Tag Archives: CKDG

Montreal’s Mike FM failed to meet licence conditions again: CRTC

CKDG-FM 105.1*, a 12-year-old commercial ethnic radio station in Montreal, is up for licence renewal, and for the third straight time the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission believes it has failed to meet the requirements of its licence, by not serving a sufficient number of ethnic groups and not airing enough Canadian music.

In 2010, when the station’s licence was first renewed, the commission found that it had failed to pay $42,022 in required contributions to Canadian content development. As a result, the commission renewed the licence for just over three years instead of a full term of seven years, and added a condition of licence requiring it to repay the shortfall by August 2011.

In 2013, the second renewal noted that the station failed to meet that repayment deadline. Owner Marie Griffiths blamed the economic recession for putting financial pressure on the station, and said it would be repaid by August 2013, even trying to offer post-dated cheques as proof of this. There were also paperwork issues, getting annual returns to the commission on time. The CRTC again renewed the licence for a shorter term, until August 2016.

This time, the compliance issues aren’t about Canadian content contributions (a new policy exempts stations with revenues under $1.25 million from having to make them) or filing annual returns, but related to programming.

CKDG’s licence, amended in 2013, has the following conditions, in addition to the standard conditions of licence:

  • 3. The licensee shall devote a minimum of 60% of the programming broadcast during each broadcast week to ethnic programs, as defined in the Radio Regulations, 1986, as amended from time to time.
  • 4. The licensee shall devote a minimum of 50% of the programming broadcast during each broadcast week to third language programs, as defined in the Radio Regulations, 1986, as amended from time to time.
  • 5. The licensee shall broadcast, in each broadcast week, programming directed to a minimum of eight cultural groups in a minimum of six languages.
  • 6. The licensee shall ensure that at least 10% of the musical selections broadcast during ethnic programming periods during each broadcast week are Canadian selections.
  • 7. The licensee shall provide an appropriate proof of payment for the entire outstanding Canadian talent development shortfall of $42,022 identified in CKDG-FM Montréal – Licence renewal, Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2010-428, 30 June 2010, by 31 January 2014.

The station is proposing to keep these conditions, except the last, which has been fulfilled and is no longer applicable.

Cultural groups

Asked about the eight cultural groups it serves, CKDG listed “Greeks, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Armenians, Italians, English and French Que?be?cois” in a letter to the CRTC. But English and French are not considered cultural groups according to the CRTC’s ethnic broadcasting policy, which means the station failed to meet that requirement.

The application says the error was because of “a misinterpretation of the Commission’s policy and was compounded by inadequate oversight of the weekly programming breakdowns. Although this error was unfortunate, it was honestly made, and has now been corrected. It will not reoccur.”

The station added programming last fall for Dominican, Guatemalan and Haitian communities to bring its number up to nine.

The new schedule for CKDG-FM (click for larger version)

The new schedule for CKDG-FM (click for larger version)

Canadian music

CKDG’s conditions of licence require it to ensure 10% of ethnic songs and 35% of non-ethnic popular music are Canadian. But the commission’s analysis, based on a week in May 2015, shows it offered only 0.76% Canadian ethnic music and 24.1% Canadian non-ethnic music.

CKDG blamed this on its “inability to keep adequate records” and on not sufficiently policing licence conditions for brokered programming.

Is $4,000 enough to fix this?

Unprompted by the commission, CKDG’s licensee Groupe CHCR (Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio), has offered its own penance for its wrongdoings: money.

“Groupe CHCR submits that it will voluntarily contribute the combined amount of $4,000 to FACTOR and Musicaction ($2,000 to each organization) over the next licence term,” the application reads, referring to the two major Canadian music development funds that larger stations are required to contribute to.

Requiring additional contributions is one of the options available to the CRTC. A short-term licence renewal is another. But it can also go further, imposing other conditions of licence, requiring the station to broadcast its failure to comply with its licence conditions, or in extreme cases suspending, refusing to renew or revoking its licence entirely.

Needless to say, CKDG isn’t in favour of most of these options.

New administrative staff

As part of its move to get its affairs in order, Mike FM has hired new senior staff:

  • William Hart, Director of Operations, charged with bringing “a greater level of organization and structure to the company.”
  • Geoffroy Bry-Marfaing, Assistant Director, charged with ensuring ethnic programs meet Canadian content requirements
  • Maud Mazaniello, Director of Communications, charged with improving communication with cultural communities, among other things

It has managed to do this thanks mainly to the half-million it received from selling sister station CKIN-FM. We’ll see if they can use that money to make this sustainable.

The CRTC is accepting comments on CKDG-FM’s licence renewal until March 15.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post gave the wrong frequency for CKDG-FM.

CRTC approves sale of CKIN-FM to Neeti P. Ray

Montreal has a new player in the ethnic radio game. On Tuesday, the CRTC approved the sale of CKIN-FM 106.3 from Groupe CHCR (Marie Griffiths, who owns CKDG-FM aka Mike FM 105.1) to Neeti P. Ray, the owner of ethnic radio stations CINA Mississauga and CINA-FM Windsor.

Ray is purchasing CKIN-FM for $500,000, plus an $18,000 consulting contract for current management, plus $22,500 to take over the antenna lease. The commission also added $150,000 to the calculation for the assumed lease of office space over five years even though the contract says the buyer will leave after one at the most.

The application filed with the CRTC projected no major changes to programming on CKIN, which would continue to be managed in Montreal, but will cease to be sister stations with CKDG.

The CRTC’s decision notes a comment on Radio Humsafar, the company behind a yet-to-launch ethnic station at 1610 AM that also targets the South Asian community. It asked the commission to restrict CKIN’s programming it wouldn’t compete directly with their new station. The commission rejected that proposal, noting that Humsafar was aware of CKIN’s presence when it applied for its licence.

The change in ownership will result in $41,430 being injected into the Canadian content development system as a result of the CRTC’s tangible benefits policy. Most of that will go toward funds supporting Canadian music artists.

Griffiths told the CRTC the purchase money would go toward CKDG’s financial health, eliminating its third-party debt.

Groupe CHCR sells ethnic station CKIN-FM 106.3 to Neeti P. Ray for $500,000

There was no announcement of the transaction, so the CRTC application for a change in ownership is the first we hear of the sale of CKIN-FM 106.3 by Marie Griffiths to Mississauga-based businessman Neeti P. Ray, owner of Mississauga’s CINA 1650 AM and Windsor’s CINA-FM 102.3.

According to the application, the purchase price is $500,000. Add in an $18,000 consulting contract ($1,500 per month) and $22,500 over five years for the assumed lease for the transmitter, and the total cost for CRTC purposes is $540,500.

Griffiths and CHCR will keep ownership of CKIN’s sister station CKDG-FM (Mike FM 105.1) and use the proceeds of the sale to help the financial situation of CKDG.

The sale doesn’t include the offices of CKIN, which are shared with CKDG. “The purchaser has an option to co-occupy Groupe CHCR Inc.’s existing premises for a period of up to one year to permit an orderly transition of ownership and operations for CKIN FM,” the application reads.

Ray says the transfer of ownership won’t result in a loss of local programming:

Centralized management will not detract from the essentially local nature of CKIN’s ethnic radio station. The station will continue to be operated from offices located in Montre?al and day-to-day responsibility for programming on the station will remain in Montre?al. The principal synergies relate to the centralization of management and ownership, not operations.

For CHCR, the transaction represents a much-needed cash infusion. The company is privately held, so this is a rare glimpse into its finances (emphasis mine):

At the same time, approval of the current application will enable Groupe CHCR Inc. to refocus its resources to maintain and build on the strength of its original FM radio station, CKDG-FM. Groupe CHCR Inc. has developed a particular expertise in creating multicultural programming with a mainstream appeal (the Radio Culture Fusion format) and in serving Montre?al’s Greek-language audiences.

The sale of CKIN-FM is taking place at a critical time for Groupe CHCR Inc. Despite years of effort and investment, it has become apparent that the company requires an injection of capital to reach its potential in the current financial climate. The programming, operating and capital requirements of both stations have proved to be quite challenging for Groupe CHCR Inc. to meet on its own.

It has become apparent that building on CKIN-FM’s success will require additional investment and a focused management effort to improve the station’s visibility and realize its potential. Regrettably, this investment is beyond Groupe CHCR Inc.’s means at this time. Without this investment, there is a real likelihood that the station will continue to be a strain on Group CHCR Inc. as a whole.

From the perspective of Groupe CHCR Inc., the proposed transaction will enable the company to revitalize CKDG-FM, its flagship station; to retire most of its third-party debt, which has accumulated with the launch of the two stations; and to focus its management effort on a single radio station, the Radio Fusion Format, and the linguistic and cultural groups served by that station.


CKIN-FM was first licensed in 2007 and launched in 2010. Like CKDG, it offers ethnic programming in several languages, and uses non-ethnic programming during peak hours to subsidize that. While CKDG’s rush-hour programs are in English, CKIN’s are in French. CKIN offers programming in Arabic, Creole, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish and Urdu. Ray says he will continue serving those groups, which makes sense because South Asian is Ray’s specialty.

The contract comes with non-compete clauses for both sides. Ray agrees not to broadcast any Greek-language programming on CKIN, while Griffiths agrees not to broadcast any South Asian programming (Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati) for five years after the sale. This clause does specify that it doesn’t apply if the other station ceases programming in that language.

Ray has proposed a standard tangible benefits package of 6% of the cost of the transaction ($32,430), distributed to Canadian content funds, the Community Radio Fund of Canada and other approved initiatives.

Though he only owns two stations, Ray has applied unsuccessfully to start several others, including in Montreal. In fact, he competed with Griffiths for the 106.3 frequency in 2007. In 2011, the CRTC denied an application by Ray to start a new ethnic radio station in Montreal (250W at 600 AM) mainly because of the negative impact it would have on the then year-old CKIN-FM. And he complained when the commission went through with applications in 2013 for two new ethnic stations in Montreal, saying he missed the notice that the commission was accepting applications.

He has an application pending for an AM station in Brampton, Ont. He also applied for a station in Calgary in 2011, but missed the deadline.

The CRTC will hold a hearing on this proposed purchase (and others, including Radio Classique) on July 22 in Gatineau. The parties are not expected to attend. People wanting to comment on the application can do so here until June 19 at 8pm ET. Note that all information submitted becomes part of the public record.

Mike FM gets green light for more non-ethnic programming, but CKIN-FM is denied same

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Mike FM (CKDG-FM 105.1), the station that is trying to make money by pairing popular English music during rush hour with multicultural programming for the rest of the schedule, is getting a break from the broadcast regulator to allow it to have 12 more hours a week of English programming.

On Friday, the CRTC approved licence renewals for CKDG and sister station CKIN-FM (which airs French programs during rush hour). Both are getting short-term three-year renewals, which indicate important non-compliance with their licences.

Licence changes

Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio, which owns both stations, requested changes to the licences for both stations, dropping the amount of ethnic programming a week from 70% to 60%, the amount of third-language programs from 60% to 50%, and to be allowed to broadcast in fewer languages (six instead of eight) but to more cultural groups (eight instead of six). The requested changes would have put both stations on par with standard conditions for ethnic radio stations.

Because the broadcast day is 6am to midnight, there are 126 hours in the broadcast week, which means English non-ethnic programming on CKDG could go up from 50 hours a week to 63 hours a week, or from 10 to 12.6 hours each weekday if there’s no such programming on the weekend. English-language ethnic programming would stay at a maximum of 10% of the schedule if the English non-ethnic hours are used to their maximum.

CHCR said it planned to offer more programming in Spanish and Russian, bring its Mandarin programming to a daily show on CKIN, and introduce monthly shows for other communities not currently represented.

The CRTC approved the licence changes for CKDG to give it more flexibility. But CKIN is finishing its first licence term and has only been on the air for three years, and it got its licence in a competitive process, beating other stations applying for licences in part because of these promises to go beyond the standard conditions of licence. The CRTC denied its licence amendments for that reason.


The CRTC found issues with both stations complying with their licence obligations. In the case of CKDG, it found the station had not properly shown proof of payment for Canadian content development contributions, that it failed to meet a 2011 deadline to repay CCD contribution shortfalls dating as far back as 2003, and that it failed to provide annual financial returns on time. For CKIN, it also found it failed to meet deadlines for CCD payments.

CHCR blamed administrative errors for its bookkeeping failures, and has promised to rectify that. It has since paid back its financial shortfalls.

Nevertheless, because of the seriousness of the errors, and the fact that CKDG’s last licence renewal in 2010 was also short-term for similar reasons, the CRTC decided to give only a three-year renewal.

The new licence, and the flexibility to air more English non-ethnic programming on CKDG, takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. We don’t know what will be done as far as the schedule is concerned, but expect the afternoon drive show to be extended from 6pm to 7pm, or maybe more English programming during the work day.

Tasso leaves Mike FM

Paul (Tasso) Zakaib in the Mike FM studio

Paul (Tasso) Zakaib in the Mike FM studio

Two years after joining Mike FM (CKDG) as a big-name personality on its afternoon drive show, Paul Zakaib and his on-air alter-ego Tasso Patsikakis are once again looking for work.

“It was a good two-year run,” Zakaib told me on the phone. He described his departure as the end of an experiment that failed to meet the station’s hopes. Mike FM owner Marie Griffiths offered him a different job that he wasn’t crazy about, so he left. His last day was Sept. 30.

Griffiths didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. I’ll update this post if I hear from her.

James Foster, who was Zakaib’s producer and news anchor, has taken over the job of afternoon drive host.

Failed experiment

Zakaib isn’t bitter about the departure, but seemed resigned to the fact that things just wouldn’t work at the low-budget station. Its equipment is basic and outdated, and didn’t afford him the flexibility needed to produce a complex show filled with humorous skits. This was particularly true after co-host Patrick Charles left the station a year ago.

CKDG-FM and its sister station CKIN-FM are commercial ethnic stations operating out of a tiny studio space on Parc Ave. in Mile End. CKDG tries to make money for the station with English-language morning and afternoon drive shows. The hiring of Tasso and Patrick was supposed to spark a boost in audience and advertising. It now seems evident that that didn’t happen.

(CKDG-FM doesn’t subscribe to BBM’s ratings measurement system, so it’s impossible to know beyond anecdotal evidence whether the show did indeed have more listeners and if so how long that increased listenership lasted.)

What now?

So now Zakaib joins people like Ted Bird and Ric Peterson and Patrick Charles and Chantal Desjardins who are without jobs in radio despite being veteran broadcasters. And that’s not counting all of those who are underemployed or not being used to their full potential.

Zakaib told me he wants to go back to something he did a while ago: freelance, doing voice work for animation and commercials. As a man with many voices, it’s what he does best.

“I’m trying to get back into that field,” he said, lamenting how much has changed with technology since the good ol’ days.

What about an Aaron and Tasso reunion? Well, Zakaib called up Aaron Rand’s show on CJAD recently, just for fun. He said he might do so again, out of nostalgia.

If there’s any justice in the world, CJAD will free up a few dollars to get him to contribute to Rand’s show on a regular basis.

But nobody’s holding their breath waiting for that to happen.

Mike FM, CKIN-FM ask CRTC to reduce ethnic programming level

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Mike FM studios on Parc Ave.

Tired of tuning into 105.1 FM looking for 90s hits and the comedy skits of Tasso Patsikakis only to find out that you’re listening to some Greek music instead?

Well, the Montreal-based commercial ethnic station Mike FM (CKDG), and its sister station CKIN-FM, are looking to change that. Owner Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio Ltd. (Marie Griffiths) has applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to modify their licences as part of their licence renewal this year. The modifications would reduce the minimum amount of ethnic and third-language programming the stations must air each week.

Only the application related to CKDG has been published by the CRTC, but the brief attached to that application makes it clear that identical requests are being made for both stations. CKIN’s licence ends on Aug. 31, 2013, though the CRTC can issue a short-term administrative renewal if it can’t process a renewal application before then.

Continue reading

Patrick Charles leaves Mike FM

Patrick Henry Charles (left) and Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis)

Tasso and Patrick is now just Tasso.

Patrick Charles, who started a new afternoon drive show with Paul (Tasso) Zakaib on low-rated ethnic station CKDG-FM last October, has decided to leave the station, and not come back from a three-week vacation.

“I really quit for personal reasons: the hours made it difficult, and things weren’t progressing the way I’d have liked them to,” Charles tells me. “Outside of that, we had a lot of fun. You can still tune into Tasso.”

Zakaib is remaining with the show and the station. He’ll be doing the show solo, which will mean having to play all the parts in his comedic sketches.

“I became a master at recording characters, playing it back and answering live, i.e., my mom and dad, my trainer, Jacques Ampere. It works quite well and there’s tons of stuff on the net for those short breaks. My producer chimes in and voilà, we have a show.”

“I’m sad he left but he has to do what a young dad with major responsibility has to do.”

Charles says he’s spending his time “hanging out with my son, listening to a lot of music, and looking for a new gig.”

Charles started at CFQR-FM (what was then Q92) in 2001, helping with writing for the Aaron and Tasso morning show, then left for CJFM-FM in 2009. He didn’t last long on the Virgin morning show, shuffled into an off-air position in 2010. He worked in various capacities for Astral until he finally left. Shortly thereafter he took the job at Mike FM.

I’ve asked station manager Marie Griffiths for comment. I’ll update this if I hear from her. The station, which airs English-language programs during peak hours and ethnic programs (particularly Greek) in other parts of its schedule, doesn’t subscribe to BBM Canada, so has no scientific way of measuring its audience.

Behind the scenes with Tasso and Patrick at Mike FM

Patrick Henry Charles (left) and Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Big local radio personality decides he’s had enough of how faceless corporations have micromanaged what happens on air, taking all the fun out of it. So instead, he’s moving to a low-power station few of his fans have ever heard of, becoming a big fish in a smaller pond, sacrificing a big paycheque for more creative freedom. The small station, not licensed in a way that would normally make it a competitor to the big commercial stations, decides it’s going to go after a bigger mainstream crowd to attract more advertising revenue.

It’s easy to see the parallels with Ted Bird here. Give me another example of this happening and I can write a trend story about it.

I went by Mike FM (CKDG) last week to sit in on a broadcast of the Tasso and Patrick show, which debuted on Oct. 24. It stars Paul Zakaib, who has been better known as Tasso since the 80s and has been mostly off the air since he was sacked from the CFQR morning show he shared with long-time partner Aaron Rand in 2009. With him is Patrick Henry Charles, who worked on the Aaron and Tasso show from 2001 until he got a better offer from competitor Astral to be part of CJFM’s morning team, but about a year later was moved into a position that gave him less airtime and far less exposure.

I talk about Mike FM and Tasso and Patrick in an article that appeared in The Gazette on Tuesday. It reveals, among other things, that there were talks about bringing an Aaron and Tasso show to the station, but they fell through the cracks when Rand was hired to do an afternoon show at CJAD.

So Zakaib called up his old pal Charles, who had recently left Astral because he felt his talents were being wasted there. They met with CKDG GM Marie Griffiths, and before long the Tasso and Patrick show was born.

Continue reading

Paul (Tasso) Zakaib, Patrick Charles to do afternoon show on Mike FM

Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso Patsikakis, left) and Patrick Charles (photo: Mike FM)

While I was busy yesterday at CRTC hearings for AM frequencies, Mike FM was announcing its new afternoon show stars, and give them points for scoring recognizable names. Paul Zakaib, the Tasso of Aaron and Tasso, will join Patrick Henry Charles (formerly of both CFQR 92.5 and CJFM 95.9) as the afternoon drive hosts starting next Monday.

Tasso, as we all know, was unceremoniously dumped from Q92’s morning show in August 2009 along with co-host Suzanne Desautels, leaving Aaron Rand in an uncomfortable position for almost two years until he finally left in May. Tasso has barely been heard from since (a notable exception being a guest appearance on Rand’s show to say goodbye).

Charles worked for seven years at Q92 until he jumped to CJFM and then was dumped from its morning show into a lower-profile job until he left completely last month. He also contributes a pop culture segment weekly on CFCF’s noon newscast. He’s known mostly for his musical parodies, and even created one for this announcement.

As The Gazette notes, Tasso’s timeslot will put him in a competing position with his long-time partner Aaron Rand, who is now doing afternoons at CJAD.

I asked Rand about this. He’s not taking the bait that this is some epic war. He writes:

Above all I’m happy for Paul, and glad to see he’s going to go back to work. I know it hasn’t been easy for the past couple of years.

As for being “pitted” against each other, I’m not sure what the format there is going to be, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess it’s not news/talk.

Now, you might be wondering: What the hell is Mike FM?

It’s a legitimate question to ask. The station, CKDG-FM 105.1, launched in 2004 after being on cable radio for decades. It is technically licensed as a multilingual station, and is limited to only having 35% of its broadcast hours in English or French. Still, it brands itself as an English station with English morning and afternoon programs, with Greek taking up most of the rest of the schedule. (I guess that makes a name like Tasso Patsikakis a good fit here.)

It has an average effective radiated power of 141 watts, which is tiny when you compare it to, say, The Beat’s 41,400 watts. It also broadcasts from a lower height on Mount Royal, from the Bell tower on Remembrance Road (the same one used by CFCF television’s temporary digital transmitter).

Current (inner circle) and proposed (outer circle) contours of CKDG-FM (Images from REC Networks maps)

The station has applied to the CRTC to improve its signal. The antenna would remain at the same place, but the station would change frequency from 105.1 to 106.7, the one formerly used by Aboriginal Voices Radio. It would also increase its power from 141 watts to 407 watts. This would put inside its contours areas like the West Island, east end and north and south shores, but would still be far from commercial rivals and very difficult to capture with cheap portable radios.

Even though the deadline for comments was more than a year ago, the CRTC hasn’t yet made a decision. One complication is that 106.7 is being used by pirate radio station KKIC in Kahnawake. That station has been given an actual broadcast license for 89.9FM, but hasn’t switched frequencies yet.

Paul Zakaib and Patrick Henry Charles begin on CKDG-FM 105.1 on Monday, Oct. 24. Their show runs weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. A Facebook page is already setup. The station streams live via mikefm.ca.