Category Archives: Media

Journal de Montréal/Québec will stop printing Sunday editions in 2023

After La Presse, the Montreal Gazette and countless other newspapers across Canada and around the world, the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec are becoming the latest to announce they’re reducing their print schedules.

In a note to readers published Thursday evening, they announced they will no longer publish on Sundays in 2023. The last Sunday print edition will be Dec. 18, before the two holiday Sundays.

They were among only four mainstream (English or French-language) newspapers in the country still publishing print edition seven days a week. The only ones still publishing after this will be the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun. Most others are either six days a week (Monday-Saturday), five days (Tuesday-Saturday) or something less often than that.

The Journals (their notes had virtually identical wording) promise additional content in their Saturday papers to carry them through the weekend. Other papers that dropped Sunday editions, like La Presse in 2009 and the Gazette in 2010, made similar moves. But having a slightly bigger Saturday edition doesn’t compensate for not having a Sunday one.

The move is kind of inevitable, and I’m surprised it took this long, frankly. Not only does laying out, printing and distributing a paper cost a lot these days, but with no other newspapers publishing on Sundays, the Journal de Montréal couldn’t share delivery costs with their competitors. (Many of the independent contractors delivering newspapers in Montreal deliver multiple papers simultaneously.)

The Journal made it a point of touting how it wasn’t abandoning print readers like its competitors were. Only three years ago, it had a slogan about how it was a “real newspaper.” But, as the editor’s note says, times have changed. Publisher Lyne Robitaille took swipes at the big tech giants, as many newspapers like to do these days, as well as CBC/Radio-Canada, which Quebecor has long considered an unfair competitor because of its government subsidies.

The truth is that this is a reflection of both changes in readership habits and changes in business models. A new federal government bill to somehow force Facebook and Google to pay newspapers may bring some money back into the industry, but don’t expect the Sunday newspaper to return. The economic fundamentals simply aren’t there anymore.

It’s the end of an era. And if something spectacular happens on a Saturday, you’ll need to wait until Monday morning to get a sheet of paper that announces it in a way that makes it feel real.

CRTC orders Canadian TV providers to offer The News Forum to subscribers

Seven years after the Sun News Network shut down, Canada once again has a fifth national news network in the eyes of the CRTC.

On Tuesday, the commission determined that The News Forum, a conservative low-budget news discussion channel that tries to be a bit more serious than Sun News was, can be classified as a national mainstream news network, and get the same class of licence as CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, RDI and LCN. The big perk of that licence class is that all licensed Canadian TV providers must now add The News Forum to their systems, offer it to their subscribers, and package it with other news services.

Subscribers are not forced to add the channel to their packages, but this will undoubtedly increase the total subscriber base, especially since not all Canadian providers have added TNF to their systems so far. (Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel have, but Cogeco and Videotron haven’t yet.) And more subscribers will mean more revenues, especially as this status gives TNF more power in negotiating wholesale rates with providers.

In May, the CRTC denied a similar application from TNF, finding that its schedule did not show it providing updated news reports at least every 120 minutes. TNF adjusted its schedule and applied again for the status.

While the schedule has been adjusted, not much has changed with the channel. Looking at its YouTube channel, it’s still mainly talking heads having long conversations on various public affairs topics. There are no actual journalists or news stories per se, and the bent is still right-wing with former Conservative politicians like Tony Clement and Tanya Granic Allen hosting shows. And it relies very heavily on repeats to fill the schedule, with just a couple of hours of original programming a day, though they have added new shows recently.

There’s a chance that with some new revenue The News Forum could invest in its programming, hire journalists and start looking more like an all-news channel that provides an alternative to CTVNC and CBCNN. But with video views on YouTube in the single and double digits, it has a long way to go before attracting people’s attention.

The end of the Monday newspaper

If you’re a print subscriber to the Montreal Gazette, you didn’t get a copy delivered this morning.

It’s not an error, it was a choice by my employer Postmedia, which has also ended print distribution of Monday editions of the Sun and Province in Vancouver, Herald and Sun in Calgary, Journal and Sun in Edmonton, and Citizen and Sun in Ottawa.

“The decision reflects the rapidly changing news consumption habits of our readers, the needs of our advertisers and the escalating costs of printing and delivering a printed product,” wrote Gerry Nott, Senior Vice President, Editorial, in a note published in those newspapers.

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Numeris publishes its final public radio ratings

It’s the end of an era: After years of Numeris (formerly BBM Canada) publishing a bare minimum of statistics on radio ratings in Canada’s five largest markets, it will now publish no data at all.

A statement on its website reads “Effective the start of the 2022-23 broadcast year (August 29, 2022), the Radio Topline Reports will no longer be produced. The final report will encompass the period ending on August 28, 2022.”

That report came out last week. It showed about the same as previous reports did, with CJAD 800 leading the pack on the anglophone side and 98.5 FM leading in French, as they always do.

Numeris (which is owned by the broadcasters) hasn’t explained why it made this decision. The result is that the only people who have access to even the most basic data will be those who are Numeris members — the broadcasters themselves as well as ad agencies and others who can afford the budget.

So we’re left to whatever (self-serving) statements they make about the ratings every three months. Fantastic.

Anyway, here’s what it looks like, one last time, for Montreal’s English market:

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CRTC approves Christian radio transmitter in Pointe-Claire

Christian Hit Radio’s CHRI-FM Ottawa is expanding to Pointe-Claire.

On Thursday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved an application from CHR to add a rebroadcasting transmitter at the Lakeside Heights Baptist Church to serve the West Island community.

The 51-watt FM transmitter will be at 90.7 MHz, and very limited in its service area, including parts of Dorval, Beaconsfield, Kirkland and Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

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

People in the rest of Montreal won’t be able to hear it, because of interference from CKUT 90.3 but more importantly another transmitter also on 90.7 FM in the Saint-Laurent borough.

In its decision, the commission noted that there isn’t an English-language religious radio station with Pointe-Claire in its primary service area. It also noted that there are other frequencies available that could serve Pointe-Claire, so this application would not exhaust available channels. (Montreal as a whole is saturated on FM, but there are still ways to cover parts of it on certain frequencies, though each new transmitter makes the task a bit harder.)

CHRI, which mainly broadcasts Christian music, has two years to implement the new transmitter, unless they request an extension. They have similar rebroadcasting transmitters already in Pembroke (100.7) and Cornwall (88.1), both of which are low-power. As rebroadcasting transmitters, they do not produce any original content and simply repeat the programming of the Ottawa main station, as the Pointe-Claire transmitter will.

What we know (and don’t) about the Lisa LaFlamme story

In case you’ve been in a coma since Monday, you know that CTV News has ended its contract with Lisa LaFlamme, the chief anchor and senior editor of CTV National News.

Since then, every day has brought new revelations, questions and rumours about what happened and why. I have no original reporting on this, nor any insider knowledge or insight, but I do have a good sense of what reporting can be trusted as fact and what sizes of salt grains should be taken with the rest. So here’s my compilation of what’s been reported so far:

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RNC Media kills Vibe brand to create new BPM Sports radio network

A few years after failing to sell the station, RNC Media is doubling — nay, tripling — down on its sports-talk station 91.9 Sports and expanding its content to two other stations: CFTX-FM 96.5/107.5 in Ottawa-Gatineau, and CHXX-FM 100.9 in Donnacona (Quebec City). Both are currently pop music stations branded as “Vibe” and will switch on Aug. 29, when all three stations become “BPM Sports”.

I spoke with Yves Bombardier, BPM’s program director, about the change, for this story at Cartt.ca. In short, he wants to expand the audience to those who wouldn’t normally listen to sports-talk radio. Bringing in people like former mayor Denis Coderre and former TSN 690 host Tony Marinaro as regular contributors will help with that.

The change has some challenges, beyond the usual ones involving staffing, scheduling and branding.

For one, CFTX and CHXX are both licensed as music stations, which means they must ensure at least 50% of their content is music. Bombardier tells me they will only run the morning, noon, afternoon drive and weekend morning shows from the network and be music the rest of the time, at least for now. An application to the CRTC will be forthcoming, either to allow an exception for game broadcasts to not count toward that 50%, or to switch the stations to a primarily talk format.

The other challenge is the lack of local content for either Gatineau or Quebec City. On evenings when there is no live event broadcast like a CF Montréal or Laval Rocket game, Jordan Boivin will host “La Tribune Capitale” from Quebec City on the network. Otherwise, all programming is coming from Montreal. There are no distinct local shows for Quebec City or Gatineau, and no journalists yet to cover their sports news (Bombardier wants to hire some, but there’s no date for when that would happen).

Until then, Boivin will cover Quebec City and contribute to other shows, while Gatineau will be covered by the teams at RNC-owned TVA affiliate CHOT and WOW Gatineau.

RNC’s announcement is here, and lists some of the new hires, including Paul Houde, fresh off losing his show at 98.5 FM (he said Wednesday he’s looking into getting his brother Pierre Houde to collaborate as well). He will host the weekend morning show.

As for Vibe, the two stations shared programming and had only four hosts. Patrice Nadeau announced he is moving to Quebec City sister station CHOI Radio X. I haven’t seen any public statements by the others, Camille Felton, Me?ghan Labrecque and Catherine (Peach) Paquin.

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Radio Shalom officially proposes sale of 1650 AM to Christian broadcaster

Six years after Radio Shalom, Montreal’s Jewish radio station, announced it was shutting down, and then kind of came back a bit, the company is planning to wind up operations and officially transfer the licence to Gospel Media Communications, which has effectively been running the station since.

On Tuesday, the CRTC posted an application by Communications Média Évangélique / Gospel Media Communications to acquire CKZW 1650 AM (formerly CJRS) from Radio Shalom for $0. The company is owned by André Joly, who also sits on Radio Shalom’s board.

According to the application, Radio Shalom’s board voted to approve the deal after CME had already acquired most of its assets and was subsidizing the station’s financial losses in addition to providing gospel programming.

The fact that Joly has been effectively running things for months if not years would normally trigger some questions from the commission about whether an effective transfer of control happened without approval, but the application states that the station was in contact with the commission about its activities.

One thing the CRTC will need to settle is tangible benefits, the tax new owners have to pay when they acquire radio stations. Both groups are non-profit, and the agreed upon purchase price for the licence is zero, but the commission suggested in a letter it may set a value of $309,125 for the purchase, which includes payments from CME to Radio Shalom as well as the value of leases that would be transferred.

According to an unaudited 2021 financial statement, Radio Shalom had $136,834 in net assets.

If the commission finds the sale has an actual value, Joly has agreed to pay tangible benefits of up to $18,548, representing the standard 6% of the value. But the company argues (as many other acquirers have in other purchase deals) that the CRTC should not consider the value of leases when calculating tangible benefits.

Once the sale is approved and closed, Radio Shalom as a corporate entity would be wound up.

The application does not include any statements about changes to the station’s programming after the sale.

The CRTC will hold a pro forma hearing (without any presentations) on the application Oct. 13 in Gatineau. Those who wish to comment on the proposed sale have until Sept. 1 to do so.

The News Forum tries again to seek must-offer licence from CRTC

The News Forum, a low-budget conservative news-talk TV channel that last year got enough subscribers to require a broadcasting licence from the CRTC, is trying again to get the commission to force Canadian television distributors to offer the channel to their subscribers, less than two months after the commission denied their first attempt at this status.

The channel, owned (in fact if not legally) by Tore Stautland, asked the commission when it was licensed to be given the same category of licence as Canadian all-news channels CBC News Network, RDI, CTV News Channel and LCN. These channels are subject to a special status requiring all distributors to carry them, though it is up to the subscriber to choose whether or not to actually subscribe to it. (CBC NN and RDI also have a separate mandatory subscription order in Quebec and the rest of Canada, respectively.)

In its decision in May approving the licence, the CRTC denied that status, saying “the Commission is not satisfied that The News Forum provides updated news reports every 120 minutes,” which is one of the criteria it set in its policy.

It left the door open to applying again for that status, once it shows it meets the criteria.

So now The News Forum is trying again, after providing an “updated schedule” showing “daily updates” every two hours from 6am to 8pm. (The schedule suggests they will start at five minutes and 30 seconds past every two hours, until 30 minutes past the hour, but I think they meant to say the updates would be five minutes long until 5:30 past the hour.)

A glance at its website and YouTube channel suggest little else has changed about The News Forum. It still doesn’t seem to employ any journalists besides the anchors, who read out news briefs to still images and then conduct interviews via video link.

But that wouldn’t necessarily preclude it from getting that status. The CRTC’s criteria related to programming are the following:

  • Providing news updates every 120 minutes
  • At least 90% Canadian programming
  • At least 16 hours a day original programming (first-run or repeated)
  • At least 95% of all programming from the following categories: News, analysis and interpretation, long-form documentary and reporting and actualities
  • No more than 12 minutes of advertising per hour
  • Operate a live broadcast facility and maintain news bureaus in at least three regions other than that of the live broadcast facility
  • “have the ability to report on international events from a Canadian perspective”

Like Sun News Network before it, TNF is fully original, though it relies heavily on repeat programming and much of that is opinion, which can be classified as “analysis and interpretation.”

The part about news bureaus and broadcast facilities might be a challenge for The News Forum. But it will be up to the commission to decide if it meets the criteria.

And even if it does get the status, no one has to subscribe to it (unless it’s in a package you want).

The CRTC is accepting comments on The News Forum’s application until Aug. 8. You can submit comments here. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

 

TSN 690 gives midday show to Campbell and Gallo after Marinaro resigns

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.

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10 years after it was licensed, CFQR 600 has its first show

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.

The first newscast aired shortly after 6am, and included Connell talking about stories in the news (backyard pool drownings, gas prices, an exhibition on the French language, Dollar Cinema closing), plus traffic and weather. It lasted five minutes. No other voices were heard, and if CFQR plans on hiring any journalists to work with Connell, there was no evidence of them on Day 1.

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.

Radio ratings: CJAD audience slips as 98.5 soars again

Numeris released its meter ratings for the spring season, and while Montreal’s numbers don’t change much in terms of the order of stations, we do see some trends worth noting (or repeating).

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.

Self-congratulations

Meanwhile in other markets

Last week, Numeris released radio ratings for diary markets, including Quebec City, Ottawa/Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Saguenay and a bunch of other places across the country. You can find the full top-line data report here.

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.

CRTC approves station swap between Cogeco Media and Arsenal Media

While the big news of the day was its approval of the Shaw-Rogers purchase, the CRTC also approved a pair of smaller transaction on Thursday, in which Quebec’s Cogeco Media and Arsenal Media agreed to sell stations to each other.

Under one deal, Arsenal acquires, for $1.5 million, three stations in the Abitibi region:

  • CJGO-FM 102.1 La Sarre (Capitale Rock), with transmitter CJGO-FM-1 Rouyn-Noranda
  • CHGO-FM 95.7 Val-d’Or (Capitale Rock)
  • CHOA-FM 95.7 Rouyn-Noranda (WOW), with transmitters CHOA-FM-1 103.5 Amos and CHOA-FM-2 103.9 La Sarre

In the other deal, Cogeco acquires, for $600,000, one station from Arsenal in Saguenay:

  • CILM-FM (O 98.3)

The Abitibi sale didn’t bring up major issues, except for the fact that they were formerly RNC Media stations, which Cogeco bought in 2018, which means there are still tangible benefits related to that transaction. Cogeco has agreed to continue to pay those benefits despite no longer owning the stations.

Arsenal plans to convert the stations to its brands, which include O, Plaisir and Hit Country. They will be Arsenal’s first stations in the Abitibi market, adding to its 16 stations in regions throughout Quebec.

For Saguenay, there was a bit of a thorny issue in terms of competition. Because Cogeco owns another station in Saguenay, and a third in nearby Alma, there was concern it might exceed its ownership limit. Analysis showed the Alma station didn’t cover enough of Saguenay to be an issue, but there was some overlap in the Alma market. Nevertheless, because no other broadcasters complained and Cogeco said it would not seek out advertising in Alma from its Saguenay stations, the CRTC allowed the acquisition to proceed.

Cogeco plans to convert CILM-FM to a Rythme FM station, giving the network a presence in all five of Quebec’s largest population centres and more than half the province’s population.

As a result of this issue being decided, the CRTC has reopened a proceeding into whether Rouyn-Noranda should get another radio station. Josyane Cossette has applied for a commercial radio station while CHOW-FM (Radio Boréale) in Amos applied for a retransmitter in Rouyn-Noranda. Other broadcasters can file applications to compete with these if they want to serve the market.

Radio ratings: CBC continues to climb as Virgin has worst book in a decade

Numeris released its quarterly metered ratings report on Wednesday, and while the order in Montreal hasn’t changed much, there are some trends that should be worrying some people, particularly at Bell Media.

Here’s the top-line data — Average minute audience, Montreal anglo 12+, Nov. 29, 2021 to Feb. 27, 2022:

  • CJAD 800: 11,100
  • The Beat 92.5: 6,500
  • CBC Radio One: 5,700
  • CHOM 977: 3,800
  • 95.9 Virgin Radio: 2,700
  • TSN 690: 2,200
  • CBC Music: 1,300

The good news goes mainly to CBC Radio One, which had a sudden spike in the last ratings book and has maintained it through this one. Its 14.9% market share overall is the highest it’s been in a decade at least and 69% higher than it was just a year ago.

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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.