Category Archives: Radio

Elliott Price to host morning show on The Fan 590 in Toronto

Elliott Price

Well, now we know the real reason why Elliott Price canned his daily show on CFMB 1280: He’s moving to Toronto.

Sportsnet announced today that Price takes over as morning co-host at 590 The Fan starting Feb. 27, along with Greg Brady and Hugh Burrill. Their show will be called Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup with Brady & Price, weekdays from 5:30-9am.

I spoke with Price for a story in the Montreal Gazette that appears in Thursday’s paper.

The new show replaces Dean Blundell & Co., which was terminated effective immediately. Blundell said it was a mutual decision.

In Twitter posts (his account is now protected), Blundell gave thanks to Sportsnet:

Thanks to all at Rogers and Sportsnet. Owe a great deal of gratitude. Mutual and in both our best interest to not renew….Everyone at the Fan was super kind to me. Sports deserves people that live it and breathe it. I can’t wait to swim with both arms….and look forward to what’s next.

Because Blundell was such a controversial figure in the biggest market in the country, there’s a lot of coverage of this story from that angle in Toronto: Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Toronto Sports Media, Barrett Sports Media and The Canadian Press, each with different details and quotes.

Price developed a relationship with Sportsnet, and in particular 590 The Fan program director Dave Cadeau, with his CFMB show, even rebranding it as Sportsnet Tonight.

This change will mean leaving the market he’s worked in for decades, but entering the largest one in the country, and in a prestigious position on top of that. Toronto has both a Sportsnet and TSN radio station, with the Sportsnet station having a 4% overall market share and the TSN station a 0.5% share. But following the popular (though controversial) Blundell won’t be easy.

Price also hasn’t forgotten his former co-host, and sent a public note to his former home suggesting they hire him:

“This is good”

I spoke with Price on Wednesday. He confirmed the obvious, that he knew of his new job when he ended the CFMB show. “They made it clear that they were interested in my services for a couple of months,” he said. “They phoned and said we’re interested in bringing you down here.”

I asked him how long it took for him to say yes.

“Shorter than it took to answer this question,” he said.

Price has spent almost all his broadcasting career in Montreal, at CJAD, CFCF/CIQC, and CKGM (Team 990/TSN 690). Before that he spent three years in New Brunswick and three days in Regina. (“I was out covering a press conference and CJAD called me,” he said of the decision to leave that job so quickly.)

But moving to Toronto wasn’t a difficult decision. “The day the Expos left we were ready to go anywhere and we’ve been in that mood for 12 years,” he said.

Not only is the new job a big step up from CFMB and even a step up from his old one at CKGM — it’s in Canada’s largest sports market, and at a higher-rated sports station — but it gives him a chance to talk less about hockey.

“I’m a baseball fan. I love to talk baseball. I’m glad I get to talk about baseball again. (Montreal is) a one-horse town. There’s the Alouettes and Impact, but people want to hear you talk Habs. I have more interests. I love baseball, I love basketball.”

In Toronto, the Leafs are king, but there are also the Blue Jays and the Raptors.

“There’s no better job (in Montreal) than where I’m going. It would have been easier to just stay in my hometown, but this is good.”

So he’s looking for a place to stay in Toronto. Or, well, his family is looking. “I’m not the boss,” he said. “The boss is scouting.”

What about leaving Montreal? Having to talk about the Leafs instead of the Habs? No problem for Price, since he’s kind of indifferent about either team.

“The Canadiens and the Leafs there’s no difference for me,” he said. “When things go bad, I like to see them go really bad. When they’re good I like to see them go good.”

But he hates the Bruins. And that won’t change in Toronto.

Even talking about the Jays gets him to talk about baseball. The Expos don’t exist anymore, so that rivalry isn’t an issue.

And if the Expos came back?

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” he said. “The Expos have been gone for 12 years now, that’s a long time.”

So what will he miss about Montreal?

“Smoked meat and bagels,” he said. He definitely won’t be the first Montreal ex-pat in Toronto who misses Schwartz’s and St-Viateur Bagel.

I also asked him about what he posted to Facebook when he ended the CFMB show, about the English radio market in Montreal and lack of advertisers.

“The problem with the market here is the dwindling language demographic,” he said. He asked me how big Montreal’s English-language market is, and I said it was about the size of Winnipeg. He didn’t really believe it. (Numeris, the company that measures radio ratings, gives Greater Montreal’s anglo market a size of 805,000, and WInnipeg 705,460 in its latest reports.)

But while he said he thought his show was viable, mainly because he didn’t have to worry about covering a lot of overhead in his show’s budget, he put a lot of the blame on himself.

“I did everything, but I’m not a salesman, and I really didn’t do a good job. I did well because I built up a cachet in this town,” he said, noting that a lot of advertisers came to him after he left TSN 690. “I didn’t get out there and sell, and I need to and I didn’t.”

Price is the second former Montreal radio personality to get a job in Toronto this month. Sarah Bartok announced last week she’s joining 93.5 The Move.

UPDATE (Feb. 9): Brady has a long, honest Facebook post today talking about his career, what it’s like to have gotten pushed aside for Blundell, and his new team including Price.

Sarah Bartok hired by Toronto’s 93.5 The Move

Sarah Bartok is back on the air (93.5 The Move)

Those hoping that Sarah Bartok would find another on-air job after being let go from The Beat 92.5 last spring (chiefly among them Bartok herself) had their wish granted this week, though those hoping it would be in Montreal will be left disappointed.

Instead, Bartok’s new job is as a swing announcer on Toronto’s CFXJ-FM (93.5 The Move), owned by Newcap Radio. Her first shift was Saturday, and she’ll be filling in on the schedule where needed, including on the morning show Monday to Wednesday this week.

Bartok made the announcement on her Facebook page on Friday.

The Move (formerly Flow 93.5) has a pop music format similar to the station she left (not to mention the purple colour on the website). The 16-year-old station, which was owned by CHUM, sold to Bell and then offloaded to Newcap when Bell bought Astral and hit ownership limits in Toronto, has a 3.7kW signal and a 2.2% market share in the latest Numeris ratings report, which is low even in a market so saturated that not a single station has a double-digit share. But Toronto’s a much bigger market than Montreal, so she’ll still have plenty of listeners.

Elliott Price ends show on CFMB

Elliott Price

UPDATE (Feb. 8): Sportsnet has announced that Elliott Price will be co-host of the morning show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto.

Elliott Price is pulling the plug on Sportsnet Tonight after a year on CFMB 1280 AM.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Price thanked sponsors, contributors and listeners, but had a message for those who didn’t choose to advertise, as well as Montreal’s English community in general:

Many had a chance to advertise and chose not to.
Although reaching out to you was not one of my strengths.
I hope in the future you can see past your wallets.

If you have a chance and a few dollars and think it important, please invest in our future or soon none of us will live here or our culture will be completely gone.

Price said he’ll take a vacation as he contemplates what next to do with his life.

Price began airing a show on CFMB on Valentine’s Day 2016, three months after he was laid off by TSN 690. It started as a weekly Sunday night show called Price is Right, but was upgraded to a two-hour daily show in June. In August, it announced a deal with Sportsnet and changed its name to Sportsnet Tonight with Elliott Price. At the time, I asked whether the show was viable, and Price said it was about halfway to that point. It seems he couldn’t get it the rest of the way there.

Sportsnet Tonight’s final show is tonight, 8-10pm, on CFMB 1280 AM. There’s been no announcement of what will replace it on CFMB’s schedule.

Heather Backman, Paul Beauregard laid off at CHOM

Heather Backman

Heather Backman, who was Terry DiMonte’s co-host on CHOM’s morning show since he returned to Montreal in 2012, is no longer in that role. Backman updated her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles to remove references to the station, and CHOM’s website no longer lists her as co-host for the morning show.

Paul Beauregard, who returned to CHOM recently to fill in on various shifts, is also out.

I wrote about their layoffs in a story for the Montreal Gazette, which also includes some analysis of the financial situation of Bell Media’s radio stations and the market (albeit with figures from 2014-15).

Matthew Garrow, Director of News, Local Stations, Sports, Discovery Networks & Community Investment for Bell Media, confirmed that there are layoffs happening at CHOM, without mentioning any names:

I can confirm that we are reducing several positions at CHOM. These changes are the result of the challenges Bell Media and other Canadian media companies are facing due to increasing international competition, the evolution of broadcast technologies, and advertising and regulatory pressure.

We have no further comment on the matter at this time.

Backman herself had no immediate comment, but posted a message to Facebook on Tuesday morning thanking DiMonte, producer Esteban Vargas and former bosses Martin Spalding and the late André Lallier.

Beauregard also declined to comment.

The cuts at CHOM are part of wider cuts at Bell Media nationwide. They include:

Bell hasn’t said how many people it’s letting go across the country, where they are, or if there are other cuts to come.

UPDATE (Jan. 31): DiMonte addressed Backman’s departure at the beginning of Tuesday’s morning show, saying the decision was “not mine to make”, and citing the disruptive nature of employment in the industry. He said the position of morning show co-host has been eliminated and the show would “take a new direction, and we’re moving forward without Heather.” He said Monday was “tough” and she will be missed but the station wishes her the best. (He posted a nearly identical message on his Facebook page.)

This was DiMonte’s only unprompted statement about Backman during Tuesday’s show, so most listeners didn’t hear it. But it was brought up during the 7am hour when contributor Pierre Houde brought it up to pay tribute. Here’s what he said:

The Beat’s Nat Lauzon was among those local personalities to (at least publicly) show support to her dismissed friend:

Kim Sullivan, who worked at both Virgin Radio and The Beat, also paid tribute:

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.

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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: