TTP Media’s CFNV 940 plans to change format as it seeks licence renewal

CFNV 940 logo

The process to launch TTP Media’s talk radio stations in Montreal has taken so long that they’re now in the process of getting their licences renewed after the end of their initial seven-year term. And the publication of the application for the first of those stations suggests that the company may be moving away from its proposed news-talk format and toward health and wellness, which sounds like the kind of thing that has been tried on other AM stations in the market.

CFNV 940 AM, the French station, was first granted a licence by the CRTC in 2011, and after several extensions it finally went on the air in November 2016, with promises to begin regular talk programming soon. CFQR 600 AM, the English station, was first awarded a licence in 2012 (after the company’s first plan to use 690 was quashed by the CRTC and the frequency given to TSN Radio instead), so its licence is good until Aug. 31, 2019.

Last year, the commission asked stations like CFNV whose licenses expire this August to file applications for renewal. That application was published (though you had to dig to find it) on June 28. Information in that application, as well as on-air announcements being made on air on CFNV, describe the station as being about health and wellness rather than news-talk or political debate, as TTP Media had originally planned.

Here’s a minute-long promo ad soliciting advertisers and saying CFNV “composera progressivement un contenu parlé axé sur la santé et la vie des gens”:

And a 25-second promo that suggests programming will be interactive in some way:

“Chef des opérations” Nicolas Tétrault, who filed the application on behalf of TTP Media, which is a partnership between himself, Paul Tietolman and Rajiv Pancholy, describes the new format in a response to a CRTC inquiry:

Notre objectif est cependant d’offrir une programmation de type radio-parlée de qualité. Nous avons investi des sommes considérables en analyses de marche? et nous avons ainsi choisi un format unique base? sur la santé, le bien-être et la vie des gens. C’est ce type de programmation que nous offrirons aux auditeurs au cours des prochains mois.

Le mois-dernier, nous avons déjà commencé à annoncer en ondes le contenu radiophonique à venir:

CFNV diffusera des émissions de qualité qui seront animées par des experts et qui s’adresseront tant aux jeunes qu’aux moins jeunes. Nous rendrons nos émissions radio interactives et nous aborderons tous les sujets liés à la santé et au bien-être des citoyens.

Voici quelques exemples de sujets traités lors de nos futures émissions :

  • La nutrition, son impact sur la vie et sur la santé des gens de tous les âges. Gérer sa diète en fonction de son mode de vie et de ses besoins.
  • Le diabète, l’asthme, les problèmes cardio-vasculaires. Les différents traitements et comment gérer les cas lourds.
  • Les troubles psychologiques et leur impact sur les relations humaines à la maison et au travail.
  • La consommation de d’alcool et de drogues et narcotiques. Les traitements et méthodes de gestion du problème. Que faire en cas de problème.
  • La gestion du stress et de la fatigue via les techniques de relaxation tels le yoga, le tai chi, le sport, les hobbys et autres remèdes / méthodes.
  • Comment optimiser notre joie de vivre, notre sexualité, notre qualité de vie: restaurants, spectacles, sports, vacances.

Par ailleurs, Nous offrirons aux auditeurs la possibilité d’interagir et de participer en direct aux émissions. L’interaction se fera non seulement via les téléphones intelligents mais aussi via les nombreux réseaux sociaux. Les auditeurs pourront aussi écouter leurs émissions ou chroniques préférées via des Podcasts qu’ils pourront partager à leur famille et à leurs amis.

Nous avons reçu des appuis très forts envers notre nouveau format radio et nous sommes confiants que CFNV 940 offrira un produit unique et que ce sera un grand succès partout dans le Grand-Montréal.

Pancholy, who has indicated that he is the spokesperson for the company, did not respond to a request for comment.

When I talked to him last year, Pancholy said the stations would offer spoken word programming but didn’t commit to it being news-talk, and saying market conditions have forced them to change their plans without saying what those new plans are.

Besides being not what TTP Media promised when it made such big waves in 2011, the health and wellness format sounds a lot like what has been tried on low-budget AM radio stations in the area, like CJLV 1570 in Laval, which rebranded itself Radio Mieux-Être. Often what we get are local health experts who broker programming as more of an infomercial for their private practice than an informative show for listeners. I can’t say that CFNV will be similar, but it will have to work hard to offer something more substantive than that.

There’s no indication of whether CFNV plans to hire any journalists or offer newscasts, or any names offered for on-air hosts. I’ve yet to hear of a single person who has been hired as an employee for either station. There’s also no explanation for why it has taken so long to offer regular programming, beyond the technical delays in getting the transmission site working on both frequencies.

According to the CRTC’s website, the station appears to be in compliance with its licence conditions. Though it promised a 100% local news-talk format and is currently broadcasting an automated music playlist, that promise did not lead to a condition of licence enforcing it. Instead, the only condition of licence for either station is that “the licensee shall adhere to the conditions set out in Conditions of licence for commercial AM and FM radio stations, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-62, 11 February 2009.” Those standard conditions include things like not affiliating with the CBC without permission, or adhering to codes of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, but do not include minimum levels of local, news or talk programming. (The decisions for both stations do note their “commitment” to offer 100% local programming, but that has less force than a condition of licence. The renewal application renews that commitment of 126 hours of local programming a week “by the end of 2018”, representing the regulated period of 6am to midnight seven days a week.)

Nevertheless, the CRTC isn’t completely dismissing the long delays. The commission notes that it never got confirmation from ISED (formerly Industry Canada) that it is satisfied with the technical setup of the transmitter, which would normally be a condition before issuing a broadcasting certificate. Tétrault responds that the department plans to issue a Final Proof of Performance by the end of July for both stations.

It’s still unclear to me whether either station is operating legally. The CRTC sets deadlines for radio stations to launch once their licence is approved, usually two years from the day of the approval, with a possibility of two one-year extensions. Both TTP Media stations got even more time than that, but began testing only days before the deadline. The commission says a station must be operational (i.e. completed testing) by the deadline, but was vague when I asked whether these stations met that requirement.

The commission also asked about the possibility of a short-term licence renewal in light of how little time the station has been on the air so far. Tétrault said the company would accept such a short-term renewal “as a sign of good faith.”

CFQR 600 logo

As for CFQR 600, there’s no mention of a change in format for that station, and I haven’t been hearing any announcements on the air there, so it’s unclear if it too will switch to a health and wellness format. So we’ll see. Tétrault said the plan is still to launch both stations simultaneously.

But people who are desperately waiting for a station that’s CJAD-but-better should probably stop holding their breath.

The CRTC is accepting comments on CFNV’s licence renewal application until July 30. You can file your comments here. Note that all information provided, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

16 thoughts on “TTP Media’s CFNV 940 plans to change format as it seeks licence renewal

  1. Marc

    Actually, Radio Mieux-Être stopped being carried on CJLV 1570 quite a while ago; they reverted back to music. While they did have some science-based wellness talk, they also had some very quacky folks on there talking about acupuncture, homeopathy and faith healing.

    If CFNV goes that route they’ll find themselves with an audience that could fit in a classroom. Quite a waste of a clear channel signal.

    Reply
  2. Steve Kowch

    Wonder if they will want the same format in English? That would be good news for Sol Boxenbaum who wants to do a show for gambling addicts and alcoholics. But bad news for English Monreal.

    Why not flip languages. Do that in French on 600 and use 940’s stronger clear channel frequency to compete with CJAD.

    Don’t know if the CRTC would agree with the language flip but it’s worth a try. Anglos need another talk station. Francophones already have a lot of choice of radio stations.

    TTP Media would be sending a strong message of support to Montreal’s English community by proposing a language flip and using 940 for an English news talk radio station.

    Although Bell would object because the CRTC denied its request to turn its English sports station into a French sports station. And they would want to protect CJAD.

    Make a deal with Bell.

    TTP Media could offer to air some sports programming including play by play to keep sports programming in English if BELL wants to flip their sports station to French.

    It could be a win win for Montreal’s English and French communities.

    One can only dream.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Why not flip languages. Do that in French on 600 and use 940’s stronger clear channel frequency to compete with CJAD.

      Flipping languages would require CRTC approval because it changes the type of station. That probably wouldn’t be too difficult if they make a good case for why. But the reason they chose to use the clear channel for the French station is that it reaches further into the rest of Quebec, which is more francophone. I don’t think there’s much upside to swapping frequencies.

      Anglos need another talk station. Francophones already have a lot of choice of radio stations.

      Sort of? In terms of talk radio (besides campus, community and ethnic stations), both have about the same selection: CBC (CBF 95.1 and CBME 88.5), a private news-talk (CHMP 98.5 and CJAD 800) and a private sports-talk (CKLX 91.9 and CKGM 690). And there are a lot more francophones than anglophones in the region.

      Although Bell would object because the CRTC denied its request to turn its English sports station into a French sports station.

      The CRTC didn’t deny Bell’s request to switch TSN from English to French. Bell said the request was contingent on the CRTC accepting Bell’s purchase of Astral Media (which would have put it over the ownership limit in English, hence the idea to switch). When the CRTC denied Bell’s first attempt to acquire Astral, the application became moot. When Bell tried again, it responded to the onslaught of angry TSN Radio fans by requesting an exception to the ownership limit that was granted, allowing Bell to own four English stations in the market.

      TTP Media could offer to air some sports programming including play by play to keep sports programming in English if BELL wants to flip their sports station to French.

      I highly doubt Bell wants to go through that process again. And I don’t think Bell wants to lose English radio rights to Canadiens games to a competitor. (Under the initial language swap plan, those games would have moved to CJAD.)

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  3. dilbert

    I think honestly that TTP (whichever of the partners is running the show at any given time, at least) are full of, umm, “good ideas”. But deep inside, they appear to be entirely frightened of their own shadows, and every time they plan a move, they get spooked by something and stop dead in their tracks.

    They only just barely managed to get each of the stations on air, and of course, gave up on a third. In each case, their on air was pretty much right at the end of whatever leash the CRTC was going to give them.

    In each case, we have been rewarded with automated stations.

    This “health” station idea is super marginal. I can’t for the life of me imagine people turning in all day and all night to hear the benefits of eating prunes for breakfast and exercising regularly. It’s something that might work for a regular once a week show, but “all health, all the time” doesn’t sound like a good sale – unless of course you are planning to turn the station into a series of infomercials with every snake oil salesperson buying 30 minutes a day to push product. That would be a huge waste of a clear channel.

    My thoughts are that this is just another pile of the stinky stuff, an idea that looks great on paper – and the CRTC loves paper. They get their renewal, and then they can fluff along for a couple of more years hoping one of the bigger players from outside of Quebec wants to buy their way into the market.

    The talk radio format had hope, in both languages. While they are solid market leaders in both English and French (800AM and 98.5 FM) the chance to pull listeners away from the other stations and end up with say a 2.5 or 3 rating (at least) should have been attractive enough to make a go of it. On the french side, that appears already lost.

    I think it’s more important that the original plans had the two stations sharing a lot of “behind the scenes” stuff, which would allow both of them to have, say, more news or more sports coverage because they don’t have to duplicate staff, especially in the back office. My guess is the anglo side is lost as well.

    I have said it before, and I will say it again: I think while they started with good intentions, it’s come down to more fluffing the CRTC along long enough to find buyers for the stations. Automated music meets the requirements of their licenses (at this point) and missing commitments to local programming appears to be something the CRTC doesn’t get too upset about.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      They get their renewal, and then they can fluff along for a couple of more years hoping one of the bigger players from outside of Quebec wants to buy their way into the market.

      Who, though? The only recent high-profile purchase of an AM radio station that wasn’t part of a larger group acquisition was CISL in Vancouver, which Rogers turned into a Sportsnet station. Rogers had half-heartedly expressed an interest in buying CKGM if Bell was forced to sell it, but it’s highly unlikely it would want to buy a new AM talk station in the city (much less a French one) when it has no synergies here.

      Licence trafficking, aside from being forbidden by the CRTC, just doesn’t make sense as a business model.

      Reply
      1. dilbert

        I think that this group, like every other one, starts with good intentions. But all things considered, it looks pretty doubtful that they will ever make these stations into anything major – or even minor. Trying formats that you only find on those “smaller power stations” doesn’t seem to be a good end run.

        Buyers? Well, Stingray digital comes to mind fairly quickly. They are in line to buy Newcap, and Quebec is one of the provinces where Newcap holds no stations. They are based in Montreal as well While talk isn’t their forte, it might at least get them in the game locally.

        There are plenty of other companies who are in radio but not in Quebec at all. I do agree that many of them might not want to start a franco station, but then again, they may want to pair up with a local company to each purchase a station and use a common transmitter for the moment. There is nothing (outside of purely technical issues) that says the stations must be sold together.

        Unless you see some movement on actually putting real (non-automated) content on the stations, you can assume that they are being quiet shopped around.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Buyers? Well, Stingray digital comes to mind fairly quickly. They are in line to buy Newcap, and Quebec is one of the provinces where Newcap holds no stations. They are based in Montreal as well While talk isn’t their forte, it might at least get them in the game locally.

          Newcap has no stations in Montreal, no French stations, and only two of its 70+ stations are talk. Buying a money-losing AM station in Montreal with no audience makes no sense for them, regardless of whether Stingray purchases the company.

          Unless you see some movement on actually putting real (non-automated) content on the stations, you can assume that they are being quiet shopped around.

          I don’t accept that those are the only two options.

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          1. dilbert

            Are the stations really “money losing” or just “essentially inactive, but you still have to pay the rent”? With almost any functional format on these stations, they wouldn’t be black holes. The french sport station seems good with what, 2% market share?

            Newcap has no stations in Quebec. Stingray is based in Quebec and already has all of the tools needed to program stations both in French and English. 507 Million to buy Newcap, it’s not unreasonable they have a some spare change in the sofa cushions to buy out TTP – especially if your assertion of money losing is correct! Why would TTP want to keep losing money? A $1 and assume leases price seems pretty reasonable, all considered!

            What other options do you see? They can continue in their “automated” form for the foreseeable future, but at some point the CRTC will come down on them, especially if others express interest in opening stations in Montreal.

            I would really like to hear where you think this is all going, because so far they appear to be doing nothing but donuts in the end of a dark alley.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Are the stations really “money losing” or just “essentially inactive, but you still have to pay the rent”? With almost any functional format on these stations, they wouldn’t be black holes. The french sport station seems good with what, 2% market share?

              The stations have transmitter-related expenses (plus whatever they’re paying SOCAN for music rights) and virtually no revenue. And whether they wouldn’t be “black holes” depends on how you define “functional”. The French sports station at 91.9 has a better market share than it used to, but I don’t know if it’s making money.

              507 Million to buy Newcap, it’s not unreasonable they have a some spare change in the sofa cushions to buy out TTP

              Sure. And they could buy solid gold toilets as well, but why would they? Besides, TTP clearly believes in creating a new type of radio station. I don’t see them giving up so quickly.

              What other options do you see? They can continue in their “automated” form for the foreseeable future, but at some point the CRTC will come down on them, especially if others express interest in opening stations in Montreal.

              Whether the CRTC “comes down” on the station depends entirely on whether it respects its licence conditions and has nothing to do with whether other people are interested in opening new stations (and there are other frequencies available for that). And the CRTC has determined provisionally that CFNV has complied with its licence conditions.

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  4. Mediaman

    Oh my goodness, a health and wellness station that would be very bad news and the continuation of the 800 monopoly..
    As for Sol Boxenbaum, that’s enough to drive anybody to Coast to Coast AM even if they don’t believe in conspiracy theories and life on other planets.

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  5. awr

    I am going to throw this out there. Bell, buy 940 and move CJAD there. Yes it is a heritage station. Well improve it. When I went through Montreal a year ago, I found 800 had a very restrictive signal [remember it use to have to protect Quebec City]. 600, 940, 980 and even 1570 got out better than 800 did. One could argue that the English listeners are only based in Montreal, but that only may be because outside of Montreal, they can’t hear any other English stations other than CBC!

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      CJAD has maintained in the past that the brand value of the 800 frequency outweighs potential technical advantages of moving to a clear channel. Besides, I don’t think TTP Media would want to sell to Bell.

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    2. Marc

      980 in Montreal (CKGM/CHTX) used to have to protect Quebec City as well. 1570 and 600 are beamed north-east; right up the 20. At night, 600 barely makes it to Hudson.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    What a waste of two frequencies with CFQR-AM 600, and CFNV-AM 940. And electricity.

    If they where anywhere at all interested in even trying to get the stations going, they could have just added News Headlines (5 min. Headlines, Weather, traffic) at the top of the hour, and then completed the rest of the hour with their current music.

    Now they want to turn CFNV-AM 940, to a Health and Wellness station. What? You can’t handle putting up a 5 min news headlines at the top of the hour, and you’re going to handle a speciality Health and Wellness channel. Really!

    As for selling the AM stations, nobody in their right mind would buy a station on that terrible AM band. HD Radio can turn a analog AM signal to a quality FM level signal on AM. But, most stations are concentrating their HD Radio on the FM Band.

    Some stations are placing their Analog AM stations on FM HD Radio for Multicasting. Much in the same way Bell Media has done with CITE-FM 107.3 placing CJAD on HD2, and CKGM 690 on HD3.

    They have done the same thing with one of their Ottawa stations. CJMJ-FM 100.3, placing CFRA on HD2, and TSN 1200 on HD3.

    Back to TTP, I doubt we’ll ever see anything come of these two stations other than their current state of playing music.

    CJAD-AM 800 (107.3FM-HD2), is safe from competition. Too bad their content sucks. And the rest of us of no choice but to put up with the crappy content. At least in English.

    Reply

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