The western off-island communities of Hudson, Saint-Lazare and Vaudreuil could see their first English-language local station later this fall if the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approves a technical amendment so the station can change its transmission site.
Transmission Plan B
Dufferin Communications, which has a licence to operate a 500-watt English-language music station at 106.7 FM serving the region, was originally supposed to transmit from a Bell-owned tower on Route Harwood near Rue Thomas, which would have put it right in the Hudson community. But on April 29, Bell informed Dufferin that “the tower is now at its capacity and any additions will cause overload and reinforcement will be inevitable.” It also says that the location on the tower that Dufferin had been looking at originally has now been taken by an antenna being used “for public safety purposes.”
Rather than spend as much as $100,000 to reinforce the Bell tower, $50,000 to install a tower extension, and $40,000 to install a new transmitter shelter, Dufferin decided it would seek another tower nearby. Its search led it to a Rogers-owned tower on Chemin Sainte-Angélique near Rue des Liserons, about 5.3 kilometres southwest of the Bell tower.
Because it’s much farther from Hudson than the Bell tower, Dufferin is also seeking changes to the station’s pattern to compensate. Rather than an omnidirectional antenna at 500 watts, they would operate a (slightly) directional antenna with an average of 1420W and a maximum of 2650W. (Both the approved and proposed antennas would be at a height of 95 metres.)
“In order to maintain the 70 dBu contour in the same position over the target area of Hudson/St-Lazare, and in order to compensate for some minor terrain grazing, it is necessary to increase power to 2650 watts,” its brief to the CRTC says.
The new signal keeps about the same coverage in Hudson, but significantly improves the quality of the signal toward the west (Rigaud) and a bit toward the south (Saint-Clet). The larger 54dBu contour improves in all directions (more so toward the west), but the signal’s actual reach will mainly be limited by interference from other stations. Toward the east and south, people in the West Island, Mirabel, Beauharnois and Valleyfield will likely experience interference from WIZN (The Wizard) in Burlington, Vt., which operates on the same frequency. Toward the west, people in Lachute and on the other side of the Ontario border will hear interference from CKQB-FM (106.9 The Bear) in Ottawa.
Though the new signal greatly increases the population served, Dufferin warns that it doesn’t greatly increase the number of anglophones served in that population, since anglos in the area are concentrated around Hudson and Saint-Lazare.
Ready to go
Dufferin tells the CRTC that the Rogers site “is ready made and will allow us to implement the service within weeks of approval as all our other infrastructure and equipment are in place.”
Vice-President Carmela Laurignano confirmed to me that, indeed, the station could be on the air very quickly once this technical plan is approved. She said the tower is ready, the antenna is on stand-by, and programming is ready to go.
Because it was approved only last October, it has until Oct. 19, 2014 to launch, unless it asks for an extension.
Names of on-air talent are “confidential at this point,” Laurignano said, but some of the station’s 25 or so full-time and part-time employees have already been hired.
The station, which will carry the brand “106.7 The Jewel”, part of a network of such stations in southern and eastern Ontario, will air mainly music with an easy listening format (Céline Dion, Rod Stewart, Michael Bublé). Its original application said it would have live programming during peak hours, including local newscasts, but voice-tracked programming outside of those hours. Its budget would be about $750,000 a year, based off mainly local ads that would cost between $22 and $34 a minute on average.
The application can be downloaded as a .zip file here. Comments are being accepted until Sept. 16, and can be submitted online here. Remember that all information submitted, including contact information, appears on the public record. There is no timeline for a decision, but if the CRTC does not find it controversial, expect it within weeks of the deadline for comments.