Two weeks after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued a decision that awarded licenses for two new AM radio stations and rejected two others for lack of available frequencies, the two groups who had applications rejected are studying their options.
Cogeco: No final decision
Metromedia (owned by Cogeco Diffusion), which in September launched a French-language all-traffic station on CKAC 730, had its application for an English station on 940 kHz rejected because “the Commission is not satisfied that the proposed service would represent the best use of a high-power AM frequency in Montréal,” and the group said it would not accept the other frequency that was available as part of the hearing, 990 kHz. Still, the commission suggested Cogeco reapply for another frequency.
Now Cogeco is planning what to do next. Mark Dickie, who is the general manager for CKBE The Beat and part of the committee planning the anglophone traffic station, said he’s been in regular meetings since, but no final decision has been made on whether to reapply. Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
There are many factors that suggest Cogeco will reapply for another frequency despite its earlier assertion that only a clear channel would work. For one thing, the station is part of an agreement between Cogeco and the Ministry of Transport, which would pay the broadcaster $1.5 million a year to operate the station. Though the agreement requires the station to have coverage around the Montreal area, how that’s determined is not clearly defined.
A similar agreement governs the French all-traffic station, which is also worth $1.5 million a year for Cogeco. Because the agreements are the same for both languages (meaning their value is based on the cost of providing the service, not the potential audience) and because there are no guaranteed minimums in terms of audience reach, it’s clear the ministry doesn’t actually care how many people listen to the station, just that it’s there.
Guilaume Paradis, spokesperson for Transport Quebec, told me they are awaiting another submission from Cogeco, and that “we will study it,” but that they still want to see an English all-traffic station in Montreal.
When asked about specifics, Paradis said that they are not experts in radio broadcasting, which is why they hired Cogeco to do the job in the first place, and they will leave the details of how such a station would reach the Montreal area to Cogeco.
The agreement between Cogeco and the government originally called for both stations to be operational by Oct. 31. That was amended with a new deadline of Feb. 29 in light of the elongated CRTC process. Clearly that will need to be amended again if the project is to continue.
Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy will reapply
The other group, 7954689 Canada Inc., known as Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media, scored a half-victory at the CRTC, getting clear-channel 940 kHz for a French-language news-talk station, but the English station was rejected for lack of available frequencies (like Cogeco, the TTP group rejected 990 as an option).
One of the group’s partners, Paul Tietolman, originally wouldn’t comment on their plans, but now says the group will make an application for another frequency. He wouldn’t say what frequency that is, but did suggest it would be a unique technical setup (perhaps not limited to one frequency or one transmitter), without going into details.
Tietolman said many people have already approached the group expressing an interest in joining them. They are currently in the process of setting up their management team, who will then hire talent.
He said the goal is still to have the station running by fall of 2012.
Asked whether the group is sticking to its stance that it would not proceed with a radio station in one language without getting approval for the other, Tietolman would say only that he expects everything will work out, and that a solution has been found that will make everyone happy.
Meanwhile, the group has applied for an FM radio station in Calgary, one of 11 applications for FM stations on a few remaining vacant frequencies in that city. The application is for a music station that would be based on current and classic hits (from Katy Perry to the Beach Boys), based on requests, and with commitments to promote emerging Canadian artists as well as comedians. It would also hire 12 journalists and have newscasts 24 hours a day.
Tietolman said other applications are coming for other cities.