TSN 690 is shuffling its lineup after two high-profile and somewhat mysterious departures of midday hosts.
In February, the station was forced to let go of Chris Nilan after the former Canadiens player refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, in violation of a Bell Media policy. Then on May 27, Tony Marinaro resigned from his job as host of The Montreal Forum, later saying it was to focus his attention on a new sports podcast.
To fill both those holes, TSN has taken two hard-working veteran supporting characters — Sean Campbell and Mitch Gallo — and put them in the spotlight as a duo. The show, called Campbell vs. Gallo, debuts Monday, June 20. It will run from 10am to 2pm, with Mitch Melnick’s afternoon show shifted an hour earlier to run 2-6.
It was 12 years ago that the group that would become TTP Media first came on the scene.
It was a little less than 10 years ago that the group was given its second licence by the CRTC, for an English-language station at 600 AM that it promised would be a news-talk station to rival CJAD.
It was five years ago this month that CFQR 600 went on the air from its restored transmission site in Kahnawake (formerly used by Cogeco for 940 News and Info 690).
But finally, on June 13, 2022, the station CJAD’s critics have been waiting for is on the air. Sort of.
Late last week, Mike Cohen at the Suburban broke the news that the station would be launching its first program, a weekday morning show hosted by Jim Connell, on Monday. The station also promised a website at the same time, and one is now active at cfqr600.com. The station also has a Facebook page.
From what’s published so far, here’s what we know about CFQR 600 (no relation to the former CFQR-FM, which is now The Beat 92.5):
The morning show, called “Mornings Matter”, will run 6-9am weekdays.
The station’s programming will feature “regular news updates” and music from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
… That’s about it. Though an on-air teaser promises “much more in the weeks ahead.”
Connell’s involvement is not surprising. A former on-air star of 940 News (and the various ways it was rebranded until it was shut down in 2010), he was part of TTP Media’s presentation to the CRTC a decade ago about their plans for a station. When they took forever to get it off the ground, he took a job at Global Montreal helping it launch its morning show. He stayed for three years, and it’s been seven years since then, just to give you an idea how long this has taken.
CFQR’s website, while active, is pretty bare-bones, with a listen link and a contact form. The station has a phone number, 514-470-0600, and promises apps to listen on iOS and Android devices. An address listed on the website is the address of co-owner Nicholas Tétreault’s real estate office on Highway 520 in St-Laurent.
Partner Rajiv Pancholy tells me there aren’t elaborate plans for Day 1.
The first show
“This is Day 1 of a grand experiment,” Connell said as he began Monday’s show. He didn’t do much else in terms of introducing himself or the station, instead talking about what’s going on in the news.
About 15 minutes later, the first talk break, which focused mainly on sports headlines:
The newscasts are running every half hour, with a shorter break between them. Otherwise it’s music, mainly from the 1980s, with artists like Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper and Gloria Estefan.
It’s Day 1, so this is far from the final product. But if this is what people were hoping for as an alternative to CJAD, it’s not there yet, unless what they really wanted was a low-budget throwback hits music station.
Besides Connell’s show, there isn’t much content on the station yet. I haven’t heard a single ad, and newscasts during the rest of the day come from The Canadian Press.
On the English side, CJAD remains the #1 station, but for the first time since the meter rating system came into place, it has dropped below 10,000 average minute listeners. This seems to be continuing a downward trend for CJAD over the past five years.
Is this because fewer people are interested in news-talk radio? Maybe not, because CBC’s audience has grown slightly on average over that time, and French station 98.5 FM is once again boasting that it’s not only the most popular station in Montreal but in Canada as well.
Among the other stations, not that much has changed. The Beat remains number 2, followed by CBC Radio One (though it has come down a bit from that spike in fall 2021), CHOM and then Virgin Radio. It’s been almost three years since Virgin blew up its morning show and installed Vinny and Shannon as the new hosts, and despite Bell-owned billboards all over the city with their faces on them, the station’s overall ratings remain below what they were before they were brought on board.
TSN 690, meanwhile, continues to hold its own despite the poor showing of the Canadiens this season and lukewarm interest in the city’s other sports teams. Notably, it still has an overall audience above French-language sports station 91.9 Sports, which makes some recent decisions even more of a head-scratcher.
Among other French stations, not much to note, except at Énergie, which must be happy with its best audience in years. Its 8.7% share among francophones was the highest since 2013.
In Quebec City, Radio-Canada takes top spot over the populist talk stations with a 22.9% share at ICI Première. It’s followed by CHOI Radio X (17%), FM93 (15.9%), Rythme 102,9 (7.6%), WKND 91,9 (7.5%) and Rouge 107,5 (6.4%). CBC Radio One trails the pack with a 0.3% share.
In Sherbrooke, Radio-Canada again leads the pack with a 21.4% share, followed by Rouge (15.9%), Énergie (14.2%), 107,7 (13.3%) and Rythme (7.8%).
In Trois-Rivières, again Radio-Canada leads with a 14.4% share, with Bell’s Rouge and Énergie neck and neck for second place and Rythme in third.
In Ottawa-Gatineau, among francophones, Radio-Canada is well ahead with a 21% share, followed by Rouge, Wow, talk station 104,7, Énergie and ICI Musique.