Tag Archives: Tietolman Tétrault

Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio

CRTC hears applications for 690 and 940 AM

In what is believe it or not considered an expedited process, the CRTC begins hearings Monday on five applications for the vacant frequencies of 690 and 940 kHz for commercial radio stations.

This story, in The Gazette on Saturday, gives the skinny on what the CRTC will be deciding. (Bonus points if you correctly point out that the file photo attached to the story is of the Mount Royal tower, which has no AM transmitters. Now get a life.)

Quick history lesson: These frequencies belonged to Radio-Canada (690) and CBC radio (940) for more than half a century, until both stations moved to FM (95.1 and 88.5, respectively) in 1998. A year later, what was then Metromedia launched Info 690 and 940 News on those frequencies. Both stations struggled, 940 in particular, for the next decade. Two format changes (news-talk with “940 Montreal” and then automated music with “940 Hits”) later, then-owner Corus put both out of their misery, shutting them down. They’ve been silent ever since.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and Cogeco, which bought Corus Quebec – including the unused transmitters – announces a deal with the Quebec government to run all-traffic stations in French and English, to the tune of $1.5 million per station per year. The deal requires the stations to be running by Oct. 31.

The CRTC application was supposed to be a simple thing, with approval easily acquired by the deadline. The frequencies had been unused for a year and a half, and it had been a year since the licenses for CINW and CINF were revoked, but there were no applications to use them. While the FM band is saturated in Montreal, there are plenty of AM frequencies that sit silent (600 and 850 are two other examples) because nobody wants them.

But the CRTC got quite a few interventions demanding an open call for applications. The CRTC agreed, and set a hearing date for Oct. 17.

Judging that far too late, Cogeco shut down CKAC Sports and replaced it with their French all-traffic station on Sept. 6. They subsequently withdrew their application for 690 AM, figuring they’re unlikely to be awarded a fifth French-language radio station in Montreal.

That leaves five applications for the two frequencies. You can download and read the applications from the CRTC’s website. Here they are in brief:

For 690 kHz:

  • Radio Fierté, a French-language music and talk station targeted at Montreal’s gay community, owned by Dufferin Communications/Evanov Communications, which runs PROUD FM in Toronto.
  • TSN Radio, currently at 990 kHz. The Bell Media all-sports station wants to change frequency to improve its coverage, particularly at night, when it has to modify its signal to avoid interference with other stations on that frequency. Bell says the former Team 990 has never been profitable, and probably won’t unless it gets better coverage.
  • 7954689 Canada inc., a company formed by businessmen Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy, which wants to start a French-language news-talk station. Tietolman (the son of CKVL/CKOI founder Jack Tietolman) and Tétrault (former city councillor and PQ/BQ candidate) unsuccessfully tried to present a counter-offer to Cogeco’s $80-million purchase of Corus Quebec, and part of their offer would have been to revive 690 and 940.

For 940 kHz:

  • 7954689 Canada inc., a corresponding English-language news-talk station with what is so far a nearly identical format.
  • Cogeco’s English all-traffic station, which it says would be operational by “mid-winter” if approved.

The agenda for the meeting has presentations from all these applicants on Monday, and support/opposition debates on Tuesday.

Scheduled to appear are, among others:

  • For Bell Media (TSN Radio), General Manager Wayne Bews, host Denis Casavant, Ringside Report host Dave Simon Bell Media Radio Engineering Director Dave Simon* as well as Bell Media Radio president Chris Gordon and Bell Media regulatory affairs bosses Mirko Bibic and Lenore Gibson
  • For Tietolman/Tétrault/Pancholy, the three owners, representatives of Léger Marketing as well as former CJAD program director Steve Kowch and morning host Jim Connell
  • For Dufferin Communications (Radio Fierté), Proud FM operations manager Bruce Campbell, sales manager John Kenyon, Evanov sales VP Ky Joseph, Proud FM announcer Bob Willette, Dufferin VP marketing Carmela Laurignano, Evanov VP finance Michael Kilbride, and lawyers Chad Skinner and Andrée Wylie
  • For Cogeco (Metromedia CMR), Richard Lachance, VPs Yves Mayrand, Daniel Dubois, and Mélanie Bégnoche, 98.5/CKAC assistant GM Michel Lorrain, The Beat 92.5 GM Mark Dickie and consultants Serge Bellerose and Maurice Beauséjour

On Tuesday, the presentations will get responses, mostly from the other applicants. (Astral Media, which owns CJAD and four music stations in the city, is certainly following this, but isn’t appearing at the hearing.) Radio Fierté and TSN Radio each have four supporters offering testimony to the hearing.

You can read all 226 interventions (many are repetitive, thanks to campaigns by TSN Radio, Cogeco and Dufferin to have people write to the CRTC, in many cases using form letters). All are on the record even if the writers aren’t appearing at the hearing.

The only intervenor appearing independently is Sheldon Harvey, the moderator of the Radio in Montreal group. Harvey submitted multiple interventions, supporting the applications by Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy and opposing those of Cogeco and Dufferin (he didn’t submit an intervention regarding TSN Radio). Harvey deemed the 50,000 watt clear channels “overkill” for an all-traffic station, and proposed Cogeco operate CKAC 730 bilingually instead. He also said a clear channel was “overkill” for Radio Fierté, and recommended they use another vacant frequency.

The deadline for interventions passed weeks ago, so the CRTC won’t be hearing any new opinions on these applications, but

The hearing takes place Monday and Tuesday, starting at 9am, at Delta Centre-Ville, 777 University St., room Régence AB. Audio from the hearing can be streamed online via the CRTC website. You can listen to the direct floor audio here or an English translation here.

*CORRECTION: Dave Simon of Ringside Report emails me to say it’s not him who’s appearing at the hearing. It’s actually another Dave Simon who works at Bell Media Radio. That is, unless there’s a third Dave Simon associated with TSN Radio. Only Cogeco provided titles for the people appearing with them (Tietolman/Tétrault/Pancholy has what companies they work for), hence the possibility of confusion in case there are other cases of people with the same name.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

The Team 940? Bell proposes frequency swap

Cogeco’s CRTC application to bring two Montreal AM radio stations back to life has prompted interventions from the owners of the other AM stations in the city – Astral (which owns CJAD) and Bell Media (which owns CKGM/The Team 990) – as well as Paul Tietolman, who has been trying for some time to start up his own AM station at 940 kHz.

The interventions (two are opposed to the application, while Astral is negative but not quite so categorical) are based on these main points, which have been responded to by Cogeco:

  1. Concentration of ownership: The interventions point to the fact that Cogeco asked for and received an exemption to a CRTC policy that forbids any owner from having more than two stations on the same band in the same language in the same market. This allowed them to purchase all of Corus Quebec’s radio assets in Montreal, adding CKOI and CHMP 98.5FM to CFGL Rythme FM, giving them three French-language FM stations. Now they want to add two more stations to their empire, giving them five French-language stations (they also own CKAC) and two English-language stations (with CFQR). Cogeco responds by saying that exception was, well, exceptional, and that owning two French-language AM stations would not be a further exception to CRTC policy. Cogeco also says it doesn’t believe an all-traffic station (even one that solicits advertising) would be a significant competitive threat to existing broadcasters.
  2. Use of clear channels: The interventions agree with me and other radio watchers that 50,000 watts and a signal pattern that stretches into the Maritimes and northeastern Ontario is overkill for a Montreal traffic station. They say that if the application is approved, it should be for two frequencies that are not clear channels. Cogeco responds that the frequencies have been vacant since June 2010 (when the CRTC announced it had revoked the licenses) and no one has applied for them.
  3. Unfair competitive advantage: The interventions question the entire point of a publicly-funded all-traffic station. And while there’s nothing the CRTC can do to change how the Quebec government spends its money, the incumbents object because the funding would give the traffic stations an unfair competitive advantage. The funding “will allow Metromedia (the Cogeco subsidiary that owns the stations) to aggressively sell advertising in the marketplace, potentially offering lower rates than what is offered by the incumbents. This potential strategy will only serve to further undermine an already weak market,” writes Bell Media VP Kevin Goldstein in his intervention. Cogeco responds by quoting news articles demanding better communication about road conditions from the government and says they only expect about a quarter of its advertising revenue ($600,000 for the first year) will come at the expense of their competition.
  4. Guarantee of format: The interventions say there’s no guarantee that their all-traffic format would be maintained once the contract with the Quebec government runs out. Cogeco responds that it would accept a condition of license making such a guarantee.
  5. No public bidding: The interventions feel this project should have been open to a public bidding process. Cogeco responds that any broadcaster could have responded to the notice from the transport ministry that it intended to award this contract to Cogeco, but none ever did. The lack of demand meant the government did not have to open bidding on the project.

Here’s where the intervention from Bell gets interesting: They state that they have been trying, since Corus shut down CINW (940 Hits) and CINF (Info 690) in January 2010, to purchase the transmitter and antenna from them, to no avail. Bell says that if the CRTC wants to approve this application, it would be prepared to perform a frequency swap, taking either 690 or 940 kHz and taking up a clear channel that allows them to broadcast 50,000 watts day and night.

Propagation patterns for CKGM (Team 990AM) in red (day) and black (night) vs. CINW (940AM) in purple and CINF (690AM) in blue, as provided in Bell's CRTC intervention

As Team 990 gains broadcast rights to Canadiens games in the fall, nighttime propagation becomes more important. As a Class B frequency, 990 requires the transmitter to modify its signal at night, reducing its coverage. Switching to 940 would give CKGM a much larger coverage area.

The idea makes a lot of sense. Montreal sports teams – and the Canadiens in particular – are going to have a lot more interest in the outlying regions than Montreal traffic information. It makes sense for that station to have a larger coverage area. And, of course, most people interested in traffic will listen to the radio in their cars, which should not have trouble picking up a giant transmitter just a few kilometres away.

But Cogeco responds by criticizing Bell’s suggestion that it would have been too expensive to retune its existing transmitter and antenna from 990 to 940 kHz. It quotes an engineering expert it hired that said in the worst case scenario of having to replace everything, it would cost less than $250,000.

We’ll take them: Tietolman

Tietolman Tétrault, in its intervention (PDF), suggested the stations use frequencies of 600 and 850 kHz (formerly of CIQC and CKVL, respectively) and said the 690 and 940 frequencies should be open to applications. It said it would be willing to apply for both:

Tietolman Tétrault Média est déjà prêt, intéressé et apte à appliquer pour l’obtention de ces fréquences. Nous avons en main un plan d’action que nous estimons bénéfique pour la diversité radiophonique nécessitant ces deux fréquences-clés. Évidemment, ces deux fréquences seraient en ondes peu de temps après l’obtention des licences.

Tietolman, whose family once owned CKVL, had tried to offer a competing $81-million bid for Corus Quebec, including 690 and 940. They’ve indicated for a while now that they’d like to bring back 690 and 940, though they haven’t said what kind of format the stations would have.

Other interventions

A few other smaller groups and individuals also filed interventions in this application.

Jacques Blais of S.O.S. Québec Radio filed a handwritten note (PDF) – he wrote that he had computer problems – in which he called the project useless and a waste of public money, and appealed to common sense in rejecting it. He also repeated that 50,000 watts was too much for this station, and said the 690 and 940 frequencies should be reserved for French-language stations only, because the French language is threatened in Quebec.

That last part is kind of funny because his supporting documentation was my previous blog post and an article from The Suburban.

Marc St-Hilaire of the Syndicat général de la radio union said (PDF) endorsed the new station but said it was worried that Cogeco would deduct the number of people it hires for these stations from its commitment to hire journalists for its Cogeco Nouvelles news agency. Cogeco made the commitment as part of the deal that got it to own three francophone FM stations in Montreal.

Chantale Larouche of its parent union the FNC expressed similar thoughts in a separate intervention (PDF).

Cogeco says each station would have six full-time announcers, plus a full-time traffic journalist, and that these would be in addition to the commitments they already made for the creation of Cogeco Nouvelles and the hiring of journalists.

Finally, Miguel Therriault of Quebec City filed a very brief intervention (HTML), saying, in its totality: “Les coûts sont outrageusement exagérés. De plus ce service est complètement inutile. Les stations de radio actuelles répondre très bien à la demande. C’est une dépense inutile.”

You can read the interventions here:

The hearing to discuss Cogeco’s application was supposed to happen next Monday, but the CRTC announced last week that the items have been withdrawn from the agenda and will return as part of a later hearing. No explanation was given and no date has been set yet.

UPDATE: An open call has been issued for the two frequencies, with a deadline of Aug. 29. Cogeco maintains it still wants to setup all-traffic radio stations and will go through this process if necessary.