Category Archives: Radio

Énergie 98,9 drops talk format, goes back to rock music

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.

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Radio ratings: COVID-19 causes sports radio audiences to plummet

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:

Montreal

Total average minute audience, spring 2020 (vs. spring 2019):

  1. 98,5fm: 38,900 (up from 32,000)
  2. Rythme FM; 20,200 (down from 22,000)
  3. ICI Radio-Canada Première: 18,700 (down from 21,800)
  4. CJAD: 14,500 (up from 14,100)
  5. CKOI: 12,300 (down from 19,000)
  6. CHOM 97.7: 12,100 (down from 15,900)
  7. The Beat 92.5: 11,600 (down from 17,200)
  8. Rouge: 11,100 (down from 19,700)
  9. Énergie 94,3: 8,300 (down from 11,700)
  10. Virgin Radio 95.9: 6,700 (down from 9,700)
  11. ICI Musique: 4,100 (down from 5,100)
  12. CBC Radio One: 3,900 (down from 6,100)
  13. CBC Music: 1,400 (down from 1,700)
  14. CHRF AM 980: 1,400 (up from 500)
  15. TSN Radio 690: 1,200 (down from 2,500)
  16. 91,9 Sports: 900 (down from 3,300)
  17. 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:

  1. CJAD: 13,500
  2. The Beat: 6,800
  3. CHOM: 5,600
  4. CBC Radio One: 3,600
  5. Virgin: 3,100
  6. CBC Music: 1,200
  7. TSN 690: 1,100
  8. 98,5fm: 900
  9. ICI Première: 700
  10. Rythme: 600
  11. 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.

Self-congratulations

Toronto

Biggest gains:

  1. Jazz.FM91: 28%*
  2. Q107: 22%
  3. CHFI: 17%
  4. CBC Radio One: 14%

Biggest losses:

  1. TSN Radio 1050: 67%
  2. Sportsnet 590: 67%
  3. G98.7: 53%*
  4. Virgin Radio: 48%
  5. Jewel 88.5: 48%
  6. Energy 95.3: 43%*
  7. 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).

Calgary

Biggest gains:

  1. CBC Music: 38%
  2. 101.5 Today: 32%
  3. Funny 1060: 25%

Biggest losses:

  1. Sportsnet 960: 50%
  2. 90.3 AMP: 50%
  3. Virgin Radio: 36%

Edmonton

Biggest gains:

  1. 840 CFCW: 39%
  2. CBC Radio One: 10%

Biggest losses:

  1. TSN 1260: 61%
  2. Kiss 91.7: 37%
  3. CISN Country: 35%
  4. 95.7 Cruz FM: 34%
  5. 102.3 Now!: 32%

Vancouver

Biggest gains:

  1. CBC Music: 57%
  2. Peak 102.7: 48%
  3. JRfm: 37%
  4. Global News Radio: 37%
  5. BNN Bloomberg: 33%*

Biggest losses:

  1. Sportsnet 650: 71%
  2. AM730 (Traffic): 70%*
  3. Rock 101: 34%
  4. CBC Radio One: 33%
  5. TSN 1040: 23%

*Stations with very low audience will see exaggerated relative changes.

Evanov Radio shuts down CHRF 980 AM

Evanov Radio’s CHRF 980 AM in Montreal announced it has shut down effective midnight Sunday.

Host Serge Plaisance announced on the station’s website that he’s moving to its sister station, CFMB 1280 AM:

Ici Serge Plaisance,

Chers amis auditrices et auditeurs du AM980, CHRF, c’est avec regret que nous vous annonçons la fermeture définitive du AM980, ce dimanche, 31 mai 2020, à minuit.

Un énorme merci de votre écoute, mais heureusement, nous avons une autre station du groupe de Radio Evanov à Montréal, soit le AM 1280, CFMB, une station multilingue, aussi d’une puissance de 50,000 Watts, 24 heures sur 24.

Je vous reverrai, j’espère à cette antenne, avec une nouvelle émission, LES AIIRS DE PLAISANCE , diffusée tous les dimanches de 16 à 18 heures. Prenez note que Johanne Verdon Naturopathe aura son émission tous les lundis de 14 à 15 heures, SANTÉ 360 DEGRÉ et Mario Lipari pour ARCOBALENO MUSICALE, y sera les jeudis de 14 à 15 heures.

C’est un nouveau rendez-vous sur AM 1280 CFMB,

À très bientôt

Serge Plaisance pour Evanov Radio

The news was met with some disappointment from fans on the station’s Facebook page.

Carmela Laurignano, vice-president of Evanov, confirmed to me the company was giving up the licence for the station. Shortly thereafter, the CRTC published a notice that it has revoked the licence at the licensee’s request.

At the end, because of previous cutbacks and COVID-related ones, CHRF was only employing two people, Laurignano said. Both remain with the company, working for CFMB and Evanov’s other Quebec station, CHSV-FM (Jewel 106.7 Hudson).

As I explain in this story for Cartt.ca, Evanov had several reasons for shutting the station down, from the COVID-19 pandemic to a miscalculation of market demand for music on AM and even an obligation to subscribe to Numeris ratings (Numeris policy is all-or-nothing for large broadcasters, with some exceptions that didn’t apply to CHRF). Evanov also puts some blame at the foot of the CRTC for rejecting applications to improve its signals in Toronto that would have given it access to more ad revenue.

CHRF was Evanov’s only French-language radio station. It was awarded the licence as part of a surprisingly competitive CRTC proceeding in 2011 that also saw TSN Radio awarded the 690 frequency (Evanov was given its old 990 frequency and then changed to 980) and TTP Media given a licence for 940 AM.

The plan was for a station called “Radio Fierté” which would target Montreal’s LGBTQ+ community, modelled after the “Pride FM” format in downtown Toronto. But the format lasted less than a year and by the holidays it dropped the brand and moved to a format of Christmas music and Jewel-like easy listening.

“The biggest challenge for the station was that it had to be operated almost as a standalone,” Laurignano said. “There were no programming synergies with our other stations. The news could not be shared in terms of language production. Station imaging, even the sales force for that matter. It requires a dedicated sales force. It just became a situation of the station being subsidized for a long time.”

She didn’t have an exact cumulative figure, but said the losses are in the millions.

Laurignano stressed that the move is in part to protect Evanov’s other Quebec stations. CFMB will remain at the Papineau Ave. studio, and “we’re very dedicated” to it and The Jewel.

The shutdown means a vacancy at 980 (or 990) in Montreal. But even though there were five applicants for two (or three) frequencies in that 2011 hearing, there isn’t much demand for a new full-power AM station here. TTP Media got a licence for its second station at 600 AM (plus a French-language sports station at 850 AM, which it gave up for technical reasons), and Cogeco abandoned plans for an English-language traffic station.

Julia Caron gets to show her love for Quebec City as Quebec AM host

Julia Caron is the new host of Quebec AM (photo: Simon Dumas, via CBC)

I learned a lot about Julia Caron this week, after CBC named her the new permanent host of Quebec AM, the radio show in Quebec City broadcast throughout the province except Montreal and Gatineau.

Over a longer-than-I-expected phone call, she told me about her childhood, her education, her family, her career. But beyond that, I was also interested in hearing from someone who has worked in English in Quebec City for more than a decade about why an anglophone might like to work in a place where few people speak the same language.

But Julia Caron is not an anglophone. Nor is she a francophone. She’s an interesting hybrid of the two, which helps make her a good fit to succeed Susan Campbell in the big chair of that small studio on rue Saint-Jean.

Caron, 34, was born in Halifax, but moved out of there when she was three and spent most of her upbringing in Ontario as part of a military family. “Name a military base in Ontario and I lived there,” she tells me half-jokingly.

The closest thing she has to a home town is Petawawa, Ont., northwest of Ottawa and right on the border of Quebec. Her maternal grandparents live there.

“People like to guess that I’m a franco-ontarian,” she says. And that’s sort of true. Until moving to Quebec City in 2007, she’d never lived in this province, even though all her grandparents have a connection to it. But the franco part isn’t accurate.

“I hate it when people ask me if I’m a francophone or an anglophone,” she says. (She prefers to call herself a franglophone.)

In 2007, the last year of her undergraduate degree studying women’s studies and history at Trent University in Peterborough, Caron took part in an exchange program between Quebec and Ontario. It was a way to ensure she wouldn’t lose her French.

She worked as a tour guide at J.A. Vachon in Ste-Marie-de-Beauce. “Any questions you have about the benefits of Jos Louis,” she told me with a laugh.

“I just felt this warmth here,” she said.

In 2008, she made the move to Quebec City.

For a while, she did what comes naturally to a fully bilingual person in Quebec City: teaching English. But it was hard to earn a living that way, and riding a bus an hour and a half from Cap-Rouge downtown to teach a one-hour course was not ideal.

Enter the 2010 Olympics.

In December 2009, the Olympic torch made its way to Quebec City, and Caron decided to check it out. At one point a journalist asked if she spoke English and could talk about what was going on for the radio.

The journalist was Jacquie Czernin, whose name and voice was very familiar to Caron as an avid CBC Radio listener at the time, but whose face she didn’t immediately recognize.

“After she finished interviewing me, she asked me: are you looking for work?”

Finding someone who can articulate well in English in Quebec City isn’t easy.

Czernin “strongly encouraged me to send my CV to Kim Garrity, who is now my producer,” Caron said.

Caron has worked for CBC in Quebec City ever since. Mostly it was an off-air role, as the researcher for Quebec AM or researcher-technician for Breakaway, a job she still officially had until this week’s announcement. (“Apply for my old gig, it’s a great one,” she interjects.) She also filled in as CBC’s travelling journalist, reporting from communities across Quebec.

With the Quebec AM host chair vacated by Susan Campbell, first as part of a medical leave and then choosing to try another role at CBC, Caron was brought in as a fill-in host, and applied for the permanent job in February.

“It’s been a super-long process,” she tells me. (Even by CBC standards this took a while.) “The pandemic changed everything.”

Since she was already doing the job, and had so many ideas for the show that her interviewers had to ask her to stop listing them, the choice was pretty clear.

So what should listeners expect from the new Julia Caron Quebec AM?

Not much change, at least in the short term. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted most other things to the back burner. “The focus is really on the audience and what they need to know, because things are changing day by day,” she said.

But eventually,  “you might hear a bit more of my passion for the arts,” she said. “It’s one thing I really love doing as a host and haven’t been able to do for a while.”

She also has a bunch of story ideas. One she was willing to share:

“There has been such an expansive appetite for camper vans in Quebec,” she said. Caron bought a 1976 Dodge Tradesman 200 van in 2015 “and it’s been an amazing way to see the province relatively on the cheap.”

Expect to hear about that soon.

And expect to hear more about Caron’s love for her home.

“I absolutely adore everything about Quebec City,” she says. “It’s such a huge privilege to get to (work in English here). … Our listeners are so kind, they’re the kindest people I’ve met in my whole life.”

I asked her what she would say to an anglophone who was considering moving there for a job. Her answer was short: “Do it.”

Despite what outsiders like myself might think, “there is a surprisingly active English-speaking community in Quebec City, you just have to know how to find it.” Even she took a while to find out where anglo culture was thriving there. It may not be the most diverse community, especially when you’re comparing it to greater Toronto, but it’s alive.

“I still would not live anywhere else,” she says.

Not that she could just pick up and go if she wanted to.

Enter Feist.

Caron was going to see a concert featuring the Canadian indie-pop singer and indie rocket Chad VanGaalen when she met a man named Simon “who very quickly charmed me.”

“After my summer in Quebec he promised to visit me in Ontario. I didn’t believe him (but) he did.”

They’ve been together ever since and have a four-year-old daughter together. So she’s in this to stay.

Quebec AM airs 6-8:30am weekdays on CBC Radio One on the Quebec Community Network (CBVE-FM 104.7 and transmitters throughout the province). You can follow Julia Caron on Twitter and Instagram.

Nancy Wood leaves anchor chair: Meanwhile in Montreal, Nancy Wood announced she is leaving her anchor chair this summer, at least temporarily, to join the web desk and try something new. “I may or may not come back to TV…we’ll see how it goes!” she writesSean Henry moves from weekends to fill in for her.

CRTC approves Radio Classique 99.5 sale to Leclerc, conversion to pop music station

Montreal radio listeners who tune to 99.5 FM to hear classical music will soon have to find another source for those runes. On Friday, the CRTC announced it is approving a sale of CJPX-FM from Radio Classique to Leclerc Communication, which will turn it into a pop music with the same WKND brand it uses in Quebec City.

Radio Classique’s other station, CJSQ-FM 92.7 in Quebec City, will remain a classical music station, but I wouldn’t count on it surviving for long now that its big brother has been sold off. Radio Classique is also maintaining its online streaming.

The sale is valued at $4.89 million, with Leclerc having to pay an additional 6% of that value to go to independent funds per the CRTC’s tangible benefits policy.

Leclerc, which tried the same thing with CKLX-FM 91.9 in 2018 (a deal that failed when the CRTC said it couldn’t also buy CHOI Radio X in Quebec City), said it was happy with the decision, and will convert 99.5 to WKND “in the coming months.”

UPDATE (April 28): The CRTC has published the rationale behind the decision. It says there’s no diversity of voices concern since one independent owner has been replaced with another, and “the entry of Leclerc would maintain musical diversity in Montréal, although the musical offering would differ from that currently broadcast by the station.” It also noted that the station had not been profitable since 2014, and other broadcasters (Radio-Canada, Stingray and SiriusXM) also provide classical music programming, though none are on analog FM.

Radio ratings: Virgin fails to catch up, CJAD in long-term decline

Numeris has released its top-line PPM ratings data for Nov. 25 to Feb. 23.

The numbers for Montreal show little change from the previous quarter, or the past few years, really, with CJAD at the top among anglophones and CHMP-FM 98,5 ahead among francophones.

This lack of change is bad news for Virgin Radio 95.9, which spent a lot of effort promoting its new morning show hosted by Vinny Barrucco and Shannon King. We’re two full quarters into this change and The Beat still has twice the audience of Virgin. The sacking of program director Mark Bergman (who’s now at The Beat) and Freeway and Natasha haven’t moved the overall numbers.

Meanwhile, down the hall at CJAD, the long-term trend continues downward. In 2015, the average minute audience overall (averaged over 24/7) was 15,000. Now it’s around 12,000.

The Beat, CBC, CHOM and TSN 690 have kept about flat over that time, and haven’t shown any major change this winter.

On the francophone side, Rythme FM is continuing to re-establish itself as the dominant music station after facing more competition from Rouge, and 98,5fm is holding off Radio-Canada.

Horn-tooting

Meanwhile, in Toronto, TSN 1050 finally beat Sportsnet’s 590 The Fan with its morning and afternoon shows (among men 25-54 anyway), which Toronto Sports Media notes has a lot to do with how unstable The Fan’s lineup has been.

CBC looking for new host for Quebec AM

Susan Campbell won’t be returning to the Quebec AM host chair.

Listeners of the CBC Radio One show Quebec AM, which is the morning show for most of Quebec outside of Montreal and the Gatineau region, have been wondering for a little more than a year now when its host Susan Campbell will be coming back. At the end of 2018 she left for an unspecified medical issue, she wrote in a Facebook post last March. At the time she said her doctor recommended she extend her leave to at least the fall.

Unfortunately, she’s not coming back, CBC announced to listeners in December. Last week, the broadcaster posted a job for the permanent host of Quebec AM (technically a one-year contract, which is how CBC hires hosts these days), based in its Quebec City studio. The deadline is Feb. 6.

The CBC wouldn’t comment in detail on what is essentially a personnel matter, but did say Campbell will be staying with CBC Quebec when she returns from her medical leave.

“We’re excited about her next role, but we’re not ready to announce it just yet,” says managing editor Helen Evans, who clarified that it was Campbell’s decision to make this change.

Campbell herself didn’t have anything to add, and hasn’t spoken much about her leave despite being active on social media.

Campbell has been the host of Quebec AM since 2007, when she joined previous host Tim Belford, who was her co-host out of Sherbrooke until his retirement in 2011.

Radio Centre-Ville lawsuit ends with dissidents dropping case at trial

The legal battle between Radio Centre-Ville (CINQ-FM 102.3) and a group of dissidents over control of the community station is over. But the emotional repercussions of the bitter three-year dispute will likely continue for some time to come.

The case was finally heard on Monday before judge Marc St-Pierre at Quebec Superior Court. But after hearing from only two witnesses, the plaintiff, representing the dissidents, proposed abandoning the lawsuit, which was quickly accepted. (Both sides pay their own legal costs.)

The dispute started in the fall of 2016, with a proposal by station management that, to control a financial crisis that risked pushing the station into bankruptcy and losing its building on St-Laurent Blvd., it begin selling airtime to independent producers. That proposal may or may not have been rejected at a general assembly of members in September 2016, depending which side you talk to.

Two other general assemblies followed, one in December 2016 and one in January 2017, to elect members to the station’s board of directors, and each side says the other one was illegal. Since then, the two have continued to battle for control, each with its own board — General Manager Wanex Lalanne and his allies remained in control of the station itself, while the dissident group was the one listed on Quebec’s business registry, and had control of the station’s Facebook page. The dissident group also often got its messages broadcast on the station, as well as through other media like CKUT.

Radio Centre-Ville General Manager Wanex Lalanne addresses listeners during an on-air press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.

To say the battle has been acrimonious would be an understatement. During a press conference broadcast live on-air on Tuesday, Lalanne and his supporters talked about defamatory statements made against him, and Lalanne did not discount the possibility of a civil lawsuit for defamation. (The threat of such a countersuit may have been a factor in the dissidents deciding to drop their case.) Lalanne said he would take some time to recover from this ordeal before taking such decisions, and it’s up to the station’s board of directors as far as the next steps on behalf of the organization.

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TTP Media’s 600 and 940 stations go off the air

Damage to the transmitter caused by a wind storm caused TTP Media’s two Montreal radio stations to go off the air, and the need to order parts means it will be early in the new year before they’re transmitting again, co-owner Nicolas Tétrault tells me.

CFNV 940 AM and CFQR 600 AM have been on the air since 2016 and 2017, respectively, each taking five years to get on the air after getting their licences from the CRTC.

For nearly a decade, Montrealers unsatisfied with commercial talk radio stations have been eagerly anticipating what was promised. But that eagerness has faded as year after year brings no news about programming (except for a deal CFNV reached with the similarly-named CNV to provide mainly music programming).

Tétrault says talk programming is coming soon, and they are very proactive on setting it up. Talk programs on CFQR, the English station, could start as early as February, he told me.

Considering past promises of launching soon, it’s best not to hold your breath waiting for it.

UPDATE (Feb. 19): CFQR 600 AM is back on the air.

Fall radio ratings: Could The Beat surpass CJAD?

Numeris released its quarterly ratings report for metered markets on Wednesday, and for Montreal the only surprising thing is how much The Beat continues to dominate over Virgin Radio. With a 21.5% share, it has more than twice the average listeners than Virgin Radio at 9.4%. And not only it it the fourth straight quarter that The Beat has been more than twice Virgin’s share, it’s the third straight where Virgin has fallen behind CHOM for third place among English music stations.

The 21.5% share is The Beat’s highest since it launched in 2011, and less than four points below perennial leader CJAD 800. Could we see a future where The Beat isn’t just the most popular music station and the most popular among that advertiser-friendly 25-54 audience, but among all ages and formats as well?

The book is more bad news for Virgin Radio, which tried to turn things around by letting go of program director Mark Bergman (he’s now at The Beat) and morning hosts Freeway Frank and Natasha Gargiulo and stealing Vinny Barrucco back from The Beat to lead its new morning show. The Beat’s morning show, headed by Vinny’s former co-host Nikki Balch, is still ahead. It’s still early — this is the first full book with Barrucco hosting the morning show with Shannon King — but they have a lot of ground to cover, and Virgin has lost a lot of ground that it has to make up.

TSN 690 is at the bottom of the anglo commercial radio pack, but it had its best share since 2017. CBC Radio One, meanwhile, which had good numbers from 2017 until this spring, has fallen back below 7% in market share.

On the francophone side, the top line hasn’t changed much, except for a rebound for CHMP-FM 98.5 (which always tends to dip in the summer with replacement hosts and less news), and a drop for CKOI 96.9.

Bragging rights

Rick Moffat, Eramelinda Boquer among latest Bell Media cuts

Wednesday was another bad day at Bell Media, as the company made another round of cuts across the country for vague reasons that probably amount to wanting to cut expenses to increase profits.

The company refused to provide “specific numbers” or names but confirmed there were “departures” at “some Bell Media stations.”

“Our industry is changing fast, with growing international competition and new viewing and listening options impacting audiences and advertising across the Canadian media sector. We’re feeling the effects of rapid industry change in many parts of our business, including local radio. To ensure we remain competitive, we’re managing the impact on our bottom line while also investing in content and platforms,” the statement reads.

In Montreal, CJAD’s Eramelinda Boquer and TSN 690’s Rick Moffat were among the cuts, sources at Bell Media told me. There was also a job lost in the CTV Montreal mailroom.

Elsewhere, the biggest loss is CTV Winnipeg news anchor Gord Leclerc. Traces of him were quickly removed from CTV Winnipeg’s website and he wrote a message of thanks to his viewers.

Also gone are:

In possibly unrelated news, Énergie 98.9 in Quebec City, a Bell Media station, fired morning host Stéphan Dupont, and co-hosts Raynald Cloutier and Pierre Blais, on Friday. The firing comes after a controversial interview with RDS analyst Marc Denis, but people at the station say the two events are unrelated. Dupont’s contract was set to end Jan. 1.

Thanks to those who provided tips on the losses. I’ll update this post as I hear about more.

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Gregory Charles sells Radio Classique to Leclerc to be turned into pop music station

This post has been corrected.

Last year, when Quebec City’s Leclerc Communication agreed to buy two radio stations from RNC Media, fans of Montreal’s 91.9 Sports (CKLX-FM) were upset that the new owner planned to turn their sports-talk station into a popular music station with the same format as Quebec City’s WKND (coincidentally also at 91.9).

The transaction failed because the CRTC wouldn’t agree to Leclerc buying CHOI-FM in the provincial capital while holding on to WKND and Blvd 102.1.

Now, Leclerc is trying again, and this one will probably prompt even more upset listeners. It has agreed to purchase Radio Classique 99.5 from Gregory Charles, and will turn it into a WKND station instead.

The transaction does not include CJSQ-FM 92.7, Radio Classique’s sister station in Quebec City, which will remain in Charles’s hands, as will the radioclassique.ca website. Charles says in an interview with La Presse that he hopes to find a different buyer for that station to turn it into something else as well.

Shortly after the announcement, the CRTC published the associated application, which sets the purchase price at $3.88 million. That’s only 57% of the $6.78 million it was priced at when Charles bought it in 2015.

While there’s no Quebec City element that would cause competition concerns, CJPX is required by condition of licence to operate in a specialty format, and Leclerc is applying for a change in its licence to remove that requirement. The commission may or may not be crazy about replacing a specialty music station with a loyal audience with yet another pop station, as much as Leclerc promises its format is different.

In the meantime, it’s status quo at Radio Classique in Montreal, just as it was with 91.9 Sports.

Gregory Charles bought CJPX and CJSQ from founder Jean-Pierre Coallier in 2015. Charles admitted in the La Presse interview that he paid too much for the station at the time. But he also said he wasn’t looking to sell until Leclerc came to him with an offer.

Charles also seems to suggest that he thinks CJSQ can still be a success without its bigger brother, which would be quite a challenge, especially considering how much content is shared between the two stations. He says the Quebec City market is more stable, while most of the Montreal audience listens online.

For tangible benefits, Leclerc is proposing the usual 6% minimum, broken down in the standard way between music development funds, the Community Radio Fund of Canada and discretionary initiatives that haven’t been determined yet. The total comes out to $293,350 over seven years, but Leclerc is also proposing to take over $219,514 of the $340,121 remaining in tangible benefits from that 2015 transaction (the rest will stay with Charles and CJSQ).

The deal also includes $100,000 worth of advertising for Charles on CJPX in the two years after it closes.

Will the CRTC accept the transaction? It’s hard to tell, and will depend on the resistance it meets. Previous attempts to transform 91.9 Sports and TSN 690 failed not because of angry submissions by loyal fans, but because they were part of larger transactions that failed to go through.

The commission is also usually reluctant to replace a specialty station with a pop music station unless it can be demonstrated that the only alternative is the station shutting down.

With CJPX, that argument could be made. The application says the station has not made money since it was purchased (exact numbers are confidential) and “has no hope of recovery without a repositioning of the station.” Its already modest advertising revenues were $2 million in 2012-13 and $1.3 million in 2017-18.

Radio Classique CJPX-FM average minute audience 2015-17 (Source: Numeris)

And despite efforts by Charles, including bringing in celebrity hosts like Bernard Derome and Marc Hervieux, the station’s audience share has tumbled 20-30% in five years, depending how you count it. In 2017 it stopped subscribing to Numeris ratings.

If the commission can be convinced that there aren’t other options for the continued survival of a classical radio station in Montreal, or that a third player in the mainstream commercial music space is more important, then it would likely approve the transaction and licence change.

The application has been posted and the CRTC is accepting interventions until Dec. 19 (note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record). The application is being officially heard (though so far without the presence of the parties) at the same Feb. 12 hearing in Montreal when it is considering the proposed purchase of V by Bell Media.

See also: I summarize the application and provide more context in this story for Cartt.ca, available to its subscribers.

Correction: An earlier version of this post quoted La Presse as saying Gregory Charles wants to keep his Quebec City station. In fact, the story says he wants to sell that station as well.

TTP Media seeks international investors for AM radio stations

Nicolas Tétrault appears in a video seeking investment in his company’s radio stations.

It’s been nine years since a pair of local businessmen came onto the scene and declared they wanted to change how commercial radio works in this city with an $81-million bid for Corus radio stations in Quebec that were being sold to Cogeco. Eight years since, with a third partner, they got a licence for a station on the clear channel of 940 AM. Seven years since they got a second licence for 600 AM. Three years since the first station went on the air. Two years since the second station joined it.

For all that time, we’ve been waiting for something to happen. Waiting for the Bell-Astral deal to conclude, in case they had to sell one of their stations (the transaction closed in 2013). Waiting for TTP Media to solve various technical problems with their transmission site. Waiting for them to build a studio and hire talent. Waiting for the launch of regular programming, that has been promised “soon” for three years.

As it stands, the French station, CFNV 940, has spoken word programming through an agreement with online radio station CNV. CFQR 600, the English station (no relation to the old CFQR-FM at 92.5), is still running an automated music playlist. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the owners.

But a few weeks ago, Nicolas Tétrault, one of the three partners, posted a video on LinkedIn apparently seeking foreign investment in the stations.

In the seven-minute video, Tétrault talks about the duopoly in commercial radio in Montreal, with Bell Media and Cogeco Media owning most of the market share here, how “extremely complicated” it is to enter the market when there is “no financing available for radio stations,” and how the company owns “millions of dollars of equipment” but has no debt.

“It is impossible to find financing in Quebec,” Tétrault said. “The banks, they don’t lend to media, private funds don’t lend, pensions … no funds are available.”

Tétrault’s invitation notes that foreign investors can own up to 30% of a broadcasting company, and he tags his post with the United States, United Kingdom, France, India, Israel and the Cayman Islands.

This is the first I’ve heard about TTP Media needing money. In its initial applications to the CRTC, the group said its partners were investing $4.5 million, added to a $21 million loan from James Edward Capital Corporation, to provide financing to launch the stations.

Two years ago, when I asked Rajiv Pancholy about finances, he reassured me that it wouldn’t be an issue because he has negotiated loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the past and “I have the credibility in Canada on Bay St. and Wall St.”

Tétrault might not have that kind of credibility though, since he just went through a personal bankruptcy. A judge discharged the bankruptcy trustee on Jan. 18.

Finally, it’s curious that Tétrault makes no mention of his other partner, Paul Tietolman, though he mentions Pancholy twice (using “partner” in the singular). Rumours abounded about a rift between Tietolman and his partners, which all three had denied. A change in ownership would require CRTC approval.

Neither Tétrault, Pancholy nor Tietolman responded to my requests for an interview.

TTP Media’s CRTC licences were renewed to 2023 for both the French and English stations.

Jeremy Zafran says his departure from CBC Montreal was a “staged elimination”

Jeremy Zafran

Since the announcement of the new afternoon show Let’s Go with Sabrina Marandola, some people have been asking what happened to Jeremy Zafran, who handled traffic updates for Homerun. With the new show and its “transportation columnist,” Akil Alleyne, who also does daily traffic, Zafran disappeared from the air.

It turns out Zafran has been dropped by the CBC. And he’s not happy about it.

“My staged elimination was set almost two months ago and much like the CBC Montreal staff, few people were aware of my contract non-renewal,” Zafran wrote to me. “The excuse was the job title change adding ‘the story of traffic’ responsibility to the existing job. That was smoke and mirrors. I was told that I was not ‘the strongest candidate for the new job,’ a ruse considering my replacement’s zero experience on radio let alone in traffic: a position on air that is a difficult art form to master. As a veteran announcer and host in Montreal, I worked the last two months with professionalism with my head held high.”

Though the public broadcaster wouldn’t call this “staged,” it did say the new position was “an open competition and anyone could apply” and Zafran was on a yearly contract that “did expire and was not renewed.”

Alleyne, whose previous job was as a reporter with CityNews Montreal, hired there only a year ago, is indeed pretty green. He studied law in the Washington, D.C. area before returning to Montreal. Before that he had brief stints reporting for CBC and The Suburban.

Having listened to his traffic reports a few times on air, he was quite rusty at first, missing the smooth flow that more seasoned traffic reporters have shown on commercial and non-commercial stations. But he’s gotten better as he’s gotten used to the position.

But why replace Zafran?

Here’s the official explanation:

Montrealers get around the city in so many ways and we wanted to tell those stories — beyond traffic updates on highways and cars. So we created a new position of a transportation columnist. While the columnist still does traffic updates, they are responsible for a regular transportation column.

In other words, in CBC’s eyes, it’s a columnist who also does daily traffic updates.

Zafran doesn’t buy that description, and though he doesn’t offer any theories on why exactly management has soured on him, he does offer this:

The CBC has free reign on hiring and without a ratings-based mentality, bosses can literally turn a mime into a weather person and no one in management will face any consequences. And yet here I am paying the price.

Harsh.

But he also makes a case for what he’s done in the position:

I built their traffic department from nothing, negotiated to gain full access to all the CGMU cameras — at no cost, on my own initiative and time — and was considered by (Transports Québec), the SQ, EXO, STM, Ville de Montreal, CN, other hosts who relied on my hits from competing stations, not to mention internally at CBC Montreal as the ‘go to expert’ for traffic and transportation. I created the @montrealdrive Twitter page leaving it at 3600 followers, a few hundred less than the Homerun program itself. This was a planned removal that was witnessed by all.

Zafran said he has received a “mass outpouring of support and disappointment” following the news, after having worked for CBC for eight years.

“On a bright note,” he wrote, “I’m not dead. I can eat dinner again with my young family and I am catching up on all that I have neglected at home. I will not accept a character assassination by those who attempt to discredit me or my work. They know what they did to me and in turn my family life, but if they can sleep well at night then rest assured so will I.

“The job doesn’t define the person, that’s up to me. I won’t lose another breath over this tragedy, Steve. Soon better things will arrive, I’m in my prime and I will return from these last 8+ years to a professional, respectful environment for my 30th year on air in 2020, all chez nous.”

Zafran was also once the weekend weather presenter on CBC Montreal’s local TV newscast, but that role has since been eliminated. Now the anchor, Sean Henry, does brief weather updates himself.

Besides broadcasting, Zafran also does acting and voice work, including various radio and TV ads, and you may have seen him pretending to be a pharmacist on posters at your local Jean-Coutu. Before joining CBC in 2011, he did various on-air roles for 940 News and Q92.

Canadian NHL TV broadcast schedules for 2019-20

With days to go before the first preseason games, the regional TV broadcasters for Canada’s seven NHL teams have released their schedules, and we now have an almost full accounting of where every game will be broadcast.

There are few changes from last year. The regional broadcasters for each team are the same (Sportsnet for the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, TSN for the Jets, Senators and Canadiens, and both for the Leafs) and the splits are about the same, with between 36 and 40 national games where Sportsnet also has the regional rights, and between 22 and 32 national games for teams where Sportsnet doesn’t.

Here’s the national/regional split by team:

  • Canucks: 36/46
  • Oilers: 40/42
  • Flames: 39/43
  • Jets: 22/60
  • Leafs: 40/42
  • Senators (English): 27/55
  • Senators (French): 30/52
  • Canadiens (English): 32/50
  • Canadiens (French): 22/60

In French, TVA Sports retains national rights and RDS still has the regional rights for the Canadiens and Senators.

But that could change next season. The Flames and Oilers TV and radio contracts are up in 2020. And though it would be a surprise if Sportsnet didn’t renew its TV rights, there might be a fight for the Oilers’ radio contract, currently held by Corus’s CHED, against Bell Media’s TSN Radio.

Here’s how it all breaks down per team.

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