Inside Astral radio’s new Montreal studios

This fall, Astral Media’s three English stations in Montreal — CHOM, CJAD and CJFM (Virgin Radio) — moved from Fort St. to Papineau Ave. The goal was to consolidate Astral’s five radio stations, allowing them to share resources, including a newsroom.

I got a couple of chances to visit the new offices, once for interviews with a couple of personalities and again when they held an event for clients. Here are some photos to give you a sense of what it’s like inside.

Astral’s building at Papineau Ave. and René-Lévesque Blvd.

I just realized when producing this post that I don’t have a recent picture of the exterior of the Astral Media building at Papineau and René-Lévesque. The one above was taken in August 2009. On the front are logos of the two French stations, both of which have rebranded. Rock Détente (CITE-FM) is now Rouge FM, and Énergie (CKMF-FM) is now NRJ (with the same pronunciation).

Anyway, the outside hasn’t changed much, except for the logos. It’s inside where everything’s different. The offices have been renovated. There’s glass everywhere. Even the office of Astral vice-president Martin Spalding is surrounded by glass, so anyone in the nearby CHOM studio can see what’s going on in there.

The studios of all five stations are on the second floor. Using the Montreal bastardization of cardinal directions, the southwestern corner is CHOM, the southeastern corner (at Papineau and René-Lévesque) is Virgin (facing René-Lévesque) and NRJ (facing Papineau). Rouge FM is on the eastern side, and CJAD’s studios are on the northeastern corner. CJAD’s newsroom covers the north side.

CHOM’s studio

CHOM studio CHOM studio

Here’s Bilal Butt in the CHOM studio. Like other studios in this building, the most striking feature is the big windows that let in a lot of light during the day. CHOM’s former studio had a window facing Fort St., but wasn’t nearly as bright as this.

The other major change is the height of the desk. Announcers and technicians can now operate the controls while standing, which they couldn’t in the previous studios. Some, like Butt, like this option, feeling more comfortable and knowing that their voices sound better when they’re speaking from a standing position.

A wooden box acts as a footrest under the CHOM desk


There are still chairs that people can use. But they’re high off the ground, which means legs can dangle. Butt tells me Tootall came up with a solution, building this wooden box for whoever is sitting at the controls to keep grounded.

The mythical CHOM door from Greene Ave.


Speaking of staying grounded, CHOM kept a tradition alive by bringing with them this door and its heart-shaped window. The number 1355 is a reference to 1355 Greene Ave., CHOM’s home in the 1970s. They took the door with them when they moved out and it has moved with the station ever since. Now the door sits attached to a glass wall along a hallway between CHOM’s studios and Virgin’s studios.

Virgin’s studio

Virgin Radio studio Virgin Radio studio

Virgin Radio’s studios are similar to CHOM’s, except they don’t get a corner office. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of light, especially compared to the former studio which didn’t have a window.


CJAD studio CJAD studio

The largest space on the second floor is given to CJAD, since it’s a talk station and has a news department. It’s the only one with a separate control room (seen in the background of these photos). There’s also a small separate newsroom, and separate production studios to be used for various purposes.

Like with Virgin, CJAD didn’t have windows in its previous studio, so it’s a big change.

CJAD newsroom

Down the hall from the studio, past desks for producers, is CJAD’s newsroom. As you can see, it consists of a couple of large desks with computers and microphones all around. (The microphones are used to conduct interviews.)

Rouge FM and NRJ

Rouge FM studio

I didn’t get a chance to take photos inside the NRJ and Rouge FM studios. But here’s a picture of Les Grandes Gueules being interviewed outside Rouge FM.

Other features


CJAD studio sign

Each studio has a sign like this outside, that lights up when on air. They look cool, but one could lead to misunderstanding when there’s someone standing in front of it:

Virgin Radio sign

Chantal Desjardins in Astral’s kitchen

There’s a kitchen in the centre of the floor, which is painted all in red for some reason. But it looks nice.

Astral studio hallway

There are also a couple of features that take advantage of the fact that there are multiple radio stations here. This photo shows the hall just outside the elevators. Five large panels, one for each station, light up in sequence as that station’s audio plays on the speakers.

Astral lobby

In the lobby downstairs, there are five hoods with benches underneath. They’re designed so that the person sitting under them hears just that station. They’re actually quite effective. It’s not like a cone of silence, but the directionality of the sound is sufficient that being underneath each speaker you hear that station clearly and the others not so much.

13 thoughts on “Inside Astral radio’s new Montreal studios

  1. Michael D

    Another excellent read ! And definitely, multi-tasking for the FM people. Chantal looked comfy in their kitchen, did you get a chance to sample her cuisine, maybe a designer sandwich. It would have been interesting to see who brings what for lunch in the fridge, but I digress.

    But a good tour. I wonder if the Spirit of 1355 Greene came along for the ride.

    It will be interesting to see the studios of TTP when they go on air, I am sure they wil have to be as spacious or bigger than ‘AD’s..Still curious where they’re going, and I am sure they’re keeping in mind a possible third statoin at 850 AM..

  2. Alex H

    The on air staff should be happy this was done before a Bell takeover, because Bell has proven to be very cheap. They would likely be back spinning records on turntables and sharing a single microphone around the room, because there is no money in the budget to upgrade to digital.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Funny, how there are very few people of colour working at Astral.

      Bilal Butt not colourful enough for you? Isabelle Racicot? Normand Brathwaite? Nikki Balch? CJAD’s pretty pasty white, but Astral is hardly a whites-only club.

      1. Michael D

        Interesting how a story about the new building got to minorities, but an interesting and angle to this whole side of things..For Bilal and Nikki B, they don’t have an accent that could give you a hint of any background and I wouldn’t mistake them or think they’re members of the hood…

        Normand Brathwaite is on french radio and Isabelle who I really don’t know or listen to but she’s on once a week anyway..

        But what I do notice is that CJAD is top heavy in terms of Jewish staffers, Schnurmcher, Delmar, Rand, the afternoon newscaster whose names escapes me, and how many of Arabic background…and don’t forget who owns Astral…So is there anything to be read int this..Hey, I didn’t bring this up…but curious as to answer

        1. Fagstein Post author

          For Bilal and Nikki B, they don’t have an accent that could give you a hint of any background

          I think we can establish that there’s a reason thick accents are rare on the radio. With the exception of British accents like Orla Johannes, thick accents tend to come from people whose first language isn’t English, and those people tend not to get jobs in (commercial) radio, where voice is everything.

          But what I do notice is that CJAD is top heavy in terms of Jewish staffers

          I suppose you could say the same thing about Italians or Irish. CJAD’s on-air personalities definitely reflect the audience (which tends to be of the angryphone variety), but I don’t think anyone’s checking ethnicities at the door.

  3. Steve

    To bad the exterior of the building is bland, I think the entire corner should be revamped and made more attractice to the eyes. Maybe with bigger and more flashy outdoor signs because the ones that are there are very timid. Why not add bigger billboard signs Times square style on top of the building and in front of it.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Why not add bigger billboard signs Times square style on top of the building and in front of it.

      Probably because Times Square is always filled with people whereas Papineau and René-Lévesque is a relative pedestrian wasteland.

      1. Steve

        You are right that it’s a wasteland at the moment but one can ony dream of something different once the Radio-Canada project gets underway and that a reconfiguration of this non sense Papineau exit off the Ville-Marie gives us a more pedestrian friendly area.


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