CRTC denies CJLO transmitter at 107.9 FM

Vermont Public Radio fans in Montreal can exhale. At least for now.

On Monday, the CRTC denied an application from Concordia’s CJLO to add an FM retransmitter at 107.9 FM, which would block out VPR in downtown Montreal and an arguable radius around it.

But the commission makes it clear that objections from VPR and its fans had nothing to do with the decision: “because VPR operates a U.S. station, its station was not considered in the examination of this application.”

This is consistent with a previous decision allowing CHLT-FM in Sherbrooke to move to 107.7 FM despite interference problems it might cause VPR listeners in the townships.

Instead, the CRTC determined that CJLO had not presented a compelling technical need to get the new allocation, particularly since 107.9 would be one of the last frequencies available for a station in Montreal.

More about this decision below and in this story in the Montreal Gazette.

Its reasoning, many of the people who had trouble listening to CJLO should have expected to have trouble listening to CJLO because of where they are:

Most of the measurements were taken from locations on the periphery of the secondary contour, and the majority of the complaints were filed by listeners residing near those areas.

The Commission notes that AM signals are sensitive to electromagnetic interference caused by electromagnetic apparatus and power lines, and are affected by reinforced concrete buildings and other large metallic structures. As a result, they are significantly more affected in large metropolitan areas like Montréal, where reception issues in an AM station’s service area are to be expected.

Given that the signal deficiencies are mainly reported near the edge of the station’s secondary contour, the Commission is of the view that the applicant has not demonstrated that the station’s technical difficulties are severe within its licensed service area or that it is subject to more interference than other AM stations in urban areas.

In October, the CRTC denied a nested FM retransmitter for CHOU 1450 AM for similar reasons.

And on top of that, the CRTC argued CJLO’s application would take up an FM frequency that might be used for some other purpose.

The Commission considers that the use of one of the last known frequencies for a nested FM transmitter may not be the best use of frequency 107.9 MHz in a radio market characterized by a scarcity of available frequencies.

The CRTC hasn’t closed the door to a technical change to the signal, but it thinks CJLO and its broadcast consultant should go back to the drawing board:

The Commission considers that the licensee has not provided evidence that it has considered all potential technical solutions to solve CJLO’s coverage issues while remaining on the AM band or without expanding its contours beyond what is necessary to improve service to its downtown campus.

107.9 isn’t safe

The takeaway from this decision is that while CJLO doesn’t get 107.9, it isn’t being protected. If someone else wants to propose a new station there, it can, regardless of VPR’s objections or those of its Canadian listeners.

But setting up a station would be difficult. VPR has a very good signal into Montreal, which would cause a lot of interference to any station that wanted to operate on that frequency. Plus, while such a new station would not have to protect VPR in Canada, it would have to protect it in the U.S., so the station’s signal to the south would have to be limited.

And that’s beside the fact that because 107.9 is at the very edge of the FM band, special measures have to be taken to avoid interference with the aeronautics band right next to it.

So the frequency is available, but finding a use for it won’t be easy.

UPDATE: CJLO has issued this statement:

CJLO 1690 AM statement regarding CRTC Decision 2015-21

This morning the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released their decision regarding CJLO’s application to add an FM repeating transmitter to broadcast at 107.9 FM in the immediate vicinity of Concordia University’s downtown campus. Since our successful bid to begin broadcasting on the AM band in 2008, we have heard from many of our listeners who report difficulty tuning into our radio signal in the downtown area. To correct this issue, and to better fulfil our mandate to serve both Loyola and Sir George Williams campuses and the Montreal community, we proposed installing a small FM repeating transmitter on the roof of the Hall Building, in the heart of Concordia’s downtown campus. Unfortunately, our application was denied.

In their decision, the CRTC stated that we had “not demonstrated that [CJLO’s] technical difficulties are severe within its licensed service area or that it is subject to more interference than other AM stations in urban areas.” In addition to this, 107.9 FM is one of the last viable frequencies to broadcast from in the Montreal region, and the CRTC is of the opinion that allowing CJLO to broadcast on that frequency “may not be the best use of frequency” and our proposal “does not represent an appropriate use of spectrum.”

The potential interference that our signal would cause for listeners of Vermont Public Radio in downtown Montreal did not enter into the CRTC’s decision making process, and the interventions filed by VPR listeners did not influence the outcome of our application in any way.

The full text of the CRTC decision can be read here: http://bit.ly/1uSEXCg

We respect the CRTC’s decision, and while this isn’t the outcome we were hoping for, it does not change our mandate. We will continue to serve both Concordia University and the Montreal community by producing quality programming, promoting a greater diversity of voices and viewpoints, and by offering a platform for alternate music styles, ideas, and interests not commonly found with local commercial stations. We will continue to reach new listeners at home and abroad, and expand our broadcast capabilities through our web stream, on Bell Fibe TV channel 950, and through our mobile app, which is available for both iPhone and Android. Furthermore, we will continue to investigate all possible options as they relate to improving our signal reception in Montreal.

We’d like to thank our many listeners and volunteers for their continued support, and especially those that took the time to file interventions to the CRTC supporting our application. As always, our doors are always open to new volunteer members. To learn more about CJLO, or to find out how you can get involved, please visit us at CJLO.com!

VPR has posted its own brief statement on its website.

26 thoughts on “CRTC denies CJLO transmitter at 107.9 FM

  1. Mimo

    CJLO’s tower is built to handle up to 2000 watts of power. I wonder if they had thought of a power increase on the AM band. Legally, stations at 1690 can use up to 10,000 watts daytime but that would require buying and installing a new tower, possible improvements to the ground system, which would be costly. CHOU also doubled their power as they were originally 1000 watts. CJLO could apply to double their daytime power but would have to cut back to 1000 at night. It would help to have a bit more power in their current secondary contour and on the east end of the island where they don’t really reach that well, , but probably not so much with building penetration.

    Reply
  2. Dilbert

    A very typical CRTC decision. Rather than address all of the issues at hand, they find an early exit off the road and call it a day. Rather than addressing all the points and clearing up any confusion, they just find a way to say no and stop.

    My guess is give it a little time, and corporate radio will find a way to get a station on that frequency. Maybe the new home for CJAD? ;)

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      Rather than address all of the issues at hand, they find an early exit off the road and call it a day.

      What issues did they not address? And how does taking seven months to make a decision when most such cases happen in four considered an “early exit”?

      My guess is give it a little time, and corporate radio will find a way to get a station on that frequency. Maybe the new home for CJAD? ;)

      I’m sure CJAD would be happy with an FM-quality signal, but 107.9 isn’t a very good quality because of the interference caused by WVPS. CJAD could propose an FM retransmitter for the downtown area but that would likely get denied for the same reasons as CJLO.

      A better use of 107.9 might be something north of Montreal where there’s less interference, perhaps a local station serving the growing north shore communities. CKHQ Kanesatake might consider trying to move to that frequency.

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      1. Dilbert

        “What issues did they not address?”

        Would they in fact allow that frequency to be used? To what power level and class? To what ends?

        No answers. Just the usual “read the tea leaves” vagueness that makes it hard to figure things out. They could have easily said “we would allow this frequency to be used in the Montreal area with a likely maximum of 10,000 watts or contours that will not touch these certain areas” but they did not. 7 months for a “nah, don’t want to give it to you… you didn’t justify it enough” seems like an early exit from the discussion.

        ” but 107.9 isn’t a very good quality because of the interference caused by WVPS”

        Since we aren’t protecting distant US stations (apparently), wouldn’t they just be able to crank up enough wattage to solve most of the problems, at least in their current broadcast area? Could they not contour slightly to the north and turn the power way up and get it over with? If not CJAD, perhaps there are other potential users. We don’t know what the CRTC and industry canada would actually consider or tolerate on this frequency. They didn’t say, even after 7 months of consideration.

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          Would they in fact allow that frequency to be used? To what power level and class? To what ends?

          The first two questions are up to Industry Canada, which handles frequency allocations. IC accepted CJLO’s proposal, but that doesn’t mean the frequency is usable for any purpose. As for what it could be used for, that’s up to whoever applies to it. But this decision and the one for CHOU makes it pretty clear that the CRTC isn’t interested in low-power FM transmitters to solve predictable reception issues for AM stations.

          They could have easily said “we would allow this frequency to be used in the Montreal area with a likely maximum of 10,000 watts or contours that will not touch these certain areas” but they did not.

          First of all, that’s up to Industry Canada, not the CRTC. And the amount of variables that go into a transmitter setup are so great that such a statement wouldn’t be very helpful. Plus, the rules about frequency allocations and how to protect other stations are crystal clear in IC’s regulations.

          Since we aren’t protecting distant US stations (apparently), wouldn’t they just be able to crank up enough wattage to solve most of the problems, at least in their current broadcast area?

          No. WVPS isn’t protected in Canada, but the coordination agreement with the U.S. means it is still protected south of the border. So if you want to propose a new station at 107.9, you have to ensure that nowhere in the U.S. within the contours of that station’s pattern will there be signal interference. VPR’s engineer tried to argue that even at only 100 watts, CJLO’s proposed signal might have caused some interference in some areas near the border.

          We don’t know what the CRTC and industry canada would actually consider or tolerate on this frequency.

          Industry Canada will usually accept any new allocation that doesn’t interfere with existing ones. The CRTC will evaluate applications on their own merits.

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          1. Dilbert

            “First of all, that’s up to Industry Canada, not the CRTC.”

            You always seem to want to go down this road. I know and understand this concept (I like many others are licensed by Industry Canada in other areas). However, there is a significant difference from the maximum allowed and what the CRTC would like to have happen. At the end of the day, it’s two departments but one process. The CRTC is well within their rights to mandate a lower power or lower coverage area for a frequency, even if Industry Canada would permit stronger signals.

            The frequency may be allowed 10kw, but the CRTC may feel it should only be a local low power. From this decision, we have no way to know what they would consider good for this frequency, only what would be bad. Should commercial broadcasters be applying for it?

            “VPR’s engineer tried to argue that even at only 100 watts, CJLO’s proposed signal might have caused some interference in some areas near the border.”

            Since their primary contour is not protected into Canada, they can only argue the point when it comes to US residence. Industry Canada certainly would have to consider the implications for those people, but at the same time there is a balancing act with the interests of Canadians. The VPR’s engineer argument wouldn’t be that strong, considering that any interference would be as a result of poor signal quality due to moutain terrain that would block their signal. If their signal is low enough to be interfered by 100 watts coming from 60 miles away, then they have technical issues they would need to address – or they need to accept that the frequency cannot be kept clear for more than double their contour because their transmitter is not in the most favorable position for border listeners.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              The CRTC is well within their rights to mandate a lower power or lower coverage area for a frequency, even if Industry Canada would permit stronger signals.

              Right. But the CRTC is not the one that sets the technical parameters of a transmitter. It either accepts or rejects applications that are considered technically acceptable by Industry Canada. I’m not saying I’m a big fan of this system, but that’s the system. So the CRTC isn’t going to say you can put a 100 watt or 10,000 watt transmitter on 107.9 because it depends entirely on what other parameters are and what purpose the transmitter is for.

              From this decision, we have no way to know what they would consider good for this frequency, only what would be bad. Should commercial broadcasters be applying for it?

              If they can make a case for another commercial station, sure. But a commercial application for urban Montreal is unlikely because of the interference problems.

              The VPR’s engineer argument wouldn’t be that strong, considering that any interference would be as a result of poor signal quality due to moutain terrain that would block their signal.

              That’s irrelevant to the rules. VPR is the incumbent, and if it’s a U.S. area within its protected contour, then it’s protected.

              Industry Canada judged CJLO’s application acceptable, so in its opinion it would not have caused unacceptable interference on the U.S. side of the border, but it’s unlikely a transmitter much more powerful or much higher in altitude would have been accepted unless extreme measures were taken to direct the signal away from the U.S.

              Reply
              1. Dilbert

                ” but it’s unlikely a transmitter much more powerful or much higher in altitude would have been accepted unless extreme measures were taken to direct the signal away from the U.S.”

                You don’t know that. For all you know, they could say that the “protected” contour for the US station does not include listeners who receive the original signal at a level below the primary contour level. They could move for technical changes by VPN, such as both increasing their output but significantly contouring THEIR signal to better serve their protected area to eliminate the interference issues.

                You don’t know, do you?

              2. Fagstein Post author

                They could move for technical changes by VPN, such as both increasing their output but significantly contouring THEIR signal to better serve their protected area to eliminate the interference issues.

                I suppose, though I don’t see why VPR would willingly change its signal to avoid Montreal. All the more reason for the CRTC not to prejudge future potential uses of the frequency.

  3. mike007

    Concordia students have no clue about this radio station except few of them from journalism. But that’s because they are looking for an opportunity to have some experience. Even the few newspaper are really bad.
    Is sad that all Concordia students have to pay for these megalomanic projects.
    Maybe the ppl running this projects should do like in real life: running for sponsors and funding and not take from students.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      When it came down to breaking up integration, we know exactly what happened in Montreal radio. Their exact excuse was the inability to break them up.

      What’s your source for this assertion?

      Is sad that all Concordia students have to pay for these megalomanic projects.

      A student-funded radio station is a “megalomanic” project?

      Maybe the ppl running this projects should do like in real life: running for sponsors and funding and not take from students.

      So, you’re suggesting that CJLO become a private commercial radio station?

      Reply
      1. Brett Morris

        If you look at WJPZ FM in Syracuse New York they are a Syracuse University station yet they sound like commercial radio in terms of programming.

        Like most campus radio stations in North America they have very limited commercials but it has attracted some big advertises that allows they to keep going and upgrade their services. Not saying CJLO has to sound commercial but do something that would attract at least one or two big advertisers that would allow them to improve their services.

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        1. Dilbert

          Brett, I think you will see that US college radio as a whole is much more oriented towards both viable operations and training with a career goal in mind. CJLO, from my experience listening to it in the past is much more “student bob playing his favorite records, peace out”. There are some good and well produced shows, but generally a lack of cohesion in the way the station is presented and I got a real feeling of a lack of professionalism. It’s almost as if they think it’s just getting played on the PA system in the common areas of the school, and not actually broadcast which non-students might also hear.

          Campus radio in the US is a big deal, I won’t say it’s big business but it can be. Certainly there are some music industry types who chart music based on it’s play rate on campus stations, which shows their influence and power.

          Reply
          1. Fagstein Post author

            CJLO, from my experience listening to it in the past is much more “student bob playing his favorite records, peace out”.

            That doesn’t sound so awful if people want to listen to it.

            I have no objective measure of CJLO’s quality, but I will point out that it usually scores high on The Mirror/Cult MTL’s Best of Montreal list, and it has been nominated several times for the CMJ college radio station of the year award, including in 2014.

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            1. Dilbert

              The best of Montreal lists for the most part don’t say much, except “what do the college students like?”. Generally not telling, I see the sort of thing that wins for food, and well..

              As for CMJ, getting nominated just means you got a lot of people to submit you. The real question is winning, which requires an actual voting process. And the winner is… I will let you fill in the rest.

              Remember, I said ” There are some good and well produced shows, but generally a lack of cohesion in the way the station is presented”

              There are some really interesting programs, and some good and varied music that you won’t hear on commercial radio. However, the on the air quality is very variable, and generally not as unified as you would like if you were trying to present the station as a product. it may work well for the student population it’s aimed at, and they certainly do know how to get out the vote, right?

              Waiting to see how you come p with to disagree with me again… I am sure you can find a way.

              Reply
              1. Fagstein Post author

                The best of Montreal lists for the most part don’t say much, except “what do the college students like?”.

                Since this is a college student radio station, that would seem pertinent, no?

                As for CMJ, getting nominated just means you got a lot of people to submit you. The real question is winning, which requires an actual voting process.

                CJLO has won CMJ awards too, including station of the year. I don’t really see a huge difference between being the top and being in the top five, but the station meets both criteria.

                ” There are some good and well produced shows, but generally a lack of cohesion in the way the station is presented”

                Is that such a bad thing? A student radio station is necessarily going to involve a lot of experimentation and change. The CRTC even expects that.

                However, the on the air quality is very variable, and generally not as unified as you would like if you were trying to present the station as a product.

                Why would you want to present the station as a product? What does that even mean? It’s not a bottle of ketchup.

              2. Dilbert

                “Why would you want to present the station as a product? What does that even mean? It’s not a bottle of ketchup.”

                Like it or not, radio is a product. It’s something that the public “buys into”. All of that branding, all of that image material, all of those bumpers, intros, extros, and station call clips are all about image, building a product.

                All radio stations are a product by nature. They are trying to get the public to buy into their style and attitude so they can in turn sell their attention to advertisers.

                So if you are going to use radio as a teaching tool for future broadcasters (as well as entertainment and information for the student body) then it’s pretty smart to include a solid understanding of branding and how radio is a product made for the public to enjoy and “consume”.

              3. Fagstein Post author

                So if you are going to use radio as a teaching tool for future broadcasters (as well as entertainment and information for the student body) then it’s pretty smart to include a solid understanding of branding and how radio is a product made for the public to enjoy and “consume”.

                I suppose, though that sounds like more of a teaching tool for marketing and management students than for broadcasters.

              4. Dilbert

                “I suppose, though that sounds like more of a teaching tool for marketing and management students than for broadcasters.”

                Ahh, so schools shouldn’t teach reality? They shouldn’t teach that broadcasting by it’s nature is “broad” and that the current day systems of broadcasting all over the world touch on areas such as marketing, image, public relations, market positioning, product creation, and working within the boundaries of format or goals?

                Yeah, let’s produce more ignorant graduates! *shakes head*

      2. mike007

        I’m not suggesting to become a private radio station. I’m saying stop draining money from students for some useless projects. If the radio cannot survive without students money…shut it down.

        Reply
        1. Brett Morris

          It has become an important station in Montreal as it serves the Caribbean population on Saturday afternoons into early evening. Sure it relies from some money from students but does get lots of donations during pledge time.

          I know to a campus station but maybe it could go in the direction of community station and be able to add more advertising. It does have shows that server more then just Concordia. It servers a larger Montreal population during certain shows that the multicultural stations in the city don’t serve.

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        2. Katie

          Just a point of clarification, CJLO received a majority student vote to obtain funding from the student body and then again to increase that funding . It is the students themselves that voted to fund the organization and to increase their contribution. As with all fee levy groups on campus, should a student choose to opt-out of the fees they can waive their right to participate in the group and get their fees returned to them during designated periods at the beginning of each semester in accordance to the organization’s opt-out policy.

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  4. B. Igic

    One of the possible uses for 107.9 in Montreal area is as a downtown filler for a more distant “rimshot” signal, operating 400 kHz from a Montreal station. I propose 96.3 as a potential frequency for the rimshot, because on this frequency there is almost nothing (only a few translators in the US), and the 96.5’s in Trois-Rivieres and Malone don’t cause much interference and interference to them can be easily avoided by using a directional transmitting antenna.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      One of the possible uses for 107.9 in Montreal area is as a downtown filler for a more distant “rimshot” signal, operating 400 kHz from a Montreal station.

      If it’s a rimshot station, then it’s a station serving another market. And if it’s a station serving another market, the CRTC isn’t going to let it set up a transmitter to serve downtown Montreal.

      Reply
      1. B. Igic

        CJKX 95.9 Oshawa has a low-power transmitter in downtown Toronto. How is it different from a hypothetical Montreal rimshot-repeater configuration?

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          CJKX 95.9 Oshawa has a low-power transmitter in downtown Toronto. How is it different from a hypothetical Montreal rimshot-repeater configuration?

          The CJKX repeater is on the same frequency as the main station, and the CRTC made it clear in its decision that it didn’t want to set a precedent with it. But I suppose if someone set up a rimshot station with a synchronous transmitter on the same frequency, that might make some sense. It wouldn’t be cheap, though.

          Reply

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