Tag Archives: CKOI

Tributes flood in to former CHOM/CKOI announcer Denis Grondin

Denis Grondin, a former announcer at CHOM, CKOI and 98,5fm (or, as some media described him, he’s the father of actor Marc-André Grondin), died suddenly of an apparent heart attack the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. He was 66.

So sudden was his death that it came mere hours after he recorded his weekly show Samedi soir sur la terre for Radio Ville-Marie. The show aired Saturday night as planned, complete with the promise to return next week. You can listen to the final show here: Hour 1, Hour 2.

There weren’t much in the way of formal obituaries in the media, but the French-language news outlets generally offered briefs with tributes that were made on social media:

I’ll do the same below. I’ll also link to this interview in Urbania from last year, where Grondin looks with a critical eye at the state of the industry today.

On Friday, Grondin’s family responded with this:

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CKOI is moving its transmitter

The CBC's Mount Royal antenna tower hosts most major FM and TV transmitters in the city.

The CBC’s Mount Royal antenna tower hosts most major FM and TV transmitters in the city.

All major commercial FM radio stations in Montreal except one broadcast from antennas on a single giant transmission tower at the top of Mount Royal.

Soon, the sole holdout will be joining them.

CKOI's current antenna atop the CIBC building

CKOI’s current antenna atop the CIBC building

Last week, the CRTC approved (without any public process) an application to move CKOI-FM 96.9 from its current location atop the CIBC tower at Peel St. and René-Lévesque Blvd. to the Mount Royal tower.

Cogeco’s application explains that, with the move of television stations to digital, and the channel change of Radio-Canada and CBC TV transmitters from 2 to 19 and 6 to 21, respectively, the old VHF TV antenna used by them has become obsolete and is being removed. That will open up a space for a new antenna, and Cogeco wants to install it.

There are a few benefits to this. One, Cogeco’s other FM stations (CFGL-FM 105.7 and CHMP-FM 98.5) already broadcast from the Mount Royal tower, and moving CKOI would allow all three to be managed from one site, the company says. Also, because the antenna would be higher (277.6m instead of 220.8m above average terrain), its transmitter can reduce power but still cover the same area.

Finally, Cogeco says the new antenna will be compatible with HD Radio. It’s unclear if Cogeco has immediate plans for HD Radio or if it’s more of a long-term option, but other broadcasters are starting to use it now and CKOI would be ideal both because of its high coverage and because there are no stations close to it in frequency.

 

What makes CKOI unique in Montreal isn’t just its location, but also its power. According to the Canadian Communications Foundation, the station was authorized to use 307 kilowatts of power in 1962, when commercial FM broadcasting was just beginning in the country (at the time, the station was CKVL-FM, and was transitioning from being a mere repeater of CKVL to having its own programming). Because of grandfathered rights, it got to keep that power level even though FM stations are now limited to a maximum of 100kW. CKOI is one of only five stations in Canada allowed to go beyond 100kW, and it’s the second-most powerful transmitter in the country after Winnipeg’s CJKR-FM (310kW).

The grandfathered rights, however, don’t mean CKOI can move to the Mount Royal tower and blast out 307kW. When asked to approve the change, Industry Canada (or whatever it’s called now) said CKOI could continue exceeding the 100kW maximum provided its coverage area did not increase, that there was no increase in interference to existing stations or aircraft navigation, that the new installation respects safety regulations relating to transmission power, and that there is no objection from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

As a result, CKOI has proposed an effective radiated power of 147kW, which is as high as it can go without exceeding its previous coverage to the west. (This will drop it to fourth-highest power in Canada, after London’s CFPL-FM, 300kW, and Winnipeg’s CBW-FM, 160kW.)

Current (blue) and proposed (green) contours of CKOI-FM

Current (blue) and proposed (green) contours of CKOI-FM

The new pattern slightly reduces how far the signal goes toward the east and south, but probably won’t be too noticeable. (Cogeco estimates that 99.6% of the population in the previous coverage area will still be in the new one.) The higher antenna height will also mean the signal will face less disruption from the mountain and tall buildings.

(147kW might sound a lot higher than 100kW, but because of the way propagation works, the coverage area isn’t that much larger. Compare CKOI’s current pattern to CKBE-FM’s 100kW signal for an idea of how different it is.)

As a bonus, people going through central downtown won’t have their FM radios so overloaded by a 307kW transmission just above their heads that they hear CKOI all over the FM band.

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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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 to convert three CKOI stations to talk radio

Cogeco Diffusion will convert its three regional CKOI stations to talk starting Aug. 20. (The Quebec City station is owned by Leclerc Communication)

Cogeco Diffusion announced Wednesday that it is converting three of its regional stations from music to talk starting Aug. 20.

The word isn’t mentioned in the press release, but all three stations – CKOY-FM 107.7 in Sherbrooke, CKOF-FM 104.7 in Gatineau and CKOB 106.9 in Trois-Rivières – are part of the CKOI brand.

CFEL-FM 102.1 in Quebec City also uses the CKOI brand, but isn’t owned by Cogeco. It was sold to Leclerc Communication as part of the conditions of sale of Corus Quebec stations.

CKOI-FM in Montreal, the flagship station, is not included in the list of stations undergoing a format change.

For the three regional stations, the move is kind of a step backward. All three used to be talk stations until Corus changed their vocation in 2009: CJRC/CJRC-FM in Gatineau, CHLT/CHLT-FM in Sherbrooke and CHLN/CHLN-FM in Trois Rivières. All three were AM stations that converted to FM about five years ago. In 2009, Corus converted them from music to talk to become Souvenirs Garantis stations, and then they became CKOI after Cogeco took over.

The full schedule still has yet to be set, but Cogeco assured journalists on a conference call Wednesday that there would be no reduction of local programming, that morning shows, afternoon drive shows and weekend shows would stay local. One show we know will be carried across the network is Isabelle Maréchal from 10am to noon. Jacques Fabi’s overnight show will also be carried across the network.

Sports programming will remain unchanged from what’s there now. All three stations carry Les amateurs des sports with Michel Villeneuve and Bonsoir les sportifs with Ron Fournier/Mario Langlois, as well as hockey games (Canadiens in Sherbrooke and Trois Rivières, Senators in Outaouais).

A handful of jobs will be affected by the change, but most of those will be given other duties, the stations’ managers said. There isn’t expected to be a net change in the number of jobs, though Cogeco Diffusion head Richard Lachance said he is “not closing the door” to new jobs as new programming is developed.

Branding wasn’t discussed during the conference call, but it’s expected to be something similar to what’s used in Montreal and Quebec City, namely the frequency and the letters “FM”. On May 1, Cogeco Diffusion registered the domain names fm1069.ca, fm1077.ca and fm1047.ca. It already owned 1077fm.ca, but 1069fm.ca and 1047fm.ca are owned by others.

Coverage

CRTC limits musical montages on French radio stations

It’s no secret that Canadian radio stations don’t like the content requirements imposed on them by the CRTC. For stations that broadcast popular music, 35% of the songs they play must be Canadian (that term being defined by meeting certain criteria). That’s why we hear a lot of Nickelback or Kim Mitchell.

For French-language radio stations playing popular music, there’s an additional and more serious limit the CRTC imposes: 65% of their songs must be in French (55% during the day, to prevent them from getting around this by playing all their French songs at 3am).

A few years ago, some genius found a way to get around this requirement: montages.

Because the CRTC counts “musical selections” by number, and not by length, a two-minute song and a 20-minute song have the same weight. And because the CRTC specifically counts music montages as one selection, you can have large (but not complete) parts of 20 songs in there and have it counted as one selection for the purpose of French-language minimums.

ADISQ, Quebec’s musical industry group, objected to the abuse of this by radio stations, and complained to the CRTC, which held hearings into the issue, specifically focusing on CKOI-FM Montreal, owned by Cogeco, CKTF-FM (NRJ) Gatineau, owned by Astral, and CFTX-FM (Capitale Rock) Gatineau, owned by RNC Media.

The statistics are pretty telling. The CKOI and NRJ stations were found to be using montages to a significant part of their broadcast week. CKOI was the worst, using 101 montages in the studied week, representing 17.9% of its total broadcasting time (this works out to an average of about 20 minutes per montage, though one case was found that was 55 minutes long). The NRJ Gatineau case was only slightly less, with 75 montages representing 14.5% of their 126 hours of broadcasting.

The study found these montages were almost all English-language American songs.

Astral and Cogeco argued they were not breaking the rules as they were written, which is true. They also presented public opinion polls showing that francophone audiences want to hear more English music, and in many cases francophones are tuning in to English stations.

There’s some irony in all this: 13 years ago, the CRTC set definitions of montages as they are to prevent the reverse from happening: radio stations using short clips from French-language songs in a montage and counting each one individually.

On Thursday, the CRTC addressed this, and imposed limits on the use of music montages. CKOI and CKTF can use montages for only 10% of their broadcast week. (CFTX was already well below this limit, so the CRTC did not impose one.) It also said it would study this matter further, and possibly impose new regulation generally.

The most obvious solution, to me, is to count musical selections based on length, not number. Under such a system, a four-minute song would count for twice as much as a two-minute song, and musical montages would be split up for the purposes of counting French-language or Canadian content requirements.

This is obviously more complicated for the station, but it would eliminate the problem.

The CRTC says it will begin looking into this issue in 2012.

Other coverage:

UPDATE: Cogeco Diffusion has issued a statement saying it will comply with the ruling, and suggesting the whole montage thing was Corus’s idea, that it’s using less of them, and its other radio stations don’t do it. Astral and RNC Media issued a joint statement also saying they would comply with the decision. Both said they would participate in hearings about French-language requirements, undoubtedly in an effort to get the CRTC to lower them.

ADISQ also issued a statement, praising the decision as a victory for francophone artists.

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.