The CRTC is currently reviewing the licence renewal applications of CBC/Radio-Canada. As part of that process, CBC included a chart of its on-the-ground reporting personnel. It’s abridged, so we don’t know the actual number of employees per location, but I thought the list itself was good to note, so I’ll reproduce that here, along with some additional ones I’m aware of (the list is from 2019, so may be out of date in some places).
In yet another of those bad-news-wrapped-in-good-news announcements, CBC last month said it was going to be “modernizing” its international service through a “major transformation” that would see it add two languages and giving its stories more visibility.
But also cutting its staff in half and shutting down its website.
It didn’t get a lot of media attention at the time, mostly I think because most Canadians don’t know what Radio Canada International is. So I wrote about it in a story for Cartt.ca subscribers, in which I interviewed Crystelle Crépeau, head of digital news for Radio-Canada, Luce Julien, executive director of Radio-Canada News and Current Affairs (RCI, based in Montreal, is managed under French services in the organizational chart) and Wojtek Gwiazda, a former RCI employee who manages the RCI Action Committee.
For Gwiazda, who has been fighting this battle for quite some time, this is just another cut that will eventually see RCI disappear completely. Instead of 20 employees, it will be down to nine — five journalists doing translations of news articles in five foreign languages, three field reporters (Chinese, Arabic and Punjabi) and one chief editor. There will be no original reporting (except for those field reporters) and stories will just be taken from CBC.ca and Radio-Canada.ca instead of being written specifically for an international audience.
For Julien and Crépeau, it’s a necessary transformation because much of RCI’s work is redundant, and their metrics show foreign audiences get more content from CBC and Radio-Canada’s news sites than from RCI. There’s a reduction of staff, Julien admitted, but she’s had to make a lot of difficult decisions in her job. And integrating RCI with CBC and Radio-Canada just makes sense and is more efficient.
I’m sympathetic to the argument from both sides. This is definitely yet another in a long series of cuts to RCI and I would not be surprised if it simply fades away over time. But RCI is not a success right now and a transformation is warranted.
Or maybe they should just pull the plug entirely. And maybe they would do that, except they can’t.
Radio Canada International is part of CBC’s mandate, expressly referenced in the Broadcasting Act. CBC has to keep it running.
Unti 2012, RCI was a shortwave radio service, with an impressive transmitter array in Sackville, N.B., carrying the signal to the world. But CBC shut down that service, moving RCI entirely online and dismantling the transmitters, a move Gwiazda and others fought a hard battle against and ultimately lost.
Without a shortwave signal, RCI can simply be blocked by any government that doesn’t want its citizens to get an outside perspective. And without a broadcast schedule to fill, CBC gutted RCI’s staff and output, so it just doesn’t do that much anymore.
I learned through this reporting that apparently there’s some … let’s be generous and say disagreement … about what RCI’s mandate is.
The government’s 2012 Order in Council resetting RCI’s mandate (and removing the obligation to broadcast on shortwave) says RCI is to “produce and distribute programming targeted at international audiences to increase awareness of Canada, its values and its social, economic and cultural activities.”
But the CBC’s own mandate for RCI says “RCI targets audiences who know little to nothing about Canada, whether they live in Canada or abroad.”
Julien said serving new Canadians has always been RCI’s mandate. Gwiazda said its mandate is solely to serve people outside the country.
I think it’s time the federal government stepped in and decided what it wants to do with RCI. Gwiazda thinks it should be separated from the CBC and run as its own separately-funded service.
CBC seems to want to turn RCI into an add-on third-language service providing some news to ethnic Canadians. (Julien said content produced in third languages would be made available free of charge to ethnic media, to avoid competing with them.)
It’s up to the politicians to decide which is the best course. Or to pull the obligation from CBC and let RCI die an honourable death.
CJMS 1040 AM has gone off the air again, and this time it could be for good.
On Dec. 22, a three-judge panel of the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an application by CJMS owner Groupe Média PAM Inc. for leave to appeal a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that refused to renew the station’s licence.
Judges Marc Nadon, Richard Boivin and Marianne Rivoalen rejected the request by CJMS to overturn the decision and keep the station on the air.
On Sept. 14, two weeks after the licence expired (and after a first attempt was rejected as not following proper procedure), Judge Denis Pelletier granted a temporary injunction allowing the station to keep operating while the application to appeal was heard. With the decision rendered, that injunction becomes moot and CJMS was forced to shut down.
CJMS’s argument was that the CRTC treated it unfairly, and should not have given any weight to licence violations committed by the station’s previous owner (Jean Ernest Pierre, who also owns Haitian station CJWI 1410 AM, bought CJMS in 2014 after the last time the CRTC threatened to pull its licence).
The decision is unsurprising. In two previous cases cited by CJMS in its application, the court also sided with the CRTC and ordered the stations off the air.
Meanwhile, the CJMS brand continues as an online-only station run by former host Jocelyn Benoit. On the same day the court rendered its decision, Benoit announced the appointment of a vice-president, Chantal Normandin.
Numeris released its fall metered radio ratings last week, and as usual you can play around with the numbers all you want, but it’s clear there has been am impact on the ratings, particularly for The Beat 92.5 but also for Virgin Radio 95.9, that started around the time we went into lockdown. Both stations lost about a third of their audience since the spring.
Average minute audience, anglophone Montrealers 12+, Aug. 31 to Nov. 29:
- CJAD 800: 12,200
- The Beat 92.5: 7,000
- CHOM 977: 5,500
- Virgin 95.9: 3,500
- CBC Radio One: 3,300
- CBC Music: 1,500
- TSN 690: 1,400
- 98,5fm: 1,000
- Rythme 105,7: 800
- ICI Radio-Canada Première: 600
CHOM and CJAD have slightly negative trendlines but have managed to hold their own during the pandemic. CHOM remains rated better than Virgin, while CJAD is still the highest-rated English-language station among anglophones, with a stronger share but fewer listeners on average than it had in 2016-18.
Also of note is that CBC Music, formerly Radio Two, has been improving its numbers in Montreal, and had edged out TSN 690 in overall audience. That doesn’t mean TSN is doing horribly, though. The Canadiens’ playoff run this summer prevented it from hitting a summer low as deep as it saw in 2018, and even though the team hasn’t played this fall, it remains on par with ratings in fall 2018 and 2017.
Among francophones, 98,5fm remains unsurprisingly the top-rated station. The average minute audience (12+) ranks as such:
- 98,5fm: 32,600
- ICI Radio-Canada Première 95,1: 23,000
- 105,7 Rythme FM: 20,400
- CKOI 96,9: 13,800
- 107,3 Rouge: 12,700
- Énergie 94,3: 11,700
- CHOM 97.7: 8,100
- ICI Musique 100,7: 6,700
- The Beat 92.5: 5,900
- Virgin Radio 95.9: 4,900
- WKND 99,5: 2,600
- 91,9 Sports: 1,200
- CBC Music: 1,000
- TSN 690: 600
- CJAD 800: 400
Of course, that didn’t stop Bell from declaring victory, saying Énergie was the top-rated station in Montreal, based on counting only those ages 25-54 (the money demo for advertisers). Rythme FM countered that it was the highest-rated music station (using the “big number”), listing all the time periods it is #1 and conveniently ignoring that time period before 8:30am.
The newest kid on the block, WKND 99.5, started slow out of the gate, and still hasn’t built up an audience to match what it saw as Radio Classique. That’s to be expected, as a new radio station takes a while, and the pandemic isn’t helping. It almost doubled its audience from the summer, and we can probably expect those numbers to slowly improve over the coming year.
Numeris cancelled its fall ratings for diary markets (Quebec City, Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Ottawa-Gatineau, etc.), so we’ll have to wait for next spring to find out how those stations are doing.
CBC this week finally revealed that Mike Finnerty is leaving as Daybreak host, a month after the job was posted to replace him. This morning, Finnerty announced on the air that his permanent replacement will be Sean Henry, who currently hosts the late-night local newscasts on CBC Television.
Henry has been with CBC for 15 years now, first at CBC Windsor then in Quebec since 2012. Before that, he worked for Global Quebec and 940 News.
I know of Henry only in passing, but he’s a solid broadcaster, and most people will tell you that he’s one of the nicest people they know with a strong sense of humour. That should serve him well, as it did Finnerty.
Henry takes over in January, after a few more weeks hosting the TV news. Rebecca Ugolini will sit in as interim host until then.
UPDATE (Feb. 12, 2021): The CRTC has rejected the request.
In 2013, when Bell Media acquired Astral Media, it made a promise: In exchange for keeping TSN 690 as a fourth English Montreal radio station, one more than what would usually be permitted under the CRTC’s common ownership policy, it would commit to keeping the station running as a sports talk station, a format that has earned CKGM a small but loyal audience over the previous decade.
On the last day of the CRTC hearing on the (second) application to acquire Astral, Bell also agreed to a commitment, proposed by commission chairperson Jean-Pierre Blais, that TSN 690 maintain its 96 hours a week of local programming:
7775 THE CHAIRPERSON (Jean-Pierre Blais): Okay.
7776 So now I’m going to go even further down the road of analysis and we are obviously in the option of an approval and then there are some issues that we need to tidy up.
7777 On CKGM, how many hours of local programming are there? Could somebody give me that?
7778 MR. GORDON (Chris Gordon, head of radio and local stations for Bell Media): I believe it’s 96 hours of local programming.
7779 THE CHAIRPERSON: And would you be able to accept — how would you react if we imposed that as a condition of license on that service?
7780 MR. GORDON: We would accept.
7781 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
When the CRTC approved the sale, in which Bell would acquire CJAD, Virgin Radio 95.9 and CHOM 97.7 from Astral, it required Bell to change TSN 690’s licence to impose requirements including that local programming quota (which is not standard for AM radio stations). As of January 2014, TSN 690 has had the requirement as part of its licence.
With the licence up for renewal (it was supposed to expire in August, but the CRTC has pushed that to Feb. 28), Bell has decided the 96-hour requirement is too onerous and wants it reduced.
That application has been posted separately as a request to amend the station’s licence.
“With respect to local programming, to the best of our knowledge no other commercial AM station has a set number of local programming hours or even a local programming requirement,” Bell Media writes in its application, glossing over the reason why this special requirement was imposed in the first place. “Indeed, the Commercial Radio Policy only provides that for an AM station, local programming requirements will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, as set out in the Commission’s standard conditions of licences that apply to licensees of all commercial AM and FM stations, FM stations are only required to air a minimum of 42 hours of local programming during any broadcast week in order to solicit or accept local advertising.”
Bell instead proposes that CKGM’s local programming quota be reduced from 96 hours a week (averaging 13.7 hours a day) to 63 hours a week (9 hours a day).
TSN 690 says it currently broadcasts local programming generally from 6am to midnight on weekdays, plus 6-10 hours on weekends, particularly weekend mornings. It’s unclear how this would change under a reduced quota.
Bell says the main reason it wants to cut its minimum local programming quota is so it can air more non-local live sports programming, like NFL games, Blue Jays games, IIHF tournaments and NHL games that don’t involve the Montreal Canadiens.
It gives an example of a situation where that quota prevented it from airing an important sporting event:
A recent example of this situation was the NHL’s 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues in June of this year. As a result of airing the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors during the same broadcast week, CKGM did not have the flexibility to also air game seven of the Stanley Cup Final as this would have put that week’s 96 hour local programming requirement in jeopardy. Instead of airing the NHL game — a highly attractive program offering for our audience — CKGM aired repeat local programming, thereby depriving CKGM’S NHL fans of live coverage of one the most important sporting events of the year.
Bell also says lowering the quota would mean airing more Blue Jays games (from less than 50 per season to more than 70).
It sounds reasonable, maybe, but you could imagine the worry that Bell would simply produce less local programming if given this additional flexibility. TSN 690 is not a money maker and I’m sure Bell would be happy to save a few dollars in the evening when it can just run content from elsewhere.
On the other hand, set the conditions of licence too high and Bell could decide it’s not worth the trouble and just shut the station down.
I tried asking Bell for an interview about the programming plans for the station, but the response I got back was this:
We have no comment beyond the application.
The application (#2019-0857-6) is posted here and accepts comments until 8pm ET on Nov. 30. You can file comments here. Note that all comments sent to the CRTC become part of the public record, including contact info.
The federal government has tabled legislation to rewrite the Broadcasting Act. Bill C-10 has a long list of amendments that change wording in the act and it’s a bit confusing to get through. So here’s a list of what’s actually in the bill (based on my Twitter thread from yesterday):
- Creates a new definition of “online undertaking” meaning “an undertaking for the transmission or retransmission of programs over the Internet for reception by the public by means of broadcasting receiving apparatus” — in other words, an online broadcaster, using the same vague wording as for traditional broadcasters but presumably including services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. Such “undertakings” would not need to be licensed to operate, nor would they pay fees to the CRTC, but the commission can regulate them, impose Canadian content or funding obligations, and demand information including confidential financial information.
- A specific exemption for content posted to a “social media service” that excludes such content from the definition of broadcaster for the purpose of the act.
- Gives the CRTC the power to impose fines on broadcasters. Currently, the commission cannot impose “administrative monetary penalties” on broadcasters like they can on things like spammers. They’ve gotten around this by imposing additional financial contributions as conditions of licence when licenses are renewed. With this change it could impose fines directly, up to $25,000 for a first offence or $50,000 for subsequent ones, for a specific set of reasons.
- Explicitly state that the broadcasting system serves all Canadians, “including Canadians from racialized communities and Canadians of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, abilities and disabilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and ages.” The CRTC already respects these values, so it probably won’t change anything, but specific reference to things like sexual orientations could be cited in discussions of setting new policies or court challenges to CRTC decisions.
- Explicitly mention news. Right now the act only mentions obligations to news for the CBC specifically. The new act would say that programming provided by the entire system should as a matter of policy “include programs produced by Canadians that cover news and current events — from the local and regional to the international — and that reflect the viewpoints of Canadians, including the viewpoints of Indigenous persons and of Canadians from racialized communities and diverse ethnocultural backgrounds.”
- Eliminate the seven-year maximum length of licenses. The CRTC has already started reducing licence terms, generally five years now for TV licenses. Under the new act, they could set unlimited terms but also wouldn’t have to wait five years to make changes to licenses.
- Codifies how the CRTC deals with confidential information, including explicitly allowing it to share said information with Statistics Canada and the Competition Bureau.
- Give the government more time to overturn CRTC decisions related to awarding, renewing or amending licences or referring them back to the commission for reconsideration. The 90-day deadline would now be 180 days.
And some minor changes:
- Change the procedure for orders from the government. Instead of being referred to a House of Commons committee with a 40-day notice, the orders would need to be published and have a 30-day notice.
- Moves article 9(1)h of the act, which gives the CRTC the power to require distributors carry certain programming, to a new section, requiring several amendments to other laws that reference it.
If that seems like it’s not that much and very unspecific, that’s true. The act only gives general policies and creates legal powers. A lot of the more interesting stuff related to policy will be done through a policy direction to the CRTC, which the minister says will be done once the amendments to the act are passed. There are also other bills to come including amendments to the Copyright Act.
Then, the job of interpreting the new policy and actually setting new regulations will be up to the CRTC.
Among the things we don’t find in this bill:
- Changes to copyright law, or anything that would change how Google and Facebook deal with content
- A better definition of broadcasting that would make it clear what is regulated and what is not
- A definition of social media that would let us answer if, for example, YouTube is a social media platform or if it’s both social media and an online broadcaster depending on content
- Anything new regulating social media
- Any policy direction to the CRTC
- Any substantial changes to how traditional television and radio is regulated
- Any change to the CBC’s structure or mandate
- Any consumer protection measures
- Any measures related to sales taxes for online broadcasters
Compared to what was recommended in the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel report in January, it’s not quite as bold, but there are several elements in there, including the most important one giving the CRTC the power to regulate online media (though the commission would have argued that it already had that power).
Now we’ll see what terms the CRTC set for Netflix et al, and if they’ll agree to them.
Numeris released its summer 2020 ratings this week, and combined with the ratings from the spring, we see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as fewer people tune in.
The Beat 92.5 saw the most noticeable drop in terms of raw audience numbers, going from an average of 10,000 anglophone listeners a minute down to 6,800 and 6,600. But it maintained its second-place rank among English-language stations. Virgin also saw a drop, continuing a long decline that has seen it lose more than half its audience in three years.
Conversely, CHOM managed to grow its audience slightly, which gave it its best audience share in years as its competitors declined. And Énergie 94,3, which has refocused itself on rock music and away from talk, saw a jump in audience that put it ahead of sister station Rouge FM 107,3 for the first time since at least 2011, and claiming the adults 25-54 demographic over Rythme FM (though Rythme has much higher ratings overall).
In Toronto, Corus’s Q107 also had a big jump in ratings, making it the #1 station among adults 25-54, a status it didn’t hesitate to crow about.
So does this mean rock music stations did well during the pandemic?
Well, no. I crunched the numbers for this story for Cartt.ca and it turns out these three stations are the exception. Across Canada, rock and alternative stations were flat, and most lost audience.
Having been denied their licence renewal by the CRTC, CJMS 1040 AM in St-Constant spent the last six hours of its licence term on Monday reminiscing about its past and talking to country music artists and others about what the station has done but also about its plan to become an online-only streaming station.
At 12:00:38, the host was cut off mid-sentence saying goodbye, and there was just dead air.
But by Tuesday morning, there was audio again at 1040 AM, as if nothing had happened.
Owner Jean Ernest Pierre told me in a brief email he received authorization late Monday to continue operating. He didn’t expand on that.
As I explain in this story for Cartt.ca, CJMS’s filings with the Federal Court of Appeal were deficient, so had not yet been accepted as of Thursday. The CRTC said it was aware of the appeal (and lack of decision). “The Commission is monitoring the situation and will take additional steps if necessary,” a spokesperson said.
According to the filings provided by the court, Groupe Médias Pam (which is CJMS’s official licensee) is arguing that the CRTC unfairly took into account licence violations committed by the station’s previous owner and failed to show “procedural fairness” that would have called for progressive discipline before refusing to renew a licence.
The station raised the same argument at the hearing, but the CRTC countered in its decision that “when the licensee acquired the station in 2014, the licensee was informed of CJMS’s previous non-compliance.”
Indeed, in that 2014 decision allowing Pierre to buy CJMS from previous owner Alexandre Azoulay for $15,000, the CRTC said this:
The Commission emphasizes the importance it places on a licensee’s fulfillment of its regulatory obligations. It is the licensee’s responsibility to ensure that it is aware of and respects its regulatory obligations at all times. In this case, Groupe Médias must comply with the terms and conditions of licence set out in Appendix 1 to this decision, with the CJMS code of ethics set out in Appendix 2 and with the orders set out in Appendix 3 and Appendix 4. The Commission reminds Groupe Médias that in addition to complying with the appendices to this decision, it must comply with the Regulations at all times.
The commission does not explicitly state that violations by previous owners are taken into account when evaluating whether a station should lose its licence, but Pierre had to be aware the station was on thin ice, with short-term licence renewals issued in 2014 and again in 2018.
In arguing for a stay of the CRTC’s decision, CJMS notes the precedent of cases involving Toronto’s CKLN-FM 88.1 and the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network. One of the filings even accidentally refers to CKLN where it should refer to CJMS.
In both those cases, the court did halt enforcement of the CRTC’s decision, but in both those cases it eventually sided with the CRTC and those stations were forced off the air.
UPDATE (Sept. 11): The station went off the air again on Thursday. A Facebook post says it’s a temporary shutdown for maintenance, but that’s some suspicious timing.
UPDATE (Nov. 25): On Sept. 14, the Federal Court of Appeal issued an order maintaining CJMS’s licence and suspending the CRTC’s non-renewal decision until the court decides whether to proceed with the appeal. Judge J.D. Denis Pelletier wrote:
Le dossier de requête visant un sursis intérimaire est acceptée pour dépôt — La demande de sursis intérimaire de la décision CRTC 2020-239 est accordée — La licence de radiodiffusion de l’entreprise de programmation de radio commerciale de langue française CJMS Saint-Constant (Québec) est réputée demeurer en vigueur depuis son expiration, jusqu’à ce que soit décidée la requête visant la permission de pourvoir en appel la décision du du conseil … – Le tout sans frais.
Almost a month after refusing to renew the licence of country music station CJMS 1040 for failure to abide by its licence conditions, the CRTC has ended the suspense of what it would do for sister station CPAM Radio Union (CJWI) 1410, which was brought before the commission on the same day to answer the same apparent compliance issues.
In a decision published Thursday, the commission has decided to give that station another chance, renewing its licence for two years and imposing special conditions including three mandatory orders (even though it found the station in breach of two of its three previous mandatory orders), a requirement to broadcast their non-compliance, and a de facto fine of $2,836 (for the harm done to the Canadian music industry by not playing enough Canadian music).
The renewal comes despite the commission finding that “the licensee seems to lack both the willingness and the knowledge required to operate the station in compliance.”
So what was the big difference between the two stations? Why was one renewed and the other not? Partly because of their history (CJMS had more issues dating from before it was taken over by CPAM), but partly because the CRTC felt that the Haitian station made an effort to solve its issues with the commission:
However, after hearing the licensee during the public hearing, the Commission acknowledges that, despite its belated efforts, the licensee contacted Commission staff many times to obtain clarifications on its music programming obligations. The Commission notes that the licensee appears to now better understand the nature of the music categories and the appropriate manner to compile them. Further, the licensee mentioned multiple time to the Commission during the public hearing that it, if in doubt, it would contact the Commission to verify its understanding.
Although the licensee has a history of severe and repeated non-compliance, it demonstrated a willingness to continue operating CJWI in compliance and proposed additional corrective measures to try to comply with its obligations.
Of course, CPAM also owns CJMS and I don’t see how its efforts to save CJWI are more significant. The history (CJMS had been threatened with licence revocation before) is probably the more important factor, and the fact that CJWI serves a marginalized community can’t be overlooked. Had it been a simple commercial station the commission may have had less patience.
A two-year renewal and mandatory orders suggest this may be CJWI’s last chance to satisfy the commission. If the same issues come up next time, they’re probably looking at non-renewal, no matter how much the community may care about it.
In the meantime, as I’m writing this, CJMS is still on the air, with two days left in its licence. Programming director Jocelyn Benoit says the station will continue as an online-only broadcast as of Sept. 1, and has renamed its Facebook group and page from “CJMS 1040” to “CJMS 2.0”.
After more than a decade of the station failing to meet its licence obligations, the CRTC decided Friday it has had enough, and refused to renew the licence of St-Constant country music station CJMS 1040 AM. As a result, it will no longer legally be allowed on the air after Aug. 31.
In light of the severity and recurrence of the current instances of non-compliance; of the station’s history of non-compliance and the licensee’s actions, which demonstrate a poor understanding of its conditions of licence and regulatory obligations, or a lack of willingness to respect them; of its inability to implement the necessary measures to ensure compliance; and of its disregard for the Commission’s authority and for its responsibilities as a broadcaster, the Commission is convinced that the imposition of conditions of licence or of mandatory orders, a suspension, or a short-term licence renewal would not be effective measures. Consequently, the Commission finds that not renewing the licence is the only appropriate measure in the circumstances.
In a separate decision also released Friday, the commission also refused to renew the licence of troublesome station CFOR-FM Maniwaki.
CJMS, which launched in 1999, has a long history of licence compliance issues, and might have had the licence revoked in 2013 had its owner of the time, Alexandre Azoulay, not agreed to sell it to Jean Ernest Pierre, owner of Haitian station CJWI (CPAM 1410). When CJMS was last asked to appear before the commission, Azoulay surprised the commissioners by blaming his father’s dementia for the compliance issues.
There’s also the fact that Michel Mathieu, a broadcast consultant who was the original licensee of CJMS, filed a strongly-worded intervention demanding the CRTC pull the license.
The decision should worry Pierre about the future of CJWI, which like CJMS has a long list of compliance issues and was the subject of mandatory orders that appeared to be insufficient to keep it in line. But CJWI has more original programming and is more vital to its community than CJMS, and the fact that the CRTC didn’t issue a decision Friday, giving the stations exactly one month before they were to shut down, suggests it might be given one last chance.
CJMS could appeal the decision, by asking the federal government to intervene or by asking the federal court to overturn the decision if it can find some error in law. Pierre told the Journal de Montréal he’s looking at options. But neither are likely to succeed. Instead, if someone wants to start a new commercial radio station serving St-Constant, there’s a transmitter that can probably be bought for pretty cheap.
Other country options
So if you’re a fan of country music in Montreal, where can you go for your fix? There aren’t any big commercial country stations here like in other Canadian markets, but you have options besides going online:
- CKKI-FM 89.9 (KIC Country) Kahnawake, which can be heard through most of the island
- CKRK-FM 103.7 (K103) Kahnawake, which airs country music on weekends
- CHAA-FM-HD-2 103.3 Longueuil — the HD Radio channel just launched and carries a country music format
- CKYQ-FM (Hit Country) 95.7 Plessisville — part of Arsenal Media’s new country brand, though you’ll have to be far enough east to hear the station over Virgin 95.9.
- WVNV (Wild Country) 96.5 Malone, N.Y. — gets a better signal on the west side of Montreal and southwest of the city
UPDATE (Aug. 29): It looks like for the time being the plan is to keep CJMS running as an online-only radio station once its licence expires. Program director Jocelyn Benoit posted on Facebook that it would continue streaming as of Sept. 1, and he renamed the station’s Facebook group and page from “CJMS 1040” to “CJMS 2.0”.
UPDATE (Sept. 1): CJMS went off the air at 38 seconds after midnight on Sept. 1. I recorded its final minute on air, which ended with announcer Jocelyn Benoit being cut off mid-sentence.
A new website is being worked on at cjms.ca.
Jean Ernest Pierre is appearing in front of the CRTC on Wednesday hoping to save the two radio stations he owns.
Country music station CJMS 1040 AM and Haitian station CPAM Radio Union (CJWI 1410 AM) are two of the five stations that were told to appear at a CRTC hearing in Gatineau to justify their licence renewal applications, and explain why those renewals should not be for short terms or straight up denied because of their repeated non-compliance with their licence obligations. (The hearing, originally scheduled in person on May 12, will now be by teleconference June 16-18.)
Both CJMS and CJWI not only have short-term licences already, but both are subject to mandatory orders to require they remain in compliance with their obligations. Both stations have nevertheless had compliance issues, the commission says.
For CJMS, which hasn’t had a compliant licence term since it was first licensed in 1998, “the Commission remains concerned that CJMS continues to be in severe and recurring non-compliance and that this is the fifth consecutive licence term in which the station has been found in non-compliance with regulatory requirements,” it said two years ago. Now, in its sixth licence term, it is still not compliant.
- Missing financial statements for the 2018-19 broadcast year. Pierre blamed this on the accountant uploading a file that may have been too large for the CRTC’s server.
- Inaccurate music lists, comparing the station’s auto-evaluation report with its music list for the period of Nov. 4-10, 2018. Pierre said some songs were miscategorized.
- Missing financial statements for the 2018-19 broadcast year. Pierre blamed this on the accountant uploading a file that may have been too large for the CRTC’s server.
- Music quotas (based on a self-evaluation and music list for the period of July 7-13, 2019):
- Too much popular music (31.32% vs. 30% maximum)
- Too much francophone popular music (25.6% vs. 15% maximum)
- Not enough world beat and international music (68.68% vs. 70% minimum)
- Not enough of its world beat and international music selections were Canadian (15.8% vs. 35% minimum)
- Inaccurate music lists (based on the same self-evaluation and music list). Pierre said music-related non-conformities were because some songs played in the system but were muted by the host and so never actually broadcast.
In addition to these, both stations are accused of failing to abide by mandatory orders requiring them to remain in compliance with their licence conditions.
The applications prompted four interventions, all of which were sent by fax and seemed to share a similar format. Broadcast consultant Michel Mathieu, who co-founded CJMS, and three others said the commission should not renew the licences because of the compliance issues, and brought up additional ones, including that CJMS had been filled with “ethnic” programming from the Haitian station and that CJMS had been continuing to broadcast repeat programming hosted by Pascal Poudrier, who died two years ago.
Pierre called criticisms of Haitian-Canadians on CJMS “racist” and said conformity issues were due to “technical problems” and non-renewal of licences would be an extreme reaction to this.
The CRTC hearing into licence renewals of non-compliant stations begins June 16 with CICR-FM Parrsboro, N.S., and CKMN-FM Rimouski/Mont-Joli, Quebec, followed by CJWI and CJMS on June 17 and CFOR-FM Maniwaki on June 18. Mathieu has been invited to speak as an intervener on the 17th, following which Pierre will be given a chance to respond.
Those who hadn’t paid attention when the financial and regulatory process was under way were probably surprised when they tuned to their favourite classical music station on Sunday and heart franco pop music instead.
Leclerc Communication, which got CRTC approval for its acquisition of CJPX-FM in April, officially took over the station at 2pm on Friday, according to a Facebook post from Nicolas Leclerc, vice-president of sales and marketing. Quebec City’s CJSQ-FM was not part of the sale and remains a Radio Classique station, though who knows how long it can hold out without a Montreal big brother.
Leclerc will relaunch CJPX-FM as WKND 99,5, with the same branding as its Quebec City station, on Wednesday at 5pm. Until then, its programming is 100% francophone music. Leclerc says the station will start with 100% music programming for the first few weeks before official programming begins.
WKND’s website is montreal.wknd.fm. No spoilers there about programming.
Maybe Quebec City isn’t such a strange creature after all. On Friday, Énergie 98,9 (CHIK-FM) told its talk personalities their services are no longer required and it would go back to being a rock music station.
Let go were afternoon host Jérôme Landry, who had been there for four years, plus morning host Stéphane Gasse, as well as Laurent Gaulin, Samuel Matte, Alexandre Tétreault, Marie-Josée Longval, Pierre-Yves Boies and Nicolas Lacroix.
Bell Media told me it would not comment on layoffs or say how many there were.
I had an idea for a blog post with a cool analysis showing the changes in radio listening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would show, through a bunch of number-crunching, that Canadians turned away from music radio stations as they stopped going to work, but kept in touch with news-talk stations.
Unfortunately, the data didn’t have my back here. I compared average minute audience measured by Numeris from this spring (March to May) versus last spring, and looked at the relative change in audience. While some news-talkers did well (98.5 and CJAD in Montreal), others did badly (CBC Radio One here and in some other cities).
There were some undeniable trends, though, and they aren’t terribly surprising:
Sports radio: Without sports, there’s much less interest in hearing it or talking about it. Every sports-talk station in Canada’s five largest markets lost audience, between 50% to 72%. Hardest hit was Montreal’s 91,9 Sports.
All-traffic stations were also hit, but because there are only two of them in Canada and they have very low audience, it’s hard to really quantify that.
Less listening overall: Montreal’s total average-minute audience was 202,600 a year ago, and 167,400 this spring, the lowest level since Numeris began publishing overall AMA numbers in 2015. Across Canada, the same deal, with each of the five major markets losing between 10 and 18% of its average audience.
So with that out of the way, here’s how the ratings break down by city:
Total average minute audience, spring 2020 (vs. spring 2019):
- 98,5fm: 38,900 (up from 32,000)
- Rythme FM; 20,200 (down from 22,000)
- ICI Radio-Canada Première: 18,700 (down from 21,800)
- CJAD: 14,500 (up from 14,100)
- CKOI: 12,300 (down from 19,000)
- CHOM 97.7: 12,100 (down from 15,900)
- The Beat 92.5: 11,600 (down from 17,200)
- Rouge: 11,100 (down from 19,700)
- Énergie 94,3: 8,300 (down from 11,700)
- Virgin Radio 95.9: 6,700 (down from 9,700)
- ICI Musique: 4,100 (down from 5,100)
- CBC Radio One: 3,900 (down from 6,100)
- CBC Music: 1,400 (down from 1,700)
- CHRF AM 980: 1,400 (up from 500)
- TSN Radio 690: 1,200 (down from 2,500)
- 91,9 Sports: 900 (down from 3,300)
- Radio Circulation 730: 100 (down from 300)
Of the 17 measured stations, only three (which I’ve bolded here) saw ratings increases from a year ago. One is CHRF, which has since shut down. The other two are commercial talk stations.
Anglo average minute audience:
- CJAD: 13,500
- The Beat: 6,800
- CHOM: 5,600
- CBC Radio One: 3,600
- Virgin: 3,100
- CBC Music: 1,200
- TSN 690: 1,100
- 98,5fm: 900
- ICI Première: 700
- Rythme: 600
- Énergie: 600
Things got so bad for TSN Radio it dropped below CBC Music in terms of audience share, both among anglos and overall. Meanwhile, Virgin Radio is still behind CBC Radio One and less than half the audience of The Beat. “Montreal’s #1 Hit Music Station” is going to have to do more than replace its morning team to fix this disparity.
- 98,5fm: Top-rated station in Quebec
- Radio-Canada: 5 shows in the top 10
- Rythme FM: Top-rated music station in Montreal, #1 at work
- CKOI: Top-rated music station among adults 25-49
- Rouge: Top-rated French-language show in Canada
- Énergie: Top-rated music station among men 25-54
- 91,9 Sports: (Nothing)
- The Beat: #1 among adults 25-54, top rated shows in middays, afternoons and weekend afternoons
- Virgin: (Nothing)
- CHOM: (Nothing)
- CJAD: (Nothing)
- TSN: (Nothing)
- Jazz.FM91: 28%*
- Q107: 22%
- CHFI: 17%
- CBC Radio One: 14%
- TSN Radio 1050: 67%
- Sportsnet 590: 67%
- G98.7: 53%*
- Virgin Radio: 48%
- Jewel 88.5: 48%
- Energy 95.3: 43%*
- Zoomer AM740: 41%
*Station-specific issues probably had a bigger role in these changes: Internal turmoil at Jazz FM and G98.7, and a format change at Energy (formerly Fresh 95.3).
- CBC Music: 38%
- 101.5 Today: 32%
- Funny 1060: 25%
- Sportsnet 960: 50%
- 90.3 AMP: 50%
- Virgin Radio: 36%
- 840 CFCW: 39%
- CBC Radio One: 10%
- TSN 1260: 61%
- Kiss 91.7: 37%
- CISN Country: 35%
- 95.7 Cruz FM: 34%
- 102.3 Now!: 32%
- CBC Music: 57%
- Peak 102.7: 48%
- JRfm: 37%
- Global News Radio: 37%
- BNN Bloomberg: 33%*
- Sportsnet 650: 71%
- AM730 (Traffic): 70%*
- Rock 101: 34%
- CBC Radio One: 33%
- TSN 1040: 23%
*Stations with very low audience will see exaggerated relative changes.