Tag Archives: CFQR

Murray Sherriffs joins CFQR morning show

Murray Sherriffs

Murray Sherriffs

Proving once again that when you leave Corus, you join Astral, and when you leave Astral, you join Corus*, Murray Sherriffs, the popular morning man on Mix 96, who was canned from the station when it rebranded as Virgin Radio in January, will return Monday as the morning news anchor on CFQR 92.5 the Q (formerly Q92). (via RadioInMontreal)

Sherriffs’s departure caused a lot of negative reaction from listeners, who saw it as the biggest mistake of the rebranding.

Sherriffs will join morning host Aaron Rand, who has been riding solo since fellow hosts Paul “Tasso” Zakaib and Suzanne Desautels were ditched in August. Another move that caused a lot of protest from listeners.

Also joining the team is fellow Astral castoff Sarah Bartok, whose previous job was at Astral’s CISL AM 650 in Vancouver. She’ll be the traffic reporter. She replaces Shaun McMahon, who moves from traffic to show producer.

*See DiMonte, Terry; Charles, Patrick

UPDATE: The Gazette has a story, with reader comments.

Aaron Rand, the last DJ

The days when commercial radio DJs were given the freedom to program their own shows has long passed. Playlists are set by corporate bigwigs who are more interested in what’s popular than what’s good. The DJs, if you can still call them that, sit in the studio and fill the space in between songs with light banter, trying to seem personable without having too much of a personality.

If you listen to them, it seems their attitude has shifted from being music critics to being publicists. The hosts (a better term for them than DJ) deliver advertising messages, plug upcoming shows or contests, and they do so seeming as happy and excited as they could possibly be.

This happiness extends to major changes. When Mix 96 became Virgin Radio 96, that resulted in more syndicated programming and less local voice. But the employees put on an excited face about their new station, wearing T-shirts bearing its logo and plugging it in any way they could on Facebook.

This everything-is-happy-no-matter-what philosophy doesn’t mesh well with inevitable firings. Nobody likes to see people lose their jobs, and listeners rarely like to see hosts get booted to the street, especially when there’s nobody to replace them. So what tends to happen is that the on-air personalities will do their best to minimize these staff changes, emphasizing the new arrivals and hoping listeners forget about the departures. Beyond a short goodbye, in many cases their names are never spoken again. Their blogs and bios are quietly deleted from the station’s website, and it waits until the recently departed become the not-so-recently departed so they can be fully forgotten.

Aaron Rand

Aaron Rand

Aaron Rand is not this type of on-air personality.

When Rand learned (along with the rest of us) in August that his morning co-hosts on CFQR, Paul (Tasso) Zakaib and Suzanne Desautels, were being dismissed, he was devastated. Aaron and Tasso had been a fixture on Montreal radio for decades, and now they were being split up. And for some reason, Aaron had been left as the sole survivor.

Most people in this situation would have laid low for a while, refused requests to talk to the media, and done everything in their power to not join his friends on the unemployment line. You don’t want to rock the boat, to bite the hand that feeds you, to let the world know that your boss was an asshole for what he did. You want to keep your job, and that means staying quiet about your feelings.

Rand didn’t do that. Instead, he talked to his listeners, talked to The Gazette, and even answered critics online. While Tasso and Suzanne kept quiet (to this day they haven’t said anything publicly), Rand had to speak for them.

And yet, he had to speak for the station as well, which made everything awkward. He couldn’t trash-talk the station or its decision, but he couldn’t hide his feelings either. He talked about how sad he was, how hard it was to get through his first solo show, and yet how these kinds of on-air changes are how commercial radio works now. He didn’t like the decision, but it wasn’t his call. So he had to live with it and accept it.

A month later, the public outrage has died down. The Q has reopened its Facebook page to discussion after shutting it down to prevent the flood of negative comments. The station apparently believes enough time has passed for people to forget.

Not Rand. He’s organizing a party, inviting fans of the show to join him (and presumably Tasso and Suzanne) at the Mount Stephen Club downtown on Oct. 20. It’s not a gathering to protest CFQR’s decision to fire them, but a thank-you gathering to celebrate their careers and give listeners a chance to say a proper goodbye.

The Mount Stephen Club is a classy joint, which only seems appropriate for this classy move. (Admission is free, but space is limited, so reservations are requested at aaron@925theq.com, first come first served.)

In a post on the Radio in Montreal group online, Rand explained his attitude thusly:

I felt the textbook approach should give way, to a real, human, caring approach. People, especially long time listeners, have been calling and e-mailing, voicing their opinions on what happened, and now, asking if both Tasso and Suzanne are okay. That’s not a question for management to answer.

I felt it would be cold, callous, and disrespectful of me to ignore their queries, especially given the fact that we were a team. This was not just a situation where someone had left after a year or two for greener pastures, this was about the breakup of the heritage morning show in their market. Listeners, in my estimation, are owed an explanation, an update, call it what you will, and that explanation can only come from me. I think management understands and accepts that.

I hope they do. And I hope they understand that if local radio had more people like Aaron Rand, they might care a bit more about local radio and fewer of them would be leaving in droves for iTunes and podcasts.

Tasso, Suzanne leave CFQR morning show

Tasso: gone

Paul "Tasso" Zakaib

After 20 years in morning radio in Montreal, Aaron and Tasso is just Aaron.

CFQR a.k.a. 92.5 the Q a.k.a. Q92 Program Director Brian DePoe announced on Wednesday that two thirds of its long-running morning trio would be leaving the station: Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis) and Suzanne Desautels. No reason was given beyond a vague statement of making changes.

The Aaron and Tasso show began on CFQR in 1989, but their collaboration began years before that when they worked at CKGM and CFCF radio. The CFCF partnership ended in 1987 when management decided Tasso was no longer a good fit for the ratings-stalled show hosted by Aaron Rand. Later, when they were teamed up for Q92’s morning show and the ratings skyrocketed, the powers that be learned their lesson, and Aaron and Tasso stuck together throughout the 90s and most of this decade.

Considering the revolving doors of morning shows at the competition CHOM, CJFM and even CJAD, it’s astonishing that they stuck around for so long, cementing their names into the city’s consciousness. (I remember one morning a while back when a woman got a surprise call from the CHOM morning show – the hosts asked if she knew who they were, and she said “Oh, it’s Aaron and Tasso!” There was a bit of an awkward silence after that, but it demonstrates how they were the most recognizable of the morning teams.)

Suzanne Desautels

Suzanne Desautels

Desautels also hails from the old days of CFCF radio, where she started off as an intern in the early 80s. But she spent most of her career at CFCF television, as a weather presenter and co-host of its Travel Travel program. In 1999, when the budget axe fell there, she moved to CFQR as a news reader and has been there since, eventually moving to morning traffic and then recently as a full partner in the morning team.

So far, the plan is to keep Aaron Rand going solo, with a scaled-back morning show (less talk, more music). I can’t help but wonder if that may be an indication that the two-men-one-woman morning crew format we see on Montreal’s anglo music stations might be a bit excessive on the talent for these belt-tightening times.

Those who want to express their opinion on the dumpings can do so on the station’s Facebook page or by contacting management directly. (UPDATE: The station has shut down the discussion forums on its Facebook group page after being swarmed with comments about the programming change. Listeners are being asked to email PD Brian DePoe directly, presumably so negative comments are kept out of public view)

UPDATE: Coverage from CTV Montreal and The Gazette, both of which have been flooded with comments about the move.

Neither The Gazette nor CTV (nor I) have gotten any comment from the two fired personalities. Instead, Aaron Rand has been stuck in the unenviable position of explaining the decision of someone else to fire a good friend.

UPDATE (Aug. 21): Some insightful comments from radio buff Sheldon Harvey.

UPDATE (Aug. 25): Comments from Aaron Rand, who says he’s passing along people’s thoughts to Tasso and Suzanne, even while the two of them remain silent.

CFQR dumps Terry DiMonte

Goodbye (again) Terry

Less than two years after he moved to Calgary in the midst of a nasty contract dispute and took up a job that pays him more money than God, and less than a year after competitor Q92 decided to have him do a noon-hour show from Calgary, Terry DiMonte has once again been booted off Montreal radio.

DiMonte announced on Thursday that his show on CFQR would come to an end, by “mutual agreement.” His final show is Tuesday, June 23, from noon to 1pm, just before the Fête nationale holiday.

Unlike his very public spat with Astral Media’s Rob Braide and Bob Harris, which DiMonte described as “hurtful”, his departure from Q92-now-925-the-q is more an acceptance of an unsustainable situation, and he holds no acrimony toward the station or its owners. CFQR is, above all, a music station, and with its relaunch in April it became even more so. DiMonte’s voice time was cut to only about six minutes during the hour (other Q DJs were similarly cut to make room for more music), and he’s paid far too much to sit around and drink coffee for 20 minutes while he waits for his next two minutes on air. As he said on the air on Monday, “it doesn’t fit anymore.”

Even though his ratings were up in the last quarter, the price was still far too high. There are plenty of younger, cheaper, more local DJs that can be brought in to introduce Madonna and Marvin Gaye. According to someone intimately involved with a source with inside knowledge of a phone call between a highly-placed insider and the astrologer for a janitor with access to secret documents, DiMonte was told (graciously) on Thursday that budget cuts meant he had to be dumped. It was a day after he was congratulated for his ratings bump.

Asked about his departure, DiMonte had nothing but kind words for the station (which is owned by his current employer, Corus):

My time at Q was really nice. They were welcoming and supportive and Mario Cecchini and Mark Dickie are class acts. And it was an interesting and different challenge, talking to Montrealers from a studio in Calgary. That was fun. And it helped ease the pain of the bums rush I got from CHOM.

I asked him what he’ll be doing with all the extra time he has. He says he has lots of work to do as “a morning man trying to make a mark in a city of 1.2 million people and 18!! radio stations” and he doesn’t expect to be taking extra-long lunches.

It was a cute little experiment, but in the end DiMonte was overpriced and underworked, doing a job more suited to someone with less than half his experience. It was like hiring a race car driver in a limousine to deliver pizzas. It just didn’t make sense.

So DiMonte is once again off Montreal radio, at least until someone can match what he’s getting in Calgary and offer him serious money to come back. Considering the state of the media economy here, and the rather charred bridge between him and Astral Media (which owns CHOM, CJFM Mix 96 and CJAD), I wouldn’t hold my breath.

I’ve asked for comment from Brian DePoe, program director at CFQR, but he’s on vacation until after June 24. I’ll update this post if he has anything to add.

UPDATE: The last two minutes from his final show, in (slightly imperfect) Mp3.

Little changes for Montreal radio

"Reach" (listening at least one minute a week), in thousands, for Montreal radio stations.

"Reach" (listening at least one minute a week), in thousands, for Montreal radio stations.

Astral Media, which owns CJFM (Virgin Radio 95.9), CITE (Rock Détente 107.3), CKMF (Énergie 94.3), CHOM (97.7) and CJAD (800), has put together some graphical representations (PDF) of the latest ratings for Montreal radio stations. (via RadioInMontreal)

In terms of “reach”, which counts the same if you listen to a station for five minutes or six hours, Cogeco’s CFGL Rythme FM 105.7 still leads all others in the city, thanks mostly to huge numbers of female listeners (CKOI leads among young men) and CJFM has leapfrogged into second thanks, I guess, to non-stop Katy Perry and Lady Gaga that have put the 18-24 bracket in a trance. Otherwise, the rankings are about the same as they were three months ago.

Anglo market share: CJFM, CHOM, CFQR, CJAD, CKGM

Anglo market share: CJFM, CHOM, CFQR, CJAD, CKGM

On the anglo side, this “commercial market share” graph (which doesn’t include CBC – Radio One and Two would be fourth and fifth on this graph), CJFM holds its commanding lead among adults 18-49, with a stronger showing for its morning show (CBC Radio One says it’s a strong second in the morning, ahead of CJAD)

Demographic map of radio stations: X axis for age, Y axis for gender

Demographic map of radio stations: X axis for age, Y axis for gender

I particularly liked this chart, which shows what demographics the stations are tuned to. There’s a huge chunk in the older women category, while the rock stations appeal to younger men. Note CJFM and CFGL sitting pretty much alone targetting younger women listeners. Perhaps there’s a lesson there.

Q92 relaunch didn’t change much

Looking specifically at CFQR, because this is a pretty good before-and-after with their relaunch in April, there’s not much to say. They’ve improved, but only to keep pace with everyone else:

  • The morning show and Terry DiMonte’s phoned-in nooner have slightly improved numbers, perhaps showing that not doing anything is the best thing to do (UPDATE: Apparently not good enough, DiMonte’s show has been cancelled)
  • Late morning and early afternoon are failing to keep pace after shuffles
  • Adding Donna Sarker to Ken Connors’s afternoon drive-time show has helped it gain considerable ground on CJFM, but CHOM improved as well to stay in second
  • It’s the most improved of the big four anglo stations on the weekend (Leta Polson hosts on weekend afternoons), but it’s still in fourth place

CFQR announcement a whole lot of nothing

Q92 logo

It was billed as a big announcement. Huge. Multiple full-page ads in the paper, lots of announcements on the radio. Everything was going to change at Montreal’s Q92 at 8:45am this morning.

And nothing did. Which makes me kind of cranky because I’m not used to waking up before noon and I’m low on sleep for nothing.

But with parent company Corus Entertainment seeing a 30% drop in profits from its radio division (pdf), it’s clear some management types decided major changes were in order.

Here’s what is changing:

  • The name and logo. They’ve added the indefinite article “the” before the Q. This gives them a new, edgy and unique name (if you don’t count that station in Victoria)
  • The website. From Q92fm.com to 925theq.com, which seems more complicated to me, but I’m not an online marketing expert.
  • The on-air talent. Despite some rumours, the morning team remains the same, but some of the afternoon and weekend people are leaving. Details below.
  • The programming (maybe).They’re promising “more music” as if it’s somehow possible to cram more songs into an hour and still have advertising, traffic and weather. They also say they’ll have more variety, but having listened for a few hours I haven’t heard a single song that screams variety to me.
  • The jingles. Still in the same style, but with a new annoying catchphrase.

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Q92 to relaunch Tuesday

Q92

CFQR, aka Q92, is planning a super-secret “all new” relaunch on Tuesday morning at 8:45am.

The station isn’t letting out any information about what exactly will be “all new” – Brian DePoe, who was just hired as program director from Astral’s EZ-Rock station in Toronto, told listeners the station will be offering “more music and more variety” but also more “fun things.”

So expect a new logo, some new gimmicks, but very little in terms of radical change to the way commercial radio is done in Montreal. This won’t even be as big as the Mix 96/Virgin overhaul.

Patrick Charles joins CJFM morning show

Patrick Charles (Q92 photo)

Patrick Charles (Q92 photo)

Patrick Charles, who since 2001 has been working with the morning show on Q92, has jumped ship and (after some contractually-mandated downtime) will join CJFM 95.9 as the third morning host with Cat Spencer and Lisa Player. He starts on Wednesday. (via MediaInMontreal)

His old bio page at Q92 is still up in case you want to learn more about the guy. You can also hear his song parody work on MySpace.

Natasha the angel of death

Natasha Aimée Hall: Note the evil eyes, which I totally didn't just Photoshop in there

Natasha Aimée Hall: Note the evil eyes, which I totally didn't just Photoshop in there

If you run a media company in Montreal, you should probably keep your eye out for Natasha Aimée Hall, alias Natasha Hall. Hire her, and you’re in danger of bankruptcy.

In December, she was hired at 940 News as the winner of its Talk Show Idol contest. Six months later, the station was losing so much money that it had to switch formats and shut down its news division.

It wasn’t long before she got a new job, joining CTV Montreal’s weekend show Entertainment Spotlight. But a few months later, that show too is being cancelled.

Now, she’s been hired at Q92 as a Sunday evening show host.

We’ll see how long it is before Q92 goes under and she seeks out another victim…

DiMonte to do noon-hour Q92 show from Calgary

Ad for Terry DiMonte in Monday's Gazette

Ad for Terry DiMonte in Monday's Gazette

Corus announced today that Terry DiMonte, the former CHOM morning man who left for Q107 in Calgary because CHOM wasn’t prepared to offer him a long-term contract, will return to Montreal’s airwaves starting Sept. 8 with a noon-hour talk/music show on Q92.

What’s missing from Corus’s press release, and the Presse Canadienne rewriting of it, is that DiMonte isn’t physically returning to Montreal. He’s still hosting his morning show in Calgary. Only now, after his morning shift, he’ll stay in studio and do the Montreal show remotely.

This isn’t the first time that a broadcaster has done “local” programming remotely and tried to fool people (Joe Cannon was famous for it and Global Quebec is introducing it), but the fact that Corus left it out of its press release suggests that their goal is to deliberately mislead Montreal listeners.

Fortunately, I’m relatively confident DiMonte has the moral fortitude not to outright lie to his listeners (saying “here in Montreal” or pretending his weather is the same as ours).

The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein has more.

MP3 isn’t good enough for Corus

Corus stations in Montreal, including 940 Hits and Q92, have started streaming online feeds from their stations in Dolby AAC format, judging that 128kbps MP3 is just too lossy for the picky tastes of their listeners.

Listeners won’t notice any difference at all, since the streaming is done through a flash player and only the most insanely picky of audiophiles will think high-quality MP3 is too lossy. And those people won’t be listening to the crap music that comes out of 940 or Q92.

Some retirement, Dennis

Dennis Trudeau on 940 News

Remember Dennis Trudeau? He used to be the anchor of CBC Newswatch (that was before CBC gutted local TV news — a decision they’ve thankfully begun to reverse). Two years ago he decided to retire, though he left the door open to other projects, saying he had “lots of ideas” he wanted to work on:

“In this wired world of 500 television channels, opportunities are limitless. I might like to be a commentator. I might like to write. But I do want to try something different from the daily news grind.”

Today comes the news that Trudeau will be joining 940 News as the new morning man, starting Sept. 3, along with Aphrodite Salas (who will move from her current late-morning show on the same station).

Trudeau is no stranger to radio. He’s hosted Daybreak, As it Happens and Cross-Country checkup. I’m sure he’ll do well in front of a microphone. But why oh why would someone who’s tired of the daily news grind agree to host a weekday morning radio show from 5:30 to 10 a.m.?

As for Ken Connors, who currently hosts the show, he’ll move to a “new” afternoon drive-time show on Q92.

UPDATE (Aug. 29): Two weeks later, Mike Boone adds his take with some words from Mr. Trudeau, who insists he’s never retired. It also adds a clarification: that it was Ken Connors moving to Q92 that prompted the station to seek Trudeau, rather than the other way around.