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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.

Elliott Price joins Sportsnet, kinda

Elliott Price, right, with co-host Grant Robinson in the CFMB studio.

Elliott Price, right, with co-host Grant Robinson in the CFMB studio.

It was a bit of a head-scratcher of an announcement: Elliott Price is now part of the Sportsnet Network. But what’s the Sportsnet Network?

I asked the parties involved for a story that appears in Monday’s Montreal Gazette, about what Price has been up to since he was let go from TSN Radio 690 last November.

Basically, it’s an agreement for cooperation. Price gets access to Sportsnet’s branding and personalities he can interview on his show, plus Sportsnet’s website hosts his podcast. On the flip side, Sportsnet’s radio stations in Toronto and Calgary get access to Price to give a Montreal perspective on sports stories, and Sportsnet has a “presence” in the market, a benefit that is less tangible.

I could not get them to either confirm nor deny that money is changing hands as part of this deal, but Dave Cadeau, program director of Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto said the deal isn’t financial in nature. Price is not a Sportsnet employee, and he maintains his editorial independence. Price’s show (which has been renamed Sportsnet Tonight with Elliott Price) also carries some Sportsnet-related advertising, including spots for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

It was Price that got the ball moving on this deal, and he said he had been working on it since the beginning. Unlike TSN Radio, which has eight stations in five provinces (in every NHL and CFL market except Calgary and Regina), Sportsnet has only stations in Toronto and Calgary, and so needs some help to cover other major sports markets.

So does this mean we could see other deals like this in the future?

“Could I see it? Sure. Are we thinking about it? No,” Cadeau says. “This is all that is planned.”

Price’s situation is pretty unusual. CFMB is licensed as an ethnic radio station (it is required to broadcast programming in 16 languages for 16 ethnic groups, but there’s no particular limit on the amount of non-ethnic programming it can broadcast otherwise), and so is only sports for 10 hours a week.

The likelihood of Rogers starting a full-time all-sports station in Montreal is virtually zero while TSN 690 is on the air. Outside of Toronto, the market for sports-talk simply isn’t robust enough for more than one station. (Rogers did suggest it might be willing to buy TSN 690 during the Bell-Astral hearings, but it’s unclear how serious that offer was.)

So this represents the next best thing. Sportsnet gets a presence in the city that it doesn’t have to pay for, and Price gets to look a lot more professional and get lots of expert guests by associating himself with this big brand.

Price also is now a regular panelist on Sportsnet Central Montreal, the weekly sports talk show that airs on City Montreal.

Is Price’s show viable?

I asked Price whether he thinks he can get enough advertising to make his show break even. The initial response from advertisers has actually been quite impressive. Since it started as a one-day-a-week show on CFMB, the show has had several local sponsors. He said it was enough that the Sunday show paid for itself, but with the expansion to five days a week (making this a de facto full-time job for Price and co-host Grant Robinson), the advertising demands are greater. He guesses he’s about halfway there, though.

CFMB's main studio.

CFMB’s main studio.

This was my first visit to the new studios of CFMB since the Evanov Radio Group bought the station and moved it to new offices on Papineau Ave. in Rosemont. The building, which doesn’t have any exterior signage, has newly renovated offices on several floors (and half-floors). Upstairs are the studios of sister station AM 980.

The new studio is clean and reflects a the new reality of radio, and the big windows will expose hosts to a lot more natural light than the basement studios the station vacated in Westmount.

CFMB's ground-floor studio on Papineau Ave.

CFMB’s ground-floor studio on Papineau Ave.

UPDATE (Aug. 11): Price is interviewed on Breakfast Television Montreal about his new show.

Elliott Price upgrades to daily show on CFMB

Four months after Elliott Price launched his Sunday night sports talk show on CFMB 1280 AM in the aftermath of his layoff from Bell Media, he’s replaced it with a nightly two-hour talk show that begins tonight.

Price is Right will run 8-10pm weekdays, which is an awkward time for a sports talk show because, well, aren’t most people watching sports during those hours? (At least with the Stanley Cup awarded and the NBA championship about to be, the evening sports schedule gets a bit less busy.)

Price’s show replaces not much interesting. Since Evanov Radio purchased the station, the hours of 6pm to 10pm weeknights have been given to “Lounge”, a music show similar to those on Evanov’s Jewel radio stations. The station is still mainly Italian (5am-6pm weekdays), with programming for the Haitian and other ethnic communities after 10pm or on weekends.

The show has lined up several sponsors, which Price promotes during his show and podcast, including Portes Fenêtres Etc., Traiteur Mezza and real estate broker Terry Vlogiannitis. The 44 episodes of his podcast have 14,940 downloads as I write this (an average of 340 each), which isn’t too bad considering TSN 690 has about 2,000 listeners during the average minute.

Elliott Price returns to radio with Sunday night show on CFMB

Elliott Price (file photo, obviously)

Elliott Price (file photo, obviously)

Two and a half months after being shown the door by TSN Radio 690, Elliott Price announced Monday he’s getting back on the airwaves, though in a much less high-profile gig: A two-hour Sunday night show on multilingual station CFMB 1280 AM.

“That’s what’s available,” Price told me about the timeslot. “I was looking around for airtime and there were other options that didn’t fit what I wanted to do, so this is what we’re going to do.”

This isn’t a new job that Price has been hired for, it’s time that he’s brokered on the radio. This means if he wants to get paid, he needs to sell his own advertising. It’s something he hasn’t handled before, he said, but he’s been talking to a few potential advertisers and he’s confident he’ll be able to sell the show.

“I’m confident because it’s affordable,” he said, in a somewhat self-effacing manner. Ad rates for Price is Right won’t be nearly as high as those for the TSN morning show.

The new show, which begins on Valentine’s Day, will be mainly Price talking about sports. It’ll start with a rant from Price, and follow with interviews and other talk. He’s roped in Grant Robinson, a former TSN 690 intern and co-host of The Sports Grind on CJLO, to join him so he’ll have someone to interact with regularly.

“I have a lot to say and I’ve bottled it up for two months,” Price said.

There will also be a podcast, whose schedule isn’t set in stone but will be “more than once a week” as Price’s schedule allows and as there’s enough material to talk about. The plan is to put the best of the podcast on the show and vice-versa.

“We can branch out, we can do more, but I think our basic focus should be sports,” Price said about the shows’ content.

Price didn’t want to talk about what happened at TSN Radio. I suspect that might be because it’s only been two and a half months and they’re probably still paying him some severance. But he did say that after the time off “it’s time to get off my ass and get back to work.” He’s been a guest on City TV’s Sportsnet Central Montreal, but that’s not permanent nor enough to pay the bills.

“What do I do? I watch sports, and I talk about them and right now it’s just my son listening to me. He’s a fine audience but he only pays me so much.”

The shift to another station, whose programming is mainly not in English, will be a change for Price. But so will the schedule, after so much time hosting morning shows.

“I still get up early but not as early, think more 6 and less middle of the night,” he said. “Now if we can retrain the pets we’ll be so happy. They’re still on the 4 am shift.”

UPDATE (Feb. 17): Price’s podcasts, including highlights from the Sunday show, are posted here. On Sunday’s first show, Price addresses his dismissal from TSN 690:

How is it possible that an all-sports radio station in my home town exists and I don’t work there? Just so you know, I never embarrassed the brand, was not let go for something I said or did or as far as I know didn’t do. I showed up for work every day — okay, 99 per cent of the time — on time. I missed one day of work in 36 years. Hey, I’m a numbers guy. And while I believe you have to offer something in my business to get something back, it’s their money. They get to decide who to spend it on, and you get to decide if that’s good enough for you.

Price also listed a series of local sponsors who jumped on board with the new show.

Price is Right’s intro is voiced by Jim Connell.

CFMB 1280 AM sells to Evanov Radio for $1.125 million

Control room at CFMB's main studio in the basement of its office

CFMB’s studios in Westmount

Evanov Radio hasn’t launched its first radio station in Quebec, but it’s already working on its third.

Earlier today, staff at CFMB 1280 AM were informed that the station has been sold to the Toronto-based company. The sale, for $1.125 million, has to be approved by the CRTC, for which an application was filed last Friday.

I have more details about the acquisition in this story for the Montreal Gazette, which appears in Wednesday’s paper, and this story at Cartt.ca, which gives a more national perspective about Evanov.

The sale ends a 52-year run for CFMB under the ownership of founder Casimir Stanczykowski and his family. After his death in a car accident in 1981, it was up to his widow Anne-Marie and son Stefan to manage it with business partner and minority owner Andrew Mielewczyk.

But Mielewczyk and Anne-Marie Stanczykowski are well past ready to retire, and Stefan Stanczykowski is a lawyer who wants to return to that practice. Though he describes the decision to sell as bittersweet, and it was originally turned down a couple of years ago, he said he believes it’s the best decision for the future of the station.

For its part, Evanov doesn’t plan any cuts among the station’s staff of about 50. The vision is to eventually move the station’s offices and studios to co-locate with Radio Fierté on Papineau Ave. downtown. And there could be shared programming with Evanov’s other multilingual stations, CIAO 530 in Toronto and CKJS 810 in Winnipeg (the latter was also founded by Casimir Stanczykowski, but later sold to Newcap, who sold it to Evanov).

Radio Fierté 980 AM and another station, The Jewel 106.7 (CHSV-FM) in Hudson/St-Lazare, are in on-air testing and set to launch once that’s complete, officially before Christmas but with major announcements in the new year. Both will employ about 20 people.

If approved by the CRTC, CFMB would become the 18th radio station in the Evanov group, of which 14 stations (15 including this one) were launched or acquired in the past 10 years.

I wrote more about CFMB in a feature story that appeared in 2012 for its 50th anniversary.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the frequency of CIAO AM in Toronto. It’s 530, not 540.

CFMB gets licence renewal, permission to reduce number of languages

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has renewed the licence of ethnic station CFMB 1280 AM for seven years, and as part of that decision has agreed to reduce the requirements in that licence as far as the number of languages it must broadcast in and the number of cultural groups it has to serve.

CFMB’s existing licence had been to serve 19 cultural groups in 18 different languages, but as co-owner and president Stefan Stanczykowski explains in the application, it is difficult to maintain that many different types of programming:

“(An) ethnic broadcaster, unlike (a) conventional broadcaster, has very limited pool of talent to choose from. More often than not our on-air staff has to be trained on the job to fit this description, therefore in the event of loss of an announcer for specific ethnic program, it is very hard and sometimes impossible to replace immediately or for a long time such a person.”

“Adding to this problem is also ethnic community for which the program was produced. Many ethnic producers are discouraged by the feedback or lack of it; others give up for lack of sufficient revenue or personal time.”

Another factor is increased competition. Montreal has many ethnic broadcasters, including CINQ 102.3 (various), CKDG 105.1 (mainly Greek), CKIN 106.3 (various), CJWI 1410 (Haitian), CHOU 1450 (Middle East), CJRS 1650 (Jewish), plus two licensed but unlaunched stations serving South Asian communities. And there’s ICI, the ethnic TV station, plus plenty of third-language TV channels and online services.

“In the Commission’s view, the request would represent only a slight decrease in the number of groups served and languages broadcast by the station,” the commission said in its decision. “The licensee would maintain a fairly high level of diversity of languages and cultural groups and would continue to meet the broad service requirements of the Ethnic broadcasting policy as set out in Public Notice 1999-117. In addition, the Commission considers that the ethnic communities in the Montréal radio market are well served by the six ethnic stations and notes that two additional ethnic stations have been approved by the Commission but have not yet launched.”

CFMB already operates in 16 languages and will continue with its current programming targeting these cultural groups:

  • Algerian (Berber)
  • Cambodian (Khmer)
  • Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Greek
  • Haitian (Creole)
  • Italian
  • Jewish (English/Hebrew)
  • Lithuanian
  • Moroccan (Maghreb/Arabic)
  • Pakistani (Urdu)
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Latin-American (Spanish)
  • Ukrainian

There’s an argument to be made that, in a market like Montreal with several ethnic radio stations, they should be allowed to reduce the number of languages they broadcast in to reduce duplication. CINQ, CKDG and CFMB all have programming for the Greek community, for example. Several stations target the Middle East or South Asia. You’d think these communities would be better served if all their programs were on the same station rather than being scattered across the dial.


CFMB, pioneer in multilingual broadcasting

CFMB’s offices and studios on York St. in Westmount

It’s easy sometimes when talking about radio in this city to focus too much on the big commercial stations. They have ratings numbers and promotions departments and big audiences with popular personalities, so it makes sense that they get more attention.

But it’s nice to visit some of the other stations that make up this city’s broadcasting landscape. Stations like CKDG (Mike FM), CJLO (Concordia), CKUT (McGill), CKRK (K103), CKKI (KKIC) and others have a more grassroots feel, often struggling with small budgets, willing to experiment and in it more for the love of broadcasting than the financial rewards.

I’d never been to CFMB before, or met anyone who worked there, so their upcoming 50th anniversary was a perfect opportunity to profile Montreal’s first multilingual station.

My profile of CFMB 1280AM appears in Saturday’s Gazette. It’s packaged with a sidebar listing the multilingual/multiethnic radio stations in Montreal.

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