Tag Archives: CHMP

With Jean Lapierre’s death, Quebec media loses its chief political analyst

There wasn’t anyone as omnipresent in Quebec news media over the past decade as Jean Lapierre.

The former federal MP, who died with his wife, three siblings and two pilots as their plane crashed on approach to an airport Tuesday in les Îles de la Madeleine, parlayed his political experience into various roles as a political analyst.

While people covering all sorts of beats misuse the term “insider” to describe themselves, Lapierre was about the closest thing Quebec media had to one who had the freedom to speak his mind on political issues. And he had the sense to never claim to be a journalist, even though most of the time he was engaging in journalism.

Lapierre had a busy schedule and many clients. Daily appearances on Montreal’s 98.5 FM, Quebec City’s FM93 and 106.9 FM in Trois-Rivières, columns on several shows on TVA and LCN (Mario Dumont had a segment with him that came to an end with a tribute), a twice daily segment on CJAD (Program Director Chris Bury explains how the station kept adding his segments because of demand) and a weekly appearance on CTV Montreal. Cogeco, Quebecor and Bell Media were all sending him regular paycheques for his insight.

So it’s unsurprising that many of his media colleagues were emotional as they relayed the news of his death, from Denis Lévesque to Paul Larocque to Pierre Bruneau to Paul Arcand to Aaron Rand and Andrew Carter. There are so many tributes from media people and politicians it would be impossible to compile them all. TVA/LCN and CJAD have put together entire dossiers on Lapierre, and there are enough obituaries and written tributes to keep you reading for days.

I didn’t know Lapierre personally, and I’m starting to think I’m one of the few people in Quebec media not to be in his ever-expanding circle of friends. I have no personal anecdotes to share, beyond that one time I stood outside the Quebecor office at the National Assembly press gallery and listened to him do a segment for LCN about a budget announcement.

But I know enough about him to know that there isn’t anyone quite like him. Sure, there are other former politicians giving analysis on TV. (RDI has an entire show devoted to it.) But how many of them will give you a colourful seven-minute description of how a politician should shake hands at a campaign event? How many of them will call out BS when he sees it, even if it’s from a politician he knows as a friend?

Lapierre wasn’t perfect, and we should resist the temptation to sugar-coat his life as we summarize it. But even if he wasn’t the most objective source of information about politics, he built this air of trustworthiness because he wasn’t afraid to tell it as he saw it. Perhaps because of that more than anything else, he had a unique ability to clearly explain the political process, and political thinking, to Quebecers in both languages. One that will be surely missed.

And he was someone who enjoyed what he did, who was very successful at it, and made a lot of friends doing it.

We should all be so lucky.

 

CRTC approves power increases for 98.5FM, The Beat

Existing (purple lines) and approved (black lines) coverage areas of CKBE-FM 92.5, as prepared by SpectrumExpert. The map for CHMP-FM 98.5 is identical.

More than a year and a half after they were first published, the CRTC has approved applications from Cogeco Diffusion to increase the power of two of its stations on Mount Royal: CHMP 98.5 FM and CKBE 92.5 FM (The Beat). Both will now be allowed to increase power to the maximum 100 kW allowed by their class, and others could follow.

As the CRTC explains in its decision, a moratorium had been placed by Industry Canada on power increases for transmitters on the CBC tower on Mount Royal, concerned about the effects of high-power radiofrequency fields in the area around the site (in Mount Royal Park). When analog television transmitters were replaced by digital ones that required a lot less power, that moratorium was lifted, leading to Cogeco’s applications.

The CRTC said it then asked the CBC to conduct a study to see if other FM stations operating from the tower would also be able to increase to their maximum allowable power. The report said that they could, so the CRTC approved the applications. This means that stations like CHOM, CJFM (Virgin Radio), CFGL (Rythme FM), CKMF (NRJ), CITE (Rouge FM) and CIRA (Radio Ville-Marie) could apply to increase their power to 100 kW (they’re all around 40 kW right now), and it would likely be approved if it didn’t cause interference to other stations’ protected contours. Radio-Canada’s CBF-FM and CBFX-FM are already at 100 kW, and other stations that broadcast from that tower are of a different class.

CKOI-FM is the only station in Montreal that operates at more than 100 kW. One of Montreal’s first FM stations, it was licensed at 307 kW, and grandfathered in at that level. It broadcasts from the top of the CIBC building downtown.

The application for The Beat’s power increase hit a bit of a snag because of an application by Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio, the same people behind the yet-to-launch Radio Fierté 990AM and Jewel 106.7 in Hudson) for a new station in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., on the same frequency. That station’s parameters would not have caused problems with The Beat’s current protected zone, but both stations would encroach on each other’s protected contours if The Beat increased to 100 kW. At first, the CRTC decided to treat these as competing applications. But the two came to a deal and decided they would accept interference from each other. The Clarence-Rockland station was approved by the CRTC in February. Branded “The Jewel 92.5“, it has yet to launch it launched in September.

The application also caused worry for CKLX-FM (Radio X 91.9), which operates on a nearby frequency. A power increase for The Beat would mean more interference, though because Radio X is three channels away, that interference would be only in an area very close to the transmitter. The CRTC notes that CKLX accepted this potential interference when it first applied for a licence.

For 98.5, there was an intervention by CIAX-FM, the community station in Windsor, Quebec, at 98.3FM, worried about interference. Because Windsor is more than 100 km away from Montreal and its transmitter is less than 500 W, there’s no actual interference problem there.

There’s no word yet on when the transmitter power increase will happen. I’ll update this if I hear back from Cogeco on the matter. Though the radiated power will be more than double what it currently is, the actual effect on reception will be modest. Some listeners on the fringe who pick up the station with some noise will see that noise diminish, but for most people the change will be imperceptible.

Montreal radio ratings: “a solid book” for The Beat, but …

Station Winter 2011 Winter 2012 Fall 2012 Winter 2013
CJAD 25.9 24.8 25.2 25.0
CJFM (Virgin) 18.2 17.3 18.6 15.9
CKBE (Beat) 17.2 14.9 16.6 18.6
CHOM 10.3 11.9 13.7 13.5
CKGM (TSN) 2.6 4.4 2.3 2.6
CBME (CBC1) 7.5 8.2 7.2 7.0
CBM (CBC2) 2.9 2.7 2.4 2.5

BBM ratings, anglo 2+ audience

I don’t normally pay that much attention to the quarterly BBM ratings of Montreal radio stations. Not because I don’t care, but just because there’s rarely anything in them that’s newsworthy. A share point up here, a share point down there. Some stations do better in some time periods, others do better in others. There isn’t usually much movement.

Lately, CJAD has been first overall among all audiences, while the three music stations have been fighting for audience in key demographics: men for CHOM, young women for Virgin and somewhat older women for The Beat. CBC falls significantly behind, and TSN Radio even further. Other stations don’t even register. Things have been a bit more interesting on the French side with the rise of CHMP 98.5, which is now Quebec’s most-listened-to radio station.

But today’s numbers (PDF) showed a significant change for once: In overall audience (ages 2+), The Beat has leaped ahead of Virgin Radio for the first time, getting an 18.6% share versus 15.9%. That prompted The Beat to send out a press release calling itself “Montreal’s #1 Music Station”.

That was enough for a Gazette story on the matter.

But as the story shows, The Beat’s claim to be ahead of Virgin comes with a caveat: Virgin still outperforms in key demographics (among them, adults 25-54, adults 18-34 and women 25-54) and in key time periods.

In Astral’s press release, in which Virgin also calls itself “Montreal’s number one music station”, it focuses on the key advertising demographic of adults 25-54, in which Virgin still leads.

We could play with demographics all day, but if we stick to adults 25-54, the results show a three-way tie among the music stations: Virgin 21.9%, The Beat 20.1% and CHOM 20.0%, with CJAD behind at 13.1%. This represents an upward trend for The Beat and CHOM, but is down from last year for Virgin.

See some analysis here from Astral, and here from La Presse.

Needless to say everyone’s happy and everyone is number one. Here’s how the numbers break down for each station:

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Jacques Fabi suspended a month for being stupid

One question is bouncing around in my head: What on Earth was Jacques Fabi thinking?

Fabi, the overnight host on Cogeco stations in Quebec (with CHMP 98.5FM as the flagship), allowed a caller to his phone-in show to say the Holocaust was “the most beautiful thing that could happen in history” – and then, rather than cut her off or challenge the ridiculously offensive statement, warned her that Quebec society looks down upon expressing opinions like this.

Even though it’s an overnight show, it didn’t take long for people to be outraged. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs sent a letter to Cogeco within hours denouncing the broadcast. Marto Napoli talked about the exchange on his radio show on Radio Pirate (when the Jeff Fillion radio station says you went too far, you know something’s seriously wrong). The National Post wrote a story about it. So did La Presse’s Rima Elkouri. So did the Journal de Montréal’s Sophie Durocher. For whatever reason, the story didn’t get much traction until the weekend, when we learned that Cogeco would suspend Fabi.

On Monday, we got the details: Fabi is suspended for a month, without pay, for his actions. With an official statement from Cogeco, just about every media outlet is reporting on the news now, not only in Montreal but across Canada and around the world.

Some aren’t satisfied with this, and want him to be fired outright. At least one commentator (a Radio X host, it should be noted) thinks that’s going too far.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think. Because it’s just so mind-boggling. Fabi isn’t some rookie who forgot how to run a radio show. He’s a veteran, and a man with years of experience managing calls on the radio. Does he really support the massacre of Jews? Is he an absolutist when it comes to freedom of speech? Was he drunk, or tired, or high? Was he so desperate to fill airtime that he was ready to let absolutely anything on the air?

It took Fabi only four minutes and 11 seconds to torpedo his reputation. But as anyone in radio will tell you, that’s a lot of time. Whether he’ll be able to build it back is doubtful. He’ll need to apologize profusely, but more importantly he’ll need to come up with some plausible explanation for why he thought what he allowed to on the air might be anything even close to appropriate.

This isn’t just an error in judgment. It’s a fuckup of epic proportions. One whose response will require him starting by saying he does not support the mass slaughter of millions of Jews.

And maybe Cogeco should look into providing better screening of its calls and/or better real-time monitoring of its programming.

As for “Maria”, the woman who cheered for the Holocaust because of what’s happening to Palestinians right now, I hope she gets some help. People like her are the reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has dragged on for decades.

UPDATE: Fabi has apologized. Though he’ll probably need to do more when he’s back on the air. Marc Cassivi also weighs in (almost by necessity, since some were suggesting he was being silent on the matter out of some bias)

UPDATE (June 28, 2013): The Quebec Press Council has issued a decision against Fabi.

Regional CKOI stations turn to talk

While everyone’s focused on CHOI Radio X coming to Montreal, it’s not the only music station in Quebec switching to a talk radio format today.

As announced in June, Cogeco converted three regional stations from the CKOI brand to news-talk brands based on the one used by CHMP 98.5FM in Montreal.

They join FM 93 in Quebec City (CJMF-FM) and FM 98 in Saguenay (CKRS-FM), the latter of which is an independently-owned station that carries some network programming.

The three new stations share much of the same programming. They include:

Each station continues to have its own local morning show, noon show and afternoon drive show on weekdays. They will also air sports programming including Canadiens and Alouettes games, except for the station in Gatineau which air Senators games.

Meanwhile, at other stations

CKOI in Montreal, which remains a music station, launched its new programming today. It adds Yan England to its morning show, Nadia Bilodeau to afternoons (starting Sept. 10) and revamps its noon show to focus more on humour.

Mitsou, who left NRJ in June and was rumoured to be heading to rival Rythme FM, confirmed she’ll be starting there Nov. 20. She’ll join the afternoon show, instead of the morning one, so she can spend mornings with her family. Marie-Soleil Michon will host the show until Mitsou starts. Also joining Rythme FM (CFGL-FM) are Lise Dion and, according to La Presse, Denis Fortin.

NRJ Montreal (CKMF-FM) adds Mike Gauthier with its fall schedule. He’ll also join Rouge FM in Quebec City, which is also owned by Astral.

La Presse has a few other tidbits of programming changes at French-language radio stations in Montreal.

In Quebec City, legendary pranksters Les Justiciers Masqués are back on the radio, joining the afternoon show at the CKOI station there, which is owned by Leclerc Communication.

Radio ratings: Good news for 98.5, The Beat and CHOM

Quarterly radio ratings were released earlier this month. You can see the BBM compilation of top-line data here (PDF), but it doesn’t say too much.

Astral and Cogeco both provide analysis for the benefit of advertisers, Astral in the form of a slideshow (PDF) and Groupe Force Radio (which represents Cogeco stations and independent former Corus stations in Quebec City and Saguenay) also does a slide presentation (PDF). The latter tends to be more detailed, but is also more biased, highlighting their stations’ successes and their competitors’ struggles.

Here, based on those reports, is some analysis of what’s going on in commercial radio in Montreal. We’ll start with the English side.

English radio

Afternoon ratings show a spike for Donna Saker’s show on CKBE, rocketing it to No. 1. There’s a similar spike in late mornings and at noon-hour.

Overall, there hasn’t been much change in the ratings. A few points up, a few points down. But breaking it down a bit you see some significant gains for CKBE-FM 92.5 (The Beat) and a few highlights for CHOM-FM 97.7 as well.

The Beat, which rebranded last fall in an effort to attract a younger female audience but hadn’t seen much movement in ratings until now, is starting to see the change (and accompanying marketing spending) pay off. It’s second behind Virgin Radio among adults 18-49 and 25-54 (in both cases passing CHOM), first among adults 35-64 (passing CJAD) and has seen a gain of more than 50% in a year for men 25-54 (which is interesting because the station is targetting women).

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Cogeco applies for big power boost to The Beat, 98.5FM

Existing (purple lines) and proposed (black lines) coverage areas of CKBE-FM 92.5, as prepared by SpectrumExpert. The map for CHMP-FM 98.5 is identical.

Cogeco wants more power.

Its broadcasting arm, Cogeco Diffusion, has applied to the CRTC to more than double the power output of two of its stations, CKBE-FM 92.5 (The Beat) and French-language talk station CHMP-FM 98.5, so they reach their maximum of 100kW effective radiated power, from the current 44.1 kW and 40.8 kW, respectively.

The move comes, the applications say, because of a new antenna installed by CBC/Radio-Canada on the Mount Royal Tower for CBF-FM (Première Chaîne 95.1). Cogeco wants to put both stations on this antenna, and replace their ~20kW transmitters with ~40kW transmitters, leading to a 100kW ERP for both.

At 100kW, the stations would match CBF-FM and CBFX-FM (Espace musique 100.7) as the most powerful FM radio transmitters on the tower. Only CKOI, which transmits 307,000 watts from the CIBC tower downtown, has more power, because it was approved for that power before the 100kW limit was set in the 1960s and the right was grandfathered in.

By comparison, other stations like CHOM, CFGL (Rythme FM), CITE (Rouge FM) and CJFM (Virgin Radio) operate around 40 kW ERP, as does CKMF (NRJ), though it has been authorized to go up to 75 kW. CBC Radio One and Radio Two operate around 25 kW.

As you can see from the map above, though it more than doubles the radiated power of both stations, the impact on the coverage area is minor. Cogeco’s application estimates an increased potential audience of 1.5% or 5%, depending on how you measure it.

That said, those who receive either station with some noise or difficulty will probably find it easier if the CRTC approves this change.

Interference

The CRTC’s decision on this matter won’t just take into account Cogeco’s needs, but will also look at how this increased power will affect other radio stations. Coordination rules set limits in terms of how much stations on the same channel can interfere with each other, as well as how stations protect other stations on adjacent frequencies. Cogeco’s applications see no interference problems in which another station’s needs would take priority over its own.

Here’s what the engineer’s report lists as potential issues:

For CKBE:

  • Co-channel interference: The station would risk interfering with four U.S. station allocations on 92.5 FM, none of which have an operational station. The station would also graze the coverage area of CBCD-FM, a retransmitter of CBC Radio One Ottawa in Pembroke, Ont. (An application is also under consideration for a 300W station on that frequency in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., east of Ottawa.)
  • First-adjacent channel interference (92.3 FM, 92.7 FM): The biggest concern here would be CBF-FM-12 (92.7), a 130-watt retransmitter of Sherbrooke’s Première Chaîne station in Victoriaville. It could also increase interference with WPAC in Ogdensburg, N.Y., but only if that station were expanded to its maximum allowable parameters.
  • Second-adjacent channel interference (92.1 FM, 92.9 FM): There’s a slight overlap near St. Jean sur Richelieu for Burlington’s WEZF (Star 92.9), so there might be trouble for people on the fringe of WEZF’s coverage area near Montreal.
  • Third-adjacent channel interference (91.9 FM, 93.1 FM): Only real concern here is CKLX-FM (Planète Jazz 91.9), which might get more interference for people who live near the Mount Royal tower. But being three channels away, and because it also transmits from that tower with a lot of power, it’s unlikely to result in significant interference.
  • Harmonic interference: The engineers predict a potential interference problem on TV channel 8, which is used by the analog TV retransmitter of CJOH in Cornwall, Ont. The audio frequency of that channel is at 185 MHz, which is twice 92.5. The station is required to solve any harmonic interference problems that come up.

For CHMP:

  • Co-channel interference: The biggest concern here is CJWL-FM (The Jewel) in Ottawa, which would not be fully protected. There’s also a potential for some interference with WCKM-FM in Lake George, N.Y.
  • First-adjacent channel interference (98.3 FM, 98.7 FM): Potential interference with CIAX-FM, a community station in Windsor, Quebec.
  • Second-adjacent channel interference (98.1 FM, 98.9 FM): No interference issues. The closest station is CFGE-FM 98.1, a Rythme FM transmitter in Magog, which is also owned by Cogeco.
  • Third-adjacent channel interference (97.9 FM, 99.1 FM): No issues here either. There’s an American frequency allocation, but CHMP interference would not carry anywhere near the U.S. border.
  • Fourth-adjacent channel interference (97.7 FM, 99.3 FM): The engineer mentions CHOM-FM in its report, but notes no likelihood of interference between the two.
  • Harmonic interference: Engineers note a potential interference issue with TV channel 10, which is used by the digital transmitter CFTM-DT (TVA), also on the Mount Royal tower. The second harmonic of 98.5 MHz is 197 MHz, which is part of Channel 10. CHMP is required to solve harmonic interference issues if they come up.
For all the listings of interference problems, Cogeco’s application notes that CKBE and CHMP would be operating within their maximum allocated coverage area, which means it would not need to coordinate with these stations. And in any case, these stations are already operating, so most interference issues would already exist. It’s unlikely too many people are going to have problems they didn’t have before picking up stations.

Rubber stamp?

I haven’t seen enough applications like these to judge their chances of getting through the CRTC. But the fact that they are Part 1 applications (no notice of consultation, no hearing date set) suggests the commission sees this as a minor change. Unless one of the stations listed above files an intervention and makes a case that the power increase would negatively affect their station (and that their station’s needs are more important), these changes are likely to pass.

If you wish to file a comment or intervention in these cases, the deadline is May 14. You can view the applications or submit comments via the CRTC website.

Tales from Cogeco

Cogeco President Louis Audet

On Thursday, I got up early (meaning: before noon) and went to the annual shareholders’ meeting of Cogeco, the cable company that is also a big player in the Quebec radio industry.

I covered the meeting for Cartt.ca, the online publication about the broadcasting and telecom industry run by Greg O’Brien. If you’re a subscriber, you can read my report here. If not, it’s not the end of the world. Much of it is industry stuff you probably don’t care about that much.

The stuff you might care about is repeated below:

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CHMP beefs up weekend lineup

Weeks after ratings showed a surprising surge for CHMP 98.5, which suddenly vaulted into the top position among Montreal radio stations, the Cogeco-owned talk station is beefing up its weekend lineup slightly.

The company announced this week it is adding three new hosts for weekend programming on the station: Eric Arson, who will host music programming in the afternoons, Mario Langlois who will host an hour-long sports talk show on Sundays, and Isabelle Ménard who will do overnights Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Though 98.5 has a strong lineup on weekdays, as well as weekday evenings since sports programming moved there from CKAC, its weekends are mostly music, which competes poorly with established music stations.

The new schedule doesn’t change that much. Guy Simard and Sylvain Ménard keep their weekend shows as is, and much of the schedule is still devoted to music (particularly when the Canadiens aren’t playing).

One would think there would be more sports or talk programming they could air on weekends, rather than continue to leave it to mostly music.

Here’s how the schedule change compares to what it was previously (changes in bold). The new schedule took effect Jan. 21.

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Radio ratings: A good fall for Cogeco and CKGM

Overall market share for anglophone Montreal (note that this includes only BBM members)

Ah, ratings. That time of the every-few-months where people who own radio stations gloat about their rising numbers, and if they don’t have rising numbers they selectively comb through demographics and time periods until they find something to gloat about, and if they don’t find anything there either they just bullshit their way through a press release.

Normally I don’t pay much attention to them, because the changes are so insignificant. But with some major programming changes this fall, and some corresponding jumps and plummets in audience, it’s worth taking a closer look this time.

Here are some more objective highlights from the ratings numbers from what I’ve been able to find. The top-line numbers from BBM Canada are here (PDF, first page is English audience, second page French audience). You can compare that to the spring report or last year for the same period.

Astral Media also does a presentation (PDF) that looks into the numbers overall for key demographics, and for important time periods for adults 25-54, which advertisers apparently covet.

CJAD 800AM (Astral)

Programming changes: Aaron Rand show added to evenings, moving Ric Peterson to early afternoons and Kim Fraser to weekends. Barry Morgan does 7-10pm weekdays, replacing Dan Delmar. Loss of Canadiens games to CKGM.

Overall (adults 2+, seven days a week), CJAD is still the highest-rated station in the Montreal English market. It has a 24% market share, within 0.2 percentage points of this spring and last fall. But it’s losing audience in key demographics, especially young adults. In the 18-34 demo, it’s down from 17% this spring to 11%. Though losing rights to Canadiens games is undoubtedly part of that, it’s not the whole story.

If CJAD thought Aaron Rand would give a ratings boost for its evening drive, that hasn’t happened. Its audience for 4-7pm weekdays is stagnant, and it has dropped to fifth place, behind Mitch Melnick on CKGM, for 25-54.

CKGM 990AM (TSN Radio 990, Bell Media)

Programming changes: Rebranding. Acquisition of Canadiens games. Denis Casavant leaves morning show.

The biggest change to CKGM is the addition of Canadiens games, which is giving a significant boost to the evening audience, making it No. 1 on game nights. “Canadiens games are registering an impressive 28.2 share among males 25-54,” Bell Media’s Greg McIsaac tells me. Previously, the station was fifth place with a 3.7 share during that time period. Now, overall, it’s 19.8, ahead of Virgin Radio, station manager Wayne Bews tells Mike Cohen.

But the station is seeing ratings gains everywhere. Overall, CKGM is reaching more listeners, 131,000 a week compared to 93,000 in the spring. Its market share overall has gone up from 2.7 to 4.

Mitch Melnick’s afternoon show has the most impressive gains, going from 3,490 to 4,540 listeners during an average minute, representing a 30% increase in audience. It was enough to push CKGM past CJAD for this time period among adults 25-54, particularly impressive since he’s now up against Aaron Rand.

For me, the big question out of this is: Was getting Canadiens games worth it? Obviously they won’t get into details about their business plans, but the mood seems to be pretty positive.

Bell Media also wouldn’t comment on whether the station is still losing 30% of its audience after dark, as it complained to the CRTC during hearings that eventually granted it the right to move to the clear channel of 690 kHz. But critics might argue it’s hard to get a 28% share if you’re having significant reception problems.

There was also speculation that the station might be picking up francophone listeners after the closure of CKAC Sports. Though there has been a “moderate increase”, Bell Media’s McIsaac says, the overall numbers among francophones have remained unchanged since the spring. Overall, CKGM has a market share of 0.0 among francophone listeners.

If anything, the more likely scenario is that anglophone listeners who tuned into CKAC are coming back to CKGM. The French all-sports station had a 0.5% share among anglophone listeners. Stands to reason many of them would prefer hearing sports-related news and commentary during the day.

CKBE 92.5FM (ex-CFQR, The Beat, Cogeco)

Programming changes: Complete station rebranding. Cat Spencer replaces Aaron Rand on morning show, Ken Connors moves to weekend mornings, Nat Lauzon does weekend afternoons (starting Oct. 15).

They called it a brand new radio station. They wanted to shed all remaining remnants of the old Q92. But despite all the changes, it has still inherited the old Q ratings. The station has a 16% market share overall, which is actually down slightly from last year.

But program director general manager Mark Dickie still has a happy face. (Well, I assume he does. He seemed content when I chatted with him over the phone.) That’s mostly because CKBE has made the strategic decision as part of the Beat rebranding to target the 35-44 female demographic that competitor CJFM seems to have abandoned, and it’s seeing corresponding gains there, and Dickie says they’ve managed to do that while continuing to grow its 45-54 female demo. Overall, from 9am to 4pm, it has a 30% market share for women 35-54.

“It’s pretty well what we were hoping for in the first book,” he said. Among his cherry-picked highlights, the breakfast show with Cat Spencer and Sarah Bartok has surpassed CJFM among the key demo and has gone from fourth to second (behind CJAD) among adults 35-54. (Expanding to adults 25-54, it’s still third, but gaining on second-place CJAD.)

Besides the new morning show, the Beat has also focused on weekends, moving Ken Connors to a beefed-up weekend morning show and bringing star Nat Lauzon in for weekend afternoons.

Lauzon’s numbers are good, even though she’s been on for only half the ratings period. Her numbers are up 6% on Saturdays and 7% Sundays compared to the spring. Among adults 35-54, afternoons are up 12% on Saturdays and 15% on Sundays.

But it’s Connors who is making the biggest impact, with double-digit growth on weekend mornings. Among women 35-54, the station’s audience has grown 37% on Saturdays and 53% on Sundays on weekend mornings.

“It’s definitely paying off,” Dickie says of the decision to focus on weekends, and of the Beat rebranding in general.

Of course, a lot of that is the promotional blitz that comes with a station rebranding. We’ll have to give it another ratings period to see if this audience is sticking around.

CJFM 95.9FM (Virgin Radio, Astral)

Programming changes: Freeway Frank replaces Cat Spencer on morning show, Nat Lauzon leaves midday show for CKBE.

Virgin is still the market leader among adults 18-54. The only big demo it’s lost control over is men 25-54, where CHOM has snuck into first place. The morning show, which took on Freeway Frank Depalo this year and is about to lose Lisa Player, has kept its audience. Its audience during midday, which has lost veteran Nat Lauzon, hasn’t seen a significant change among adults 25-54.

Virgin’s on-air lineup is young, and midday hosts Andrea Collins and Nikki Balch are new to the station over the past year. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I suppose. “As the leader our plan was not to react,” Brand Director Mark Bergman tells Cohen.

CHOM 97.7FM (Astral)

Programming changes: Pete Marier moved to afternoon drive, Rob Kemp to morning show, Tootall to middays and Sharon Hyland to weekends.

Even though CHOM is in a period of transition as it awaits the return of Terry DiMonte on Jan. 9, this has actually been a pretty good ratings period for the station. It’s up just about everywhere, except among women and during the drive-time show, where it’s stagnant. It’s now first overall among men 25-54, overtaking sister station CJFM. Even the morning show has picked up listeners, though it still sits fourth among English-language stations overall.

CBC Radio

Overall, Radio One’s market share is still 8% among anglos, which hasn’t changed over the past year. For Radio Two, there’s been a slight drop in overall audience, going from a 3.1% to 2.6% market share.

CHMP 98.5FM (Cogeco)

Programming changes: Incorporation of sports programming in evenings after closing of CKAC Sports.

Cogeco Nouvelles, in a totally unbiased press release masquerading as news, declared 98.5 the most listened-to station in Canada. I’m too lazy to confirm that, but they’re not making up their significant market gains.

Overall, the station has jumped from a market share of 12% last fall to 20% this fall. That’s incredible. It’s gained throughout the day weekdays (it’s stagnant on weekends, when it plays music). The morning show, hosted by Paul Arcand, has gone from 33,000 to 45,000 average listeners a minute since last spring, a 37% increase. It’s a 47% increase if you count from last fall.

In the noon and early afternoon periods, CHMP has rocketed past three other stations, CITE, CKMF and CKOI, to jump from fifth place to second among adults 25-54.

Demographically, the spike is most pronounced among men 25-54, where it was once in a three-way tie for first place with NRJ and Rythme FM, but is now way ahead (28% to 20%). But it’s also ahead among women and young adults.

Unsurprisingly, the station has seen an increase in ratings during the evening, where it has replaced repeats of the day’s talk shows with sports talk and Canadiens broadcasts. “Its new sports programming has proven a contributing factor to the station’s growing success,” says Cogeco. But that’s not the whole story. Simple math shows that adding all of CKAC’s former audience to CHMP only accounts for about half its increase in market share. Something else is causing more people to listen to the station and/or for longer.

CKAC 730AM (Radio Circulation, Cogeco)

Programming changes: Complete station rebranding, replacing sports and sports talk with 24/7 traffic information.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that since its switch Sept. 6 from sports talk to traffic, CKAC has plummeted in the ratings. But that was expected. Last fall, it had a 4.1% market share. This fall, it’s 0.5%.

Where CKAC’s morning show had an average minute audience of about 9,000, Radio Circulation is only 1,290. Similar drops happen across the schedule and across demographics.

Still, CKAC reaches more than 1 million listeners a week (counted as those who listen at least a minute in a week).

In its application to the CRTC this spring to put a French-language traffic station on 690AM, Cogeco estimated a French-language traffic information service as having a market share of 0.8%, with a total 265,200 weekly listening hours. That number, they said, would double as of the third year. As it turns out, they’re behind that estimate a bit (even though there’s one fewer station to compete with).

Fortunately for Cogeco, its agreement with Transport Quebec doesn’t set any minimums concerning market share or total audience.

Other French-language stations

There haven’t been much changes to the music stations on the French side, certainly not much of interest to anglos.

Among young adults (18-34), Astral’s CKMF (NRJ) has overtaken Cogeco’s CKOI for first place, going up six points with a corresponding drop of six points for CKOI.

CKOI’s overall market share has dropped from 9.8 last year to 6.6 this fall, a significant drop. Why Cogeco would say it’s proud of the station’s performance is beyond me.

Quebec City

In brief:

  • CFEL (CKOI), recently sold by Cogeco to the Leclerc family on orders from the CRTC, has slid significantly in market share among adults 18-34. It’s now 16%, compared to 24% last fall, dropping it from first to third in the market.
  • There’s a corresponding spike for Astral’s CITF (Rouge FM) in that same demographic. It has gone from 5% to 11% market share over the same period.
  • CHOI (Radio X) is losing a lot of audience during weekday midday, and Rouge FM has a corresponding spike in audience for that period.

Radio ratings: 98.5FM on the rise

One of the stories I missed while I was, you know, working for a living, was the latest radio ratings numbers. As usual, the changes are for the most part minor, a point or two up or down, which changes little but the blood pressure of station managers.

One thing that is noteworthy is the rise of CHMP 98.5FM, Corus’s (soon to be Cogeco’s) French-language talk-radio station. It’s particularly apparent in the all-important morning rush, where Paul Arcand’s Puisqu’il faut se lever is rising pretty spectacularly in the ratings, as you can see from the chart above compiled by Astral.

BBM doesn’t measure why people listen to what they do, but it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this is due to the strength of his interviews and regular contributors.

Anecdotally, I’ve noticed a lot of the news I get coming from this station. CHMP is where the Journal de Montréal’s Michelle Coudé-Lord went to refute accusations against her by one of her locked-out employees (she appeared with Benoit Dutrizac, who does the afternoon show). It has the particular advantage of being a neutral party in the so-called guerre des médias, being owned by neither Gesca, Radio-Canada or Quebecor.

As if on cue, La Presse’s Nathalie Collard did a profile of Arcand and his show, and talked to him about people who fear his hot seat. Listening to his sometimes confrontational interview style, it’s easy to see why. But he’s getting so big that, like Tout le monde en parle, some people can’t afford not to appear there.

UPDATE (Jan. 1): An Agence QMI poll shows Arcand is by far the most notable radio personality.

CRTC caves in to Cogeco

The CRTC, which sets rules regarding concentration of ownership in broadcast media, decided it could simply ignore them in a ruling on Friday that gave Cogeco the right to buy almost all the assets of Corus Quebec.

Specifically, Cogeco would buy 11 stations for $80 million, including Montreal’s 92.5 the Q (formerly Q92), CFQR-FM.

In Montreal:

Elsewhere:

  • CJRC-FM Souvenirs Garantis 104.7 in Gatineau
  • CIME-FM 103.9 in St-Jerome
  • CHLT-FM Souvenirs Garantis 107.7 in Sherbrooke
  • CKOY-FM 104.5 in Sherbrooke
  • CHLN-FM Souvenirs Garantis 106.9 in Trois-Rivières
  • CFOM-FM Souvenirs Garantis 102.9 in Quebec City
  • CFEL-FM (“CKOI”) 102.1 in Quebec City

The biggest problem with the acquisition is that it would violate a CRTC rule that says one company can’t own more than two stations in each language on each band in each market. Cogeco was willing to get around this by selling stations in Quebec City and converting one in Sherbrooke into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station.

But it wanted an exception in Montreal. CHMP 98.5 is the flagship station of the Corus talk radio network, and Rythme FM (CFGL) and CKOI are the No. 1 and No. 2 music stations, making them a whole lot of money. Cogeco said that a requirement to sell one of those stations would torpedo the whole deal (CKOI alone represents half the cost of the acquisition), and promised that in exchange for this special consideration they would hire journalists throughout Quebec and create a talk-radio news agency.

And the CRTC caved. Well, mostly.

They didn’t buy the idea of turning Sherbrooke’s CKOY FM into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station, and gave Cogeco a year to find a buyer for it. They also made a strict condition that Cogeco’s plan for a news agency continue, so they can’t pull a bait and switch.

That part is good news. The idea of Cogeco Nouvelles sounds good. At least the part about them hiring 33 full-time journalists and spending $3 million a year on news sounds good. The part about sharing content sounds a lot like the regional stations will all take the majority of their content from Montreal and insert a bare minimum of local stories just to justify their license.

But still, considering how little actual journalism comes out of private radio in Quebec, on the whole this is good.

There are also a few additional incentives to sweeten the deal, like this: Cogeco will “provide its services free-of-charge to groups operating fewer than three French-language radio stations in Quebec’s small markets as long as they agree to supply COGECO Nouvelles with news from their markets. The service’s content will also be available free-of-charge to community radio stations.”

Oligopoly

But as nice as all that is, and I hope Cogeco Nouvelles succeeds, the problem of radio competition remains. Instead of three players in the Quebec francophone (popular) music scene in Montreal, there would be two, representing an astonishing 95% of advertising revenue in the biggest market in Quebec. And that’s true for both the French and English-language markets in Montreal. If you discount jazz, classical and CBC/Radio-Canada’s stations, the two will own all seven music stations (four francophone, three anglophone) in Montreal.

Much of the debate at the CRTC seemed to be about Astral Media, which owns the NRJ and Rock Détente networks and is seen as a major player in the regions. But rather than acknowledge that there’s a serious problem with Astral Media owning stations that should be competing with each other (this is particularly true in Montreal’s anglophone market, where Astral owns CHOM 97.7, CJFM 95.9 Virgin Radio and CJAD 800), the CRTC decided that the best response was to create an even bigger behemoth in Cogeco.

With the acquisition, Cogeco stations would have an astounding 46.6% market share in the Montreal francophone market and 22.4% in the anglophone market, or 41.3% total. Astral, meanwhile, has a 31.4% share in the francophone market and a 55.4% share in the anglophone market. Note that all these numbers don’t exclude CBC/Radio-Canada stations. When you consider just commercial stations, or as a share of ad revenues, those numbers are even higher.

The suggestion that this would somehow “restore a competitive balance” is silly.

The Montreal-less network

There’s also a problem that isn’t being considered very well here: While Cogeco argues that regional talk-radio stations need the resources and “expertise” of Montreal’s 98.5 FM, it also plans to sell stations in the regions to a third party that won’t be able to setup a Montreal station if they want to build a network.

For example, CKOI is a brand network in Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City. As part of the acquisition, Cogeco will have to sell the Sherbrooke and Quebec City stations in this network, but not the Montreal one. And there isn’t exactly a lot of extra space on the dial for someone to setup a new francophone music station in Montreal. So not only would anyone who wants to buy these stations have to change their brands (along with the Rythme FM station in Quebec City), but they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of whatever efficiencies Astral and Corus/Cogeco think they have found with multi-region brands.

Personally, I think music radio stations can do fine without needing to belong to a Montreal-network (some names are already popping up as potential buyers). But it’s funny that Cogeco puts such a strong emphasis on the need for a Montreal flagship station for its talk radio network but has no problem with other people having radio stations in the regions without a Montreal-based moneymaker to keep them afloat.

In conclusion: Good for radio, bad for radio choice

I’m happy that the CRTC handled some of the issues I brought up in my criticism of Cogeco’s plan. And I’m happy that Cogeco is planning to setup a regional radio news network and hire journalists.

But this is a step backwards for radio diversity in Montreal, at a time when the city desperately needs more competition in commercial radio.

The CRTC should review its rules for media concentration, particularly because the public seems to be abandoning the AM band and because Montreal’s numbers suggest that commercial music stations aren’t strictly segregated on the basis of language.

Montreal has seven commercial radio stations that all play popular music that sounds a lot alike. It should have more than two companies running them.

More coverage in:

UPDATE (Jan. 12): Almost a month after the CRTC’s decision, and weeks before the transaction is set to close, Astral decides to appeal to the federal court to overturn it, saying it was “arbitrary and unreasonable” to change the rules at the last minute just for Cogeco. VP Claude Laflamme makes the point in the statement that “the sudden lack of predictability in the application of the CRTC policy penalizes all broadcasters which in the past decided not to pursue business opportunities in order to abide by the policy as formulated and as consistently applied.”

La Presse quotes Cogeco as counter-arguing that Astral controls 75% of the anglophone market (they own CJAD, CHOM and CJFM, but that doesn’t violate the CRTC’s rules), and they shouldn’t be pointing fingers about media concentration.

Note that while Astral suggests that Cogeco should have been forced to sell one of the music stations, it doesn’t have its eyes on them because it already owns two francophone FM stations in Montreal (CITE Rock Détente 107.3 and CKMF NRJ 94.3)

UPDATE (Jan. 14): Corus says it will, of course, fight this appeal, and that the Cogeco deal is still set to close on Feb. 1.

Cogeco’s self-serving plan for Quebec radio

Three months after announcing a deal to buy Corus Quebec’s radio stations (with the exception of CKRS in Saguenay, which has been sold to an independent group including Guy Carbonneau), Cogeco and the CRTC yesterday both released Cogeco’s proposal for how it will run those stations.

Among the highlights:

Cogeco News

In addition to the above, Cogeco is talking big about creating a “news agency” that would serve all its stations (I guess they mean something bigger than Corus Nouvelles). Here’s what they say in their press release:

The news agency that COGECO proposes to set up will play a key role in enriching local information and will provide a complement to the other information sources available in Quebec. All of the stations of the COGECO group as well as independent stations in the regions and community stations will be asked to contribute to the content available through the agency. In return, they will be able to select the most relevant news for their respective listening audiences and produce their own news bulletins locally.

Pooling resources through the news agency, which will be coordinated by FM 98.5, will create a full information source available 24/7 – because news happens nights and weekends, too.

Furthermore, sharing information resources will allow regional stations CHLN-FM Trois-Rivieres, CHLT-FM Sherbrooke and CJRC-FM Gatineau, which will remain predominantly spoken-word radio services but will now primarily target men between the ages of 25 and 54, to devote their resources to producing local shows. Most significantly, this means the return of local public affairs programming in the morning and at noon, as well as locally produced news bulletins.

Finally, a night-time show and a weekend morning public affairs show will be produced and offered to all stations of the group. Community stations and independent stations in the regions will also have the benefit of these new resources and information content.

“We want to put information radio in Quebec back on top,” commented Mr. Lachance. “Since COGECO is a business that is close to its people, it is a natural fit for us to make local information and local interest content the heart of our strategy. The decision to include independent stations in the regions and community stations in the agency aligns with that, and we think this is great news for radio in Quebec.”

Unless I’ve misunderstood, this sounds a lot like what the TV networks have done to local television stations. They still produce local newscasts locally (well, except Global), but many of the stories they produce are prepackaged by the national network. Without the resources and staff to put together a full newscast, the local stations are forced to use these prepackaged reports, even if they’re local stories from local newscast hundreds of kilometres away that have little interest to their communities.

And Cogeco is trying to sell this as a good thing for local radio.

Of course, if the alternative is no news at all, or a straight rebroadcast of a Montreal signal, I guess it is good news.

Let us cheat, but only where we get rich

Cogeco doesn’t try to hide the fact that its request to keep its stations in Montreal is all about money. Rythme FM is the No. 1 station in Montreal, 98.5 has the most popular morning show, and CKOI also does very well here.

Their excuse for wanting to keep all these money-generating stations? They’re throwing out a bunch:

98.5 is special: “The proposed exception affects only FM 98.5 in Montreal’s French-language radio market and would allow COGECO to operate three French-language FM radio stations, each in its own niche.”

Are Rythme FM and CKOI so different that they qualify as their “own niches”? And the exception applies equally to them. Nothing stops Cogeco from keeping 98.5 and selling Rythme FM or CKOI. It’s selling both stations from those networks in Quebec City and shutting down CKOI’s sister station in Sherbrooke.

It saves the French language: “The distinctiveness of the bilingual Montreal market and the importance of keeping talk radio like FM 98.5 strong in order to ensure the sustainability of French-language spoken-word radio in Quebec justify our request for an exception”

I have no idea what bilingualism has to do with this, nor how “the distinctiveness of the bilingual Montreal market” somehow means it makes sense to concentrate ownership. I don’t know whether 98.5 is profitable. If it is, they can sell it to someone who will keep the talk radio format. If it isn’t, there’s no guarantee Cogeco won’t change the format and make it a music station or something else that’s cheaper to produce.

It helps the regions financially: “Without that exception, it will be next to impossible for COGECO to indefinitely support regional spoken-word radio stations that have been running heavy deficits for many years.”

That’s an argument for converting CKOY in Sherbrooke from a station to a retransmitter, but what does it have to do with Montreal? Does Cogeco expect us to believe that if we give them an exception to media concentration rules that they’ll subsidize money-losing regional stations indefinitely?

It helps the regions with programming: “The limited exception sought by COGECO would breathe new life into stations in the regions by providing them links to strong programming sources – to FM 98.5 primarily, for information and public affairs, and to CKAC-AM for sports and CKOI-FM for its expertise and music content.”

Again with the distraction. CKAC has nothing to do with the exception, since it’s an AM station. And as for CKOI, you just said you’re selling its sister station in Quebec City and shutting down its sister station in Sherbrooke. If Montreal-based programming would save these stations, why do you insist on getting rid of them?

We should include anglo stations too: “… a very high number of francophone listeners tune in to English-language music stations.”

Sure. CHOM and CJFM get a lot of francophones listening to them. But so does CFQR, which you’ll recall is one of the stations you’re buying. Add in the anglo stations, and Cogeco wants to own five of the 13 commercial radio stations in the city, and four of the eight commercial FM (mainstream) music stations. This doesn’t support their argument very well.

Straight-up bullshit: “Our plan is without a doubt the best opportunity to increase diversity of voices across Quebec that the broadcasting system has seen in many years.”

You’re buying a former competitor. Don’t pretend it’s the opposite of what it is.

Ooh, money!

Oh, and that last part they mentioned about “an exceptional contribution of 9% of the total transaction value, an amount of $7.2 million, to various organizations and initiatives to support the radio system”? Sounds kind of generous, doesn’t it?

It’s CRTC policy that when a broadcaster is sold, the buyer proposes a “tangible benefits” package of 10% of the purchase price to contribute positively to the development of the broadcasting system. The money doesn’t go to the CRTC, but to organizations that support independent productions and other good things.

You math majors might notice that their 9% proposal is less than the 10% CRTC policy. In other words, it’s another exception they’re asking for, one that they’re selling to the public as a generous donation on their part.

What the CRTC should do

Cogeco hasn’t made anywhere near a solid case for keeping three FM stations in the Montreal market. It’s selling or shutting down Rythme FM and CKOI-branded stations elsewhere in Quebec, and freely admits its only motivation for wanting to keep these stations here is money. The CRTC should order Cogeco to sell one of the FM stations in Montreal, and let someone who isn’t Cogeco or Astral Media take a shot at making money from commercial francophone radio in Montreal.

Cogeco’s point about the unprofitability of regional stations is a good one, but giving the company what it wants in Montreal won’t suddenly make those stations profitable (even with all the big talk about a news agency they promise). It will at best simply delay their eventual decision to either sell or shut down those regional stations.

In Quebec City, Cogeco’s plan to sell two stations would put it in compliance with CRTC guidelines. No problem there.

In Sherbrooke, Cogeco is presenting its plan as a “win-win-win”, proving it doesn’t give a crap about local radio. The CRTC should order Cogeco to find a buyer for CKOY. Corus found a buyer for CKRS in Saguenay, and those Quebec City stations are going to someone. I’m willing to bet there’s interest in CKOY if it’s on the block for cheap. If Cogeco is interested in having a CKAC retransmitter in Sherbrooke, it can apply for a new license on a vacant frequency.

The CRTC will hold a hearing on Sept. 28 at 9am at Le Nouvel Hotel (1740 René-Lévesque W., corner Saint-Mathieu) to consider the application.

UPDATE (Aug. 6): Cogeco VP Richard Lachance does interviews with Infopresse and Paul Arcand explaining the plan, saying the new news service will create about a dozen jobs (including reporters in the federal and provincial legislatures), and there’s no Plan B if the CRTC decides it doesn’t like Cogeco’s plan.

Trente, meanwhile, takes another look at the plan, referencing this blog post.

Cogeco to buy Corus Quebec radio stations

Pierre Trudel thought it was Quebecor, but Quebecor had it right: Cogeco, a cable provider in Ontario and parts of Quebec, which also owns the Rythme FM radio network and used to own TQS before that went into bankruptcy, has announced that it will acquire Corus Quebec’s radio network, pending CRTC approval.

The transaction, valued at about $80 million, includes:

In Montreal:

Elsewhere:

  • CJRC-FM Souvenirs Garantis 104.7 in Gatineau
  • CIME-FM 103.9 in St-Jerome
  • CHLT-FM Souvenirs Garantis 107.7 in Sherbrooke
  • CKOY-FM 104.5 in Sherbrooke
  • CHLN-FM Souvenirs Garantis 106.9 in Trois-Rivieres
  • CFOM-FM Souvenirs Garantis 102.9 in Quebec City
  • CFEL-FM (“CKOI”) 102.1 in Quebec City

It’s hard to tell from a simple press release what this all means. Cogeco has experience in radio, so I wouldn’t expect any major overhauls immediately (except, I guess, having to rename “Corus Nouvelles”). But CFQR would be Cogeco’s first anglophone radio station, for what that’s worth.

On the francophone side, this would mean a loss of competition. Instead of three major players (Astral Media is the other, owning the NRJ and Rock Détente networks), there would be two. CKOI and CFGL would come under the same owner, working together instead of competing with each other for music listeners.

In Sherbrooke, it’s worse: Three of the four five commercial music stations, CKOY, CHLT and CFGE, would all be owned by Cogeco, leaving CITE-FM-1 Rock Détente 102.7 and CIMO-FM 106.1 NRJ in nearby Magog as the only competition.

In Trois Rivières, it would be two for Cogeco, two for Astral. Same for Quebec City, though there’s more competition there from independents.

It’s also worth noting that this sale comes mere months after Corus cut local programming at Souvenirs Garantis stations CJRC, CHLT and CHLN.

What about CKRS?

CKRS 98.3FM in Saguenay, the fourth Souvenirs Garantis station that got its morning show cut to be replaced with Paul Arcand, is not part of the transaction. Corus has been looking to get rid of that station, and the deadline for bids was yesterday, and the new owner (if there is one) should be known soon.

UPDATE: Nathalie Collard also has some thoughts on the matter.