TSN 690 personalities thank their fans for saving the station

Because it’s owned by Canada’s largest media company, and now Canada’s largest radio broadcaster, it’s hard to argue that TSN Radio 690 is a mom and pop shop.

And yet, just about everything about this station screams “underdog.” It has the lowest ratings of the five commercial English-language stations in Montreal. It puts out a lot of original programming on a small budget. And twice in the past year and a half, it has faced annihilation because its parent company made it clear that it valued each of the three Astral stations more than it did this one.

This underdog feeling was certainly present Thursday night at Hurley’s Irish Pub, as Mitch Melnick and other personalities from the station invited fans to help them celebrate the recent CRTC decision that not only allows it to maintain its format but guarantees it for at least seven years.

There are still changes to come. Melnick pointed out that the plan is to eventually move the station from its current home on Greene Ave. in Westmount to the Astral Media radio (now Bell Media radio) building at Papineau Ave. and René-Lévesque Blvd. There’s also the looming threat of layoffs as the consolidation of resources creates redundancy in staff. (The hammer has already fallen at Bell Media stations elsewhere in the country.) But, while it may not have been a raucous affair, there were a lot of thank-yous given out on this night.

I recorded the first few on video (the memory card on my camera eventually ran out). After Melnick’s introduction above, we had speeches from:

Ted Bird:

Shaun Starr:

Robyn Flynn (whose speech was the most emotional of the night):

Tony Marinaro (whose speech lasted 12 minutes until Melnick stepped in and yanked him off the stage):

Apologies for the quality of the video and audio (particularly the last one, which was taken with my phone). I took the video from the other side of the room, not really prepared to do this kind of recording.

Most people were introduced with Melnick sharing a story about them, usually how they started. Some of them were funny, or inspiring, or just cute, but all of them seemed to follow the same general path: A stranger becomes a friend through a shared passion for sports and radio.

Canadiens play-by-play man John Bartlett

Canadiens play-by-play man John Bartlett

Melnick confessed that when John Bartlett was first announced as the voice of the Canadiens two years ago, he was pissed off that some Toronto-based guy was being parachuted in to take a job that should have gone to one of his friends, but that after grilling Bartlett on his knowledge of Montreal and seeing him in action, he’s grown to respect him.

Oranges at Halftime host and soccer expert Noel Butler

Oranges at Halftime host and soccer expert Noel Butler

Melnick and others shared what they considered the greatest moment in TSN 690’s history, when Bob Gainey dropped the F-bomb live on air making a joke about Noel Butler’s barely comprehensible accent.

Kaufman Show host Dave Kaufman, left, and an unidentified man who's totally not supposed to be managing another bar right now.

Kaufman Show host Dave Kaufman, left, and an unidentified man who’s totally not supposed to be managing another bar right now.

Melnick described Dave Kaufman as the best intern he’d ever had, high praise from someone who has seen many young talents work on his show.

Chris Nilan

Chris Nilan

Chris Nilan described the personal struggles he faced while trying to make the transition from being a retired athlete to being a broadcaster, and personally thanked Melnick for helping him get a show in radio.

Tony Marinaro

Tony Marinaro

Tony Marinaro was “Tony from LaSalle” calling in to Melnick’s show before he began a career in radio.

Andrew Farrar, aka Annakin Slayd

Andrew Farrar, aka Annakin Slayd

Local rap artist Annakin Slayd, who gained fame through videos about his love for the Canadiens and Expos, was the first person to write in to the CRTC when it was announced that Bell Media wanted to convert it from an English station to a French one. He would be followed by thousands of others over the course of two CRTC hearings.

Reporter Amanda Stein

Reporter Amanda Stein

Amanda Stein, who missed much of the evening because she was at the Alouettes game, also thanked listeners once someone came on stage to adjust the height of the microphone.

Rod Francis

Rod Francis

Melnick said one of his biggest mistakes was not recognizing the talent of Rod Francis earlier than he did.

Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell picked up on the Bob Gainey/Noel Butler story by pointing out that he was the guy in the studio with his finger on the dump button, and that in the few seconds he had, he decided to let the F-bomb go to air. He didn’t hear anything from his boss afterward.

Producer Sean Coleman

Producer Sean Coleman

Sean Coleman also said stuff, but I don’t remember it because I was so mesmerized by his smile.

There were other personalities there as well that I didn’t capture, including Conor McKenna and Simon Tsalikis and Nick Murdocco. I hang my head in shame for missing them.

Notably absent was Elliott Price, who had family obligations this evening, and general manager Wayne Bews, who for some reason hasn’t been a presence at these gatherings.

For a station that’s effectively about 12 years old, whose life began when its owner decided to dump an oldies music format and try an all-sports-talk format, it has plenty of memories and is responsible for many careers.

Its fan base is small — only about 50 people showed up to this party, and that included many people who work there — but it’s fiercely loyal. It will never be the most popular station in town, but after being to a couple of these gatherings and hearing people speak, I have to conclude that this station has something the others don’t.

(Or maybe not. We’ll see what happens when something threatens to shut down CHOM or CJAD.)

Station listeners writing in to the CRTC wasn’t what stopped TSN Radio from turning into RDS Radio. The CRTC’s rejection of the first Bell-Astral deal made that application moot. But the flood of outrage and support was what convinced Bell to change its plan the second time around and ask for an exemption to keep it. And it’s what convinced the CRTC that an English-language all-sports radio station in Montreal is special enough, and is valuable enough to the community, that it deserves special consideration to keep it on the air.

And it’s for that, and their continued listening, texting and calling, that the people whose jobs depend on the continued existence of this station wanted to express their gratitude.

Tony Marinaro and Amanda Stein

10 thoughts on “TSN 690 personalities thank their fans for saving the station

  1. Media Man

    Well well , the fans possibly maybe winners..time will tell..but those fans didn’t care about those who will be laid off,it always happens during mergers, the receptionist, the accounting people, office people who we don’t listen to but will be first to go…..
    e.g. will TSN’s chief engineer still be needed since those people are already in place on Papineau, maybe the copywriter..

    On air, probably not, the question here is since you mention about station being run on a shoestring budget, now flush with serious cash from the Astral stations, will they put more money into the stations, a real local high school and collegiate sports show. The problem is Toronto demanding those Toronto TSN shows and talking heads here in town.

    ” (Or maybe not. We’ll see what happens when something threatens to shut down CHOM or CJAD.) ”

    What would threaten to close those two money-makers, would CRTC change their mind about exemption…The station would be better off with an independant owner, someone local..not some corporate conglomerate..

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      now flush with serious cash from the Astral stations

      TSN 690 isn’t “flush with serious cash” any more than it was before. It’s not like Bell was living paycheque to paycheque before buying Astral. What can change is that by sharing more resources with the former Astral stations, TSN might get more freedom to spend more of its budget on programming, and get a boost in things like marketing and promotions.

      The problem is Toronto demanding those Toronto TSN shows and talking heads here in town.

      TSN 690 doesn’t run talking-head shows from Toronto. It learned that lesson long ago.

      Reply
  2. Dilbert

    I think the real tale will be told 6 months from now, when we are looking at a story about the job cuts, integration, and so on at all of the “not nearly a monopoly” Bell media stations. Don’t be shocked to find most of the CJAD sports people on the street to moved over (and others kicked out at TSN) in order to make it all work out and remove “redundancies” (what a nice word for competition).

    My guess is that CJAD in the future will have no sports department, and that sports news on the 3 existing stations done in the same manner as traffic is now – from the “all day sports center” which is another way of saying “whoever happens to be working at TSN that day”.

    Not sure why anyone is celebrating, it’s like a party for someone who didn’t die but has a fatal disease.

    Reply
  3. Mitch Melnick

    Thanks so much for posting! I should have known that a good chunk of the night would be worth preserving. Let me take this oppurtunity to appeal to anybody else who might have taken pictures/video that our staff would be keen on viewing. I’m easy to find.

    I’m glad you caught the vibe Steve. You can’t buy that.

    Just to quickly clarify a couple of points – A lot more than 50 people showed up between 7 PM & 2 AM. 50 was close to the number of promised shots I bought at the end of the night. We used a ticket system so we know close to 250 listeners showed up at some point. Several came by early just to say hi – some even refused Hurley’s free pint – or is a few cases just to meet some TSN690 staffers for the first time. The music room upstairs fills up in a hurry. There were a number of people craning their necks listening in the entrance way as we started to speak one by one. And I would use the word “raucous” to decsribe the post Alouettes – late night portion of the proceedings.

    Thanks again for being there to take these shots. It’s much appreciated. And a big shout out again to Bill Hurley & Rod Applebee at Hurley’s Irish Pub.

    And more thing –

    “Dilbert

    Not sure why anyone is celebrating, it’s like a party for someone who didn’t die but has a fatal disease. ”

    The only thing we celebrated on this night was our listeners.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I should clarify that my estimate of 50 was how many people were there at any given time. There was a lot of turnover since it was a long night.

      Reply
    2. Media Man

      Frankly, I’m not impressed by the 250 mark considering the so-called big reaction during the RDS690 circus. Most of these protesters who wrote to the CRTC, probably took the lazy way out just be sending something to the CRTC during the Comments period and doing the armchair QB thing…

      But ask them to come to the club, and that’s too much to do. Has Mitch Melnick been informed that he has a new PD now and that he won’t be the defacto PD anymore..

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        Most of these protesters who wrote to the CRTC, probably took the lazy way out just be sending something to the CRTC during the Comments period and doing the armchair QB thing…

        I suppose more of them could have demanded to present oral arguments in person, but I wouldn’t qualify it as “lazy” or a “way out” to simply submit written comments. This application got a lot more of these comments as usual, and three people appeared in person at the first hearing to oppose it, which is very unusual at CRTC hearings.

        But ask them to come to the club, and that’s too much to do.

        Coming to a bar wasn’t something that was really asked of listeners. And the event wasn’t heavily promoted (I only found out about it the day of), so it’s unsurprising that turnout wasn’t huge. It was designed as a thank you from the station’s personalities to its listeners. It wasn’t a favour the station was asking of them.

        Reply
  4. Giuseppe Fanelli

    This is extremely good news and probably the best thing that has happened to this city in awhile aside from maybe the Alouettes winning the Grey cup

    Reply
  5. Gary Joseph

    As a Habs fan of over sixty years I have come to value the work you do very,very much; your over all sports coverage and friendly banter is of the highest calibre; thanx, “Gary in Oshawa” ( Sean’s favourite caller !!!)

    Reply

Leave a Reply