Posted in Radio

Last AM radio station in Quebec City to shut down

CHRC, Quebec’s oldest – and only – commercial AM radio station, is shutting down.

The owners (the Quebec Remparts hockey club) made the announcement on Friday, surprising few people but disappointing many, that they would pull the plug on the money-losing station at some unspecified time (probably within the next few weeks). UPDATE (Sept. 30): The station is being shut down at midnight on Sept. 30.

CHRC started in 1926, and spent most of its life as a talk station, notably the home of André Arthur (who expressed his thoughts to Radio-Canada). In 2005, it became Info 800, a sister station to Info 690 in Montreal. Then it was taken over by the Remparts and Patrick Roy. Its current format is mostly sports talk, with Quebec Remparts (QMHJL) and Laval Rouge et Or university football games (both of those will move to Cogeco’s FM93) and Quebec Capitales baseball games.

It’s not terribly surprising that such a station wouldn’t find a way to work, especially since there’s no other AM radio in the region and so little reason for anyone to even switch over to the AM band.

There’s still some hope that someone else might step in to buy it. And there are a few options. Cogeco probably won’t want it if it can make news and sports work on FM93. Astral is in existential limbo at the moment. Bell might be interested, but it doesn’t know yet if its RDS Radio project is going to get off the ground. The Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy group is another possibility, if they want to make a sister station to their Montreal French AM talk station.

If the station does end up going off the air, it would probably be good news for CJAD, which operates on the same frequency. At least, the station’s coverage toward the northeast would improve, with no interference from the Quebec City station. A possibility exists that CJAD could apply to change its signal pattern to be better toward the northeast, though how that works procedurally I don’t know.

UPDATE: There was no last-minute miracle. The station shut down at 6pm on Sunday, Sept. 30. Its final moments are a montage of messages from the station’s employees. Its final word: “merci.”

19 thoughts on “Last AM radio station in Quebec City to shut down

  1. Marc

    I think a request to modify radiation pattern is handled by Industry Canada, not the CRTC.

    It would be nice for CJAD to improve its coverage, but quite sad as CHRC is an institution. Perhaps a new owner can be found to fill in a market void or a niche. Thing is, the Quebec City market ain’t big.

    It would be interesting if T-T-P wanted to make a sister talk station of 940 here.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I think a request to modify radiation pattern is handled by Industry Canada, not the CRTC.

      Technical amendments of this nature have to be approved by both.

      Reply
  2. Alex H

    I don’t think this one to be a big deal. Yes, the station has been around for a long time, but it’s just an indication of where the AM band is really going outside of the major centers. Anywhere that doesn’t have a full FM band is likely to lose AM stations to the better sound quality of FM, and the stragglers will die. As you said, with only 1 AM station in the area, it’s not like people are on the AM band much.

    It’s too bad that the FM band in Montreal area is such a hodge podge, we could stand to have a few more stations on there.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      It’s too bad that the FM band in Montreal area is such a hodge podge, we could stand to have a few more stations on there.

      The band is full, with perhaps the exception of 106.7, for which an application is pending. It has 13 commercial stations, four CBC/Radio-Canada stations, two commercial ethnic stations, two campus stations, two native stations and a handful of community stations (depending on which low-power stations you count). And all this doesn’t include U.S. border stations that market to Montreal.

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        Montreal suffers from the overlap from US border stations, Ontario stations, and so on. With the bilingual issue, it means that the Montreal english FM market is CHOM, Virgin, Beat, CBC, and then low power from there. There is more from outside the market coming in (from the US and Ontario) than there is in the actual market itself. It’s a hodge podge… it has allowed FM stations to pop up in comparatively small markets with big power, and use up frequencies that might have been used in Montreal.

        When you think that the anglo Montreal market gets as much service from outside of the Province as in, it sort of makes you wonder.

        Reply
        1. Marc

          Montreal suffers from the overlap from US border stations

          Time for some high-power transmitters from Mt. Royal on 92.9, 94.7, 96.5? Not gonna happen.

          Ontario stations, and so on.

          The only Ontario station that makes it into the city is CFRA. CJRC could be faintly heard when it was on 1150.

          Reply
          1. Alex H

            Remember that, even when you cannot hear the stations, they can still affect the usability of a frequency in Montreal. There are limits to the risk of affecting the reception of a station from Ottawa in, say, Lachute.

            On the other side, the same issue exists. Stations from Sherbrooke area, while not able to be received in Montreal, can affect how a frequency can be used in Montreal. It’s worse on AM, where the signal travels differently depending on the time of day.

            Reply
      2. Sheldon

        Actually CBC has four stations, but uses 5 frequencies on FM when you include the 104.7 relay for a dozen or so homes in NDG!

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Ah yes, I keep forgetting about 104.7. Its signal is actually quite good in the western half of the city, I find. Which kind of makes you wonder if it should be used for this purpose.

          Reply
  3. wkh

    I know after knowing you for almost 12 years I should know better than to ask this, but maybe you can help me out… why is this a big deal? I mean when I think AM stations I think like… floppy disks. The sound is horrid, scratchy, and just… blyearghk. I would think getting off the AM frequency would be a good thing. Honestly why does it still even exist?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I would think getting off the AM frequency would be a good thing. Honestly why does it still even exist?

      It’s a good question. There are various things to keep in mind. AM transmissions carry farther than FM ones, so you can hear stations from other cities on AM. In Montreal, for example, stations on clear channels can be heard from Quebec City, Ottawa or Toronto at night by people with good radios.

      Secondly, the FM band is pretty saturated in large cities, so the only room for growth is on AM. In Montreal, we’re seeing some new applications for AM stations as there isn’t room for anything beyond a very low-power transmitter on FM.

      It’s clear the quality of audio on AM isn’t as good as FM. And abandoning AM in small markets probably makes sense. But it’s still kind of sad when any radio station shuts down.

      Reply
  4. mimo

    AM doesn’t necessarily sound bad. There have been some radios made where the AM does sound as go0d as, if not better than FM. AM in stereo sounds fantastic. Many radios made today cap the sound quality of AM so you don’t get the full range of sound that you could get. Take an AM radio made 40 years ago, and put it next to a radio made in the last few years, those older radios had more frequency response than today’s radios. Manufacturers don’t care any more and AM is an afterthought.

    Reply
    1. Sheldon

      There is also the level of interference present today, and the relaxing of the Industry Canada regulations with respect to devices that generate noise that affect the AM band in particular. Low frequencies, such as those in the AM band 530 to 1700 kHz, are subject to all sorts of interference generated by so many of the devices used in everyday life today. There was a time, not that long ago, that an individual who was receiving interference on their radio could call and interference line at Industry Canada and an inspector would be out to your place within a day or so. They would track down the source of the noise and have the owner of the offending device, whether something as major as Hydro, or something as small as a bug-zapper in a neighbour’s back yard, get it corrected. Today however, whether the interference comes from computers, fluorescent lighting, light dimmers, or any of hundreds of other things out there that regularly generate interference, radio reception is way down the ladder at the bottom of the priority list. Combine this with the poor quality of everyday radios being manufactured today, and listeners who don’t know any better will be tuning away from AM thinking that it’s the quality of the radio signal that’s bad, and not the sources of interference that are preventing them from hearing the signals the way they should.

      Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      TVA Quebec reports that Bell Media is currently showing interest to buy the CHRC 800AM frequency

      And TTP Media as well. But that story has since been removed from QMI websites with no explanation.

      Reply
  5. Pingback: TTP Media already looking to buy or start more AM stations – Fagstein

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