Category Archives: Radio

Bell activates Montreal’s first HD Radio station, simulcasts CJAD, TSN 690 on FM HD

TSN 690 being received via HD Radio signal on 107.3 FM.

As major Canadian broadcasters begin their experimentation with HD Radio transmitters, Bell Media has quietly launched a transmitter on its CITE-FM station in Montreal (Rouge FM 107.3), and is using it to simulcast CJAD 800 and TSN Radio 690.

A Bell Media spokesperson confirmed that this is a “soft launch” of the transmitter, with plans to publicize it more in the coming weeks, once testing is complete and everyone is back from the holidays. The plan is to keep the three channels going forward:

  • HD1: Rouge FM
  • HD2: CJAD 800
  • HD3: TSN 690

The Rouge FM station was chosen for this for technical reasons. I don’t know specifically what they are, but CITE-FM is a full-power station (currently at 42.9kW), and has plenty of space on both sides of the frequency to accommodate the extra channels without causing interference to adjacent-channel stations.

There are no plans “at this point” to add more HD channels.

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

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

TTP Media’s request for an extension for 600 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More work needed for 600

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

From Patrice Lemée, engineer at Commspec:

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

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

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

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

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

Radio ratings: Virgin running out of ways to claim it’s beating The Beat

Numeris released its quarterly ratings report this week for Montreal and other metered markets. The Montreal top-line results show once again a significant margin between 92.5 The Beat (CKBE-FM) and Virgin Radio 95.9 (CJFM-FM).

Here they are translated into English. Audience shares among Montreal anglophones (all ages) from Aug. 29 to Nov. 27, 2016 (with their average-minute audience for a 24-hour day):

  • CJAD 800: 29.6% (17,100)
  • The Beat 92.5: 17.4% (10,000)
  • Virgin Radio 96: 14.9% (8,600)
  • CHOM 97.7: 10.2% (5,900)
  • CBC Radio One: 6.4% (3,700)
  • TSN Radio 690: 3.7% (2,100)
  • Rythme FM 105.7: 2.2% (1,300)
  • Radio Classique 99.5: 2.0% (1,100)
  • CBC Radio Two: 1.8% (1,000)

Other measured stations had shares under 1%.

Once again, among overall anglophone audiences, CJAD is the clear winner with a 29.6% share, tied with last winter as its highest share in the past five years. The Beat clearly beats Virgin, up by two and a half points. It’s also ahead in the adults 25-54 demographic, which Virgin had a bit of an edge in historically. And even when counting in francophone audiences, The Beat is still ahead.

CHOM, meanwhile, had its worst book in the past half-decade, dropping more than two points.

Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones). Data by Numeris

Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones, ages 2+). Data by Numeris. Click for larger version.

But it would be irresponsible to make sweeping conclusions based on one ratings report. Instead, it makes more sense to look at long-term trends. And here’s what we see from that:

  • CJAD is doing well, despite everyone’s opinions (usually negative here) about its programming. Since 2014, it has climbed into the 25-30% range, with noticeable dips in the summer, suggesting Montrealers are tuning in when there’s news. No individual programming change would explain this, though 2013 is when there was the last major reshuffling, getting rid of Ric Peterson.
  • The Beat is winning the battle with Virgin. It took about two years after Q92 relaunched itself as The Beat for there to be real traction in the ratings, and a noticeable drop in Virgin’s share around 2013 led to The Beat taking the lead. Since the beginning of 2014, The Beat has led among anglo listeners, though the adults 25-54 demo has gone back and forth a bit.

CHOM’s bad book could easily be an outlier, so we’ll have to see.

As for TSN 690, a lot of people seem to be very concerned about their ratings (and, like with CJAD, very eager to blame problems on a particular on-air personality), but it’s about the same place it always is. The latest rating is slightly below where it was a year ago, and slightly above where it was two years ago at the same time of the season.

Naturally, every station tried to spin the results to make themselves look good:

  • CJAD sent out a press release noting their #1 status and adding that it is the best-rated news-talk radio station in Canada in terms of audience share in its central market. (The fact that Montreal has a limited number of English stations is a big factor in that, of course.) And it singled out hosts Andrew Carter (most listened-to radio show in the market), Aaron Rand (most popular afternoon show) and Ken Connors (a 52% share on weekend mornings).
  • The Beat also sent out a press release, staking claim to the title of highest-rated music station in the market, as well as the adults 25-54 and women 25-54 demographics that advertisers love, and highlighting its high ratings during the 9-to-5 workday, which continues to be its strength.
  • Virgin Radio didn’t send out a press release, though it did post messages on social media noting some ratings wins. It calls Freeway and Natasha “Montreal’s #1 most listened to morning show”, but only in the fine print do you realize they restricted the audience to adults 18-49. Another image pointed to the station having “more than 2 million listeners a week”, which is true, but that counts everyone who tuned in for even one minute during that week. It doesn’t measure how long or often people listen to the station, and The Beat has the same reach.

Francophone market

Among Montreal francophones (all ages):

  • 98.5 FM: 19.8% (36,600)
  • Rythme FM 105.7: 18.5% (34,300)
  • ICI Première: 11.8% (21,900)
  • Rouge FM 107.3: 9.3% (17,300)
  • CKOI 96.9: 9.1% (16,900)
  • Virgin Radio 96: 5.8% (10,700)
  • The Beat 92.5: 5.6% (10,300)
  • Énergie 94.3: 5.4% (10,000)
  • CHOM 97.7: 4.7% (8,700)
  • ICI Musique: 2.5% (4,600)
  • Radio Classique 99.5: 2.3% (4,300)
  • 91.9 Sports: 1.4% (2,600)

Once again, news-talker 98.5 FM is the leader among all audiences, though Rythme FM declared victory in the adults 25-54 group.

Radio-Canada bounced back big time from a bad book in the summer, taking third spot overall. CKOI’s rating is also noteworthy. After being stuck with shares around 6%, it’s now several points up on that. Meanwhile, Énergie, whose lineup includes Dominic Arpin, Mélanie Maynard and Éric Salvail, gets smaller audiences overall than Virgin and The Beat.

Self-congratulatory statements from:

  • 98.5FM, which says it’s the most listened-to station in all of Canada (by total average-minute audience, apparently)
  • Radio-Canada, which notes a 30% year-over-year increase (good news after a pretty bad report in the summer ratings).
  • Bell Media, which highlights the success of Énergie’s afternoon network show Éric est les fantastiques. Because it’s carried on multiple stations, it gets a large audience.

Also roundups from La PresseInfoPresse and ActusMédias.

CHRF 980 AM, which seems to have an actual programming strategy now, had its best ratings ever. Except it only started reporting ratings in the past year, and its share is 0.3% among francophones and 0.4% among anglophones, for about 800 average-minute listeners total.

New on the ratings chart is CIBL-FM 101.5, the community station whose studios are at the corner of St-Laurent Blvd. and Ste-Catherine St. The station unsurprisingly scored zeros for anglophones, and starts on the francophone chart as a 0.1% share, 300 average listeners and an average daily reach of 16,800. The only station with a worse rating among francophones is TSN 690. It’s certainly not a win for them, but the ratings book should give them a lot of information about their audience that they didn’t have before.

CJAD fires Barry Morgan, hires Leslie Roberts in daytime shuffle

Barry Morgan

Barry Morgan (and soon posters of him as well) are no longer with the company.

The headline on CJAD’s website is that Tommy Schnurmacher is moving to afternoons and reducing his schedule to an hour a day.

But the real story, not mentioned at all in that article, is that Barry Morgan, who hosted noon to 3pm weekdays, has been let go. His name and photo disappeared from the station’s website over the weekend, and Ken Connors has been moved to his time slot this week to fill in.

UPDATE (Nov. 23): CJAD announced this morning its new daytime lineup:

  • 9am-12pm: Leslie Roberts
  • 12pm-1pm: The Gang of Four with Tommy Schnurmacher
  • 1pm-3pm: Natasha Hall

Roberts resigned from the anchor chair at Global Toronto last year after a Toronto Star investigation found that he owned a PR firm and his clients were appearing on his show without any disclosure. CJAD’s story about Roberts’s hiring makes no mention of this, but it does note that Roberts’s father and grandfather all worked for CJAD.

CJAD program director Chris Bury tells the Gazette’s Bill Brownstein that Roberts has served his time outside the industry:

“That happened nearly two years ago and he was out of the industry for a spell, but he has moved on, and we’re moving on. We’re turning the page. There is absolutely zero reason to be concerned about that issue going forward. Leslie has been so transparent about it all, so above board, in order to have a clean slate going forward.”

Asked whether Roberts still has ties to BuzzPR, Bury said he “no longer has a stake in any PR company. And, as with anyone on the station, we insist that any potential conflict of interests be declared and we manage them proactively.”

Hall was hired by CJAD from The Beat just last month to co-host the 8pm show, renamed The Night Side. Her first job in radio was at 940 AM (940 News) after winning a contest.

Jon Pole, who hosted The Night Side Mondays and Tuesdays, will take over Hall’s shifts the rest of the week, at least for now, Bury said. “We don’t have anything finalized but I’m a huge fan of his creativity and drive.”

Schnurmacher’s hour-long show is being billed as a way for him to reduce his schedule so he can focus on other projects. He’ll be bringing his Gang of Four with him to his new time.

Station management had no comment about Morgan’s departure and Morgan himself could not be reached for comment. But Bury told Brownstein that “I wish him the very best. The industry is constantly evolving, and sometimes that means making hard choices.”

Morgan has been at CJAD for decades, as a sports reporter and eventually upgraded to evening and then afternoon host. Schnurmacher just marked 20 years at the station, most of it in that 9am to noon time slot.

UPDATE (Nov. 26): Brownstein interviews the new daytime lineup, starting with Roberts, who says he takes “I accept full responsibility” for his mistake at Global.

TTP Media’s CFNV 940 AM begins on-air testing

After occasional sputters of an audible tone a few hours a day over a few weeks, 940 AM has actual audio for the first time in almost seven years as TTP Media’s first AM radio station has officially begun testing.

The programming consists of music in English and French, with a 23-second announcement about the station about every 15 minutes confirming its callsign of CFNV and asking people with reception issues to call 1-855-732-5940. It says the station will launch “progressivement sous peu” or “très bientôt” (the message varies slightly).

CFNV will be a French-language talk station when it launches, which the CRTC has said it must do by Nov. 21. The licence was first authorized in 2011, and the deadline extended three times (one more than usual).

The deadline to launch an English station at 600 AM passed on Nov. 9. The CRTC confirms to me it has received an application for an extension to that deadline (which was supposed to be final) but has not made a decision yet.

A third station, a French sports-talk at 850 AM, had its authorization expire this summer with no request for extension.

940 AM, which is assigned to Montreal as a clear channel, so this station will have a very large footprint at night, was last used by AM 940, a Corus-owned station that began as 940 News and kept cutting resources and changing formats until it finally shut down in 2010.

Former Mix 96 morning man Andre Maisonneuve dies, leaving radio community in mourning

Montreal’s radio community is in mourning this weekend, with the news that Andre Maisonneuve, the morning and afternoon host on Mix 96, has died of cancer.

The Ottawa Citizen has a story on Maisonneuve, speaking to his brother and a long-time friend.

Outside of Montreal, Maisonneuve was better known as “Katfish Morgan”, and for the past decade worked at Live 88.5 in Ottawa. The station, owned by Newcap Radio, posted a tribute to him on Saturday.

Maisonneuve worked in radio for 18 years before getting a gig here in his hometown, at stations in London, Ont., Calgary, Halifax and Toronto. In 1998, he was named the morning man at Mix 96, along with Ted Bird. A year later, Bird reunited with Terry DiMonte on CHOM and Maisonneuve was paired with Nat Lauzon. (They notably inaugurated their new show by driving a Zamboni to Toronto, which garnered them some media attention in small towns along the 401.)

Lauzon, who had also worked with Maisonneuve at Mix 99.9 in Toronto a couple of years earlier, took the news particularly hard. Even before he died, she had often shared cherished memories of the Andre and Nat show on her Facebook page.

I asked Lauzon for comment about her friend’s passing. She didn’t want to talk on the phone because of her fragile emotional state, so she wrote this to me instead:

In a terrible year where we have lost so many of the greats, I consider Andre among them.

Andre could do anything. He was that rare blend of uber-talented jock but with the kind of vulnerability that allowed listeners to know him as a person, too. He was warm, kind, interested, creative and genuinely, naturally funny. On the air, Andre would take you places that were silly and ridiculous, then grow them and explore them without fear. And if they bombed, so what? And if they were winners, so what? The joy was in getting there, the reward was in trying. He was never afraid to be the foil or take chances. But more so, he was happy to stand back and let you shine. He could trust a moment and let it breathe instead of filling it will noise. He knew how to work WITH people, on the air. He was a careful listener and built the moment instead of clamouring for punchlines. (I don’t need to tell any “radio person” how rare a quality this is.)

He was a master of voices, with an impressive and ever-expanding stable of impersonations and characters. In a radio age, where so many “bits” come packaged from prep services, we wrote our own. Because Andre could handle any special voice requirements those bits entailed — from impersonations to accents to singing … it was endless, often surprising even himself! We laughed. So much. Andre had a winning, engaging laugh.

What I’ve said here of course, is all radio-related and barely scratches the surface of who he was personally (and at one point, I hope to write more on that), but it’s not difficult to find echoes of these same sentiments from across the country, from folks who knew Andre at various points in his lengthy radio career.

Andre was my colleague, but he was also my big brother and my teacher and my friend. His is a huge loss to radio — but also to those who loved him. My heart breaks for his two amazing kids, who he was fiercely proud of. I am hardly alone in admitting that losing him has me roiling with grief and anger. Very simply, I adored him. I will love and miss him always.

Maisonneuve and Lauzon broke up (work-wise) in 2002 when the station’s lineup was shuffled and both moved to other parts of the day. He went back to the morning show in 2004, paired with Lisa Player. In 2005, Maisonneuve moved to Ottawa for the launch of Live 88.5 (CILV-FM) and became Katfish Morgan again. He stayed there until just recently, when his disease forced him off the air, though he didn’t publicize that fact.

The station’s tribute reads in part:

Andre was a great broadcaster, a tremendous team player and a fearless leader.

Andre gave birth to LiVE 88.5. He “lived life large” and he was an absolutely magnificent human being. He taught us all to live in and for the moment. All those that enjoyed the pleasure of his company on and off the air knew and felt that he was always “present.” We built an entire radio station on those very same principles.

Andre was a truly loyal friend to all who knew him. He had a real zeal and a “lust for life” like no one we have ever known.

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TTP Media comes back from the dead with weeks to go until deadline

After five years of almost nothing happening, could the mythical TTP Media be on course to get an AM radio station on the air in a month?

Though it looked this summer as if the company had all but abandoned its quest to become a news-talk radio powerhouse in Montreal, a major development suggests the project has been revived, even though there’s less than a month to go until the first final deadline to get a station on the air.

Nicolas Tétrault, one of the partners in 7954689 Canada Inc., posted two videos to YouTube last week that showed the Kahnawake transmitter site that the new stations at 600 and 940 AM are set to broadcast from. In one of them, Tétrault describes the installation as having been purchased that week from Cogeco Media.

The videos were removed shortly after they were noticed and I sent an inquiry to Tétrault about the status of the stations.

But Richard Lachance, president of Cogeco Media, confirmed to me that the transmitters, towers and other assets at the site were indeed sold. The purchase price, he said, is confidential.

Meanwhile, the ttpmedia.ca domain name that the group had let lapse was re-registered about the same time, Oct. 11. It’s a parked domain and the records don’t indicate its owner. An email sent to Tétrault’s address, which bounced this summer, seems to have gone through this time, but I don’t know for sure if he received it.

Though these signs are encouraging — the transmitter purchase would make no sense if they weren’t serious about putting these stations up — the group is up against tight deadlines.

On Nov. 9, the CRTC’s “final” deadline to launch the English news-talk station at 600 AM hits. And Nov. 21 is the “final” deadline to launch the French station at 940 AM. I write “final” in quotes because the CRTC’s first “final” deadline to launch at 940 was actually November 2015, but they changed their mind and granted another one.

Technically, the deadlines are to get the stations operational, which requires a period of on-air testing first. But it’s possible the CRTC would be lenient if at the deadline the station is at least doing said testing. This, of course, says nothing about all the other issues involved, like programming. There have been no high-profile (or even, to my knowledge, low-profile) poachings of staff from other radio stations or other announcements that would suggest they’re lining up talent yet.

A check of the 600 and 940 AM frequencies also shows no test signal on either.

It’s a small step and we know little else, since the partners still won’t talk. But the purchase of the site, even though it was supposedly being finalized a year ago but only closed this month, is a solid step forward.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said the YouTube video mentioned only the 940 station. Someone who watched it heard mention of 600 as well, so maybe my memory is faulty.

CRTC rules CKIN-FM is not breaking its licence conditions with Arabic-language focus

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has dismissed a complaint against CKIN-FM 106.3 by Radio Moyen Orient (CHOU 1450 AM) that it is not respecting its licence conditions by drastically increasing the amount of Arabic programming it broadcasts.

The complaint, filed in the spring by the city’s incumbent Arabic radio station, said that when Neeti P. Ray purchased CKIN-FM from Groupe CHCR (owner of CKDG-FM 105.1), it promised to maintain the station’s ethnic focus and serve the same languages. But after the acquisition closed, the station essentially turned itself into an Arabic station, broadcasting Arabic programming daily from midnight to 7pm, Spanish music until midnight on weekdays, and relegating the six other languages to an hour each on Saturday and Sunday nights.

For CHOU, this meant direct competition, which it judged was unfair. (CKIN-FM’s media kit boasts that FM is better than AM, without naming CHOU directly.)

But as I noted, and as Ray noted, and as the CRTC noted, nothing in the conditions of licence prevents them from doing this. The ethnic broadcasting policy incorporated into the licence conditions says that a certain number of languages and ethnic groups have to be served, but does not place a minimum or maximum number of hours.

The only place where CKIN-FM broke its licence conditions was (coincidentally?) during the week sampled by CHOU when it came two languages short of its required eight. The station explained this by saying that there was a schedule change, and two programs that aired on Saturday one weekend and Sunday the next were just outside the sample week (weeks are defined as Sunday to Saturday). This is a very reasonable explanation (though broadcasters should exceed their requirements to give themselves more flexibility and avoid situations like this), and the CRTC agreed.

CKIN-FM’s licence is up next August, and issues of licence compliance can come up again when the CRTC considers licence renewal.

Media News Digest: Lisée’s ideas, cuts at 24H Vancouver, The Goods is bad, and shomiites are looking for work

News about news

At the CRTC

  • A couple of interesting new applications in this notice. Bloomberg TV Canada, which is owned by Channel Zero (the company behind CHCH Hamilton, Silver Screen Classics, Rewind and some porn channels they don’t talk about), has passed the 200,000 subscriber mark which means they’re no longer eligible for exemption from licensing. The application is unremarkable except for two points: It asks to be required to broadcast only 25% Canadian content during its first licensed year, rather than the standard 35% (it argues that for independent channels, that 35% requirement is being phased in). The commission also had concerns that the program supply agreement with Bloomberg means Channel Zero doesn’t really control the programming. CZ says that’s not true, but the details of its answer (and even some of the questions) are redacted in the public file.
  • The notice also contains new applications for radio stations in:
    • Mount Pearl, N.L. (100kW Christian music FM station replacing the existing AM station VOAR)
    • Saint John, N.B. (860W Christian music FM)
    • Simcoe, Ont. (18kW classic hits FM owned by My Broadcasting Corp.)
    • Peace River, Alta. (100kW hot country FM, replacing AM station CKYL and its existing FM retransmitter on the same frequency) — the same company is also proposing a power increase for CKKX-FM, KIX 106.1.
    • Mount Jubilee, Yukon (482W CBC Radio One retransmitter owned by the Yukon government, but licensed to an employee since the law says a licence cannot be given to a government body)

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The ridiculous assumption underlying iHeartRadio Canada

Today was launch day for iHeartRadio Canada, a new mobile app, platform and brand licensed by Bell Media.

Aside from a weekly top 20 countdown show, and the rebranding of the Much Music Video Awards, most of the effects so far aren’t on the air but rather on digital media, and affect how you access radio stations through the Internet.

Many people were no doubt surprised when they visited their local radio station’s website today to find out it had been replaced by a page on iheartradio.ca.

Like a lot of website redesigns these days, this change favours style over substance. It’s very simplified, with only four or five pages in the navigation menu: News, Shows, Contests, Audio/Video, and Events. (There are also smaller links to contact pages, a list of recently played songs, and social media accounts.)

Other stuff has fallen by the wayside. One person already emailed me to note that full-show podcasts that used to be accessible on the old websites are nowhere to be found now. (The audio/video section has clips.) Blogs also appear to have little place on these websites.

Putting everything on iheartradio.ca no doubt makes administration easier for Bell Media, but it also strips away each station’s individual branding. It harkens back to the “portal” mentality of the late 1990s, when media outlets owned by large corporations were made into sections of larger websites, like canada.com, canoe.ca and sympatico.ca.

TSN Radio stations are an exception to this, thought they didn’t have their own websites to begin with, and they also have pages on iHeartRadio.

For most stations, particularly music stations, the websites are adequate. The listen live function is front and centre, and schedules and other basic information isn’t hard to find. And it seems as though there is some ability to customize the websites for each station’s needs.

But looking at the bottom of the page, you see links whose usefulness can be questionable. Click on “On-Air Hosts”, for example, and you get this list, of all 892 on-air personalities at all Bell Media radio stations throughout the country, in an unclear order. (It appears to be alphabetically by first name, but that breaks down once you hit Page 2.)

It might sound like nitpicking, but there’s an assumption underlying this design, that all of Bell Media’s 100+ radio stations are interchangeable, and Canadians will be just as interested in a small-town station across the country as their local station.

And that flies in the face of what the industry has been telling us for years now is the power of traditional radio: the importance of being local.

iHeartRadio mobile app: Like TuneIn, but with more bugs and limited to stations owned by Bell

This mentality is made crystal clear by the iHeartRadio mobile app, which is available on Android and iOS devices.

The app is very bare-bones considering Bell has been hyping it for so long now. It asks you to pick styles of music you’re interested in, and then suggests stations (either Bell Media traditional radio stations or themed iHeartRadio audio streams). You can set up an account and save your favourites, but registration isn’t required to use the app.

There’s a “Local Radio” tab that uses the phone’s GPS function to find radio stations in your area.

iHeartRadio app listening to CJAD.

iHeartRadio app listening to CJAD.

Once you’ve picked a station to listen to, there are options to play, favourite, and buttons you can press that will let you call, email or text message the station — assuming the app has the station’s phone number, text message line and email address plugged in, and many stations don’t have that.

The other buttons are previous, next and scan. Those buttons assume that you’ll be spending time switching radio stations, and not just between local stations but between Bell Media stations across the country, regardless of region, format or language.

Occasionally, every handful of skips or so, there’s a 15 or 30-second unskippable video ad. There are also small banner ads that appear in the app.

The app looks nice. Many stations provide titles of songs currently playing, and the app loads album art where it has that information. The name of the current show is also displayed.

But there’s a lot missing. There’s no access to podcasts or on-demand content, no list of recently played songs, no schedule, and no links to Twitter and Facebook feeds.

And there are still quite a few bugs. Some stations don’t load. That “local stations” list isn’t perfect — TSN Radio 690 isn’t listed for people in Montreal, even though it’s available in the app. And sometimes the app just quits for no reason.

And all this to use an app that’s based on skipping between stations but doesn’t include any stations not owned by Bell Media.

Just use TuneIn

Most of Canada’s other major radio broadcasters, including Rogers, Corus, Cogeco, Newcap, Pattison and RNC Media, have signed on to the UK-based RadioPlayer app. By working together, these companies will make it easier for Canadians to access radio streams and skip between them. But without Bell Media on board (or CBC, or non-profit broadcasters, or some smaller players like Evanov), it too will be incomplete.

The RadioPlayer app isn’t available yet. The announcement was made just to get ahead of iHeartRadio. They haven’t even set a launch date yet.

Which brings me to TuneIn.

The 15-year-old radio streaming website and app is the gold standard for this sort of thing. The “Local Radio” page lists 43 stations in and around Montreal, including stations from Bell Media, its competitors, campus radio stations, CBC, community stations, and cross-border stations. It also includes some online-only local stations. (The list isn’t perfect, and includes some far-away stations, but it’s much more comprehensive than any other.)

It also classifies stations by genre, lets you favourite stations, and uses schedule information to tell you what show you’re listening to.

Because it’s not run in partnership with the stations, there’s no current song information, nor a list of recently played songs or contact information.

But if your goal is an app that lets you stream your favourite radio stations in one app, then this is what you want.

If you want an app that lets you skip between radio stations from towns you didn’t know existed, and ensures that you never hear a radio station that isn’t owned by Bell Media, then by all means iHeartRadio is the app for you.

Other coverage

Natasha Hall, Jon Pole take over as evening hosts on CJAD

Two and a half months after Natasha Hall left 92.5 The Beat with a mysterious new gig lined up that she couldn’t talk about, we finally know what it is: She’s taking over, along with Jon Pole, as the hosts of the weeknight talk show on CJAD, which replaces The Exchange as of next week.

The Exchange’s current hosts, Dave Kaufman and Dan Delmar, are both leaving that job. Kaufman is moving to London to be with his girlfriend and Delmar is taking a step back to focus on his PR business.

The new show is called The Night Side, and begins Monday at 8pm, CJAD announced. Pole hosts Mondays and Tuesdays and Hall hosts the rest of the week.

Pole, who founded My Broadcasting Corporation and has experience as a radio host mainly in Ontario, filled in a couple of times on The Exchange. You can hear one of his shows here:

 

The Beat declares victory after summer ratings surge

Following today’s publication of Numeris’ Summer 2016 results, The Beat 92.5 maintains its ranking as Montreal’s #1 Music Station! The Beat is not only the number one English-language music station among radio listeners of all ages, but it is now is now the Number one RADIO station in the most important demos, Adults 25-54 and Females 25-54!

This was the beginning of a very self-congratulatory press release from 92.5 The Beat on Thursday after learning they had finally beaten competitor Virgin Radio 96 not only overall but among their key demographics.

It’s good news for the station that on Tuesday celebrated its fifth anniversary. But we’ve seen this kind of surge from The Beat before, so it’s too early to tell if the tide has really turned.

What the ratings actually say

As readers of this blog are well aware, there are a lot of ways to play with ratings numbers to claim to be number one. In the case of The Beat, it means ignoring the French market entirely, and ignoring the top-rated English station in the market, CJAD. At which point you’re down to three commercial stations.

The top-line ratings results are posted on Numeris’s website. Here’s what they show:

Montreal anglo market (797,000 people), all ages, May 30 to Aug. 28, 2016:

Callsign Brand Share AMA Daily reach AMA Change from spring AMA Change from last summer
CJAD CJAD 800 26.4% 13,400 170,800 -11% -8%
CKBE-FM The Beat 92.5 19.2% 9,800 211,200 +11% +7%
CJFM-FM Virgin Radio 96 16.3% 8,300 207,300 0 -6%
CHOM-FM CHOM 97.7 12.9% 6,600 145,800 -4% +5%
CBME-FM CBC Radio One 6.2% 3,100 43,500 -3% -6%
CFGL-FM Rythme FM 3.0% 1,500 51,800 +25% +25%
CKGM TSN Radio 690 2.9% 1,500 40,500 -25% -17%
CBM-FM CBC Radio Two 1.6% 800 19,100 0 +14%
CITE-FM Rouge FM 1.3% 700 31,200 +17% +17%
CJPX-FM Radio Classique 1.3% 700 19,200 -12% +17%
CKOI-FM CKOI 1.0% 500 37,000 +43% 0

Other stations have shares below 1%.

Montreal franco market (2,738,000 people), all ages, May 30 to Aug. 28, 2016:

Callsign Brand Share AMA Daily reach AMA Change from spring AMA Change from last summer
CFGL-FM Rythme FM 20.5% 37,300 687,000 -1% +10%
CHMP-FM 98,5 fm 17.0% 31,000 484,700 -18% -13%
CITE-FM Rouge FM 11.9% 21,700 376,400 +19% -15%
CKOI-FM CKOI 10.1% 18,400 480,600 +28% +16%
CJFM-FM Virgin Radio 96 7.0% 12,700 414,300 +44% +23%
CKBE-FM The Beat 92.5 7.0% 12,700 400,200 +14% +23%
CBF-FM ICI Première 6.6% 12,000 224,700 -19% -22%
CHOM-FM CHOM 97.7 5.7% 10,400 316,800 +32% +68%
CKMF-FM Énergie 5.3% 9,600 344,600 +8% -16%
CBFX-FM ICI Musique 2.1% 3,900 82,800 -5% -18%
CJPX-FM Radio Classique 2.0% 3,700 86,100 -33% -36%
CKLX-FM 91.9 Sport 1.3% 2,400 50,600 0 +242%
CJAD CJAD 800 0.7% 1,200 37,500 0 +50%
CKAC Radio Circulation 0.3% 500 47,200 +67% 0
CBME-FM CBC Radio One 0.3% 500 15,500 0 +67%
CBM-FM CBC Radio Two 0.2% 300 26,100 -40% -70%
CHRF AM 980 0.0% 100 3,800 0 N/A
CKGM TSN Radio 690 0.0% 0 3,400 0 -100%

AMA means average minute audience, the average number of people who will be tuning into a station during any minute of a 24-hour day.

Daily reach refers to how many listeners will tune into a station for at least one minute during the average day.

Comparisons to spring (Feb. 29-May 29) and last summer (June 1-Aug. 30, 2015) are here for reference. I’d pay more attention to the year-over-year change than the change over spring, since summer ratings tend to go down particularly for non-music stations. And don’t read too much into the percentage changes for stations lower on the chart. The higher margin for error exaggerates the amplitude of the changes.

Listener boycotts had no effect on The Beat

The Beat has reason to be happy, being higher among anglophones than it was both last spring and last summer. But the big win is in the adults 25-54 and women 25-54 demographics, which it had consistently lost to rival Virgin, even while it had a larger audience overall.

“Today’s milestone results are the product of great teamwork and proof that our audience likes the changes we made to the schedule,” GM Luc Tremblay says in the press release. This is in reference to moving Cat Spencer to afternoons and Cousin Vinny to mornings, but left unsaid is that listener anger to the dropping of Kim Sullivan and Sarah Bartok hasn’t resulted in a drop in ratings. The Beat says its 25-54 audience for the morning show went up 35%.

The news isn’t all bad for Virgin and Bell Media. Virgin’s audience is up among francophone listeners (though just like last summer it’s exactly tied with The Beat for audience among francophones), and CHOM has much more franco listeners. Plus, of course, Bell Media owns four of the five commercial stations in the market.

More importantly, we’ve seen this before. During the winter of 2014-15, The Beat and Virgin had similar numbers relative to each other. The Beat’s program director said the station expected to continue to improve. Virgin’s said it was because it covered the Christmas period when The Beat does better with its Christmas music. The next ratings period, Virgin was back on top.

The next ratings period will tell us if this was another fluke. But The Beat has been consistently higher than Virgin in the overall ratings, and this ratings period was as far from Christmas as you can get.

Franco market: Rythme, CKOI see gains

On the francophone side, Rythme FM climbed above 98.5 FM to the top spot. Expect this to be temporary as 98.5’s A team comes back to work and so do the politicians whose activities fuel news-talk stations. (And besides, both stations are owned by Cogeco, so it’s not exactly a huge competition.)

CKOI is getting more respectable numbers than it used to. Not so long ago it was in the gutter, being outperformed by the anglo music stations among francophones. Now it’s well ahead of them, even nipping at the heels of #2 music station Rouge FM. We’ll see if that keeps up.

91.9 Sport is holding its own, with more than three times the audience it had last summer before the format change and equal to what it had in the spring (when presumably there was more sports to talk about). But its market share is still low, and it might need more to be viable as a talk station.

CHRF, the station that was supposed to be Radio Fierté and is now airing easy-listening music and some miscellaneous programming, is still stuck within the margin of error.

Saroja Coelho named new host of CBC Quebec’s Breakaway

Breakaway, the afternoon drive show on CBC Radio One throughout Quebec (outside of Montreal and Gatineau), finally has a new permanent host: Saroja Coelho, a journalist who until recently was based in Germany.

Her first show is today.

The hiring of Coelho, who worked for Deutsche Welle and freelanced for several outlets including the CBC, might be a bit of a head-scratcher, considering listeners here are unfamiliar with her. But also because Rachelle Solomon, who had been hosting Breakaway since 2014, seemed to be an obvious choice for the job. She will stay with the station and contribute to Breakaway.

Jacquie Czernin, the last permanent host of Breakaway, left the show more than two years ago to be with her ailing mother in B.C. Last December, she made the departure permanent.

UPDATE: I spoke with Coelho for a short story in the Gazette. I’ll have more from her later.

CBC’s press release announcing the hire is below:

SAROJA COELHO NAMED NEW HOST OF CBC RADIO ONE’S BREAKAWAY IN QUEBEC

Tuesday, September 6, 2016 – CBC Quebec is pleased to announce Saroja Coelho as the new host of CBC Radio One’s Breakaway.

Saroja is an experienced journalist and public broadcaster. Prior to joining CBC, Saroja worked for Deutsche Welle in Germany for eight years, holding positions as a radio and television presenter, senior editor and producer, writer, event moderator and media trainer. During that time, Saroja also worked as a freelancer for CBC, BBC, NPR, Ms Magazine and other publications. She has also contributed to CBC Radio on Global Village, Outfront and Metro Morning. Saroja’s first day as host is Tuesday, September 6.

“Saroja brings strong news and broadcast experience to CBC Quebec,” said Meredith Dellandrea, Senior Program Manager, CBC Quebec. “An adventurous traveller in Quebec and around the world, she seeks to understand people and new perspectives. We’re excited to have her join our team.”

“I couldn’t be more delighted about taking over as the host of Breakaway,” said Saroja Coelho, Breakaway host. “Quebec has a rich history and a vibrant culture that is reinventing itself every day. I can’t wait to connect with people across the province and continue Breakaway’s tradition of being an on-air meeting place where people tell their stories, challenge each other with new thinking and, hopefully, have a good laugh.”

Virgin Radio brings in new talent, loses Lee Haberkorn

It was two years ago that Virgin Radio 96 had a silly idea to hold a contest to find a new on-air talent, and the winner was some bearded kid named Lee Haberkorn.

Since then, Haberkorn has become a regular at the station, most recently hosting weekend mornings but also being very active on social media, which he uses to post videos of him engaging in a prank war with afternoon host (and program director/boss) Mark Bergman.

So it was perhaps inevitable that he’d be moving on to better opportunities sooner than later. This month he left the station to join the new Virgin Radio in Kitchener, becoming their new morning man.

Haberkorn’s departure follows that of Andrea Collins, who also left the station but stays in the Bell Media family.

Collins has been replaced in late mornings by perennial schedule-hole-filler Kelly Alexander, who now finally has a solid weekday job. Alexander’s weekend shift is being filled by a new import, Shannon Brooksbank, known on the air as Brooksy, who comes from Corus’s Jump 106.9 in Ottawa (where she worked with former Virgin host Tony Stark).

No replacement for Haberkorn’s weekend morning shift has been announced yet. So far the station has been filling weekend mornings with announcerless music.

91.9 Sport adds live evening programming, including Habs postgame show

91.9 Sport schedule (click for PDF)

91.9 Sport schedule for 2016-17 (click for PDF)

The station didn’t mention this in its press release, but the best news is that for the first time since 2013 (and only the second time since 2011), CKLX-FM 91.9 in Montreal will not be starting its fall season with a new name and radical change in format.

What began in 2004 as Couleur Jazz and then became Planète Jazz, then Radio X in 2012, then Radio 9 in 2014 and finally 91.9 Sport in 2015, will stick with that last brand for a second year, as Montreal’s only full-time French-language sports talk station.

And it’s expanding its programming into the evening. No, it isn’t airing live sporting events, but it will have talk weeknights until midnight, the last two hours of which on game nights will be an open-line Canadiens postgame show, even though the Habs game airs on competitor 98.5 FM.

There’s also a pregame show on weekends, from 5-7pm.

The weeknight show is called Sports Extra, and hosted by Meeker Guerrier, who has been their soccer specialist. Soccer and Football have their focus earlier in the show (when hockey fans will be listening to the game). Perhaps the most interesting thing is that he’ll also be taking calls during intermissions. (Why not take calls during commercials why you’re at it?) That will require some juggling, since they can’t have dead air otherwise. Similar to how RDS does l’Antichambre on Saturday nights, it means finding very flexible filler programming otherwise. Fortunately that’s easier to do in radio than on TV.

The weekend show Le 5 @ 7 will also be an audience-driven show, giving people the chance to make predictions before games. Sunday’s show will include a week in review and a focus on football.

The other big addition is Pierre Houde, the RDS Canadiens play-by-play man, who will become a columnist on the morning show. Other than saying he’ll be commenting on the news, it doesn’t give much detail on what we should expect, but you can make a good guess. Houde does a similar thing on a regular basis on CHOM-FM with his friend Terry DiMonte.

So here’s what 91.9’s lineup looks like now:

Weekdays

  • 6-10am: Du sport, le matin with Michel Langevin and Enrico Ciccone. News-focused. Contributors include Michel Villeneuve (7:03), Réjean Tremblay (8:03), Pierre Houde (9:03) and more.
  • 10am-12pm: Gilbert Delorme. Call-in show.
  • 12-1pm: Du sport, le midi with Charles-André Marchand. Commentary-focused. Last half hour devoted to football.
  • 1-3pm: Laraque et Gonzalez with Georges Laraque and Stéphane Gonzalez. Debate-focused.
  • 3-7pm: Jean-Charles en liberté with Jean-Charles Lajoie. Analysis-focused. Contributors include Réjean Tremblay (3:45pm), Yvon Pedneault and Mike Bossy (4pm), Mathias Brunet (4:45pm) and Bob Hartley (5:03pm).
  • 7pm-12am: Sports Extra with Meeker Guerrier. Includes segments on soccer (7-7:30pm) and football (7:30-8pm, rebroadcasting the 12:30pm show), and call-ins after Canadiens games.

Weekends

  • 6am-noon: Les faits saillants, a best-of from the week.
  • Noon-5pm: Les légendes du rock with Jeff Paquet. Rock music.
  • 5pm-7pm: Le 5 @ 7 with Louis-Philippe Guy (starts Oct. 1). Lookahead and look back. More hockey focused on Saturdays and football focused on Sundays.
  • 7pm-midnight: 100% Rock, with francophone rock music from the 70s to 2000s.

Outside of these hours will be mainly rebroadcasts and highlights of other shows.

The morning show interviewed general manager Yves Bombardier this morning to explain the changes and video is up on their website.

One thing he points out, and is clear from the schedule, is an attempt to structure the programs to create rendez-vous moments. Soccer and football fans will know when to tune in to hear programming related to their preferred sport. People who want to listen to Pierre Houde will know to tune in at 9am. And there are top-of-the-hour three-minute newscasts during morning and afternoon drive and at noon.

More people are listening, but is it enough?

The station is cautiously optimistic, and their ratings explain why. The station’s reach and average audience is about 1/10th that of 98.5 FM, and even among men 25-54, which should be its core demographic, its market share is stuck around 4-5% vs 30% for 98.5. (For women, it’s virtually nil.)

But its numbers are better than it used to be. If you look at overall (ages 2+ 24/7) ratings measured by BBM/Numeris in the spring of each year, you see the station was much better in 2016 than any of the previous five years.

  • 2011 (Jazz): 1.0% share, 55,900 reached each day
  • 2012 (Jazz): 1.2% share, 63,400 reached each day
  • 2013 (Radio X): 0.7% share, 42,400 reached each day
  • 2014 (Radio X): 1.2% share, 51,100 reached each day
  • 2015 (Radio 9): 0.9% share, 43,000 reached each day
  • 2016 (91.9 Sport): 2.4% share, 54,800 reached each day

A doubling of ratings isn’t that fantastic when you’re so low to begin with, but it’s enough that they’re sticking with the plan. The increase in share with a more modest increase in reach means that people are tuning in longer.

UPDATE (Oct. 9): The weekend lineup has been tweaked. I’ve updated it above.