Having been denied their licence renewal by the CRTC, CJMS 1040 AM in St-Constant spent the last six hours of its licence term on Monday reminiscing about its past and talking to country music artists and others about what the station has done but also about its plan to become an online-only streaming station.
At 12:00:38, the host was cut off mid-sentence saying goodbye, and there was just dead air.
But by Tuesday morning, there was audio again at 1040 AM, as if nothing had happened.
Owner Jean Ernest Pierre told me in a brief email he received authorization late Monday to continue operating. He didn’t expand on that.
As I explain in this story for Cartt.ca, CJMS’s filings with the Federal Court of Appeal were deficient, so had not yet been accepted as of Thursday. The CRTC said it was aware of the appeal (and lack of decision). “The Commission is monitoring the situation and will take additional steps if necessary,” a spokesperson said.
According to the filings provided by the court, Groupe Médias Pam (which is CJMS’s official licensee) is arguing that the CRTC unfairly took into account licence violations committed by the station’s previous owner and failed to show “procedural fairness” that would have called for progressive discipline before refusing to renew a licence.
The station raised the same argument at the hearing, but the CRTC countered in its decision that “when the licensee acquired the station in 2014, the licensee was informed of CJMS’s previous non-compliance.”
Indeed, in that 2014 decision allowing Pierre to buy CJMS from previous owner Alexandre Azoulay for $15,000, the CRTC said this:
The Commission emphasizes the importance it places on a licensee’s fulfillment of its regulatory obligations. It is the licensee’s responsibility to ensure that it is aware of and respects its regulatory obligations at all times. In this case, Groupe Médias must comply with the terms and conditions of licence set out in Appendix 1 to this decision, with the CJMS code of ethics set out in Appendix 2 and with the orders set out in Appendix 3 and Appendix 4. The Commission reminds Groupe Médias that in addition to complying with the appendices to this decision, it must comply with the Regulations at all times.
The commission does not explicitly state that violations by previous owners are taken into account when evaluating whether a station should lose its licence, but Pierre had to be aware the station was on thin ice, with short-term licence renewals issued in 2014 and again in 2018.
In arguing for a stay of the CRTC’s decision, CJMS notes the precedent of cases involving Toronto’s CKLN-FM 88.1 and the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network. One of the filings even accidentally refers to CKLN where it should refer to CJMS.
In both those cases, the court did halt enforcement of the CRTC’s decision, but in both those cases it eventually sided with the CRTC and those stations were forced off the air.
UPDATE (Sept. 11): The station went off the air again on Thursday. A Facebook post says it’s a temporary shutdown for maintenance, but that’s some suspicious timing.
UPDATE (Nov. 25): On Sept. 14, the Federal Court of Appeal issued an order maintaining CJMS’s licence and suspending the CRTC’s non-renewal decision until the court decides whether to proceed with the appeal. Judge J.D. Denis Pelletier wrote:
Le dossier de requête visant un sursis intérimaire est acceptée pour dépôt — La demande de sursis intérimaire de la décision CRTC 2020-239 est accordée — La licence de radiodiffusion de l’entreprise de programmation de radio commerciale de langue française CJMS Saint-Constant (Québec) est réputée demeurer en vigueur depuis son expiration, jusqu’à ce que soit décidée la requête visant la permission de pourvoir en appel la décision du du conseil … – Le tout sans frais.