It’s been half a year since Matthew Ross got cancelled for a tweet, and he’s finally ready to rebuild his public face.
“A tweet” might be an exaggeration. He expressed an opinion on Twitter, and then doubled down when criticized about it, until the backlash was so much he disabled his Twitter account, and lost his weekend morning show on TSN 690.
It’s low-budget, but it’s more about giving himself an outlet to express himself than it is about making money.
When Ross lost his show on TSN 690, I asked him if he wanted to talk about it. Like most people in similar situations, he declined, saying he was going through a lot and didn’t want to talk about it publicly yet. He said he’d get in touch when he was ready.
I didn’t expect I’d hear back, but a few weeks ago he reached out and said he was willing to talk now. We set up a video chat and I asked him about his life, his controversy and why he wants to put himself out there again after all that.
The industry pushed for some big changes in the policy, which has been a long time coming (the review of French music quotas started back in 2015 but was delayed in part because for a time the commission didn’t have enough francophone commissioners).
What they got was a lot of the same. Canadian and French-language content quotas are basically unchanged, local programming is still expected but not required, and stations still need to ask permission if they change between a mainly talk format and a mainly music format on FM. But there were a few changes that could make a big difference, in particular for stations in Montreal. Let’s get into them:
Jeremy White, the kid from Kahnawake who has been the evening host at The Beat 92.5 just about since its launch, is no longer at the station.
White tells me he left of his own accord and decided in November he didn’t want to work a shift that started at 7pm anymore, and the company wasn’t interested in letting him voice-track his show earlier in the day.
The Beat has already scrubbed all reference to him on its website and has the generic “MTL’s Perfect Mix” listed in his time slot.
Several people (including one of White’s former program directors at The Beat) have noted that White would seem to be a good fit for CHOM when you consider his more hard-rock musical tastes. But nothing has ever materialized on that front and there’s no indication anything ever will.
“The Commission has concerns regarding the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner.”
With that standard phrasing, the CRTC is once again threatening Montreal radio station CJWI 1410 AM (CPAM Radio Union) with revoking its licence over repeated failure to meet licence conditions.
The owners of the station, and two others in a similar situation (CICR-FM Parrsboro, N.S., and CKVM-FM Ville-Marie, Que.) have been called to appear at a hearing on April 5 to explain why their licences should be renewed despite their repeated failures, including in their current licence terms.
The latest apparent failures (CJWI is still being given the chance to explain how they are still in compliance) relate to a regulation requiring they provide a “complete and accurate” list of all musical pieces played on the air, and a requirement that at least 35% of non-pop music played be Canadian.
In correspondence with the commission, CJWI blamed the former on software it was using that did not count musical selections played for less than 12 seconds, and blamed the latter on the difficulty of finding Canadian specialty music of interest to the Haitian community.
If CJWI is found to be in non-compliance again, it would be the fifth consecutive licence term in which the station is not complying with its licence conditions. And it would be the second consecutive licence term in which it has failed to comply with a mandatory order requiring it to respect the regulation about having a complete and accurate music list. These are very serious matters and the CRTC can’t just let them go and maintain credibility as a regulator.
But revoking CJWI’s licence, or refusing to renew it, might not be the best thing for the broadcasting system. There isn’t much demand for AM frequencies these days (1040 AM remains vacant) and this is the only station specifically serving the Haitian community.
In a separate but related application also being heard in this proceeding, CJWI is asking the CRTC for amendments to its conditions of licence regarding music quotas. Since the CRTC is saying it failed to meet those quotas, it is unlikely to grant such changes.
Other stations are also in front of the commission to have their licences renewed, but with less ominous stakes. They include Radio Ville-Marie (CIRA-FM 91.3) in Montreal, which the CRTC says failed to meet Canadian and French-language music quotas.
The CRTC is accepting comments on these files until Feb. 9. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jay Michaels was until last week the host of the afternoon drive show on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010. He announced he was leaving for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Chantal Desjardins comes back to the CHOM morning show, where she was part of the team in 2010 and 2011 with Ted Bird, Pete Marier and later Rob Kemp during that non-Terry period. When DiMonte came back, she was replaced with Heather Backman. Since leaving CHOM, she’s worked as a presenter at Sportsnet, done some standup comedy and based on her social media has been a nearly full-time vacationer.
Sharon Hyland is a very familiar name to CHOM listeners, having recently celebrated 25 years as an on-air host at the station, most of which were spent on daytime or weekend shifts.
Marier noted during the announcement that he will be trading shows with Hyland, hosting weekend mornings.
Vargas will remain with the station, starting a new role as digital content producer for not just CHOM but Bell’s other English-language radio stations in Montreal as well. That means he won’t be producing the morning show any more, I’m told.