Posted in Radio

Radio Fierté requests frequency change, one-year extension to launch

CHRF Radio Fierté, which was supposed to launch this fall at 990 AM, has instead requested a one-year extension and has applied to change frequency to 980 AM in an effort to improve its signal.

When it applied for a frequency change from 990 to 690 in 2011, TSN Radio’s owner Bell Media said the 990 AM frequency was of poor quality, particularly toward the west, and that the station was suffering financially because of it.

The CRTC apparently agreed enough that it awarded the station the much better 690 AM frequency, and gave 990 to a newcomer to the Montreal broadcasting market to start up a music and talk station for the city’s LGBT community.

As it turns out, that new player, Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio) agrees with TSN: That frequency sucks. So it’s asking to shift slightly on the dial.

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

The proposal keeps the transmitter at the same site, the same transmitter in Mercier used by CKGM. But the signal pattern changes, particularly at night, which would go from a narrowly-focused 50kW signal pointed north-northeast, to a rounder 10kW signal that points everywhere but south.

The new night signal would provide much better coverage toward places like Hudson to the west and Granby to the east, at the expense of places northeast like Sorel and Joliette.

The 990 frequency’s signal needs to be this way because of rules that prevent stations of this class from interfering with clear-channel stations at night (when AM radio signals carry much further). On 990, the station has to avoid CBW in Winnipeg and CBY in Corner Brook, N.L., and also has to deal with other stations on the same frequency in places like Rochester, N.Y. and Philadelphia. But 980 doesn’t have any clear-channel stations on it, and while it does have to share the frequency with stations in London, Ont., Troy, N.Y., Lowell, Mass., and Washington, D.C., the signal doesn’t have to be quite as narrow to avoid those stations.

Back to the future

There’s a fair bit of irony here: CKGM used to be at 980, but in 1990, when it was operating as CHTX, it got permission from the CRTC to move to 990 to improve its signal.

So what changed to make 980 more attractive again? The closest station on that frequency is no longer on the air. In the late 1990s, the CBC moved many of its AM stations in major markets to FM. That included CBV 980 in Quebec City, the Première Chaîne station now at 106.3 FM. With no station on that frequency there since 1997, and no one likely to want to reanimate it (since CHRC 800 shut down last year, there are no AM stations left in Quebec City), the door is open to a better signal pointed toward the north.

As Dufferin notes in its brief to the CRTC, it’s no stranger to “impaired” signals. It has a station in Toronto, CIRR-FM (PROUD FM) that is limited to 250 watts because of how congested the radio frequency spectrum is there. It also cited challenges with its 4.85kW signal at CJWL-FM in Ottawa (The Jewel).

“While we had initially taken a ‘something is better than nothing’ approach in our letter of October 24, 2011, Dufferin now believes it has identified a frequency that will permit to deliver a clear signal to its audience and reach its projected levels of profitability on schedule,” it writes.

More people, better reception

The numbers seem to back it up: The 0.5mV/m contour of the current 990 signal includes 4.25 million people during the day and 3.3 million overnight. With the proposed 980 signal, that increases to 5.5 million during the day and 4.5 million at night, an increase of 30% and 36% respectively.

“Most importantly, we are also informed by our engineers that the 980 kHz frequency will also alleviate the penetration and reliability issues currently experienced by 990 kHz as a result of operating at a higher power. The nulls and deficiencies of the (990) will be unable to effectively reach the city’s LGBT community Dufferin is licensed to serve.”

Basically, this means that the engineers believe there will be fewer problems receiving the signal between the large buildings downtown than there was with 990.

Financial projections improve

Dufferin says the additional audience and more reliable signal will improve its financial projections (because larger audience means higher ad rates). With the 990 signal, it projected losing money each of its first six years, and being in the hole by $600,000 by the end of its first seven-year licence term. With the 980 signal, that improves to making money in Year 3 and making $537,000 over the first seven years, closer to the projections it made based on getting the 690 frequency it had originally applied for.

Of course, these are all just projections. We won’t know what happens until the station is actually on the air.

Need more time

So why is this only coming out now, more than a year and a half after Dufferin was given a licence?

There are a few reasons. The biggest one is that it needed to wait for the frequency to be vacated. That only happened in November, when CKGM ended its simulcast on 690 and 990. In the meantime, Dufferin says it conducted its own study to see if the 990 signal was as bad as CKGM’s owner Bell said it was. It’s conclusion was that it really was that bad, and so it looked at other options.

The option it seemed to settle on was the frequency of 850 AM, formerly used by CKVL. But as it explored tower options for a station on that frequency, the CRTC published another application for that frequency and approved it in June, forcing Dufferin to move to Plan D.

Even if the frequency change isn’t approved, Dufferin says it wants an extra year to launch the station because of all the time it spent trying to find an alternative frequency.

Chances of approval are high

The CRTC hasn’t published the application from Dufferin (the company informed me of it directly after people noticed that there was a new entry in Industry Canada’s database for 980 AM). Normally, such technical amendments are treated as so-called “Part 1″ applications, which means no public hearing is set, but the public is still given a month to comment. If serious issues are brought up, the commission can hold the application and schedule a public hearing about it.

UPDATE (July 31): The CRTC has indeed published the technical amendment application as a Part 1 application. You can download the full application here (.zip), or file comments here until Aug. 29. Note that all comments and information submitted with them are on the public record.

Applications for extensions to launch services are usually granted without public comment, and there’s little reason to believe this one would be treated differently. Normally a radio station is given two years to begin broadcasting from the date the licence is issued. A one-year extension is usually granted if requested before that deadline, and a second one-year extension if warranted, and further extensions normally denied. The fact that Dufferin has some good reasons for the delay in starting up should mean no problem having this part approved, giving it until Nov. 21, 2014 to launch.

But will the technical change be approved as easily? It’s hard to envision too many parties opposing it. There’s no more AM station in Quebec City, and if someone wanted to start one up they’d probably choose a different frequency anyway. The frequency change puts CHRF closer to the French news-talk station being launched by Tietolman Tétrault Pancholy Media at 940 AM, but the 40 kHz difference is usually more than enough, even in the same city.

12 thoughts on “Radio Fierté requests frequency change, one-year extension to launch

  1. Marc

    There was talk of this a little while ago. And I’m not surprised. 980 makes more sense today than in the days of the Great 98.

    …after people noticed that there was a new entry in Industry Canada’s database for 980 AM

    Perhaps I’m a total doofus but I’ve never been able to figure that dbase out. Is there a bookmarkable link to the right serach function?

    The frequency change puts CHRF closer to the French news-talk station being launched by Tietolman Tétrault Pancholy Media at 940 AM, but the 40 kHz difference is usually more than enough, even in the same city

    40 kHz is generally the base cushion. CBM and CKGM were just fine for decades on their respective frequencies.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Perhaps I’m a total doofus but I’ve never been able to figure that dbase out. Is there a bookmarkable link to the right serach function?

      No. You have to download a .zip file and look through .dbf files to get information. It’s not even close to being ideal, but it’s also not really designed for general public consumption.

      Reply
  2. Dilbert

    It’s not really a surprising thing. The revised patterns look MUCH better, particularly that the night contour will allow them to keep with the burbs to the west and north. With the station gone in Quebec City, they may also find that they get nice nighttime coverage that improves their overall audience retention.

    I am also thinking that they are looking at dragging out the opening another year, the current radio market isn’t all that favorable, and they can work to find themselves the better entrance point.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I am also thinking that they are looking at dragging out the opening another year, the current radio market isn’t all that favorable, and they can work to find themselves the better entrance point.

      What’s so unfavourable about the current radio market that’s going to change in a year?

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        To be fair, it’s not clear that the market will be better, but the current market certainly isn’t that great. Given a while for things to shake out with the Bell Astral deal (Bell was very fast to slap their name on all the station websites!), and giving TTP a chance to open might make things a little bit more wide open.

        I just think that at this point, they have looked at the market a little more closely and have not found it favorable, but are not going to turn back their license without opening. So an extra year to wait things out and maybe hope for an improved economy might be a good thing – I suspect it’s the same issues that TTP are looking at, the economy and the market isn’t THAT good, so they aren’t in a rush to get things going.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I just think that at this point, they have looked at the market a little more closely and have not found it favorable, but are not going to turn back their license without opening.

          Based on what? I’ve seen zero evidence of this.

          Radio isn’t a one-year or two-year play, it’s a long-term thing. Radio Fierté could easily lose millions of dollars before it starts making a profit. And I really don’t see any advantage to artificially delaying the launch of a radio station, particularly when other stations are also launching that could easily become direct competitors.

          Reply
          1. Dilbert

            Steve, as always, because you don’t understand or don’t see it that way doesn’t make it your view right.

            “I really don’t see any advantage to artificially delaying the launch of a radio station, particularly when other stations are also launching that could easily become direct competitors.”

            Well, let’s see – for the moment they aren’t paying staff,they aren’t paying for offices, they aren’t paying studios… so for the moment, not being close to going on air means they aren’t losing more money right now.

            With the Bell Astral deal having hung over the local radio market for a long time, it’s understandable why the new licensees in the market place have been taking their time. If the deal didn’t go through, or if Bell had been forced to divest TSN or sell other stations, the very nature of the market would be different. Now that the market is more clear, it is easier for all of them to move forward. See, if Astral had been forced to sell it’s stations in Montreal outside of the Bell deal, it might have been better for TTP to be a buyer and return their other license. The same thing for this station, they might have been waiting to see if they could snarf up 690 if the Bell deal got weird. Basically, the market was NOT clear up until a couple of weeks ago.

            So now, they move to get a new frequency and better coverage, At the same time, because they have likely been dragging their feet waiting for resolution, this would also give them the time to start up propertly.

            Why do you think both have been very silent during the whole Bell / Astral fiasco? TTP in particular was likely waiting to snap up any pieces that might have been for sale. Now that it is settled, you can expect both TPP and Fierte to move forward with a much clearer market.

            I think your news writer “just the facts, m’am” approach is limiting your ability to see how the game is being played.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Steve, as always, because you don’t understand or don’t see it that way doesn’t make it your view right.

              I don’t have a “view” here. I’m not saying that the opposite of what you say is true. I’m saying you have no evidence to back up your claim that this station’s launch is being deliberately delayed by its owner.

              Well, let’s see – for the moment they aren’t paying staff,they aren’t paying for offices, they aren’t paying studios… so for the moment, not being close to going on air means they aren’t losing more money right now.

              By that logic, they should never launch the station.

              With the Bell Astral deal having hung over the local radio market for a long time, it’s understandable why the new licensees in the market place have been taking their time.

              It makes a delay by TTP Media understandable. And indeed that group made no secret of the fact that it was interested in CJAD or CKGM if either was put up for sale. But Dufferin hasn’t given off a hint that it would be interested in such an acquisition. Or that such an acquisition would affect their plans for this station. And since this station is a French-language one, there isn’t really any reason to believe one would affect the other.

              Why do you think both have been very silent during the whole Bell / Astral fiasco? TTP in particular was likely waiting to snap up any pieces that might have been for sale.

              This is true for TTP, but again there’s no evidence that Dufferin wanted to “snap up” anything, or that its silence in that hearing was for any strategic reason.

              I think your news writer “just the facts, m’am” approach is limiting your ability to see how the game is being played.

              Yes, it’s truly a shame that I base news off those fact thingys instead of baseless conjecture.

              Reply
              1. Dilbert

                “Yes, it’s truly a shame that I base news off those fact thingys instead of baseless conjecture.”

                Yeah, writing an opinion blog only based on facts tends to play well, right?

                ” I’m saying you have no evidence to back up your claim that this station’s launch is being deliberately delayed by its owner.”

                Let’s see… they aren’t up yet, they don’t have studios, they don’t have staff, they don’t have a transmitter up, and they have only a few months left. I am guessing that this didn’t happen by accident. I think it is safe to conclude that somewhere along the line, people have made choices with delayed the process. Call it deliberate, call it something else, that’s your choice. Reality is what it is.

                That their frequency change comes just after the Bell decision can only make you go “hmmm”. Perhaps they were considering putting in a bid for 690 to get the better frequency? Or perhaps they were waiting to see if they could partner up with a purchase of 690 to share studio space or what not? We don’t know, but you can see a sequence of events here. Perhaps they are unrelated, but it really does seem to be something going on here.

                It seems to be exactly the same chez TTP, who have been seeming to wait until the Bell deal settles to get going. They are suppose to be on the air soon, aren’t they?

                TTP may have been looking to buy properties, Duffering may have been looking for frequency only. We cannot be sure, but it does seem that the Bell Astral decision has been a trigger.

                You are correct that we do not know for sure, but the timing seems way too fishy. Want to bet TTP english is next one to show up with a revised contour map and a request for a delay for their English station?

              2. Fagstein Post author

                I think it is safe to conclude that somewhere along the line, people have made choices with delayed the process. Call it deliberate, call it something else, that’s your choice. Reality is what it is.

                Obviously choices were made. But what you’ve asserted is that the station’s launch has been deliberately delayed for some strategic reason (I’m still not clear what the reasoning is behind it, change is always going to happen in radio) as opposed to simply being a consequence of technical issues. Considering their submission and the timeline (remember the frequency only became vacant in November 2012), and the lack of any evidence to the contrary, I’m willing to believe their explanation that it’s a technical reason.

                That their frequency change comes just after the Bell decision can only make you go “hmmm”.

                Except that they explored using 980 before the Bell decision. And they said they were looking at 850 before that.

                Perhaps they were considering putting in a bid for 690 to get the better frequency?

                They had originally requested 690 for the station, but that frequency belongs to CKGM. That station would have had to have been shut down for the frequency to become vacant, and with informal offers to buy from Rogers and TTP Media (and possibly a third party), such a shutdown would have been unlikely.

                Or perhaps they were waiting to see if they could partner up with a purchase of 690 to share studio space or what not?

                Dufferin isn’t really in the sports radio business (though I suppose if they purchased 690 they could have done some other English radio format). I suppose anything is possible, but again there’s zero evidence of this.

                It seems to be exactly the same chez TTP, who have been seeming to wait until the Bell deal settles to get going. They are suppose to be on the air soon, aren’t they?

                The French station at 940 must be operational by Nov. 21, unless they request an extension. The English station at 600 has until Nov. 9, 2014. The French sports station at 850 has until June 19, 2015.

                Want to bet TTP english is next one to show up with a revised contour map and a request for a delay for their English station?

                A pattern change is unlikely unless they change their transmitter site again. And a technical amendment to the licence isn’t required to ask for an extension. In any case, the French station has the earlier deadline, since its licence was approved first. We’ll see in the coming weeks what their plans are.

  3. Dilbert

    “They had originally requested 690 for the station, but that frequency belongs to CKGM. That station would have had to have been shut down for the frequency to become vacant, and with informal offers to buy from Rogers and TTP Media (and possibly a third party), such a shutdown would have been unlikely.”

    Seems like a good reason to ask for 980 and a contour change, don’t you think?

    “A pattern change is unlikely unless they change their transmitter site again. And a technical amendment to the licence isn’t required to ask for an extension. In any case, the French station has the earlier deadline, since its licence was approved first. We’ll see in the coming weeks what their plans are.”

    Yes, sorry, got that one reversed – but the same logic applies. I suspect that TTP’s gameplan would be different given a different outcome to the Bell /Astral deal. With their new transmission site in the works, don’t be surprised to see them suggest to move everything to a common transmitter site – and of course delay things a little longer.

    “Obviously choices were made. But what you’ve asserted is that the station’s launch has been deliberately delayed for some strategic reason (I’m still not clear what the reasoning is behind it, change is always going to happen in radio)”

    I guess Steve the problem here is that you are looking for absolute confirmed facts, and these people are NOT going to hand them to you today. I am looking at their actions and looking at the overall situation in radio in Montreal, and figuring out that they didn’t want to start anything until they were sure where they stood. While not operating means no income, it also means few expenses, and starting going in the wrong direction would be much more expensive than waiting to a certain point, making changes, and then moving forward.

    Again, with two different radio projects on the go and both of them seeming to stall out, it should be enough to make you wonder. Again, there are no absolute confirmed press releases on the subject, nor any PR people pre-spinning it for you. Just my (gasp) opinion and observations. Just surprised you aren’t seeing anything like it.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Seems like a good reason to ask for 980 and a contour change, don’t you think?

      I don’t follow the logic. The change to 980 has nothing to do with 690.

      I suspect that TTP’s gameplan would be different given a different outcome to the Bell /Astral deal.

      If it meant Bell having to sell one of its stations, and if TTP successfully bid for that station, then yes, it would have changed things a lot (at least on the English side).

      With their new transmission site in the works, don’t be surprised to see them suggest to move everything to a common transmitter site – and of course delay things a little longer.

      I don’t really see this happening. The transmission site on Île Perrot is there because it works best for the pattern for 850. For 940, the location of the transmitter doesn’t really matter because it’s a clear channel. And for 600, the transmitter site in Kahnawake was specifically built for what was then CFCF 600 in 1956, so I can’t imagine a compelling technical reason to move it. And besides, TTP Media has already signed a long-term lease on the transmitters, which would be expensive to get out of without a good reason.

      I guess Steve the problem here is that you are looking for absolute confirmed facts, and these people are NOT going to hand them to you today.

      Actually they did. They’re in a PDF they sent me by email. I think the problem here is that you are dismissing those facts based solely on conjecture.

      While not operating means no income, it also means few expenses, and starting going in the wrong direction would be much more expensive than waiting to a certain point, making changes, and then moving forward.

      Right. But it’s still unclear to me how Radio Fierté starting up now would be “going in the wrong direction” based solely on the ownership of other stations that will operate in a different language.

      Again, with two different radio projects on the go and both of them seeming to stall out, it should be enough to make you wonder.

      The key word here being “seeming”. Asking for extensions to launch radio stations is hardly unusual, even without technical reasons. And Radio Fierté has some good technical reasons to back up its request.

      As for TTP Media, its silence, rather than its delays, does make me wonder. But rather than come to conclusions without evidence, I’ll wait until they make an announcement, which should come soon.

      Reply

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