Last fall, I wrote for The Gazette that there were a lot of changes going on at local TV and radio stations. This year, 2013, is turning out to be the biggest one for local broadcasting in decades, with new stations, ownership changes and other big plans.
Because of that, a lot of people have been asking me what’s going on with some of them. My usual response is either “I don’t know” or recapping a blog post I published or something I posted on Twitter.
As we hit the halfway mark of the calendar year, I figured now is a good time to give you an update on what’s going on at each of these stations, one by one.
The one I’m asked about more than any other is the English-language news-talk station being launched by TTP Media. And it’s the one I have the least information about. In May, I spent some time trying to track down the partners for an update, but they were surprisingly untalkative. When I finally got through to managing partner Rajiv Pancholy, he said they would have an announcement in four to six weeks that would answer most of my questions. That would give a timeframe of early or middle of July.
So I still don’t know where their studios will be, who the on-air personalities will be, or what the station’s name or callsign will be.
The CRTC approved the station last November, a year after it approved its French-language news-talk station on the clear channel of 940 AM. So while the French station has to launch by this November (or ask for an extension), the English one has another year. Previously, the partners said their plans were to launch both stations simultaneously, but at the Bell-Astral CRTC hearing in May, Paul Tietolman backed away from that, saying the two wouldn’t necessarily have to launch together.
I suspect the group is finally coming to the realization that launching a radio station isn’t as simple as they thought. But I have little doubt that they still plan to launch.
UPDATE (July 3): As if on cue, Steve Kowch publishes a blog post in which he asks the public for comments on programming. You can send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. He doesn’t reveal any new details about the station’s launch.
CKGM 690 AM (TSN Radio)
Montreal’s sports-talk radio station is now more secure about its future than it has been since it launched in 2001. As part of the approval of the acquisition of Astral Media by TSN Radio’s parent company Bell, the CRTC is requiring that Bell keep CKGM running as an English all-sports radio station for at least seven years. Bell is being required to file for an amendment to the station’s licence to require that 90% of its programming be sports-related, and set a minimum of 96 hours a week of local programming.
Seven years is the standard length of a radio station licence term. So CKGM would need to come up for renewal in 2020 anyway, at which point they could discuss amendments, including potential removal of the format restriction. But since that restriction will become part of the licence, it doesn’t automatically expire and Bell would need to justify its removal in front of the commission.
On air, no announcements have been made, but we can expect some changes as a result of the Astral acquisition. The most obvious would be to move Alouettes and Impact games to TSN Radio (except where there are schedule conflicts), but even that hasn’t been confirmed yet. We might also see CJAD’s sports department integrated with TSN Radio and the latter simply providing sports updates to the former.
CKAC 730 (Radio Circulation)
Nothing’s really on the agenda for Montreal’s all-traffic station. It’s in the second year of a three-year contract with the Ministère de transports to provide all-day traffic information and some ministry advertising in exchange for $1.5 million a year. We’ll see next year if that contract, which was signed under the Liberal government, is renewed.
It’s business as usual at self-professed Montreal’s news-talk leader. It lost reporter Laura Casella to City TV (and is now hiring a new full-time reporter to replace her), and there’s always the possibility it might lose more talent to TTP’s station, but for now the schedule has remained unchanged.
We might see some changes from new ownership. Aside from sports synergies discussed above with TSN 690, will there be more cooperation between CJAD’s newsroom and CTV Montreal’s?
The TTP Media group just received a licence to operate a French all-sports station on this frequency. Don’t expect it for a while, though. They will be building a new tower in Ile Perrot to get this on the air, and the news-talk stations remain a priority.
Expect this French-language news-talk station to be the first TTP Media starts up, possibly this fall. But no word has come yet about it, and no staff have been announced other than Yves Guérard.
The station has until Nov. 21 to launch, unless it asks the CRTC for an extension.
CHRF 990 AM (Radio Fierté)
Approved along with the station at 940, Radio Fierté, the music and talk station aimed at Montreal’s LGBT community, is also expected to launch this fall. But like the TTP Media stations, this one has been very quiet on the news front.
I contacted Carmela Laurignano of owner Dufferin Communications, who said that there was no news to report but they should have some soon. One thing she did confirm, though, is that the station is looking at technical amendments to improve the signal. Among them is a possible shift in frequency to 980 AM, with a 50kW day and 10kW night signal.
Montreal radio historians will note that CKGM used to be on 980 before 1990, and move to 990 to improve its signal, which would make this move somewhat ironic.
Like the 940 station, Radio Fierté has to launch by Nov. 21 or seek an extension.
CJMS 1040 Saint-Constant
The Saint-Constant station (no relation to the previous CJMS) that bills itself as “100% Country” (though it has some programming that isn’t country) hasn’t changed its programming or staff much, as far as I can tell.
Canada’s First Multilingual Broadcaster had its 50th anniversary last fall, and continues going strong with mainly Italian programs during the day and other languages nights and weekends. It held its annual Superfantastico singing competition in April, but otherwise I haven’t heard any news.
CJWI 1410 (CPAM Radio Union)
More than three years after receiving permission to do so, Montreal’s Haitian radio station has finally switched frequency from 1610 to 1410AM, and increasing its power from 1,000 to 10,000 watts. The delay came partially because of the station’s lack of human and financial resources, and partially because of things like a firebombing at the station’s studio offices.
CHOU 1450 (Radio Moyen-Orient)
The middle-eastern ethnic station’s licence is up for renewal, and with only a relatively minor issue as far as licence compliance it should be renewed easily. The station has been posting its daily newscasts on its YouTube channel.
CJLV 1570 Laval
The Laval-based AM commercial music station doesn’t have much going for it these days, as a quick look at its website can attest to. Its owner, Radio Humsafar, applied to the CRTC to change it from a French station to an ethnic one, and strongly suggested that a denial would mean the end of the station.
In March 2012, the CRTC denied the application for a licence change, judging that the Montreal market already had an abundance of ethnic radio stations, and couldn’t support another. Since then, no word from them, but the station is still on the air (though mainly automated). Is a shutdown inevitable, or will some other way be tried to make it profitable?
UPDATE (July 5): The station’s application for licence renewal has been published. Owner Jasvir Sandhu paints a rosy picture:
Mr Sandhu’s vast experience and great dedication is now helping provide quality programming on Radio CJLV. The station is gradually improving its financial situation and developing a target market and is experiencing a steady growth and has the possibility of reaching its potential.
The application commits the station to producing 120 hours a week of local programming (this is mostly oldies music) and three hours a week of news.
The CRTC notes a case of apparent non-compliance in regards to Canadian content development contributions. Sandhu notes in his reply that (1) that was the responsibility of the previous owner, (2) the contributions were made but paperwork from the recipients did not come quickly, and (3) he’s given an equivalent amount to MusicAction to bring the station into compliance.
This frequency is vacant now that CJWI has moved to 1410, which means another station might want it. And, in fact, it looks like one already has plans. In responding to another application for a different station in February, Radio Humsafar (the same company that owns 1570) said it is applying to the CRTC for a new ethnic station at 1610AM, focused on the South Asian community. That application hasn’t been published by the CRTC, and would face the same problem of having to show that Montreal can handle another ethnic radio station.
CJRS 1650 (Radio Shalom)
Radio Shalom’s licence is up for renewal, and it will have to explain to the CRTC why it should be relieved of its promise to give $35,000 to talent development fund MusicAction during its first licence term.
CJLO 1690 (Concordia University)
Concordia’s student-run radio station is up for licence renewal, which it should get. In its renewal application, it mentioned a possible technical amendment to solve reception issues. This brings us back to the fall of 2011, in which CJLO asked students for more money to pursue a low-power FM retransmitter downtown. The CRTC hasn’t published anything on this subject. Given low enough power, frequencies can be made available, but it’s a pretty crowded band downtown.
CBME-FM 88.5 (CBC Radio One)
Not much to report from the home of Daybreak, Radio Noon, Homerun and All in a Weekend. They’re still on the air, and Mike Finnerty is still stirring stuff up.
CISM-FM 89.3 (Université de Montréal)
Haven’t heard anything big.
CKKI-FM 89.9 Kahnawake (KIC Country Montreal)
The country music station based in Kahnawake has rebranded, replacing Kahnawake with Montreal in an apparent attempt to attract more Montreal ad revenue and listeners. The station is active on Facebook, where it announced a “Hooters bikini contest” this weekend. The station’s low power relative to larger commercial stations means it still has reception problems outside of Kahnawake and neighbouring communities.
CKUT-FM 90.3 (McGill University)
CKUT just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and has put up an online time capsule to celebrate. Otherwise, business as usual.
CIRA-FM 91.3 (Radio Ville-Marie)
Haven’t heard anything here.
CKLX-FM 91.9 (Radio X)
Owner RNC Media failed in its bid to change its CRTC licence so that CKLX could change from a specialty jazz music station to a talk station. That means the status quo of having talk during the day and jazz overnights and on weekends (outside of the rock show on weekend afternoons). But it said it would try again when the station’s licence comes up for renewal, and that’s going to happen soon. Its current licence expires on Aug. 31.
CKBE-FM 92.5 (The Beat)
On the regulatory side, it is technically still waiting for a decision from the CRTC on an application published more than a year ago to boost the power from 44kW to 100kW. The application got sidetracked a bit after Dufferin Communications applied for a new station in Clarence-Rockland, Ont. (east of Ottawa) at 92.5 FM. The two applications were considered mutually exclusive by the commission until the two companies came to a deal where they agreed to accept interference from each other.
CBM-FM 93.5 (CBC Radio Two)
The CBC’s licence renewal means that advertising will be coming to the Radio Two network this fall. The new licence allowing advertising takes effect on Sept. 1.
CKMF-FM 94.3 (NRJ)
Other than ownership being transferred to Bell, there’s not much news coming out of the flagship station of Quebec’s largest private radio network. I mean, there’s Philippe Bond’s contract being extended. But that’s about it.
CBF-FM 95.1 (ICI Radio-Canada Première)
The biggest news on Radio-Canada’s talk network is the departure of René Homier-Roy, whose local morning show is being hosted by Marie-France Bazzo this fall. Of note is that the show’s last hour will be replaced in Sherbrooke by a new local morning show there.
CJFM-FM 95.9 (Virgin Radio 96)
The last big news out of Virgin was Mark Bergman going back on the air to host the afternoon drive show. The person he replaced, Andrea Collins, remains there doing mid-mornings, but has also been doing weather on CTV as a fill-in.
The struggling music station announced that Martin Cloutier and Peter MacLeod are joining the on-air team, Cloutier on the morning show (replacing Yan England, who’s moving on to other projects) and MacLeod in the afternoons. But I’m not sure if adding more comedians is going to pull CKOI out of single-digit ratings.
Not much news out of CHOM recently, for better or for worse. The schedule has remained pretty solid since the return of Terry DiMonte.
CHMP-FM 98.5 Longueuil
No big changes recently at the top-rated talk station in Quebec. Like The Beat, it’s waiting for a decision on a possible power upgrade. And it may have to fight with the 850 AM station for Alouettes and Impact broadcast rights (or even Canadiens rights after next season).
The station was reminded of its troubles with Jacques Fabi this month when the Quebec Press Council released a decision saying he failed in his duty as a moderator by allowing a caller to praise the Holocaust.
CJPX-FM 99.5 (Radio Classique)
No major news out of Montreal’s classical music station, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.
CJVD-FM 100.1 Vaudreuil
Yves Sauvé’s classic hits music station hasn’t done anything to get on my radar recently.
CKVL-FM 100.1 LaSalle
The community station (which is on the same frequency as the Vaudreuil one) is up for licence renewal, and will have to convince the CRTC it can keep its books in order.
CBFX-FM 100.7 (ICI Musique)
Like Radio Two, Esp… err, Ici Musique can start airing ads as of Sept. 1.
CIBL’s licence was renewed in December until 2017, which is a short-term renewal. It said this month that its general manager is leaving but that the station’s finances are in good shape.
CHAI-FM 101.9 Châteauguay
The station’s licence is up for renewal, but it’s in the rare case of being fully compliant with its licence, so it should expect another seven years.
CINQ-FM 102.3 (Radio Centre-Ville)
I haven’t heard much recently from the multilingual community station.
An application for a low-power Tamil radio station on this frequency was submitted to the CRTC and published in January, but subsequently withdrawn just before the hearing for reasons unknown, though there was opposition to the station from other ethnic broadcasters. A subsequent letter from applicant AGNI Communications asked that the application be reconsidered on an expedited basis without opening it up to further comments. We haven’t heard anything since.
CHAA-FM 103.3 Longueuil
The south shore station just marked its 25th anniversary. You can see 45 minutes of speeches and musical performances here if you have nothing better to do.
CKRK-FM 103.7 Kahnawake (K103)
The Kahnawake community station is still going strong, even though without Ted Bird there they haven’t been making any headlines recently.
CFZZ-FM 104.1 Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Boom FM)
After staff cuts at the Boom FM stations, the stations in Saint-Jean and Saint-Hyacinthe are now effectively one and the same, trying to cover both communities. Two of the laid-off workers are apparently hosting shows on a web radio station.
CKDG-FM 105.1 (Mike FM)
The English and ethnic station’s licence is up for renewal, and it has asked the CRTC to reduce the amount of ethnic programming it must air so it can put out more English programming. Tasso is still there doing the afternoon show, though James Foster has replaced Patrick Charles as his sidekick.
CFGL-FM 105.7 (Rythme FM)
Mitsou Gélinas joined the Cogeco hit station in November after previously working at Astral. Nothing else going on there that hit my radar.
The French-language ethnic station co-owned with CKDG is also asking the CRTC to reduce ethnic programming levels once its licence is up for renewal, but that application
hasn’t been published yet UPDATE (July 5): It has now. In February, the CRTC approved an increase in power for the station, though I don’t know if this has been implemented yet.
CFEI-FM 106.5 Saint-Hyacinthe (Boom FM)
See CFZZ 104.1.
CHSV-FM 106.7 Hudson/St-Lazare (The Jewel)
Dufferin Communications’s English-language easy-listening music station was approved in October, but like with Radio Fierté, there has been no announcement as far as talent, launch date or any other details. The small station will expect to hire a handful of people to staff high-traffic hours. It has until October 2014 to go on the air, unless it asks for an extension.
CITE-FM 107.3 (Rouge FM)
There’s lots happening at Radio-Canada television, or ICI Radio-Canada Télé or whatever they’re going to call it. But no changes have been announced for local programming.
In its licence renewal, the CBC committed to 14 hours a week of local programming in large markets, including Montreal. And that includes an hour a week of non-news programming. So this means an hour-long weekly non-news show (or two half-hour ones) in addition to two and a half hours a week more of local news. The most likely way to accomplish the latter would be a half-hour local newscast at noon, but we’ll see what the CBC comes up with.
In the meantime, the annual Absolutely Quebec series kicks off on July 13 with the broadcast of a special hour-long episode of Parc Avenue Tonight, taped in May.
Lots of news at TVA, but nothing specific to local programming in Montreal I’m aware of.
Montreal’s most-watched English newscast is now in high definition. Beyond that there aren’t any major projects on the horizon that I know about. As far as on-air personalities, we’re losing a couple temporarily: Catherine Sherriffs will soon be on maternity leave, being replaced by Paul Karwatsky (who will stop anchoring the noon show but keep anchoring at 6pm), and Caroline Van Vlaardingen is taking over for Tarah Schwartz on weekends while she’s on leave.
Global’s new morning show hasn’t done so great in its first ratings book. But it has a commitment from Shaw and will continue even if nobody watches. In May, the station named Elysia Bryan-Baynes as the late-night anchor, replacing Richard Dagenais, who moved to mornings.
Télé-Québec doesn’t have local programming.
CFTU (Canal Savoir)
The station continues to run shows put together by Concordia journalism students. That’s about all I’ve seen.
V is still recovering from the TQS bankruptcy, and that means low requirements for local programming, but it finally seems to be in good shape financially. The question is whether it can stay that way with a local news department.
Sam Norouzi’s ethnic TV station is still embroiled in a trademark fight with Radio-Canada, but he says he’s moving on with plans for the station’s launch. The transmitter and antenna are being installed, and the station is expected to soft-launch this summer, with a full launch in the fall. Norouzi says he’s finalizing contracts with producers, remodelling the studio space in Ahuntsic and buying new equipment.
City Montreal finally has some local programming on the air with Montreal Connected, airing Thursdays at 7pm. A weekly cultural series called Only in Montreal will also launch on July 13, airing Saturdays at 7pm.
But the flagship show at the station will be the morning show, hosted by Joanne Vrakas and Alexandre Despatie. It launches in August and will broadcast from a studio on the 8th floor of the Rogers building on McGill College Ave. In addition to the two hosts and “Live Eye” host Wilder Weir, the morning show will feature Elias Makos handling social media (on air and behind the scenes), former CJAD reporter Laura Casella doing news reporting, fresh face Elysha Enos as a production assistant, and former CBC Montreal late-night weather presenter Catherine Verdon-Diamond doing weather and traffic.
Station manager Bob Babinski says most of the staff should be in place by mid-July, and rehearsals for the morning show should start in August. In all, there should be 12-13 people hired on each side of the camera.