Tag Archives: CJMS

CRTC says it doubts CPAM’s commitment to licence compliance for CJWI 1410 and CJMS 1040

The CRTC isn’t happy with Jean-Ernest Pierre and the two Montreal-area AM radio stations he owns, both of which have gone through a third straight licence term where they have failed to comply with their regulatory obligations.

The commission is considering further options, up to and including revoking or refusing to renew their licences.

On Thursday, the commission issued a notice of hearing for Sept. 7, during which it will consider the licence renewals of CJWI 1410 AM (Haitian station CPAM Radio Union) and CJMS 1040 AM (the country music station based in St-Constant). Both were set to expire Aug. 31, but have been extended a year to give the commission time to consider the compliance issues.

The notice lists a series of regulations and licence conditions the station has apparently failed to meet.

For CJWI 1410:

  • Failing to file annual returns on time (CPAM blamed this on the accountant)
  • Failing to file a form relating to the National Public Alerting System (blamed on the provider of the NPAS system and lack of familiarity with the form)
  • Failing to provide audio recordings and information on licence compliance following a CRTC request (blamed on lack of clarity on the form they were asked to fill out)
  • Failing to provide a detailed music list (CPAM said it sent one when asked)
  • Failing to provide proof of payment of Canadian content development contributions (CPAM said it was paid on time, gave no explanation for failure to provide proof by deadline)
  • Failing to broadcast word-for-word a notice of non-compliance as ordered under the previous licence renewal (CPAM said it believed it was acceptable to follow the spirit of the demand rather than the letter)

For CJMS 1040:

  • Failing to file annual returns on time (CPAM blamed this on the accountant)
  • Failing to file a form relating to the National Public Alerting System (blamed on the provider of the NPAS system)
  • Failing to provide audio recordings upon request (CPAM said host Pascal Pourdier sent them in November — eight months after the CRTC’s request — but apparently the commission never received them)
  • Failing to provide proof of payment of Canadian content development contributions (CPAM said contributions prior to 2014 were the responsibility of the previous owner, but it has paid the amount owed; for contributions after the acquisition, they were paid on time, but no explanation was given for failure to provide proof by deadline)

CJMS has requested a licence amendment to relieve it of the obligation to pay $500 a year to Canadian content development. That request might have been granted (the commission has since made it a policy that stations with small incomes shouldn’t be forced to make CCD expenditures, and the $500 a year was a commitment the group chose to make when it acquired the station in 2014) except that the CRTC also has a policy not to relieve stations of licence conditions when those licence conditions have not been met. (In other words, the commission prefers you ask for permission instead of forgiveness.)

For both stations, the owner passes the buck on responsibility, blaming the accountant, the alerting system provider, an on-air host and even the commission itself for its failure to comply with its licence conditions. The CRTC won’t like that.

But it especially won’t like the fact that these stations had already been called to order on these issues. CJMS’s last licence renewal came with two mandatory orders (which can be enforced by federal court) requiring the station comply with licence conditions. That order came after a bizarre in-person hearing during which the previous owner blamed his father’s dementia for the station’s failure to comply. Though CJMS has a new owner, this is the fourth straight licence term that the station has been in non-compliance, and the third straight time that a short-term renewal has failed to bring the station into line.

For CJWI, there was no mandatory order or tense public hearing, but there were also repeated short-term renewals because of licence non-compliance — in 2008 for four years because of a failure to provide an annual return on time, 2015 for two years because of failures related to annual returns and CCD contributions. Like CJMS, CJWI doesn’t have a single licence term where it has complied with all its licence conditions.

What will the CRTC do?

The commission has a policy on how to deal with non-compliant radio stations, based on how severe the non-compliance is, whether the non-compliance has been a chronic problem, and how the owner has responded to being informed of the apparent non-compliance.

The commission could do nothing, if it determines that the non-compliance was minor or just a communication issue. The next step is usually a short-term licence renewal, which it has already done repeatedly for both stations. It could impose additional CCD contributions (a de facto fine), it could require the station broadcast a notice of its non-compliance (which it did for CJWI), issue mandatory orders (which it did for CJMS), and in the most extreme cases, it could suspend, revoke or refuse to renew the licenses.

Normally, for that extreme measure, the commission would call the licensees to an in-person hearing to give them a chance to explain themselves. That’s what it did with CJMS’s previous owner, and for Aboriginal Voices Radio before revoking its licences. But this notice says the CRTC does not expect to require the licensees’ presence in person. This makes licence revocation unlikely.

Nevertheless, for both stations, it said: “Given the recurrence of the station’s non-compliance over the past several licence terms, the Commission has concerns regarding the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner.”

That should be worrying to any radio station owner, and a strong sign that the commission’s patience is wearing thin.

Other stations in non-compliance

The hearing is also looking at three other stations that have compliance issues:

  • CICR-FM Parrsboro, N.S. The community radio station got its first licence in 2008, and was renewed for a short term in 2015. Its compliance issues relate to annual returns, program logs and requests for information from the commission.
  • CFOR-FM Maniwaki, Que. The commercial station has gone through a third licence term failing to comply with licence conditions, including a condition imposed in 2015 about broadcasting its failure to comply. The application does not include explanations for these latest failures.
  • CKFG-FM Toronto (G98.7). This commercial station owned by Intercity Broadcasting Network Inc. has so many compliance issues that the commission says it “could conclude that the licensee has demonstrated that it does not understand its regulatory obligations.”

Comments on these applications and others in the public notice are due by July 31 and can be submitted here. Note that all information provided, including contact information, becomes part of the public record. The commission could choose to invite people to the public hearing if it decides based on public comments that such an invitation is warranted.

CRTC approves purchase of CJMS 1040 AM

CJMS

CJMS 1040 AM St-Constant, Montreal’s French-language country music station, has been given the go-ahead for a new life.

On Thursday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a change in ownership of the station, from 3553230 Canada inc., a company owned by Alexandre Azoulay, to Groupe Médias Pam inc., owned by Jean Ernest Pierre. The latter also owns Montreal Haitian station CJWI 1410 AM, CPAM Radio Union.

The sals is for $15,000 plus an hour’s worth of advertising airtime a week for a year (52 hours total). Because it’s a purchase of a station that was losing money, and will require investments to bring it into compliance with its obligations, the CRTC did not impose additional tangible benefits on the transaction.

Much of what the station will look like under the new owners has already become evident. It launched new branding and a new website, and is simulcasting a news show from CJWI during rush hours (6-9am and 4-6pm weekdays). The new owners promise that the rest of the schedule will be unique to CJMS, that it will not air ethnic programming, and that it will continue to serve the community of St-Constant.

The new owner also told the commission that the plan is to modernize the music at CJMS and bring in more contemporary country.

The sale follows a bizarre hearing last year in which Azoulay blamed serious and repeated failures to comply with CRTC licence obligations on his father’s dementia, a statement that left commissioners dumbfounded.

The commission responded by imposing mandatory orders on CJMS requiring it to come into compliance with its licence, with the threat of contempt-of-court charges if they don’t. Those orders have been maintained under the new owner.

The change in ownership comes with a new licence and de facto renewal until Aug. 31, 2017. The three-year licence term reflects the fact that CJMS has repeatedly failed to meet its regulatory obligations.

CPAM owner agrees to buy CJMS 1040 for $15,000, keep it country

Almost a year after a bizarre CRTC hearing in which the owner of CJMS 1040 AM in St-Constant blamed the station’s failure to meet its regulatory obligations on his father’s dementia and announced before a surprised panel of commissioners that the station had been sold to an unnamed buyer, the details of that transaction have been published by the commission.

The CRTC has called a hearing for Nov. 12 (a technicality; the parties aren’t being asked to appear) to discuss two applications related to CJMS: Its licence renewal, which was in grave danger of not being accepted because of the repeated management failures, and a proposed sale of the station to Jean Ernest Pierre, the owner of CPAM Radio Union (CJWI 1410 AM), the Haitian community station in Montreal.

The identity of the buyer is no surprise. The two stations share an antenna in St-Constant, and after the CRTC hearing, during which CJMS’s lack of news was brought up as an issue, the station began simulcasting morning and afternoon programs from CJWI.

Documents filed with the commission show that Alexandre Azoulay, who owns CJMS, agreed on Oct. 9, 2013 (a month before the hearing) to sell it to Groupe Médias Pam Inc., a company entirely owned by Pierre, who is also the sole owner of CPAM. The purchase price is $15,000, as well as an hour a week of airtime for a year, for Michael Azoulay’s talk program connected with his family’s chiropractic business.

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CJMS blames non-compliance on father’s dementia, says station has been sold

When the CRTC called the licensee of St-Constant country station CJMS 1040 to appear at a hearing, it was clear that the station was in trouble. For months the commission had been trying to get program logs and recordings, and every attempt was unsuccessful. Finally, frustrated, the CRTC threatened to revoke the station’s licence if it didn’t travel to Gatineau and explain itself.

So we knew this was going to be serious, and the explanations given for non-compliance with its licence were going to have to be big. But still, the commissioners were taken aback by two bombshells that owner Alexandre Azoulay presented to them on Wednesday.

First, Azoulay blamed non-compliance on his father, who was diagnosed with dementia this summer. He said responses and filings with the CRTC were given to him, and then “disappeared,” with the station’s staff assuming that they had been mailed to the commission. Compliance issues began a year ago, but it was only a few months ago, after the dementia was diagnosed, that the younger Azoulay realized what was going on and took active control over the station’s operation.

Second, Azoulay announced that he has come to an agreement to sell the station. He wouldn’t say who has agreed to buy it, but did say that the other party is the licensee of one other station in the area (he used the singular, implying it owns only one station) and that synergies between the two would make it easier for the station to be viable financially. He said the new owner would be able to ensure the station continues, though he did not say (and was not asked) whether it would be in its current country music format.

The hearing was tense, as you can tell from the audio below, taken from the CRTC livestream. Azoulay did not come with a written statement, and presented a slow-paced, monotonous statement about the status of the station.

On the commission’s side, the mood was equally tense, with commissioners stressing how serious these issues of non-compliance are.

“I want to stress upon you the difficult position you’ve placed the commission in,” Commissioner Raj Shoan told Azoulay, saying that the sale of a station that has been in non-compliance with its licence obligations “calls into question the integrity of our licensing process.”

Normally, the CRTC doesn’t accept requests to transfer or amend licences that are in non-compliance. Or it would like to, at least. But if a station’s owner no longer wants to have a licence, they can’t force them to keep one. The decision then becomes whether to accept the transfer or to force the outgoing owner to turn in the licence and the incoming one to apply for a new one.

CJMS 1040 is a medium-powered radio station, licensed to operate at 10,000 watts daytime and 5,000 watts nighttime (Azoulay said during the hearing that upgrades necessary to improve to that power, approved in 2002, had started in the past two years but not yet been completed). Even as an AM station, that frequency would probably be in demand should the licence be revoked or surrendered.

Azoulay said he would supply documentation confirming the sale within 24 hours. It’s unclear whether the agreement would be on the public record. He also said an application for transfer of ownership would be filed by the end of the month. At the CRTC’s request, Azoulay also committed to filing, confidentially, documentation proving his father’s medical diagnosis.

As Shoan said, the CRTC is in a difficult position here. This hearing is about CJMS’s compliance issues, and a sale of the station would have to be dealt with in its own process. The commissioners also didn’t seem absolutely convinced that this licence non-compliance was an isolated incident. The station’s three previous licence renewals were all for short terms because of issues of compliance. CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais expressed frustration that this is recurring every time.

Azoulay assured the commission that the sale of the station would not benefit him financially, presumably because the sale price would be less than the amount of money he invested in the station during his ownership. He was also very apologetic for the compliance issues, and assured them that he has taken direct control of the station and would remain in charge personally until the sale is approved.

The commissioners also asked Azoulay about the station’s programming, and its recent transmission outages. Azoulay said the station has two full-time staff, both on-air hosts, and that it broadcasts 18 hours a day of live programming during weekdays, though after 6pm that programming is done remotely. And he assured them that the station is broadcasting regular newscasts during the mornings and middays on weekdays.

CRTC decisions usually come within a month or two of a hearing, so expect one by Christmas on whether CJMS can keep its licence.

 

CJMS 1040 off air: Is this the end?

During the summer, when CJMS’s website went down and it experienced transmission problems, I was informed by its owner Alexandre Azoulay that it we should not be worried about its future and it would continue as normal.

Then last month the station was ordered by the CRTC to appear at a public hearing to respond to a series of serious licence compliance issues. And the station has been off the air for almost two weeks now. And nobody knows when it’s coming back.

(CJMS 1040 AM, no relation to the former AM station of the same call letters, is a 10kW/5kW country music and talk station based in St-Constant. It launched in 1999.)

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CRTC threatens to pull licence of CJMS 1040

CJMS 1040, the country music AM station in Saint-Constant, is in trouble.

After repeated attempts to acquire logs and tapes from the station to evaluate it ahead of its licence renewal next year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has ordered it to appear at a hearing in Gatineau on Nov. 5 to explain itself, and has threatened to impose sanctions, up to and including non-renewal or revocation of its licence.

A radio station broadcasting licence involves several requirements, among them that the station has to provide, on request, logger tapes (i.e. recordings of what was aired) and program logs (written lists of what was aired, including all musical selections) for a given date.

In a letter sent July 4, the CRTC says it has been trying since December to get the logs and tapes for a week in November. The CRTC planned to evaluate that week as a sample as it reviews the station’s licence, which expires on Aug. 31, 2014. It followed up its initial letter with a phone call two days later, then another phone call in January, then another in February and then an email in June. Even after the July 4 letter, CJMS has not handed over the tapes and logs.

This is a very serious problem. The logs and tapes are the only way the CRTC can evaluate what goes on the air. It can’t tell whether the station is meeting its Canadian content requirements, or its requirements for local programming, unless it can tell what was actually broadcast.

The CRTC judged the station in non-compliance with its licence, and has now requested the logs and tapes of the last week of May instead.

This isn’t the first time CJMS has been in trouble with the CRTC. In fact, the commission says this is the fourth consecutive licence term that CJMS has failed to comply with all aspects of its licence:

Non-compliance with a licence is bad enough, but repeated non-compliance, particularly over the same matters, causes the CRTC to take much more drastic action. It’s calling CJMS to the hearing to give any reasons why it shouldn’t issue a mandatory court order forcing it to comply with its licence.

But it could go even farther, it says: “Given the licensee’s history of non-compliance, the Commission may also consider recourse to the suspension or revocation of the licence, pursuant to sections 9 and 24 of the Broadcasting Act.”

The CRTC has gone this far before. The most famous case was in 2011, when it revoked the licence of CKLN-FM, the Toronto-based radio station at Ryerson University, whose administration and programming went right off the rails during a long management dispute. The frequency vacancy led to 22 applications to fill it, a race that was won by what is now Indie 88.

Four straight non-compliant licence terms is very bad, and revocation is definitely a possibility here. The key will be if the logs and tapes are submitted and what they show. If the station is otherwise compliant, and demonstrates serious measures to ensure compliance in the future, it might get away with a mandatory order or just another short-term renewal.

But everything in this station’s history (including problems I wrote about this summer) points to a radio station that is at best disorganized and at worst incapable of managing the basic regulatory requirements asked of all licensed broadcasters.

The CRTC is accepting comment about CJMS’s licence issues, but requests that those comments relate only to the specific non-compliance that is being investigated here. Comments can be filed through the online form here until Sept. 27. Choose option 1 then check the box next to “2013-1228-0: 3553230 Canada Inc.”

Problems at CJMS 1040 don’t mean it’s the end

This is what you get at CJMS1040.com right now

This is what you got at CJMS1040.com during the day on Tuesday

It’s a given that some radio stations are more professional than others. Some have big pockets, expensive ads and lots of people doing marketing. Others are just trying to get by.

On Tuesday morning, rumours started circulating on the Radio in Montreal forum that CJMS 1040 AM in Saint-Constant (no relation to the former CJMS on 1280) would be pulling the plug. The station, which bills itself as Montreal’s only country music station (though that’s arguable, there’s another one in Kahnawake), has seemed to be doing its best to confirm that it’s going off the rails. Its programming has been cutting in and out, sometimes mid-song, leaving minutes of dead air. There’s no apparent live announcer.

Oh, and the website has been suspended. UPDATE: It’s back.

But according to station owner Alexandre Azoulay, who I reached by phone, there’s no plan to shut down the station and as far as he knows everything is proceeding normally, with the exception of some technical problems caused by a transformer that was blown during Friday’s storm.

He couldn’t say why the station’s programming seemed to be having problems.

One reason could be summer vacations. Pascal Poudrier, who provides a bulk of the station’s weekday programming, went on vacation last Friday, according to his Facebook page. Summer vacations were also cited as a reason for the lack of news in the hearing that led to the station’s last CRTC licence renewal.

In that renewal, issued in 2010 and expiring Aug. 31, 2014, the CRTC addressed numerous issues with the station’s licence compliance. There were required contributions to Canadian talent development, which were issued late due to what the licensee said was a lack of liquidity. There was the lack of newscasts after 5pm Monday to Thursday and all day Friday to Sunday, during a review of the station’s programming for the second-last week of July, 2010 (what a coincidence, we’re in the same week now). And there was an issue relating to the proper submission of lists of songs broadcast.

That said, the CRTC noted that CJMS had taken significant steps toward improving its licence compliance, and even though it was just coming off a two-year renewal and could have been facing a legal mandatory order or even the suspension or revocation of its licence, the CRTC gave it some breathing room with a four-year term.

Listening for about the past hour (a livestream is still available, and it’s still broadcasting on 1040 AM), the programming issues seem to have gotten less jarring. So it looks like this was a false alarm.

But whether this small station can survive in the long term is another question. We’ll have a clearer idea next year when it applies for its next licence renewal.