Category Archives: Radio

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.

CHOM announces new morning show with Jay Michaels, Chantal Desjardins and Sharon Hyland

After four years of Terry DiMonte holding the fort on the CHOM morning show alone (with help from producer Esteban Vargas), CHOM has decided to go back to having a team host the morning show, announcing Friday three permanent hosts for Mornings Rock starting Feb. 28.

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.

Three hosts is something CHOM hasn’t done for more than a decade, and it’s a bit surprising that they would try this again. The station has been bleeding audience over the past few years and its fall book wasn’t great, but it still remains ahead of sister station Virgin 95.9, which is in much more need of some sort of change.

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.

TSN 690 fires Chris Nilan for refusing to get vaccinated

Chris Nilan revealed on Thursday he has been fired by TSN 690 owner Bell Media after he refused to follow through with a company-wide requirement to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a post on Twitter, Nilan said he was asked to get the vaccine “late last year” and on Tuesday was informed that his contract was being terminated. His name and face have been removed from TSN 690’s website.

Nilan says “after consultation with my doctor and based upon my medical conditions,” he decided against the vaccine and asked for a medical exemption, which was denied. Nilan did not specify what medical conditions he has that would prevent him from safely taking a vaccine.

New proposed country music radio station in Joliette could block VPR in Montreal

In 2014, Montreal-based fans of U.S. public radio got very concerned when they heard of an application from Concordia University’s student radio station CJLO for an FM retransmitter downtown on the same frequency as Vermont Public Radio.

WVPS 107.9, with a 48.8kW transmitter on top of Mount Mansfield, is the easiest way for Montrealers to listen to VPR (and the many NPR programs it carries). But since it’s an American station, its signal isn’t protected here, so a Canadian station could operate on the same frequency provided it doesn’t interfere with the U.S. station’s signal south of the border.

The CRTC denied CJLO’s application solely based on its own merits, finding there was not a compelling technical need for a new transmitter. Since then, VPR’s signal has continued unimpeded.

But with 107.9 being the last available frequency in greater Montreal, it was only a matter of time before someone tried again.

In December, the CRTC published a call for comments on the possibility of adding a new radio station in Joliette, about 50 kilometres north of Montreal.

Consistent with policy, the call comes after an application was filed seeking to create a new station. The application is by Arsenal Media, which announced in July it was seeking to build a new country music station in Joliette as a sister station to CJLM-FM (O103.5). The station would operate under Arsenal’s Hit Country brand, Quebec’s only multi-station francophone country music radio brand.

According to the CRTC’s call for comments, the station would operate at 107.9 MHz, with a maximum effective radiated power of 25,000 watts. While we don’t have details on how that signal is directed, it most likely would be strong enough to either cause interference to WVPS or wipe it out completely for people in greater Montreal, particularly the eastern parts. CJLM-FM can already be heard in eastern Montreal and the new country station would have a higher power output.

There are a few steps that would need to be taken before this happens, though. First, the CRTC will need to determine that the Joliette radio market can support a new commercial radio station. Comments from Arsenal, competing radio companies and the public will be taken into consideration by the CRTC in determining its decision.

If the CRTC agrees the market could accept another station, then, if other broadcasters express interest in setting up a radio station in Joliette, the commission will begin a competitive process to decide which one to grant a license to. (Other applicants can choose other frequencies if they want, but not many are technically feasible.)

If no other broadcasters express interest, then the CRTC would proceed with Arsenal’s application and judge it on its own merits.

The CRTC is accepting public comments on “the appropriateness of issuing a call for radio applications to serve Joliette” until Jan. 31. They can be filed online here.

Note that all information submitted becomes part of the public record. And this is a call for comments about whether to add a radio station in Joliette. Comments about how much you love NPR will fall on deaf ears because it’s not the CRTC’s job to protect American signals in Canada.

Radio ratings: CBC Radio One climbs to #3 in Montreal

Numeris has released its quarterly radio ratings report for metered markets including Montreal, and the new data show a surprising change in order for the city’s English-language radio stations, with CBC Radio One climbing above both CHOM and Virgin 95.9 in average minute audience for the first time.

Rather than being a reflection on the Bell-owned music stations (though both are down from their summer numbers), this seems to be a rather stunning jump among CBC’s audience, with its 14.8% market share its highest by far in at least the past decade, and more than double what it was just two years ago.

On the music side, once again The Beat 92.5 leads, growing its gap with its competitors though still well below what it was before the pandemic.

CJAD remains the market leader overall, but had its lowest average-minute audience since Numeris began releasing that statistic publicly in 2015. TSN 690 remains relatively stable, unlike the Canadiens’ season so far this year, and CBC Music once again brings up the rear.

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Virgin 95.9 drops MC Mario after 30 years

Virgin Radio Montreal doesn’t have a lot of veterans, but while the weekday shows have gone through several shuffles over the years, one constant was the MC Mario show on Friday and Saturday nights.

Until now, that is. Mario posted on Instagram on Friday that, effective immediately, his show “will not air any longer on Virgin Radio Montreal” after an impressive 30 years.

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Cogeco Media/Arsenal Media radio station swap runs into CRTC policy issue

A proposed mutual sale of radio stations between Cogeco Media and Arsenal Media will have to get over a hurdle to get approved by the CRTC, and it depends a lot on how many people live in a small region between Saguenay and Alma.

First announced in May, the agreement sees Arsenal sell CILM-FM (O 98.3) in Saguenay to Cogeco, while Arsenal in turn buys all of Cogeco’s radio stations in the Abitibi region, namely Capitale Rock (CJGO-FM 102.1 La Sarre, CJGO-FM-1 95.7 Rouyn-Noranda and CHGO-FM 95.7 Val-d’Or) and WOW FM (CHOA-FM 95.7 Rouyn-Noranda, CHOA-FM-1 103.5 Amos and CHOA-FM-2 103.9 La Sarre). Arsenal will keep its other Saguenay station, CKGS-FM Hit Country 105.5.

On Tuesday, the CRTC published the applications related to the transfers of ownerships of these stations, and we have more details on the sales:

  • Arsenal pays $1.5 million to acquire CHOA-FM , CJGO-FM and CHGO-FM in Abitibi
  • Cogeco pays $600,000 to acquire CILM-FM in Saguenay
  • The Wow station will be rebranded Plaisir and Capitale Rock rebranded O to join Arsenal’s branded networks (Cogeco keeps the Wow brand)
  • Cogeco will rebrand the Saguenay station to Rythme FM and have it join that network as an owned-and-operated station (it used to be an affiliate), putting it back in the largest market that network was missing in Quebec
  • The transactions are separable — if the CRTC approves one but not the other, that transaction will still go through
  • RNC Media, which provided local news services for the Abitibi stations as part of the agreement when it sold them to Cogeco in 2018, will continue to provide them for Arsenal
  • Cogeco will add CILM-FM to its Cogeco Nouvelles network and add another journalist in the Saguenay region
  • Both organizations are proposing standard tangible benefits, with 3% of the value going to Fonds Radiostar, 1.5% to Musicaction, 1% to discretionary initiatives and 0.5% to the Community Radio Fund of Canada

For Arsenal, the deal should not pose much of an issue since it doesn’t have any assets in the Abitibi region.

But in Saguenay, it’s a different story. Cogeco owns one radio station in Saguenay, CKYK-FM (Kyk 95,7), but it also owns CFGT-FM (Planète 104,5) in Alma, 45 kilometres away near Lac-Saint-Jean.

According to the CRTC’s common ownership policy, one owner normally can’t have more than two stations in the same language on the same band in the same market. Cogeco argues that according to CRTC policy CILM-FM and CFGT-FM are not in the same market (Kyk has a more powerful transmitter and a retransmitter in Alma, so covers both).

The CRTC actually has a policy for cases like this, and it depends on how much overlap there is between stations, measured both by their markets and their signals.

Map of primary coverage areas of CKYK-FM (blue), CFGT-FM (green) and CILM-FM (red)

Under CRTC policy, if there’s more than a 15% overlap, then they are considered part of the same market, and if there’s less than a 5% overlap they aren’t. In between, it depends on where advertisers are from and what news the station broadcasts.

Cogeco’s coverage maps show that CILM-FM Chicoutimi does not cover Alma and CFGT-FM Alma does not cover Chicoutimi, bolstering its claim that they should not be considered to overlap.

Map shows overlap of coverage areas of CFGT-FM (green) and CILM-FM (red)

The two signals do overlap between the two cities, but it’s in a mostly rural area of St-Nazaire and St-Ambroise, with a population under 8,000.

In its application, Cogeco argues the overlap is less than 5% of the population of the primary contour of CILM-FM and about 13.6% of the population of the primary contour of CFGT-FM, and that less than 1% of ad sales from the Alma station come from this area.

The commission counters that Cogeco should have based the percentage on the size of the market (Alma) and not the size of the station’s signal. Using that calculation, the overlap is within that 5-15% grey zone. Cogeco notes in a response that less than 1% of CILM-FM’s ad sales are from Alma.

Setting aside the CRTC’s specific rules, common sense can make both cases in such an argument. On one hand, CFGT-FM clearly markets itself as an Alma station, while CILM-FM clearly targets Saguenay. On the other hand, the overlap in signals is not insignificant, CKYK-FM targets both markets, and plenty of people outside a station’s primary signal contour will still listen to it, especially in an area like Saguenay where there aren’t a plethora of neighbouring markets.

Viability at stake

There’s also the matter of the station’s future. CILM-FM is not a very profitable station (except just barely last year thanks to government pandemic subsidies), and never really has been. In fact, it was the one station owned by Corus in 2010 that wasn’t sold to Cogeco because Cogeco didn’t want it at the time. Corus was considering shutting the station down before a local group of investors stepped in. They eventually resold the station to Arsenal.

Arsenal makes it clear in the application that it would be “difficult” for CILM-FM to reach profitability under its control. The two say that Cogeco, with its bigger pockets and its synergies with other stations in the region, would have a better chance at making the station work.

Similar arguments were not made about the Abitibi stations being sold to Arsenal.

The CRTC will hold a pro forma hearing Dec. 6 to consider the applications. No presentations are planned, unless the commission is convinced of the need for them by the interventions submitted. The commission is accepting comments from the public until Nov. 4, which can be submitted here. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

94.7 Hits FM goes dark

Following the sale of WYUL and its sister station WVNV to the Educational Media Foundation, 94.7 Hits FM went off the air at midnight last night.

The last day featured hit music interspersed with recorded messages from staff and the station’s program director thanking listeners and making it clear that it was the last day. The last hour featured a bunch of goodbye songs, culminating in Linkin Park’s In the End just before midnight.

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Terry and Ted start a podcast

About as predictable as … something really predictable … Terry DiMonte and Ted Bird are back together again. At least in the short term.

After a summer vacation following his departure from his position as CHOM’s morning man, Terry DiMonte launched a new podcast this month with his old friend Ted Bird, called Standing By. Its episodes, available on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts, feature the two radio veterans reminiscing about the old days, their health, how they met, random anecdotes. Episode 2 focuses on the Canadiens, and Episode 3 on their time at Mix 96 (mainly going up against Howard Stern).

The podcast already has sponsors, namely those with long-standing relationships to Terry and Ted, including Matelas Bonheur, Jaguar Land Rover Laval and Merson Automotive.

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Montreal radio ratings: A boost for CKOI, but not much new otherwise

Numeris released its quarterly PPM ratings last week, and I’m not completely sure how to headline this because there hasn’t been much change.

Here’s how it works out for English-language stations:

We see long-term declines continuing for CJAD and The Beat, the latter of which seems to have been hit hardest by the pandemic (probably because it’s long been a 9-to-5 at-work station), and we see that Virgin Radio remains not only behind CHOM among anglophones, but once again behind CBC Radio One as well.

TSN 690 had its best summer book in years, which may have something to do with the Canadiens playing in the Stanley Cup Final in July.

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