Posted in Montreal, Radio

An English commercial radio station in Hudson/St. Lazare?

UPDATE (Oct. 19): The station has been approved by the CRTC.

Coverage area of proposed FM station in Hudson/St. Lazare provided by Dufferin Communications

Is Hudson part of Montreal?

I’m not asking on a technical level, but more on a psychological one. Do people in that triangle between Montreal and the Ontario border consider themselves part of the metropolitan area, or part of their own region? There’s a train that comes once a day to bring commuters into the city, and plenty of people who work on the island live in this region. But is it enough to say that these towns are mere suburbs of greater Montreal?

One Toronto-based company is arguing that it doesn’t, and that forms part of the basis for an application they have submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for a commercial FM radio station to serve the Hudson/St. Lazare area.

The company is Dufferin Communications. You might recognize them as the company that recently got CRTC approval to setup an AM radio station in Montreal with programming targeted at the region’s LGBT community. That station will be running on 990 AM after CKGM vacates the frequency to move to 690 – hopefully to be up and running by the fall.

I spoke to Dufferin VP Carmela Laurignano for an article that appears in the West Island section of Wednesday’s Gazette about the Hudson application.

This application, for an FM music station, actually predates the AM one, even though the CRTC heard the other one first. Much of the application dates from as far back as 2009. Laurignano said she didn’t know why the CRTC waited so long to hear this application, but that she understands they have a lot on their plate and such long waits are not unusual for matters that aren’t pressing.

Laurignano said the big reason behind this application is the sense that this is an underserved market. The region has a French-language commercial music station, CJVD-FM 100.1 in Vaudreuil, but no corresponding English station yet, even though its English-speaking population is large and getting larger.

The frequency

The application, which can be downloaded from the CRTC’s website here, is for an FM station at 106.7 MHz, with a 500 watt transmitter at a Bell tower on Route Harwood in Hudson. As you can see from the coverage map above, it would cover Hudson, St. Lazare, Rigaud, Vaudreuil-Dorion and the area around Oka, but wouldn’t reach much beyond that before it started seeing interference from WIZN 106.7 FM in Burlington, Vt., and to a lesser extent the adjacent-channel station CKQB 106.9 FM (The Bear) in Ottawa. There’s also a reserved but unused channel of 106.5 for a CBC station in Cornwall.

The frequency is important, because it’s considered the last really desirable one in the Montreal area. It was the former frequency of Aboriginal Voices Radio and was subsequently used by the pirate KKIC radio in Kahnawake before it got CRTC approval for a licensed station at 89.9.

And there’s another application pending for this frequency, too. Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio Ltd., the company behind CKDG (Mike) 105.1 FM and CKIN-FM 106.3, has applied to move the former to 106.7, keeping its transmitter location on Mount Royal but increasing its power. Because the coverage areas of CKDG and the proposed Hudson station would overlap, it’s unlikely the CRTC would allow both on the same frequency. UPDATE: CHCR withdrew its application to change CKDG’s frequency this week. Thanks to ATSC for spotting that through an update to the station’s Wikipedia page.

Dufferin’s application includes a backup frequency should the CRTC judge 106.7 improper. It’s 107.9FM. Assigning that frequency might anger National Public Radio fans in Montreal, as that’s the frequency used by the closest transmitter, in Burlington, Vt. Its reception here is quite good for a border station, but it would be hard to see it overcoming a much closer transmitter on the same frequency in Hudson.

The frequency is also less desirable for Dufferin because it’s adjacent to its own Jewel station at 107.7FM in Hawkesbury.

The format

The proposal calls for a format of adult contemporary/easy listening music, similar to what can be heard at The Jewel, a network of radio stations Dufferin owns in cities including Ottawa, Toronto and Hawkesbury, Ont. This means a lot of Céline Dion, Barbra Streisand, Sarah McLachlan, Michael Bublé and Frank Sinatra.

Dufferin estimates in its application that only about 14% of its Jewel playlist (200 of 1,400 songs) can be heard on Montreal English and French music stations, which it uses as part of its argument for fulfilling a niche.

The station would also be committed to local news and information programming seven days a week, including regular newscasts during the morning and afternoon drive periods on weekdays. A total of four hours a week would be “pure news” – and half of its newscasts would be news local to the Hudson/St. Lazare area – with other talk programming representing almost 12 hours a week.

Unlike the bigger Montreal radio stations, this one wouldn’t have a live announcer all day. The morning and afternoon drive programs would be live, but Dufferin says in its application that mid-day and evening programs will be voice-tracked (meaning that the announcer breaks between songs will be recorded in advance), and late night and overnight programming completely automated.

The budget

The proposed station’s financial projections show revenue gradually growing from $480,000 the first year to $1 million in the seventh year of its license. Expenses would start at $700,000 (including a $90,000 startup cost) and reach $850,000 in the seventh year.

Under these projections, the station would start making money in Year 4 and pay for itself in the seventh year.

About 95% of its advertising revenue is expected to be local, with 20-30,000 minutes sold a year at an average rate of between $22 and $34 a minute.

The hearing

Those who have opinions on this application can share them with the CRTC by submitting an intervention or comment. The deadline is Feb. 21. A hearing is scheduled March 21 in Gatineau.

If approved quickly, Laurignano says Dufferin would get on the application right away, and hopefully get it on the air by fall 2012.

Interventions

UPDATE (Feb. 14): A couple of comments have already been filed in this hearing. One asks that the CRTC not assign 107.9 to a local station because it would cut off Montrealers’ access to NPR. The other… well, I can’t make heads or tails of it. Can you?

Letter to the CRTC about Dufferin’s Hudson application. I can only make out about every second word.

12 thoughts on “An English commercial radio station in Hudson/St. Lazare?

  1. Sheldon

    I think it’s fairly obvious why this application, together with Canadian Hellenic’s application for 106.7 MHz. has not been heard by the CRTC yet. They had a sticky-wicket problem to creatively deal with on 106.7, that being KKIC. The whole issue of having to deal with what Industry Canada and CRTC would have to call an “illegal” operation, running from Mohawk territory, was an unsavory one. Now that they have made the issue a non-issue by basically rubber-stamping a legal license for KKIC on 89.9, the “problem” has gone away and they can now deal with 106.7.

    Reply
  2. ATSC

    I don’t mind if they apply for a new station. I do mind if they’re going to cause a problem with existing stations in this market.

    1 – CKDG-FM 105.1 certainly needs a better frequency. Giving them the 106.7 frequency would certainly improve things.

    2 – The idea that they want 107.9 as a back up bothers me a lot. WVPS-FM uses that frequency, and the VPR (Vermont Public Radio) station offers something that no other station in this market can even approach. And don’t even bother comparing CBC Radio to them. The other thing about WVPS is that they also broadcast a HD Radio signal. This offers VPR Classical on 107.9-HD2, and the BBC World Service on 107.9-HD3. Of course you need a FM/HD Radio to get those two extra channels. But never the less, it’s great to have other sources of programming from just one station. So in effect, this new application would affect three program streams of WVPS. And for what? The same old radio programming?

    3 – I would prefer that CKDG-FM be allowed to move to 106.7, and then allow this new application to use 105.1.

    4 – Better yet, give them 106.5 that is reserved for a CBC station in Cornwall. Hoarding frequencies is just not right. Especially when somebody else is willing to go on the air right now. Besides, the Cornwall area probably gets CBC Radio from either Montreal or Ottawa.

    Like I said, I don’t mind this new station getting a go ahead. But interfering with WVPS 107.9 is not okay.

    Since we are running short on FM frequencies, I wish the CRTC & Industry Canada started to force stations to adopt HD Radio and it’s multicasting abilities in order to free up some space. We would not be in this situation now if this was done. I’ve posted before about this. I believe the CBC/SRC should be the first to go HD Radio.

    Example…

    95.1 fm – SRC Premiere Chaine (HD2 – Espace Musique, HD3 – Espace Libre) 100kw
    107.9 fm – CBC Radio One (HD2 – CBC Radio Two, HD3- CBC Radio Three) 100kw

    This would free up 88.5, 93.5, and 104.7

    Another is Hellenic Radio

    106.7 fm – Mike FM (HD2 – CKIN currently on 106.3) 500 watts

    This would free up 106.3

    Just this small movement can free up 88.5. 93.5, 106.3 and 104.7
    That is four fm frequencies just in the Montreal area. Plenty of room for the new Dufferin application.

    And if Dufferin would get for example 88.5 (which would be a lot better than their current proposal)
    They can even place their newly licensed 990 AM station on 88.5-HD2. Thus giving that new station a much better sound quality and a better chance at attracting the audience they want.

    This problem of an over crowded FM band can be solved. It will require a change. The government will need to impose this change or else we are going to get a ever more crowded FM band.

    There was some talk in the US about assigned the frequencies of TV Channel 5 & 6 (76.1 – 87.9) to the FM band. I believe this has dead out. But never the less, this would have required new radios to access 76.1 – 87.9). HD Radio is happening right now. We can solve the problem now.

    I’m all for new players getting a chance to enter the radio market. But we need to make room.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      HD Radio is happening right now. We can solve the problem now.

      Except HD radio players still aren’t common in the market, which means any station that relies on it will have extremely poor ratings. So while it might be a good idea to get something like Radio 3 on the air, it would be suicide for CKIN and cause a riot among Radio 2 listeners.

      A more reasonable move would be to encourage broadcasters (including the CBC) to provide automated (read: inexpensive) alternative and specialized services on HD radio channels, which would spur market interest and get people to start buying HD radios. Once enough people have them (which would probably take quite a long time, even if every new radio had HD radio built in), new broadcasters could start up on HD radio channels.

      Reply
      1. ATSC

        HD Radios are difficult to find in Canada right now. You can locate a few on ebay.ca and amazon.ca.
        But if you really want a HD Radio, you’ll have to purchase one in the US. Best Buy USA has them. But once Canadian stations decide to go HD Radio, product will start to show up months before a station is ready to flip the switch on HD.

        Your idea of specialty programming for HD Radio sub-channels is exactly what will get people to purchase a unit. The CBC’s and SRC’s current third radio services would do just that.

        I know some people will get up set about loosing a regular analog station to a HD sub-channel position. But, things change. Just pick up a new radio. It’s not as if it’ll be shut down completely.

        It would take time for everybody to switch. But, we need to get started.

        I see no reason why CBC Radio 2 in Montreal 93.5 fm would cause a problem with listeners if they where notified that in 12 months the analog signal would be shut down and that they would need to get a new AM/FM/HD Radio for $100-150 to access Radio 2 as a HD sub-channel of the main CBC Radio 1 signal.

        If we continue to place new analog FM stations too close to each other, the chances are that listeners will end up loosing some stations also. Not really good either.

        Do you want to loose a station for good in your area? Or, do you want to buy a new radio that will probably allow you to keep that station you like?

        I receive WVPS’s HD Radio signal here in Montreal. And I’m happy that a have a greater selection. I just wish some of the other stations near the border would adopt HD Radio as well. I’m sure WBTZ-FM would add some more interesting formats. Or even add the signals of their sister stations WKOL 105.1 or WIZN 106.7 on their sub-channels.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I see no reason why CBC Radio 2 in Montreal 93.5 fm would cause a problem with listeners if they where notified that in 12 months the analog signal would be shut down and that they would need to get a new AM/FM/HD Radio for $100-150 to access Radio 2 as a HD sub-channel of the main CBC Radio 1 signal.

          Seriously? Isn’t that exactly what happened on the television side? Except the TV transition was mandated about five years in advance, and people were still up in arms when it happened. Not to mention that all new TVs were capable of receiving ATSC signals for years before that.

          You might think broadcasters will be eager to switch to a transmission method nobody has the receivers for, but I don’t think that makes any sense.

          Reply
  3. wkh

    I personally do not consider those towns to be part of Montreal. That whole Rigaud/Hudson/St Lazare area feels like rural areas well separate From Mtl. This may cause a gasp but I consider them more subrubs of Vaudrueil than anything to Montreal.

    Reply
    1. Scotty

      Indeed. I lived in Rigaud for a short time and it felt like it was light years away from Montreal. Heck, DDO feels like it’s far away from Montreal!

      Reply
  4. frank

    There are 30 open fm frequences with no ghost ships all the way down the dial including 107.5 , 107,1 , 105.9 and 105.5

    there are 30 fm frequences all the way down the dial with no ghost ships all the way down the dial including 107.5 , 107.1 , 105.9 and 105.5

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      There are 30 open fm frequences with no ghost ships all the way down the dial including 107.5 , 107,1 , 105.9 and 105.5

      All four frequencies you mention are adjacent to powerful stations (CFGL 105.7 and CITE 107.3), which means any new station would require the existing one’s permission to set up, and both stations would cause interference with each other near each other’s transmitters. That’s why the CRTC isn’t about to open up those frequencies to new stations.

      Reply
  5. Pingback: CRTC approves Hudson/St. Lazare radio station – Fagstein

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