This was actually published by the CRTC in late August, but hasn’t been publicized much. It’s Bell’s response to comments filed with the commission against its application to transform TSN Radio 990/690 from an English station to a French one to meet its common ownership limits after the purchase of Astral Media (which owns CJAD, CHOM and Virgin Radio in Montreal).
There were hundreds of comments filed, many from individual listeners (so much that the CRTC put up a special link on its home page to guide people through the process), but Bell responded to three.
- Why didn’t Bell request an exemption to keep four English stations? Bell doesn’t answer this very well, repeating that it has to follow the common ownership policy. But, of course, the point of an exemption is to get around that policy. It would be more sensical to point out that an exemption would give Bell four of the five English commercial radio stations in Montreal, and the commission is unlikely to grant that without a very good reason.
- Why can’t Bell run a bilingual station? The CRTC wouldn’t allow it, Bell says. And they’re right. For various reasons, the commission does not licence bilingual English/French commercial stations.
- Why doesn’t Bell sell the station? They could. They’re doing that to 10 other stations in markets where they’re going over the limit. But since they want an RDS radio station, they’re trying this so they don’t lose that key frequency. The official response is that “there is no certainty that a purchaser would commit to the all sports format over the long term; nor is there any way to enforce such a commitment, even if made, as the Commission does not regulate radio formats.” This is true, though it’s also true that Bell itself would not be committed to such a format.
- Shouldn’t 690 be reserved for an English station? There’s nothing tying this frequency to a particular language. It was the Radio-Canada station for decades, then Info 690. Last November, the CRTC issued a decision turning the historically French channel English and the historically English channel of 940 French. The two are coveted clear channels, with no special restrictions on nighttime power. The only other such channel here is 730, being used for all-traffic at CKAC. That said, Bell’s application to move CKGM from 990 to 690 was based in large part around how poorly the signal reached its core West Island anglo audience at night, when the Canadiens games are on. The commission could decide that this, combined with the fact that the other two clear channels are French-language, would be enough to either reject the application or issue an open call for applications to use this frequency.
The entire response is republished below. Bell makes its presentation in the CKGM licence change Tuesday at 8am in Room 518 of the Palais des congrès, at which point it will release a separate document making its case for the change. The commission will hear from intervenors in favour and opposed until Friday, and then a response from Bell.
The hearing is streamed live at cpac.ca, and on the CPAC TV channel as of 10am.
2012 08 20
To: Mr. John Traversy
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Subject: Application 2012-0573-2 – CKGM Montréal (the CKGM Application)
Dear Mr. Traversy,
This letter is filed by Bell Media Inc. (Bell Media) in response to the comments by Messrs. Pacetti and Scarpaleggia, the MPs for Saint-Léonard/Saint-Michel and Lac-Saint-Louis, respectively, and by Dufferin Communications Inc. (Dufferin) (collectively referred to as the Interveners).
In the CKGM Application, Bell Media seeks the Commission’s authorization to convert our English-language AM sports talk radio station (currently operating as TSN 990) into a French-language sports talk radio station (to be known as RDS Radio). As set out in the Supplementary Brief filed with the CKGM Application, this Application is dependent on the Commission’s approval of the application filed by Bell Media for the acquisition of control of Astral Media Inc. (the Astral Application). In the event the Astral Application is approved, the CKGM Application is the necessary means by which Bell Media will ensure that it is fully in compliance with the Commission’s Common Ownership Policy.
Before addressing the concerns of the Interveners, Bell Media would like to thank the many groups that filed interventions in support of the CKGM Application. As described in their comments, these interveners recognize that the conversion of CKGM from an English- to a French-language sports radio station will result in several distinct benefits to the Montréal radio market. With the Commission’s approval, CKGM will become Montréal’s Francophone sports authority, offering fans a radio option not currently available in the Montréal market.
In his intervention, Mr. Pacetti, the MP for Saint-Léonard/Saint-Michel, asks the CRTC to permit Bell Media “to operate both a Francophone and Anglophone all sports radio station simultaneously” or “allow for the possibility of creating a bilingual station” so that “one community’s loss should not be another community’s gain”. While we sympathize with Mr. Pacetti’s desire for two sports radio options in each official language, this is simply not possible given the strict limits set out in the CRTC’s Common Ownership Policy.
The Common Ownership Policy imposes a strict cap on the number of stations that Bell Media may own in Montréal and the conversion of CKGM is the means by which compliance with the policy can be ensured in light of the Astral acquisition.
Another potential option would be the divestiture of the station to a third party. However, in a divestiture scenario, there is no certainty that a purchaser would commit to the all sports format over the long term; nor is there any way to enforce such a commitment, even if made, as the Commission does not regulate radio formats.
Under these unique circumstances, we believe that transforming CKGM into a French-language sports talk radio station is the best option available to Bell Media at this point in time, as it will ensure that the Montréal market has the benefit of at least one all sports radio station, rather than leaving both the francophone and anglophone communities in Montréal without a sports talk radio station. It is also important to highlight that Montreal’s anglophone community will continue to receive coverage of sports in English as sports programming shifts from TSN Radio 990 to CJAD.
Mr. Scarpaleggia, the MP for Lac-Saint-Louis questions why Bell Media has not applied to the Commission for an exemption to the Common Ownership Policy, noting that the English-speaking community’s interests are better served by having CKGM serve anglophone communities in Montréal.
As set out above, Bell Media’s decision to convert CKGM from an English-language to a French-language sports talk radio station is required to ensure that Bell Media is in compliance with the CRTC’s Common Ownership Policy, which set outs very clear, unequivocal caps on the amount of radio stations that can be owned in one market. In the past, exemptions have been granted very sparingly.
In its intervention, Dufferin argues that approval of the CKGM Application would call into question the integrity of the Commission’s licensing process with respect to the use of the 690 kHz frequency, which was awarded to Bell Media in 2011.
In Decision 2011-721, the Commission approved our application for a technical amendment to move CKGM from 990 kHz to 690 kHz as a means of addressing severe reception problems caused by a defective signal. The primary purpose of the 2011 application was to rectify a severe signal problem by eliminating the need for CKGM to switch to a low-power night-time contour, which significantly reduced the signal’s coverage area. The technical amendment that was granted rectifies the signal problem, regardless of the language or format the station operates in. Thus, approval of the technical amendment, followed by a change in the station’s language of operation does not, in our submission, call into question the integrity of the Commission’s licensing process.
We note that following approval of the technical amendment, CKGM could have changed formats and there would have been no basis for claiming that such a change affected the integrity of the Commission’s process. Moreover, should the Commission approve the CKGM Application, French-language listeners in Montréal would benefit immensely from the enhanced night-time coverage and signal quality that will be realized as a result of the previously approved technical amendment, especially in light of the fact that there are currently no French-language radio stations dedicated to sports news and information in Montréal. Thus, regardless of the outcome, Montréal listeners will benefit from CKGM moving from a defective to a clear signal.
To support its position, Dufferin argues that approval of the CKGM Application and the Astral Application would allow Bell Media to operate six radio frequencies in Montréal and that this substantial concentration of ownership would redefine the playing field envisioned by the Commission in Decision 2011-721. We note that under the Common Ownership Policy, Bell Media is permitted to own the six commercial radio stations that would result from approval of the Astral Application and the CKGM Application. Thus the conversion of CKGM is entirely in compliance with the Common Ownership Policy and it is disingenuous for Dufferin to claim that ownership of a number of stations that is expressly permitted under the policy somehow constitutes excessive concentration of ownership. In fact, one party could technically own seven stations in Montréal (four French and three English) and still be in compliance with the policy.
Dufferin also argues that approval of the CKGM Application would result in a major financial impact on the Montréal radio market. This claim is simply not credible. As is evident from the financial projections filed with the CKGM Application, Bell Media is projecting that it will experience a cumulative loss of over $12.6 million over the first licence term if the CKGM Application is approved by the Commission. Further, as set out in the Supplementary Brief filed with the CKGM Application, a comparison of the total retail sales and radio advertising revenues in the Montréal and Vancouver CMAs indicates that Montréal radio is underperforming relative to retail sales. Thus, there is upside potential for radio advertising sales in the Montréal French-language market if more radio format choices are offered. Therefore, contrary to Dufferin’s assertion, the CKGM conversion would not have a major financial impact. Instead, all indications are that it would have a stimulative effect on the French-language radio market by increasing hours tuned to radio.
The decision to convert CKGM from an English-language to a French-language sports talk radio station has been a difficult one. Unfortunately, the limits imposed by the Commission’s Common Ownership Policy are such that the conversion of CKGM appears to be the best option available to Bell Media at this time, as it will ensure at least the ongoing presence of a sports radio format in Montréal. We are committed to continuing to provide Montréalers with a dedicated sports radio station and creating a vibrant Montréal radio market, while working within the parameters of the Common Ownership Policy.
We trust this responds to the Interveners’ concerns. A copy of this letter has been served on the Interveners, in accordance with the CRTC’s Rules of Practice and Procedure.
Vice President – Regulatory Affairs
UPDATE (Sept. 11): Bell presented its case in person to the commission Tuesday morning. You can read its prepared notes here (PDF), and my story summarizing the hearing for The Gazette here.
So there you go; TSN Radio 800.
So you want to go from geriatric targeted vanilla pudding
Talk to sports at what time of the day..
The CJAD faithful will have a baby at 60 if they try this
This is a pathetic compromised pandering to we ANGLOS
That should make eveyone in the community sit up and say
WTF…..one at a time we all lose
You’re putting words in my mouth. I was not implying that I want that. Though if such a thing were to happen, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit. I want CJAD to stay as it is during the day. Evenings are another story.
Sorry, l meant to be rhetorical with that comment,,
Bottom line is the compromise is to no one’s advantage except the deal
Leave.CJAD to those that treasure it…and give us a true unapologetic
Sports yakfest…there is enough marginalizing going on in this world
Ps, who do they hire from TSN for a $35 k shift ?…not Mitch !
Of course it’s to no one’s advantage but the those in board rooms of Bell/Astral. I saw their faces and listened carefully to their comments today. This entire thing is all about money; just like the NHL nonsense. Without saying so in such words, one of the guys there this morning basically said they don’t really care what the public (aka. consumer) thinks. All that matters is the execs.
The CJAD 800 brand is so big, Astral never applied for a better frequency for it.
Although, branding CJAD as TSN Radio 800 after 7PM every night might work, as I don’t think CJAD is a ratings powerhouse in the evenings.
CJAD manager Martin Spaulding responded to questioning about how much CJAD news/talk content would be replaced with sports said that CJAD programming already contained a lot of sports. Now there would be more. One commissioner specifically asked if Tommy Schnurmacher, the noon hour talk, drive home show and the morning show would be replaced with sports. Spaulding responded specifically about Schnurmacher and noon-hour saying they would not change. Regarding the morning and afternoon drive shows, he simply indicated that these shows already contain a significant level of sports content. He indicated that sports would kick in on CJAD from 7 pm throughout the evening hours.
This seems to indicate that some of CJAD staff might be replaced with certain TSN Radio staff, but certainly not all of them. Who would make the cut and get moved over to CJAD? Melnick, for sure, I would think. Tony Marinaro, Ted Bird, Elliott Price, Shaun Starr???
Of course he didn’t define what a “significant” level of sports is. One of the BellMedia guys metioned they have daily morning commentary from Michael Farber and Dave Stubbs. That’s a combined total of about 9 minutes. That’s “significant” sports coverage?
Maybe 2 people are brought in …a 90 second sports clip on the
Half hours is not sports content
Sheldon, all that Bell is doing is playing the same card that was played when CKAC was “merged” into 98.5 FM. They are basically saying there will be sports, just not all the time.
However, it’s a pretty misleading deal here, because CJAD and 98.5 don’t have the same issues. 98.5 was basically a “filler music” station after 7 PM, an automated dreadnaught of a station that pretty much everyone tuned out from, and was not relevant in any manner. There was no original programming, it was just filler for the daytime stuff.
CJAD? You have everything from Barry Morgan to the Comedy show and such in a normal evening – original programming entertainment. In order to turn CJAD into a night time sports channel, you would first have to toss out all of that programming. The net result isn’t an increase in anything for the public: you get less sports (because you lost your full time sports channel) and you lose Barry Morgan, the Sex Show, the Comedy show, and perhaps even Quack to Quack overnight.
Further, unless CJAD is planning a major shift, it is unlikely that Andrew tap-tap-tap Carter would be kicked off and the morning show replaced with a mostly sports show. I don’t picture Tommy doing in depth interviews regarding last night’s hockey game and getting into Habs fan angst.
Bell in this case is very specifically trying to take someone else’s formula that passed the CRTC in the past, and apply it again, without consider the implications. It makes their entire application seem somewhat less than honest.
I watched some of this hearing albeit 1 hour delay on CPAC #512 On Bell. The bell arguments are BS, at leat it seems that the Commission’s understands that taking away another Anglo Institute in Montreal is absolutely the last case scenario. Yes! We all listened to Tevan!!!
Mitch Posted this on his BLOG, felt it was so much more fitting & why Montreal cares about a little AM Station… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h2YLWNzJ6U
I think that Bell is also being a little dishonest if they think that the CRTC would have approved the frequency change if they had also been planning to change the station from english to French. They might have instead be fighting with TTP for the available spots – which might have gotten us an enlish competitor to CJAD on 690, rather than what Bell proposes.
My suggestion to the CRTC: Refuse Bell’s purchase of Astral, it’s in nobodies best interest. Further, rescind their move to 690, forcing them to take the transmitter off the air until such time as their license request in French is processed in due time. Allow TTP and others to once again present for that open frequency, as the reasons Bell has 690 in the first place was pretty much utter bullshit. Remember: The Astral deal didn’t come around in 10 minutes. Don’t think for a second that the concept of buying Astral wasn’t in the works back when they asked for the move to 690.
Further: the CRTC should place a moratorium on any new stations, new networks, new radio, or new services from Bell, and instead work with Bell to come into a compliance point of holding no more than 1 FM, 1AM, and 1 TV station in each market. Further, Bell should not be allowed to enter into any other cable networks or specialty channels, and should be put in place to divest of most of those assets within a reasonable time frame (say 5 years).
In the long run, the CRTC should move to have the local affiliate stations to be owned by actual affiliates, and not by the networks themselves. Little that is in the interest of the local communities, journalists, staff, and such of the local stations happens when everything is centralized. The local affiliate stations should have the minimum required to operate stand alone without the network, so they are not beholden to it.
It’s a wish list that will never happen – but things won’t change until the CRTC grows some balls and starts actually applying the rules.
You’re response is to force CKGM off the air? Would you also force them to fire all the staff too?
That request came in the summer of 2011, with the hearing that fall. The announcement of the Astral deal came in March 2012. Is it really so hard to believe that such a transaction could have been negotiated in under six months?
Why would Bell have limits imposed on it that aren’t imposed on its competitors? Such a move would almost certainly end up in court, with the CRTC and government losing.
“You’re response is to force CKGM off the air? Would you also force them to fire all the staff too?”
No, I didn’t say that. There is a time frame where they can be on 990 (until their license expires on it) and in the interim they can apply for a new frequency, like say 600AM).
Bell appears to have been somewhat misleading in their license request, as they don’t seem to have the intent keep TSN990 on the air. If it was such a money loser before, and enough of a money loser to merit being changed to French now, wasn’t their entire presentation more a question of how to get a clear channel, and not how to give Montreal sports coverage in English?
If you accept that their application may have been less than forthcoming, don’t you think they should be sent back to square 1?
“That request came in the summer of 2011, with the hearing that fall. The announcement of the Astral deal came in March 2012. Is it really so hard to believe that such a transaction could have been negotiated in under six months?”
Considering the complexity of the situation, the number of stations, properties, joint ownerships, and all that involved, I would suspect that his sort of a deal would have taken closer to 12 – 18 months to work out. Just go have a look at the list of companies involved, each one requiring attention, due diligence and the like. This stuff doesn’t happen in 10 minutes. Just in radio alone, you are looking at 84 properties, plus around 30 specialty TV channels… that isn’t short work.
While the deal could have been made in the short time, It’s likely not something that came up in 10 minutes either.
“Why would Bell have limits imposed on it that aren’t imposed on its competitors? Such a move would almost certainly end up in court, with the CRTC and government losing.”
Actually, these are what the limits really should be, and normal would be without the concentration of media in Canada. The current limits are all but ignored, and especially in Quebec, a very few companies have a stranglehold on almost all media outlets. It isn’t normal.
While the standards in place (I can’t call them rules, nobody seems to follow them, and they move often) allow Bell to hold more, the reality of the media concentration in Canada is that the rules aren’t working.
As of 2010, there were 669 radio stations in Canada (as reported by the CRTC), and with this sale, Bell would control up to 122 of them (their 33 + 89 Astral stations) – or 18% of the full Canadian market. Don’t you think of that as a pretty scary thing, and perhaps proof that the media concentration guidelines aren’t working?
Oh, and those same sorts of guidelines should be applied to all players in the media world. It’s enough already with the insane levels of concentration. We have seen how this leads to problems, lost staffing, closures, and the like.
The CRTC could take these hearings and really go with it, clearly stating that the media concentration levels have reached the point where their policies need to change, and they will start with this deal and continue to work it.
I forgot to add this: The 18% figure for radio is only licenses owned, not market share. In Montreal, their combined anglo market share for the stations would be about 70% of the market place. That is clearly beyond any reasonable level of control. IMHO, Astral shouldn’t have been allowed to get there to start with, let alone sell it on to Bell.
A CRTC decision on Astral won’t come for months. After that, the application process for a new station takes many months beyond that before it’s approved, to say nothing of being operational. So doing what you suggest would force TSN off the air in three months.
I don’t follow your logic. They’re not changing its language because of its financial situation, they’re changing it because of ownership limits.
Which current limits are “all but ignored”?
Actually, Bell would own 107 stations (or 106 if the CKGM application is denied and they’re forced to divest it). And it would have a 45% market share in English Canada, according to Cogeco. That’s actually scarier than judging it by the number of stations. But the CRTC’s rules limit the number of radio stations per market, not the overall market share.
Many groups have suggested exactly this. The problem is that the CRTC already set rules on these matters, and changing them now just because of Bell would be unfair, possibly opening the CRTC up to being overruled by the government or the courts. It may review these rules later, but it can’t make up rules just to apply them to Bell.
“Many groups have suggested exactly this. The problem is that the CRTC already set rules on these matters, and changing them now just because of Bell would be unfair, possibly opening the CRTC up to being overruled by the government or the courts. It may review these rules later, but it can’t make up rules just to apply them to Bell.”
Actually, that is the sort of mentality that perpetuates bad decisions. “we did it last time, it didn’t work, so let’s do it some more!”.
Bell is looking to take unprecedented standing in the Canadian media world. With (give or take) 35 or 40 media outlets coming into the Montreal market, including their cable channels and such, it has long since passed any level of common sense. Bell is now “too big to fail”, which is a sure sign that it’s ripe to be refused all down the line.
Quite simply, they own too much, they own the content and many of the ways to deliver it. That is an abuse of the public trust. the CRTC can keep going (as you suggest) saying that it would be unfair to change the rules at any point, but really, it’s pretty clear to see that Canadian media is in for a major, major problem if we keep going this way.
The CRTC is suppose to be about the diversity of voices, not the rubber stamping of those voices being bought out by a megaglob corp.
Perhaps it’s time for the CRTC to impose a “hard limit” on media ownership in Canada. Perhaps a limit of 10% of the licenses in a given marketplace, and no more than 5% of the total licenses in the country. Perhaps it would be good also to work to mandate that the “pipe” companies cannot be owners of the media that they are “piping” (all you french people can stop sniggering now… I can hear you!). Perhaps it would be a good idea that the “networks” cannot actually own broadcast stations, beyond one flagship station. This would encourage private ownership of TV, radio and the like.
It’s time for change. You only have to get outside of Canada for a while to see how horribly wrong the system is.
How do you impose a 10% limit in a marketplace of two or three stations?
I know this post and thread are a bit out of date, but incredibly relevant.
First off, I want to applaud the CRTC for having the brass ones to tell Bell no. Plain and simple, they did pretty much as I painted it, showing that the proposed level of media concentation, taken as a whole, was just way too much. Further. I think the CRTC managed to express indirectly that the CURRENT level of concentration is equally unpalatable, and that Bell is very unlikely to get much more progress with the commission.
As I said to start here ” the CRTC should place a moratorium on any new stations, new networks, new radio, or new services from Bell”. I think that the CRTC made it clear that Bell no longer has a private rubber stamp in the commissions offices, and they are no longer going to get an easy ride on any other ideas they may cook up.
Further, I think that the CRTC decision, and stressing the community and public benefits of any action going forward match up nice with this: “the CRTC should move to have the local affiliate stations to be owned by actual affiliates, and not by the networks themselves. Little that is in the interest of the local communities, journalists, staff, and such of the local stations happens when everything is centralized. The local affiliate stations should have the minimum required to operate stand alone without the network, so they are not beholden to it.”. My feeling is that Bell, Rogers, and the other majors will have a very hard time getting any more traction in front of the CRTC, which clearly is looking for diversity and local voices, not big bad conglomerate action.
So, once again, WTG CRTC! Hopefully the rest of the 5 year mandate will be as enjoyable as this one.
Side note: Bell are whiny little b****es if they run off to Harper and beg for a reversal. It’s truly sad to see how powerful they think they are.
What purpose would that serve? The CRTC wants companies to expand by starting new services, not by acquiring other companies. Banning new services has virtually no upside other than punishing Bell.
“Would you also force them to fire all the staff too?” You realize that most of the 690 staff are finding out about their futures thru Bell press releases,this blog and the CRTC meetings.
“You’re response is to force CKGM off the air?”
Steve, you really need to get some sleep. Your spending too much time at Palais des Congres.
(See what I did there?)
Get an exemption for CKGM and leave them on the 690 frequency . Move RDS Sports to the 730 frequency where a very good 24 hour sports station used to exist and switch Radio Circulation from 730 to 990 .Traffic stations are only of interest to the local population .
That gives Bell a solution to their primary objective – a powerful all sports radio French outlet . It also gives them a chance to grow CKGM . It is ridiculous to tie up a 50000 watt station for 24 hour local traffic reports .
However don’t hold your breath where Bell , the CRTC or the Quebec government are concerned .
CKAC has the 730 frequency and would need to give up its licence for RDS. Since CKAC is owned by Cogeco and 730 is a clear channel, that won’t happen. The 990 frequency has also already been licenced to a different owner, who would also have to turn in their licence.
Perhaps, but the CRTC doesn’t regulate format. CKAC is licenced as a talk radio station, and that’s what it’s doing. If it helps, though, the CRTC denied Cogeco a licence to operate an English traffic station, arguing that a clear channel was inappropriate for a local station.
For reference (again): In en-CA, licence is the noun and licensed is the verb (hence unlicensed). (Same with practice/practise.)
Hey, are you the “Joe Clark” who was on the list of people to appear at the CRTC hearings, but didn’t?