Tag Archives: CKIN

CRTC rules CKIN-FM is not breaking its licence conditions with Arabic-language focus

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has dismissed a complaint against CKIN-FM 106.3 by Radio Moyen Orient (CHOU 1450 AM) that it is not respecting its licence conditions by drastically increasing the amount of Arabic programming it broadcasts.

The complaint, filed in the spring by the city’s incumbent Arabic radio station, said that when Neeti P. Ray purchased CKIN-FM from Groupe CHCR (owner of CKDG-FM 105.1), it promised to maintain the station’s ethnic focus and serve the same languages. But after the acquisition closed, the station essentially turned itself into an Arabic station, broadcasting Arabic programming daily from midnight to 7pm, Spanish music until midnight on weekdays, and relegating the six other languages to an hour each on Saturday and Sunday nights.

For CHOU, this meant direct competition, which it judged was unfair. (CKIN-FM’s media kit boasts that FM is better than AM, without naming CHOU directly.)

But as I noted, and as Ray noted, and as the CRTC noted, nothing in the conditions of licence prevents them from doing this. The ethnic broadcasting policy incorporated into the licence conditions says that a certain number of languages and ethnic groups have to be served, but does not place a minimum or maximum number of hours.

The only place where CKIN-FM broke its licence conditions was (coincidentally?) during the week sampled by CHOU when it came two languages short of its required eight. The station explained this by saying that there was a schedule change, and two programs that aired on Saturday one weekend and Sunday the next were just outside the sample week (weeks are defined as Sunday to Saturday). This is a very reasonable explanation (though broadcasters should exceed their requirements to give themselves more flexibility and avoid situations like this), and the CRTC agreed.

CKIN-FM’s licence is up next August, and issues of licence compliance can come up again when the CRTC considers licence renewal.

Radio Moyen-Orient complains to CRTC about CKIN-FM’s new Arabic focus

CKIN-FM 106.3, which was recently sold to a Toronto businessman, is in gross violation of its conditions of licence now that it has revamped its programming to make most of its schedule Arabic.

At least, that’s what a complaint by CHOU 1450, Radio Moyen Orient, would have the CRTC believe. And though the complainant’s frustration is understandable, I can’t find the condition of licence it’s accusing CKIN-FM of violating.

Before last year, CKIN-FM was a sister station to CKDG-FM 105.1, owned by Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio. The two stations are commercial ethnic radio stations, each required to serve several ethnic communities in several third languages. CHCR split its language offering between the two stations. It made CKDG English-language during peak hours, with the rest mostly Greek but a few other languages sprinkled in. CKIN was French-language during peak hours, with Spanish, Creole, Arabic, Romanian and Armenian in descending order of weekly airtime, plus a handful of other languages with less than four hours a week.

When Neeti P. Ray took over, there was a major overhaul at CKIN-FM, and the amount of Arabic programming increased from 8% to 68%, according to CHOU’s complaint. The station’s schedule lists it as having Arabic programming from midnight to 7pm weekdays, and all weekends except from 6 to 9am. Spanish programming airs from 7pm to midnight weekdays, and all six other languages the station is required to air get an hour each on weekend mornings.

CHOU, whose entire schedule is Arabic, is crying foul, and demands in its complaint that the CRTC order CKIN to devote no more than 8% (10 hours a week) of programming to the Arabic language, and to stop marketing itself as “la nouvelle voix arabe de Montréal.”

In its argument, CHOU cites comments that Ray made to the CRTC in applying to acquire the station:

The Applicant intends to continue this mix of languages, while maintaining CKIN-FM’s particular focus on programming directed to South Asian communities and a substantial amount of Spanish programming and related world-music programming (for which CKIN-FM is now well-known). … The principal change in programming will likely involve the production of more local and in-studio programming, particularly for South Asian audiences.

There is absolutely no reason for the applicant to change the programming mix and focus, which was recently reviewed by the CRTC and has been embraced Montrealers.

CHOU said that based on the information provided in the application, it chose not to intervene in the ownership change application. “If Mr. Ray had, in his application for transfer of assets, expressed his intention to broadcast this many hours of Arabic during the most attractive hours, we would have strongly opposed this change and would have asked the commission to deny the application,” it wrote in the complaint.

And it argues that Ray himself had noted that Montreal was not a large enough market to support two ethnic radio stations targeting the same ethnic group. (He wanted to start up a station for the south Asian community, and opposed (unsuccessfully) an application by Radio Humsafar for that reason.)

And it says that according to its analysis of a sample week, the station was short two ethnic groups and two languages in the number it is required to provide programming for in each week. CHOU says its complaint is valid regardless of the CRTC’s ruling on this particular compliance issue.

(Also unrelated is that CHOU recently got approval for a low-power FM retransmitter of its signal in St-Michel.)

What the licence says

So is CKIN-FM following its licence conditions?

The decision approving the transfer of ownership, and a new licence for the operation of the station, has conditions related to programming, requiring it to be directed to at least six cultural groups in at least eight languages. It also must ensure at least 60% of its schedule is in a language other than French or English, and at least 70% is ethnic programs.

But there are no conditions of licence setting a maximum or minimum for any given language. So legally Ray is allowed to have most of his schedule be Arabic and only an hour a week for all but two of the groups he’s supposed to cater to.

And though CHOU says Ray made commitments not to change the mix of programming on the station, the application does not explicitly state that there would be no change to the amount of programming for each language, nor does it include a sample programming grid.

The station may be ignoring the spirit of the ethnic broadcasting policy, but not the letter. At least not yet. The CRTC promised to begin a review of its ethnic radio policy as part of a three-year plan in 2014-15, then again in 2015-16, then again in 2016-17. At this rate we’re at least a year away from any policy change. But whether a minimum amount of programming should be established for each language/group might form part of that review.

Ray and CKIN-FM have not responded to the complaint. I will update this post when their response is filed.

CHOU’s complaint against CKIN-FM can be downloaded here (1.4 MB .zip). Comments about the complaint can be filed until 8pm ET on May 24. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

CKIN-FM’s reply

UPDATE (May 27): Ray has replied to the complaint, noting arguments similar to what I outline above. He also brings up that the CRTC responded to a similar complaint issued last fall (that also included Radio Shalom, CPAM Radio Union and Médias Maghreb), in which commission staff found that the increased Arabic programming didn’t break a condition of licence.

In summary:

  • Ray says CKIN-FM has complied with its licence obligations, and almost all of its programming is local
  • Ray acknowledges that for the week sampled, CKIN-FM was two languages short on the number it should broadcast. He explains this as a hiccup caused by a schedule change — Punjabi and Urdu programs were moved from Sunday to Saturday, causing both to be broadcast twice in the same week (the CRTC defines a week as beginning on Sunday and ending on Saturday).
  • Ray notes that the decision granting the ownership change explicitly states that the station is free to use whatever mix of third-language programming it wishes, provided it meets its licence requirements.
  • Ray says the station will reduce overlap with CHOU by skewing younger, and providing more music programming.

In the response, he writes:

We acknowledge that the amount of Arabic programming has increased recently. However, this increase is well justified by the size and continued growth of the Arabic-speaking population in Montre?al. The focus on Arabic programming reflects a considered business decision to place CKIN-FM on a more secure financial footing while providing a much needed improved level of service to one of Montre?al’s largest – and until now dramatically underserved – third-language groups.

This decision was not taken lightly. The Commission is well aware of the difficulties that the original owner of CKIN-FM had to maintain the station’s viability. After a lengthy and considered analysis of the needs of the Montreal market and what it would take to maintain viability going forward, it was decided to retain CKIN-FM’s substantial focus on Montre?al’s Spanish-speaking and Latino populations and to expand and update the Arabic programming offered on the station.

Originally, it had been intended to continue to offer more programming targeted to South Asian audiences. However, after a deeper analysis of the needs of the Montre?al market and the audiences already served, it became apparent that a South Asian focus would likely not provide the community with the most needed service – or offer the financial stability to support the station. … Whereas the South Asian radio market in Montre?al already had a number of radio programming options, and two new radio stations recently licensed by the CRTC specifically to target these language groups, the Arabic-language audience is considerably larger and has fewer programming options – indeed, really only one station with a substantial amount of Arabic content (CHOU AM).

In providing an increased level of Arabic programming, we have, however, been mindful of the existing radio service that is currently available to serve this population. CHOU AM offers programming that, in our estimation, skews toward a more mature audience. CKIN-FM’s programming strategy is to offer a younger format through predominantly music-based programming. This is intended to attract a younger audience and to offer that audience radio programming that is not otherwise available to them in Arabic.

Arabic is the most popular third language in Montreal, after Italian (which is served mainly by CFMB 1280), with 126,865 identifying it as their mother tongue.

Tangible benefits change

In a separate, unrelated application, Ray is asking the CRTC to reallocate funding he was required to provide as part of the CKIN-FM acquisition. Tangible benefits, a kind of tax on acquisitions imposed by the CRTC, normally go to Canadian content development funds according to a standard formula. Ray agreed to provide $41,430 of benefits to groups like Radio Starmaker Fund, FACTOR or MUSICACTION and the Community Radio Fund of Canada, plus some for other eligible initiatives at its discretion.

Rather than split up this money between these organizations, Ray is proposing to divert all of it to a scholarship program at Concordia University’s journalism department.

… given the relatively modest amounts involved, we believe that it would be of greater benefit to the community of Montréal to aggregate the annual benefit dollars and to designate a single beneficiary each year. Each of the annual amounts allocated to the different recipients is, on its own, not material within their overall operations. However, when a single recipient is selected, the amounts together can have a significant positive effect for the recipient.

It’s unclear why Ray is coming to this conclusion now as opposed to when the application was filed.

Diverting all the funding to a discretionary initiative like this not only makes for a bigger splash, but is also more self-serving. Funds like Starmaker and FACTOR obscure the source of funding, while a direct donation can get your logo plastered all over a thank-you event, with the words “tangible benefits” or “CRTC” not even mentioned anywhere in the press release about it.

Whether Ray is considering the promotional value of a donation, or just wants to save money on cheques, is unknown.

This application, which can be downloaded here (725kB .zip), is open for comment until June 15. You can comment on it here.

CRTC approves sale of CKIN-FM to Neeti P. Ray

Montreal has a new player in the ethnic radio game. On Tuesday, the CRTC approved the sale of CKIN-FM 106.3 from Groupe CHCR (Marie Griffiths, who owns CKDG-FM aka Mike FM 105.1) to Neeti P. Ray, the owner of ethnic radio stations CINA Mississauga and CINA-FM Windsor.

Ray is purchasing CKIN-FM for $500,000, plus an $18,000 consulting contract for current management, plus $22,500 to take over the antenna lease. The commission also added $150,000 to the calculation for the assumed lease of office space over five years even though the contract says the buyer will leave after one at the most.

The application filed with the CRTC projected no major changes to programming on CKIN, which would continue to be managed in Montreal, but will cease to be sister stations with CKDG.

The CRTC’s decision notes a comment on Radio Humsafar, the company behind a yet-to-launch ethnic station at 1610 AM that also targets the South Asian community. It asked the commission to restrict CKIN’s programming it wouldn’t compete directly with their new station. The commission rejected that proposal, noting that Humsafar was aware of CKIN’s presence when it applied for its licence.

The change in ownership will result in $41,430 being injected into the Canadian content development system as a result of the CRTC’s tangible benefits policy. Most of that will go toward funds supporting Canadian music artists.

Griffiths told the CRTC the purchase money would go toward CKDG’s financial health, eliminating its third-party debt.

Groupe CHCR sells ethnic station CKIN-FM 106.3 to Neeti P. Ray for $500,000

There was no announcement of the transaction, so the CRTC application for a change in ownership is the first we hear of the sale of CKIN-FM 106.3 by Marie Griffiths to Mississauga-based businessman Neeti P. Ray, owner of Mississauga’s CINA 1650 AM and Windsor’s CINA-FM 102.3.

According to the application, the purchase price is $500,000. Add in an $18,000 consulting contract ($1,500 per month) and $22,500 over five years for the assumed lease for the transmitter, and the total cost for CRTC purposes is $540,500.

Griffiths and CHCR will keep ownership of CKIN’s sister station CKDG-FM (Mike FM 105.1) and use the proceeds of the sale to help the financial situation of CKDG.

The sale doesn’t include the offices of CKIN, which are shared with CKDG. “The purchaser has an option to co-occupy Groupe CHCR Inc.’s existing premises for a period of up to one year to permit an orderly transition of ownership and operations for CKIN FM,” the application reads.

Ray says the transfer of ownership won’t result in a loss of local programming:

Centralized management will not detract from the essentially local nature of CKIN’s ethnic radio station. The station will continue to be operated from offices located in Montre?al and day-to-day responsibility for programming on the station will remain in Montre?al. The principal synergies relate to the centralization of management and ownership, not operations.

For CHCR, the transaction represents a much-needed cash infusion. The company is privately held, so this is a rare glimpse into its finances (emphasis mine):

At the same time, approval of the current application will enable Groupe CHCR Inc. to refocus its resources to maintain and build on the strength of its original FM radio station, CKDG-FM. Groupe CHCR Inc. has developed a particular expertise in creating multicultural programming with a mainstream appeal (the Radio Culture Fusion format) and in serving Montre?al’s Greek-language audiences.

The sale of CKIN-FM is taking place at a critical time for Groupe CHCR Inc. Despite years of effort and investment, it has become apparent that the company requires an injection of capital to reach its potential in the current financial climate. The programming, operating and capital requirements of both stations have proved to be quite challenging for Groupe CHCR Inc. to meet on its own.

It has become apparent that building on CKIN-FM’s success will require additional investment and a focused management effort to improve the station’s visibility and realize its potential. Regrettably, this investment is beyond Groupe CHCR Inc.’s means at this time. Without this investment, there is a real likelihood that the station will continue to be a strain on Group CHCR Inc. as a whole.

From the perspective of Groupe CHCR Inc., the proposed transaction will enable the company to revitalize CKDG-FM, its flagship station; to retire most of its third-party debt, which has accumulated with the launch of the two stations; and to focus its management effort on a single radio station, the Radio Fusion Format, and the linguistic and cultural groups served by that station.

 

CKIN-FM was first licensed in 2007 and launched in 2010. Like CKDG, it offers ethnic programming in several languages, and uses non-ethnic programming during peak hours to subsidize that. While CKDG’s rush-hour programs are in English, CKIN’s are in French. CKIN offers programming in Arabic, Creole, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish and Urdu. Ray says he will continue serving those groups, which makes sense because South Asian is Ray’s specialty.

The contract comes with non-compete clauses for both sides. Ray agrees not to broadcast any Greek-language programming on CKIN, while Griffiths agrees not to broadcast any South Asian programming (Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati) for five years after the sale. This clause does specify that it doesn’t apply if the other station ceases programming in that language.

Ray has proposed a standard tangible benefits package of 6% of the cost of the transaction ($32,430), distributed to Canadian content funds, the Community Radio Fund of Canada and other approved initiatives.

Though he only owns two stations, Ray has applied unsuccessfully to start several others, including in Montreal. In fact, he competed with Griffiths for the 106.3 frequency in 2007. In 2011, the CRTC denied an application by Ray to start a new ethnic radio station in Montreal (250W at 600 AM) mainly because of the negative impact it would have on the then year-old CKIN-FM. And he complained when the commission went through with applications in 2013 for two new ethnic stations in Montreal, saying he missed the notice that the commission was accepting applications.

He has an application pending for an AM station in Brampton, Ont. He also applied for a station in Calgary in 2011, but missed the deadline.

The CRTC will hold a hearing on this proposed purchase (and others, including Radio Classique) on July 22 in Gatineau. The parties are not expected to attend. People wanting to comment on the application can do so here until June 19 at 8pm ET. Note that all information submitted becomes part of the public record.

Mike FM gets green light for more non-ethnic programming, but CKIN-FM is denied same

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Mike FM (CKDG-FM 105.1), the station that is trying to make money by pairing popular English music during rush hour with multicultural programming for the rest of the schedule, is getting a break from the broadcast regulator to allow it to have 12 more hours a week of English programming.

On Friday, the CRTC approved licence renewals for CKDG and sister station CKIN-FM (which airs French programs during rush hour). Both are getting short-term three-year renewals, which indicate important non-compliance with their licences.

Licence changes

Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio, which owns both stations, requested changes to the licences for both stations, dropping the amount of ethnic programming a week from 70% to 60%, the amount of third-language programs from 60% to 50%, and to be allowed to broadcast in fewer languages (six instead of eight) but to more cultural groups (eight instead of six). The requested changes would have put both stations on par with standard conditions for ethnic radio stations.

Because the broadcast day is 6am to midnight, there are 126 hours in the broadcast week, which means English non-ethnic programming on CKDG could go up from 50 hours a week to 63 hours a week, or from 10 to 12.6 hours each weekday if there’s no such programming on the weekend. English-language ethnic programming would stay at a maximum of 10% of the schedule if the English non-ethnic hours are used to their maximum.

CHCR said it planned to offer more programming in Spanish and Russian, bring its Mandarin programming to a daily show on CKIN, and introduce monthly shows for other communities not currently represented.

The CRTC approved the licence changes for CKDG to give it more flexibility. But CKIN is finishing its first licence term and has only been on the air for three years, and it got its licence in a competitive process, beating other stations applying for licences in part because of these promises to go beyond the standard conditions of licence. The CRTC denied its licence amendments for that reason.

Non-compliance

The CRTC found issues with both stations complying with their licence obligations. In the case of CKDG, it found the station had not properly shown proof of payment for Canadian content development contributions, that it failed to meet a 2011 deadline to repay CCD contribution shortfalls dating as far back as 2003, and that it failed to provide annual financial returns on time. For CKIN, it also found it failed to meet deadlines for CCD payments.

CHCR blamed administrative errors for its bookkeeping failures, and has promised to rectify that. It has since paid back its financial shortfalls.

Nevertheless, because of the seriousness of the errors, and the fact that CKDG’s last licence renewal in 2010 was also short-term for similar reasons, the CRTC decided to give only a three-year renewal.

The new licence, and the flexibility to air more English non-ethnic programming on CKDG, takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. We don’t know what will be done as far as the schedule is concerned, but expect the afternoon drive show to be extended from 6pm to 7pm, or maybe more English programming during the work day.

Mike FM, CKIN-FM ask CRTC to reduce ethnic programming level

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Tired of tuning into 105.1 FM looking for 90s hits and the comedy skits of Tasso Patsikakis only to find out that you’re listening to some Greek music instead?

Well, the Montreal-based commercial ethnic station Mike FM (CKDG), and its sister station CKIN-FM, are looking to change that. Owner Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio Ltd. (Marie Griffiths) has applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to modify their licences as part of their licence renewal this year. The modifications would reduce the minimum amount of ethnic and third-language programming the stations must air each week.

Only the application related to CKDG has been published by the CRTC, but the brief attached to that application makes it clear that identical requests are being made for both stations. CKIN’s licence ends on Aug. 31, 2013, though the CRTC can issue a short-term administrative renewal if it can’t process a renewal application before then.

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CRTC approves power increase for CKIN-FM

Current (blue lines) and newly approved (black lines) contours for CKIN-FM

Current (blue lines) and newly approved (black lines) contours for CKIN-FM

Earlier this month, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a request from CKIN-FM, the commercial ethnic station at 106.3 FM, to increase its power, from 300 to 1200 watts.

The station (pronounced “Skin FM”), which is owned by CHCR, the same company that runs Mike FM 105.1 (the two operate from studios in the same building), was approved in 2007 and began broadcasting in 2010. It operates on a format similar to Mike, only its rush hours have French-language programming instead of English.

The application resulted in some very strongly-worded opposition from CKIN’s competitors, Radio Humsafar, Radio Shalom and Yves Sauvé of CJVD-FM in Vaudreuil. Some of their beefs go back to the competitive process that saw CKIN’s original licence awarded. Sauvé also applied for 106.3 for his Vaudreuil-based station, but the CRTC gave it to CHCR and forced Sauvé to find another one. He picked 100.1, which restricted the station’s coverage on the island of Montreal, mainly because there’s a community station in LaSalle on the same frequency. He opposed the new application because he had applied for use of the then-vacant frequency of 106.7 FM to give CJVD a better signal, and allowing CKIN to increase its power at 106.3 would have affected the signal on 106.7.

That was all made moot when the CRTC approved a new radio station in Hudson/St-Lazare on 106.7 FM last fall.

The other opposition was mainly about self-serving competitive needs, with station owners crying about how doomed their business model is if they don’t get their way. Humsafar, which applied for an AM radio station in that same 2007 hearing and was denied, operates a South Asian service on a subcarrier. It tried to apply again for an AM ethnic station serving the South Asian community in 2011, but was denied. Then it tried to convert the AM station it owns, CJLV 1570 in Laval, to an ethnic station, but that was denied too. The main reason behind these denials was the inability of the Montreal market to sustain another ethnic radio station.

Humsafar opposed the application, arguing that CKIN-FM was already encroaching on its audience after increasing the amount of South Asian programming well beyond what it first proposed. But the CRTC points out in this month’s decision that Humsafar, as a subcarrier service, does not provide financial information to the commission that it could use to evaluate the possible impact on its service, and in any case CKIN is not violating its licence obligations by having the amount of South Asian programming that it does.

Radio Shalom opposed for the same reasons as Humsafar and Sauvé, though it’s not clear what interest Montreal’s Jewish radio station has here.

The commission noted in its decision that other ethnic radio stations didn’t oppose the application, and the power increase doesn’t have an adverse effect on anyone else on a technical level. While CKIN didn’t show a pressing economic need to increase its coverage, the CRTC was satisfied of the technical need to improve reception by listeners who complained about difficulty receiving the station.

As a result, the CRTC has said yes to CKIN increasing its power. The pattern remains the same, pointing mainly to the northwest.

Leeja Murphy, a PR representative for CHCR, says she does not know when the technical changes required to increase the station’s power will take place.