Rogers blames CRTC bureaucracy for decision to shut down CityNews Ottawa

This week, the CRTC published a decision officially confirming that Rogers Media Inc. has surrendered the broadcasting licence of CIWW 1310 AM in Ottawa, the city’s oldest radio station.

The letter from Rogers requesting the revocation of its licence is dated Oct. 26, the same day the company announced the shutdown of CityNews Ottawa, which at the time was being simulcast on both CIWW 1310 and CJET-FM 101.1 in nearby Smiths Falls.

While normally these letters are short and to the point, Rogers took the opportunity to lay out the reasonings for its decision, and complaining that the CRTC’s processes played a major role in it.

Saying the radio broadcasting industry is “subject to stringent and outdated regulations that offer little to no flexibility for allowing broadcasters to pivot and adjust accordingly to their new competitive reality,” Rogers explained that the issue was with its decision in 2020 to simulcast programming on both AM and FM stations without prior CRTC approval.

While the CRTC doesn’t regulate content or formats on radio stations generally, the regulations require approval before an FM station can switch to or from a specialty format, and spoken word programming, when it represents more than 50% of programming on a station, is considered a specialty format. (This rule does not apply to AM stations like CIWW.)

Before it became a CityNews station, 101.1 was a country music station (as CKBY-FM), so it would have needed approval to switch to a talk format.

What’s more, the CRTC also requires approval before a transmitter can be converted from a station to a retransmitter of another station.

“Rogers received a request for information from the Commission in February 2023 regarding the simulcast of the news/talk programming originating from CIWW on CJET-FM (101.1). In subsequent correspondence between the Commission and Rogers, Commission staff shared its view that both stations were in apparent non- compliance with the Radio Regulations, 1986 (Regulations),” Rogers writes in its letter.

Rogers says it “did not believe that its stations were in non-compliance” (it doesn’t explain why it felt this way), but it filed an application to change the licence of CJET-FM 101.1 to allow the simulcast, at least until the current licence expires in 2026.

Unfortunately for Rogers, the CRTC announced on Aug. 22 a two-year moratorium on new applications related to radio, “unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated that would justify, with supporting evidence when filing the request, the need to process them.”

“After several rounds of correspondence and performance evaluation analyses of both CJET-FM and CIWW,” Rogers writes, it chose to withdraw the application the next day. “The risk of non-compliance and the operational burden of the Commission’s review of the stations’ performance and financial situation coupled with the continued decline in revenues since the launch of the simulcast led us to make this decision much earlier than we were planning and were contemplating in our Application.”

“Unfortunately, the regulatory framework did not provide us with the tools to experiment and innovate without facing an untenable level of scrutiny and evaluation that we can ill afford given the competitive environment in which we are operating,” the letter continues. “For these reasons, we urge the Commission to prioritize the review of the Regulations impacting AM radio including the provisions related to simulcasting and the operation of a specialty format. These rules must be relaxed to ensure a viable path forward for AM news content on the FM band, which represents the only way to maintain audiences to local terrestrial radio and support our ability to deliver local news.”

In urging the CRTC to review its rules on AM radio, Rogers said “we remain concerned that, without a modernized and flexible approach, the future of other AM stations is at risk.”

Rogers owns eight other AM radio stations in Canada:

  • CFTR CityNews 680 in Toronto
  • CKGL CityNews 570 in Kitchener, Ont.
  • CFFR CityNews 660 in Calgary
  • CKWX CityNews 1130 in Vancouver
  • CJCL Sportsnet 590 in Toronto
  • CFAC Sportsnet 960 in Calgary
  • CISL Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver
  • CKAT 600 Country in North Bay, Ont.

I understand Rogers’ frustration with the CRTC’s rules, and in particular the commission’s baffling decision to just not do its job in terms of radio for a couple of years, but Rogers also must have been aware of the rules. And the implication that this is a simple bureaucratic matter holding up progress is not how I would describe it. Rogers took a radio station off the air for this to happen, and decided it should have the same content on two frequencies in a market that doesn’t have a lot of spare radio spectrum. Maybe that’s what’s best for the market, but it should at least have required approval.

Unfortunately, with everything going on, the result is the shutdown of another news radio station in Canada, and one more AM signal in the country going dark.

If you have a good idea for a radio station, a 50kW signal on 1310 AM in Ottawa is now available. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait two years before you can apply for it.

More call letter switching fun

Rogers also confirmed in its letter it is once again switching call letters for its FM stations in Smiths Falls. CKBY-FM, which belonged to Country 101 and was then switched to the Country 92.3 station, will go back to Country 101, while CJET-FM, which was Jack FM on 92.3 and then CityNews 101.1, is going back to 92.3. Rogers told the CRTC it would adopt a country music format separate from 101.1, but on Nov. 1 it switched to “Santa Radio Canada“, which has a very Jack-like branding to it, suggesting a move back to Jack FM might be in the cards in the new year.

31 thoughts on “Rogers blames CRTC bureaucracy for decision to shut down CityNews Ottawa

  1. Daniel Shields

    1310 did not go off the air because they had too many listeners and were making too much money.

    The station was, at best, weak.

    Dan Shields, Ottawa.

  2. Richard G

    Just think how much additional support the Canadian media landscape could reap if the CRTC was decommissioned and the funds spread around. Even the Gazette might get some

      1. Anonymous

        You are correct. That’s not how the economy works.
        But, it certainly works much better when we get meddling government out of the way.

        Let’s call a spade a spade here. The CRTC tilted the situation towards killing this station.

        1. Bill

          1. The length of time it took the CRTC to correspond with Rogers demonstrates how out of touch the commission is.

          2. Rogers is correct in their position. The fact the radio and TV don’t get to operate with the same flexibility as their digital and print competition is outdated. The commission simply does not care. It’s time for it to go.

          3. The future of AM is not bright. High cost to run on hydro alone. High cost to update equipment. Lack of interest in the band. High value of land the towers sit on.

          4. As a news station – 101.1 was terrible. It was not consistent.

          5. Rogers invested a ton of cash in the news format but get zero credit in the eyes of the commission. What is a better demonstration of Canadian content than local news? The commission cares more about Canadian music and emerging artists
          This system is broken.

          1. Anonymous

            The CRTC and Governments solution to your point #2 is simple: Find ways to burden others with meaningless regulation, paperwork, and intractable operating situations, so they will be as bad if not worse than the horse and buggy competitors they want to succeed in the jet age.

            The CRTC could be eliminated so simply:

            1 – continue to allow Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to approve technical issues, issue licenses, and to make technical inspections to assure all transmitters are operating correctly within the law.

            2 – Create specific and clear laws in regards to broadcast content, including creating a proper legal process for handling those who violate it.

            3 – oblige all broadcasters to pay equally based on income to Canadian content funds.

            4 – clearly define Canadian content in a simple, clear, and indisputable way and enforce it.

            5 – Enforce the same rules on anyone wanting to see services into Canada, and make them pay Canadian taxes.

            6 – stand back and let them innovate or die.

            Basically, get the f–k out of the way.

            1. Fagstein Post author

              How would community, campus and Indigenous radio stations play into this scheme?

              And who would monitor and enforce Canadian content rules?

              And what protections would there be against market dominance by one or two players?

              1. Anonymous

                By writing simple laws to account for them.

                An example would be the use of HD radio signals. Either oblige all main license holders (what you might call the root channel) to have to offer 1 channel space each for CCI radio stations. In that manner, it would scale accordingly.

                Another example would be unprotected or limited protection low power FM stations. Give them a very small, focused coverage area that is protected, and away you go.

                For market dominance, strictly limit ownership. 1 or 2 root channels per ownership group, trackable all the way to the ultimate beneficial ownership groups. Draw circles around the major markets, and impose that limit per market. Make the circles big enough so (a) they can’t edge their way into a market, and (b) without protected frequencies they can’t sneak in either.

                It is the basics

              2. Fagstein Post author

                HD Radio isn’t taking off, and until it does not a lot of broadcasters are going to want to be HD-only.

                As for low-power FM, it works for some community stations who either can’t get a better signal or don’t have the money for it, but it doesn’t really work commercially. The only one I can think of that tried was Proud FM in Toronto. And it shut down in August.

              3. Anonymous

                Low power FM (say under 100 watts) isn’t intended for truly commercial entities. It is for community and cultural groups who are generally together in a given area. If they are physically in diverse locations, the internet is a much better way to share their stuff.

                HD radio is simply chicken or egg stuff, the old fresher because more people eat them routine. Toyota has included HD radio in all of their new cars from what i gather. The federal government could easily mandate that all new FM radios must be able to receive HD as well. The problem solves itself over time.

                Remember: AM radio is going away because companies like Tesla are NOT putting AM radios in the cars anymore. Electric cars don’t play well with AM radio. So soon the number of people with AM radios will be low enough to make HD FM seem like a much better idea.

                Remember digital TV transition? Worked best when the government got in there and set a firm date.

              4. Fagstein Post author

                Remember digital TV transition? Worked best when the government got in there and set a firm date.

                Sure, but that also led to hundreds of television transmitters shutting down and not being replaced, and it’s a small minority of people nowadays who watch television with an antenna.

              5. Anonymous

                Subaru has also been including HD Radio on all its models since 2015.

                The other thing with HD Radio, some stations in the US are renting out some of their HD2, HD3, HD4 channels to special interest groups. Good way for the main channel getting extra revenue. And a good way for some of these providers getting on air without having to get a full station license and transmitter. Especially on a crowded FM Band.

    1. Newsguy60

      No need to decommission the CRTC for extra funding for other media outlets. The Liberals have no problem handing over millions of (deficit) dollars to media outlets they hope to influence — usually in the lead-up to an election.

  3. Anonymous

    First up, the basic information everyone needs to know: AM is quickly dying and is unlikely to ever come back. There are many reasons, the most notable is that EVs don’t work well with AM radios, and as a result those cars don’t have an AM radio. Most of them however do have satellite radio, often with 1 to 3 years free when you buy the car.

    So once you start with that, you start to see the problem. Rogers (and others on AM) face a simple problem, that both of declining overall radio listenership, as well as additional declines as people start to use electric cars that have no AM radio. That matches up the previous reality of cell phones with radio receivers that only received FM. AM radio receivers are simply devices but Ver susceptible to interference from various types of electronics. It’s pretty much over.

    So in this sense, Rogers is correct. Their concerns about the financial viability of their AM radio products makes a lot of sense. They also fail to state the obvious: most of the markets have few if any available FM stations to move onto. As an example, they have two AM stations in the Toronto market, and their are effectively about minus 4 FM slots left, considering stations just outside Toronto that in the end limit what can be done in the city. So while Rogers is strong on talking about it, they are very, very weak on finding solutions for it.

    HD radio could be a solution, but that is still a long way from critical mass. Not enough receivers, no valid path for people with legacy equipment, and still not enough full on support especially in car. It is coming around, but it is super slow. The CRTC isn’t exactly helping out either.

    At this point, the CRTC appears to be the biggest hinderance to natural progression in the radio world. Stations like 98.5 in Montreal have proven that talk radio on FM not only works, but it can in fact dominate a marketplace with strong public demand. The CRTC is too busy trying to screw up the internet to have the time to screw up the broadcast world some more.

    1. Daniel Shields

      1310 just wasn’t very good.
      Bad signal, Repetitve programming.

      There is an open AM signal, 540 in Ottawa, that has similar coverage as 690. I don’t know why no one has grabbed it in the same way 690 was grabbed by TSN, a huge improvement over 980/990.

      Point finale. AM may be dead but 3 of the top ten billing stations in the US are AM. WINS, news, NYC. WBBM, news, Chicago. WSB, news and talk, Atlanta. WFAN, sports and talk, NYC is AM and FM.


      1. Fagstein Post author

        The 540 AM signal, formerly CJSB, is still available in Ottawa. It’s Class B, 50kW day and 12.5kW night, which isn’t as good as 690’s clear channel. Another option might be 920 (former CBO) at 50kW day/night or 1250 (former CBOF) at 50kW day/night. But setting up an AM transmitter is expensive, and AM these days doesn’t justify the cost.

        1. Pop Ular

          “But setting up an AM transmitter is expensive, and AM these days doesn’t justify the cost.”
          Then why did 1220 AM radio sign on in St. Catharines Ontario?

          1. Fagstein Post author

            Then why did 1220 AM radio sign on in St. Catharines Ontario?

            Some independent players are trying AM radio, particularly in markets like the GTA where there’s no space left on FM. In some cases the owners are OK with losing some money, in others they’re still too young to judge viability. CFAJ’s financials aren’t public so we don’t know if it’s profitable. The band isn’t completely dead yet (CJAD is still Montreal’s most popular English-language radio station, for example), but the long-term trend is very clear.

            1. Daniel Shields

              I am repeating myself.

              The product has to be there.

              CJAD is a good product. 1310 News was not.

              Dan Shields

  4. Too Many Anons

    HD Radio is a solution. If Rogers had added HD Radio onto CJET-FM 101.1, they could have placed CIWW 1350 onto the HD 2 position. They probably would have avoided all the CRTC headaches.

    Bell Media has placed CJAD 800 and CKGM 690 onto CITE-FM 107.3 in the HD2 and HD 3 positions in Montreal. I never heard anything about CRTC headaches from that move.

    As for AM Radio. Not looking that good for the future in North America. But, HD Radio can slow the demise. There is the AM HD Radio (Analog/Digital) option plus the All Digital AM HD Radio option. From what I’ve read, the all digital option works much better. If you have a AM/FM HD Radio, you can hear how the Analog/Digital option sounds in the Montreal area. CKZW-AM 1650 is now broadcasting a HD Radio signal.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      HD Radio is a solution. If Rogers had added HD Radio onto CJET-FM 101.1, they could have placed CIWW 1350 onto the HD 2 position. They probably would have avoided all the CRTC headaches.

      It would have avoided CRTC headaches, and it also wouldn’t have worked. Canadian broadcasters have experimented with simulcasting AM radio stations on FM HD, including Rogers in Toronto and Vancouver, but their experiences have shown they don’t have much of an effect on audience. Many receivers can’t pick up HD Radio, and for those that do, it’s not easy for many users to figure out they have to tune in to a different station on a different band and select a subchannel of that station to hear the station they want.

      As for AM Radio. Not looking that good for the future in North America. But, HD Radio can slow the demise.

      HD Radio on AM is being tested, but I doubt it will take off. Receivers that don’t pick up analog AM won’t pick up AM HD either. And the tight bandwidth available to AM stations means you don’t have as many options on AM as you do on FM. It would be much easier to just encourage people to stream the station online.

  5. Too Many Anons

    I can vouch to you that I use the HD Radio everyday. That’s how I listen to CJAD. I can’t stand that awful analog AM signal. And I also listen to the classical music on 95.1-HD2 FM.
    Now, I’m not everybody. But, neither is nobody listening with a HD Radio.

    1. Pop Ular

      The ONLY problem with HD radio is that one can’t just walk into a Best Buy to get one.
      Make HD radios available and easy to buy.
      Problem solved.

      1. Anonymous

        That is one of the places where government policy is lacking. All new FM radio receivers should by mandate support HD radio. That would mean every new car would be so equipped. Given 10 years, the vast majority of cars on the road would support it.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          That kind of policy would likely just result in what few FM radios are left in stores being pulled from them, accelerating the decline of FM. And if we’re going to mandate capabilities of consumer products, why not mandate AM radio?

          1. Anonymous

            AM radios are not really compatible with EVs. All of that electricity moving around leads to interference that makes the radio unlistenable. So you can mandate AM radios, and then all those electric cars will be pulled off the shelf and sold in other places, and Canadians can keep spending near $2 a liter for fuel even though we have a lot of renewable power sources.

            Seems like there is an obvious solution you don’t like.

        2. Andru

          That certainly is a solution. But, HD Radio is a trademark name, and so is the technology associated with it. To use the technology, you need to pay Xperi, the current owners of the technology, for it’s use. It’s not free.

          The best thing to do is, when it comes time for you to replace your home radio, buy a new radio that has the HD Radio technology in it. When you buy a new car, ask for the AM/FM radio in the car to have the HD radio technology. If you have a old car, you can get a new radio installed with HD Radio.

          But, the best way for all this to happen is that current stations that have signed on to broadcast with the HD Radio technology is to better promote the product. Promote in on air, add the HD Radio logo to their visual ads with their station frequency number.

          And another point. Most radios are built in China. These entities (companies) do not want to pay Xperi the fees to have the technology in the product. That may be the main reason why most radios in the market don’t have the HD Radio technology installed.

          It’s the holiday season, if you know of somebody that needs a new radio, it might be a very much appreciated gift. Especially if they’re big radio listeners.

      2. Anonymous

        Just go to
        Search key work : HD Radio
        Then make sure you see the HD Radio logo on the radio.
        And read the reviews to confirm this is in fact a HD Radio.

        It’s even easier than going to a real store. You should try it.
        Lot’s of people use amazon. And if you don’t like it, they arrange for you to ship it back for free.
        How easy is that.

        And even though Best Buy Canada does not offer HD Radios in store. Best Buy USA has a low cost model from Insignia that goes for $60 US. Check out their website. Key word search : HD Radio

  6. Another view

    Without HD radio, I would probably listen to AM stations less often. The HD signal for 680 News and AM640 in Toronto are very reliable. I suspect anyone under 30 years of age would have no problem figuring it out. If not, these stations can be streamed and listened to through one’s phone’s bluetooth device. As I am not in the younger demographic, it took me a bit of time to figure it out but it was well worth the effort.


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