CRTC gives TTP Media until June 30 to launch English radio station at 600 AM

For the fourth time in as many years, a group owned by a trio of Montreal businessmen has appealed to the CRTC for an extension on their deadline to launch a new AM radio station, claiming that unforeseen circumstances have caused delays but assuring the commission that they’ve been resolved and the station is months away from launch.

TTP Media’s request for an extension for 600 AM

On Wednesday, the CRTC announced that it will grant an extension, until June 30, 2017, to 7954689 Canada Inc. (TTP Media) to launch its English talk radio station at 600 AM, first authorized in 2012.

As it did with the 940 AM station a year ago, the extension was granted despite the previous extension being declared “final” by the commission. Though the previous extensions, despite being requested for only a few months, were given for a full year, this one is limited to June 30, after the group said it should have the station on air by June.

This is the first official communication from the otherwise very quiet group for a year now, so we have some information on what is causing the delays, and what their short-term plans are.

As in previous requests, Managing Partner Nicolas Tétrault blames “the consolidation in the commercial broadcasting business in Montreal,” a reference to the Bell acquisition of Astral Media that was finalized in 2013 (and did not result in any major programming changes to existing stations in the market). But here he indicates that the banks that are loaning them tens of millions of dollars needed some reassuring on the group’s business plan. (This may be, at least in part, why they abandoned plans for a third station at 850 AM, though that station is not mentioned at all in the application.)

The bigger issue has related to the transmitter itself. The group finally came to an agreement with Cogeco Media to buy all the assets of the former CINW 940 and CINF 690 transmitter site in Kahnawake, and signed a new lease with the land owner, Frances Montour. The details of the lease are redacted, but it appears to go until 2022, with clauses for renewal beyond that.

It didn’t take long after the agreements were signed in late September and early October for the 940 transmitter to be brought back to life, at first to do on-site testing, antenna tuning and impedance matching, and later full on-air testing.

The station, CFNV 940 AM, has legally launched, but a de facto launch is expected early in 2017, according to its Twitter account. In the meantime, it’s running music — currently all-Christmas music — interspersed with recorded messages every 15 minutes:

You’ll notice the station refers to itself as “La superstation”. Time will tell if it lives up to that tagline.

More work needed for 600

For the English station at 600, there’s more work needed than turning the switch back on and transmitting again. The towers that were set to work at 690 have to be re-tuned for 600, and the transmitter itself needs to be sent to the factory to be reset to the new frequency. On top of it all, parts for AM transmitters aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, and nowadays must be custom made, which causes more delays.

From Patrice Lemée, engineer at Commspec:

Concernant la station AM 600KHz, l’envergure des travaux techniques est beaucoup plus complexe. Celle-ci sise e?galement dans les anciennes infrastructures de Cogeco Me?dia Inc. ope?rant a? la fre?quence 690KHz. Par contre, un changement de fre?quence est requis afin de diffuser a? la fre?quence 600KHz. Ces changements touchent l’essence me?me du site de diffusion. L’e?metteur doit e?tre partiellement re?-expe?die? a? l’usine afin d’e?tre re-synthonise? a? la nouvelle fre?quence. Le syste?me de phasage doit comple?tement e?tre redessine? afin de diffuser a? la nouvelle fre?quence d’ope?ration. De plus, ces deux stations (600 & 940) coexistent sur le me?me site de diffusion. Ce qui entraine des complexite?s supple?mentaires quant a? la conception du syste?me.

Afin de proce?der aux diffe?rentes modifications du syste?me de diffusion de la station AM 600Khz, nous avons contacte? diffe?rents manufacturiers. Base? sur les re?ponses des soumissions obtenues, il semblerait que certains manufacturiers ont de la difficulte? a? obtenir les pie?ces requises pour effectuer la conversion dans les de?lais prescrits.

Je vous confirme cependant que les travaux sont de?ja? entame?s et que la conception est pratiquement termine?e. Par contre, la rarete? des pie?ces d’e?quipement AM est une re?alite? de nos jours. Les pie?ces sont maintenant faites sur demande et les de?lais de livraison sont beaucoup plus longs que par le passe?. Il est assez fre?quent de rencontrer des de?lais de livraison de 12 a? 16 semaines.

Suite aux informations cite?es pre?ce?demment, nous estimons qu’il sera possible d’effectuer les modifications du syste?me de diffusion du 600KHz seulement au printemps 2017. Nous demandons donc une extension de la date de mise en service jusqu’au 30 juin 2017.

The application makes no mention of administrative or on-air aspects of either stations, including launch dates, on-air talent or studio location. So we’ll just have to continue to wait.

9 thoughts on “CRTC gives TTP Media until June 30 to launch English radio station at 600 AM

  1. dilbert

    The CRTC has very little to lose by granting an extension. For the most part few (if any) groups are interested in operating in the AM band anymore, so there is no real huge lineup behind these guys to snap up the license and do something with it. If TTP happen to get things done in time and put a station on the air, it would be a big deal for the CRTC. Big AM Launches are pretty much a thing of the past these days.

    The CRTC has also set the bar extremely low (scant mm off the floor) when it comes to the definition of “launched”. The current 940 is launched pretty much as I suggested, a computer in a room somewhere playing fully automated whatever. Even that happened pretty solidly after the deadline, but the CRTC doesn’t seem to care. Getting station actually on the air on AM seems so rare that they are willing to toss the rule book out the window and smile while doing it.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Getting station actually on the air on AM seems so rare that they are willing to toss the rule book out the window and smile while doing it.

      There aren’t any rules to toss out the window in this case. The standard conditions of licence for commercial AM radio stations don’t have a minimum requirement for local programming, nor did the commission impose one as a condition of licence for that station, though the decision notes a “commitment” to 100% local programming. Assuming TTP Media meets that commitment when it unofficially launches and through the rest of its (now much shorter) licence term, it probably won’t be an issue at renewal.

      Reply
      1. dilbert

        The basic rules of “you must be on the air by this date or lose the license” has been tossed out… TTP seem to be the masters of extensions more than anything, and considering they let one license lapse, it seems pretty surprising that the commission would continue to grant them extension after extension on the other ones.

        If there were no rules to toss out, anyone could just set up an AM transmitter and blast away.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If there were no rules to toss out, anyone could just set up an AM transmitter and blast away.

          That’s pretty much the case now. FM stations have stricter conditions of licence, but for a commercial AM station you can do just about anything you want programming-wise.

          Reply
    1. Anonymous

      The equipment at the CFNV site is a Nautel solid state transmitter and not some crusty old equipment that you allege.

      Reply
  2. C

    I hope the French station will not be like the late 91,9 fm. We want a real alternative radio. Because 98,5 fm is very boring and soft.

    Reply

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