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