Every now and then people ask me about the Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy group, which has licenses for three high-power AM talk radio stations in Montreal, the first one granted in 2011, but hasn’t made any announcements in more than a year.
Rumours abounded that something was wrong. That the group had bitten off more than it could chew. That there was a problem with the three-way partnership and that one or more partners would be bought out by the others. It’s been a year since I posted a story because people were wondering what happened to them.
Now we have some more news. On Sept. 19, the CRTC approved applications from the group for extensions on the deadlines to launch its two news-talk stations, a French one at 940 AM and an English one at 600 AM, for another year.
Because the group had already asked for an extension on the 940 station last year, this extension is the last one the commission will give. If the station does not launch by Nov. 21, 2015, its license becomes void.
The English station, which was first approved in 2012, gets an extension until Nov. 9, 2015. That extension could be extended another year if needed, consistent with CRTC precedent on these matters.
The group also has a license for a French-language sports talk station at 850 AM. That licence was granted in June 2013, so they have until June 2015 to launch it or ask for a first extension.
In the letter asking for the extension for the two stations, partner Nicolas Tétrault starts off by making a reference to Quebec’s economy and politics, and more curiously saying that “we have solved our internal shareholder problems” without detailing what they are.
Tétrault declined to comment about the stations’ current situation or the request for an extension. Rajiv Pancholy, who was the managing partner of the group, did not respond to a request for comment. He has relocated to India, and become the CEO of a company called OnMobile.
But Paul Tietolman, the one partner in the group that did talk to me, said the three remain partners in the venture and intend to respect the CRTC’s rules that require the approval of the commission before any change in ownership that would alter the effective control of the licensees.
Tietolman did, however, hint that he’s working on projects of his own, apart from Tétrault and Pancholy. He didn’t elaborate.
Almost ready to go
Tétrault writes in his letter that the stations should be on the air within six to nine months, and asked for 12-month extensions to give some margin for error.
He writes that they are in the process of finalizing the acquisition of equipment and renovations for their office and studios in downtown Montreal. I understand that the space is in St-Henri near the Atwater Market, which is close enough to downtown while still being industrial enough to have cheap rent.
TTP Media has a lease with Cogeco for the use of the former CFCF/CIQC/CINW/CINF/etc. site in Kahnawake. And the 940 signal is ready to go from that site. But Tietolman expressed dissatisfaction with the English signal on 600, even though it’s the former frequency of CIQC (and using the same transmission site). He suggested technical changes might be in the future to rectify that.
The group has a few options on the table. It could look for a new transmitter site, such as the one it plans to build in Ile Perrot for the 850 AM station. It could make changes to the Cogeco site to make the pattern different. Or it could seek a second transmitter, possibly a low-power AM or FM transmitter in the West Island that could augment its signal there. (There aren’t any obvious frequencies for an FM transmitter in the West Island, unless they want to do it on 107.9 and piss off more NPR listeners).
Depending on what they decide to do, it could conceivably delay the launch of the English station.
All we know for sure is that now they have a hard deadline. If the 940 station doesn’t launch by November 2015, it won’t launch ever. And they’ll have to reapply from scratch, possibly battling again against other groups that wanted a full-power AM signal on a clear-channel frequency.