Posted in Montreal, Radio

CRTC gives clear channels to TSN, Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy

The CRTC’s decision on Montreal AM radio stations came out this morning. Here’s the skinny:

The two other applications, TTP’s English-language news-talk station and Cogeco’s English all-traffic station, are denied, not because the CRTC feels they are without merit, but because the other applicants made better cases for the two clear-channel frequencies and neither would accept 990 as a backup. The CRTC hints that the two might be approved if they reapplied for other vacant AM frequencies (like 600 or 850), but that these applications would have to be reconsidered on their own merits.

Also Monday, the CRTC denied four applications for low-powered AM radio stations in Montreal, three of which would target ethnic communities and the fourth a religious station. The CRTC felt they would negatively impact the five existing ethnic stations, notably CKIN-FM 106.3 (Mike FM’s sister station), which has programming targeting the South Asian and Latin American communities, and religious station Radio Ville-Marie (CIRA-FM 91.3).

The second decision has an impact on the first, in that one of the stations had applied to use 600 kHz. The denial of that application means the frequency is available to the big commercial players. Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy has hinted that it might be interested in that frequency, provided it can use a tower or get space for one to build themselves. The only one capable of doing that frequency right now is Cogeco’s towers, which will continue to go unused, but Paul Tietolman says he has no intention of asking Cogeco for them.

You can read a summary of what’s going on in this article I wrote for Tuesday’s Gazette. Below, I go into a bit more analysis.

The hierarchy

Reading the decision, it becomes clear how the CRTC judged the applications based on hierarchy:

  1. CKGM’s frequency change clearly made the strongest case, because it was an already-existing station and because moving it would offer another frequency for another applicant. (The CRTC likes to make as many people happy as possible.) Its content – sports – is also better suited to a signal that carries farther into the regions. So CKGM wins the biggest prize, 690 kHz.
  2. Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy’s application was taken seriously, and the CRTC believes enough in its business plan that it is willing to give them a chance. But it wasn’t going to give the one applicant both clear-channel frequencies. So TTP gets 940. And since they said they would not accept 990, one application has to be denied. The French market is stronger in Montreal and its surrounding regions, and there isn’t as much direct competition for a French news-talk station as their is in English with CJAD, so the French station gets approved.
  3. Cogeco’s application for an English all-traffic station couldn’t convince the CRTC that it required a signal so powerful that it can reach into Gaspé. They made a valiant effort, saying that they need to be heard across the Ontario border for people who commute from that far, and that their application should be approved because otherwise the existence of the French all-traffic station would create an imbalance in services to different languages. But the CRTC remained unconvinced. And since Cogeco wouldn’t accept anything but 690 and 940, that application had to be denied.
  4. Dufferin’s Radio Fierté gets 990 more by process of elimination than anything else. Two applications were approved for clear channels, and the other two wouldn’t accept 990, so Dufferin gets it. That isn’t to say the CRTC wasn’t excited about their application and eager to increase the diversity of the radio industry in Montreal. But it seems pretty clear that if TTP would have accepted 990 for its English station, it probably would have gotten it.

Calling their bluff

One thing I like about the CRTC decision is that it calls a lot of bluffs from the applicants.

Cogeco went all in, saying it’s 690, 940 or nothing. I find it hard to believe they’re just going to walk away from $1.5 million a year, and their deal with the Quebec government was already modified once when they decided to make CKAC an all-traffic station. Because that $1.5 million is based on costs instead of audience (otherwise it would be more for the French station), there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t reach a deal for another frequency like 600 or 850. Cogeco’s Mark Dickie told me before the decision that there is no Plan B. If that’s true, they either have to come up with one or walk away from this project.

The latter option would be particularly embarrassing because both parties have been acting as if this was a done deal. The government has been advertising a coming English traffic station, and Cogeco has even asked for applications for potential traffic hosts, with only a footnote at the bottom pointing out that these jobs might not actually ever exist.

Is Cogeco willing to walk away from $1.5 million a year? Is the Transport Ministry willing to walk away from their promise of all-traffic radio in English? We’ll see.

The CRTC also called the bluff of Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy, which originally said it wanted both clear channels or nothing, then softened that stance suggesting the English station could find another alternative frequency. They continue to insist that they need both stations for the business plan to be viable, but say the English station might not need to be a clear channel if they can get adequate coverage in Montreal and the West Island. So far 600 kHz seems to be the only one able to do this, but that would require either expanding the site they were planning to use or using Cogeco’s CINW/CINF site in Kahnawake. The latter option is very distasteful to Tietolman and his partners.

When I finally reached Tietolman on Monday, he said he wouldn’t comment (other than to point out that TSN said it would be fine with 940, which I guess means TTP felt the CRTC should have given 690 to them and given 940 to TSN). Tietolman said he and his partners are going to study the decision carefully and decide where to go from there.

Though nobody’s pointing this out, the CRTC decision combined with TTP’s position should mean that the group will decline the license. I highly doubt that will happen, but if TTP doesn’t get a decent frequency for its proposed English station, or if the application takes too long, they might face the choice of going with just the French station or going home.

Six months to a year

The big question for the winning applicants is when they’re going to be on the air. Bell Media says it’ll be “within six months” for CKGM, which would mean by the end of May (maybe just before the playoffs start, or just after the Canadiens are eliminated). It’s unclear at this point whether it will operate for any length of time on both frequencies, though that has been the practice in the past.

Evanov/Dufferin hopes to have its station up within a year, but has to wait for CKGM to vacate its frequency first. The decision gives the group a second choice in terms of transmission site. It already had a letter showing it could enter into negotiations for use of the CJAD site, but as part of the hearing Bell Media committed to negotiating use of the CKGM site for another station on 990, and even said it would submit to binding arbitration concerning a transmitter sharing deal. Evanov tells me they will look at both possibilities.

Other coverage

31 thoughts on “CRTC gives clear channels to TSN, Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy

  1. Michael D

    Wow, what a shocker !! It seems now that the CRTC is now responsible for getting companies out of financial jams or bad investment decisons…..and does this mean that ‘AD will continue to be complacent……..

    One should encourage the TTP group to go after the 600 kHz frequency also seeing that it has a longstanding history and broadcasting excellence in the Anglo milieu…

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      600 is so well known, including for sports. Why wouldn’t TSN have wanted that instead?

      It’s not just a question of “pick a number”, each frequency has different rules concerning what kind of signal you can have to avoid interference with other stations. 690 is a clear channel, which means a station can run 50,000 watts day and night and not care about other stations. With 600, TSN would have had to limit its transmitter to much less power and have a smaller footprint.

      Reply
      1. Michael D

        For the TTP group, which would make more sense….600 or 850…I would think 600 and the CFCF legacy….and isn’t their signal geared to the western direction???

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          For the TTP group, which would make more sense….600 or 850

          The group has said it would consider 600 because it has better coverage to anglo areas like the West Island. The problem is that the long wavelength requires more land than they currently have access to, and TTP doesn’t want to deal with Cogeco to get the old CINW/CINF towers.

          Reply
          1. Michael D

            so there is still some light at the end of the tunnel…we need a station that wil be there when an Irene hits town on the weekend and not just continue with the Next Gang of four or a listener calling in to the station and the producer telling me not knowing what’s going on…

            don’t blame them for not dealing with Cogeco….

            Reply
  2. Marc

    That is a shocker, indeed! So the two class-A’s basically swap languages. Time to fill up 600, 650, 850, etc with the others.

    Reply
  3. Steve O'Bern

    What a good news ! Finally some competition for Astral and Cogeco ! The CRTC made a surprising decision, but the right one in favor of diversity and equity. This is a great news. Can’t wait to hear what they will put on air. Evanov will probably won’t change much what we know from commercial radio (hearing what they do in Toronto), but they will add an independent voice in montreal and that is important. The Tietolman group will, for sure, add some fun to the radio industry in montreal. Family owned or almost. This is gonna be fun to watch and hear…I’m so excited !

    Reply
    1. Michael D

      I don’t see any good news about a gay station here, can’t see where it will add anything….it seems they wanted to make two franco decisons and anglo…giving TTP the two news channels, and dealing with the 990 thing, it would have meant two anglo decisons and one franco, but as mentioned sad for anglo news and continued complacency at 800 radio..

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I don’t see any good news about a gay station here, can’t see where it will add anything….it seems they wanted to make two franco decisons and anglo

        That’s not how I read the CRTC decision. It makes no reference to language. The 990 frequency went to Dufferin because both Cogeco and Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy said they wouldn’t accept that frequency.

        Reply
  4. ATSC

    Surprised that the CRTC didn’t give the TTP Group their English talk info station. They could have arranged to give them 850 or 600. Instead of asking them to apply later for either one of those positions. Makes no sense. Especially since they indicated that they needed both the English and French licenses to make it work.

    The CKGM-AM move to 690 was no surprise for me. The easiest of all the decisions they had to make.

    As for the refusal to allow other ethnic and another religious channel, I don’t really like. It’s up to each business to try and make it. And not be micro managed by the CRTC as to what people will or will not listen to, and what the market can or cannot support. If any of them failed, then they shutdown. Licenses get returned to the government, and new applicants for those licenses open up.

    If you don’t give the people what they want, they’ll find it on the net and stream it from another source. Once you loose them to other means of getting their preferred entertainment, you might not be able to get them back to listen to either AM or FM radio.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Surprised that the CRTC didn’t give the TTP Group their English talk info station. They could have arranged to give them 850 or 600. Instead of asking them to apply later for either one of those positions.

      According to the CRTC, they didn’t have this option, because the 600 and 850 frequencies weren’t discussed at the hearing. But it’s pretty clear that these would be options, and if there’s no opposition, they would probably be non-appearing hearings and quickly handled.

      Especially since they indicated that they needed both the English and French licenses to make it work.

      That’s what they said. Whether or not it’s true is another story. It’s clear Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy wanted to force the CRTC’s hand on this issue, just as Cogeco did when it said it wouldn’t accept anything but 690 and 940.

      As for the refusal to allow other ethnic and another religious channel, I don’t really like. It’s up to each business to try and make it. And not be micro managed by the CRTC as to what people will or will not listen to, and what the market can or cannot support. If any of them failed, then they shutdown. Licenses get returned to the government, and new applicants for those licenses open up.

      That’s true, but a broadcasting enterprise isn’t like a fast-food shop. And the CRTC’s job isn’t just to judge the viability of a new station, but preserve the viability of existing ones too. Montreal already has five ethnic stations and a religious one, and the CRTC felt the market wasn’t healthy enough to support those additional stations. Considering how these kinds of stations aren’t exactly raking in the money, it’s hard to argue against it.

      Reply
    2. Michael D

      your comment doesn’t make too much sense, you might be right to a certain extent about getting stuff on the net….but people don’t drive around with computers on and listening to the radio..

      They don’t asleep to the computer, but fall asleep to their little clock radios…..when they get up in the morning, one of the first things that people do is turn on their kitchen radio, to hear about what to wear, about the latest news stories overnight…..last night’s scores…..etc,etc,
      think you get the picture…

      Reply
      1. ATSC

        There are currently radios which connect to your net connection, and you can tune in just like a radio. That is a home and office solution. Simply do a search on amazon.ca using the words “Internet Radio under Electronics.

        As for cars, yes you are correct. For now. Don’t forget SiriusXM though.

        Reply
  5. Charles C

    Surprised Astral didn’t try to get 690 for themselves, CJAD’s 800 has always had signal issues at night especially in the Townships where there are lots of Anglos.

    I guess it’s another sign in continuing diminishing value of AM radio.

    690 is the best dial position in Montreal, the only true clear channel, whether that matters anymore considering that most people under 40 don’t seem to know AM radio exists is another question?

    Reply
    1. Sheldon

      I can’t help but tell the story one more time of when 690 and 940 first became vacant, when CBC move off the frequencies, I mailed a suggestion to CJAD management saying that they should strongly consider applying for one of the two vacant frequencies; and should they get it, they would never have to worry about their coverage problems again. I will always remember the response I got from Standard at the time. It is the stuff that legends are made of. I was told the following:

      “CJAD is a heritage station on a heritage frequency” and “800 is a premier frequency, at the centre of the AM radio band”.

      If my elementary math serves me well, 800 is nowhere near the centre point between 530 kHz and 1700 kHz!

      Reply
    2. Marc

      Surprised Astral didn’t try to get 690 for themselves, CJAD’s 800 has always had signal issues at night

      CJAD will never, ever vacate 800. Much of ‘AD’s listeners are unaware that a radio can tune another frequency besides 800 kHz.

      considering that most people under 40 don’t seem to know AM radio exists is another question?

      Jim Connell said something like that when 940 was shut down. I thought it was the height of naïveté; like a “kids these days…” statement.

      Reply
  6. Jimmy Jack

    Sad to see the CRTC bail out Bell. But, I guess it’s somehow important that the good people of middle Ohio can now tune into “THE TEAM 990″ er, “TSN 690″ and have another available channel to listen to ESPN Overnight. (Which has sucked since Jason Smith left for the NHL Network).

    Anyway, I guess I will have to bumble thru French only traffic reports. Say la vee.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Sad to see the CRTC bail out Bell. But, I guess it’s somehow important that the good people of middle Ohio can now tune into “THE TEAM 990″ er, “TSN 690″ and have another available channel to listen to ESPN Overnight.

      I think qualifying this as a “bailout” is a bit much. The CRTC isn’t giving any money to Bell. Bell presented a case for using the 690 frequency, and the CRTC accepted it.

      As for hearing it in Ohio, which I suppose is true, I think people living there are probably more likely to be interested in Canadiens news than Montreal traffic.

      Reply
      1. Sheldon

        The bulk of the people who will be at all interested in a station on 690 will be the mediumwave (AM) band DXers out there who will add another notch on their belt, logging the station once it hits the airwaves, and then never paying any attention to it again afterwards.

        Funny that you mention Ohio, because that is one of the locations where I have some of these DXers telling me that they have been regularly hearing TSN (CKGM) 990 regularly at night, more often than not, indicating even more that the station has not been switching to night-time pattern. Trust me, these people know what they are talking about and they are all saying outright that if the station was switching to night-time pattern, then they would not be hearing them.
        So that begs the question to be asked…how are people in Montreal’s West Island not hearing them? I hold on to my theory and belief that it is not the signal or the frequency that is the cause of these people not hearing them. It is the fact that a combination of interference and poorly manufactured AM radios is the reason. Strangely enough no one commented on my report of being able to hear 990 loud and clear on the radio in the van at night all the way from the Morgan Arboretum parking lot, through the West Island, and even through the length of the Dorval Airport tunnel on Highway 13. I think this substantiates both claims of the station not changing to night-time pattern and poor equipment and interference in the homes of many listeners.

        There may be a few other people who are Montreal Canadiens fans outside the Montreal market who will be within ears’ reach of the 690 signal and may tune in to hear the hockey games. Although I would think anyone with a deep interest in hockey, in particular the Habs games will have found a few of the absolutely free webpages that are out there on the net where every single hockey game being played every single night can be watched, live streaming on the net. There is one I know of that is absolutely excellent but, for obvious reasons, I won’t post the link here. It’s obvious that given a choice, these Habs fans elsewhere would prefer to watch the game live over the internet than try to tune in a distant radio station on a crappy AM radio that is probably getting chewed up by local interference anyway.

        Reply
        1. Michael D

          I tend to agree Sheldon with the crappy radio theory and interference, they’re not knocking down their signal at night…

          I remember driving in Nothern Ontario late at night recently several years ago visiting some long time acquaintances, Kapuskaing, Timmins areas, and picking CJAD real clearly…..some 800 miles away or so..

          and, if I am not mistaken, they reduce at night…or they would interfere with the Big 8, powerhouse CKLW in Windsor…

          Reply
          1. Sheldon

            CJAD actually has to protect three stations on 800; Windsor, Belleville and Quebec City. You’d have to look at a nighttime pattern map for CJAD but given your northern location, you probably fell within their footprint at night.

            Reply
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