Despite protestations that the FM band is full in Montreal and every last available frequency has been taken, more attempts to squeeze in new stations keep appearing.
The latest is an application by La Voix de St-Lo, an online radio station operated by the Centre communautaire Bon Courage de Place Benoit in St-Laurent. It proposes a French-language community radio station at 90.7 FM, with a 50-watt transmitter from right next to the community centre.
The station appears to have picked the callsign CHIL-FM, though it’s unclear if they will be able to use that if the application is approved.
At the proposed parameters, the low-power station appears not to cause appreciable interference to existing stations, but would accept a great deal of interference from them, particularly CBOF-FM (ICI Première) in Ottawa, which is on the same frequency, and CKUT-FM 90.3, which is two steps over in frequency but whose transmitter is very close.
The theoretical projection shows that the station would reach the eastern half of the St-Laurent borough and most of the Town of Mount Royal, but very little beyond that.
The station’s proposed programming would be mainly one- and two-hour programs, 94% in French but a bit of English, Spanish and Arabic.
Music would take up a large part of the programming, but the application says that it would have 42.7% spoken word content, including 75 minutes a week of news.
The mandate, the application reads, is as follows:
Promouvoir la participation et l’inclusion sociale des familles laurentiennes notamment de Place Benoît et ses environs, par la mise en place, par l’animation et la diffusion d’une radio en FM et sur le web, une tribune idéale pour s’informer -un des plus grands défis de la communauté-, communiquer, aborder les problématiques, les sujets de société relatifs aux préoccupations individuelles et collectives;
Diffuser des émissions radiophoniques destinées aux citoyens de Saint-Laurent et des environs, cela dans le but de leur permettre de mieux saisir les enjeux liés à leurs conditions de vie, aux problèmes qu’ils vivent ainsi que leur propre épanouissement;
Permettre aux citoyens, particulièrement ceux qui sont défavorisés par rapport aux autres médias d’information, de s’exprimer sur les ondes, en leur donnant une place de choix, comme acteurs principaux de leur quotidien et de leur futur ;
Étudier, promouvoir, protéger et développer les intérêts culturels et sociaux des membres de la communauté ;
Favoriser le rapprochement interculturel et le dialogue, dans le but d’une compréhension mutuelle ;
Favoriser chez les citoyens le développement de leurs compétences personnelles, sociales, leur créativité et leur participation au développement local.
Financial projections for the station show an estimated budget around $100,000 annually. Most of its revenue would come from government and community financing, with advertising revenue climbing from $4,000 to $9,500 a year. Half its budget would go into administration, which would be barely enough to hire one full-time employee.
It predicts a market share rising from 7% to 20% after seven years, which is unrealistic, but it doesn’t look like their ad revenue projections are based on that.
The CRTC has scheduled a hearing March 22 to consider the application. Comments are being accepted until Feb. 19, and can be filed here. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.
I often have thought that it would be good for there to be 1 or 2 frequencies specifically for this sort of thing. Basically, if you want to start a lower power station, you have basic rules. Your antenna cannot be more than X meters above terrain, and you cannot have more than 50 watts. The only other issue would be that you cannot be within a certain distance of existing stations on the same frequency. There would be no guarantee of non interference, only that every station would have to abide by the same technical specifications, use similar omni directional antennas, and so on.
So as an example, the Montreal area might support a station from north, south, east, and west, over two frequencies, giving 8 potential community stations in the area. It would also make it easier to add stations in rural areas (basically, if one of the two frequencies are open, you can apply for it and get to to work.
The only restriction? The licenses would have to be held by stand alone companies with individual owners who do not own any other radio or television stations. No media moguls, no massing of stations to create a network, nothing like that, All reserved for individual, community oriented radio stations, first come first serve on the licences.
So rather than having to go through a huge technical process to create these stations, which is likely one of the more expensive parts of getting started, they could just figure it out on a map (how far to other transmitters) and submit their application directly.
The CRTC and industry canada seem intent on making this as difficult as possible.
The CRTC has exempted some types of low-power stations from licensing, such as pre-recorded traffic and weather information stations, information stations in parks, emergency information stations, native stations in remote areas, and temporary special event stations.
A community station has licence requirements, and any station near a big city is going to have to deal with a complex technical approval process. I don’t know if there’s really a way around that without there being chaos on the broadcast bands. (And that’s an Industry Canada requirement, not so much a CRTC one.)
I think you avoid choas by limiting the choice to a couple of frequencies, and you create very basic discussions of interference and such. By requiring the transmitters to be a certain distance apart, and not having more than a certain antenna height over the ground, you create mostly circular transmission patterns. Where they overlap (and there will be some) would be consider sort of “as is, where is”. Essentially, as long as the transmitters are far enough apart, whatever interference is created would not by part of the discussion.
By nominating a couple of frequencies across the country, they would also make it easier to deal adjacent channel interference. Make it a mandate of adjacent channel users not to interfere with the community channel space, and the problem sort of resolves itself.
Anyway, it’s a no workable idea because of the horrible patchwork of overlapping stations that has been created over the years, shoehorning them in left and right and making it sort of work out.
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