Tag Archives: CHOM

The young faces of Montreal’s drive-time radio

 

Gazette Culture section, Jan. 5

On the list of jobs everyone wants but nobody can get, radio DJ ranks pretty high. Right there with TV anchor and newspaper staff columnist. Those privileged enough to get these coveted positions seem like the luckiest people in the world, especially because the job sounds like it’s so simple.

In Montreal, the three big music stations all have announcers or hosts (what they call the DJs now) in the afternoon drive periods under the age of 35. Why is that? Shouldn’t such a prestigious position (second only to the morning drive slot) go to people who worked in the medium for decades, toiling at some obscure community station in a tiny town working as the overnight traffic announcer? What do these people have that’s so special?

For profiles that appear in Saturday’s Gazette, I met with these three announcers, all of whom got their current jobs in 2012, and asked them about their career paths. As you’ll learn, it’s a combination of good timing, talent, a lot of determination, and a bit of luck.

(These stories took a surprisingly long time to do. Astral was a bit nervous in light of the whole Bell thing, and even after I managed to do all the interviews, the story stayed in the bank for a month so it could work as a feature story in the first week of January when the local arts scene is pretty uneventful. To give you an idea, the photos of Bilal Butt and Andrea Collins, which I took during their interviews, were taken while CHOM and Virgin were still at their old studios on Fort St.)

The Beat’s Vinny Barrucco

“Cousin” Vinny Barrucco, 28, started at The Beat in May, after being poached from the same job at Virgin Radio. The Beat’s management apparently found him good enough to fire their existing drive guy and convince Vinny to stay off the radio for three months to comply with a non-compete clause in his Virgin contract.

A guy this young getting poached like this (Cat Spencer and Nat Lauzon were also lured to The Beat from Virgin, though they have much more experience) has got to get to a guy’s ego.

Vinny might seem like a goofball, and to a certain extent he is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard. He started by doing those right-of-passage jobs, interning for Mitch Melnick on Team 990 and then working at Kahnawake’s K103. He had his eyes set on Virgin, and as he tells it pestered management there for months to get noticed. Finally he was offered an overnight shift in 2009, but quickly moved up to afternoon drive, replacing Mark Bergman who became the station’s brand director.

Vinny’s story includes other tidbits, like his rejections from Concordia’s communications studies program, or the untimely death of his father that set his career back a year but also helped to get it started.

It’s the story of a man who is living his dream because he followed his passion and never gave it up. Yeah, it sounds like a cliché, but there were a few Oprah-like moments when I interviewed him at The Beat, so it seems a propos.

CHOM’s Bilal Butt

Bilal Butt, 33, is a more familiar name among Montreal radio listeners. He’s been at CHOM since 2005, and worked at CHOM and Mix 96 before that. He was mainly doing evenings until the unceremonious departure of Pete Marier led him to be upgraded to the afternoon drive slot.

When I talked to him last summer and again in the fall, he apologized for leading such a boring life. He’s just a guy with a job on the radio and a musician in his spare time.

To Butt’s boss, André Lallier, that’s what makes him so relatable to listeners: he’s just a regular guy.

Not that his life has been entirely vanilla. His home didn’t have music in it when he was growing up, and his parents didn’t approve of his career goals at first. But he loved radio too much. After interning for Cat and Nat at Mix 96, he began working for CHOM, then took a job in Fort McMurray, Alta., before coming back to CHOM in 2005. And though maybe someday when he’s older he might make the jump to mornings, he’s more than happy where he is right now, with a schedule that lets him both sleep in and go out at night, and a job that lets him play rock music and sit behind a microphone.

Virgin’s Andrea Collins

Andrea Collins, 28, is the newbie to Montreal radio. She started here in 2011, taking over Virgin’s daytime shift after Nat Lauzon left to focus more on her other projects and do weekends at what would become The Beat. In April, after Barrucco also left for The Beat, Collins was bumped up to afternoon drive.

So I guess Collins owes a lot of her career here to The Beat, even though she’s never worked there.

Collins came to Montreal after a career that led to her working at stations in Winnipeg and Victoria at stations called Kool, Curve, Bob and Q. It involved a lot of moving, but that helped her get so far in such a short time.

As I spoke to her, it had become clear that she’s embracing this city. She’s fallen in love with the Plateau (yeah, she’s become one of those people), and is working on improving her French.

One thing noteworthy about Collins is that she’s the first female solo drive-time announcer at a major commercial English station in Montreal, at least as far as anyone knows (correct me if I’m wrong here). Not that there haven’t been other women in strong positions in Montreal radio, with Sue Smith, Nancy Wood, Nat Lauzon and Donna Saker among them. But the afternoon drive post has been a pretty male-oriented slot, or with a male-female team (conversely, the workday has been mainly female-oriented for music stations like this).

What’s perhaps most remarkable is that this isn’t a big deal, either for Collins or Virgin. It may be a historical footnote, but gender wasn’t really a consideration in choosing Collins for this job, and there hasn’t been some huge feminist revolution that has opened the door to this. It just happened.

There are still some aspects of radio that are sexist in nature. Morning shows, like TV newscasts, are paired male-female, even when some of the most popular teams have been of the same gender (see: Aaron and Tasso, Terry and Ted). But it’s nice to see that another glass ceiling has disappeared, even if Collins didn’t feel it smash as she passed through.

Five things you didn’t know about professional music radio announcers

1. They listen to themselves. You might think these people just show up to work, talk about random stuff they have in their head and then go home. But they actually review a lot of what they say, and so do their bosses. It’s the best way to improve how they sound, and constant improvement is necessary in a world where success is measured by ratings. So these announcers will listen back to recordings of their breaks (in music radio, a “break” is the part where the announcer talks live into the microphone, which sounds like the exact opposite of what a break should be).

2. They’re not rich or famous. Collins and Butt drive old beat-up cars. Barrucco takes the commuter train. Though they can’t claim to be poor, radio announcers in their kinds of jobs have pretty middle-class salaries. Add to that the complete lack of job security and it’s less glamorous than you might think. As for fame, these characters walk the streets undisturbed pretty often. Butt recounts the one time someone recognized him at a Subway. Being recognized in public is the exception rather than the rule.

3. They spend a lot of time at fundraisers. It’s even written into contracts now that radio personalities have to participate in certain events to help promote the station. Add to that events that they’re asked to participate in outside of work. Part of it is because they’re perceived to be locally well-known, and part of it is that radio announcers like these tend to make good emcees.

4. Many of them work alone. Morning shows still have a concept of team, with multiple hosts, a news announcer, a traffic announcer and a technician. But most other shifts at these music stations consist of a single person, who hosts and operates the boards, cueing songs and taking calls. There’s enough time to do it with all the music that plays, but it’s quite a bit of multitasking, and it takes a while to get it all down without screwing things up. Adding social media communication to the mix only adds to that workload.

5. They plan what they say. A good deal of research goes into these shifts. Music announcers have to keep up on the latest news and get everything from celebrity gossip to concert announcements to relay that information to listeners. Even finding little bits of trivial information to send out between two songs requires going out and finding it. It’s not exactly like putting together a Master’s thesis every day, but it’s still a lot of work.

Radio personality Greg Hébert dies

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PInlqy6-RP8

It’s been almost a decade since he left Montreal for a job at CFRA in Ottawa, but Montreal radio personalities who were around back then are remembering Greg Hébert, who used to work at CHOM and CKGM.

Hébert died Thursday night after a long and heavily-mediatized battle with cancer.

He started his radio career in Montreal as a producer for the CHOM morning show of Pete Marier and Andrew Carter in 1999. After two years, he went to what was then sister station CKGM (Team 990) and produced for the afternoon show of Joey Elias and Tony Marinaro, also working as a sports reporter and weekly show host.

But he’s better known in Ottawa, where he was the host and producer of a nightly business show on CFRA radio, and a business reporter for A Channel (now CTV Two). He left for medical reasons after getting a diagnosis of synovial sarcoma in 2009.

His former colleagues in Montreal posted remembrances on social media.

From Pete Marier:

Sad News today, Greg Hebert passed away last night. He worked as a producer for “Pete and Andrew” on CHOM back in 2001. To his wife Lauren: Greg had outstanding qualities. Chief among them were his honesty, courage, determination and quit wit. These equipped him to rise quickly as a broadcaster and to become one of the bravest persons I’ve ever met.

Know that he touched a lot of people this way, and I’ll always be proud to call him my Friend. Pete Marier.

From Nat Lauzon:

Rest in peace, Greg Hébert, the bravest soul I ever encountered. A husband, son, friend, fighter. And to many like me – a teacher. Join Team Greggybear and read his incredible legacy. A gift to everyone fighting for their very lives against a horrible disease. Thank you Greg. xx

From Tony Marinaro:

There were far more from his colleagues in Ottawa.

Obituaries have been published in the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun, CTV News Ottawa and CFRA. They’re well done and I encourage you to read them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPgMXHekh8

After getting his cancer diagnosis, Hébert decided to go public about his cancer fight. He started up a charitable foundation and wrote a blog. The last post written by him is dated a month ago.

Hébert leaves behind his wife Lauren, who announced after he died that she is pregnant.

A funeral for Hébert will be held on Dec. 28 at 3 p.m. at Hulse, Playfair & McGarry Central Chapel, 315 McLeod St. in Ottawa.

Fall radio ratings: CHOM and CJPX gain, The Beat and TSN lose, Radio X struggles (UPDATED)

Fall 2012 ratings from BBM Canada for the anglo Montreal market (Aug. 27 to Nov. 25), with comparisons to the same period a year ago. (Numbers reflect total 2+ audience)

BBM Canada released its fall 2012 ratings for metered markets (including Montreal) on Thursday. While members get detailed information from which they can spin all sorts of good news, the public gets an overall picture (PDF).

On the English side, there’s the usual fluctuations. CHOM gains a point and a half compared to last year (but is down slightly in market share compared to the summer), and also has a larger overall audience than it did a year ago.

CJAD, Virgin and The Beat are also up slightly, and CBC Radio One has lost a bit.

Among francophone listeners, where anglo music stations actually have a larger audience than in English, CHOM has 30,000 more listeners on a daily basis than it did a year ago, and Virgin and The Beat have both lost a bit of ground.

I await their spin, revealing what nuggets of significant gains aren’t being reflected in the overall ratings. (See below)

For TSN Radio (CKGM), there’s no getting around the disappointing ratings period. The station has a 2.3% market share this fall, down from 4.0% a year ago. Its daily audience among anglos has dropped from 60,000 to 43,000. Even simulcasting on two frequencies hasn’t been enough to compensate for the lack of NHL hockey.

The Beat falls among 25-54 demos

But those are for the total audience. What about the key 25-54 demographic, the people with money that advertisers want?

Astral Radio’s BBM analysis (which is much more objective than its press releases) provides the answer:

CKBE (The Beat) has lost the gains it made this spring, falling back into third place overall behind CHOM. It has a 21% commercial market share among adults 25-54, compared to CHOM’s 25% and Virgin’s 32%. Much of that loss is among men, where it had spiked to 22% in the spring but is now back at 16%. Among women, it’s gone down slightly, but Virgin’s lead has increased from four points to 13 points.

Its morning show has dropped back into fourth place after barely reaching second in the spring, with fewer than 7,000 listeners in the average minute (Virgin’s morning show has more than 10,000 listeners) among adults 25-54. Late mornings and lunch hour have dropped from first to third, and early afternoons dropped from first to second behind Virgin. Its drivetime show also dropped from second to third after losing about a quarter of its audience from the spring. On weekends, it was third before and remains so.

Perhaps the most telling statistic is average listening time: 3.1 hours per week, putting it behind CJAD, CHOM and Virgin, which are all between 4 and 4.5 hours a week.

Overall, it’s an awful ratings period for The Beat, bringing them back to what they were at before their notable gains in the spring. That explains why their press release (below) doesn’t mention any numbers.

CJFM (Virgin Radio) is still No. 1 in most key demographics. Among women 25-54, they’re at 41% market share. Its biggest gain is in late mornings and early afternoons, where Nikki Balch and Ryan Seacrest respectively have picked up almost 3,000 average-minute listeners from the spring. Virgin also made significant gains at morning and afternoon drive. It’s now the top station during the morning rush and from 11am to 8pm weekdays among adults 25-54.

Its strength remains in younger audiences – the top nine shows among adults 18-34 are all on Virgin.

CHOM still gets to brag that it’s No. 1 among men, and its market share among men 25-54 has gone up to 35%, though much of that probably has to do with the lack of hockey pushing TSN Radio listeners back to their backup radio option. CHOM has also jumped ahead of The Beat for second place among all adults 25-54.

The morning show with Terry DiMonte and Heather Backman now has about 10,000 listeners 25-54 in the average minute, good for second place after being behind The Beat and CJAD in different ratings periods. It continues a steady climb from 8,000 a year ago and 7,000 the year before that. CHOM’s morning show audience has grown 50% in two years, but still isn’t the high peak of the day. Among men 25-54, there are only about half as many listeners at 7am as there are at 11am.

Tootall had a great ratings report, with the late morning part of his show gaining 20% audience since the spring and now the top-rated show at CHOM. The lunch hour and afternoon parts had more modest gains. The afternoon drive show with Bilal Butt gained slightly to its highest average-minute audience in two years, but it’s still a distant second to Virgin and mired in a tight three-way race with The Beat and CJAD. Even among men 25-54, the show struggles to compete with Virgin and CJAD.

On weekends, CHOM dipped slightly, but it’s still a clear second, and it’s fighting with Virgin for top spot among men 25-54 on weekend afternoons.

CJAD’s numbers didn’t change much. Astral brags about its high-rated morning show, but it’s still third among adults 25-54 (its strength is earlier in the morning, and it dominates the ratings until about 7am). The lunchtime show with Ric Peterson made a significant jump from 2,500 to 3,500 listeners in the demo (but still well behind the three music stations), and the afternoon drive show with Aaron Rand also gained more than a thousand listeners in the 25-54 demo. Rather than fighting TSN for fourth place, it’s fighting CHOM and The Beat for second.

Among all audiences, CJAD is still the top rated station among English listeners, and has the five top-rated shows.

CKGM (TSN 690) is clearly wishing for hockey to come back. Among men 25-54, it has a 7% market share, about half what it did a year ago. Every major time slot is down, and its hopes of competing with CJAD in some of them (notably afternoon drive) are gone for now.

Radio X disappoints

On the French side, not much has changed from a year ago. CHMP 98.5 is still the No. 1 station with a 22.5% market share, followed by CFGL (Rythme FM, 18.6%), CITE (Rouge FM, 12.3%, up more than two points from a year ago) and CBF (Première Chaîne, 11.3%).

NRJ (CKMF) and CKOI continue to be stuck in the single digits, with CKOI hitting a new market share low of 5.7%, even though it’s third-highest in total weekly audience reach. At this point, CKOI barely beats out classical music station CJPX, which has grown a point and a half in French and gained 30,000 daily listeners since last year.

NRJ’s market share is 7.1%, down from 10.3% a year ago.

The most interesting information on the franco side concerns CKLX-FM 91.9, which went from being Planète Jazz to Radio X this fall. Reports that ratings had actually dropped as a result of the change have turned out to be true. Planète Jazz had a 1.3% market share, 64,300 daily listeners and 902,800 weekly listeners a year ago. In the summer, it had a 1.2% share, 62,700 daily listeners and 944,800 weekly listeners. But in its first ratings period as Radio X, it has a 0.8% market share, 54,500 daily listeners and 640,100 weekly listeners.

Radio X, in other words, has only 2/3  the audience that Planète Jazz had, after a programming change designed to bring in more listeners.

Radio X, owned by RNC Media, will counter that this kind of change takes time to build an audience, though that’s not necessarily true.

To be fair, it also made some gains in the key 25-54 demos. Its morning show and afternoon drive gained quite a bit, while early afternoons took a nosedive. Weekends show a significant increase during the hours when it airs rock music (we’re still waiting for a CRTC decision on an application to strip it of its specialty jazz status – until then it has to devote 70% of its music to the jazz/blues format).

Overall, though, the station’s ratings are very poor, behind even Radio Classique (CJPX) and fighting for last place with Radio Circulation (CKAC).

Big gains for Radio Classique

While not much has changed for the other commercial radio stations in French in Montreal, there’s a noticeable increase in the ratings for CJPX Radio Classique, particularly among men.

Consider this: During the lunch hour, it had 630 average-minute listeners this spring, but 4,730 this fall, an astounding increase of 651%. It had similar jumps during all hours of the day, except afternoon drive where it saw a mere doubling of audience.

It makes sense to assume that Radio Classique picked up many former Planète Jazz listeners, but its increases are larger than CKLX’s entire audience was. Is there something else at play here, or is this just a case of sampling error spouting out random variation in small numbers?

Either way, Radio Classique beats out Radio X in all time periods among the 25-54 demo. Radio Classique’s overall commercial market share among 25-54 is 3%, up from 1% in the spring.

More ratings coverage

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The end of Fort and Ste. Catherine

Virgin studios at Fort and Ste. Catherine Streets.

This weekend, Astral Media’s English radio stations stopped using studios at Fort and Ste. Catherine Streets and began using new studios in the Astral building at Papineau Ave. and René-Lévesque Blvd.

The new studios are in the same building as Astral’s French stations NRJ and Rouge FM, as well as other corporate offices. The consolidation has been planned for a long time, since well before Bell announced it was going to purchase Astral.

The new location across town is in an unofficial media district. The Maison Radio-Canada is on the other side of René-Lévesque. The Bell Media building (which houses the studios of CFCF and RDS) is on the other side of Papineau. The TVA building is just a few blocks away.

CTV was one of the media outlets to chronicle the transition. You can see the report from Derek Conlon (who worked at CJAD) here.

UPDATE (Sept. 3): Rob Kemp did a little video marking his final shift at CHOM’s Fort Street studio.

Radio ratings: Good news for 98.5, The Beat and CHOM

Quarterly radio ratings were released earlier this month. You can see the BBM compilation of top-line data here (PDF), but it doesn’t say too much.

Astral and Cogeco both provide analysis for the benefit of advertisers, Astral in the form of a slideshow (PDF) and Groupe Force Radio (which represents Cogeco stations and independent former Corus stations in Quebec City and Saguenay) also does a slide presentation (PDF). The latter tends to be more detailed, but is also more biased, highlighting their stations’ successes and their competitors’ struggles.

Here, based on those reports, is some analysis of what’s going on in commercial radio in Montreal. We’ll start with the English side.

English radio

Afternoon ratings show a spike for Donna Saker’s show on CKBE, rocketing it to No. 1. There’s a similar spike in late mornings and at noon-hour.

Overall, there hasn’t been much change in the ratings. A few points up, a few points down. But breaking it down a bit you see some significant gains for CKBE-FM 92.5 (The Beat) and a few highlights for CHOM-FM 97.7 as well.

The Beat, which rebranded last fall in an effort to attract a younger female audience but hadn’t seen much movement in ratings until now, is starting to see the change (and accompanying marketing spending) pay off. It’s second behind Virgin Radio among adults 18-49 and 25-54 (in both cases passing CHOM), first among adults 35-64 (passing CJAD) and has seen a gain of more than 50% in a year for men 25-54 (which is interesting because the station is targetting women).

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Astral stations nominated for industry awards

The Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards nominations were announced last week.

With more than a dozen categories and 7-9 nominees per category, the bar isn’t very high. But nevertheless, congratulations to the nominees from Montreal (all anglophone stations, since I guess French-language ones are excluded):

  • Program director of the year (major market): Mark Bergman, CJFM
  • Station of the year (hot adult contemporary): Virgin Radio 96 (CJFM)
  • Station of the year (classic gold): CHOM
  • Station of the year (multicultural): Radio Centre-Ville (CINQ)
  • Station of the year (news/talk): CJAD

Among categories with no Montreal nominees are music director of the year and on-air talent. I’m sure critics of commercial radio here will be liberal in their interpretation of that.

The awards, along with others for the recording and touring industry, are handed out March 22 during Canadian Music Week in Toronto.

Terry DiMonte’s first day at CHOM … again

There are some things at CHOM that will always be constant: The name, the format, the listeners complaining that the same songs get played over and over, and every decade or so the program director deciding to shake things up by putting Terry DiMonte back on mornings.

DiMonte began his first shift back at Montreal’s Spirit of Rock on Monday, and I managed to score an invitation to see it from the studio (even if it meant pulling an all-nighter after a late shift at work). This is the story of that day.

Terry DiMonte reads the paper just before he starts his first show. (And by "the paper", I mean the section in Saturday's Gazette seemingly devoted to him)

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CHOM’s new schedule adds Terry DiMonte, Heather Backman in mornings

UPDATE (Jan. 13): Read more about DiMonte’s first day here. Updates below with more coverage of DiMonte’s return and comments from Chantal Desjardins about her new job at CJAD.

Terry DiMonte does his first show back at CHOM on Jan. 9.

The news that Terry DiMonte was coming back to CHOM came out all the way back in June. The date was set and publicized in November. But details on such things as who his cohosts would be and what happens to the rest of the schedule were kept under wraps until Monday when DiMonte started his first show.

Here’s the details of its new schedule:

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Pete Marier leaves CHOM over contract dispute

Pete Marier

 Last update: Dec. 27 at 2am, adding a comment from Marier at the bottom.

“My show on CHOM was terminated last night.”

That was the extent of the comment from Pete Marier Friday morning, on Facebook, to the fact that he’s leaving CHOM.

Rumours about Marier’s impending departure have been flying about for a few weeks, but things came to a head this week when Marier was given an ultimatum, a source close to Marier said. (Marier himself isn’t talking – his only communication with me directly was to confirm the news of his departure.)

According to the source, who asked not to be named for fear of pissing off Bad Pete, Marier was told Thursday after his show to sign a contract that would have decreased his salary by more than half, otherwise he would be terminated as of Friday. Marier refused, which led to a heated verbal confrontation in Astral Media vice-president Martin Spalding’s office on Friday morning. Marier was thrown out of Astral’s Fort St. offices, and called the police to press for charges of (very minor) assault against Spalding, according to the source, who was in the office at the time.

Spalding wouldn’t get into what happened in his office, saying he didn’t want to air dirty laundry, but he did say that emotions got the better of both of them. Spalding confirmed that Astral exercised an out clause when Marier made it clear he would not accept a new contract with a reduced salary, and his last day was set at March 8, 2012. Spalding said the new salary figure, which he wouldn’t specify but said was nowhere near a 50% pay cut, was “very competitive” for an afternoon host in this market, and that even if it’s less than what he would make in mornings, it’s higher than what he made the last time he was doing the afternoon drive show.

Spalding said Marier was given five chances to accept the offer and stay at CHOM. He maintained that Marier was to be one of the three “pillars” with Terry DiMonte and Tootall, and that they wanted him to stay. “He was in our long-term plans,” Spalding said.

“No choice”

“He left us no choice,” he explained. With DiMonte set to return Jan. 9, management wanted to get its schedule finalized by then. Spalding said he and Brand Director André Lallier didn’t want to go through a big launch Jan. 9 and have to make a big change two months later when Marier left.

Spalding said the decision was made Thursday night, after one final offer, to make Friday Marier’s last day. That still gave Marier the chance to say goodbye to listeners, which he seemed to accept on Thursday. But on Friday morning, Marier changed his mind and said he wouldn’t go on air.

Marier remains on CHOM’s payroll, as per the terms of his contract, until March.

“It saddens me because I think he’s a great guy,” Spalding said. Despite their falling out, Spalding had nothing but praise for Marier’s talent and said it was unfortunate that he wouldn’t accept Astral’s offer.

The timing is probably the worst part about this. Marier’s last contract wasn’t set to expire until next September, but with DiMonte’s return so close in the new year, the decision had to be made now.

On Friday, as they have done in the past with acrimonious departures, CHOM scrubbed Marier’s name and photo from its website. The 3-7pm timeslot on the schedule now just reads “The Drive”

Listeners fight back

Marier’s Facebook wall was flooded with comments from angry listeners, one of whom has started a Facebook group to demand CHOM rescind its decision, but its chances to success are just about zero now that the decision has been made. After initially allowing non-profane comments to stay, the people managing CHOM’s Facebook page deleted all comments about Marier. That didn’t stop them, of course, and they kept posting, adding more anger and some sarcasm to their voices.

It used to be that broadcasters, newspapers and other media could control their means of communication, and simply make people or issues disappear. But with social media like Facebook, their power is limited. They could shut down the page completely to comment, but that would throw away the baby with the bathwater.

Unfortunately for Marier, this kind of thing blows over. People aren’t calling in to CBC anymore to complain about Nancy Wood, or calling in to Q92 to complain about the axing of Tasso and Suzanne. CHOM can only hope that the protest about Marier dies down enough by Jan. 9 that it doesn’t harm their promotional plans.

Pillar of CHOM

Marier, 52, has been at CHOM since 1989 (except for a stint in Winnipeg from 2002 to 2005), mainly hosting morning and afternoon programs. He stepped back into mornings with Ted Bird and Chantal Desjardins, then went back to the afternoon drive when CHOM rejigged its schedule to prepare for the return of Terry DiMonte.

At the time, Spalding agreed with myself and many others that Marier’s voice was probably more suited to afternoons than mornings. (Even though CHOM’s ratings actually went up with Marier in the morning show chair.) There was no indication at the time that Marier’s future at the station was in doubt. In fact, Spalding referred to Marier as one of the “pillars of CHOM” – a description he maintained even when discussing Marier’s departure.

Not DiMonte’s fault

There’s been speculation that Marier’s departure is related to DiMonte’s return. It’s true that the timing of that is why this decision came now, and that DiMonte’s return is why Marier moved back to afternoons (and hence was offered less pay), but neither of these things are DiMonte’s fault.

Still, many comments online are extremely negative toward DiMonte, suggesting his return is why Marier is leaving, in part because CHOM spent big bucks for DiMonte and has little left for the rest of its staff.

That’s just not true, DiMonte says.

“The notion that I had anything to do with it is complete nonsense,” DiMonte wrote to me on Saturday. “I was REALLY disappointed that he left. I’ve known Pete for years and we always got along great. He’s a great broadcaster, a Montreal favorite and part of the fabric at CHOM… and I thought with me, him and TooTall it was going to be a helluva lineup. I’m really sorry he left.”

DiMonte also denied that Astral is breaking the bank to bring him home (he denied similar rumours about the kind of money he was supposed to be making in Calgary). He said he’s getting a pay cut, not a pay increase, to come back home. “The notion that there’s nothing left for others is internet claptrap. It’s just not so.”

Spalding similarly flatly denies that other announcers are being offered less because DiMonte got more.

Though DiMonte is getting a say in his morning cohosts (no decision has been announced yet), he said he had no part in Marier’s contract negotiations and was only told about everything after the fact.

“It’s not going to be as much fun without Pete, but I’m not sure what I can do about that.”

Team Pete or Team Astral?

I don’t have access to the dollar figures involved here, so I can’t say whether CHOM’s move was justified or whether the contract was fair. A 20-plus-year veteran is obviously going to attract a lot more sympathy than a faceless corporation, but that doesn’t mean the latter has to cave to the former.

That said, if Marier’s only demand was that he get paid the same salary, it’s hard to be too outraged by it. If Marier was a “pillar” of CHOM, he should have been treated as one. Unless his salary as a morning DJ was unreasonably through the roof, would it have hurt the bottom line so terribly for it to remain at that level?

As with any negotiation, the two sides choose what they can live with. Marier believes his talent (or his dignity) is worth more than Astral offered, and if he’s right he won’t be unemployed for long. (He’s still doing freelance voice work, including a lot of radio commercials – many that are still airing on the station he left.) Astral believes it’s more profitable to let Marier go than to keep paying him a morning-show salary. If it’s right, the company will either save money by not having Marier on payroll, it will do better on ratings and revenue with the money it would have spent on him, or both.

No matter how this ended, or which side is right, it really sucks for something like this to happen two days before Christmas.

Lineup decisions coming soon

No decision has been made about the rest of the CHOM lineup, including who will replace Marier on the drive show. Spalding said Rob Kemp and Chantal Desjardins, who will get the bump from the morning show unless they become DiMonte’s sidekicks, are still part of their plans, and roles for them are being finalized. He said an announcement should be expected within the next two weeks. In any case, it’ll come before Jan. 9.

UPDATE (Dec. 26): From Marier, on Facebook:

Dear Friends, Thanks for the tremendous support and well wishes. Both are greatly appreciated. In spite of recent events (on which I cannot comment right now), my family and I had a great Christmas! I hope you all did too. Merci encore!

“Happy to sit down”?

UPDATE (Jan. 6): A Gazette story from Bill Brownstein on Terry DiMonte coming back to CHOM includes a sidebar that mentions Marier. It includes quotes suggesting reconcilation is possible:

Spalding: “If Pete called me today and if we could come to terms, we’d make it work. We would have him right back in drive. The last thing I ever wanted was to lose him. He’s an incredible talent.”

Marier: “If Astral Media is willing to negotiate a contract with me, I’d be more than happy to sit down with Martin Spalding and try to work it out.”

Radio ratings: A good fall for Cogeco and CKGM

Overall market share for anglophone Montreal (note that this includes only BBM members)

Ah, ratings. That time of the every-few-months where people who own radio stations gloat about their rising numbers, and if they don’t have rising numbers they selectively comb through demographics and time periods until they find something to gloat about, and if they don’t find anything there either they just bullshit their way through a press release.

Normally I don’t pay much attention to them, because the changes are so insignificant. But with some major programming changes this fall, and some corresponding jumps and plummets in audience, it’s worth taking a closer look this time.

Here are some more objective highlights from the ratings numbers from what I’ve been able to find. The top-line numbers from BBM Canada are here (PDF, first page is English audience, second page French audience). You can compare that to the spring report or last year for the same period.

Astral Media also does a presentation (PDF) that looks into the numbers overall for key demographics, and for important time periods for adults 25-54, which advertisers apparently covet.

CJAD 800AM (Astral)

Programming changes: Aaron Rand show added to evenings, moving Ric Peterson to early afternoons and Kim Fraser to weekends. Barry Morgan does 7-10pm weekdays, replacing Dan Delmar. Loss of Canadiens games to CKGM.

Overall (adults 2+, seven days a week), CJAD is still the highest-rated station in the Montreal English market. It has a 24% market share, within 0.2 percentage points of this spring and last fall. But it’s losing audience in key demographics, especially young adults. In the 18-34 demo, it’s down from 17% this spring to 11%. Though losing rights to Canadiens games is undoubtedly part of that, it’s not the whole story.

If CJAD thought Aaron Rand would give a ratings boost for its evening drive, that hasn’t happened. Its audience for 4-7pm weekdays is stagnant, and it has dropped to fifth place, behind Mitch Melnick on CKGM, for 25-54.

CKGM 990AM (TSN Radio 990, Bell Media)

Programming changes: Rebranding. Acquisition of Canadiens games. Denis Casavant leaves morning show.

The biggest change to CKGM is the addition of Canadiens games, which is giving a significant boost to the evening audience, making it No. 1 on game nights. “Canadiens games are registering an impressive 28.2 share among males 25-54,” Bell Media’s Greg McIsaac tells me. Previously, the station was fifth place with a 3.7 share during that time period. Now, overall, it’s 19.8, ahead of Virgin Radio, station manager Wayne Bews tells Mike Cohen.

But the station is seeing ratings gains everywhere. Overall, CKGM is reaching more listeners, 131,000 a week compared to 93,000 in the spring. Its market share overall has gone up from 2.7 to 4.

Mitch Melnick’s afternoon show has the most impressive gains, going from 3,490 to 4,540 listeners during an average minute, representing a 30% increase in audience. It was enough to push CKGM past CJAD for this time period among adults 25-54, particularly impressive since he’s now up against Aaron Rand.

For me, the big question out of this is: Was getting Canadiens games worth it? Obviously they won’t get into details about their business plans, but the mood seems to be pretty positive.

Bell Media also wouldn’t comment on whether the station is still losing 30% of its audience after dark, as it complained to the CRTC during hearings that eventually granted it the right to move to the clear channel of 690 kHz. But critics might argue it’s hard to get a 28% share if you’re having significant reception problems.

There was also speculation that the station might be picking up francophone listeners after the closure of CKAC Sports. Though there has been a “moderate increase”, Bell Media’s McIsaac says, the overall numbers among francophones have remained unchanged since the spring. Overall, CKGM has a market share of 0.0 among francophone listeners.

If anything, the more likely scenario is that anglophone listeners who tuned into CKAC are coming back to CKGM. The French all-sports station had a 0.5% share among anglophone listeners. Stands to reason many of them would prefer hearing sports-related news and commentary during the day.

CKBE 92.5FM (ex-CFQR, The Beat, Cogeco)

Programming changes: Complete station rebranding. Cat Spencer replaces Aaron Rand on morning show, Ken Connors moves to weekend mornings, Nat Lauzon does weekend afternoons (starting Oct. 15).

They called it a brand new radio station. They wanted to shed all remaining remnants of the old Q92. But despite all the changes, it has still inherited the old Q ratings. The station has a 16% market share overall, which is actually down slightly from last year.

But program director general manager Mark Dickie still has a happy face. (Well, I assume he does. He seemed content when I chatted with him over the phone.) That’s mostly because CKBE has made the strategic decision as part of the Beat rebranding to target the 35-44 female demographic that competitor CJFM seems to have abandoned, and it’s seeing corresponding gains there, and Dickie says they’ve managed to do that while continuing to grow its 45-54 female demo. Overall, from 9am to 4pm, it has a 30% market share for women 35-54.

“It’s pretty well what we were hoping for in the first book,” he said. Among his cherry-picked highlights, the breakfast show with Cat Spencer and Sarah Bartok has surpassed CJFM among the key demo and has gone from fourth to second (behind CJAD) among adults 35-54. (Expanding to adults 25-54, it’s still third, but gaining on second-place CJAD.)

Besides the new morning show, the Beat has also focused on weekends, moving Ken Connors to a beefed-up weekend morning show and bringing star Nat Lauzon in for weekend afternoons.

Lauzon’s numbers are good, even though she’s been on for only half the ratings period. Her numbers are up 6% on Saturdays and 7% Sundays compared to the spring. Among adults 35-54, afternoons are up 12% on Saturdays and 15% on Sundays.

But it’s Connors who is making the biggest impact, with double-digit growth on weekend mornings. Among women 35-54, the station’s audience has grown 37% on Saturdays and 53% on Sundays on weekend mornings.

“It’s definitely paying off,” Dickie says of the decision to focus on weekends, and of the Beat rebranding in general.

Of course, a lot of that is the promotional blitz that comes with a station rebranding. We’ll have to give it another ratings period to see if this audience is sticking around.

CJFM 95.9FM (Virgin Radio, Astral)

Programming changes: Freeway Frank replaces Cat Spencer on morning show, Nat Lauzon leaves midday show for CKBE.

Virgin is still the market leader among adults 18-54. The only big demo it’s lost control over is men 25-54, where CHOM has snuck into first place. The morning show, which took on Freeway Frank Depalo this year and is about to lose Lisa Player, has kept its audience. Its audience during midday, which has lost veteran Nat Lauzon, hasn’t seen a significant change among adults 25-54.

Virgin’s on-air lineup is young, and midday hosts Andrea Collins and Nikki Balch are new to the station over the past year. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I suppose. “As the leader our plan was not to react,” Brand Director Mark Bergman tells Cohen.

CHOM 97.7FM (Astral)

Programming changes: Pete Marier moved to afternoon drive, Rob Kemp to morning show, Tootall to middays and Sharon Hyland to weekends.

Even though CHOM is in a period of transition as it awaits the return of Terry DiMonte on Jan. 9, this has actually been a pretty good ratings period for the station. It’s up just about everywhere, except among women and during the drive-time show, where it’s stagnant. It’s now first overall among men 25-54, overtaking sister station CJFM. Even the morning show has picked up listeners, though it still sits fourth among English-language stations overall.

CBC Radio

Overall, Radio One’s market share is still 8% among anglos, which hasn’t changed over the past year. For Radio Two, there’s been a slight drop in overall audience, going from a 3.1% to 2.6% market share.

CHMP 98.5FM (Cogeco)

Programming changes: Incorporation of sports programming in evenings after closing of CKAC Sports.

Cogeco Nouvelles, in a totally unbiased press release masquerading as news, declared 98.5 the most listened-to station in Canada. I’m too lazy to confirm that, but they’re not making up their significant market gains.

Overall, the station has jumped from a market share of 12% last fall to 20% this fall. That’s incredible. It’s gained throughout the day weekdays (it’s stagnant on weekends, when it plays music). The morning show, hosted by Paul Arcand, has gone from 33,000 to 45,000 average listeners a minute since last spring, a 37% increase. It’s a 47% increase if you count from last fall.

In the noon and early afternoon periods, CHMP has rocketed past three other stations, CITE, CKMF and CKOI, to jump from fifth place to second among adults 25-54.

Demographically, the spike is most pronounced among men 25-54, where it was once in a three-way tie for first place with NRJ and Rythme FM, but is now way ahead (28% to 20%). But it’s also ahead among women and young adults.

Unsurprisingly, the station has seen an increase in ratings during the evening, where it has replaced repeats of the day’s talk shows with sports talk and Canadiens broadcasts. “Its new sports programming has proven a contributing factor to the station’s growing success,” says Cogeco. But that’s not the whole story. Simple math shows that adding all of CKAC’s former audience to CHMP only accounts for about half its increase in market share. Something else is causing more people to listen to the station and/or for longer.

CKAC 730AM (Radio Circulation, Cogeco)

Programming changes: Complete station rebranding, replacing sports and sports talk with 24/7 traffic information.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that since its switch Sept. 6 from sports talk to traffic, CKAC has plummeted in the ratings. But that was expected. Last fall, it had a 4.1% market share. This fall, it’s 0.5%.

Where CKAC’s morning show had an average minute audience of about 9,000, Radio Circulation is only 1,290. Similar drops happen across the schedule and across demographics.

Still, CKAC reaches more than 1 million listeners a week (counted as those who listen at least a minute in a week).

In its application to the CRTC this spring to put a French-language traffic station on 690AM, Cogeco estimated a French-language traffic information service as having a market share of 0.8%, with a total 265,200 weekly listening hours. That number, they said, would double as of the third year. As it turns out, they’re behind that estimate a bit (even though there’s one fewer station to compete with).

Fortunately for Cogeco, its agreement with Transport Quebec doesn’t set any minimums concerning market share or total audience.

Other French-language stations

There haven’t been much changes to the music stations on the French side, certainly not much of interest to anglos.

Among young adults (18-34), Astral’s CKMF (NRJ) has overtaken Cogeco’s CKOI for first place, going up six points with a corresponding drop of six points for CKOI.

CKOI’s overall market share has dropped from 9.8 last year to 6.6 this fall, a significant drop. Why Cogeco would say it’s proud of the station’s performance is beyond me.

Quebec City

In brief:

  • CFEL (CKOI), recently sold by Cogeco to the Leclerc family on orders from the CRTC, has slid significantly in market share among adults 18-34. It’s now 16%, compared to 24% last fall, dropping it from first to third in the market.
  • There’s a corresponding spike for Astral’s CITF (Rouge FM) in that same demographic. It has gone from 5% to 11% market share over the same period.
  • CHOI (Radio X) is losing a lot of audience during weekday midday, and Rouge FM has a corresponding spike in audience for that period.

Claude Rajotte on CHOM? No, but …

Claude Rajotte is a familiar name to long-time CHOM listeners. The francophone music expert worked at the rock station for two decades, often speaking in French until the CRTC told him he couldn’t do that anymore. He also worked on the other side of the language divide, spending about as much time at MusiquePlus.

Until recently he had a job at Espace Musique, Radio-Canada’s music radio network. But when RadCan wanted to kill his show and move him online, he left. He took a job back at MusiquePlus, where he hosts two shows, Rajotte (Fridays at 7pm) and Hors Circuit (Sunday mornings at 1am). They’re not exactly big-budget shows (Hors Circuit in particular looks pretty cheap), but the quality is in Rajotte’s biting commentary (like tonight where he trashed Nickelback by saying they seem to be stuck in a 90s time-warp).

Having gone back to MusiquePlus, Rajotte wondered if maybe he could get a job at CHOM as well. But, La Presse reported, CHOM said no.

It’s not because they’re not interested, explained Astral Media VP Martin Spalding, just that they don’t have any openings for him. “There wasn’t an opportunity,” Spalding said. “But that doesn’t mean there won’t be an opportunity in the future.”

Spalding explained that giving Rajotte a show would mean cutting the time of existing staff like Bilal Butt, who hosts evenings. “For the time being, we want to allow Bilal to grow in that timeslot,” Spalding said.

Sadly, the radio market isn’t what it was even a decade ago, and the anglophone music stations aren’t as eager as the francophone ones to grab big names to do an hour a day.

Could fate open up an opportunity for Rajotte at his other former home? As Spalding would say, never say never. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Terry DiMonte returns to CHOM Jan. 9

Five months after the announcement that Terry DiMonte will be returning to CHOM-FM, not much has happened publicly. DiMonte is still in Calgary, co-hosting the morning show at Corus-owned Q107.

Corus is making DiMonte work all of the six-month obligation he triggered when he gave his notice in June. DiMonte has no trouble fulfilling his obligation as his contract stipulates, but it’s clear from his comments on social media that he’s eager to return to Montreal.

While those comments are pleasing his Montreal-based fans, they’re also disappointing his Calgary-based ones, some Montreal expats who share with him a connection to this city they once lived in before economic factors brought them out west, but many just classic rock fans who have been loyal to the station and woken up with him every weekday morning since 2007.

DiMonte tells me his last day at Q107 will be Dec. 9. After that he returns to Montreal and prepares to go back on the air at CHOM. His first day back in his old chair is almost certainly going to be Jan. 9. Astral VP Martin Spalding, who courted DiMonte back to CHOM, says this was considered a better date than a week earlier, when many people are still on holiday.

Spalding’s hands are tied in terms of marketing DiMonte. Not only is DiMonte still physically in Calgary, except for occasional trips here during his time off, but because DiMonte is still under contract with Corus, his brand still belongs to them. Astral can’t market DiMonte until his contract expires, which will happen on Dec. 22, six months after DiMonte gave his notice.

Terry and …

The biggest question for the past five months remains: Who will be DiMonte’s partner on the CHOM morning show?

Spalding and DiMonte said they’ve met a lot of potential candidates – some in person, some by phone, with more still to talk to – but no decision has been made yet. (The decision will be a joint one between DiMonte and the station.) They don’t even know if it’s going to be one or two people. But they will have to make a call within the next few weeks.

“As you’re probably aware, I am QUITE gunshy and very careful now after a certain time period in my old life…so I will be taking some time,” DiMonte writes. Spalding echoes those thoughts, telling me that “this is a five-year play, so we want to make it right.”

Spalding also said that there have been a lot of candidates, some they sought out, and some who offered to come on board. “It’s amazing how many people have come out of the woodwork and want to work with Terry,” Spalding said.

For those wondering, Ted Bird said he’s not one of them. There have been no discussions between him and CHOM about a possible return, and he remains the big name at the K103 morning show in Kahnawake.

Two obvious candidates for the job are the ones currently holding it now: Rob Kemp and Chantal Desjardins.

Kemp might be headed back to an early afternoon shift if he’s not on the morning show (currently Tootall does 10am to 3pm), though any reshuffling of shifts won’t be decided until after the morning team is in place, Spalding said.

The outlook for Desjardins is less certain. Spalding said she’s a “clear candidate” for the morning show co-host, but there’s no lock on it. She might end up somewhere else at the station, perhaps at another Astral station in Montreal, either CJAD or CJFM.

Desjardins clearly wants to get the job with DiMonte, though.

“I really enjoy working for Astral and I hope to continue in the morning show co-host position when Terry arrives,” she told me. “Seriously…who wouldn’t want to wake up at 4am every morning? ;)” (her emoticon, not mine).

TV viewers might have noticed that Desjardins has been doing sports stories for CTV Montreal. (UPDATE Nov. 23 – She even got a turn behind the anchor desk, as you can see from the video above.)

She said she’s “thoroughly enjoying the experience” and likes the work environment at CTV.

“But I still love the energy and immediacy of morning radio so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how everything plays out!”

I feel bad for Desjardins. I know the saying that in radio it’s not if you get fired but when. Not getting the morning show gig doesn’t mean she’ll be fired, but to have your employment future be so uncertain for so long can’t be a fun thing to experience. I know, because it happens fairly often for me. (The main difference being thousands of people don’t notice what happens to me unless I tell them.)

Desjardins would make a welcome addition to the CTV sports team. That department is tiny (though still bigger than its competitors combined), and right now it’s 100% male. And she seems very comfortable in front of the camera.

But radio is what she wants to do, and it’s where people know her from. And Desjardins’s ability to match (or even surpass) wits with the boys is probably more valuable at the classic rock station than the TV station. Aside from Desjardins, Sharon Hyland is the only woman with a shift at 97.7FM, and she’s on weekends now.

It’s possible DiMonte and Spalding will come up with a name so fantastic it will have fans going “Chantal who?”, but it would have to be pretty fantastic to make me forget that these kinds of decisions have effects on the lives of real people.

Astral’s Martin Spalding on Terry DiMonte, CHOM, CJAD and Virgin Radio

Astral VP Martin Spalding outside his offices at Fort and Ste. Catherine Sts.

“You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

It’s a cliché, but I thought it was funny when I heard it come out of the mouth of Martin Spalding, the vice-president at Astral Media who is in charge of its three English-language stations in Montreal: CHOM, Virgin Radio (CJFM) and CJAD. The fact that we were talking to each other was kind of proving that assertion wrong. Or at least it was strong evidence against it.

Eleven days earlier, I called Spalding at his office to talk to him about the return of Terry DiMonte to CHOM, a move he arranged. But our conversation was brief.

“I know who you are,” he said after I introduced myself. Just as I was starting to feel relieved that I wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of convincing him to speak to some guy on the Internet as if he was a journalist, Spalding put the brakes on the interview. “I’m not in the mood to have this conversation,” he said.

I asked why. “Let’s just say you should be careful what you post on Twitter,” he said, without elaborating. He followed that with “this conversation is over.”

There was a slight hesitation in his voice, as if even he couldn’t believe he was saying this.

I didn’t know how to react. I don’t expect that everyone I contact will be interested in talking to me – mostly because I’m not a traditional journalist and my audience is not that of a metro newspaper or a supper-hour TV newscast. But I’d never had someone answer me like this before. This conversation sounded like it would be in the script from a bad movie.

What got me most is that I had no idea what set him off. Other than quoting some press releases with his name in them, I’d never talked about him on my blog. I’d never mentioned his name on Twitter. I didn’t even know what he looked like.

And I’ve posted thousands of things on Twitter. Plenty of stuff has been negative about CHOM and other Astral stations. I couldn’t really narrow it down.

The call was just before the end of business on June 23. My post about DiMonte – with the bit about Spalding at the end – was published the next day.

An email from Spalding was dated 9:05am the next Monday. He said he realizes he may have been a little “curt” in our phone conversation, and offered to take me out to lunch to explain. We scheduled a meeting for the following Monday at noon – July 4.

After seeing Spalding’s office – a corner office with wood panelling – and meeting Virgin Radio Brand Director Mark Bergman, we went to a Chinese place nearby and discussed our respective pasts a bit. Everything was cordial.

It was actually quite a while into our conversation at the lunch table until Spalding set the record straight about that minute-long conversation.

He said he had taken exception to something I tweeted the day before, suggesting that CHOM’s promotions department was lacking because its website had no mention of DiMonte a day after a press release announcing he was coming back to the station.

Spalding explained that it wasn’t because they’d simply forgotten about this or were lazy about it. Because DiMonte was still contracted to Q107 in Calgary, Spalding said that CHOM couldn’t use his image or promote him. Even issuing the press release was “playing with fire,” he said.

Spalding took my ill-informed tweet as an attack on the employees who work for him, and for me to then call and ask for comment after bashing his radio station didn’t exactly put him in the mood to cooperate.

By Monday morning, he had read my post on DiMonte, and his mood changed. He apologized for the curt tone on the phone, and went out of his way to compliment me on posts I had written, including the DiMonte one and an earlier one on Cogeco’s CRTC application for all-traffic radio stations, which he considered much more solid journalism than some of the shoot-from-the-hip tweets that are based on incomplete information.

It’s amazing how a simple conversation can change your perspective.

I, in turn, asked Spalding to apologize on my behalf to CHOM’s promotions department, an apology I repeat here. I jumped to an incorrect assumption (not the first time I’ve done so with CHOM-related news), and I should have checked. Just because it’s on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s exempt from basic journalistic rigour. I’ll try to do better in the future.

So we’re good now. Spalding gave me his card (asking me to call him before I tweet next time), paid for my lunch (the next one will be on me – I want to try to have at least some journalistic ethics here) and gave me two hours of his time – even pushing back a conference call so he could give me a few extra minutes.

The image of the super-professional businessman that DiMonte had painted for me during our conversation turned out to be a lot more accurate than I had thought after that brief phone conversation.

So, now on to the good stuff. I had a good bank of questions related to recent events at his radio stations, so I posed as many as I could fit in before I started to feel really guilty about taking him away from his real job.

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Terry DiMonte returns to CHOM, and is back in Montreal for good

Terry DiMonte has lost some weight since leaving Montreal

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: They’re bringing back Terry DiMonte.

It was with a lot of excitement (well, one exclamation mark anyway) that Astral announced (in English and French) that DiMonte has been hired to host the morning show at CHOM for a third time. For DiMonte, the news was “a little bit bittersweet”, having to leave this new home in Calgary he had tried to make his own over the past three and a half years.

There is no word on who his co-hosts will be, but so far Pete Marier and Chantal Desjardins are expected to be able to keep their jobs at the station, even if they’re not on the morning show team.

The Gazette has posted a story about DiMonte’s return, as well as some videos that were created as part of a series on expat Montrealers in 2009: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. There were also briefs on CTV News and Global’s local newscast, but otherwise coverage has been light.

No date yet

When DiMonte will return to Montreal and its airwaves is still undecided. DiMonte signed a five-year contract with Calgary’s Q107 in late 2007, which means he still has about a year and a half left. The deal does allow him to get out early with six months notice, which was given on Wednesday. So depending on how the station plans to play this, it could be as late as Christmas before he’s allowed to return to Montreal.

“My intention was and is to fulfill my obligation for the next six months,” DiMonte told me over the phone on Thursday. Still, the decision is up to the station. They could have him keep working until December, or they could pay him not to work. But a small radio station with only four full-time staff that paid decent money to lure DiMonte to Calgary in the first place probably isn’t too eager to waste it on talent it can’t use.

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