Every now and then people ask me about the Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy group, which has licenses for three high-power AM talk radio stations in Montreal, the first one granted in 2011, but hasn’t made any announcements in more than a year.
Rumours abounded that something was wrong. That the group had bitten off more than it could chew. That there was a problem with the three-way partnership and that one or more partners would be bought out by the others. It’s been a year since I posted a story because people were wondering what happened to them.
Now we have some more news. On Sept. 19, the CRTC approved applications from the group for extensions on the deadlines to launch its two news-talk stations, a French one at 940 AM and an English one at 600 AM, for another year.
Because the group had already asked for an extension on the 940 station last year, this extension is the last one the commission will give. If the station does not launch by Nov. 21, 2015, its license becomes void.
The English station, which was first approved in 2012, gets an extension until Nov. 9, 2015. That extension could be extended another year if needed, consistent with CRTC precedent on these matters.
The group also has a license for a French-language sports talk station at 850 AM. That licence was granted in June 2013, so they have until June 2015 to launch it or ask for a first extension.
In the letter asking for the extension for the two stations, partner Nicolas Tétrault starts off by making a reference to Quebec’s economy and politics, and more curiously saying that “we have solved our internal shareholder problems” without detailing what they are.
Tétrault declined to comment about the stations’ current situation or the request for an extension. Rajiv Pancholy, who was the managing partner of the group, did not respond to a request for comment. He has relocated to India, and become the CEO of a company called OnMobile.
But Paul Tietolman, the one partner in the group that did talk to me, said the three remain partners in the venture and intend to respect the CRTC’s rules that require the approval of the commission before any change in ownership that would alter the effective control of the licensees.
Tietolman did, however, hint that he’s working on projects of his own, apart from Tétrault and Pancholy. He didn’t elaborate.
Almost ready to go
Tétrault writes in his letter that the stations should be on the air within six to nine months, and asked for 12-month extensions to give some margin for error.
He writes that they are in the process of finalizing the acquisition of equipment and renovations for their office and studios in downtown Montreal. I understand that the space is in St-Henri near the Atwater Market, which is close enough to downtown while still being industrial enough to have cheap rent.
TTP Media has a lease with Cogeco for the use of the former CFCF/CIQC/CINW/CINF/etc. site in Kahnawake. And the 940 signal is ready to go from that site. But Tietolman expressed dissatisfaction with the English signal on 600, even though it’s the former frequency of CIQC (and using the same transmission site). He suggested technical changes might be in the future to rectify that.
The group has a few options on the table. It could look for a new transmitter site, such as the one it plans to build in Ile Perrot for the 850 AM station. It could make changes to the Cogeco site to make the pattern different. Or it could seek a second transmitter, possibly a low-power AM or FM transmitter in the West Island that could augment its signal there. (There aren’t any obvious frequencies for an FM transmitter in the West Island, unless they want to do it on 107.9 and piss off more NPR listeners).
Depending on what they decide to do, it could conceivably delay the launch of the English station.
All we know for sure is that now they have a hard deadline. If the 940 station doesn’t launch by November 2015, it won’t launch ever. And they’ll have to reapply from scratch, possibly battling again against other groups that wanted a full-power AM signal on a clear-channel frequency.
Nothing shocking here, except perhaps that the players apparently all have other things they are doing that keep them from the radio station side of things.
It makes me think that they were all trying to find new partners or to find buyer for the stations, and discovered that the demand just isn’t there at any meaningful level. So now they are forced to either put the stations on the air, or lose the licenses and any value that is in them.
I just don’t think that they had any real intention of going to air at all to start with, just to obtain the very limited licenses with the hopes of selling them on to someone more serious.
The CRTC doesn’t allow that kind of license trafficking, and would likely not have approved a change of ownership if that was the case. So such a gamble makes little sense in context, in addition to there being no evidence of it whatsoever. If anything, they were looking to buy stations, not sell them.
The CRTC may not allow it, but honestly, what do you think would have happened if they had ended up owning CJAD or TSN radio in the whole Astral fiasco?
Moreover, read carefully” “intend to respect the CRTC’s rules that require the approval of the commission before any change in ownership that would alter the effective control of the licensees.”. That is basically saying that we will file when we need to change it. That could be bringing in new partners, that could be in two existing partners buying out the third, etc. It seems at this point that Tetrault may be the only one actually on the project. So while the CRTC may not let them just sell on their licenses, it’s quite another matter if two new partners come in, and then a year from now Tetrault sells out.
At this point, the group seems to have nothing more to show the media than the press releases. No half built studios, no transmitters set up, nothing. It’s not like they are going to be able to do much physical work on setting up transmitters starting in the next few weeks, they will be on hold again until spring at the earliest.
They would have owned CJAD or TSN.
Yes. Some change in ownership seems a distinct possibility. But I think an outright sale would be unlikely.
Both those transactions would require CRTC approval. And if the stations remain unlaunched, it would look hard at whether this sale puts the integrity of the licensing process into doubt.
I’m unaware of TTP Media ever having issued a press release. They don’t even have a website.
I understand they’re working on the studios, and the transmitters are already set up. You can see the towers if you drive along Highway 138.
“They would have owned CJAD or TSN.”
yes, and would they have still had the desire to open other stations? That we may never know.
“And if the stations remain unlaunched, it would look hard at whether this sale puts the integrity of the licensing process into doubt.”
My thought process was that they bring in new partners who push the stations along to being on the air, and then the final original partner sells out. The CRTC could still look down on it, but honestly, they really cannot obligate someone to remain an owner of something just on the concept of not liking the process.
“I’m unaware of TTP Media ever having issued a press release. ”
Sorry, let me us the correct term “information gleaned from public filings and comments made by the principals”.
“You can see the towers if you drive along Highway 138.”
Since those were already existing, it doesn’t say much. I could point to the Mont Royal tower and say “I could have an antenna there” and it would mean about as much. It’s not like they did any work to make those towers
Yes, but maybe not as many. It’s clear that they held off on planning their unlaunched stations because of the Bell/Astral deal, and because acquiring one of those stations would have changed their plans dramatically. But they still would have wanted a French-language station, and probably a French-language sports station.
Do hope that the English 600 AM station goes on air soon. CJAD needs competition. Its only competitors are stations from south of the border and Ontario.
I don’t see why they couldn’t get a pattern adjustment to the west for AM 600. The station nearest to Montreal on 600 is CKAT North Bay, and that signal does not come close to reaching Ottawa during the day and barely does at night, if at all. They should be able to get a daytime pattern that would reach to the west all the way to Ottawa. Stations lower on the band tend to be further apart (in terms of dial space) for some reason. Analogue tuners would have no problem at all separating them from CFRA in either city.
I’ve noticed there have not been any application for call letters for any of the 3 stations.
Yes I’ve noticed that too about the call letters. How long would that take to approve.
This post does seem to confirm ownership issues and one of them being out. Pancholy would seem to be the odd man out being a partner on paper only.
As for studio space, what’s in St.Henri, maybe those new buildings along St.Ambroise or along the canal somewhere or tthat Notre Dame st. area close to Atwater.
Any indication of staff poaching or even names bandied about.? Are the previously stated station managers ready to move to get things going?
Call letters don’t need to be approved. You just ask Industry Canada for one that isn’t being used.
No it doesn’t. Nobody is out of this partnership.
Well it wouldn’t be like me to sit this out so let me respond to Media Man, Robert Haslewood and Dilbert.
But first, Mimo I’m not ignoring you, I’m not an engineer so I can’t comment about frequencies and patterns. As for Call Letters … when the time is right, we’ll release the station Call Letters.
Media Man. I have a list of 200 names of people who want to work at the English talk radio station. Since the CRTC awarded TTP Media the 600 AM frequency, I have invited and welcomed applications and CVs to email@example.com. However, I have not conducted any interviews or offered anyone a job. There are no jobs to offer until we have a confirmed launch date. For those who have applied, be assured when the time is right, I will reach out to everyone to discuss their applications. And it goes without saying that all communications are confidential. As for me …. I have always believed in the project and am available when TTP Media makes the call.
Robert … as we told the CRTC, this is about choice. Montrealers deserve another choice on where they get their news and where they can talk about it on the radio. I am confident that my experience in Montreal will help create the type of radio the English community wants and will support.
Dilbert, I can tell you with all honesty that everyone working on this project is committed to the cause. We will launch a new radio station (not just in English, but in French too) before November 2015.
Thanks for the reply Steve, it’s great to read some more information. I’m looking forward to the launch and wish everyone involved the best. It’s great that there are still some who believe in trying to put a good product on the AM dial. And to the person asking if AM is still relevant. The band is not silent, and there are lot of AMs out there billing well and drawing an audience. It it wasn’t the band would be completely silent. Granted AM no longer has the lion’s share of the audience, but markets with low AM listenership have lousy AM stations. People will go where the programming is.
Steve, glad to see you post. You have added more to the discussion than anyone.
Perhaps this is the problem. TTP seems to be having a problem with communications, which is kind of scary when you consider them as a communications company. Why is everything left up to guess work? Wouldn’t a website be a good idea, maybe with images of the studios being built or the technicians hanging from the towers as they work to bring the stations up? The total absence of information makes it pretty easy to speculate that nothing is really going on – except perhaps filing of documents to delay launching with the CRTC.
More updates would be appreciated, this may be the biggest thing to happen in Montreal radio in a very long time.
The company has consciously decided to keep quiet about its plans until it’s closer to launch. Maybe they shouldn’t, but that’s the rationale. It doesn’t have to do anything publicly right now, so why bother?
…and 8 months later, it’s still proverbial radio silence with only about 6 months to deadline.
Mark my words, you can stick a fork in this one, it’s done.
Is AM radio still relevant ?
So Steve, have you heard any updates now being seven months since you posted this and have you more info on where the studio is ?
And anything come from the CRTC about the 850 extension as I think we can safely assume that they will ask for one..
No, though such a request would likely come within the next few weeks.
Is there an area on CRTC website where we can see of any launch date extensions and reasons why?
Extensions are handled as administrative decisions (without a public comment period). Those decisions are posted here, but there’s no way to, say, search those decisions by license.
one thing i can say every day last week there were 4-5 cars at the transmitter every afternoon
That’s good news. That means something is happening.
I too would like to know if you still see the cars. Would really like for 600 AM to launch
@Jay, are you still seeing those 4-5 cars every day?
AM 850 has until June 2015 to launch, I’m not sure what the official date was, but if it is until the very end of June, we have today and tomorrow. I expect we’ll hear something about it then. Steve Kowch’s blog has the following info on it regarding 600 and 940
“We were successful in winning the French language license for 940 AM and the English language license for the heritage 600 AM frequency in Montreal. French talk station expected to be on air by Fall 2015. The English talk radio station is planned for 2016.”
This is very different from what was on there before, and a 2016 date is obviously past the deadline. There is no mention of AM 850 According to Canadian Radio News they can still file for one more extension if they need to. If they are indeed testing by November, does that count as being on the air?
The English station can request another extension. But the French station needs to be operating by November. The 850 station hadn’t requested any extensions since it was approved in 2013.
Interesting developments here. Are you aware of any requested extensions to the CRTC for either 600 for this November or for 850 which should be on now.
Do you think Mr.Kowch has been updated by the owners.
The CRTC says it has received a request for an extension for the 850 station, and it studying it.
Thank you Steve, your 2 replies have answered my questions. To make sure I have this all right, 940 has to be on by November, 600 CAN file for another extension and 850 has just applied for their first extension?
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