Category Archives: Radio

Posted in Radio

Radio ratings: CHOI still #1 in Quebec City; Jeff Fillion boosts NRJ Québec by 447%

Radio ratings for mid-size markets across Canada were released this week by BBM Canada. Unlike big markets like Montreal and Toronto, these markets are measured twice a year by written diaries, which are less accurate than electronic meters.

Here’s what they show (updated with notes from Bell Media Radio’s analysis):

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Posted in Radio

Shawn Apel named host of Radio Noon

Shawn Apel

Shawn Apel

Shawn Apel, the soft-spoken CBC Montreal radio veteran with the driest of wits, has been named the permanent host of Radio Noon, he weekly radio show broadcast throughout Quebec on CBC Radio One.

Apel replaces Bernard St-Laurent, who leaves that job to focus full-time on his role as chief political correspondent in Quebec. It’s a move that comes concurrently with various cuts to local staff, though not directly related to it.

Last day for three staffers

Speaking of those cuts, Friday is the last day on the job for three others at CBC Montreal. Andrew Chang does his last show as anchor before leaving on paternity leave and coming back to some other job at CBC outside of Montreal. You can watch his last show here, or just the career retrospective here.

Web editor Corinne Smith is leaving the corporation to lecture at Concordia University.

And Pierre Landry does his last episode of Homerun as its arts reporter. He’ll be a fill-in on All in a Weekend over the summer, but there’s no guarantee of any work after that.

Here’s 11 minutes of excerpts from Landry’s last hour at Homerun:

 

Posted in Radio

CKRS-FM Saguenay wants to become a Rythme FM station

CKRS logoA week after the Journal de Montréal reported that CKRS-FM in Saguenay wants to become a Rythme FM, the CRTC has published an application from the station that confirms the news.

CKRS is owned by Richard Speer’s Attraction Radio, a growing new player in the Quebec radio scene. It officially owns five radio stations, including CJIT-FM in Lac-Mégantic. It currently has an application in front fo the CRTC to purchase CJLM-FM (M 103.5) in Joliette from a cooperative for $750,000, a deal announced in January 2013. (The deadline for comments on that was last week, and there were no comments filed on that application. A hearing is scheduled June 26, but that’s a formality. The parties aren’t being asked to attend.) And it recently announced a deal to buy the Réseau des Appalaches, owner of Passion Rock and O97,3 stations in the region of Victoriaville/Thetford-Mines.

La Presse’s Nathalie Collard profiles the group in a recent story.

History of losing money

CKRS, whose AM predecessor dates back to 1947, was once part of the Corus Quebec radio network. It was left off the list of radio stations sold to Cogeco in 2011, and was slated for closure. It was picked up by Radio Saguenay Inc., a group whose owners included Guy Carbonneau. But losing about $400,000 a year (less than the $1 million a year that it lost under Corus), Radio Saguenay gave it away to Attraction for $300,000, a purchase approved by the CRTC in 2012. CKRS and became Attraction’s third station, all of them acquired mere months apart.

Though CKRS’s licence was renewed just a few months ago, Attraction says it feels it can’t continue operating the station in its current format.

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Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio

Q&A: CJLO vs. VPR

Since the announcement last month that Concordia’s CJLO radio station has applied for an FM retransmitter downtown to allow listeners at the downtown campus to hear it, but would block out Vermont Public Radio for many more, there’s been a lot of questions, debate and differences of opinion about this proposal.

The CRTC has already received 645 interventions, almost all of whom are radio listeners who support one side or the other. The majority are VPR listeners responding to the organization’s public call-out on its website. Others are CJLO fans who want to be able to hear the station on the downtown campus and say this is the only practical way to do so.

In most (but not all) cases, the interveners don’t have bad things to say about the other side. The VPR fans hope for an alternative solution to the reception problem. Both CJLO and VPR say they support the other and don’t want to prevent anyone from being able to listen to the other.

I look a bit deeper into this application in this story for The Gazette, which appears in Friday’s paper. Below, I’ll tackle some of the questions and perceptions that people have and try to come up with some unbiased answers to them.

A map of potential interference between VPR and CJLO on 107.9 FM, based on terrain data, created by Yves R. Hamel and Associates (click for larger)

A map of potential interference between VPR and CJLO on 107.9 FM, based on terrain data, created by Yves R. Hamel and Associates (click for larger)

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Posted in My articles, Radio

CRTC approves two new ethnic radio stations in Montreal serving south Asian community

UPDATE (May 22): See also a story about this in The Gazette.

Last year, the CRTC received two apparently competing applications for new radio stations serving Montreal’s south Asian community. Today, it approved both of them.

ITR, 102.9 FM

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station (click for larger)

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station at 102.9 FM (click for larger)

The first, by AGNI Communications, would broadcast at 102.9 FM with a weak 50-watt transmitter on Chabanel St. near Highway 15, which would allow it to reach Ahuntsic and surrounding boroughs, but no farther than that because of interference from stations in Sherbrooke, St-Jérôme, Valleyfield and St-Jacques-le-Mineur on the same or adjacent frequencies.

The service already exists as on a subcarrier of CISM-FM on 89.3. It specifically targets the Tamil community, and the location of its transmitter will, it believes, cover the majority of Montreal’s Tamil-speaking community.

Radio Humsafar, 1610 AM

Projected broadcast pattern of Radio Humsafar on 1610AM

Projected broadcast pattern of Radio Humsafar on 1610AM

The second station is Radio Humsafar, which exists as an online, subcarrier and phone-in audio service. Its programming would be in English, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Pashto.

The station would operate with a 1kW transmitter sharing the transmission site of CJLO 1690 AM on Norman St. in St-Pierre. Because the two would have the same antenna and operate at the same power, their patterns should be similar, so if you can hear CJLO you should be able to hear this station.

Humsafar has been trying for years to get a radio station on the air in Montreal, where it’s based. It had originally applied for 1400 AM, but the long-delayed move of CJWI (CPAM Radio Union) from 1610 to 1410 delayed that application and changed its frequency to 1610. Humsafar also owns CJLV 1570 in Laval and had tried to convert that into an ethnic station, an application the CRTC denied in 2012.

Radio Humsafar’s president, Jasvir Singh Sandhu, tells me he’ll begin discussions with engineers about quickly getting the station on the air, which should happen in the coming months. He projects hiring a handful of people as Humsafar expands the number of languages it broadcasts in. The phone-in and online streaming services will continue after the station is on the air, but the SCMO subcarrier it rents on CKUT will be discontinued after a few months of simulcasting. Sandhu also issued a press release which is republished below.

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Posted in Radio

Nikki Balch leaves Virgin Radio for Hot 89.9 in Ottawa

Nikki Balch at Virgin's old Fort St. studio.

Nikki Balch at Virgin’s old Fort St. studio.

Virgin Radio 96 is looking for a new weekend personality. That’s because Nikki Balch is leaving the station, having accepted a job doing evenings at Hot 89.9 FM in Ottawa, a radio station owned by Newcap. There, she replaces David Cruise, who left to join the morning team at the relaunched Z95.3 in Vancouver (formerly Virgin Radio, but rebranded after Bell sold it to Newcap).

Balch’s first shift is Monday in Ottawa. Her last shift at Virgin was last Sunday. Until a replacement is found, Virgin’s schedule doesn’t list a host for the weekend morning show and Kelly Alexander is doing weekend afternoons.

“It’s just time for my next adventure,” Balch tells me. “I’ve had an amazing time in Montreal and at Virgin Radio and I love the station and the people! I’m going to be doing evenings on Hot 89.9 which I’m super excited about, I’ve always been a huge fan of the station! Plus I’m close enough to come back and enjoy the night life here. What more can a girl ask for?”

Balch has been at Virgin Radio in Montreal since 2011. Before that she was at what was then called Z103.5 in Halifax, where she grew up. She also worked briefly at K94.5 in Moncton.

At Virgin, she was a daytime host, doing early afternoons, then late mornings. But she got shuffled into a weekend job when Mark Bergman decided to put himself back on the air. Bergman tried to put a spin on the change, saying she remained full-time and would be doing interviews and web videos and stuff for the station, but it was hard to see it as an upward career move.

The move to Ottawa is definitely a step up, not only moving to a higher-profile position but to a top-rated radio station in a very competitive market about the same size as this one (about 800,000 anglos in each, though far fewer francophones). Hot 89.9 is beaten only by CBC Radio One in total anglo market share in Ottawa/Gatineau. She’ll have her work cut out for her keeping it that way.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

CJLO applies for FM retransmitter at downtown campus

A rough guide to the range of the proposed CJLO FM transmitter. Red areas would experience interference from WVPS in Vermont.

A rough guide to the range of the proposed CJLO FM transmitter. Red areas would experience interference from WVPS in Vermont.

After much study, Concordia student radio station CJLO 1690 AM believes it has found a solution to reception problems it is experiencing at the university’s downtown campus. A long-rumoured application for a low-power FM retransmitter was published Friday by the CRTC.

If approved, the transmitter would operate on 107.9 FM, from an antenna on the Henry F. Hall Building, at 100 watts.

VPR interference

The frequency is one that has been previously identified as potentially usable in Montreal, but it comes with one big downside: It’s the same frequency as WVPS, the Vermont Public Radio transmitter in Burlington, and the only U.S. public radio station that reaches into Montreal.

Because of co-channel interference from the 48kW VPR transmitter, the CJLO FM retransmitter would have a very limited range, basically covering the core of downtown and not much else. On the other hand, areas around downtown will experience a great deal of interference, likely hearing both stations at the same time, and neither very well. (I can’t get too specific about this because the maps submitted with the application are blurry and black-and-white because they were sent by fax).

Though VPR’s 107.9FM signal reaches Montreal remarkably well, it is not protected in this city. We learned this two years ago when a proposed station in Hudson offered 107.9 FM as an alternate frequency if its first choice of 106.7 was rejected. The CRTC received some comments from VPR listeners upset at the potential of no longer being able to hear that station.

CJLO's AM antenna on Norman St. Increasing its power, or putting a transmitter like this downtown, are impractical solutions to downtown reception problems,

CJLO’s AM antenna on Norman St. Increasing its power, or putting a transmitter like this downtown, are impractical solutions to downtown reception problems.

Bad signal

CJLO’s report, prepared by broadcasting consultant Michel Mathieu, notes that signal strength readings were taken along Sherbrooke St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. downtown, and they showed that the signal is particularly bad in the heart of downtown where Concordia’s downtown campus is. The signal starts dropping around Atwater St., and returns around Berri. The reason? Downtown skyscrapers absorbing the AM signal.

Even Laval, more than twice the distance away, shows a signal 10 times better than in some downtown blocks.

In case the quantitative data isn’t enough, the application also includes a dozen letters from CJLO listeners complaining of the signal quality downtown.

There’s clearly a problem here, and a low-power FM retransmitter makes the most sense as a way to solve it, even though the choice of frequency might not be to everyone’s liking. (Mathieu notes that even VPR’s signal is hard to receive downtown because of the same interference problems that CJLO experiences.)

Alternatives studied

CJLO’s application noted that it studied other options:

  • Increasing the power of its 1,000W transmitter in Lachine’s St-Pierre district was rejected because it wouldn’t solve the problem. Even TSN 690, operating with giant towers at 50,000 watts on a clear channel, has signal reception problems in downtown buildings.
  • An AM repeater (it’s unclear if this would have been on the same frequency or another one) “became out of the question” because of practical and cost limitations, being unable to put a 75-foot antenna on top of the Hall Building.

The report doesn’t mention looking at other FM frequencies, but with the FM band effectively at capacity in the city, it would be difficult to locate one to put even a low-power transmitter without causing interference

CJLO’s application can be downloaded here (2.8MB .zip file). The CRTC is accepting comments on CJLO’s application until 8pm on May 26. They can be submitted using this form. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

UPDATE (May 4): CKUT’s International Radio Report devoted its show on Sunday to this application, with comments from supporters of CJLO and VPR. You can listen to the show here in MP3 format.

Meanwhile, VPR is warning its listeners about the CRTC application and its consequences.

Posted in Radio, Sports

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

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

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

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

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

The Alouettes’ first game is June 14.

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

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

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

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

Posted in Montreal, Radio

CRTC says Radio X Montreal can remove jazz music programming

Planète Jazz is no more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Radio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White has another week at The Beat before moving west.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Montreal, Radio

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

Radio ratings March 2014

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Radio

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

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

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

(Updated below with news of the relaunch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Radio

Wayne Bews hired as general manager at The Beat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in My articles, Opinion, Radio, TV

Why is CBC refusing ads from radio stations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More importantly, can it even do so legally?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Radio, Sports

Impact games move back to TSN 690

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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