Martz Communications sells 94.7 Hits FM, Wild Country 96.5 to religious educational broadcaster

If you’re a Montrealer who likes to listen to 94.7 Hits FM to get music unencumbered by CRTC regulations, I have some bad news for you.

And if you’re a Quebecer who tunes in to the weak 96.5 FM because there aren’t better country music options on the radio here, I also have some bad news for you.

Both WYUL 94.7 in Chateaugay, N.Y., and WVNV 96.5 in Malone, N.Y., have been sold to the Educational Media Foundation, which owns hundreds of stations in all 50 states under the K-Love and Air1 brands, both of which broadcast Christian music.

The purchase price is $2.5 million. The deal includes the licenses and transmitter facilities but not much else. Martz Communications retains the logos, branding, studio equipment and everything having to do with employees.

“EMF approached me over a year ago and ultimately made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Martz owner Tim Martz tells me. “Given COVID-19’s impact on the economy and advertising revenues, and the current difficult business climate, it became clear that their offer made sense considering the alternatives, even more so since I recently turned 70 years of age.”

The stations remain operational for now and at least the next three months, Martz says.

An application for transfer of ownership was published Monday by the Federal Communications Commission. It was first reported by All Access and Radio Insight. The deal would close within 10 days of FCC approval, according to the agreement filed with the commission.

EMF intends to convert both stations to non-profit educational stations. It writes to the FCC:

EMF’s educational goal is to educate its audience with respect to both teachings of the Bible, as well as broader topics of contemporary significance ranging from family issues, money management, philosophical problems and opportunities facing children and young adults, and information concerning the scope and availability of other non-profit services in the community.

EMF will offer a wide variety of education programming designed to meet the needs and interests of resident within the local community of license, including education programs on current events, and programs examining economic, social and religious issues. EMF will also feature inspirational music, news and other cultural programming. In furtherance of EMF’s educational purpose, EMF’s educational programming will include features that explore family issues, values and understanding and other programming that is designed to assist families and individuals manage their personal finances.

“As you can imagine, the decision to sell was very difficult on a number of levels,” Martz says. “Since I grew up in Montreal, the stations have a special meaning for me. Both Hits and Wild Country have been serving listeners in Quebec and Ontario for some 20 years and there are just a lot of fond memories of employees, listeners and even competitors from over the years.”

As a result of the sale, Martz’s office in Pointe-Claire, which does Montreal ad sales for Hits FM, “will likely close at the end of September,” Martz says, resulting in six full-time employees losing their jobs, including on-air host Marty Lamarre and Montreal sales boss Tim Thompson.

Another office in Cornwall, Ont., will remain to serve its other border-crossing stations, WSNN (B99.3) in Potsdam, N.Y., and WICY, which has a transmitter at 103.5 in Akwesasne.

“I’d like to thank our listeners, the many hundreds of thousands of them and our valued advertising clients for their support today and over the years,” Martz says. “Last week I met with the entire staff as a group and individually to share my thoughts. I want to thank our wonderful staff — Tim, Marty, Joel, Rene, Warren and Alexandra — for their many years of hard work, dedication and friendship.”

I’ve reached out to EMF and will update if I hear back.

16 thoughts on “Martz Communications sells 94.7 Hits FM, Wild Country 96.5 to religious educational broadcaster

  1. Al R

    As we witness yet more avenues of music programming diversification go by the wayside for Canadian residents, I must again bring up the nasty topic of the CRTC’s involvement in same. In the US, the FCC regulates frequency and power radiation assignments (in harmony with Canada). That’s about it, aside from the George Carlin 7 dirty words. Ownership is free to program whatever it sees fit in the local market(s) it serves. Those decisions will live or die with generated numbers of listeners. If people want 24/7 chicken scratch, it flies, regardless of where the chicken may have been hatched. Contrast that to Canada and the imposed content requirements of the federal government where, depending on the genre, CanCon can range anywhere from 18% to 35%. Add to that the hit/non-hit ratio dictates for Quebec and Ottawa area stations and one begins to question if we are actually living in a “free” society.

    CanCon regulations were introduced around 1970 to bolster a then fledgling Canadian music industry. At the time, Gordon Lightfoot and Anne Murray were about the only artists who really mattered here. Paul Anka had long moved away, and the Guess Who & the Stampeders were just coming on. FM wasn’t yet a major factor in radio markets when it came to anything aside from classical, and the requirement on AM was set at 20%. Fast forward 50+ years. The industry has grown substantially. It is now a highly respected global entity. So I ask…when is it time to kick the kid out of the house and let it make its own way? According to the Federal G-force, likely never. They’re now going after content providers on the internet. Really? If this continues, I await the day when I get pulled over on the road by a content inspector intent on checking my iPod. Its content is a whole lot more palatable than anything I might find over the air. Pity the Canadian public is deprived of its diversity

    Reply
      1. Al R

        Precisely the point of my comment ^^. Loads of unhappy Canadians who can’t access the type of programming those border stations were offering prior to the sale. Nowhere to run.

        Reply
        1. Rock On

          There’s always satellite radio, but that involves another cost and, most likely soon, paid subscriptions across the board.
          Christian music on 94.7. JFC….

          Reply
    1. Richard G

      Well Al, you’re probably safe with an iPod but not streaming or satellite services . The CRTC and it’s Liberal masters will soon “fix” that .

      Reply
    2. Pirate Montrealer

      Extremely nice history / summary AI R.
      I many times felt patriotic that I was supporting the Canadian music industry, but more often than not I did everything possible to escape the Canadian music Gulag by listening to crackly U.S. stations, buying U.S. satellite dishes, tuning into U.S. Internet radio, moving to the U.S. sporadically, and finally purchasing Sirius XM satellite radio. I’m sorry Anne Murray, I just couldn’t take it anymore.
      p.s. 94.7, was a possible contender, but never ever switched from mono to stereo, what’s up with that?

      Reply
  2. Brett

    One of the main reasons I chose Hits FM over Virgin was type of music they played. Yes similar in genre but Hits FM has the Hip Hop mixed in with the pop that Virgin Plays.

    No station in Montreal has hip hop in their top 40 mix each hour like Hits FM. Now if people who like pop and hip hop they don’t have a place to listen. Forces them to listen to an online station. They now have to also wait for CKUT 90.3FM or CJLO 1690am to air a hip hop show to really hear that on local radio. Wonder if Virgin will pick up on that and take the Hits FM listeners who may flock online for music they will lose. Sure Virgin fills the void for top 40 but now all of Hits FM’s music selection makes it to Virgin.

    Reply
  3. Carter d

    EMF is a notorious company in the last decade or so gobbling up legendary stations in the US that such as WAAF in Boston, WPLJ New York, WLUP Chicago, etc and replacing them with 100% outsourced non local content from Californiathat would serve on national basis. I understand the ecomonic reasons why but at least they could do something to make it feel local

    Reply
    1. Joseph Dugan

      When EMF made its intention to buy WPLJ from Cumulus on February 13, 2019, many longtime PLJ listeners, myself included, were shell-shocked and crest fallen when they got the news soon after. The transaction was conducted like it was a fire sale. No local news, traffic, or weather respects, even a deliberately blatant disregard to going silent for two minutes on September 11 at 8:46 AM. I hope somebody buys out WPLJ from EMF soon. It’s high time to DEFUND EDUCATIONAL MEDIA FOUNDATION!!!!!

      Reply
  4. Dilbert

    Of course, this would be a good time for the CRTC to show up and complain to the FCC about these stations being “border blasters” and demand changes to their broadcast patterns as they are clearly aiming for the Canadian market. I cannot see these stations being very popular in Montreal if they are anglo bible thumpers.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Now, that’s a surprise turn of events.

    I thought AIr 1 was available via WGLY-FM 91.5-HD2 in the Plattsburgh / Burlington area.
    Unless things have changed.

    As for the Montreal area loosing WIld Country WVNV-FM 96.5 , the options for Country music are now limited to CKKI-FM 88.9, and CHAA-FM 103.3-HD2.

    As for the loss of WYUL-FM 95.7 Hits FM format, this is a major loss. And I’m sure CJFM-FM 95.9 and CKBE-FM 92.5 are celebrating that the competition pressure has just dropped.

    We’ll see how the other stations in the Burlington / Plattsburgh area react to the changes, and if any other stations change their formats to make up the for the changes.

    Reply
  6. Audra Diabo

    If 94.7 needs to change can it be like 101.5 the fox? We need another classic rock station besides CHOM FM?

    Reply
    1. Al R

      Audra..it doesn’t “need” to change. Any move in programming will be at the whim of ownership. In this case, the new ticket holders want to convert you to their idea of what’s righteous, and it certainly won’t be classic rock.

      Reply
  7. Pingback: 94.7 Hits FM goes dark | Fagstein

  8. Luc Brosseau

    I Would like to remember that people able to receive HD radio can tune to CHAA 103 3 HD2 to listen some pretty good country music. They dont have much power and have a directional antenna but the signal is clear on the southshore of montreal and in many area of montreal.

    Reply

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