The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Friday approved an application by 7954689 Canada Inc., better known as Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media, to create an English-language talk radio station at 600AM.
The station, which would have 100% local programming under a news-talk format, would be the first direct competitor to market leader CJAD since 940 News, which changed formats in 2008 and eventually shut down in 2010. (The commission notes that CKGM, which is all-sports under the TSN Radio 690 brand, and CBME-FM, which has CBC Radio One programming, are not direct competitors because the first has a different format and the second is non-commercial.)
Approval was expected, because in its decision last year rejecting the application, the commission made clear that it was doing so only because it did not have an available frequency to give to the group. It invited TTP to re-apply for another frequency, and said it would reconsider the application. TTP did that, stepping down from an earlier bluff that it needed clear channels for both stations or wouldn’t proceed with either.
The new application received little opposition, only one comment that the market could not handle a competitor to CJAD (see below). The commission dismissed the comment, which came with no evidence to back it up, noting that CJAD itself did not oppose the application.
The new station will operate as a sister station to one the commission approved last year for a French news-talk station at 940AM. That station has until November 2013 to launch unless it gets an extension. Paul Tietolman tells me he expects both stations to launch in the spring at around the same time.
It was also revealed recently that the group has applied for a French-language sports-talk radio station for 850AM, the former frequency for CKVL, a station owned by Tietolman’s father. That application has not yet been published by the CRTC.
You can read my Gazette story on the decision here.
Other stuff we know now
I spoke with Paul Tietolman shortly after the decision was published, and asked him for some updates on how the planning is going. Here’s what he’s told me:
- Management: Their positions haven’t been fully defined yet, but Tietolman confirmed that former CKAC/CINF general manager Yves Guérard and former CJAD/CFRB program director Steve Kowch would assume senior management positions at the French and English stations, respectively. Both appeared with the group at the fall 2011 hearing where the two stations’ licence applications were presented to the CRTC. Tietolman also said that Jim Connell, the last guy standing at CINW, would also be working with the group.
- Employees: I couldn’t pin Tietolman down on the number of employees he would hire, or exactly when the hiring would begin. An estimate when the stations were first proposed was for 150 to 200 employees, but that might be a bit on the high side considering their budgets. Tietolman did say that they’ve already been approached for jobs by many people, both those who have worked in radio in the past and are currently without broadcasting jobs, and those still working for other stations who want to switch. Tietolman noted that part of the business plan is to have much of the overhead positions like accounting be shared by the two stations.
- Studio: A lease or purchase agreement hasn’t been signed on a studio location, but the group seems to have found one, where a station exists currently, and have made an offer which would see them take possession in March. He wouldn’t say where it is exactly, but said it was at or near downtown. (And, to stop the guesses, it’s neither the one on Fort St. nor the one on Greene Ave.)
- Transmitter: Both stations will use the same transmitter along Highway 138 in Kahnawake, which is currently on a long-term lease from the reserve by Cogeco. They’re the former transmitters for CINW and CINF, and have been unused since those stations shut down. TTP has been leasing the site from Cogeco since July and has transmitters in place. Tietolman said some adjustment to the towers would be necessary to accommodate the new frequencies, but since it was already setup for 940 and had been previously used for 600, it’s certainly doable.
CJAD welcomes new competitor
I asked CJAD for comment about the prospect of new competition. Chris Bury, the brand director, offered this:
“Competition is a good thing and we welcome it. It’s another reason to push ourselves constantly to provide the highest quality programming for our listeners. “
“We’re very confident in the content we offer on CJAD 800. We’ve been a trusted source for the community for more than 65 years now and expect that to continue.”
We’ll see when the station launches whether there are noticeable differences at Montreal’s News-Talk Leader, and whether new competition forces the station to work harder to keep its audience.
No plans for English sports radio
In light of its application for a French sports radio station, and the CRTC’s decision on Bell and Astral that effectively keeps CKGM as an English all-sports station, I asked Tietolman about whether his group wants to launch a station to compete with it. Tietolman said that if Bell wanted to sell the station they would be interested in buying it, taking advantage of the same synergies they will have in news-talk and applying it to English and French sports talk stations. But otherwise, he said, they won’t try to go head-to-head with TSN Radio 690 for the tiny but loyal sports talk market. He said he respected the work being done at that station and by on-air talent like Mitch Melnick and Randy Tieman.
“If we can’t offer something new, different, and better, we shouldn’t be in this business,” Tietolman said.
The TTP application had few interventions and was considered as a non-appearing item at the September CRTC hearing in Montreal. The only comment opposed to the station was from a man named Jacques Blais of Sherbrooke. This is what he wrote:
Well, is is time to pop the champagne cork…for we Montreal anglo listeners..I think it is, and to the complacent folks at ‘AD. I think that ‘AD and Chris Bury et al should not take this competition lightly. This station will be run by, according to this blog, Steve Kowch who ran those big giants, CJAD and CFRB, and Chris Bury ran 940 News but without much success probably for lack of programming acumen and of a lack of collective personnel to compete with ‘AD, although individually there were some good people, many of which are at ‘AD currently.
But the problem with competitors I have noticed in the past is that they tried to imitate ‘AD, that won’t work. But if they are going to be different in terms of programming that’s not there now and personalities that won’t be boring like Mr. Carter or Mr. Schnurmacher, then we got ourselves a winner.
If we read between the lines of their programming which was generally outlined in these blogs last year from the original application for 690, it will be different, a refreshing alternative, radio with a bite, and not be afraid to take chances.
So everybody, get ready, it’s gonna be exciting next spring. Congrats to the people at TTP…
But one big question as to their pattern, the people losing out are off-island like Vaudreuil, Hudson, and St.Lazare,etc. they would seem to be areas that TTP would want to reach. Does anybody know if there adjustments that will be made for that rich zone of anglo listeners?
Tietolman has hinted at some solution to this problem (had they also gotten 690 it wouldn’t exist because they wouldn’t have had to protect other stations), but the licence is just for the one transmitter. Keep in mind it’s not as though people in Vaudreuil will be unable to pick up the station, merely that the signal will be somewhat weaker there than it will be in eastern Montreal or Longueuil. A lot of it depends more on the receiving radio and its antenna than anything else.
The coverage problem would mainly be after dark when the power reduction kicks in. Daytime hours should be fine. Although, a bigger problem, not just for this station, but for many AM stations, is the poor quality of many of the more recent AM radio equipment, combined with the highly increased amounts of man-made interference that exists around a city the size of Montreal & the suburbs. More often than not these days, when it comes to AM station signals, it’s not a case of the signal not getting to the listener. It’s more a problem of the listener not being able to get to the signal amidst the noise surrounding us and the weak selectivity and sensitivity of the newer radio equipment. It’s generally less of a problem on car radios which are of a higher quality. A suggestion for in-home use, look around for older radios to use. An excellent choice is an old stereo component receiver/tuner, like the old Pioneers, Marantz, Technics, etc. You can pick this stuff up for a song at fleamarkets, garage sales, second-hand shops, etc. You might have an old unit sitting in mothballs around the basement or garage. Hook it up. They work great on FM as well. You can improve their performance even more by adding simple antennas, even indoor models. And before someone says it, yes, the masses are not going to go to that much effort just to hear a radio station, but for those who do, they will be well rewarded.
Great news! Looking forward to hearing it.
Did I read right Steve? Paul Tietolman told the Gazette that the combined French (940AM) – English (600AM) radio stations would create 150-200 jobs. A bit of an exaggeration don’t you think?
Tietolman wouldn’t give me a number when I spoke to him today, so I’m using an old number here. It’s perhaps wishful thinking, or at least on the high end, but with a budget of $5 million, reaching $10 million per station by the end of the first seven-year licence, a workforce of more than 100 people (including all the off-air positions) doesn’t seem too ridiculous. The stations plan to have local programming 24/7, including a news-gathering team, and that requires a lot of people working for them.
Congrats to TTP! Montreal is a better place with more Anglo voices, and certainly CJAD can use some competition.
I love the comment from the guy in Sherbrooke. I have to wonder if he wrote that on government time, using government office supplies, and used a government fax machine to send the fax long distance. That should be looked into, don’t you think?
good for them, they hung in there for a long time and a good hire with Steve Kowch on board to direct things from the top. Hope they let Steve do his thing. CJAD needs to shake things up, sounds like a lot of tired voices, or people will be heading down the dial. We also need an anglo FM station that plays middle of the road stuff, even some country mixed in, that is sadly lacking.
You’re right Bruce about the middle of the road thing.. like the old Q92 was Lionel tRichie, Phil Collins,etc…Country..you would have to be really selective but like the Faith Hill stuff would do..Lady Antebellum..
But there’s one type of music format that would do gangbusters on FM in stereo, and whatever you want to call it….oldies, Montreal’s greatest Hits,..Blast from the Past…
Every major city has one..It works if it’s run by someone who knows that music..so someone in late 40’s–early 50’s…..not some young kid…
And don’t limit to just 500 songs..Gotta be wideranging..and have rock jocks with personality and yes I am talking about like thoe great names from the 60’s and 70’s…the Golden age..
There is an oldies station in Mtl at 105.1 FM called Mike fm, unfortunately, they only play music between 6 and 10 am and 3 and 6 in the evening. Too bad it can’t be full time.
CKDG-FM is actually licensed as an ethnic station, though it does carry a lot of 90s music during peak hours.
@ Greysky…we seem to have different views on so-called oldies stations..I don’t mean for a couple of hours a day and mostly 90’s..I am talking all the hits all the time baby !!…You run it like a top 40 station used to be..with those great personalities…but everything from 1963-64 up to maybe 2000..it gives you lots to pick up from…and of course, tribute hours,, lke you might have a an hour with all Stones or all motown..etc..
A format like that, one can get so creative, but past stations have been run by youngsters so to speak..like the 940 Oldies station was run by Chris Bury, who tried to run an all-news station against the ‘AD people who were run by Steve Kowch at some point…
So, yes past stations have tried going against ‘AD, but now it’s the youngster Mr. Bury, against the veteran Steve Kowch….see the pattern here folks..Mr. Bury has never been a match for veterans on the other side..
CJAD will have some serious competition this time and won’t be facing rookies trying to run a station….I also agree with Alex H up above….it will be interesting to see what they do with Carter-Schnurmacher….They should start considering putting Dave Fisher there…he’s the George Balcan mold..I still think that Terry DiMonte will end up there in 3 or 4 years..
With some hope, the new station will put enough of a hurt on CJAD to get them to do something about Mr tap-tap-tap in the morning (Yes Andrew, we can hear it), and perhaps to send Tommy and his anglo angst crap out of the studio and back to sarcastically reviewing movies. While some might consider them to the two ratings shining lights, it’s often due to a lack of competition, not because of any great skill.
I think TTP can look at how 98.5 has grown in the last 2 or 3 years and understand that there is a market there, one that is certainly no served by CJAD in any meaningful way.
The Tietolman in the photo is the son?
There is no stations at night in the direction of their signal. Who’s signal are they protecting by lowering its power
600 isn’t a clear-channel frequency, so there’s no one big powerhouse station that takes priority. There are a few other full-power stations on that frequency, including CKAT in North Bay, Ont., CBNA in Corner Brook, N.L. (a Radio One retransmitter), and WICC in Bridgeport, Conn., plus a bunch of low-power stations.
Since, as you point out, there are no stations due north on that frequency, the station could achieve the same ends by modifying the signal pattern to make it more directional. This is what CKGM did on 990. But it’s simpler just to reduce power.
Its interesting CJAD shares 800 with a station in Quebec City. Several other Montreal stations shared frequencies with stations there too at one time. Its nice to see AM come back to life
AM really isn’t coming back to life, as much as in market places where all available FM frequencies are used, it appears to be the only way into the market place.
In Quebec City, with the closing of 800AM, they no longer have ANY AM stations.
Honestly, if the FM band had been a little bigger and a lot better managed to start with, AM probably would have already disappeared. It