CJMS blames non-compliance on father’s dementia, says station has been sold

When the CRTC called the licensee of St-Constant country station CJMS 1040 to appear at a hearing, it was clear that the station was in trouble. For months the commission had been trying to get program logs and recordings, and every attempt was unsuccessful. Finally, frustrated, the CRTC threatened to revoke the station’s licence if it didn’t travel to Gatineau and explain itself.

So we knew this was going to be serious, and the explanations given for non-compliance with its licence were going to have to be big. But still, the commissioners were taken aback by two bombshells that owner Alexandre Azoulay presented to them on Wednesday.

First, Azoulay blamed non-compliance on his father, who was diagnosed with dementia this summer. He said responses and filings with the CRTC were given to him, and then “disappeared,” with the station’s staff assuming that they had been mailed to the commission. Compliance issues began a year ago, but it was only a few months ago, after the dementia was diagnosed, that the younger Azoulay realized what was going on and took active control over the station’s operation.

Second, Azoulay announced that he has come to an agreement to sell the station. He wouldn’t say who has agreed to buy it, but did say that the other party is the licensee of one other station in the area (he used the singular, implying it owns only one station) and that synergies between the two would make it easier for the station to be viable financially. He said the new owner would be able to ensure the station continues, though he did not say (and was not asked) whether it would be in its current country music format.

The hearing was tense, as you can tell from the audio below, taken from the CRTC livestream. Azoulay did not come with a written statement, and presented a slow-paced, monotonous statement about the status of the station.

On the commission’s side, the mood was equally tense, with commissioners stressing how serious these issues of non-compliance are.

“I want to stress upon you the difficult position you’ve placed the commission in,” Commissioner Raj Shoan told Azoulay, saying that the sale of a station that has been in non-compliance with its licence obligations “calls into question the integrity of our licensing process.”

Normally, the CRTC doesn’t accept requests to transfer or amend licences that are in non-compliance. Or it would like to, at least. But if a station’s owner no longer wants to have a licence, they can’t force them to keep one. The decision then becomes whether to accept the transfer or to force the outgoing owner to turn in the licence and the incoming one to apply for a new one.

CJMS 1040 is a medium-powered radio station, licensed to operate at 10,000 watts daytime and 5,000 watts nighttime (Azoulay said during the hearing that upgrades necessary to improve to that power, approved in 2002, had started in the past two years but not yet been completed). Even as an AM station, that frequency would probably be in demand should the licence be revoked or surrendered.

Azoulay said he would supply documentation confirming the sale within 24 hours. It’s unclear whether the agreement would be on the public record. He also said an application for transfer of ownership would be filed by the end of the month. At the CRTC’s request, Azoulay also committed to filing, confidentially, documentation proving his father’s medical diagnosis.

As Shoan said, the CRTC is in a difficult position here. This hearing is about CJMS’s compliance issues, and a sale of the station would have to be dealt with in its own process. The commissioners also didn’t seem absolutely convinced that this licence non-compliance was an isolated incident. The station’s three previous licence renewals were all for short terms because of issues of compliance. CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais expressed frustration that this is recurring every time.

Azoulay assured the commission that the sale of the station would not benefit him financially, presumably because the sale price would be less than the amount of money he invested in the station during his ownership. He was also very apologetic for the compliance issues, and assured them that he has taken direct control of the station and would remain in charge personally until the sale is approved.

The commissioners also asked Azoulay about the station’s programming, and its recent transmission outages. Azoulay said the station has two full-time staff, both on-air hosts, and that it broadcasts 18 hours a day of live programming during weekdays, though after 6pm that programming is done remotely. And he assured them that the station is broadcasting regular newscasts during the mornings and middays on weekdays.

CRTC decisions usually come within a month or two of a hearing, so expect one by Christmas on whether CJMS can keep its licence.


11 thoughts on “CJMS blames non-compliance on father’s dementia, says station has been sold

  1. Fagstein Post author

    In case you want to speculate who the new owner might be, private commercial players with exactly one radio station in the Montreal market are:
    Yves Sauvé (CJVD 100.1 Vaudreuil)
    CFMB Ltd. (CFMB 1280)
    CPAM Radio (CJWI 1410)
    Radio Humsafar (CJLV 1570 Laval)
    Radio Moyen Orient (CHOU 1450)
    JP Coallier (CJPX Radio Classique 99.5)
    RNC Media (CKLX 91.9 Radio X)

    Humsafar has been actively looking to expand, and is waiting on an application for a new station at 1610 AM.

    1. Normand Martel

      Yves Sauvé.. maybe
      CFMB 1280, definitely not ! They have a much higher power transmitter presently…
      Jean Ernst Pierre has just upgraded from 1610 to 1410 @ 10kW …On the same Tx site taht of CJMS 1040

      1570 is in Laval… Will they move to St-Constant ???
      1450 CHOU maybe
      Jean-Pierre Coallier (CJPX Radio-Classique 99,5) moving from FM to AM ??? definitely not !!!
      CKLX 91,9 (Radio-X) ??? Maybe for better south-shore coverage…

      CKIC 89,9 Country Kahnawake ? Definitely my best choice ! The station would remain Country, but with a much higher power level.

      1. Fagstein Post author

        Just to be clear, there’s nothing to suggest that the buyer of CJMS would move their existing station to 1040, but rather it seems that they would own both stations.

  2. Andy Reid

    The way I read this is the commission does not need to grant a licence renewal. He is selling the station. The only thing the CRTC needs to do is grant temporary authority until a hearing can be held.
    I think the new owner will be CJWI who already broadcast from the site. If it is them and they get the transmission site, all they have to do is pick what frequency they wish to continue to broadcast on.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The way I read this is the commission does not need to grant a licence renewal. He is selling the station. The only thing the CRTC needs to do is grant temporary authority until a hearing can be held.

      Right. And CJMS’s existing licence is until next August, so it wouldn’t even need to grant special authority. The question is whether selling a station is an acceptable way to deal with repeated licence non-compliance.

  3. Sheldon Harvey

    I listened to the CRTC feed this afternoon as well. What surprised me were the comments about how much investment they had made into the station, particularly at the transmitter site. The Commission asked Azoulay to provide proof by supplying them with copies of the paid bills. When asked what type of expenses they incurred, Azoulay talked about new towers, grounding system, etc. I was under the belief that most of the new towers installed on the site were for the new CJWI (CPAM Radio) operation on 1410 kHz which is operating from the same site. Wouldn’t it have been CPAM Radio that would have had to pay for that? It would be interesting to know what the deal was that was struck between CJMS and CPAM Radio to allow for the 1410 kHz installation on the CJMS site.

    Azoulay was also asked about periods of time that the station was off the air. Azoulay responded that CJMS had been off the air for something like 48 hours 5 or 6 weeks ago. When asked what the reason for this downtime was, he indicated that it was because of “Hydro”, claiming that a storm had cut the power to the transmitter. Well the station was certainly off for more than 48 hours and I don’t remember it being related to a Hydro outage. Word on the street was that Hydro had cut their power for non-payment of their bill.
    Azoulay made lots of promises to the CRTC today. We’ll see if they come through with everything they promised.

    As to who the potential buyer might be, good question. RNC in their presentation to the CRTC today indicated that 91.9 has serious problems getting their signal into the southwest, mentioning the Valleyfield region specifically. They could certainly reach Valleyfield from St-Constant.
    Humsafar already doesn’t know what to do with 1570 after the CRTC refused their request to turn it into another ethnic station, but if they don’t get 1610 kHz, then 1040 might work for them.
    I doubt that CPAM would need another outlet.

    Whoever it is, we should know soon enough. If CJMS fails on even one of the promises they made to the CRTC today, I think their fate will be sealed. Hard to sell a station if you don’t have a licence!

    1. Normand Martel

      Thanks a lot for your precise comments…

      In case of CJMS sale to a new owner, shall the new owner keep the current station’s format (Country music) or can they buy the station and unilaterally change the station’s format ?

      Thank you very much for this post.

      1. Fagstein Post author

        In case of CJMS sale to a new owner, shall the new owner keep the current station’s format (Country music) or can they buy the station and unilaterally change the station’s format ?

        The CRTC normally doesn’t regulate format, so the new owner could change the format as desired. Even CJMS itself isn’t entirely married to the country music format, airing a lot of talk programming.

        But the transfer of ownership would need CRTC approval. And the new owner could offer to make commitments as part of that proceeding.

  4. Mario D.

    The Azoulay familly has been in radio for ages. They use to be with ckvl 850 am long since closed sponsoring programs through the years. They have always been looking to make money without investing any making promisses they could not keep over the years. They also are in the medical business promissing miracle cures and techniques…That kind of businessman.
    A few years ago they hired Jacques Fabi after he was let go by fm 98.5 . He left CJMS a few months after without saying much except you could guess he was not satisfied on how the situation evolved. I guess he was not paid either…

    I just do not understand how come the CRTC does not take the familly`s history when giving licenses…

  5. Pingback: CPAM owner agrees to buy CJMS 1040 for $15,000, keep it country | Fagstein

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