Category Archives: Radio

Posted in Radio, Sports

TSN 690 picks up rights to Alouettes games for 3-4 years

To the surprise of absolutely no one, TSN 690 announced Friday morning that it has acquired the rights to Alouettes games from now sister station CJAD, completing the trifecta of Montreal major sports rights.

The deal is for three years, starting this one, with an option for a fourth, Bell Media tells me. It includes the two preseason games, all regular season games and all postseason games, including the Grey Cup. TSN said it would also air special events like the CFL draft, training camp and Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductions.

Rick Moffat and Dave Mudge will be the broadcast team, as they were at CJAD.

The station also announced that it is moving The Als This Week to Mondays at 7pm, and that Alouettes general manager Jim Popp will be a guest every week on the show.

The Alouettes’ first game is June 14.

The regular-season schedules of the Alouettes and Impact this season includes three conflicts where both teams are playing simultaneously: July 19, Aug. 16 and Oct. 18, all Saturdays. In those cases, expect Impact games to move to CJAD.

We’ll see what happens when the Alouettes conflict with fall Canadiens games. TSN has said it plans to broadcast all games from both teams.

Financial terms of the deal were not discussed on air and are usually not disclosed.

As silly as it is for TSN 690 to wrestle rights away from a station it now shares not only an office but a program director with, this deal more importantly represents a renewal of the broadcasting rights, which expired after last season.  It ensures that Alouettes games will continue to be carried on English radio through the end of 2016, and likely 2017 as well.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

CRTC says Radio X Montreal can remove jazz music programming

Planète Jazz is no more.

Two years after RNC Media first requested that CKLX-FM 91.9 in Montreal be relieved of its conditions of licence requiring a specialty jazz format, and a year after an initial denial, the CRTC approved the request on Tuesday as part of the station’s licence renewal.

Under the new licence, the station would remain under a specialty format, but one that requires at least 50% of its programming to be spoken word.

The new licence, which is for a short term because the CRTC found that the station failed to comply with terms of its existing licence (including incorrectly classifying some popular music as jazz to meet its specialty licence requirements), takes effect on Sept. 1. But a CRTC spokesperson tells me that the change relating to format takes effect immediately.

When it denied the same application a year ago, the CRTC cited two main reasons: the fact that the station appeared to be failing to meet its current licence, and the fact that it has approved another French-language talk station in Montreal (TTP Media’s news-talk station at 940 AM) and that granting this request could threaten the financial viability of that station.

So why the change of heart? Two reasons: One, since this is a licence renewal decision, the CRTC is more open to changes to that licence. The commission doesn’t like rewarding non-complying stations by changing their licence conditions during their licence term. And it says in this decision that it monitored programming last fall and found the station had rectified its licence compliance issues.

As for competition with TTP Media, the CRTC said that “the Commission’s standard practice is to not consider applications for new stations intended to serve the market in question within two years of the publication of its decision to approve a new station when it was licensed following a call for applications.”

The French TTP Media station was approved on Nov. 21, 2011. It was supposed to launch two years later, but was granted a one-year extension to Nov. 21, 2014. But there’s no similar extension to a de facto moratorium on new competing formats. So the CRTC felt it no longer had to consider that issue. The commission also notes that TTP Media did not write to the commission to oppose this application.

Those issues dealt with, it came down to the basic question: Is there an economic need to justify this change?

The CRTC found a year ago that there was one. And that situation hasn’t changed.

CKLX-FM was first approved by the CRTC in 2003, along with others including CJLV 1570 AM in Laval, CKDG-FM 105.1 in Montreal, and the 104.7 FM transmitter for CBC Radio One.

The logic at the time was that because the Montreal International Jazz Festival was so popular, a jazz music radio station would also be so, or at least popular enough that it could be profitable. So Spectra, the company that runs the festival, partnered with broadcaster RNC Media and applied for a licence for a radio station, which was later approved.

But it didn’t work that way. Jazz music simply wasn’t that popular. Some fans have argued that’s because the station’s music was poorly programmed, but after a decade, it was clear it could not be made profitable. Spectra was bought out as a partner, and RNC made the decision to change Planète Jazz to Radio X, copying its mega-successful programming format in Quebec City.

That decision hasn’t been that successful either. The station has only a 1% market share among francophones in the latest BBM ratings, and 3% among francophones age 25-54. The station has argued that it’s growing, but it still has a long way to go.

The new CRTC licence means that now Radio X Montreal must have at least 50% talk programming, and has no requirement at all for jazz. It would likely mean a more CHOI-like programming schedule, with more talk in the evenings and more rock music on weekends. Right now, the station switches to jazz music at 7pm every day, and runs jazz all weekend except in the afternoons when it has a rock music show.

In an on-air discussion after the decision was published, station management said there would be an evaluation of programming options over the coming weeks, and no changes would be announced right away.

Radio X has posted photos of staff drinking champagne after the decision.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Radio X’s licence change takes effect Sept. 1. Though RNC Media apparently believes this to be the case, the CRTC tells me that it actually takes effect immediately.

UPDATE (April 15): Jazz was removed from Radio X’s schedule over the weekend. It now airs rock music all weekend and repeats overnight.

Posted in Radio

Jeremy White moves from The Beat to Edmonton’s Virgin Radio

Jeremy White at The Beat's first anniversary party in 2012. That's CJ over his shoulder.

Jeremy White at The Beat’s first anniversary party in 2012. That’s CJ over his shoulder, and “hot fan girl” Amanda Kline on his arm.

As The Beat’s staff and selected guests were celebrating the station’s first anniversary under its new brand, I chatted with its general manager, Mark Dickie, and its program director Leo Da Estrela. Among the topics we discussed over the loud music was this guy, Jeremy White, an enthusiastic young personality out of Kahnawake who impressed his bosses with his work ethic.

If The Beat’s competitor had any sense, they told me, they’d have stolen White away from them and given him a job at CHOM.

They asked me to keep that to myself, since they didn’t want Astral to actually steal White away from them.

But now Dickie has moved on to another job, Da Estrela is preparing for his own departure, and White has finally been stolen by Bell Media.

The only catch is he won’t be working in Montreal.

Virgin Radio Edmonton announced on Wednesday that White has been hired as their evening host starting March 31. White relayed the news via social media early Thursday while he was still on the air at The Beat. He’s already overhauled his Twitter account with the new job info.

White has another week at The Beat before moving west.

The new job is a step up from his current one doing overnights at The Beat. (He briefly got bumped up to doing the evening job at the Beat after Paul Hayes left, to “give him some prime-time exposure,” and got bumped back when they hired Kim Sullivan. White also hosts the Saturday Party Jam on Saturday evenings.)

CFMG-FM bills itself as “Edmonton’s #1 Hit Music Station,” but it actually has just a 3.9% overall share, behind The Bear (rock), CFCW (country), The Bounce (CHR), Sonic (hot AC), K97 (classic rock), CISN (country), Up 99.3 (AC), Hot 107 (top 40), Cruz FM (adult hits), Fresh FM (hot AC), Now (hot AC) and Capital FM (classic hits), plus talk station CHED and CBC Radio One.

In short, it has a lot of work to do.

As you would expect, White says he’s excited about the new job, but will find it hard to leave Montreal.

Just add his address to the monthly shipment of smoked meat, bagels and poutine to Montreal expats in Alberta.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

Radio ratings: The Beat back above Virgin (but…)

Radio ratings March 2014

Total audience share for major ownership groups, winter 2013-14 (ages 2+). Cogeco Diffusion: 98.5 + Rythme FM + CKOI + The Beat + Radio Circulation; Bell Media: NRJ + Rouge FM + CJAD + CHOM + Virgin + TSN 690; CBC/Radio-Canada: CBC Radio One + CBC Radio Two + ICI Première + Espace musique; Other: CJPX Radio Classique + Radio X + non-reporting stations

One year after The Beat took a surprising lead over Virgin among all anglophone listeners, it has done so again. The latest BBM quarterly ratings report, released last week, shows The Beat with an 18.4% share among anglophones, slightly less than its record 18.6% in March 2013. That’s ahead of Virgin Radio at 15.1%.

When you factor in the francophone audience, where Virgin has a slight lead (4.1% vs. 3.9%), The Beat is still ahead overall, though just by a bit. This differs from last year, where Virgin had the lead among all listeners because it was stronger among francophones. The Beat last year had a 2.1% share among francophones, so there’s some significant improvement there.

What’s interesting about this jump back to number one (well, actually number two, behind CJAD) for The Beat is that it happened during the same time of the year last year, suggesting that there may be some seasonal aspect to it. Maybe The Beat has better Christmas music?

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Posted in Radio

Corus kills Ottawa’s 106.9 The Bear, replacing it with “Jump!”

The Bear was rumoured to become Fresh FM 106.9 but has instead relaunched as Jump! with the tag line "non-stop hits"

The Bear was rumoured to become Fresh FM 106.9 but has instead relaunched as Jump! with the tag line “non-stop hits”

(Updated below with news of the relaunch)

Six weeks after Corus Entertainment acquired Ottawa’s 106.9 The Bear from Bell as part of Bell’s Astral Media takeover, and a month after Mark Dickie, the former general manager at The Beat in Montreal was put in charge of it and Corus’s three other stations in Ottawa and Cornwall, The Bear is no more.

Visitors to the station’s website on Thursday were greeted with a message from Dickie explaining that “we have decided to take FM 106.9 in a new direction.” The full statement is below.

Corus told the Ottawa Citizen that the station will air just music and ads until the end of the month, when it launches the new format.

That new direction appears to be Fresh FM, a hot adult contemporary format that Corus is using in Edmonton, WinnipegLondon and Hamilton. Rumours about the format change surfaced in January when someone noticed that Corus had registered 1069freshfm.com as a domain name. (It currently doesn’t lead anywhere, but expect that to change soon.)

On March 31, at 11am, after annoying listeners with nature sounds for a while, the station relaunched as Jump! Ottawa, promising “non-stop hits”. Its first hour features songs by Katy Perry, Pink, Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake. Corus’s press release about it is here.

You can listen to the relaunch here. It goes on forever with the nature sounds. A mission-control-themed relaunch announcement starts at six minutes in.

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Posted in Radio

Wayne Bews hired as general manager at The Beat

Wayne Bews, the long-time general manager at Team 990 (then TSN Radio 690), until he was moved into a sales job at CTV Montreal, has been hired to become the new general manager and general sales manager at 92.5 The Beat.

The news was announced on Wednesday to the staff at CTV Montreal and The Beat. Bews replaces Mark Dickie, who left the station a month ago to work for Corus as general manager of its Cornwall and newly-acquired Ottawa stations.

Bews, who by all accounts was well-liked by the staff at CKGM, guided the struggling station as it finally made one format stick. By the time he left last fall, it was still struggling, but had a loyal audience and solid footing, and secured a guaranteed lifeline thanks to parent company Bell’s acquisition of Astral Media.

But it was that same acquisition that pushed Bews out of that job. Last August, Chris Bury was made program director for both CJAD and TSN Radio, and within weeks Bews had found another job within the company as the retail sales manager at CTV Montreal.

Bews started his career as a sales representative for CHOM and CKGM, back when both were owned by CHUM. He’s spent 20 years in this market selling radio advertising and managing radio stations.

He’ll start in his new job in early March. The exact date hasn’t been set yet. CTV Montreal staff were told that he would be helping general manager Louis Douville transition to a replacement, which is interesting since he’s moving to one of Bell’s chief competitors.

Posted in My articles, Opinion, Radio, TV

Why is CBC refusing ads from radio stations?

It sounded like the kind of story that even Sun News Network couldn’t make up: The CBC saying no to money from private industry for the sole reason that it wants to compete with it.

A complaint has been filed with the CRTC by Leclerc Communication, the company that bought Quebec City stations CKOI (CFEL-FM) and WKND (CJEC-FM) when Cogeco was told it couldn’t keep them after its purchase of Corus Quebec. The complaint alleges that the stations have been trying to book advertisements on Radio-Canada’s television station in Quebec City to promote the stations, and that Radio-Canada has issued a blanket refusal because it has a policy not to accept ads from competitors.

This would seem to go against a very clear CRTC policy that says that media companies can’t give themselves preference over their competitors in things like this.

Convinced there must have been a misunderstanding, I contacted the CBC and asked the public broadcaster about the allegation.

Radio-Canada actually confirmed it. CBC and Radio-Canada don’t accept ads from commercial radio stations because they compete with CBC services. And they don’t see anything wrong with that.

I explain the positions of Leclerc and Radio-Canada in this story at Cartt.ca. In short, Leclerc wants to advertise on RadCan because it finds that the demographics of RadCan viewers match the listeners it’s trying to target. And Radio-Canada refuses because its advertising policy prevents it from accepting ads for competitors.

The policy is CBC Programming Policy 1.3.11: Unacceptable advertising. It bans tobacco ads, ads for religious viewpoints, “any advertisement that could place the CBC/Radio-Canada at the centre of a controversy or public debate” and “advertisements for services considered competitive with CBC/Radio-Canada services.”

Now, we can argue whether two Quebec City music stations with personalities like Les Justiciers masqués are competitive with Première and Espace Musique. But even if they were, so what? These are television ads, first of all, not radio ads, and if Leclerc wants to spend money this way, why should the public broadcaster say no?

More importantly, can it even do so legally?

The television broadcasting regulations, which Radio-Canada and all other television broadcasters have to abide by, says a licensee may not “give an undue preference to any person, including itself, or subject any person to an undue disadvantage.”

A similar provision exists for TV distribution, which is why Videotron can’t give Quebecor-owned channels advantages over their competitors unless it can find a good reason to back it up.

But the CBC doesn’t quite see it that way. It argues that it’s not giving anyone an undue advantage, because it’s not accepting ads from anyone. Everyone’s being treated equally, so there’s no advantage.

Leclerc points out, though, that Radio-Canada’s radio services get plenty of advertisement on its television network. And giving free ads to its own radio stations and refusing ads from all competitors is pretty well exactly what this rule was meant to prevent.

Radio-Canada confirmed that the programming policy is set by the CBC board of directors, not by legislation or CRTC condition of licence. So logic would suggest that CRTC regulations take precedence over internal rules at the CBC.

The CBC rule becomes all the more absurd when you consider it in context. The CBC is facing a major cash crunch, seeing government funding tightened and now losing the rights to NHL games. CBC’s president is talking about “dark clouds on the horizon” because of lower revenue. So why say no to what is practically free money?

It would be one thing if this was a big corporate player wanting to buy airtime on the CBC to encourage people not to listen to Radio One or something. But this is a small independent broadcaster that just wants to expose his radio stations to Radio-Canada’s audience in Quebec City.

The CBC is going to have to come up with some real good justification for shutting the door to competitors. Bell or Shaw or Rogers would never be allowed to get away with something like this, and I don’t see why the CBC should be able to.

And if the CBC doesn’t come up with a good reason to refuse these ads, they should expect to be told to shut up and take Leclerc’s money.

Leclerc’s complaint letter can be read here. The full file is on the CRTC’s website in this .zip file. The CRTC is accepting comments on this complaint until March 6. You can submit comments here. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

(So far, only the Journal de Québec has covered this story aside from myself. We’ll see if others pick it up before the deadline.)

Posted in Radio, Sports

Impact games move back to TSN 690

In news that will surprise precisely nobody, TSN and the Impact announced today that TSN Radio 690 will pick up English-language radio broadcast rights to Montreal Impact games for the next three years.

For the past two seasons, Impact games have aired on CJAD 800, which picked up the rights to home games to help fill the gap left by the loss of the Canadiens to TSN 690 in 2011. Now that CJAD and TSN are sister stations with the Bell purchase of Astral, the two don’t need to fight over such rights, and sports is being consolidated on TSN.

The new deal calls for all regular season and playoff games to air on the radio, which marks the first time that we have all away games on radio.

Rick Moffat, the former CJAD sports guy who has since moved to TSN, and Brian Wilde, CTV Montreal reporter who sidelines as an Impact fan, will “share play-by-play duties”, and former Impact player Grant Needham will do colour commentary during the broadcasts. Program director Chris Bury confirms to me that the broadcast team will travel with the Impact.

The press release says that TSN and CJAD will share broadcasts of the games, which likely means that when an Impact game conflicts with a Canadiens or Alouettes game, it’ll move to CJAD. The Alouettes haven’t released their 2014 schedule yet, and the Impact schedule is incomplete, but we already know that the first two Impact games of the season, on March 8 and 15, will conflict with Canadiens games, so expect those two Impact games to be on CJAD.

Alouettes broadcast rights in English still belong to CJAD, but it’s a formality at this point that most of the games will move back as well to TSN, with only those that conflict with Canadiens games airing on CJAD.

In the unlikely event of a three-way schedule conflict, there’s always CHOM, which has been used during CJAD’s conflicts in the past.

The announcement is good news for Impact fans, who will now be able to access all the games on the radio instead of just the home games and a few marquee away ones. The fact that Bell is sending a broadcast team to those away games — no small expense — is also a strong indication that it believes it’s worth investing in this franchise.

This news has already annoyed some francophone Impact fans because the team does not have a French-language radio partner. CKAC Sports used to air some Impact games before it became an all-traffic station. News-talk station 98.5 FM, which carries Canadiens and Alouettes games, doesn’t seem to be as interested in Impact broadcasts.

Posted in Radio

CBC Radio Two 93.5 asks CRTC for more powerful signal

Proposed (solid lines) and existing (dotted lines) pattern of CBM-FM Montreal.

Proposed (solid lines) and existing (dotted lines) pattern of CBM-FM Montreal.

Following a similar successful application from Cogeco Diffusion for The Beat and 98.5 FM, the CBC is now also asking to take advantage of the lifting of a moratorium on power increases for Mount Royal transmitters so it can boost power to the maximum allowed for that class of station.

Just before Christmas, the CRTC published an application from the corporation to boost the power of CBM-FM 93.5, the transmitter for Radio Two in Montreal, from 24,600 watts to 100,000 watts.

The application is brief in providing a reasoning for the change. Under the justification section, it reads, in its entirety: “The proposed changes will improve the quality of the Radio 2 service in Montreal, QC”

As a Class C1 station, CBM-FM is protected up to its maximum power of 100,000 watts. The CBC’s technical report shows very little potential for interference, affecting the Rythme FM station in Sherbrooke on 93.7 in the area around Granby, and two U.S. stations at 93.3 and 93.7, just across the border.

The CBC Radio One transmitter (CBME-FM) at 88.5 FM, which was licensed after the Radio Two transmitter, is limited to its current 25,000 watt signal to avoid interference with other stations. But the four Astral FM stations — CHOM-FM, CJFM-FM (Virgin), CKMF-FM (NRJ) and CITE-FM (Rouge FM) are all at about 41,000 watts and could also apply to boost those signals.

The deadline to submit comments on the CBC Radio Two application is 8pm ET on Thursday. You can do so here. Remember that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

Posted in My articles, Radio

The Beat loses three key managers

The Beat's general manager Mark Dickie, left, and program director Leo Da Estrela at the station's one-year anniversary party in 2012. Both are leaving the station.

The Beat’s general manager Mark Dickie, left, and program director Leo Da Estrela at the station’s one-year anniversary party in 2012. Both are leaving the station.

When word started to spread that the top two people at The Beat had resigned, many came to a quick conclusion: Cogeco is cleaning house, maybe in response to unsatisfactory ratings, or because, one rumour went, they were planning to sell the station.

As it turns out, everyone involved says it’s just a coincidence. Really bad timing.

Last Friday, general manager and general sales manager Mark Dickie informed his bosses that he was resigning in order to accept a position as a manager of multiple radio stations at Corus Entertainment. Because he was leaving for a competitor, even though it wasn’t in the same city, his three weeks’ notice was waived and he was asked (politely) to leave the building, though neither he nor Cogeco Diffusion have any hard feelings. Staff were informed of his departure on Monday.

Leo Da Estrela, the program director, has been named interim general manager. But he, too, is leaving. He actually informed his bosses in September that he wanted to leave, but he was asked to stay on until December. With Dickie’s departure, he’s been asked (and accepted) to stay on until April to ensure a smooth transition to new managers.

At the same time, promotions director Linda Fraraccio is also leaving The Beat. This Friday was her last day at the station, and she starts a new job at CTV Montreal as manager of creative services, marketing and community relations, on Monday.

I write about the three departures in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette. It includes comments from Dickie, Da Estrela and Cogeco Diffusion President Richard Lachance.

Here’s some more detail about what’s going on:

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Posted in Radio

CRTC approves sale of radio stations without public process

Less than a week before Christmas, the CRTC approved the sale of two FM radio stations in Winnipeg and one in Calgary without giving the public any opportunity to comment on it.

The stations were sold by Bell as part of the divestments it was required to make in the Astral acquisition. Because adding the Astral stations put Bell over the limits set by CRTC policy in major markets, it was required to sell 10 stations to someone else. Bell came to agreements to sell two stations in Ottawa to Corus, two stations in Toronto and three in Vancouver to Newcap, and two stations in Winnipeg and one in Calgary to the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group.

Specifically, Pattison was getting:

The list of stations that were sold, which includes a mix of Bell and Astral stations, was never discussed during the second public hearing into the Astral acquisition, despite the fact that the decision the first time around criticized the list because it appeared Bell was keeping the best-performing stations and selling the worst-performing ones (instead of, say, just selling all the Astral stations they couldn’t acquire).

Bell countered that there were reasons other than ratings for its decisions of which stations to sell, and that some of the stations it was selling had high ratings. But the details of the reasoning behind the selling of those stations was submitted confidentially to the CRTC, and so we don’t know what they are.

The divestments require their own process, since they are not automatically approved in the Astral decision. The Corus sale was discussed at a hearing in November (along with its acquisition of Teletoon, Séries+ and Historia, which have since been approved.) And the sale to Newcap has been made part of a public process though no hearing has been scheduled.

But as I explain in this story on Cartt.ca (subscription required), the CRTC approved the Pattison acquisition, valued at almost $30 million, without opening it up to public comment.

The CRTC can issue decisions on an administrative basis for things that it doesn’t believe require public input. It even has a policy for such decisions. For example, if there’s an intra-corporate reorganization, or if the owner dies and control of the station gets passed along to a family member, there doesn’t need to be a public process. An acquisition of a radio station can also be approved without public process if the CRTC believes it doesn’t bring up any policy issues and the value of each station is under $15 million.

Because the acquisition wouldn’t put Pattison over the common ownership limit in either market, the CRTC apparently felt there was no policy issue here. (Of course, the CRTC tends to decide whether there’s a contentious issue by looking at the interventions filed during the comment phase of a proceeding, which it has short-circuited here.)

As for the money part, the Calgary station was actually sold for $16.5 million, which is above the limit. So why not a public process? I asked the CRTC, and here was its response:

In its determination to process this application using the administrative route, the Commission agreed that the value of one of the three stations was slightly over the $15M threshold, but also considered the fact that the value of the other stations involved in the same transaction was well below the $15M threshold (i.e. 3.5M and 5.5 respectively).

The Commission considered that the transaction did not present any policy concerns related to concentration of ownership, cross-media ownership, or diversity of voices. In addition, the Commission accepted the tangible benefits proposed would make a contribution to the enhancement of the Canadian Broadcasting System. Therefore, the Commission concluded that the transaction was in the public interest.

I understand that some non-controversial proceedings should be expedited and that the bureaucratic process can get cumbersome at times. But this transaction, even though it’s within CRTC policy and likely would have been approved, could bring up many policy issues. For example, is the tangible benefits package that Pattison has proposed appropriate? (It has proposed a standard package worth 6% of the transaction price, so one would suppose the answer is “yes”.)

This isn’t a minor share transfer. The application file contains 33 documents. Both the seller (Bell) and the buyer (Pattison) are large broadcasters (Pattison owns dozens of radio stations), and the stations being sold are in large markets. In 2012, the CRTC sought applications for new radio stations in Calgary and got 11 applications, of which it only approved two (one of which was by Pattison).

What’s perhaps most baffling about this situation is that the decision itself is not posted online. Pattison announced the decision by press release on Dec. 20, and on Jan. 4 the CRTC posted the application with a note saying it was approved.

I had to request the actual decision letter, which was scanned and sent to me. (You can read it here as a PDF.) It includes information that is not posted elsewhere online, such as the actual value the CRTC set for the transaction.

Pattison had set it at $26.5 million, which included the $25.5 million purchase price and a little over $1 million in assumed leases. But the CRTC decision increased the value of those leases (taking their value over five years), and added costs of working capital and cash (Pattison had argued that Bell would keep any cash the stations had when the deal closes, but CRTC policy is to establish value when the deal is made, not when it closes), as well as $90,000 for two trademarks owned by Kool FM. The total price was established as $29.8 million.

This is significant because the value of tangible benefits (money to help the broadcasting system that the CRTC imposes as a tax on any acquisition of a licence) is proportional to the value of the transaction. The higher purchase price means this package, which is made up of contributions to Canadian music funds, the Community Radio Fund of Canada and other initiatives that help develop Canadian content, goes up by $200,000.

It’s the kind of thing you’d expect people should be given a chance to comment about.

I’ve updated my media ownership chart with this approval.

Posted in Radio

Ted Bird, Java Jacobs to take over morning show at KIC 89.9 in Kahnawake

It wasn’t exactly kept super-secret, but after a “‘big tease’ social media campaign,” Ted Bird has confirmed he will be returning to the airwaves, reuniting with buddy Java Jacobs as the morning men for KIC Country 89.9 in Kahnawake, from 6am to 9am starting Jan. 6.

KIC (CKKI-FM) launched as KKIC Radio in 2011 after operating as a pirate (or perhaps just licence-challenged) station. Since then it has had a revolving door of morning personalities, including Brian Moon, Sheldon Harvey and most recently Chris Reiser, who have volunteered their time in exchange for a share of any advertising they could drum up. (Bird says he and Jacobs will be paid for their work at this station, though.)

Bird and Jacobs worked together as the morning team (with Paul Graif) at Kahnawake community station K103 from 2010 to 2012, when Bird left to join TSN Radio. He was let go from that job in September. Jacobs stayed on until last month, when he was let go and replaced by Lance Delisle.

Bird and Jacobs have been hinting about the new job for a while now, with Bird rediscovering country music to prepare for his new job. It’ll be his first stint at a commercial music station since he left CHOM.

Unlike K103, KIC Country is a private station focused on country music. It has a low-power signal and very few resources, so much of its schedule is music with no DJ. They’ll need to help turn things around dramatically for this station if they’re going to turn this into long-term or even medium-term career moves.

UPDATE (Jan. 8): Here’s 10 minutes of excerpts from their first show on Monday morning:

Posted in Radio, TV

CHOM founder Geoff Stirling dies

Geoff Stirling, who founded CHOM in Montreal but is better known nationally as the eccentric owner of Newfoundland’s television superstation NTV, died on Sunday at the age of 92.

The Gazette has an obituary with Canadian Press that talks about Stirling and his Montreal connection (Presse Canadienne has another that does the same). There’s also an obit from St. John’s radio station VOCM and, of course, from NTV itself.

CHOM noted the passing on its Facebook page. Stirling started the station as CKGM-FM in 1963, back when FM radio was a novelty and few people were taking advantage of it.

I never met Stirling, so I don’t have much to add, but his reputation is larger than life. NTV was notorious for its bizarre late-night programming, and there are plenty of legends about Stirling himself making programming decisions or putting things on the air that no sane corporate owner would do today. But it wasn’t just that he was a crazy old man with lots of money. I mean, how many TV station owners have created comic book characters?

This story in The Scope gives a good rundown of some of all the things that made Stirling special.

His passing opens up a lot of questions about NTV. Will it be sold? It holds the unique distinction of being a de facto affiliate of both CTV and Global (it carries national newscasts from both networks). Either might be interested in buying it to have a Newfoundland station that carries 100% of their schedule.

Independent super stations in Canada are much less common than they used to be. Most are either owned by the networks themselves or are private stations that are affiliated with one of the major networks. Aside from the community stations, the religious stations and other special cases, there are only three independent commercial super stations, the others being CHEK in Victoria (a former E! network station that was sold to its employees and other local investors by Canwest) and CHCH in Hamilton, owned by Channel Zero. And those stations don’t have owners like Stirling.

Maybe this is truly the end of an era, when television stations were owned by one guy instead of a company with multiple shareholders, and when that one guy could just call up the station and say he wanted video of a fish tank to be played on air overnight.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. That NTV programming wasn’t exactly award-winning stuff. But it still feels as though a piece of the past has slipped away.

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Posted in Radio

CKHQ-FM Kanesatake re-applies for new CRTC licence

Another community radio station serving a native community near Montreal is coming back to life.

This summer, some people in Kanesatake, northwest of the city, went to the old radio station, cleaned it out and put it back on the air. CKHQ-FM 101.7 was first licensed in 1988 at a paltry 11 watts. Its licence expired in 2004, after the CRTC failed to receive an application for a renewal and gave the station a one-year extension to apply. As this APTN News story explains, the station went into disarray and was effectively abandoned after the former station manager died.

Both the CRTC and Industry Canada confirmed to me this summer that the station does not have a broadcasting licence.

So when it did go back on the air, on a part-time basis, it was operating without a licence. Industry Canada told me in September that it would investigate.

Within weeks, CRTC staff were working with James Nelson on an application for a new licence, and last week, that application was published by the commission.

Nelson is the applicant, on behalf of a company to be incorporated, which would have him as the president and three other people on the board of directors (Shawana Etienne, Mike Dubois and Tahkwa Nelson, all from the community).

According to the application, the station would have the exact same technical parameters as it did before: 11 watts, from a transmitter on the reserve, reaching its few thousand residents but not much farther. But the correspondence between James Nelson and the CRTC suggests the plan is to, as part of a separate application down the line, increase that power to 50W.

Programming-wise, the station would broadcast 83 hours of programming a week (or about 12 hours a day), all of it local, of which 68 hours would be music and 15 hours spoken word. The language would be 95% English and 5% Mohawk.

The application documents show that there was a lot of handholding in this process, which is unusual. The last time I remember seeing something like that was with the application process for CKKI-FM in Kahnawake. The two share common elements: They’re both stations that were operating without a licence on a Mohawk reserve, on frequencies that had previously been legitimately licensed for native stations. (CKKI’s pirate frequency of 106.7 was formerly the home of an Aboriginal Voices Radio station serving Montreal.)

The station would be funded through private donations and through a regular radio bingo program, which it has already started running again.

The station has also launched a Facebook page.

The CRTC is accepting comments on CKHQ’s application until Jan. 27. To file a comment, click here, select Option 1 and then select application 2013-1280-1: James Nelson (OBCI). Note that all comments, and contact info submitted with them, are on the public record.

Posted in Radio

Obituaries for former CKAC morning man Jacques Proulx

Jacques Proulx, who was the morning host on CKAC radio for two decades, died on Saturday at 78 years old. He was well before my time, so I’ll leave it to others to do proper obituaries. Here’s what I’ve found online:

And a tribute video from 98.5FM: