet primarily and TV if necessary.

      At least sports radio has a raison d’etre (especially if they offer live coverage of sporting events as TSN Radio does). Not everyone can devote the time to watch a game if they’re working or even at home and radio fills that gap nicely.

      I’m saying this while realizing I’ll probably not listen to the station more than twice a year in any case.

      Reply
    2. Marc

      I love how Team 990 hasn’t made any money for 10 years. How did they afford to buy the habs radio rights then?

      Possibly because Bell is a partner of the Canadiens Organization, and the owner of CKGM. And Bell is rolling in dough last I checked.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        Possibly because Bell is a partner of the Canadiens Organization, and the owner of CKGM. And Bell is rolling in dough last I checked.

        This, but also the fact that TSN has regional rights to Canadiens games, and RDS has rights to all Canadiens games in French.

        Reply
        1. Jimmy Jack

          So, Bell begs the CRTC for a better slot because they aren’t making money, but they are loaded with money when needed.

          CKGM got a 2.2 Anglo share and a 0.0 Franco share last available ratings. How long can the station continue to exist?

          Reply
          1. Fagstein Post author

            So, Bell begs the CRTC for a better slot because they aren’t making money, but they are loaded with money when needed.

            Bell has plenty of money. But the station is unprofitable. These things are not incompatible. It would not be the first broadcaster to make an expensive gamble after years of being in the red in the hope of pulling back in the black.

            Reply
          2. AlexH

            It will take a while for the ratings to shake out. Clearly, if they can increase their listenership with the Canadien’s games, they will do better. Also having the TSN Radio moniker and all the marketing support that comes with it can’t help either.

            Putting them on a clear channel (such as 690 or 940) would also likely increase their listenership, and contribute to the bottom line.

            Of all the presentations to the CRTC, they look to be the only ones who can even marginally justify a clear channel. I cannot imagine the traffic radio station getting a clear channel.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Of all the presentations to the CRTC, they look to be the only ones who can even marginally justify a clear channel. I cannot imagine the traffic radio station getting a clear channel.

              Well, it already has one on 730. And what do you have against news-talk on a clear channel?

              Reply
          3. AlexH

            Traffic on 730 was sort of done on the sly – I doubt if they actually had to go in front of the CRTC to justify the station that they would be assigned a clear channel to do it. They got there through the backdoor, for what clearly doesn’t appear to be able to in the front door past the CRTC checks.

            As for “news talk”, I can only reference back to the horrible destruction of 940News by Corus, which turned it into a new talker to outdo CJAD, and instead got their asses handed to them big time. Some (me included) would say that Corus appeared not able to understand the Quebec market, good riddance to them. I think that any new news-talker needs to start out with reasonable expectations and reasonable goals, and try to build an audience. In the meantime, leave the clear channels to something people might actually listen to, like the Canadien’s hockey games. I think it is better to have sports on a clear channel rather than another couple of news talk stations.

            It’s just too bad that the CRTC seems to have made a piecemeal mess out of the available AM and FM frequencies. 98.5 is a perfect example of the mis-use of the FM airwaves. Why have a talker on FM? It is incredibly hard to justify this one in the face of a shortage of FM space. Yet, there ya go. In through the backdoor with what didn’t go in the front door, I guess!

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              I think it is better to have sports on a clear channel rather than another couple of news talk stations.

              So you’d give 690 to TSN Radio. Now what about 940? The choices are all-traffic or news-talk.

              98.5 is a perfect example of the mis-use of the FM airwaves. Why have a talker on FM? It is incredibly hard to justify this one in the face of a shortage of FM space.

              It’s hardly the only one. CBC and Radio-Canada are on FM now, as are community stations like McGill’s CKUT.

              Reply
          4. AlexH

            “Now what about 940? The choices are all-traffic or news-talk.”

            There is a third option, probably the best:

            DO NOTHING. Leave the clear channel open because of a lack of appropriate applications, and re-open it again maybe in a year to see what turns up.

            The TTP people seem to have decided that they either get two clear channels, or they take their ball and go home. They have little chance in my opinion on getting 690, so unless they are willing to accept a frequency with less coverage for one of their two stations, they are likely not going to get into the game.

            As for traffic, justifying the use of a clear channel should be all but impossible. the CRTC should probably offer up the 990 channel once TSN radio has moved, or any of the other number of channels that are available. Putting traffic on 850 or 900 as an example would be fine to serve the greater montreal area.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Leave the clear channel open because of a lack of appropriate applications, and re-open it again maybe in a year to see what turns up.

              Considering the two frequencies went without applications for a year, what makes you think someone will present an ideal application in the next year? I highly doubt they’re going to leave anything unallocated. There are arguments for and against each broadcaster getting a clear channel, but the channel is better used – even if it’s for traffic – than unused.

              Reply
          5. AlexH

            I just cannot picture the logic that would have the CRTC approving traffic on a clear channel. I can’t help but wonder if they might even raise an eyebrow when 730 comes up for renewal. Traffic is such a localized thing, the people in Alexandia Ontario don’t need to know that there is a stalled car on the Champlain Bridge. Why set up a radio station that can do it?

            The news talker is a better choice, but if they are going to want “two or nothing”, they might be disappointed.

            Leaving the channel open and letting those interested take another crack at it might be the better choice.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Traffic is such a localized thing, the people in Alexandia Ontario don’t need to know that there is a stalled car on the Champlain Bridge. Why set up a radio station that can do it?

              Cogeco argues that people who live as far away as Eastern Ontario do commute into Montreal and need to know about traffic in the city. Not the Champlain Bridge, but Highway 20.

              Reply
          6. AlexH

            Yup, and when those people get close enough to Montreal for the traffic report to matter, they can tune into the shorter range AM station. They don’t report the traffic to the Ontario border, do they?

            Reply
    3. Michael D

      I am sure it wasn’t team 990 itself that bought the rights, but it was more the parent company Bell Media that would have forked over the cash…..but I don’t think Team 990 or TSN Radio on its own is a real money maker, which I think the Habs was an investment into the future..hoping for better days..

      Why I don’t think they’re flush with cash with CJAD for example, is they’re a narrow target market, unlike a music station or even ‘AD, with more wider appeal..

      But even since Bell Media took over,they really haven’t changed anything or added new types of coverage…There coverage college sports is sad….where do our pros come from…and more so, their coverage of local CEGEP and High School sports is non-existant….I know, for a fact, than an acquaintance of mine, offered to a weekly show dedicated to this..they couldn’t find any room on the schedule……

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I am sure it wasn’t team 990 itself that bought the rights, but it was more the parent company Bell Media that would have forked over the cash

        I don’t see much distinction between the two. Either way the cost is going into CKGM’s budget.

        Reply
  3. Sheldon

    People’s comments here are excellent but it’s a shame that some of you didn’t go the extra mile and actually file interventions in support of, or against the applications presented to the CRTC. Commissioner Suzanne Lamarre told me today at the completion of the hearing that she wished more members of the public would get involved in the public process.

    Reply
    1. ATSC

      Most people are not aware of what is going on, nor are they aware of such public process. Not to mention having to deal with their day to day lives.

      Glad you took the time to present your views.

      I tried to listen to the audio stream of the proceedings, but the damn thing didn’t seem to work. I gave up, tuned into SiriusXM and went on with my work.

      Reply
    2. Michael D

      And some people, like myself, know about the public process, but the paperwork..We should just be able to send a letter to the CRTC, and not have to worry about a copy to all the applicants..Let the CRTC distribute if they wish…

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        We should just be able to send a letter to the CRTC, and not have to worry about a copy to all the applicants..Let the CRTC distribute if they wish.

        I think there’s a willingness to change the rules to streamline the process (you can submit interventions online, for example), but yeah, there’s some ridiculousness. There’s an argument at the CRTC level right now because an applicant didn’t respond to an email requesting a copy of their application, even though it’s available on the CRTC’s website.

        Reply
  4. Just Me

    As an ex-Montrealer, ( ie, a foreign student from the US residing in Montreal for some years in the very late 1970s, ) I should just like to be able to catch some Montreal news occasionally, like I could with the old CBC or Radio Canada at the hour’s top. The powerhouse signals of 690 & 940 were perfect evening signals ( as is Toronto’s 740, but they have become an oldies station & don’t broadcast news, at least not during the evening when they can reach across a third of the continent ) . Please don’t squander this opportunity up there ! I agree that ANYTHING would be better than nothing in such unique, clear-channel slots. I miss St Catherine St & St Denis ! ( a lot of saints there : when the saints come marching in … )

    Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Frankly, why does it take so long ?

          Because it’s not as simple as saying “please give me a license”. Applications require budget predictions and coverage maps and transmitter parameters approved by Industry Canada. Sufficient time needs to be given to allow people to file interventions, and after the hearings, the commissioners need to review the case and come to a decision.

          Could it be speeded up further? Probably. But It’s definitely not something that can be done in a week or two. And considering what’s at stake here, I’d prefer they take their time and get it right.

          Reply
  5. ATSC

    I really have no problem with CKGM getting the 690 AM slot. This is an established station that just wants a better slot on the band. Besides, they cover the Canadiens games. Perhaps to some this might not be news worth, but to others who are hockey crazy, they would disagree.

    I think the main problem that Montreal radio faces is the concentration of media power. Basically two media groups are running most of this towns stations. So, I would favour new players to allow some breathing room for both the listeners and those who work in the industry. I would favour the all News/Talk stations proposed get their chance to open up the field.

    So here is what I think should happen. Probably won’t though.

    690 AM – CKGM (TSN Radio Montreal)
    730 AM – The New French All News/Talk
    940 AM – The New English All News/Talk
    990 AM – CKAC (Traffic Radio in French)

    On another point. I just want to know, who listens to AM radio? I just can’t stand it. I hate that frequency buzz that is constantly heard as if it’s embedded into the voice of people on AM. It’s like the audio of a 1930’s movie. Unbearable. At least to me.

    What is the situation with available FM frequencies in Montreal. Is their any hope for any new FM stations. Is the CRTC and Industry Canada hoarding any FM slots?

    Also, I would like to ask Sheldon, what do you think of HD Radio being used to free up FM positions due to it’s ability to multicast. I can see several FM positions opening up if HD Radio was adopted.

    Example:

    95.1 – SRC 1/2/3
    100.7 – CBC 1/2/3

    That move alone would free up 88.5, 93.5, 104.7
    And it would also increase the coverage area for CBC Radio because 100.7 is suppose to be at 10 kw. Far better than the current CBC use of 88.5 and 93.5 combined.

    And Steve, I know you’re against this idea of HD Radio. But, there has to be a way to open up the field with Montreal radio. I’ve seen AM/FM/HD Radio car units on sale at Canadian Tire. Adoption to new technology can’t be that hard. Just look at the iphone.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      So here is what I think should happen. Probably won’t though.

      690 AM – CKGM (TSN Radio Montreal)
      730 AM – The New French All News/Talk
      940 AM – The New English All News/Talk
      990 AM – CKAC (Traffic Radio in French)

      CKAC isn’t about to give up 730. And I don’t think the CRTC is going to force them to.

      What is the situation with available FM frequencies in Montreal. Is their any hope for any new FM stations. Is the CRTC and Industry Canada hoarding any FM slots?

      According to them, no. There might be opportunities for low-power transmitters (such as KKIC, which will just cover Kahnawake), but there’s no room for another FM transmitter that covers the Montreal area.

      I can see several FM positions opening up if HD Radio was adopted.

      The key word here is “if”. Most FM receivers don’t support HD Radio, which means you’re not going to find a station that wants to move to it from regular FM. You might be able to convince CBC to put a Radio 3 feed on such a channel, but not Radio Two or Espace musique.

      We had the same issue with Digital Audio Broadcasting. The transmitters were setup, but nobody used it because it didn’t offer enough that was significantly better than FM.

      And Steve, I know you’re against this idea of HD Radio. But, there has to be a way to open up the field with Montreal radio. I’ve seen AM/FM/HD Radio car units on sale at Canadian Tire. Adoption to new technology can’t be that hard. Just look at the iphone.

      Well, if you’re going to use the iPhone analogy, I’ll point out that my carrier doesn’t support it. But it doesn’t entirely fit. It’s difficult to make a technology switch like this because both the transmitters and the receivers have to change. And there’s little incentive for either: they both cost more, and one side isn’t going to spend that money until the other side makes a significant move.

      Making money in radio is difficult enough, why handicap yourself by artificially limiting your potential audience?

      If anything, the future in broadcasting is in Internet radio delivered via wireless providers. Once data rates come down to a level where you don’t have to worry about usage, the advantages of this method will probably make it the preferred one.

      Reply
  6. Michael D

    In looking at all of this from the big picture and most of the comments here,,,,here’s th deal…

    WE definitely need a new player with two stations like the Teitolman group to give more balance to those 2 or rather 3 big nationals: Astral, Bell, and COGECO….We need new strong local player…

    Bell Media knew what is was getting into when they bought CKGM….And for the gay pride station in TO wanting to add a package deal to its advertisers to get two markets….THE CRTC is not there or should it be there to make decisons on advertsisng rates…that station should go for a class ‘B’ spot…
    A clear channel should not be wasted for a demographic market catering to a limited segment….( not being derogatory here)

    Why can’t an English traffic station go on 850, where CKVL used to be…it was a pretty good signal..and a traffic station doesn’t need a clear channel at 2 in the morning, when there is no traffic.

    as for one comment about new Enlish news/talk outlet…this time it would work as last time, they tried to copy the mighty ‘AD,,,,big mistake,…like what was said at those hearings recently…CJAD kept on with Next Gang of 4 talking heads during the Irene crap that many of us were enduring that Sunday in August..,,and there was nothing in French, needless to say…

    I heard somewhere they would or might have reporters knowledgeable in various regions, say, the West Island, the southwest, LAval,etc…There’s lots of knowledgeable people in weekly journalism who know the local players and probably have their cell phone numbers and would be able to scoop the big guys…And CJAD’s block of ‘ best of’s is a waste of time..but , on the other hand, I can see where radio being hard to program something worth listening to on a Saturday night against hockey , the saturday night party crowd and other diversions….
    AND also 940 wasn’t really strong in terms of solid veteran news pros like Steve Kowch, Jim Connell..

    But get a couple of well known type names for the money shifts, and provide solid, alternative nes/talk programming with theme shows, not covered by ‘AD, with new names and not recycled ones as we have seen around the last fewmonths, and they will be alright…AMEN.

    Reply

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