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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They’re running commercials now. We heard some this afternoon.
Sounds like they want to invest in crusty, old equipment. They could acquire something new, solid-state, made in Canada: http://www.nautel.com/solutions/am-nx-series-25-50kw/
The equipment at the CFNV site is a Nautel solid state transmitter and not some crusty old equipment that you allege.
Put a name behind your comment if you want to be taken seriously.
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.
Any news on this?
What’s going on on this station we only listen to music, no talk radio!!!!!
Well we are like close here to launch date or some sort of on air testing by June 30!
Still any news of anything, studio location, poaching of personalities, hiring somebody to run 940?
A real mystery or maybe keeping the competition guessing and on their feet..??
Media Man : I hope, because there is an ad on their website that seems to say that will be an Talk-radio (opinion). But what personality could face Paul Arcand? I hope they will hire young radio host. Because Paul Arcand became very very soft.
Prediction: 600 will sign-on the week prior to June 30 with English-language 80s-90s music and will remain that way for as long as needed until they have their ducks in a row, if ever.
I think that by “ducks in a row” it’s more like “until a buyer is found”. I think TTP is hoping that one of the major players that isn’t in Montreal may come along and want to get in the easy way. They will have two built stations ready to go with no legacy programming.
That would be a pretty stupid business model. And the CRTC likely wouldn’t accept such a sale since it would go against its licence trafficking policy.
According to Industry Canada, the station now has a call sign: CFQR (the former call letters, from 1966 to 2011, for 92.5, now CKBE-FM).
Nice..although I was hoping they could get the old CFCF calls.
CFCF is not an available callsign because it’s used by the television station. Other former AM station calls are also being used:
– CIQC is used by an FM radio station in B.C.
– CKVL is used by a community station in LaSalle
– CJMS is used by an AM station in St-Constant
CINW and CINF are still available, though.
I thought CFCF-DT and CFCF were separate calls. As would CFCF-FM (which CFQR originally was).
CFCF 600 broke off from CFCF-12 in the late 80’s. It became CIQC in fall 1991.
So that means a radio station can’t use a call sign if a tv station has it in Canada? I thought they could, but I guess I was wrong. I’m not sure they’d want the CINW or CINF calls…although it would have been interesting to see that used for 940 again.
Generally, yes. There are exceptions, mainly grandfathered cases where the two stations once had common ownership.
Interesting turn of events with the call sign news. Does this mean testing to start soon and then on air like 940 is doing now.
But how soon after will the news talk programming start, staff hiring and /or poaching of big names, studio location..
Right now it’s a laptop out of a back office..