Monthly Archives: January 2013

Still no special tricks for watching American Super Bowl ads on cable in Montreal

Super Bowl on CTV

It’s the one time during the year that people really care. But there’s no change from last year. People who want to watch U.S. Super Bowl commercials on cable or satellite TV in Montreal are out of luck once again, because of CRTC rules.

For those unfamiliar, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission forces cable and satellite providers to perform simultaneous substitution — replacing U.S. channels’ feeds with Canadian ones when both are running the same programming — in areas served by local television stations. The purpose is to keep advertising dollars for Canadian viewing in Canada, so they can support the Canadian broadcast system. And 364 days a year nobody cares because there isn’t much of demand for local ads for businesses in Vermont or ads for DirecTV.

The Super Bowl is different because of all the hype surrounding its incredibly expensive advertising. But that alone doesn’t create an exception to the rules. So TV providers will have to do substitution during Sunday’s Super Bowl, forcing viewers to watch commercials from CTV instead of the originating American network. And cable and satellite providers will have to continue to calmly explain to irate subscribers that they’re only doing what they’re required to do by the CRTC, who will in turn have to explain what “simultaneous substitution” is and why it’s there.

CTV’s CFCF Montreal is carrying the Super Bowl (as is every other CTV station), so simultaneous substitution is mandatory in the area covered by its signal. That includes Greater Montreal, as well as (for Videotron anyway) areas like Lachute, Sorel and Granby.

And even though CTV is promising its own commercial goodies during the Super Bowl show, like announcing who’s going to host the Junos, and an “exclusively Canadian” ad from PepsiCo about Lay’s potato chips, Canadians from coast to coast will grumble about not having access to those multimillion-dollar ads airing in the U.S.

So how do you get around it? Here’s how:

Over the air

The simplest way of getting a U.S. network signal on Super Bowl Sunday is to pick it up over the air with an antenna. The government can stop a lot of things at the border, but the electromagnetic spectrum isn’t one of them.

This year, the Super Bowl is being carried on CBS, which is good because WCAX-TV in Burlington has a 443-kilowatt transmitter on top of Mount Mansfield, which reaches into the city if you have a good enough antenna. Because it’s a digital signal, your television will need a digital tuner (most HDTVs have this). WCAX is on Channel 22, or virtual channel 3.1.

Videotron (analog and digital)

Videotron has resisted substitution, especially for the Super Bowl, and does so only when absolutely necessary. Still, it is required to substitute both the standard and high-definition feeds in the area covered by CFCF.

This means all customers in the following areas will see their signals substituted:

  • Montreal and on-island suburbs
  • Laval
  • The north shore
  • The south shore
  • Joliette
  • St. Jérôme
  • Montérégie
  • St. Jean sur Richelieu
  • Vaudreuil-Dorion
  • Lachute
  • Granby
  • Sorel

Quebecers outside of Montreal (as defined above) and the Gatineau region (which is part of the footprint of CJOH Ottawa) will not have their signals substituted and will be able to watch the American ads on CBS channels.

Other cable providers (including Bell Fibe)

Same as Videotron, I’m afraid. They don’t have a choice in the matter. Whether they substitute their entire network or only where they have to is up to them.

Bell Satellite TV

Because Bell feeds the same data to all its customers via satellite, it is required (as of 2009) to substitute American feeds with Canadian ones nationwide. So even if you’re in an area not covered by a CTV station, you’re still going to see the CTV ads.

Shaw Direct

Because Shaw Direct includes technology allowing the provider to control what signals individual clients receive, it can implement simultaneous substitution selectively. The result will be similar to cable: substitution in areas covered by CTV stations, no substitution elsewhere.

American satellite providers (DirecTV, Dish Network)

These are technically illegal in Canada, but many people have found ways to get service north of the border, either by pirating them or using fake U.S. addresses. Since these are American providers, the CRTC doesn’t control them.


The only legal way to get the Super Bowl itself online is through (which is streaming NFL playoffs for the first time this year). There will probably be black-market feeds, but their quality probably won’t match the HD signal you’ll get on cable or over the air.

The ads are another story. YouTube has a special site devoted to Super Bowl ads that you can watch whenever you want, in high definition. They have promised to make the ads available as soon as they air on TV, and some are already there.


Because most of the loopholes have been closed, there aren’t many bars advertising the American version of the game anymore. To provide a high-definition feed in Montreal, they would either have to set up an antenna capable of receiving the American station or subscribe to an American satellite service and hope nobody notices.

At least one bar in Montreal is promising U.S. ads. If you spot others, let me know in the comments.

Other loopholes

There are also methods that have no guarantee of success. You could try watching west-coast feeds. Some cable companies offer Seattle stations as a way to time-shift, and then forget to do substitution for live events like this. But broadcasters have become wise to people using this loophole. Videotron is certainly aware of it and will be substituting this channel.

You could also, I suppose, just go to Vermont or New York for the weekend and watch the Super Bowl there.

Global Montreal morning show will focus on community

UPDATE (Feb. 6): Read my review of the show’s first week and a half.

Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross

Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross

How do you compete with someone who outperforms you on budget, staff, technical resources, consumer loyalty and reputation? The short answer is you don’t.

As another ratings report comes out confirming CTV Montreal’s incredible dominance of the local TV news ratings, Global Montreal was doing its final rehearsals for a new morning show that launches on Monday. As Montreal doesn’t have a local morning show in English, it will have that market all to itself, at least until August when City starts up its morning show here.

But even with the million dollars a year that Shaw has promised this show to get it off the ground over the next five years, its resources are limited. Global Montreal has added only eight jobs for this show, on-air staff and technical people combined. It won’t have its own news team scouring the city for scoops (unless it steals reporters from the evening newscasts, which are already understaffed). It won’t look like Canada AM, which is still popular in Montreal.

Part of the station’s strategy for building an audience has been a focus on the anglophone community. In essence, it’s treating anglo Montreal as if it’s its own small town, going after the smaller stories that don’t make the same kinds of headlines.

That’s easier said than done, though. CTV’s news operation is still far larger, and Global can’t ignore the top stories of the day to indulge in community reporting. Global Montreal doesn’t have a sports department so it can’t really cover varsity sports. It doesn’t have the kinds of coverage of arts, entertainment and lifestyle stories that you’ll find on CTV News or even CBC News, so it has to be very picky about where it uses its resources, and its goal of making this the home of anglo Montrealers (rather than just an English-language newscast) is far from complete.

With a morning show, this community focus will become more apparent. The biggest aspect of this we know already is that the weather presenter, Jessica Laventure, will be doing her weather segments from a location on the West Island. This will plant the station’s flag there, allowing people to come by and interact with it, as well as show West Island residents watching from home that they’re close, at least geographically.

Will that be enough? We’ll see.

I sat down with the three stars of Morning News, and spoke with station manager Karen Macdonald and Global News chief Troy Reeb for a story that appears in Saturday’s Gazette previewing the show. Below are some additional things that didn’t make it in the story.

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TV ratings: Market still belongs to CTV

Fall 2013 TV ratings

Market share for 6pm weeknight newscasts among Montreal’s three English-language television stations

Its competitors might be expanding their local programming, but CTV Montreal isn’t exactly quaking in its boots. Ratings released this week by BBM Canada show CFCF with huge leads in its local newscasts in all time slots.

For the flagship newscast at 6pm, CTV has a 58% market share among adults, which not only puts it far ahead of its competitors, but means that there are more Montreal anglos watching CTV News at 6 than there are watching everything else on television combined during that hour. It’s hard to beat ratings like that. As I mention in a story in The Gazette, the local newscast has more viewers than even the most popular CTV primetime program, The Big Bang Theory.

CBC, the closest competitor, can barely be described as such. With a 5.5% share, it has one tenth of the viewers of CTV at 6. Global is even further behind with a 2% share and only 4,100 adult viewers, which I would describe as less than its previous numbers but that might have more to do with statistical error than an actual drop in audience (I’d also be comparing 18+ and 2+ audience, and might be missing the thousands of teenage viewers to Global Montreal’s newscast).

CTV’s dominance is also unshakable at noon (52% share), weekends at 6 (46% share) and late night (37% share).

CBC added weekend newscasts in 2012, and then later expanded the late-night newscast from 10 to 30 minutes. The Saturday 6pm newscast has a 5.3% share, comparable with its weeknight newscast. The late-night newscast has a 3.5% share.

If either station wants to seriously challenge CFCF for viewers, there’s still a very long road ahead for them.

The BBM numbers above represent measurements taken via written diaries on Oct. 18-31 and Nov. 8-21, 2012, during which all three stations’ newscasts presented special reports. The next measurement of local English television will be taken in February and March, and released on May 7. At that point we should have an idea of how Global’s new morning show is doing early on, and whether it has started eating away at the 41% market share held by Canada AM.

Fact-checking the debate over Sun News

Do you believe in fairness? Do you believe in freedom? Do you believe in Canada? Do you believe in puppies?

Both Sun News Network and its (primarily left-wing) opponents are debating the network’s application for mandatory carriage on cable and satellite systems, which was published on Monday and will be the subject of a CRTC hearing on April 23. Each has prepared talking points to further their causes for and against. Unfortunately, a lot of them are based on incorrect information or oversimplifications of complex issues.

This is primarily the fault of the CRTC, which has a very complex regulatory system governing television distribution (and in particular specialty channels), one that is constantly changing.

To help clear up some of this, I’ll offer some perspective on the claims made so far in this debate so you can form a better opinion (or, more likely, use them against your opponents in your Twitter flame wars).

For the claims from Sun News, I’ll primarily refer to tweets from “Canadian TV First”, its marketing campaign to support this application.

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CRTC considering new must-carry applications from Sun News, Vision, ARTV and more

Sun News Network wants to take away your freedom to not pay for Sun News Network.

That’s spin, of course, but it happens to be true. Quebecor’s freedom-loving, CBC-criticizing network is one of 22 existing and yet-to-be-launched cable channels that are applying to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission asking for it to require all Canadian cable, satellite and IPTV providers to put their channels in their basic packages and require all subscribers to pay for them whether they want them or not.

On Monday, the commission announced a hearing April 23 in Gatineau to consider applications related to mandatory carriage, as well as licence renewals for independent television stations and specialty services.

Different specialty channels have different categories that have different rights and responsibilities. Most new channels are what’s called Category B. Channels in those categories come with no requirement for cable or satellite companies to carry them. They have to negotiate carriage with each cable and satellite company, and agree on things like wholesale rates and packaging. Older specialty channels are Category A, which have genre protection, meaning that new channels can’t compete directly with them. They also must be made available on all digital cable systems, but can be made discretionary (meaning the subscribers decide whether they want to pay for them). Mainstream news and sports channels are Category C, which are designed to maximize competition and remove genre-related protections.

What’s important here is that some channels have more rights than others. But a few channels have the ultimate regulatory gift: an order requiring all television distributors to put the channel in their basic packages and charge for them at a rate set by the commission. These include:

  • CBC News Network ($0.15/month) (French-language markets only)
  • RDI (0.10/month) (English-language markets only)
  • Avis de recherche ($0.06/month) (French-language markets only)
  • The Weather Network/MétéoMédia ($0.23/month)
  • TVA (free)
  • Aboriginal Peoples Television Network ($0.25/month)
  • CPAC ($0.10 $0.11/month)
  • AMI ($0.20/month) (English-language markets only)
  • AMI Audio (audio only) ($0.04/month)
  • Canal M (audio only) ($0.02/month)

Adding these together, it comes to $0.85 per month or $10.20 a year in French markets and $0.78 per month or $9.36 a year in English markets that goes on cable bills for mandatory channels.

The commission doesn’t make this status easy to get. There has to be a compelling reason why all Canadians must have access to these services. Existing ones qualify because they provide essential news and information to minority-language communities (CBCNN, RDI and TVA), target underserved, disadvantaged minority communities (APTN, AMI, M), provide essential information on a non-profit basis (Avis de recherche and CPAC) or offer an essential service (The Weather Network/MétéoMédia, which got the status with a promise to become a national emergency broadcaster).

The official criteria for getting this status are more vague:

  • makes an exceptional contribution to Canadian expression and reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity;
  • contributes, in an exceptional manner, to the overall objectives for the digital basic service and specifically contributes to one or more objectives of the Act, such as Canadian identity and cultural sovereignty; ethno-cultural diversity, including the special place of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian society; service to and the reflection and portrayal of persons with disabilities; or linguistic duality, including improved service to official language minority communities; and
  • makes exceptional commitments to original, first-run Canadian programming in terms of exhibition and expenditures.

The key points here are that it has to be exceptional, and it has to be exceptionally Canadian. It will be up to the CRTC to decide if the new proposed services meet those criteria.

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Global Montreal morning show launches next Monday

Global Montreal's morning show cast: Camille Ross (left), Richard Dagenais (centre) and Jessica Laventure.

Global Montreal’s morning show cast: Camille Ross (left), Richard Dagenais (centre) and Jessica Laventure. (Global photo)

It’s official: Global Montreal’s new local morning show begins next Monday.

The three-hour show, from 6am to 9am weekdays, was a promise that Shaw made to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission when it purchased the former Canwest television assets, including Global Television, in 2010. (The promise was for a minimum of 10 hours a week, or two hours a day, so it’s nice that they’re adding the extra hour.) This is in addition to the evening newscasts at 6pm and 11pm which will continue to run (though the latter needs to find a new anchor).

The show will have two hosts and a weather presenter, pictured above. I already told you about Camille Ross, who left CTV Montreal for this higher-profile (and full-time) gig. Richard Dagenais is already familiar to Global Montreal viewers as a reporter and anchor of News Final at 11pm. His selection here is a no-brainer because he was a host of This Morning Live, Global Quebec’s morning show that was cancelled in 2008.

The new face here is Jessica Laventure, who will be doing weather. She was a morning host at MétéoMédia, and before that worked at Global Quebec as a production assistant, reporter and host of the weekly QC Magazine. She also does a weekend show at Boom FM. But I know her best as a former teachers’ assistant at Concordia University’s journalism program, where she taught kids not much younger than herself how to use fun electronic equipment (myself included).

Global bills this as “the city’s only locally-produced English-language morning show”, which is true, but also conveniently leaves out the fact that competition is right around the corner. City Montreal, as CJNT will be known when its acquisition by Rogers is complete, is also launching a local morning show by September, which will go head-to-head with Global’s. Will the six-month head start make the difference for Global? We’ll see.

Shaw has promised a total of at least $5 million for the Global Montreal morning show through 2016-17, or about $1 million a year, second only to Toronto, which was promised $3 million a year. (This is the total of special funding and does not necessarily represent their entire budgets.) Shaw said the goal is to make the shows sustainable so they will keep running even after the special funds run out in 2017.

I’ve written up a brief for The Gazette, but I’ll be getting more details about the show this week as I talk to everyone involved for a longer story.

Global is also launching a local morning show in Halifax at the same time, completing its roll-out plan. Its cast includes Crystal Garrett, whose CV includes a stint as a host of This Morning Live.

Video: Montreal’s 2013 No Pants Subway Ride

The No Pants Subway Ride, an annual event organized by New-York-based Improv Everywhere but which has since expanded around the world, came to Montreal again last weekend, though it received fairly little media attention (which is probably for the best, at least until after the fact).

In this slickly-produced video shot by Étienne Marcoux and edited by Vincent Laurin, dozens of participants take the metro with no pants on in the middle of January and act as if that’s perfectly normal, prompting odd expressions from hapless bystanders.

Montreal has seen other such rides in the past, with mixed amounts of success. Nice to see the tradition kept alive.

CJLO will make EPs free for deserving artists

Mixing board at CJLO

Are you a local artist who has fantastic musical talent but not the financial means to rent a professional studio to record your songs?

Concordia’s student radio station might be able to help. CJLO 1690AM has received a $14,500 grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada for its CJLO Artist Outreach Program, and it’s using that money to offer their services free of charge to mix and master an EP’s worth of music for a handful of artists.

“The CJLO Artist Outreach Program aims to provide a stepping stone for local artists in the Montreal community to learn about how to get their music played on the radio and create a physical product that they can use to achieve this goal,” a statement from the station reads.

Included in the deal is up to 70-80 hours of labour of a producer to record and mix the songs together into a 15-to-20-minute EP, and an “artist liaison” to teach artists how to promote the music.

Because the funding is limited, so is the number of artists that can make use of these services. CJLO invites those interested to fill out a form on their website, and the station will select from among applicants.

Station staff tell me that the plan is to benefit at least five artists with this fund, but aiming for more like 8-10, with some requiring more work than others.

Applications are open until Feb. 15.

New low-power FM station would carry mainly Tamil programming

“…there are for all practical purposes no more FM frequencies available to serve Montréal.” — CRTC, July 6, 2007

Five and a half years after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission made that statement in approving two new FM stations in Montreal, there are still people finding holes on the FM band to fill with low-power stations or stations in Montreal’s suburbs.

The latest is an application published on Wednesday for a low-power FM station carrying mainly Tamil programming.

The station, at 102.9 MHz, would essentially be a migration of an existing service that operates on a subcarrier of CISM-FM. Before that it was on a subcarrier of CKUT-FM. Subcarriers are great because they can piggyback on existing stations, but they require special receivers to listen to.

And that’s the problem that AGNI Communications Inc., owned by Phillip Koneswaran and Jenoshan Balasingam, is trying to overcome. According to the brief they submitted with their application, a younger demographic is more mobile, and the special receivers aren’t built into car radios. To them, getting on FM, even at only 50 watts, is a better way to reach their audience.


For those familiar with the existing service, it will stay mainly the same. The proposal is that more than half of the programming (before 10am and after 5pm weekdays; before 10am and after 8pm weekends) will be in the Tamil language. The rest of the schedule will be filled with programming for the Sri Lankan, Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian, Maldavian, Malaysian, Somali, Nepalese and Singaporean communities.

If that seems like an obscure mix, it is. The main selling point is that these communities and languages are not served by any other radio station in Montreal.

In 2011, the CRTC denied applications for three new ethnic radio stations in Montreal, mainly because they would compete with existing ethnic stations in markets that can’t handle that kind of competition. By limiting its programming to those communities not served by any existing stations, this service can argue that it’s not competing with them and there would be room for more.

According to the application, the radio station would be 100% ethnic programming, with no programming in either French or English. Its programming would be mainly local, and it proposes a minimum of 60% local programming being imposed as a condition of licence, increasing to 70% in the third year.

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station (click for larger)

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station (click for larger)


The low-power station would operate as a 50W transmitter on top of a building on Chabanel St. next to Highway 15. The signal covers Saint-Laurent, Ahuntsic, Mount Royal, Park Extension and parts of western Villeray before it starts hitting interference from other, much more powerful stations (the shaded areas above).

The technical brief goes through each of the stations that could cause interference problems:

On the same frequency:

  • CHOC-FM-2 St-Jacques-le-Mineur (34km away): This retransmitter of the French community station southeast of Montreal would not receive any interference in its current pattern, but at its theoretical maximum it might get some interference in a sliver around Candiac and La Prairie, most of which it would see interference from anyway from another station on the same frequency.
  • CFOI-FM-1 Saint-Jérôme (42km away): This retransmitter of a Quebec City-based Christian station would not receive any interference in its primary pattern, which covers a radius of about 20km. In fact, you wouldn’t have to get far from the Montreal station before you start hearing this one instead.

On the first-adjacent frequency (103.1 or 102.7):

  • CITE-FM-1 Sherbrooke (102.7) (113km away): This 100kW Rouge FM station has a huge pattern that reaches into the Montreal area, and will be the primary cause of interference for this new proposed station. Only a tiny sliver of the station’s coverage area of more than 30,000 square kilometres could be affected by interference from the new station, and the technical brief says the protection for stations of that class is limited to a radius of 86km, where there would be no interference. And it’s kind of a moot point practically because people in that area (roughly downtown Montreal) would be listening to Montreal’s Rouge FM station anyway.
  • CKOD-FM Valleyfield (103.1) (45km away): Though closer together, this station and the proposed one would not interfere with each other to any great extent.

On the second-adjacent frequency (103.3 or 102.5):

  • CHAA-FM Longueuil (103.3) (9km away): This Longueuil community station, whose transmitter is actually on the island of Montreal, is far in frequency from the new proposed station, but is physically very close. The technical brief nevertheless shows no interference between the two stations.

The analysis also includes stations even further away in frequency, CKRK-FM at 103.7 and CINQ-FM at 102.3. The first won’t cause any issues because of its distance, and the station has promised to resolve any interference issues affecting the second.


The financial projections for the station are modest: $120,000 a year in revenue, increasing steadily to $300,000 by the seventh year. The first-year projection is perfectly reasonable, since it made that amount in 2011. Whether they can double that in five years is another story.

Operating expenses would be even more modest, going from $76,200 in the first year to just over $100,000 in the seventh. This means the station would be making a profit already in its first year.

The cost of actually setting up the transmitter is only $20,000.


The CRTC has called a hearing for March 20 to consider this application (the same hearing at which it will consider an application for a French sports-talk station at 850AM). Unless significant objections are raised, a presentation by the applicant will not be required at the hearing, which will take place in Gatineau.

People wanting to comment on the application, or express support or opposition, have until Feb. 15 to do so (this includes other broadcasters who might oppose the station for technical or programming reasons). They can do so by clicking here, choosing Option 1 and then 2012-0821-5: AGNI Communication Inc.


After the hearing, it’s up to the commission to decide when to come to a decision and what that decision will be.

CRTC proceeds with TTP application for French sports talk at 850AM

Proposed propagation pattern of station at 850AM

Proposed propagation pattern of station at 850AM: day (black lines) and night (blue lines)

An application I told you about in September, for an all-sports radio station at 850AM, was published on Wednesday by the CRTC and will be considered at a hearing in March.

The proposed station would be the third AM talk station in Montreal owned by TTP Media (officially 7954689 Canada Inc.), a company formed by partners Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy. The trio’s other two stations, already approved by the CRTC but yet to launch, are for a French-language news-talk station at 940AM and an English-language news-talk station at 600AM. They are expected to go on the air simultaneously some time this year.

Here’s what the application tells us about this new 850AM station:


“Utilizing sports professionals and experienced broadcasters, AM850 will offer a locally produced, innovative brand of sports talk unlike anything heard previously in Canada. Francophone sports fans will finally have a 24 hour a day source of information covering the topics about which they are most passionate. Opinion, insight and debate sprinkled with listener interaction and lifestyle commentary will be offered up in a cutting edge fashion.” — Supplemental Brief in application to CRTC

As was the case for its previous applications, TTP likes to talk big about how it’s going to revolutionize radio with ideas no one else has tried before. This station is no different.

For one thing, there won’t be a focus on live broadcasts of sporting events. Unlike TSN Radio in English, which has things like European soccer and NFL football games broadcast live, the TTP station plans to have zero syndicated live sports programming. Instead, it will be locally-produced sports talk, 24 hours a day, seven days a week (they’re even willing to accept a condition of licence to this effect). Pancholy told me there might be some live local sports coverage, but the focus will be on discussion (which one would imagine would be mainly Canadiens-related) outside of games.

This is interesting, to say the least. Team 990 went a decade without rights to Canadiens games before it finally got them from CJAD in the hope that that would bring them back into the black (it didn’t, but the station hopes that the move to 690AM will push it over the break-even mark).

On one hand, people love to rant about their Canadiens. On the other hand, they’re more likely to do that on a station that carries the Canadiens broadcasts. Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom.

Programming details will have to wait until the station is approved, but the application said they expect a total of four hours a week of hard news, and 126 hours (i.e. every minute of the week) of local programming.

The application also makes reference to “an online strategy.”:

Online is the perfect place to offer up stats plus extended commentary and analysis. Using social media is an ideal way to further engage listeners in debate and discussion. A strategic use of cutting edge technology will insure that AM850 remains contemporary, immediate and relevant.


The application comes in the wake of the decision from owner Cogeco to replace CKAC Sports with Radio Circulation in September 2011. That move, which came after it became clear there was resistance to a move to reactivate 690 and 940 for government-subsidized all-traffic stations in English and French, left Canada’s largest French-language market without a full-time sports talk station.

Instead, Cogeco’s news-talk station CHMP 98.5FM has adopted a hybrid format, with news and information during the day and sports talk during the evenings, including live broadcasts of Canadiens and Alouettes games. (Montreal Impact games are not broadcast on radio in French in Montreal).

Though that decision has been criticized, and CKAC’s market share is only a tenth of what it was as a sports station, CHMP’s ratings have soared, and it’s now the top-rated station in Montreal.

TTP’s application focuses on the void left by CKAC and the need for sports talk during the day.

The transmitter

The proposed frequency, 850AM, was previously used by Montreal’s CKVL (a station founded by Tietolman’s father, Jack Tietolman). That station changed frequency and was transformed into Info 690 in 1999, and 850 has been vacant here ever since.

But rather than bring the station back using its previous parameters, TTP has suggested a new setup with an improved signal. The transmitter would be located in a wooded area off Don Quichote Blvd. in Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile Perrot. There’s no transmitter site there, or towers, or anything. But it’s an ideal location for the coverage pattern they want to create.

Because it’s not a clear-channel station, it has to adjust its pattern to protect distant stations at night on the same frequency. The trickiest one is WEEI 850, a 50,000W station in Boston. This limits the proposed station’s pattern to the southeast. There’s also WKGE in Johnstown, Pa. (10kW), CJBC in Toronto (Première Chaîne at 860 kHz), WAXB in Ridgefield, Conn. (500W), as well as clear-channel stations in Denver and Alaska that are too far to be a real concern.

The station must also protect potential stations, patterns that are allocated but where no station is currently transmitting. (For the most part, these are patterns that used to be used by AM stations that no longer exist or that have changed frequency.) These include allocations in Timmins, Ont., Spaniard’s Bay, N.L., and Enola, Pa., on 850, plus adjacent-channel allocations in Drummondville (820), Brockville, Ont., (830), Rivière-du-Loup (840) and Quebec City (870).

The proposed station was originally going to be 50kW day and night, but that had to change after the Federal Communications Commission in the United States noticed that the station would interfere with WEEI. The technical application had been based on incorrect data, and the new data showed an unacceptable interference. TTP responded with the simplest solution, which is to reduce its nighttime power to 22kW, but it says it may try another solution if it comes up with something better later on.

The proposed signal also encroaches on the allocated pattern for the Spaniard’s Bay station. The community, just west of St. John’s, was served by AM station CHVO on 850 until 1990, but the allocation remains active. TTP proposed reducing the Spaniard’s Bay allocation’s contours slightly, arguing it would be better for the broadcasting system as a whole, and the advantages to the Montreal station (which would, you know, actually exist) would far outweigh the disadvantages to an AM allocation that might never be revived.

Taking all these protections into account, TTP decided the best move was to point the signal toward to the northeast (around 35 degrees). Putting the towers on Île Perrot maximizes the population inside the coverage area for a signal pointed in that direction.

The proposed transmitter setup is four towers 88.2 metres high spaced 98 metres apart, in a line pointing toward Montreal. The signal would be very directional, with the 0.5mV/m contours reaching almost to Quebec City 250km away but barely grazing towns like Hawkesbury, Cornwall and Hemingford which are only about 50km away. The signal would be excellent in the lower West Island (somewhat ironic since it’s a French station) but would cover Montreal and both shores pretty well.

Building a new transmitter site won’t be cheap. The application lists $1.5 million for transmitter setup costs, plus $63,000 in annual rent. The project could also be the subject of hearings if residents nearby object. Pancholy didn’t want to discuss details of potential hearings, but said that things were moving along well in terms of getting approvals necessary for the transmitter site.

TTP’s other two stations will use a transmission site in Kahnawake owned by Cogeco on rented land. This site was deemed inadequate technically for the 850 station.


The financing for the proposed station would, like with the others, be through a combination of personal financing from the partners and a bank loan. The application lists $5 million in total financing, which breaks down as $1 million from the owners and $4 million in debt from James Edward Capital.

But the station’s optimistic budget shows a quick profit turnaround. With $3.5 million in annual revenue, increasing to about $5 million by the end of the first seven-year licence term, the station expects to be making money by the fourth year of operation. Expenses would start at $3.6 million a year and rise to $4 million a year by Year 7.

Though TTP would argue its projections are conservative, its competitors would say they’re unrealistic.

Station revenues would come mostly through local advertising, since TTP doesn’t have any stations outside of Montreal (yet). It expects to come out of the gate with a respectable market share for an all-sports station:

“We conservatively project that by the end of the first year of operations AM will secure a 3.4% share of hours tuned for All Persons 12+ and a 6.0% share of hours tuned for males 25-54.”

Nevertheless, it expects its impact on other stations “will be negligible. The approximate 2-4 % average yearly increase of revenue coming into the market should largely offset the financial impact of minimally decreased share for these stations.”

TTP breaks down its ad revenue like this:

  1. 20% of our revenue will be derived from advertisers which do not currently advertise on existing radio services.
  2. 20% of our revenue would result from increased spending from advertisers which currently advertise on existing radio services (given this unique targeted opportunity).
  3. 15% of our revenue will come from our online/web site offerings.
  4. The remaining 45% of our projected revenues will come from existing radio services.

The application doesn’t list the number of jobs the station would create, and Pancholy didn’t want to come out with a number. Many administrative jobs would be shared among the stations.

The application makes reference to “a special intern program”, which suggests that unpaid interns might be a big part of the plan here. (Cheap and free labour is certainly a large part of the tight-budgeted TSN Radio).


The CRTC has called a hearing in Gatineau on March 20 to consider this application and others. Unless there are significant objections, the commission plans for these to be non-appearing items, meaning that the applicants won’t have to appear at the hearing and there will be no actual discussions.

The public is invited to file comments with the commission on this application until Feb. 15. They can do so here (choose Option 1 and then 7954689 Canada Inc.)

After the hearing, the commission will take a few weeks (or a few months, it’s really up to them) to make a decision. Once the station is approved, it will have two years to launch, though Pancholy said they would expect it to be up within a year of a positive decision.

What do you think? Does this business plan sound plausible? Are people more interested in talking about sports than listening to live matches? Can you have a sports talk radio station without any live sports? Leave your comments below.

Other coverage

The Journal de Montréal/Agence QMI has a story on this. Its headline says there will be a decision this summer, but no source is provided for that statement, and I doubt the commission has confided that detail to the reporter. It’s a good guess, but it’s a guess. The decision could be done by the end of April, or they might still be waiting for one in October. It’s really up to the commission.

Urbania explores the other solitude

Urbania's Anglo issue

Urbania’s Anglo issue. Apparently that is actually a jar of (pig’s) tongues, but no word on what language they spoke

One of my pet peeves living in Montreal is how so many people who should know better have little to no knowledge of what life is like on the other side of Quebec’s language divide.

To many francophones, Quebec anglos are no different from Torontonians or Albertans, a bunch of Harper supporters who have paintings of the Queen of England on their walls, who despise the French language and have no culture of their own, and who live here only because they can’t find a better job across a provincial or international border.

To many anglophones, Quebec francos are all hard-core separatists, card-carrying members of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, obsessed with language issues and with eliminating the English language from the province so they can impose their new world order which consists mainly of blackmailing the rest of Canada to send more money its way.

The media, sadly, doesn’t help this much. The French media don’t pay much attention to anglophone Quebec culture or local issues in their communities, while the English media pay so much attention to those things they don’t have the resources to explore Quebec’s francophone culture with more than a passing glance.

So it was with some excitement that I heard last month that Urbania, a hip and irreverent magazine that I’d heard about and had followed on Twitter for a while, was coming out with an issue focusing on anglophones.

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Astral issues layoffs at Boom FM stations

Boom FM's laid-off staff, according to the Courrier St-Hyacinthe (from left): John Perron, Daniel Charlebois, Patrice Lemieux, Marc Perrault

Boom FM’s laid-off staff, according to the Courrier St-Hyacinthe (from left): John Perron, Daniel Charlebois, Patrice Lemieux, Marc Perrault

The same week that Astral posted its best quarterly profit ever, the company has let go talent at its Boom FM stations in St. Hyacinthe (CFEI-FM 106.5) and St. Jean sur Richelieu (CFZZ-FM 104.1), causing worries that the stations would no longer be independent.

The Courier de Saint-Hyacinthe broke the news in Thursday’s edition (the story isn’t online yet), saying that announcers, ad salespeople and technical staff had been laid off at a meeting on Tuesday. It named John Perron (mornings) and Daniel Charlebois (afternoons) of CFEI, Patrick Lemieux (afternoons) of CFZZ and Marc Perreault, who appears on both stations, as victims of the cuts.

These details are confirmed by looking through the stations’ websites (though their show pages have been disabled from the site’s navigation menu as they still list the old hosts).

According to the updated schedules (so far just for weekdays), CFZZ’s François Bessette continues to do mornings now at both stations, each with a different cohost (Marie-Pier Boucher at CFEI and Véronique Dupont at CFZZ). Nathalie Lussier continues to do the daytime shows at both stations, and Annie Tardif is doing the afternoon show at both stations.

When asked about the layoffs, Astral spokesperson Olivier Racette offered the following, which I’ll let you parse for yourself:

Radio being a fast-evolving and extremely competitive industry, we have to constantly adapt to our listeners’ and clients’ tastes and needs. Given that context, broadcasters need to regularly make changes to their programming, which can sometimes lead to structural reorganizations. Today’s restructuration was implemented as part of our commitment to become always more competitive. It involved position reassignments and, unfortunately, a few job losses.

These changes will help us become even more a central part of the Montérégie community. As boom celebrates its 10th anniversary, we are proud to position ourselves as information leaders in the region with a team of 4 reporters keeping their community informed. Also, boom in Montérégie innovates as it will shortly inaugurate two radio and web-TV recording studios in its St-Hyacinthe and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, giving the artistic, business and political community a new platform to reach the Montérégie population.

We are also happy to bring to our communities a new morning show with both co-hosts each broadcasting live from St-Hyacinthe and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, giving the two cities a local programming under the same dynamic brand.

So at least the stations will still have some independent programming, and will still have journalists. But they’ll have to get by on a smaller staff.

According to the latest licence renewal for both stations, issued in 2007, they don’t have a minimum requirement for local programming per se, but both have a “commitment” to broadcast a minimum amount of local news and information.

For CFEI-FM in St. Hyacinthe:

The Commission notes the licensee’s commitment to devote 3 hours and 19 minutes, including 34 minutes on weekends, to local news. The licensee shall also devote 2 hours and 15 minutes to local weather, sports, culture and entertainment.

For CFZZ-FM in St. Jean:

The Commission notes the licensee’s commitment to devote 3 hours and 19 minutes, including 34 minutes on weekends, to local news. The licensee shall also devote 2 hours and 49 minutes to local weather, sports, culture and entertainment.

The licences of both stations come up for renewal in 2014.