The Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission is opening the door to adding another commercial FM radio station in Quebec City.
On Thursday, the commission issued a call for comments, prompted by two applications for new commercial radio stations in the provincial capital — one French, one English. The first step in the process is for people to comment on whether they believe the market can handle another station, and if so whether there should be a general call for applications from all interested parties.
The commission published basic information for the two applications it received. Both are for the same frequency, 105.7 MHz, with a power of a few thousand watts.
The French-language station is proposed by Gilles Lapointe and Nelson Sergerie. The English-language one is proposed by Dufferin Communications, a subsidiary of Evanov Radio Group.
Another chance for Evanov?
This isn’t Evanov’s first attempt at a Quebec City station. In 2010, the CRTC denied a similar application — for the same frequency — for an English-language commercial station using the same easy-listening format of Evanov’s Jewel network of stations. (The commission also denied an application by Evanov for a sister French-language station.)
The decision was controversial, even within the commission itself, prompting a dissenting opinion from commissioner Timothy Denton. The majority found, as it had with a similar application from Standard Radio in 2006, that because Quebec City’s anglophone population is so small, a new English-language music station would necessarily have to target francophone listeners, and would introduce unfair competition because English-language stations don’t have French-language music quotas. (A policy the commission is in the process of reviewing.)
Denton argued that it’s not up to the commission to protect French-language stations from competition from English-language stations, nor to protect Evanov from the danger of trying to make money by targeting only the anglophone community.
Has anything changed?
In the six years since that decision, there’s been enough turnover at the CRTC that none of the commissioners who were part of it are still there, including Denton. That could prompt a change in mentality.
The market, meanwhile, appears to have changed fairly little in the past half-decade. Its nine stations have had a profit margin around 20% over the past five years, which is actually down from 30-40% margins when the CRTC made its decision. And advertising revenue is also flat at around $45 million for the market.
The economics are the same, so if the commission does decide to go ahead with a new station, it will be because of a change of mentality of the commissioners or the strength of the applications.
Interested parties, including incumbent radio stations who want to stop competition, and others who might be interested in applying, have until May 30 to comment. After that, the commission will decide if it makes sense to add a new station. If it does, and there’s clear interest from other parties, it will issue a call for applications and set a hearing. If it’s just those two applicants that express interest, it could simply consider those applications without issuing a call or having the parties appear at a public hearing.
If you wish to add your two cents about whether Quebec City can handle another commercial radio station, you can file your comments here until 8pm ET on May 30. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.