CRTC rejects request to reduce local programming quota for TSN Radio 690

A request from Bell Media to reduce the amount of local programming it is required to broadcast on TSN Radio 690 AM in Montreal has been rejected by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

In a decision published on Wednesday renewing the station’s licence until 2027, the CRTC found it already had enough flexibility in its current quota and allowing this change in its licence — going from 96 hours a week to 63 hours of local programming — would undermine the reason the quota was established in the first place.

Commercial AM radio stations in Canada generally don’t have requirements for local programming. As we saw with the (coincidental) format changes for TSN stations in other markets this week, you can run whatever you want on AM. Requirements for FM stations are a bit more strict — you have to have at least 42 hours a week of local programming (a third of regulated hours) to be able to solicit local advertising on a station.

But TSN 690 (CKGM) had special conditions of licence imposed in 2013 as part of a deal that allowed Bell to own four English-language stations in Montreal after it purchased Astral Media (which at the time owned CJAD, CHOM and Virgin Radio). Bell had originally proposed to turn TSN into a French-language station to get around that problem, but after seeing the public outrage that caused, they asked for an exemption to the policy during their second try. Bell promised to keep TSN as a sports radio station, and agreed to a CRTC request for a local programming quota roughly equal to what they were broadcasting at the time.

“The station’s condition of licence relating to local programming was an important factor in the approval of an exception to the common ownership policy,” the decision reads. “By authorizing at this time the requested amendment to this condition of licence, which was imposed in 2013 to mitigate the impact of the exception to the common ownership policy, the Commission would substantially reduce the mitigation measure put in place to justify such an exception. Therefore, the Commission is of the view that reducing CKGM’s local programming requirement is not appropriate.”

In its application, Bell had argued the quota caused problems during weeks when the Canadiens weren’t playing. They said this came to a head during the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, when it couldn’t broadcast every game because it would have violated the quota. Instead, the station ran some rerun programming in the evening.

That argument didn’t sway the commission. While it acknowledged that the quota would “bring challenges to CKGM” during certain times of the year, “the station can broadcast 30 hours of non-local programming per broadcast week out of a possible total of 126 hours. The Commission considers that this level allows for a significant amount of non-local content and provides sufficient flexibility for the station’s programming offering.”

The 30 hours a week comes out to about four and a half hours a day, more than enough to have a non-local game every night, a couple of NFL games on the weekend and a Blue Jays game or two.

The decision is not directly related to the cuts at other TSN stations this week — this application was originally filed in 2019 and published in November.

The CRTC did agree to another licence amendment proposed by TSN — eliminating the need for additional $245,000 in Canadian content contributions from 2013 to 2020. The commission determined that the money had been paid and the licence condition was no longer necessary.

10 thoughts on “CRTC rejects request to reduce local programming quota for TSN Radio 690

  1. Dilbert

    Moreover, as many of the out of market games happen later (west coast games), many of those hours don’t even fall within the original 126 regulated hours. So they could run an out of market game in prime time, and then run a second out of market game that runs out into unregulated time without issue.

    Bell’s whining was unmerited. For a rare occasion, the CRTC saw through their crap and sent them packing.

    My guess? Canadians games will move back to CJAD for 2021-2022 season. TSN Radio will be shut down.
    Bell will apply to move CJAD to 690, and drop 800 entirely, probably in time for the fall season.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Bell will apply to move CJAD to 690, and drop 800 entirely, probably in time for the fall season.

      CJAD has had the opportunity to apply for changes in frequency in the past but has declined, judging that the 800 brand and familiarity outweighs the marginal technical gain of moving to a clear channel.

      1. Anonymous

        Don’t be so sure about CJAD-AM not moving into the 690 spot.
        Things have changed. And a clear channel is not something Bell Media would let go easily.
        That is prime real estate on the AM Band.

        That clear channel can be heard over most of Quebec, Ontario, New England states, and New York state. That is a huge foot print.

        Besides, the way things appear right now, You probably can combine all the current CJAD, and CKGM local programming onto one station, and again make it look like a full time local Montreal station without adding anything.

  2. Anonymous

    For what it’s worth, Bell / TSN radio’s problem in regard to time is because they use up 10+ hours per week on network programming (Off The Cuff). They also seem to spend a lot of time on ESPN radio rather than with local programming.

    Effectively, they seem to have put the time constraint noose around their own necks, and are now complaining about the tight fit. Replacing the endless hours of ESPN radio with local content would solve a lot of the problem, that is for sure. Moving from 2 hours of network programming during the day to two hours of local call in or commentary might also solve the issue.

    With 30 hours of available “non-local” programming, they can run 4 plus hours per day. They could go 7 to midnight 6 days a week and only have to do one night a week of local programming (and that could easily be a best of programming night). It’s not hard unless corporately you have decided to make it difficult.

      1. Anonymous

        Apologies. I thought that show was run nationwide. Point still stands, any night without the habs playing seems to be best of followed by 3 hours of ESPN, and at least what is on the schedule for this week suggests 11 hours of ESPN on Saturday and Sunday, so an easy 30 hours. Magic I tell you, magic!

  3. Anonymous

    This is kind of good news.
    Considering what has been going on at Bell Media since Feb. 1st.

    But Bell, being Bell, will probably find another way to skin the cat on this one as well.

  4. Mario D.

    Be it today or tomorrow Bell will succeed. The country club (CRTC) will act as usual and give in when time will have gone by a bit. Montreal will become a Toronto affiliate and lose all it’ s english local content . It is beyond sad …

  5. Bruce

    combining both stations on 690 am makes complete sense…keep canadiens broadcast in house, where else would it go anyway, better clear channel, combine any sport broadcast for the evening if necessary, drop unneeded day time broadcast on TSN, most of the staff are freelance anyway….any conflict of broadcasting games just use Virgin or Chom, solves the problems…fills the evening void on CJAD…am sure CJAD can use freelance broadcasting on weekend evenings with sports…get some revenue if freelancers can bring their own advertising….


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