Tag Archives: CHRF

Radio ratings: Virgin running out of ways to claim it’s beating The Beat

Numeris released its quarterly ratings report this week for Montreal and other metered markets. The Montreal top-line results show once again a significant margin between 92.5 The Beat (CKBE-FM) and Virgin Radio 95.9 (CJFM-FM).

Here they are translated into English. Audience shares among Montreal anglophones (all ages) from Aug. 29 to Nov. 27, 2016 (with their average-minute audience for a 24-hour day):

  • CJAD 800: 29.6% (17,100)
  • The Beat 92.5: 17.4% (10,000)
  • Virgin Radio 96: 14.9% (8,600)
  • CHOM 97.7: 10.2% (5,900)
  • CBC Radio One: 6.4% (3,700)
  • TSN Radio 690: 3.7% (2,100)
  • Rythme FM 105.7: 2.2% (1,300)
  • Radio Classique 99.5: 2.0% (1,100)
  • CBC Radio Two: 1.8% (1,000)

Other measured stations had shares under 1%.

Once again, among overall anglophone audiences, CJAD is the clear winner with a 29.6% share, tied with last winter as its highest share in the past five years. The Beat clearly beats Virgin, up by two and a half points. It’s also ahead in the adults 25-54 demographic, which Virgin had a bit of an edge in historically. And even when counting in francophone audiences, The Beat is still ahead.

CHOM, meanwhile, had its worst book in the past half-decade, dropping more than two points.

Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones). Data by Numeris

Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones, ages 2+). Data by Numeris. Click for larger version.

But it would be irresponsible to make sweeping conclusions based on one ratings report. Instead, it makes more sense to look at long-term trends. And here’s what we see from that:

  • CJAD is doing well, despite everyone’s opinions (usually negative here) about its programming. Since 2014, it has climbed into the 25-30% range, with noticeable dips in the summer, suggesting Montrealers are tuning in when there’s news. No individual programming change would explain this, though 2013 is when there was the last major reshuffling, getting rid of Ric Peterson.
  • The Beat is winning the battle with Virgin. It took about two years after Q92 relaunched itself as The Beat for there to be real traction in the ratings, and a noticeable drop in Virgin’s share around 2013 led to The Beat taking the lead. Since the beginning of 2014, The Beat has led among anglo listeners, though the adults 25-54 demo has gone back and forth a bit.

CHOM’s bad book could easily be an outlier, so we’ll have to see.

As for TSN 690, a lot of people seem to be very concerned about their ratings (and, like with CJAD, very eager to blame problems on a particular on-air personality), but it’s about the same place it always is. The latest rating is slightly below where it was a year ago, and slightly above where it was two years ago at the same time of the season.

Naturally, every station tried to spin the results to make themselves look good:

  • CJAD sent out a press release noting their #1 status and adding that it is the best-rated news-talk radio station in Canada in terms of audience share in its central market. (The fact that Montreal has a limited number of English stations is a big factor in that, of course.) And it singled out hosts Andrew Carter (most listened-to radio show in the market), Aaron Rand (most popular afternoon show) and Ken Connors (a 52% share on weekend mornings).
  • The Beat also sent out a press release, staking claim to the title of highest-rated music station in the market, as well as the adults 25-54 and women 25-54 demographics that advertisers love, and highlighting its high ratings during the 9-to-5 workday, which continues to be its strength.
  • Virgin Radio didn’t send out a press release, though it did post messages on social media noting some ratings wins. It calls Freeway and Natasha “Montreal’s #1 most listened to morning show”, but only in the fine print do you realize they restricted the audience to adults 18-49. Another image pointed to the station having “more than 2 million listeners a week”, which is true, but that counts everyone who tuned in for even one minute during that week. It doesn’t measure how long or often people listen to the station, and The Beat has the same reach.

Francophone market

Among Montreal francophones (all ages):

  • 98.5 FM: 19.8% (36,600)
  • Rythme FM 105.7: 18.5% (34,300)
  • ICI Première: 11.8% (21,900)
  • Rouge FM 107.3: 9.3% (17,300)
  • CKOI 96.9: 9.1% (16,900)
  • Virgin Radio 96: 5.8% (10,700)
  • The Beat 92.5: 5.6% (10,300)
  • Énergie 94.3: 5.4% (10,000)
  • CHOM 97.7: 4.7% (8,700)
  • ICI Musique: 2.5% (4,600)
  • Radio Classique 99.5: 2.3% (4,300)
  • 91.9 Sports: 1.4% (2,600)

Once again, news-talker 98.5 FM is the leader among all audiences, though Rythme FM declared victory in the adults 25-54 group.

Radio-Canada bounced back big time from a bad book in the summer, taking third spot overall. CKOI’s rating is also noteworthy. After being stuck with shares around 6%, it’s now several points up on that. Meanwhile, Énergie, whose lineup includes Dominic Arpin, Mélanie Maynard and Éric Salvail, gets smaller audiences overall than Virgin and The Beat.

Self-congratulatory statements from:

  • 98.5FM, which says it’s the most listened-to station in all of Canada (by total average-minute audience, apparently)
  • Radio-Canada, which notes a 30% year-over-year increase (good news after a pretty bad report in the summer ratings).
  • Bell Media, which highlights the success of Énergie’s afternoon network show Éric est les fantastiques. Because it’s carried on multiple stations, it gets a large audience.

Also roundups from La PresseInfoPresse and ActusMédias.

CHRF 980 AM, which seems to have an actual programming strategy now, had its best ratings ever. Except it only started reporting ratings in the past year, and its share is 0.3% among francophones and 0.4% among anglophones, for about 800 average-minute listeners total.

New on the ratings chart is CIBL-FM 101.5, the community station whose studios are at the corner of St-Laurent Blvd. and Ste-Catherine St. The station unsurprisingly scored zeros for anglophones, and starts on the francophone chart as a 0.1% share, 300 average listeners and an average daily reach of 16,800. The only station with a worse rating among francophones is TSN 690. It’s certainly not a win for them, but the ratings book should give them a lot of information about their audience that they didn’t have before.

Montreal radio ratings: The Beat gaining on Virgin

Numeris released its spring quarterly ratings report for metered markets this week, of which Montreal is one. The numbers for Montreal’s English market show little change from what we’ve seen for several years now: CJAD leads among all listeners, while Virgin Radio leads among adults age 25-54.

But digging a bit deeper into the numbers by Numeris and research from Bell Media Sales, there are a few things worth noting.

  • Virgin is losing young listeners. Among adults 18-34, Virgin dropped from 40% to 32%, putting it in a dead heat with The Beat.
  • CHOM is now #2 among adults 25-54. It’s tight, but CHOM edged out The Beat to take second place behind Virgin among this advertiser-friendly demographic. But only four percentage points separates Virgin (27%) from The Beat (23%)
  • Virgin is ahead because of men. Virgin and The Beat are neck and neck among women 25-54, but Virgin beats The Beat by five points among men 25-54. The Beat pulling ahead among women would be a big selling point to advertisers.
  • Mornings: Virgin dropped to third place from first in the 6am-10am time slot (adults 25-54). The Beat is well behind the three Bell Media stations, which may have been a factor in the station’s decision to drop Sarah Bartok.
  • Daytime: The Beat is still tops 9-5, but Virgin has dropped below CHOM in third place, losing between 20% and 30% of its average-minute audience since fall.
  • Afternoon drive: This was a good ratings book for Aaron Rand, who climbed CJAD into second from fourth in the 4-7pm block among adults 25-54. Not so great for Mitch Melnick and TSN 690, which lost 40% of its 25-54 audience since fall, probably at least in part because of the Canadiens’ poor season.
  • Weekends: Virgin is still way ahead here.

Naturally, both Virgin and The Beat declared victory, with The Beat boasting about its 2+ rating and high numbers from 9-to-5, and Bell Media boasting about Virgin’s 25-to-54 demo lead and the fact that it owns four of the five stations in this market.

More francophones than anglophones

Numeris’s charts split the audience into French and English markets, but Virgin, The Beat and CHOM all have more francophone listeners than anglophones. When you add up the two languages, these are the average-minute audiences for the stations in Montreal:

  • The Beat: 19,900 (8,800E + 11,100F)
  • Virgin: 17,100 (8,300E + 8,800F)
  • CJAD: 16,300 (15,100E + 1,200F)
  • CHOM: 14,800 (6,900E + 7,900F)
  • CBC Radio One: 3,700 (3,200E + 500F)
  • TSN 690: 2,000 (2,000E + 0F)
  • CBC Radio Two: 1,300 (800E + 500F)

And if you add in the French stations:

  • CHMP 98.5: 38,100 (500E + 37,600F)
  • Rythme FM: 36,500 (1,200E + 35,300F)
  • The Beat: 19,900 (8,800E + 11,100F)
  • Rouge FM: 18,900 (600E + 18,300F)
  • Virgin: 17,100 (8,300E + 8,800F)
  • CJAD: 16,300 (15,100E + 1,200F)
  • ICI Première: 15,300 (400E + 14,900F)
  • CKOI: 15,100 (700E + 14,400F)
  • CHOM: 14,800 (6,900E + 7,900F)
  • Énergie: 9,400 (500E + 8,900F)
  • CJPX Radio Classique: 5,600 (800E + 4,800F)
  • ICI Musique: 4,200 (100E + 4,100F)
  • CBC Radio One: 3,700 (3,200E + 500F)
  • 91.9 Sport: 2,400 (0E + 2,400F)
  • TSN 690: 2,000 (2,000E + 0F)
  • CBC Radio Two: 1,300 (800E + 500F)
  • CKAC Circulation: 300 (0E + 300F)
  • CHRF 980: 100 (0E + 100F)

 

Not only does The Beat have more listeners on average than any other anglophone station, it has more listeners on average than all but one of the francophone music stations as well. (Virgin can crow about its larger reach, breaking 2 million, but someone tuning in a minute or two a month isn’t very valuable, I’d think. And besides, The Beat has a slightly higher reach on a weekly basis among anglophones.)

CHMP 98.5 is still at the top, and its average minute audience of 38,100 continues to make it the most popular radio station not only in Montreal but in Canada. The highest-rated station in Toronto, CHFI-FM, has an overall AMA of 27,400. Most other markets don’t have a station above 10,000.

La Presse and the Journal de Montréal focused on drops for Radio-Canada’s ICI Première and morning man Alain Gravel, while Le Devoir picks a few highlights. La Presse notes that Paul Arcand at 98.5 has an average minute audience of 83,440 (and that’s down significantly), and that all 10 of the most listened-to shows on radio in Montreal are either at 98.5 or Rythme FM.

The news isn’t all bad for Radio-Canada, though. Its weekend evening show La soirée est encore jeune is its most popular among adults 25-54, beating even its weekday morning show.

At the bottom of the ratings, CKLX-FM, now 91.9 Sport, seems to be slowly finding its footing, going up from a 0.9% share to a 1.4% share in the past year. Radio Circulation CKAC is still down in the dumps, mainly because of its repetitive format that no one will listen to for more than a few minutes. But even if you judge it by its daily reach (how many people tune in for at least a minute a day), it’s pretty poor. More francophones will check in with CJAD once a day than this station.

And dead last again is CHRF 980 AM, which abandoned Radio Fierté last year after barely trying it out, and now seems to have adopted a French version of owner Evanov Radio’s Jewel easy-listening format. Its schedule shows it’s bringing back live morning and afternoon programming, and has a weekly show for the LGBT community on Saturday evenings. They’ll need more than that, and some serious marketing, if they hope to make a dent in the ratings.

Radio ratings: Virgin and The Beat are tied (so both declare victory)

Quarterly radio ratings from Numeris were released on Thursday. There aren’t any big surprises for the anglophone market. Overall, among all listeners age 2+, these are the average minute audiences from anglophones across the 24/7 week for the top 10 stations:

  1. CJAD: 15500 (29.6%)
  2. Virgin Radio 96: 8500 (16.2%)
  3. The Beat: 8500 (16.1%)
  4. CHOM: 6100 (11.7%)
  5. CBC Radio One: 3400 (6.5%)
  6. TSN 690: 2300 (4.4%)
  7. Rythme FM: 1200 (2.2%)
  8. Radio Classique: 900 (1.7%)
  9. CKOI: 700 (1.4%)
  10. CBC Radio Two: 700 (1.4%)

Little has changed from previous reports, but Virgin and The Beat are in a statistical tie, which meant they had to be creative to proclaim themselves #1.

Virgin stuck to the key age 25-54 demographic, and its slightly higher reach. (And Bell points out that CHOM is tied with The Beat for second place among adults 25-54.) The Beat, meanwhile, points out that it’s higher during the work day (both overall and among women 25-54), which has always been its strong point.

AM 980 is dead last

New in this ratings report is the inclusion of CHRF, the former Radio Fierté that now just identifies itself as AM 980 and airs music. The station, which abandoned its LGBT-themed programming less than a year after launching, is in last place among measured stations in both languages.

Among francophones, it has an estimated 100 listeners on average, a market share of 0.1%, and reaches 3,000 listeners a day. More francophones listen to TSN 690 or CJAD.

Among anglophones, its average audience and market share both read as zero, and it reaches 1,100 listeners in an average day.

The station has a lot of work to do if it’s going to attract an audience. It could start by having programming and telling people about it.

Owner Evanov Radio hasn’t announced what its plans are for the station, which has a standard commercial licence and isn’t tied to any format (though it must remain a French-language station).

Good news/bad news

Looking into the more detailed reports compiled by Bell Media and Cogeco Force Radio (via Infopresse), you can see strengths and weaknesses among the various stations. Some things of note:

  • CHOM’s morning show does much better with women than the rest of its schedule
  • CJAD’s ratings spike at 11pm during Joey Elias’s comedy show. It’s the most popular station at that hour among anglophones 25-54.
  • Virgin spikes during the morning show, while the Beat’s morning show has fewer listeners than daytime programming.
  • Mitch Melnick is still the high point of TSN 690, around 5pm weekdays.
  • Demographically, among anglophone commercial stations:
    • Most male: TSN 690
    • Most female: The Beat
    • Youngest: Virgin
    • Oldest: Radio Two
    • Richest: TSN 690
    • Poorest: Radio Two
  • Paul Arcand’s morning show on 98.5 FM is still the most popular thing on radio, with an average audience peaking above 35,000 listeners among adults 25-54, though Rythme FM’s weekend shows have about the same audience in that demo and Arcand’s numbers aren’t as high as they used to be. 98.5 is also tops during the afternoon drive period and in late evenings. Rythme FM is strongest during the work day.
  • Rouge FM’s audience dips noticeably during Isabelle Racicot’s lunchtime show, particularly among men. It also underperforms during the morning show and drive-home show.
  • Énergie 94.3 does poorly during the work day. It’s the only one among the big French stations whose peak is in the afternoon, thanks to Éric Salvail’s drive-home show.
  • CKOI has the second-strongest morning show, with Debout les comiques.
  • CKOI is now number one among adults 18-34.
  • 91.9 Sport’s best audience comes just after 3pm when Jean-Charles Lajoie starts his show. The station flatlines after 7pm when it runs repeat programming.
  • Rythme FM’s morning show does poorly among men, especially when compared to the rest of the day, which is very strong.
  • On weekends, from 9am to 9pm, Rythme FM blows away the competition. It has twice the audience of any other station in the middle of the day.
  • Radio Classique saw a modest ratings increase, now that it has new programming. It’s too early to tell if it’s significant (and if it will stay).
  • Demographically, among francophone stations:
    • Most male: Radio Circulation (84%)
    • Most female: Rouge FM (60%)
    • Youngest: Énergie
    • Oldest: Radio Classique
    • Richest: Énergie
    • Poorest: 91.9 Sport

Radio Fierté is now officially broadcasting

As of 6am today, a little over three months after it began on-air testing, CHRF Radio Fierté 980 is officially on the air, the first French-language LGBT radio station in North America according to their promo ads.

You can listen to the first four minutes of the first morning show here:

We now have a full idea of the programming schedule and on-air personalities. For a station that’s supposed to blend music and talk, it’s pretty light on the talk with only five hosts announced:

  • Michel Duchesne and Sylvain Verstricht host the morning show Les Barbus from 6am to 9am weekdays. Duchesne is an author and television writer who worked at Radio-Canada for 14 years (La Presse recently profiled him). Verstricht comes from CIBL 101.5 FM and writes the bilingual culture blog Local Gestures.
  • Marie-Noëlle (Marino) Gagnon hosts Marino et ses Diamants from 1 to 3pm and La Chansonnette avec Marino from 9 to 11am on Sundays, and serves as the station’s music director. She comes from RNC Media where she worked at Radio X 91.9 in Montreal.
  • Joe Bocan and Miguel Doucet host Les Pétards from 5 to 6pm weekdays (Bocan as of Feb. 9). Bocan is a singer who was very successful in the 1980s and early 90s, but withdrew from the public view to raise her children. La Presse profiled her desire to return to her career last year. Doucet is an aspiring actor. Doucet also hosts Ta Playlist from 6:30 to 7pm weekdays.

Weekends also include Le Top 10 Franco with Duchesne, Verstricht and Doucet at 11am Saturdays and Le Top Anglo at noon.

If you missed any of that, Joe Bocan can repeat it for you:

Radio Fierté can be streamed from its website or its mobile app. It’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

Radio Fierté begins testing on 980 AM

Montreal’s newest radio station, and its first new general-interest commercial AM station in just about forever, is now transmitting as it undergoes the final stage before launch.

For a couple of weeks now, radio watchers have been noticing an open carrier — silence instead of static — on 980 AM. Now that signal is starting to carry music as the station begins its on-air testing in preparation for launch.

Radio Fierté CHRF is owned by Evanov Radio Group, which also owns Proud FM in Toronto, and the two have the same purpose, to serve the local LGBT community. Fierté will be Evanov’s first French-language radio station. Evanov told me last month that the station is expected to be on air by mid-November, so it’s a bit ahead of schedule. The actual launch is expected in January.

Evanov hasn’t announced hires yet, but Marie-Noëlle (Marino) Gagnon has announced she will be the station’s music director and one of its hosts. The general sales manager is Alain Tanguay, and Yvan Ruel is the project coordinator.

The station’s application to the CRTC proposed a format of half music, half talk. The proposed program schedule was vague, but indicated mainly music on evenings and weekends. Though it would be mainly directed at the estimated 5-10% of the population that is gay (Evanov believes it could be even higher than that), its music and information is also designed to appeal to a wider audience.

Its application promises some shows “will take a deeper look at issues of a more serious nature such as relationships, sex, health, politics and current events” with invited experts and call-in shows. Other shows will be music with “light banter.” It proposes 4-6 minutes of hard news an hour, and another 3-7 minutes an hour of sports, weather and traffic.

The application shows a projected annual budget of $1 million to $1.5 million a year, based on ad rates averaging between $42 and $72 a minute.

The station is playing mainly pop music in French and English (Tegan and Sara, Coeur de Pirate, Daft Punk, and a bunch of the songs you’d hear on The Beat or Virgin), but promises a mix of pop, disco and techno. Between songs, it’s airing several recorded messages noting the testing period, and identifying the station as “the first francophone LGBT station in North America” and “radio arc-en-ciel”. People who identify issues related to the transmission are asked to email info@radiofierte980.com.

Fierté was approved by the CRTC in 2011, in the same proceeding that gave approval for CKGM (TSN Radio) to move to clear channel 690 AM. Fierté had originally been approved to take over the vacated 990 frequency and the same pattern as CKGM formerly had, but found that moving to 980 AM and adopting a less directional pattern at reduced power would result in better coverage at night. The CRTC approved a frequency and pattern change last December.

Two new radio stations to launch in Montreal region by end of 2014

The last regulatory hurdle to the Montreal area getting its newest commercial radio company has finally been passed. On Thursday, the CRTC approved a technical change for CHSV-FM Hudson/St-Lazare, a new English-language music station first approved two years ago.

As a result, it and a sister station, Radio Fierté (approved in 2011), will launch by the end of 2014, owner Evanov Communications says.

Former (orange line) and new (red line) pattern of CHSV-FM 106.7 Hudson, with interference zones of 106.9 Ottawa (Jump) and 106.7 Burlington, Vt. (The Wizard)

Former (orange line) and new (red line) pattern of CHSV-FM 106.7 Hudson, with interference zones of 106.9 Ottawa (Jump) and 106.7 Burlington, Vt. (The Wizard)

CHSV-FM 106.7 St-Lazare (The Jewel)

Evanov (through its subsidiary Dufferin Communications) had applied for the change to CHSV-FM because the Bell tower it had planned to use in Hudson had run out of space and would have required expensive upgrades to support another antenna.

So Evanov proposed to move to a Rogers-owned tower on Chemin Sainte-Angélique near Rue des Liserons, about 5.3 kilometres southwest of the Bell tower. In order to still cover Hudson, the change also meant a power increase, from 500W to 1420W average ERP.

Some competitors, such as CJVD Vaudreuil (a French-language station which serves the same region and wanted to use CHSV’s frequency) and Groupe CHCR (which owns CKIN-FM 106.3 in Montreal and was worried about interference), objected to this change as deviating from what was originally approved.

But the CRTC didn’t buy those objections. While the new pattern is significantly stronger toward the west and southwest, it is about the same toward Montreal, and so can’t be seen as some back-door way into getting into the Montreal market. And the situation that led to the application, and the proposed solution to it, are perfectly reasonable.

In its application, Evanov said the station, which will carry easy-listening music and the Jewel brand used at six other stations in Ontario and another in Winnipeg, would be ready to launch “within weeks of approval as all our other infrastructure and equipment are in place.”

Carmela Laurignano, vice-president and radio group manager for Evanov, said they won’t waste any time now. “It is our intention to get started on making preparations next week. It will require us to schedule installation of the transmitter, going through a testing phase to satisfy all requirements by Industry Canada and then sign-on air. We expect to be signed on by Christmas!”

When it does go on the air, for testing and then at launch, The Jewel in Hudson will cover the western off-island area, Ile Perrot, areas on the north shore around Oka, and the extreme West Island. Areas further than that may be able to pick up the station, but may experience interference from WIZN (The Wizard) from Burlington, Vt., or CKQB-FM (Jump) in Ottawa. Reception from downtown Montreal or points east of there will be very difficult because of interference from both WIZN and the Boom FM station at 106.5 in St-Hyacinthe.

CHRF 980 AM Montreal (Radio Fierté)

Evanov is also the licensee of Radio Fierté, a new French-language AM station serving Montreal’s LGBT community. The station was approved in 2011 on TSN Radio’s former frequency of 990 AM. Last December, the CRTC approved a technical change for that station, moving it to 980 AM and allowing it to have a less restrictive pattern at night.

Radio Fierté has proposed a mixed music and talk format. It’s based on Proud FM (CIRR-FM), an English-language station in downtown Toronto. Because Fierté is on AM, it will likely be more focused on talk.

Though they operate in different languages, in different cities, and have different formats, Radio Fierté and The Jewel will share overhead, including management. So this CRTC decision allows Evanov to move forward on both stations.

Laurignano said Radio Fierté should be on the air by mid-November.

CRTC approves frequency change for Radio Fierté

It hasn’t launched yet, but Radio Fierté has already gotten approval to improve its signal, particularly during the night.

On Wednesday, the CRTC approved a technical amendment to the licence of the French-language LGBT-focused music and talk station owned by Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio). The licence was first awarded in 2011, on the same day that the CRTC approved a move of CKGM (TSN Radio) from 990 to 690 AM. Dufferin was given CKGM’s old frequency and technical parameters as part of that decision.

But as I reported in July, 990 isn’t that great of a frequency for a radio station (which is why CKGM applied for the change in the first place). So Dufferin asked that it change frequency to 980 AM (ironically itself a former frequency for CKGM), reducing power but replacing a highly directional nighttime signal with a much less directional one.

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

The move made sense because another station at 980 AM, CBV in Quebec City, was no longer on the air. That station has since moved to FM. The 990 frequency, meanwhile, has to protect two distant Canadian stations overnight, which severely restricts the signal’s pattern.

With no one opposing the proposed change, the CRTC gave its okay.

Dufferin also applied for an extension of the deadline to launch the new station, which passed on Nov. 21. Wednesday’s decision notes that it must file a separate application for this. It did on Aug. 15, and that was approved without a public comment period. Dufferin now has until Nov. 21, 2014 to launch Radio Fierté.

Dufferin Communications and parent Evanov Radio own Jewel FM stations in various Ontario cities, plus stations branded The Breeze and Energey. It also owns Proud FM in Toronto, which Radio Fierté is based on.

Dufferin also has a licence for an FM station serving Hudson/St-Lazare, to be branded Jewel 106.7. It has also applied for a technical amendment for that station, to move its antenna location due to lack of space on the originally proposed tower. If approved, it says that station could launch within weeks. The application received some opposition from competing stations who feel it is trying to extend its coverage beyond its licensed area. It is still awaiting a decision from the commission.

Radio Fierté requests frequency change, one-year extension to launch

CHRF Radio Fierté, which was supposed to launch this fall at 990 AM, has instead requested a one-year extension and has applied to change frequency to 980 AM in an effort to improve its signal.

When it applied for a frequency change from 990 to 690 in 2011, TSN Radio’s owner Bell Media said the 990 AM frequency was of poor quality, particularly toward the west, and that the station was suffering financially because of it.

The CRTC apparently agreed enough that it awarded the station the much better 690 AM frequency, and gave 990 to a newcomer to the Montreal broadcasting market to start up a music and talk station for the city’s LGBT community.

As it turns out, that new player, Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio) agrees with TSN: That frequency sucks. So it’s asking to shift slightly on the dial.

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

The proposal keeps the transmitter at the same site, the same transmitter in Mercier used by CKGM. But the signal pattern changes, particularly at night, which would go from a narrowly-focused 50kW signal pointed north-northeast, to a rounder 10kW signal that points everywhere but south.

The new night signal would provide much better coverage toward places like Hudson to the west and Granby to the east, at the expense of places northeast like Sorel and Joliette.

The 990 frequency’s signal needs to be this way because of rules that prevent stations of this class from interfering with clear-channel stations at night (when AM radio signals carry much further). On 990, the station has to avoid CBW in Winnipeg and CBY in Corner Brook, N.L., and also has to deal with other stations on the same frequency in places like Rochester, N.Y. and Philadelphia. But 980 doesn’t have any clear-channel stations on it, and while it does have to share the frequency with stations in London, Ont., Troy, N.Y., Lowell, Mass., and Washington, D.C., the signal doesn’t have to be quite as narrow to avoid those stations.

Back to the future

There’s a fair bit of irony here: CKGM used to be at 980, but in 1990, when it was operating as CHTX, it got permission from the CRTC to move to 990 to improve its signal.

So what changed to make 980 more attractive again? The closest station on that frequency is no longer on the air. In the late 1990s, the CBC moved many of its AM stations in major markets to FM. That included CBV 980 in Quebec City, the Première Chaîne station now at 106.3 FM. With no station on that frequency there since 1997, and no one likely to want to reanimate it (since CHRC 800 shut down last year, there are no AM stations left in Quebec City), the door is open to a better signal pointed toward the north.

As Dufferin notes in its brief to the CRTC, it’s no stranger to “impaired” signals. It has a station in Toronto, CIRR-FM (PROUD FM) that is limited to 250 watts because of how congested the radio frequency spectrum is there. It also cited challenges with its 4.85kW signal at CJWL-FM in Ottawa (The Jewel).

“While we had initially taken a ‘something is better than nothing’ approach in our letter of October 24, 2011, Dufferin now believes it has identified a frequency that will permit to deliver a clear signal to its audience and reach its projected levels of profitability on schedule,” it writes.

More people, better reception

The numbers seem to back it up: The 0.5mV/m contour of the current 990 signal includes 4.25 million people during the day and 3.3 million overnight. With the proposed 980 signal, that increases to 5.5 million during the day and 4.5 million at night, an increase of 30% and 36% respectively.

“Most importantly, we are also informed by our engineers that the 980 kHz frequency will also alleviate the penetration and reliability issues currently experienced by 990 kHz as a result of operating at a higher power. The nulls and deficiencies of the (990) will be unable to effectively reach the city’s LGBT community Dufferin is licensed to serve.”

Basically, this means that the engineers believe there will be fewer problems receiving the signal between the large buildings downtown than there was with 990.

Financial projections improve

Dufferin says the additional audience and more reliable signal will improve its financial projections (because larger audience means higher ad rates). With the 990 signal, it projected losing money each of its first six years, and being in the hole by $600,000 by the end of its first seven-year licence term. With the 980 signal, that improves to making money in Year 3 and making $537,000 over the first seven years, closer to the projections it made based on getting the 690 frequency it had originally applied for.

Of course, these are all just projections. We won’t know what happens until the station is actually on the air.

Need more time

So why is this only coming out now, more than a year and a half after Dufferin was given a licence?

There are a few reasons. The biggest one is that it needed to wait for the frequency to be vacated. That only happened in November, when CKGM ended its simulcast on 690 and 990. In the meantime, Dufferin says it conducted its own study to see if the 990 signal was as bad as CKGM’s owner Bell said it was. It’s conclusion was that it really was that bad, and so it looked at other options.

The option it seemed to settle on was the frequency of 850 AM, formerly used by CKVL. But as it explored tower options for a station on that frequency, the CRTC published another application for that frequency and approved it in June, forcing Dufferin to move to Plan D.

Even if the frequency change isn’t approved, Dufferin says it wants an extra year to launch the station because of all the time it spent trying to find an alternative frequency.

Chances of approval are high

The CRTC hasn’t published the application from Dufferin (the company informed me of it directly after people noticed that there was a new entry in Industry Canada’s database for 980 AM). Normally, such technical amendments are treated as so-called “Part 1” applications, which means no public hearing is set, but the public is still given a month to comment. If serious issues are brought up, the commission can hold the application and schedule a public hearing about it.

UPDATE (July 31): The CRTC has indeed published the technical amendment application as a Part 1 application. You can download the full application here (.zip), or file comments here until Aug. 29. Note that all comments and information submitted with them are on the public record.

Applications for extensions to launch services are usually granted without public comment, and there’s little reason to believe this one would be treated differently. Normally a radio station is given two years to begin broadcasting from the date the licence is issued. A one-year extension is usually granted if requested before that deadline, and a second one-year extension if warranted, and further extensions normally denied. The fact that Dufferin has some good reasons for the delay in starting up should mean no problem having this part approved, giving it until Nov. 21, 2014 to launch.

But will the technical change be approved as easily? It’s hard to envision too many parties opposing it. There’s no more AM station in Quebec City, and if someone wanted to start one up they’d probably choose a different frequency anyway. The frequency change puts CHRF closer to the French news-talk station being launched by Tietolman Tétrault Pancholy Media at 940 AM, but the 40 kHz difference is usually more than enough, even in the same city.

Status report: How things are changing at Montreal TV and radio stations

Last fall, I wrote for The Gazette that there were a lot of changes going on at local TV and radio stations. This year, 2013, is turning out to be the biggest one for local broadcasting in decades, with new stations, ownership changes and other big plans.

Because of that, a lot of people have been asking me what’s going on with some of them. My usual response is either “I don’t know” or recapping a blog post I published or something I posted on Twitter.

As we hit the halfway mark of the calendar year, I figured now is a good time to give you an update on what’s going on at each of these stations, one by one.

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