Category Archives: Radio

Quebec City still isn’t ready for its first English-language commercial radio station, CRTC finds

Evanov Radio’s controversial plan to launch Quebec City’s first English-language commercial radio station will have to wait some more after being denied again by the CRTC.

In a decision released Thursday, the commission said the Quebec City radio market “cannot sustain an additional radio station at this time” and that the two applications for new stations — the other by Gilles Lapointe and Nelson Sergerie is for a French station — would be returned.

Evanov had previously tried a decade ago to convince the CRTC to move forward with an English music station in the provincial capital, but the commission denied its application in 2010, in a controversial decision that included a dissenting opinion.

The application is controversial because the other stations in the market argue that Quebec City’s English-language population is far too small to sustain a commercial radio station, so Evanov would instead target the francophone population. By being an English station, it would not be subject to the 65% French-language music rule, which would give it an unfair competitive advantage by allowing it to play more American and U.K. hit songs that are very popular among francophone audiences.

Evanov, who wants to launch a Jewel brand station in Quebec City, argues it wants to serve the anglophone community as well as the anglophone tourist market (though Quebec City already has an English tourist information station), and that it has experience in running radio stations in small markets.

The 2010 decision includes a detailed analysis of the anglophone market in Quebec City. But today’s decision only analyzes the market conditions overall, without commenting specifically on the appropriateness of an English radio station in Quebec.

The current applications for Quebec City actually date from 2016, but were put on hold when the CRTC ran low on French-speaking commissioners.

Under CRTC rules, it won’t consider new applications for Quebec City for the next two years. In December 2020, they can try again.

The news was better in neighbouring communities. In Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce, an application by Attraction Radio for a second music station there will go ahead. And in Portneuf, which is technically still the home of CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9), the commission will proceed with an application by Michel Lambert. Both raised concerns from the commercial broadcasters in Quebec City for fear that they might eventually target the Quebec City market. The Beauce application was also opposed by Groupe Radio Simard, which owns stations in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce.

The applications themselves haven’t yet been published, but should be soon. a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20 (to hear an application for Leclerc Communication to buy CHOI Radio X and 91,9 Sports from RNC Media), but these items will not require any oral presentations.

How The Beat beat Virgin (and other trends of Montreal radio ratings)

Numeris released its quarterly metered radio ratings today. There aren’t a lot of surprises, because it’s mostly the same numbers as the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that.

So instead of just excitedly reposting the top-line numbers or fetching the various spins by the broadcasters that make everyone look like they had the best quarter, I thought I’d take a look at some historical data and see how the stations are trending over time.

I did this exercise for Canada’s five metered markets for Cartt.ca after the last ratings book. If you’re a subscriber you can read them there: VancouverEdmonton and Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

In this post, I’ll go into some more detail about the Montreal numbers, with charts!

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CRTC decision clears way for Kanesatake station to launch rebuild plan

CKHQ-FM Kanesatake in 2014.

There was a sigh of relief in Kanesatake on Monday that relations between the federal government and the Mohawk reserve wouldn’t be strained over a radio frequency coordination issue.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released a decision denying a licence application for a new Christian music radio station in Lachute. The application by LS Telecom proposed a 300-watt station at 101.7 MHz.

That same frequency is used by CKHQ-FM (Kanesatake United Voices Radio), a low-power (27W) community station serving the reserve about 25 kilometres away. And though the applicant’s engineers said (and the CRTC agreed) that the new station could co-exist with this existing one, because CKHQ is low-power it does not have a right to its frequency and could be forced to find a new one if a licensed station would receive interference. Because of Kanesatake’s proximity to Montreal, there aren’t other frequencies available that would be nearly as good, even for such a low-power station.

The Lachute station would also have limited CKHQ’s ability to seek an increase in power (though the CRTC says it “would not affect the ability of CKHQ-FM to serve its principal market” and “would not prevent CKHQ-FM from expanding to a regular power station”).

The Lachute application was denied, not because of concerns about CKHQ, but because of issues with the application itself. The commission seemed to think it was a bad application in general, that LS Telecom “did not provide a quality application and did not demonstrate an understanding of the regulations and policies for commercial radio and religious broadcasting.” But it particularly showed concern with the complete lack of news programming proposed, even after the CRTC reminded them that such a thing is expected of commercial FM radio stations, religious or not.

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Leslie Roberts leaving CJAD after two years

Leslie Roberts, who has been hosting the 9-to-noon show on CJAD 800 for two years, announced on Tuesday morning he will be stepping down from the job at the end of the month. His last show is Dec. 21.

Roberts told Andrew Carter he plans to do some travelling, and has accepted a position with travel website TravelToWellness.com, where he says he’s also been asked to launch a video channel, which he jokingly described as “Travel Travel 2.0” in reference to the former CFCF-12 show he contributed to back in the day.

He said his CJAD contract was expiring but he was asked to stay on a bit longer, and he is in talks with station management to continue to contribute in some capacity, perhaps as a regular panelist or analyst.

Roberts, whose father worked at CJAD, began his career in Montreal, mainly at CFCF, until he was hired first by Global Quebec then by Global Toronto, where he anchored its newscast for 14 years. Roberts resigned from the anchor chair at Global Toronto in 2015 after a Toronto Star investigation found that he owned a PR firm and his clients were appearing on his show without any disclosure.

He was brought in to CJAD in November 2016 to fill the hole left by Tommy Schnurmacher. At the same time, the station fired afternoon host Barry Morgan and upgraded Natasha Hall to his former slot.

Remembering Randy Tieman

Randy Tieman with the Alouettes’ Paul Lambert at the Alouettes’ Grey Cup victory celebration in 2009.

I don’t have that much original to say about Randy Tieman, who died unexpectedly at the age of 64. For that matter, neither do most of his colleagues.

It’s not because he was unliked, or kept to himself, or hid his private life. The exact opposite, in fact. It’s because with Tieman, what you saw was what you got. He was a fun guy who loved to have fun, was passionate about sports (particularly baseball and football), and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.

Last year, when he was fired from his job as sports anchor at CTV Montreal, he took the news in stride. He didn’t get angry at his former employer. Instead, he worried about his former colleagues who were also let go, and weren’t as ready as he was to start retirement.

That’s just the kind of guy he was. So when you see tweets and Facebook posts and it seems like they’re all saying the same thing, that’s why. He wasn’t an act for the camera, he was really like that in person.

It’s very sad that he didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy his retirement. It’s also unfortunate that we’ll never get to see what he looked like without that moustache. A few years ago I thought it might make a good charity fundraiser to auction off the rights to shave it.

Mostly, I guess, because his upper lip was the only thing he kept hidden.

A service was held Friday, Nov. 23 at 4pm at Munro & Morris Funeral Homes Ltd., 46 Oak St., Lancaster, Ont.

UPDATE (Nov. 20): Stu Cowan writes about Tieman in a Gazette column. And the Canadiens paid tribute during a commercial break during the first period of Monday’s game at the Bell Centre.

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Buyer of 91,9 Sports wants to drop its all-sports format and turn it into a WKND music station

Leclerc Communication warned its staff and even issued a press release to soften the blow of the posting of the CRTC application today, but it still comes as a disappointment to many Montreal francophone sports fans that it is seeking to drop the sports talk format of 91,9 Sports (CKLX-FM) and replace it with the pop music format of its existing WKND station in Quebec City (coincidentally on the same frequency).

The other station being acquired from RNC Media, Quebec City’s CHOI Radio X, will keep its format.

In the applications posted Friday, which will be considered at a hearing in Quebec City on Feb. 20, Leclerc says the station hasn’t been profitable “for many years” and hopes of it eventually becoming so are “slim.”

Leclerc says “no other francophone broadcaster is offering a mix of alternative, triple-A and hot AC” (and a bit of new country) that WKND would bring. (The format is particularly popular among women 25-54, according to Numeris data.) It says of the top 25 anglophone songs played on WKND, 11 are not found on Montreal’s francophone stations, and of the top 25 francophone songs, 9 can’t be found on commercial radio in the metropolis.

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Quebecor’s QUB Radio could change the business, but it’s technically incomplete

If you’ve been watching TVA or LCN (Oct. 4, Oct. 6, Oct. 13Oct. 14, Oct. 15) or reading the Journal de Montréal (Oct. 4, Oct. 5, Oct. 6, Oct. 10, Oct. 14Oct. 15, plus this and this) you’ve been bombarded with news about QUB Radio, Quebecor’s new online radio station. It launched on Monday, providing live talk programming from 6am to 5pm on weekdays and filling the rest of the schedule with repeats, podcasts and rebroadcasts of TVA/LCN news programming.

On one hand, this kind of major effort from a large media company could be what pushes mainstream audiences into online radio. On the other hand, the QUB platform is missing basic features that make it unnecessarily frustrating to consume.

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CRTC approves Cogeco acquisition of 10 RNC Media stations

The CRTC has approved the $18.5-million acquisition of 10 RNC Media radio stations by Cogeco, representing two thirds of RNC’s network of stations.

Affected stations are:

  • Planète 104.5 in Alma
  • Planète 93.5 in Chibougamau
  • Planète 99.5 in Roberval
  • Planète 100.3 in Dolbeau-Mistassini
  • Radio X 95.7 in Saguenay (repeater at 96.3 Alma)
  • Capitale Rock 104.3 in Val-d’Or
  • Capitale Rock 102.1 in La Sarre (repeater at 95.7 Rouyn-Noranda)
  • WOW 96.5 in Rouyn-Noranda (repeaters at 103.5 Val d’Or and 103.9 La Sarre)
  • Pop 104.9 in Lachute
  • Pop 102.1 in Hawkesbury

Of the remaining stations, two are being sold to Leclerc Communication:

  • CKLX-FM (91,9 Sports) in Montreal
  • CHOI-FM (Radio X) in Quebec City

The remaining three are presumably on the market with no sale announced yet (but I’m told there are talks with at least one potential buyer):

  • CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) in Donnacona (serving Quebec City, repeater at 105.5 Lotbinière)
  • CFTX-FM (Pop 96.5) In Gatineau (repeater at 107.5 Buckingham)
  • CHLX-FM (Wow 97.1) in Gatineau

The acquisitions bring Cogeco’s radio network from 13 to 23 stations, and means Cogeco’s first expansion into the Saguenay and Abitibi regions. Of population centres over 15,000, the only ones that wouldn’t be within 100 kilometres of a Cogeco transmitter will be Rimouski and Sept-Îles.

A map of Quebec’s major commercial radio networks: Cogeco Media (purple), RNC Media (red, with approved sales in reddish purple), Bell Media (blue), Attraction Radio (black) and Groupe Radio Simard (gold). Retransmitters are in a lighter colour.

Notable aspects of this transaction:

  • Cogeco plans no immediate change to the “vocation” of the radio stations, which will remain local.
  • Cogeco plans to introduce local newscasts to the Lachute station. For other stations, the benefits come mainly through access to the infrastructure of Cogeco Nouvelles.
  • The commission has accepted Cogeco’s proposed tangible benefits of $1,184,217, based on a total transaction value of $19,736,958. The breakdown uses the standard formula for radio, with:
    • $592,109 (3%) to Radio Starmaker Fund or Fonds Radiostar
    • $296,054 (1.5%) to FACTOR or Musicaction
    • $98,684 (0.5%) to the Community Radio Fund of Canada
    • $197,370 (1%) to discretionary initiatives
  • The nature of the discretionary initiatives isn’t specified, but Cogeco said it would include six-week paid internships at its radio stations. The commission pushed back on this (tangible benefits are not allowed to be self-serving), and Cogeco responded by saying it would use $10,000 a year for bursaries instead. The rest of the discretionary money would go to local initiatives, broken down as follows:
    • $10,000 a year in the Saguenay region
    • $5,000 a year in the Abitibi region
    • $3,196 a year in the Lachute-Hawkesbury region
  • The contract includes a 36-month service contract for RNC Media to continue providing local news, office space, outdoor advertising, transmitters and technical support for the stations in the Abitibi region after the deal closes. Following that, Cogeco will rent space for three transmitters at two sites from RNC for $5,000 a year each for 10 years (indexed to the consumer price index), and two transmitters at a third site for five-year renewable leases for a price to be negotiated.
  • The radio stations (bought by Cogeco) and TV stations (retained by RNC Media) in the Abitibi region will continue to cross-promote for a period of 24 months after the acquisition. The exact value of these ads is confidential, but will be the same for both sides. A similar ad exchange deal is in place for Cogeco’s CKOF-FM (104,7) and RNC Media’s TV stations in Gatineau, even though those stations aren’t part of this transaction.
  • Cogeco acquires the WOW brand (used by CHOA-FM in Val-d’Or) and gives RNC Media a licence to continue to use the brand for its Gatineau station. Cogeco also acquires the Planète and Capitale Rock trademarks.
  • RNC Media holds on to the POP brand (used by CFTX-FM in Gatineau and CHXX-FM in Donnacona) but gives Cogeco licence to use it for the Rouyn-Noranda station.
  • RNC also keeps the Radio X brand, which is used by CKYK-FM in Saguenay. Cogeco can use the KYK logo, but without any mention of Radio X. There does not appear to be transition allowance here, which means it would have to change the branding as soon as the deal closes.
  • Cogeco says of the 220 on-air employees it will have if the transaction is approved, 92 (42%) are women, 4 (2%) people with disabilities, 2 (1%) visible minorities and 1 (0.5%) Indigenous person. (In the application, Cogeco gets the math wrong by two decimal places on the last three percentages there, making it look even worse.)
  • About 55 employees will move with the stations — 10 in Abitibi, 44 in Saguenay and one in Lachute. Three of those employees are currently on leave.
  • The deal will close on the first of the month after CRTC approval. This is listed as the only remaining condition for closing.
  • The deal includes a non-compete agreement for Val d’Or, La Sarre, Rouyn-Noranda, Lachute, Hawkesbury, Amos, Dolbeau, Roberval, Alma, Chibougamau and Saguenay, for a confidential period.

RNC Media agrees to sell CHOI Radio X and 91,9 Sports

In August, as RNC Media announced the sale of 10 of its 15 radio stations in Quebec to Cogeco, the chair of its board said the remaining stations were “not on the market.”

Four months later, two of those stations — the most prominent, arguably — have been sold.

CHOI Radio X, the most famous of the Quebec City populist talk radio stations, as well as Montreal’s 91.9 Sports, are being sold to Leclerc Communication, for a price that hasn’t been disclosed.

If both transactions — which require CRTC approval — go through, RNC Media would be left with three stations that don’t form much of a network anymore:

  • CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) in Donnacona (serving Quebec City, repeater at 105.5 Lotbinière)
  • CFTX-FM (Pop 96.5) In Gatineau (repeater at 107.5 Buckingham)
  • CHLX-FM (Wow 97.1) in Gatineau

You would have to think those are also for sale for the right bidder.

The Leclerc transaction would face a major hurdle at the CRTC: Its common ownership policy says a single owner can have no more than two radio stations in the same market in the same language on the same band. Leclerc already owns WKND 91,9 (CJEC-FM) and BLVD 102,1 (CFEL-FM), so adding Radio X would put them over this limit. RNC’s press release says an exception will be requested.

Exceptions have been made (notably for Cogeco to allow it to own Rythme FM, CKOI and 98.5 in Montreal), but a strong case — and some serious commitments — would have to be made to get the CRTC to accept. Cogeco committed to establishing a news network across its stations to be able to keep 98.5.

And it’s not like CHOI has demonstrated a great deal of respect for the broadcasting system lately. There will also be concerns that BLVD, which got into the talk business with shows by Nathalie Normandeau and (until recently) André Arthur, would have the same owner as a direct competitor.

Ironically, Leclerc Communication was formed in 2012 and bought its two Quebec City stations out of required divestments from the Cogeco purchase of Corus’s Quebec stations. Corus at the time owned CFEL and CFOM-FM (M102.9) and Cogeco owned CJEC and CJMF-FM (FM93).

The CRTC is holding a hearing (as a formality — there won’t be any oral presentations) on Sept. 6 to consider the Cogeco-RNC deal. The CRTC request for the Leclerc purchase will be filed “in the coming weeks.”

UPDATE: The Journal de Montréal has some reaction from on-air personalities at CHOI and BLVD.

Atikamekw communities have no use for CBC North’s Cree programming

CBC and Radio-Canada have radio transmitters across the country, but most of them don’t have original programming. So often the question has to be asked: which local station should they retransmit? In some cases it’s easy — just pick the closest one — but in others it’s more complicated.

In the Atikamekw communities of central Quebec — roughly halfway between Lac Saint-Jean and Val-d’Or — there isn’t a Radio-Canada Première originating station anywhere close. Between Saguenay, Rouyn-Noranda, Trois-Rivières and Quebec City, the distance is about the same.

But these stations aren’t serving francophone Québécois audiences, they’re serving First Nations communities. So it made sense that the station it would retransmit would be none of these. Instead, Wemotaci (Weymontachie), Manouane (Manawan) and Obedjiwan retransmit CBFG-FM in Chisasibi, a community along James Bay that is the base for stations in northern Quebec. That station mainly rebroadcasts CBF-FM Montreal, but broadcasts three one-hour shows a day in the Cree language, produced by CBC North.

A recent consultation with the Atikamekw communities showed that there’s little interest from their members in that programming. In an application to the CRTC, Radio-Canada says it’s because there is a negligible number of Cree-language speakers in those communities. Atikamekw (which is well spoken in the region) is considered a Cree language, but is a different dialect from the James Bay Cree spoken in Chisasibi.

A letter from Constant Awashish, Grand Chief of the Atikamekw council, says only that the communities felt that the Mauricie station would be a more appropriate source of programming, without explaining why.

So the CRTC has approved the application (without a public comment period) and transferred the retransmitters to the Mauricie station CBF-FM-8 Trois-Rivières — between 200 and 315km away. The change reduces the network of CBFG-FM from ten stations to seven, the furthest south being Waswanipi, 135 kilometres northwest of Obedjiwan.

UPDATE: The three transmitters switched their source on Oct. 17.

CHOC-FM in St-Rémi to shut down

After 19 years on the air, and only months after a $220,000 upgrade to boost the power of its transmitter, community station CHOC-FM 104.9, which serves the MRC des Jardins de Napierville, announced on Friday that it is shutting down on Monday.

The station had exhausted both human and financial resources, leading to the decision, the announcement said.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. After about a decade of trying solutions including adding two retransmitters, the station had finally succeeded in getting a power boost that allowed it to be received through its licensed area. The boost, approved in 2016, allowed the station to increase its maximum power from 250W to 1,714W (though in reality the previous transmitter was putting out much less power than that because of technical issues).

The station also worked on the marketing side, organizing a “Tournée CHOC” in 2016 with 50 events over 50 weeks.

And it was also getting its regulatory affairs in order, after the CRTC called it to a hearing to deal with issues of licence compliance. It hired a new general manager, Serge Paquin (who spent 17 years at the Alliance des radios communautaires), to put its administrative affairs in order. In June, he appeared before the CRTC to try to reassure commissioners that the station was on the right track.

Though he didn’t give any hint that shutting down was a possibility, Paquin did foreshadow one of CHOC-FM’s major mistakes: a single-minded focus on dealing with its signal problems, saying it was their “absolute priority.”

Friday’s announcement called this project, which was finally completed in February, its “swan song” and said the many delays and costs associated with it had a major impact on its finances and pushed back other projects that could have helped financially, such as the launch of a radio bingo program and local ad sales.

The station told the CRTC it cost $220,000 to implement the transmitter upgrade.

And now, mere months later, that transmitter is being shut down.

Three permanent employees will lose their jobs as a result of this, including Paquin. The station had about 50 members, of which about half were considered active volunteers.

Should the CRTC allow an English-language commercial radio station in Quebec City?

For at least the third time, the CRTC is about to make a call on whether Quebec City should be allowed to have an English-language commercial radio station.

An application by Evanov Radio subsidiary Dufferin Communications, which also owns stations running the Jewel format (including 106.7 in Hudson), plus CFMB 1280 and CHRF 980 in Montreal, prompted a request for comment by the commission in 2016 about whether a general call for applications should be issued. So far two applications (the other one for a French station) have been filed for the use of 105.7 MHz, considered one of the last available usable frequencies in the city.

On Wednesday, the CRTC issued another notice of consultation, effectively reopening the file. It never came to a decision in the case, ironically because of a lack of francophone commissioners. With recent appointments that problem has been solved.

This is Evanov’s second attempt to do this. In 2010, the CRTC denied a previous application by the company, ruling by majority vote that because the English-speaking population of Quebec is so small (1.1% speak it most often at home), “for all practical purposes there is virtually no advertising market in Québec for an English-language station” and “its service is almost entirely dependent on Québec’s French-language audience.”

In 2006, the CRTC similarly denied an application by Standard Radio (which at the time owned Mix 96, CHOM and CJAD, before it was bought by Astral Media the next year).

Why does it matter that an English station would attract a francophone audience? (After all, Montreal’s English-language music stations have larger francophone audiences than anglophone ones.)

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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.

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