Cogeco wants more power.
Its broadcasting arm, Cogeco Diffusion, has applied to the CRTC to more than double the power output of two of its stations, CKBE-FM 92.5 (The Beat) and French-language talk station CHMP-FM 98.5, so they reach their maximum of 100kW effective radiated power, from the current 44.1 kW and 40.8 kW, respectively.
The move comes, the applications say, because of a new antenna installed by CBC/Radio-Canada on the Mount Royal Tower for CBF-FM (Première Chaîne 95.1). Cogeco wants to put both stations on this antenna, and replace their ~20kW transmitters with ~40kW transmitters, leading to a 100kW ERP for both.
At 100kW, the stations would match CBF-FM and CBFX-FM (Espace musique 100.7) as the most powerful FM radio transmitters on the tower. Only CKOI, which transmits 307,000 watts from the CIBC tower downtown, has more power, because it was approved for that power before the 100kW limit was set in the 1960s and the right was grandfathered in.
By comparison, other stations like CHOM, CFGL (Rythme FM), CITE (Rouge FM) and CJFM (Virgin Radio) operate around 40 kW ERP, as does CKMF (NRJ), though it has been authorized to go up to 75 kW. CBC Radio One and Radio Two operate around 25 kW.
As you can see from the map above, though it more than doubles the radiated power of both stations, the impact on the coverage area is minor. Cogeco’s application estimates an increased potential audience of 1.5% or 5%, depending on how you measure it.
That said, those who receive either station with some noise or difficulty will probably find it easier if the CRTC approves this change.
The CRTC’s decision on this matter won’t just take into account Cogeco’s needs, but will also look at how this increased power will affect other radio stations. Coordination rules set limits in terms of how much stations on the same channel can interfere with each other, as well as how stations protect other stations on adjacent frequencies. Cogeco’s applications see no interference problems in which another station’s needs would take priority over its own.
Here’s what the engineer’s report lists as potential issues:
- Co-channel interference: The station would risk interfering with four U.S. station allocations on 92.5 FM, none of which have an operational station. The station would also graze the coverage area of CBCD-FM, a retransmitter of CBC Radio One Ottawa in Pembroke, Ont. (An application is also under consideration for a 300W station on that frequency in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., east of Ottawa.)
- First-adjacent channel interference (92.3 FM, 92.7 FM): The biggest concern here would be CBF-FM-12 (92.7), a 130-watt retransmitter of Sherbrooke’s Première Chaîne station in Victoriaville. It could also increase interference with WPAC in Ogdensburg, N.Y., but only if that station were expanded to its maximum allowable parameters.
- Second-adjacent channel interference (92.1 FM, 92.9 FM): There’s a slight overlap near St. Jean sur Richelieu for Burlington’s WEZF (Star 92.9), so there might be trouble for people on the fringe of WEZF’s coverage area near Montreal.
- Third-adjacent channel interference (91.9 FM, 93.1 FM): Only real concern here is CKLX-FM (Planète Jazz 91.9), which might get more interference for people who live near the Mount Royal tower. But being three channels away, and because it also transmits from that tower with a lot of power, it’s unlikely to result in significant interference.
- Harmonic interference: The engineers predict a potential interference problem on TV channel 8, which is used by the analog TV retransmitter of CJOH in Cornwall, Ont. The audio frequency of that channel is at 185 MHz, which is twice 92.5. The station is required to solve any harmonic interference problems that come up.
- Co-channel interference: The biggest concern here is CJWL-FM (The Jewel) in Ottawa, which would not be fully protected. There’s also a potential for some interference with WCKM-FM in Lake George, N.Y.
- First-adjacent channel interference (98.3 FM, 98.7 FM): Potential interference with CIAX-FM, a community station in Windsor, Quebec.
- Second-adjacent channel interference (98.1 FM, 98.9 FM): No interference issues. The closest station is CFGE-FM 98.1, a Rythme FM transmitter in Magog, which is also owned by Cogeco.
- Third-adjacent channel interference (97.9 FM, 99.1 FM): No issues here either. There’s an American frequency allocation, but CHMP interference would not carry anywhere near the U.S. border.
- Fourth-adjacent channel interference (97.7 FM, 99.3 FM): The engineer mentions CHOM-FM in its report, but notes no likelihood of interference between the two.
- Harmonic interference: Engineers note a potential interference issue with TV channel 10, which is used by the digital transmitter CFTM-DT (TVA), also on the Mount Royal tower. The second harmonic of 98.5 MHz is 197 MHz, which is part of Channel 10. CHMP is required to solve harmonic interference issues if they come up.
I haven’t seen enough applications like these to judge their chances of getting through the CRTC. But the fact that they are Part 1 applications (no notice of consultation, no hearing date set) suggests the commission sees this as a minor change. Unless one of the stations listed above files an intervention and makes a case that the power increase would negatively affect their station (and that their station’s needs are more important), these changes are likely to pass.
If you wish to file a comment or intervention in these cases, the deadline is May 14. You can view the applications or submit comments via the CRTC website.