While I was watching intently at a hearing in Montreal where BCE was making its case to buy Astral Media, the CRTC published a series of licence renewal applications, mainly from community, campus and other small stations across the country. Six of them are in the Montreal area, and their applications are summarized below.
For the most part, the small stations were found in apparent non-compliance with obligations of their licences. This is not uncommon for non-profit stations that have high staff turnover and small budgets. For the most part these failures deal with two things that happen off the air: required financial contributions to Canadian content development, or the filing of annual returns and other reporting requirements.
Under current policy, the CRTC deals with such non-compliance issues only at licence renewal time, and can decide among various options depending on the severity of the violation, up to and including non-renewal of the licence. The vast majority of the time, the response is to issue a short-term licence renewal (five years, three years or one year, depending on how short a leash they want).
Each station was given a chance to explain why it apparently failed to comply with its licence obligations, and it will be up to the CRTC to decide what to do. In each case, the file is open to public comment and anyone with issues relating to a particular station can express those views to the commission.
Below are links to each station’s application (in .zip format) and a link to file comments through the CRTC website.
CJRS Radio Shalom 1650 AM
Radio Shalom has the most serious case in front of it, having both paperwork and financial issues on its case. The Jewish religious station has admitted to being in violation of a condition of licence it agreed to when it first applied to the CRTC for an AM licence in 2006 that it contribute $35,000 over its seven-year licence to the MusicAction fund to support Canadian talent development.
In fact, Radio Shalom says it has contributed precisely zero, because of its extremely poor financial situation. The station has, since 2007, brought in between $25,000 and $40,000 a year in advertising revenue. That’s barely enough to pay the station’s two employees (which doesn’t include its president). Nevertheless, the station says it will try to pay that $35,000 over the next seven-year licence term through $500 monthly instalments (or $500 annual instalments, or a total of $3,500, depending on which part of the application you read.)
Radio Shalom is licensed in kind of an odd way in that it’s technically a commercial station even though it’s owned by a not-for-profit (and, in fact, charitable) company.
The station has also admitted to non-compliance with the filing of annual returns to the CRTC. It blames this partly on its financial situation, partly on the difficulties dealing with the CRTC’s website, and partly on its fiscal year which runs Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, while the CRTC asks for reports from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. Its application says it plans to resolve this by asking the commission to accept reports for Shalom’s fiscal years.
UPDATE (Nov. 29): CJRS’s licence has been renewed for three years. The CRTC has decided that the station should pay the money it owed for the first two years of its licence, but nothing after that because a change in policy at that time relieved stations like this of the obligation to do so. The commission also denied the station’s request to file returns based on its fiscal year, saying that everyone has to go by the CRTC broadcast year.
CHOU Radio Moyen Orient 1450 AM
CHOU also has issues with Canadian talent development contributions, though in this case it’s not that they didn’t spend the money but that they supposedly spent it incorrectly.
In the original 2006 licence, the commission said the station must spend $8,000 a year, split between MusicAction, the Canadian Association of Ethnic Broadcasters and eligible initiatives in the Canadian Arabic community. Instead, it gave all the money to MusicAction. CHOU says in its reply to questions that it couldn’t find the Canadian Association of Ethnic Broadcasters (apparently it no longer exists) and when it asked a CRTC counsellor what to do, it was told to just direct all the money to MusicAction.
For its annual reports, CHOU also blames the CRTC’s website. (It should be noted that CHOU, like Radio Shalom, communicates to the commission through broadcasting consultant Michel Mathieu.) Nevertheless, it says it will assign someone whose primary duty is to ensure the proper completion of annual reports to the CRTC.
UPDATE (Aug. 21): CHOU received a full seven-year licence renewal.
CHAI-FM 101.9 Châteauguay (and its retransmitter CHAI-FM-1 101.9 Candiac)
The South Shore community radio station is in compliance with its licence obligations, as far as the CRTC is concerned. Barring some scandal being brought up, the CRTC says it intends to renew the station’s licence for a full seven years.
In the application, the station does note that some annual returns were filed late. It also notes that, though its licence allows up to eight hours a week of programming in English, it intends to focus exclusively on French-language programming.
This station has been in trouble with the commission in the past. In 1996 it was subject to a mandatory order because of repeated failure to comply with licence obligations.
UPDATE (Aug. 14): CHAI-FM has received a full seven-year licence renewal.
CJLO 1690 AM (Concordia Student Broadcasting Corporation)
Concordia’s student radio station is listed as being in apparent non-compliance because of late returns. The station blames this on difficulties dealing with the CRTC’s website (once again, Michel Mathieu is their consultant). The station contests the non-compliance allegation and says it made every effort to submit returns properly, even including correspondence with the commission to prove its case.
Of note, CJLO says in its application (dated March 9, 2012) that it is working on a technical amendment to its licence to solve reception issues in the downtown core. CJLO currently transmits a 1,000W signal from an omnidirectional antenna on Norman St. in Lachine, and reception on the downtown campus is awful. It’s not made clear what that technical amendment is (and there’s nothing yet in the Industry Canada database I can see), but options include a low-power AM or FM retransmitter downtown, a power increase to the main transmitter, or switching to a directional antenna pointed downtown.
UPDATE (Aug. 29): CJLO received a six-year renewal in light of its compliance issues.
CKVL-FM 100.1 LaSalle
The low-power community station in LaSalle (no relation to the former AM station in Montreal that carried the CKVL callsign) blames turnover in administration for its failure to properly file annual returns for most of its licence term. It promises to do better in the next one.
UPDATE (Aug. 29): CKVL-FM received a six-year licence renewal after being found in non-compliance.
CHOC-FM 104.9 Saint-Rémi (and retransmitters CHOC-FM-1 103.5 Napierville and CHOC-FM-2 102.9 Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur)
This South Shore community station was late filing returns, which it blames on a computerized accounting system and the timing of its annual general meetings. It plans to require that AGMs happen before the deadline for submitting reports so that approved financial reports can be submitted on time.
UPDATE (Aug. 29): CHOC-FM received a five-year licence renewal after being found in non-compliance on multiple counts.