The process to launch TTP Media’s talk radio stations in Montreal has taken so long that they’re now in the process of getting their licences renewed after the end of their initial seven-year term. And the publication of the application for the first of those stations suggests that the company may be moving away from its proposed news-talk format and toward health and wellness, which sounds like the kind of thing that has been tried on other AM stations in the market.
CFNV 940 AM, the French station, was first granted a licence by the CRTC in 2011, and after several extensions it finally went on the air in November 2016, with promises to begin regular talk programming soon. CFQR 600 AM, the English station, was first awarded a licence in 2012 (after the company’s first plan to use 690 was quashed by the CRTC and the frequency given to TSN Radio instead), so its licence is good until Aug. 31, 2019.
Last year, the commission asked stations like CFNV whose licenses expire this August to file applications for renewal. That application was published (though you had to dig to find it) on June 28. Information in that application, as well as on-air announcements being made on air on CFNV, describe the station as being about health and wellness rather than news-talk or political debate, as TTP Media had originally planned.
Here’s a minute-long promo ad soliciting advertisers and saying CFNV “composera progressivement un contenu parlé axé sur la santé et la vie des gens”:
And a 25-second promo that suggests programming will be interactive in some way:
“Chef des opérations” Nicolas Tétrault, who filed the application on behalf of TTP Media, which is a partnership between himself, Paul Tietolman and Rajiv Pancholy, describes the new format in a response to a CRTC inquiry:
Notre objectif est cependant d’offrir une programmation de type radio-parlée de qualité. Nous avons investi des sommes considérables en analyses de marche? et nous avons ainsi choisi un format unique base? sur la santé, le bien-être et la vie des gens. C’est ce type de programmation que nous offrirons aux auditeurs au cours des prochains mois.
Le mois-dernier, nous avons déjà commencé à annoncer en ondes le contenu radiophonique à venir:
CFNV diffusera des émissions de qualité qui seront animées par des experts et qui s’adresseront tant aux jeunes qu’aux moins jeunes. Nous rendrons nos émissions radio interactives et nous aborderons tous les sujets liés à la santé et au bien-être des citoyens.
Voici quelques exemples de sujets traités lors de nos futures émissions :
- La nutrition, son impact sur la vie et sur la santé des gens de tous les âges. Gérer sa diète en fonction de son mode de vie et de ses besoins.
- Le diabète, l’asthme, les problèmes cardio-vasculaires. Les différents traitements et comment gérer les cas lourds.
- Les troubles psychologiques et leur impact sur les relations humaines à la maison et au travail.
- La consommation de d’alcool et de drogues et narcotiques. Les traitements et méthodes de gestion du problème. Que faire en cas de problème.
- La gestion du stress et de la fatigue via les techniques de relaxation tels le yoga, le tai chi, le sport, les hobbys et autres remèdes / méthodes.
- Comment optimiser notre joie de vivre, notre sexualité, notre qualité de vie: restaurants, spectacles, sports, vacances.
Par ailleurs, Nous offrirons aux auditeurs la possibilité d’interagir et de participer en direct aux émissions. L’interaction se fera non seulement via les téléphones intelligents mais aussi via les nombreux réseaux sociaux. Les auditeurs pourront aussi écouter leurs émissions ou chroniques préférées via des Podcasts qu’ils pourront partager à leur famille et à leurs amis.
Nous avons reçu des appuis très forts envers notre nouveau format radio et nous sommes confiants que CFNV 940 offrira un produit unique et que ce sera un grand succès partout dans le Grand-Montréal.
Pancholy, who has indicated that he is the spokesperson for the company, did not respond to a request for comment.
When I talked to him last year, Pancholy said the stations would offer spoken word programming but didn’t commit to it being news-talk, and saying market conditions have forced them to change their plans without saying what those new plans are.
Besides being not what TTP Media promised when it made such big waves in 2011, the health and wellness format sounds a lot like what has been tried on low-budget AM radio stations in the area, like CJLV 1570 in Laval, which rebranded itself Radio Mieux-Être. Often what we get are local health experts who broker programming as more of an infomercial for their private practice than an informative show for listeners. I can’t say that CFNV will be similar, but it will have to work hard to offer something more substantive than that.
There’s no indication of whether CFNV plans to hire any journalists or offer newscasts, or any names offered for on-air hosts. I’ve yet to hear of a single person who has been hired as an employee for either station. There’s also no explanation for why it has taken so long to offer regular programming, beyond the technical delays in getting the transmission site working on both frequencies.
According to the CRTC’s website, the station appears to be in compliance with its licence conditions. Though it promised a 100% local news-talk format and is currently broadcasting an automated music playlist, that promise did not lead to a condition of licence enforcing it. Instead, the only condition of licence for either station is that “the licensee shall adhere to the conditions set out in Conditions of licence for commercial AM and FM radio stations, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-62, 11 February 2009.” Those standard conditions include things like not affiliating with the CBC without permission, or adhering to codes of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, but do not include minimum levels of local, news or talk programming. (The decisions for both stations do note their “commitment” to offer 100% local programming, but that has less force than a condition of licence. The renewal application renews that commitment of 126 hours of local programming a week “by the end of 2018”, representing the regulated period of 6am to midnight seven days a week.)
Nevertheless, the CRTC isn’t completely dismissing the long delays. The commission notes that it never got confirmation from ISED (formerly Industry Canada) that it is satisfied with the technical setup of the transmitter, which would normally be a condition before issuing a broadcasting certificate. Tétrault responds that the department plans to issue a Final Proof of Performance by the end of July for both stations.
It’s still unclear to me whether either station is operating legally. The CRTC sets deadlines for radio stations to launch once their licence is approved, usually two years from the day of the approval, with a possibility of two one-year extensions. Both TTP Media stations got even more time than that, but began testing only days before the deadline. The commission says a station must be operational (i.e. completed testing) by the deadline, but was vague when I asked whether these stations met that requirement.
The commission also asked about the possibility of a short-term licence renewal in light of how little time the station has been on the air so far. Tétrault said the company would accept such a short-term renewal “as a sign of good faith.”
As for CFQR 600, there’s no mention of a change in format for that station, and I haven’t been hearing any announcements on the air there, so it’s unclear if it too will switch to a health and wellness format. So we’ll see. Tétrault said the plan is still to launch both stations simultaneously.
But people who are desperately waiting for a station that’s CJAD-but-better should probably stop holding their breath.
The CRTC is accepting comments on CFNV’s licence renewal application until July 30. You can file your comments here. Note that all information provided, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.