Ottawa Christian radio station applies for FM transmitter in Pointe-Claire

The West Island could get its first radio station since the days of CFOX.

Well, not exactly.

Christian Hit Radio, which owns Ottawa’s CHRI 99.1 FM, has applied to the CRTC for a small transmitter at Lakeside Heights Baptist Church in the heart of Pointe-Claire.

The 51-watt transmitter (the lowest power that can be used on a protected frequency) at 90.7 FM would rebroadcast CHRI’s programming entirely and have no original programming, operating similarly to existing retransmitters in Pembroke and Cornwall, Ont.

In its application, posted Tuesday by the commission, CHR mentions the recent sale of WYUL 94.7 to Christian broadcaster EMF, and says “although CHRI-FM welcomes the abundance and diversity of Christian content, in order to have this diversity we need to have at least more than one station broadcasting this content in a given region.”

Theoretical coverage area of a proposed retransmitter of CHRI-FM in Pointe-Claire

With an antenna on the cross above the church, the signal would cover much of Pointe-Claire, and parts of Dorval, Beaconsfield, Kirkland and Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

Its coverage beyond that would be severely limited by two factors: having to protect second-adjacent channel CKUT-FM 90.3 (which has given its approval for this project provided any interference issues are dealt with) and another lowish-power transmitter, CJPB-FM, on the same frequency less than 15 kilometres away in St-Laurent. CJPB-FM, a community radio station, was approved in 2016.

CHR says it considered other possibilities for a transmitter, including on AM and at 88.1 MHz, the channel formerly used by a tourist information station at Trudeau airport in Dorval.

“We have also looked at the possibility of AM transmission but it is very difficult to install an AM operation in Pointe-Claire and considering an AM operation from the south shore to reach this area is prohibitive,” CHR writes in the application. “We have also considered HD Radio but we consider that the technology is not mature and promoted enough in Canada.”

The 88.1 plan was seriously considered, but eventually ditched because they could not get approval from CBC, which has a Radio One station at 88.5.

The CRTC application is accepting comments for the next month. You can file comments at crtc.gc.ca, under Open Part 1 Applications.

7 thoughts on “Ottawa Christian radio station applies for FM transmitter in Pointe-Claire

  1. Peter L

    HDRadio is a great home for this programming but like many other technologies before it, the broadcasting industry seems to see anything that’s not exactly what they have been doing since 1920 (1945 or so for FM) as not worth their time. They did take up stereo (and SCA, which I think is a USA-only thing) on FM which is analog but they blew AM stereo, they blew AMAX, and probably some others I don’t know about.

    So as much as I like HDRadio, the company is right that HDRadio is “not mature” or “promoted enough” … though they could have left off “in Canada” … because it’s the same here below the Medicine Line.

    I love radio and wish it had a better future (or present) but why isn’t this group pushing their audio stream? Unless maybe they are targetting the over 60 set who don’t think the internet is real? (note: I will be 59 this year). Weird.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      HDRadio is a great home for this programming but like many other technologies before it, the broadcasting industry seems to see anything that’s not exactly what they have been doing since 1920 (1945 or so for FM) as not worth their time.

      I’m not sure that’s true. FM radio was pretty experimental until about the 1980s when enough people had receivers that it became more serious and took mainstream audiences away from AM. And major Canadian broadcasters adopted digital radio broadcasting in the late 1990s, spending a lot of money on transmitters and marketing them heavily until they realized that they just weren’t catching on.

      Many Canadian broadcasters large and small have started using HDRadio, supplementing their analog FM stations, using it either to provide a better-quality feed of sister AM stations or to offer some niche or alternative programming. The fact that a lot of cars come with HDRadio-compatible receivers helps a lot. But it’s still far from being adopted widely for various reasons.

      We could push for HDRadio or other digital terrestrial broadcasting to become the next standard, but there’s already a much better delivery method being used: cellular networks. More and more people have data in their cars and eventually most people are going to be on unlimited data plans with coverage just about wherever they go. Planning for online delivery of audio channels is going to make a lot more sense than investing many thousands of dollars into yet another niche radio transmitter device.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        A little revisionist history on DAB?

        The Canadian push to DAB was a failure not because it “just weren’t catching on” but rather because it was a very poor choice at the outset. Simple fact is that the Canadian TV and radio broadcast standards are very, very closely connected to the American standards, as they represent nearly ten times the consumers. The attempt to push DAB in Canada was basically the tail trying to wage the dog, and the dog was having nothing of it.

        That Canadian broadcasters wasted money on such a folly is their own fault at the end of the day.

        HD Radio has more hope of succeeding because it’s the US standard. It means that cars that are sold in North America are likely to have compatible radios in them, and since mobile listening is a big part of the radio industry, it’s already a step in the right direction. It should take less than a decade for almost all cars to have a compatible radio.

        Home receivers a bit more problematic as there really isn’t a huge market anymore, most home listeners are using existing equipment and are unlikely to want to spend to add or upgrade to HDRadio. The simple fact is that radio in the home is very much a legacy technology at this point, one that is declining rapidly in the face of streaming and satellite options. I have not had an actual radio receiver in my home for years, in moments of desperation I can use my phone to receive FM.

        HDRadio is an answer to a question that fewer and fewer people are asking. Radio is less and less relevant as better delivery methods of entertainment enter the field. Streaming and sat radio both represent hugely diverse options that OTA cannot match. it’s the same process happening to almost all legacy media sources. The real problem is that the people in radio haven’t realized they have shifted to being legacy media.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          The Canadian push to DAB was a failure not because it “just weren’t catching on” but rather because it was a very poor choice at the outset.

          These things are not mutually exclusive. In hindsight, HD Radio makes sense, but remember that at the time it was a little-used proprietary format, while DAB was a promising high-bandwidth option.

          That Canadian broadcasters wasted money on such a folly is their own fault at the end of the day.

          Sure. But you can’t accuse broadcasters of not trying or being cheap when they spent a bunch of money on something that didn’t work out.

          Home receivers a bit more problematic as there really isn’t a huge market anymore

          There is a market, but that market is changing. With the pandemic, and a lot of people working from home, the industry noted a surge in listening through home smart speakers, and marketed themselves accordingly.

          Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Don’t really understand what is the point of this. If you look at the coverage on the map, it’s really a neighbourhood. Anybody in a car would zip through that part of the island of Montreal within 10 minutes. If you’re really interested in that sort of programming, you would tune into WQLR-FM 94.7. Their signal covers a wide area. No need to station hop when in the car.

    What I do find interesting though is some of the points you make about this application.

    1 – I was not aware that the 88.1 FM spot has freed up. What I find a problem is with the attitude of the CBC concerning CBME-FM 88.5. They refuse to allow 88.1 FM to be used. So basically they want a two station buffer around their station. Won’t allow 88.1, and 88.3 is too close. So that means, they would want the same protection on the other side. 88.7 too close, and 88.9. So, what do they thing this is. They can park themselves on the entire 88.1 – 88.9 part of the FM Band in the Montreal area. Even though there is a short supply of FM spots available in this market. I can understand first adjacent interference, but second adjacent should be none of their business. The CBC already occupies 3 spots on the FM Band in this area, to supply CBC Radio1 (88.5, 104.7) , and CBC Music (93.5) . Thats two services, on three FM spots. They should have by now activated their HD Radio signal on 93.5 fm, and placed Radio 1 on HD 2. Thus no need to keep 104.7 fm to fill in a questionable hole in the Montreal area.

    2 – Two stations so close to each other on 90.7 fm is bad news. The analog interference on the edges of the signal are going to knock each other off. This is where HD Radio would make sense. A larger combined area of CJPB-FM & this new application on 90.7 fm would be a better idea. The station with HD Radio would be able to offer at least up to three program streams. And allow the FM Band to start to declutter, and decrease interference. We have plenty of these low power stations all over the place in the Montreal area.
    Here are two more low power clutter stations, CKVL-FM 101.1 fm, CILO-FM 102.9 fm. I think the CRTC should start to push the use of HD Radio as a solution. Especially in larger markets that find the space on the FM Band very limited.

    3 – When you combine all this clutter on the band, with people buying very cheap analog radios with terrible built in tuners, and antennas, the problem just gets worse. People need to understand that the build of your radio will affect your reception. Sangean radios are know for using better analog and HD Radio tuners. People really need to do some research before they buy a radio.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      There are some people who argue that second-adjacent frequencies should no longer be protected, and Canada’s industry department has analyzed it, but we’re apparently not there yet.

      As for HD Radio, stations are free to use it, but there are far fewer receivers than for analog FM, and so stations are not going to be very eager to give up an analog FM frequency to be on someone else’s HD subchannel.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        Not protecting seond adjacent frequencies wouldn’t free up much space in Canada because of the way channels have been distributed in the past. With a 600khz space common in most markets, most space on the FM band would never qualify. The 400khz spacing on one side would only be 200khz on the other side, which would moot it.

        It wouldn’t work unless there was a complete reassignment process to tighten up the distribution of airwaves, something the big players would not want to get involved in.

        Reply

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