Almost a year after a bizarre CRTC hearing in which the owner of CJMS 1040 AM in St-Constant blamed the station’s failure to meet its regulatory obligations on his father’s dementia and announced before a surprised panel of commissioners that the station had been sold to an unnamed buyer, the details of that transaction have been published by the commission.
The CRTC has called a hearing for Nov. 12 (a technicality; the parties aren’t being asked to appear) to discuss two applications related to CJMS: Its licence renewal, which was in grave danger of not being accepted because of the repeated management failures, and a proposed sale of the station to Jean Ernest Pierre, the owner of CPAM Radio Union (CJWI 1410 AM), the Haitian community station in Montreal.
The identity of the buyer is no surprise. The two stations share an antenna in St-Constant, and after the CRTC hearing, during which CJMS’s lack of news was brought up as an issue, the station began simulcasting morning and afternoon programs from CJWI.
Documents filed with the commission show that Alexandre Azoulay, who owns CJMS, agreed on Oct. 9, 2013 (a month before the hearing) to sell it to Groupe Médias Pam Inc., a company entirely owned by Pierre, who is also the sole owner of CPAM. The purchase price is $15,000, as well as an hour a week of airtime for a year, for Michael Azoulay’s talk program connected with his family’s chiropractic business.
No changes to programming
The documents submitted to the CRTC show that Pierre has no intention of changing the station’s programming much for the time being. The morning Réveil Matin and afternoon Après-Midi Express shows from CPAM will continue to air on CJMS, and CJMS country on-air hosts Max Bradette, Jean-François Plante, Pascal Poudrier, André Sylvain, Claude Manny and Diane Bergeron are still listed with their usual programs. It would also keep the syndicated program En route vers l’ouest by Véronique Labbé.
While the music would remain country, the application says the new ownership plans to modernize the sound, expand into related genres and try to attract a younger audience:
La formule musicale de la nouvelle station sera toujours Country. Cependant, nous pensons que la station doit se moderniser. Les critiques les plus virulentes à propos de cette musique disent qu’elle est tout simplement ‘’quétaine’’. Heureusement que la musique Country beaucoup évolué ces dernières années. Les représentants anglophones ont pour noms : Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Shania Twain et biens d’autres.
Au niveau francophone des références telles que Willie Lamothe, Bobby Hachey et la famille Daraîche sont des exemples plus que connues de ce que l’on appel le country traditionnel.
Avec les années une multitude de styles ont apportés une couleur et une variation intéressante au country, tel le bluegrass, le country folk, le country rock, etc. Plusieurs interprètes en font une spécialité, ce tant au niveau francophone qu’anglophone.
CJMS 1040 AM diffusera donc différentes variétés de country. Et, le vaste bassin d’interprètes permettra à notre station d’offrir à ses auditeurs et auditrices un produit musical de très bonne qualité, ce avec des artistes de toutes générations. Brad Paisley, Patty Loveless, Joel Bizier, Patrick Norman pour ne citer que ceux-là.
Aujourd’hui on qualifie ce genre de musique émergente avec des noms tels que Louis-Jean Cormier, Pierre Lapointe, Andrée Waters, les sœurs Boulay, Éric Goulet etc.
Avec une aussi large gamme de genres, nous aurons solutionné deux problèmes importants à CJMS. 1. augmenter la diversité francophone disponible au niveau du country; 2. Créer aussi l’intérêt d’une génération plus jeune. Deux éléments très appréciables pour l’industrie et une station comme CJMS.
The decision to syndicate rush-hour programming from CPAM brings up several issues. The most obvious is that CPAM is not a country music station, and it would be odd for a station that markets itself as “100% country” to have no country music during the morning and afternoon rush.
There are also regulatory implications to duplicating programming like this. A specific limitation prohibits the owner of an ethnic station (like CPAM) from devoting more than 15% of the schedule of a non-ethnic commercial station to third-language programming. Since all of CPAM’s programming is in French, this isn’t an issue. Pierre said he plans to “de-ethnicize” (“desethniciser”) the programming on those shows so they work with CJMS’s audience, but also wants to help CJMS reach a more diverse audience.
Another regulation that applies to all commercial stations says that a station must devote at least a third of its schedule (from 6am to midnight) to local programming in order to be able to air local ads. Pierre has told the CRTC that CJMS would air 101 hours of local programming and 25 hours a week of syndicated programming, far exceeding that minimum. (Though some of that 101 hours would be achieved by convincing some syndicated programs to consider CJMS as their station or origin.)
Nevertheless, Pierre said the afternoon program would be moved officially to CJMS, so it counts as local programming on CJMS and non-local on CPAM.
There’s also the fact that CJMS is licensed to serve St-Constant, so news and information should be specifically targeted to that listening audience. The application said that the news would be the same on both stations and did not need to be customized, but there would be, in the months after approval, some additional talk programming eventually that focuses on the local community.
And, of course, there’s the simple fact that having the same program on two AM stations that share a transmitter has limited usefulness for the audience.
The up side
There are positives to this application as well. The main one is that it keeps CJMS on the air. The application makes it clear that if this takeover is rejected, CJMS will likely be closed, and CPAM would probably apply for a new station on that frequency. It also says that CPAM has spent significant resources on transmitter work to bring the station back up to its approved technical parameters of 10,000 watts daytime and 5,000 watts nighttime.
And it says that new equipment will need to be installed at CJMS.
Finally, it mentions that the new owner plans to have country music concerts each month organized by the station with local country music artists, particularly francophone ones.
CJMS is the only French-language country music station in the Montreal area, and with all the country music artists in Quebec, particularly in the regions, it would be a shame to lose this outlet for them. But CPAM’s plan raises some serious questions.
The applications for licence renewal (2014-0484-7) and transfer of ownership (2014-0624-9) are open to public comment until 8pm Eastern on Oct. 14. Interventions can be filed here. When prompted, check the box next to the appropriate application number. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.