Tag Archives: CKRK

K103 moves into new building, and says goodbye to 30 years of history

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

For this community where tradition is so important, the move of K103 to a new building in July was bittersweet, even if it was a long time coming. Staff and supporters were excited about entering a much larger building and sitting down to state-of-the-art equipment, but it also meant leaving the building that the station had occupied since it launched in 1981, and bringing with them only small relics of the memories that were made there.

I talk about the K103 station move, as well as two other radio stations on Mohawk reserves near Montreal — KIC Country (CKKI-FM 89.9) and Kanesatake United Voices Radio (CKHQ-FM 101.7) in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette.

Below are videos, photos and more about the K103 move. (I’ll have posts about the other stations soon.)

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Lance Delisle replaces Java Jacobs on K103 morning show

New K103 morning show team, from left: Zack Rath, Lance Delisle, Paul Graif

New K103 morning show team, from left: Zack Rath, Lance Delisle, Paul Graif (Photo: K103)

When Java Jacobs wasn’t heard on the air on K103 recently, some had wondered if there was a problem or if he’d left the station.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. Starting Monday, the Kahnawake community radio station has a new morning team, with Lance Delisle taking Jacob’s place on the show.

Delisle is a veteran of the station, having started there in 1988. Jacobs had been there for about as long, and on the morning show for four. He and co-host Paul Graif were part of the morning team that made headlines in 2010 by adding former CHOM morning man Ted Bird. Their show has continued, though with less media attention, since Bird left to join TSN 690 in the spring of 2012.

So why did Jacobs leave?

“All I can say that it’s a personnel issue and not public information,” was the response from K103’s program director Al Gravelle. This leads me to believe it was the station’s decision to let him go.

Jacobs has locked down both his Facebook page and his Twitter account. I’ll update this if I hear back from him.

$80,000 for new equipment

In more uplifting news, the radiothon that the station held two weeks ago was a “huge success,” Gravelle said, raising more than $80,000, just above its $75,000 goal.

The station is moving into a new building, the groundbreaking for which occurred in September and should be built by July. The building itself, which will be shared with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake’s Culture and Language Program, is being paid for by grant money, but the station has to pay for new equipment and furniture to put into it.

K103’s current building would have been cordoned off as condemned in any other jurisdiction, so the new one will be more than welcome.

Ted Bird leaves K103

Updated May 11 with audio from his last show.

Ted Bird announced Monday morning that this is his last week at CKRK (K103) in Kahnawake.

Bird told listeners the decision to leave was a mutual one between him and station management: “It was mutually agreed that it’s time to move on.”

That’s true. But it might be more accurate to say that Bird is leaving because K103 simply can’t afford to keep him any longer.

Bird joined K103 as its new morning show host in April 2010, a few months after his sudden departure from CHOM. It was for a year, then renewed for a second. Throughout that time, radio watchers have been wondering how long the perennially cash-strapped 250-watt station could keep paying a commercial radio veteran to be part of its morning show.

He hinted at that on air. “My first choice would be to stay, but the realities are it’s not going to happen,” he said.

Since Terry DiMonte announced he was returning to CHOM from Calgary, people have been wondering about the possibility of a Terry and Ted reunion. Bird put inevitable rumours to rest right away by saying this move was not a precursor to a Terry and Ted reunion. He said only that he has “a couple of possibilities over in the city” as far as his next move.

You can listen to Bird’s announcement here (MP3, 5:08)

Despite making it clear he wasn’t going back to CHOM, some fans (Tom Messner!) are fantasizing about a Terry and Ted reunion. While Bird doesn’t reject that as a possibility in the future, the truth is that CHOM or Astral simply hasn’t contacted him since he left. There’s been no attempt to rebuild the bridge that was so thoroughly scorched by Bird when he left, even though the station is under new management, which says there’s no personal animosity.

Bird made it very clear on air and when I talked to him later that he enjoyed his time at K103. “This has by far been the most fun I’ve ever had in radio,” he said. “It’s two years I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

And it showed. With cohosts Java Jacobs, Paul Graif and more recently Matty Pots, the chemistry was very strong. Bird and Jacobs especially worked well with each other, and you could tell that when they burst out laughing in studio it wasn’t because they were forcing themselves to.

Similarly, the station’s management seemed to be pleased with what he has done. Joe Delaronde, who was the chair of its board of directors and is now one of its programming consultants, said Bird “has done everything he was supposed to do and more” for the station, was a team player, made appearances at community events and helped bring up the level of professionalism at the station, providing good training for young Kahnawake community members who worked there.

Bird’s arrival was supposed to help bring in new audiences and hence new advertising. Delaronde said it succeeded on both counts. He said they did a survey of 250 people by stopping them in the street (CKRK doesn’t subscribe to BBM monitoring so it can’t really calculate its reach outside Kahnawake), and found only 0.9% of respondents said they never listened to the station. On the advertising front, Delaronde said revenues went up 1000%.

“The vast majority of people were very happy,” Delaronde said. Happy enough, apparently, that a Facebook group quickly started with comments from people demanding that the mutual decision be reconsidered and that Bird stay at K103.

Not everyone in Kahnawake was happy when Bird came around. Some complained that the station was seeking someone from outside to run things, spending money on a commercial radio guy when it could have been better spent on training and employing Mohawk talent. Many of those opinions were posted on a Facebook group along with others that supported Bird. Bird acknowledged those negative opinions about his arrival in a column for KahnawakeNews.com. Those voices, though, seemed to be in the minority compared to those who thought Bird was a way of increasing the profile of the station and, by extension, the community.

Delaronde downplayed opposition to Bird, blaming it on people who will complain about anything. He said the station has never lost its identity as a community station.

Graif, who you might recognize because he used to work at Global and occasionally fills in on the sports desk at CFCF, said Bird’s departure was “a big loss” to the station. “I’ve never had this kind of chemistry before. It made getting up at these ungodly hours easy.”

So what’s next?

For Bird, the next move is in motion, but nothing is set in stone yet. There are strong rumours about a deal to join CKGM’s morning show, but Bird would not comment on them and CKGM station manager Wayne Bews didn’t return a phone message seeking comment. The move would make sense, since the morning show has been down to two hosts since Denis Casavant left to devote more time to his work at RDS.

For K103, the show goes on with Jacobs, Graif and Pots. Delaronde mused about maybe adding a female voice to the morning show, but there have been no decisions made yet.

You can read more about Bird’s departure in this story in The Gazette, written by yours truly. There’s also a story at KahnawakeNews.com.

Bird says goodbye

UPDATE (May 11): Bird did his last show Friday morning. You can listen to Bird’s farewell message here (MP3, 1.1MB, 4:59)

Meanwhile, Delaronde writes a post for Radio in Montreal giving some context to the decision to part ways. He explains that Bird’s salary was paid at least in part by “private sponsors” who, it seems, were not willing to keep their funding going past the end of the second year.

Coming soon: A reborn (and legal) KKIC Radio

Saturday’s Gazette features an article by yours truly about new radio station KKIC.

KKIC owner Brian Moon at the microphone

KKIC (Kahnawake Keeps It Country) was born out of frustration: Montreal is the largest market in North America without a (full-time) country music station. And while that style of music might not be that popular among the hip urbanites of Quebec’s métropole, it’s very popular among the closely-knit population of the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake.

It began as a pirate radio station in December 2009 on 106.7 MHz, the frequency formerly occupied by Aboriginal Voices Radio‘s Montreal station. Its goal – then and now – is to fill the need for country music in the region but in the Kahnawake community in particular.

Montreal has only two other stations that carry country music: CJMS 1040 AM, a French station that is mostly talk during peak hours, and CKRK 103.7 FM, Kahnawake’s community station, which plays country music only on the weekends.

The latter helped raise KKIC’s profile in 2010, when it followed up on the hiring of Ted Bird by bringing on board CJAD castoffs Laurie and Olga on the weekends and ditching country music. The decision was more financial than anything else – there wasn’t advertising with the country music, and K103 hoped Laurie and Olga’s following would bring in some ad money on the weekends. And it did, at first, with the Bar B Barn remaining loyal to the long-time on-air duo.

But killing country ended up backfiring, with the community up in arms about the disappearance of country music. Many were driven to KKIC, even if it was mostly automated and broadcast with less power. There was even a “passing of the country music torch” from K103 to KKIC.

By the end of 2010, the outrage drummed up sponsorship for country music weekends on K103, and Laurie and Olga were out the door.

Still, for Moon, weekends weren’t enough. KKIC would keep on.

While K103 was experimenting with more lucrative programming, Industry Canada had taken interest in the pirate transmitter on 106.7 MHz. An inspector was sent in January 2010 to take readings, and though there are conflicting stories circulating about what exactly happened, the parties involved (Moon, the Peacekeepers and Industry Canada) all say there was full cooperation afterward. KKIC, which says it had no intention of operating as a pirate station, was guided through the process of obtaining a CRTC license and proper authorization for broadcasting.

Politics in Kahnawake being what they are, Moon at first approached the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake instead of the Canadian government for authorization, and in the initial CRTC application Moon asked for an exclusion from its Canadian content requirements because Kahnawake doesn’t treat international borders the same way the Canadian and U.S. governments do.

In the end, Moon relented and accepted the 35% CanCon minimum (he wants to spotlight local artists in particular, so he expects to easily meet this requirement), as well as a change in frequency from 106.7 MHz to 89.9 MHz, and the CRTC approved the license on Sept. 29.

The approval came the day after I visited the station on Route 207.

KKIC occupies a house, with its transmitting antenna (left) on a tower in the back yard.

It’s a house. Or at least, that’s what it used to be. Nobody lives there anymore, and Moon, with partners Don Patrick Martin and Patrick Periard, plan to reconfigure it for use as a radio station, including setting up a studio where live performances can be recorded.

The transmitter sits in a small rack next to the computer desk in the living room. The songs are stored on the computer, and there’s a sound board and some professional microphones. It’s usable as a radio studio, even though it feels like you’re in someone’s home.

The antenna is on a freshly-installed tower in the back yard. According to the Industry Canada database, it’s 26 metres high, and when it begins operating on its assigned frequency it will be running with an average effective radiated power of 360 watts. That’s about three times what it has now, and even a bit better than K103, but its coverage area will still be limited to the reserve and neighbouring communities (including, they hope, neighbouring areas on the island like Lachine and LaSalle).

Switching frequencies requires installing a new transmitter, and Moon confirmed this week that it’s on track to launch on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Their callsign will be CKKI-FM.

Morning hiccup

KKIC has big plans for the station. It’s still going to be mostly music, and a lot of it will be animated, but they’re adding people to the schedule. Cornbread Country on Sundays. A weekly show tied with the Eastern Door newspaper. Not much, but others are planned.

The big thing to start Nov. 1 was supposed to be a new morning man, Lance Delisle, who used to work at K103. But the deal with Delisle fell through, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Moon said Delisle had decided on a better offer elsewhere. Delisle made a somewhat cryptic remark about how the station still had some things to work out first but that he wished them the best.

Moon says the station will still relaunch on Nov. 1, even if he has to be the one doing the morning show himself.

Can Kahnawake afford two stations?

For a community of only about 8,000 residents, its seems astonishing that they would have not one but two radio stations. But Kahnawake has plenty of media, some in more competition than others. I’m not sure if it’s a sign of a healthy commitment to supporting not only local media but diversity in local media, or if it’s a bad sign that anything designed to bring the community together will inevitably drive it apart.

For what it’s worth, KKIC doesn’t see itself as competing with K103. It’s a commercial country music station, while K103 is a community station. Each has its role, and the two complement more than they clash.

The proof will be in whether the station can stay on its feet financially. Periard, whose fancy shirt, styled hair and BlackBerry was just about the opposite look of Moon’s long hair and T-shirt when I met them at KKIC’s studio last month, sees them hiring about a dozen people, including ad salespeople, who he thinks can help the station break even, particularly if it develops an audience just across the river. In any case, airing mostly music (“we get calls and emails from our listeners when we talk too much”, Moon says) means their overhead is low.

The group wouldn’t get into their finances much, except to say they have private investors.

I’m a bit more skeptical about their chances for financial survival. K103 isn’t exactly drowning in cash, and this second station is going to divide the community’s advertising budgets even further. And even at 300 watts KKIC has a long way to go before being considered a powerhouse in the region. Even mostly automated, there’s a lot of overhead for a radio station.

But it’s nice to see someone try.

CKKI-FM (re)launches Nov. 1 at 89.9 MHz FM. You can also stream it live at kkicradio.com

K103 cancels Laurie and Olga show

Laurie Macdonald and Olga Gazdovic, who were canned in a mass firing from CJAD in 2009 but got picked up by Kahnawake’s K103 CKRK in May, are once again without a home on Montreal’s airwaves.

The two announced last Saturday on the air that that show would be their last. Starting Jan. 1, country music will be returning to the weekend airwaves on the station.

According to acting station manager Kenneth Deer, the decision was strictly a matter of financing: A contract with The Bar B Barn, which sponsored Laurie and Olga, ends on Dec. 31, and the station has found sponsors for their country and western music weekend programming.

“Our community has a large country and western music following,” Deer explained in an email. “We ran C&W Weekend for about 28 years up until recently. The station was in financial trouble so a decision was made to cut loose our country DJs and go to automation on the weekend. In all the years we ran the C&W Weekend, we never were able to sell advertising or get a sponsor to cover our costs. It became a drag on our bottom line. So we dropped the country and western show and played contemporary music instead. Mostly on automation.”

Shortly after bringing in Laurie and Olga and cutting country music, K103 even “passed the torch” for country to KKIC 106.7, a Kahnawake station that unlike CKRK operates without a license from the CRTC.

So I guess this means they’re stealing that torch back.

While cutting costs, the change was a wakeup call to the Kahnawake community.

“We got very bad public reaction for cutting the C&W Weekend,” Deer said. “The feedback was we were abandoning the community for other audiences. There were other events related to the station like our financial situation that added to the negative reaction.”

The hiring of Ted Bird as a morning man, while not universally condemned in the community, also contributed to the impression that K103 was putting its quest for a Montreal audience ahead of its commitment to Kahnawake.

“Since we are a publicly owned institution, and not a private enterprise, we had to listen to our community and make some changes,” Deer said. “We found sponsors who would cover the costs if we brought back the C&W Weekend. In 28 years this has never happened before. I suppose we were just taken for granted all these years.”

Macdonald was brief and resigned when asked about the cancellation: “From what I understand, the ‘community’ missed their country music, and change is difficult for some,” she write in an email. “Olga and I had a great experience and were sorry to learn of the programming change but all good things must come to an end.”

Deer also wasn’t overjoyed at the idea that Laurie and Olga had to go.

“We understand that Laurie and Olga have a loyal following and if there was something else we could do to accommodate them, we would. Perhaps some day, our Sunday programming may change and there could be space for them if they are still interested. But right now this is the direction we are going in.

“We hope that Laurie and Olga find a place somewhere on the airways in the Montreal area. They have been very professional in their performance and have a loyal following. Somebody should pick them up.”

UPDATE (Jan. 6): The Gazette’s Cheryl Cornacchia looks at the community reaction to the disappearance and return of country music to K103.

Laurie and Olga are back … on K103

Remember Laurie MacDonald and Olga Gazdovic, of CJAD’s Saturday afternoon Laurie & Olga Show? Almost a year after getting canned from CJAD along with a bunch of others, they’re returning to the airwaves, in their old time slot (1-4pm), starting next weekend.

A (grammatically incorrect) Facebook group has already been started, and the few hundred people who joined the “Bring Back Olga and Laurie” Facebook group will probably be happy.

MacDonald and Gazdovic got their first radio job through a contest at a mall in 1995.

When they were suddenly fired in August 2009, Gazdovic told The Gazette: “It’s the nature of the business. If I had the chance, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

And so, like Ted Bird and Paul Graif in the mornings, Laurie and Olga become new voices from outside the Kahnawake community being added to Kahnawake’s community radio station. And the country music that used to dominate CKRK’s schedule is seeing less and less airtime in favour of castoffs and disgruntled former stars of the big Montreal stations.

It’s up to the community to decide how to react to this. But some were already suggesting that K103 was suffering an identity crisis, and the 250-Watt station was trying too hard to compete with the 50,000-Watt powerhouses atop Mount Royal, a battle they couldn’t possibly win, even with some names familiar to Montreal listeners.

The new Ted Bird

Ted Bird's new haircut, from K103Radio.com

K103 thought to bring a video camera as Ted Bird got a mohawk shaved into his head during his first show.

He said during the show that he had decided not to shave his head because he wanted to be embraced by the community rather than do some silly stunt thinking it would impress everyone.

It was all an act, though, part of the publicity stunt for the station that is betting quite a bit on Bird’s personal popularity to bring listeners and advertisers. They insisted he get his haircut, and he obliged.

Bird will be appearing with his new haircut on his Bird’s Eye View segment on CFCF tonight at 6, where I assume he will explain why he looks like he does. Bird the chicken wussed out and wore a Habs cap during his Bird’s Eye View segment on CFCF, though he did explain at the end, and included footage of the shaving.

Bird has a post about his haircut on his blog. There’s also a short story about Bird and the new show at KahnawakeNews.com. Other than that (and this post), not much bite from the media.

Radio watcher Sheldon Harvey has some thoughts on the debut at Radio in Montreal. Noah Sidel also weighs in.

Oh, and K103 Operations Director Chuck Barnett sent in this pic of Bird at his new roost:

Ted Bird struts his stuff at K103 (photo by Chuck Barnett)

UPDATE (April 21): Bird has also started writing a column for Iorì:wase (aka the Eastern Door, aka KahnawakeNews.com) about his experience working in the community.

UPDATE (April 22): I’ve gone through my recording of their first show, and compiled this 15-minute excerpt of banter between the hosts. It includes Bird’s first words on air at 5:30am, a conversation over the phone with Terry DiMonte, the new Revisionist History, and a couple of promos.

Ted Java and Paul – April 19, 2010 (MP3)

Ted Bird joins K103 morning show

Ted Bird

It’s gratifying that I was able to say what a lot of people in radio want to say but can’t, even if it meant dynamiting every professional bridge in my wake.
Well, not every bridge. There’s still the Mercier.

Ted Bird, on his blog

Even he admits it was the worst kept secret ever: Ted Bird, who left CHOM-FM over “creative differences” in January, will be one of the co-hosts of the morning show at CKRK 103.7 FM in Kahnawake, starting April 19.

This will be in addition to his weekly segment on CFCF television, as well as those blogs he isn’t being paid to maintain.

Mike Cohen broke the news on his blog based on “reliable sources” about a day before what should have been a Gazette exclusive Monday morning, followed by an official announcement from the station.

After getting the news from a “reliable source” of my own, I got Bird to confirm the news under the condition that I hold off publishing it until the first editions of the Gazette were published at midnight. Basem Boshra’s article on Ted Bird headlines Monday’s Arts & Life section. There’s a similar piece at KahnawakeNews.com with a photo of the three new hosts.

What the hell is K103?

The 250-Watt station on the south shore isn’t exactly burning up the ratings. In fact, most Montrealers probably haven’t even heard of it. But it was the only one that could offer Bird what he needed: a radio job in (or rather near) his city that could offer him a salary and complete creative freedom, he tells me via email:

I’m really excited.  K103 is about the only place left on the dial where the announcers are left to their own creative devices, and that’s hugely appealing to me.  Also, because of who it is and where it is, there’s a pirate radio element to it.  The main differences are that instead of pirates, it’s Mohawks, and if it doesn’t work out I won’t have to walk the plank, although they may tie me to an anthill and smear me in honey.

Paul Graif

Bird won’t be alone on the morning show. Joining him will be Paul Graif, the former local TV sportscaster who rejoined the station in February, and James “Java” Jacobs, a CKRK veteran who, you know, actually lives in Kahnawake.

“The worst that will happen is I’ll have a shitload of fun doing the kind of radio you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else,” Bird says. “I defy you to name me another morning show with a West Island WASP, a Kahnawake Mohawk and a Hampstead Jew.”

The show will run 5:30am to 10am, which is a slot Bird is used to. Fans of his regular segments Bird Droppings (sports commentary) and Revisionist History (just making shit up about the past) will be pleased to know that he’s planning to bring them with him to his new gig, at least as long as Astral Media doesn’t sue.

One-year deal

Bird says he’s committed to the station for at least a year, and while the salary is nowhere near what he got at CHOM, the ability to keep his integrity and freedom is more important than the money. He’s hoping that bringing a big name to the station might also give it an increased audience, which might bring in sponsors. A big “if”.

“It’s definitely not a between-radio-jobs job,” Bird says, “because the only way I would ever go back to mainstream commercial radio is on my own terms, and there’s not much chance of that happening, considering the fine job I’ve done of dynamiting professional bridges in my wake – a circumstance with which I’m totally at peace.”

Oh, and one more thing: Bird said the day he joins CKRK is the day he shaves his hair into a mohawk. So he’s doing exactly that (as a publicity stunt, mind you).

So when you see him on TV on April 19 with a half-shaved head, now you’ll know why.

Bird blasts CHOM PD

Meanwhile, Bird has opened up on why he left CHOM in January. Saying his contractual obligations to the station expired on April 1, Bird posted on his blog that:

Within the past five to ten years, CHOM and most of the rest of the country’s radio stations have been acquired by corporations who jettisoned the majority of the creative people in favor of bean counters beholden only to shareholders. The impact was swift, enormous and predictable. By the time I left CHOM, it was about as much fun as working at the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture.

Though he points to a trend happening at radio stations across the country, Bird takes particular aim at Daniel Tremblay, CHOM’s program director:

He barely paid lip service to the insights and opinions of staff members who’ve been on the front lines of English radio in this town for decades. That spoke volumes to me, and I could not in good conscience continue to work for someone who was making decisions in a vacuum that were running a treasured Montreal institution into the ground.

Bird also says CHOM offered him a lesser job – at reduced salary – after he quit. Says Bird: “He was – or at least appeared to be – genuinely surprised that I took offense at being thrown a bone on the assumption that I was desperate and could be lured back on the cheap.”

As the featured guest on Mitch Melnick’s web show Melnick Underground, Bird also let lose on CHOM and Tremblay and the state of modern commercial radio. Melnick can relate, as he also values his creative freedom and has found one of the few jobs left in commercial radio that lets him do what he wants.

I’ve been invited by Tremblay to meet with him to discuss what’s going on at CHOM. Once that happens I’ll try to get his side of this story.

UPDATE (April 12): Bird himself discusses the new job, as well as the elephant in the room of a white guy working for a Mohawk radio station. A Facebook group has been setup welcoming Bird to the community.

A more critical Facebook group has also been setup, with some saying Bird’s hiring is directly tied to budget cuts at the station and other people losing their jobs. Bird comments on the group, saying he doesn’t recall saying anything derogatory about the community.

CKRK fundraiser controversy

A war of words is being played out at KahnawakeNews.com between CKRK (K103) and Brian Goodleaf, whose company sponsored a fundraiser involving Boston Bruins alumni to raise money for the station.

According to Goodleaf, the money ($55,000 of $103,000 raised) was targetted to help fund the construction of a new building for CKRK, a small but beloved station on the reserve. But after the money was raised, Goodleaf imposed conditions on CKRK receiving the money, including that they match the donation. Goodleaf argues that the station’s building fund has disappeared (suggesting it might have simply gone missing) and that donors gave the money expecting that it would be used for a building instead of going into the station’s general budget.

The radio station counters that the fund was used to keep the station afloat when it got desperate, and that Goodleaf knew this before the event, and it is unfair that Goodleaf imposes conditions after the fact.

Negotiations between the two sides have been unsuccessful (which is why they’re now fighting it out in the court of public opinion) – CKRK refuses to accept the donation with strings attached, and Goodleaf refuses to withdraw the conditions. Goodleaf says if a deal can’t be reached he will donate the money to local non-profit organizations (or, if they ask, refund the money back to donors).

(via Radio in Montreal)