New proposed country music radio station in Joliette could block VPR in Montreal

In 2014, Montreal-based fans of U.S. public radio got very concerned when they heard of an application from Concordia University’s student radio station CJLO for an FM retransmitter downtown on the same frequency as Vermont Public Radio.

WVPS 107.9, with a 48.8kW transmitter on top of Mount Mansfield, is the easiest way for Montrealers to listen to VPR (and the many NPR programs it carries). But since it’s an American station, its signal isn’t protected here, so a Canadian station could operate on the same frequency provided it doesn’t interfere with the U.S. station’s signal south of the border.

The CRTC denied CJLO’s application solely based on its own merits, finding there was not a compelling technical need for a new transmitter. Since then, VPR’s signal has continued unimpeded.

But with 107.9 being the last available frequency in greater Montreal, it was only a matter of time before someone tried again.

In December, the CRTC published a call for comments on the possibility of adding a new radio station in Joliette, about 50 kilometres north of Montreal.

Consistent with policy, the call comes after an application was filed seeking to create a new station. The application is by Arsenal Media, which announced in July it was seeking to build a new country music station in Joliette as a sister station to CJLM-FM (O103.5). The station would operate under Arsenal’s Hit Country brand, Quebec’s only multi-station francophone country music radio brand.

According to the CRTC’s call for comments, the station would operate at 107.9 MHz, with a maximum effective radiated power of 25,000 watts. While we don’t have details on how that signal is directed, it most likely would be strong enough to either cause interference to WVPS or wipe it out completely for people in greater Montreal, particularly the eastern parts. CJLM-FM can already be heard in eastern Montreal and the new country station would have a higher power output.

There are a few steps that would need to be taken before this happens, though. First, the CRTC will need to determine that the Joliette radio market can support a new commercial radio station. Comments from Arsenal, competing radio companies and the public will be taken into consideration by the CRTC in determining its decision.

If the CRTC agrees the market could accept another station, then, if other broadcasters express interest in setting up a radio station in Joliette, the commission will begin a competitive process to decide which one to grant a license to. (Other applicants can choose other frequencies if they want, but not many are technically feasible.)

If no other broadcasters express interest, then the CRTC would proceed with Arsenal’s application and judge it on its own merits.

The CRTC is accepting public comments on “the appropriateness of issuing a call for radio applications to serve Joliette” until Jan. 31. They can be filed online here.

Note that all information submitted becomes part of the public record. And this is a call for comments about whether to add a radio station in Joliette. Comments about how much you love NPR will fall on deaf ears because it’s not the CRTC’s job to protect American signals in Canada.

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