CHOI Radio X has arrived in Montreal.
On Monday morning, at 5:30 a.m., CKLX-FM 91.9 officially rebranded from Planète Jazz to CHOI Radio X Montréal with sounds of jazz music getting interrupted and its heartbeat flatlined. The station has gone from smooth easy-listening music to opinionated talk during the week and rock music on the weekend.
Actually, Planète Jazz isn't completely dead. The station's license is still as a specialty station carrying jazz music, and 70% of its musical selections must be in the category of jazz and blues, according to its latest license renewal.
Owner RNC Media applied to the CRTC months ago for the station to change its license, saying a jazz-only station simply can't survive in Montreal. The application received a lot of opposition from Montrealers who didn't want the formula used by CHOI-FM in Quebec City imported to this city. (UPDATE March 14, 2013: The application has been denied by the CRTC.)
Whether deserved or not, CHOI-FM has a reputation as "radio poubelle", a right-wing shock-jock station that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Much of that reputation is based on second-hand accounts of what airs on the station, and in many cases stuff that is years old, about former personality Jeff Fillion, for example. Though it has been investigated by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council many times since then for comments by its radio hosts.
The opposition caused the CRTC to call a public hearing into the license amendment changing the station from a specialty jazz music station into a mainly spoken word station. The license amendment application will be dealt with at a hearing in Montreal on Sept. 10, the same hearing the commission considers the proposed Bell purchase of Astral Media, the conversion of TSN 990 from English to French, and the application for a new English news-talk station at 600 AM.
Until a decision is reached, CKLX will continue to air jazz music, weeknights from 7pm to 5:30am, and on weekends, except from 11am to 4pm when it airs rock music. Provided 70% of its music continues to be jazz, the station will still be respecting the letter (if perhaps not the spirit) of its license.
Though the switch was announced for 5:30am on Monday, it actually happened on Sunday at 11am, when the afternoon rock music show took over the airwaves. Planète Jazz listeners who still hadn't heard about the change expressed shock and outrage on the station's Facebook page. After 4pm, the station returned to jazz music until 5:30am Monday.
The new brand's schedule is as follows:
- Le show du matin (5:30am to 9:30am): Carl Monette, Martin Pelletier, Gabriel Grégoire, Évelyne Audet
- Maurais Live (9:30am to 12pm): Dominic Maurais (syndicated from CHOI-FM in Quebec City)
- Le midi (12pm to 2pm): Éric Duhaime
- 2 à 4 (2pm to 4pm): Sophie Bérubé, Vincent Rabault
- Le Retour (4pm to 7pm): Jean-Charles Lajoie, Marie-Claude Savard et Vincent Dessureault
- Légendes du Rock (weekends 11am to 4pm): Jeff Paquet
Everything not in the shows above will continue to be jazz music.
UPDATE: Some coverage:
- La Presse was at the launch and has video.
- Nicolas Pelletier compiles some reaction on Twitter for his En Musique blog
- Le Devoir has a review
- Sophie Durocher reviews the first day in her Journal de Montréal blog. Says the hosts were unprepared and it smacked of improvisation.
- Radio-Canada's Médium Large interviews three of Radio X's on-air personalities
- Eric Parazelli muses about the format's future after an apparent slow start
UPDATE (Aug. 26): A petition has been started to convince the CRTC to keep Planète Jazz. It already has 1,500 signatures. Radio X has responded with its own petition.