Concordia broadcasters want a bigger audience

CJLO's AM antenna in Ville St. Pierre

Concordia University’s student-run television and radio stations are always looking up, looking for ways to grow. It’s been more than a decade now that both have gotten their funding directly from students instead of through the Concordia Student Union. They’ve since split their funding sources and have asked students for increases in their per-credit student fees.

CJLO, the radio station, has been transmitting at 1690 kHz since 2008, out of an antenna in Ville St. Pierre, just down the hill from its Loyola studio. It produces a full schedule of programming, most of it music-based but with some talk and information programs as well. But the 1 kilowatt transmitter on AM doesn’t reach out very far, and many students don’t have AM radios.

CUTV, the television station, has never had a broadcasting license. It can be seen on televisions on campus and on its website. Though it does produce a significant amount of programming, it’s nowhere near enough to fill a full schedule without repeating every program dozens of times.

Both stations are looking to increase their reach through new ways of broadcasting, and to do that they each need more money, so both are in the process of asking students for yet another increase in their per-credit fees.

In a referendum of Concordia Student Union members Tuesday to Thursday this week, CJLO is asking for an increase from 25 to 34 cents per credit. This works out to $10.20 a year for a full-time student taking five classes a semester. CUTV is asking for an increase from 18 cents to 34 cents per credit, which would almost double its funding.

UPDATE (Dec. 3): Both questions passed, The Link reports. Following a rubber-stamp from the university’s board, the fees will be applied to students’ tuition bills.

Broadcasting equipment at CJLO's offices, sending its signal online and to its AM transmitter

The plans

Here’s what they want to do to make themselves more accessible.

CJLO wants to setup a low-power FM retransmitter downtown, which would cover the downtown campus. “The frequency we are looking at is around 10 city blocks and no commercial station seems to want it,” station manager Stephanie Saretsky tells me. “We have been told by our AM consultant that the response from the CRTC should be favorable because of this fact. Obviously nothing is guarenteed, but CJLO cannot start the application process without the fee levy.”

The CRTC has said there isn’t more space on the FM dial in Montreal (106.7 is an exception, now that it has been vacated by Aboriginal Voices Radio and the pirate station KKIC, but an application is pending to use that frequency). But the city is saturated only in terms of high-powered stations. There are options available for low-power transmitters covering a small area, and this seems to be what CJLO is looking for – something just to cover the downtown campus, so students can tune in between classes.

CUTV, meanwhile, doesn’t want to setup a broadcast transmitter, but it does want to get on cable television, where most viewers are anyway. CUTV’s plan is to apply to the CRTC for a community channel license, which would require cable systems to carry the channel. In the short term, the station is looking to get time on VOX, the community channel run by Videotron.

Both plans are admirable, though the campaigns by both groups are tying the increased funding to the new broadcast licenses. Neither group has actually applied for one yet, and the likelihood of success is far from absolute. Getting a new FM transmitter in Montreal – even a low-power one – isn’t easy, particularly if it’s just retransmitting another station. The CRTC process is hardly a formality or a rubber-stamp. For CUTV, the group would have to convince the CRTC to give it a channel on the cable dial even though there already exists a television station in Montreal devoted to programming from its four universities – Canal Savoir.

And it goes without saying that if these applications fail, neither of these groups is going to voluntarily reduce its student fee.

Still, I wish them luck. CJLO deserves to be heard, and a low-power retransmitter covering just the downtown campus makes a lot of sense. CUTV, meanwhile, has a lot of promise, but without a continuous outlet there isn’t much incentive to produce sufficient quality of quantity of television programming.

7 thoughts on “Concordia broadcasters want a bigger audience

  1. Sheldon

    Steve, can you please explain what this quote in the article actually means. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. What frequency is she referring to?

    “The frequency we are looking at is around 10 city blocks and no commercial station seems to want it,” station manager Stephanie Saretsky tells me.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t know what frequency they have in mind, but the idea is they would ask for a low-power retransmitter, presumably on a frequency that can’t be allocated to a high-power transmitter but could be for a low-power one, similar to CHDO in Dorval.

      Their broadcast consultant is Michel Mathieu, who is responsible for just about every independent application to the CRTC these days, so he knows what he’s talking about.

      Reply
  2. ATSC

    Concerning CJLO-AM. Why not just increase the power output of their AM transmitter? Or place the transmitter in a better location, and increase the AM signal. Asking for a low powered FM position is kinda of a sneaky way to get onto the FM band.

    As for Closed Circuit CUTV. If they get a cable license, then they’ll probably have to abide by Canadian content quotas. Are they really ready for that? Better for them to put together a program block of several hours a week, and then arrange for this block to be aired as a sub-channel (x.2) of one of the other over the air channels in the city.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Why not just increase the power output of their AM transmitter?

      Would be useless for people who do not have AM receivers.

      Asking for a low powered FM position is kinda of a sneaky way to get onto the FM band.

      I don’t see how it’s “sneaky” to ask the CRTC for a broadcasting license to do precisely what you say it will do. They want a low-power retransmitter covering the downtown campus. It’s very direct, not sneaky. It’s not like such a transmitter would be heard very well in other parts of the city.

      As for Closed Circuit CUTV. If they get a cable license, then they’ll probably have to abide by Canadian content quotas. Are they really ready for that?

      Since CUTV airs only original content, Canadian content rules wouldn’t matter. I think the bigger issue is they would have to run continuously and would have to keep logs and submit regular reports to the CRTC.

      Better for them to put together a program block of several hours a week, and then arrange for this block to be aired as a sub-channel (x.2) of one of the other over the air channels in the city.

      I don’t know if too many stations would go for this, and in any case this would also require a license from the CRTC.

      Reply
      1. ATSC

        By sneaky I meant it would be a way to get onto the FM Band with a re-transmitter of their AM station. Yes, they are direct about it. But, once you get a toe hold on the FM band, would the station use this in the future to get a better FM position and shut down their AM signal. Why not ask for another AM position for downtown Montreal? Plenty of AM slots available. When I hear, or read, about AM stations asking for some FM access, I usually get the feeling that the station is trying to get off the AM band.

        There are AM stations in the US that have applied for low powered FM re-transmitters to try and get a lifeline. Some are even on sub-channels of stations transmitting in FM-HD Radio (HD2, HD3, HD4). The HD solution would be great if CKUT transmitted in HD, and CJLO would be in the HD2 position of CKUT. No such luck in Montreal though.

        I understand your point that not all radios have the AM band. But, a lot do. Far more than radios that have HD Radio or DAB. Probably even SW. If you really want to access a AM station, you’ll get a radio that does have the AM band. I’m sure you can’t convince any listeners of CJAD, and CKGM to even consider a radio without a AM band on it. So, if CJLO offers great content, listeners will make sure to get a radio with a AM band on it. FM is great. But at the end of the day, content is what matters. It doesn’t matter if it’s on AM, FM or even HD Radio.

        Reply

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