Tag Archives: Dufferin Communications

CRTC approves frequency change for Radio Fierté

It hasn’t launched yet, but Radio Fierté has already gotten approval to improve its signal, particularly during the night.

On Wednesday, the CRTC approved a technical amendment to the licence of the French-language LGBT-focused music and talk station owned by Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio). The licence was first awarded in 2011, on the same day that the CRTC approved a move of CKGM (TSN Radio) from 990 to 690 AM. Dufferin was given CKGM’s old frequency and technical parameters as part of that decision.

But as I reported in July, 990 isn’t that great of a frequency for a radio station (which is why CKGM applied for the change in the first place). So Dufferin asked that it change frequency to 980 AM (ironically itself a former frequency for CKGM), reducing power but replacing a highly directional nighttime signal with a much less directional one.

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m day signal patterns: existing 990 (green) and proposed 980 (yellow)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

5 mV/m night signal patterns: existing 990 (blue) and proposed 980 (red)

The move made sense because another station at 980 AM, CBV in Quebec City, was no longer on the air. That station has since moved to FM. The 990 frequency, meanwhile, has to protect two distant Canadian stations overnight, which severely restricts the signal’s pattern.

With no one opposing the proposed change, the CRTC gave its okay.

Dufferin also applied for an extension of the deadline to launch the new station, which passed on Nov. 21. Wednesday’s decision notes that it must file a separate application for this. It did on Aug. 15, and that was approved without a public comment period. Dufferin now has until Nov. 21, 2014 to launch Radio Fierté.

Dufferin Communications and parent Evanov Radio own Jewel FM stations in various Ontario cities, plus stations branded The Breeze and Energey. It also owns Proud FM in Toronto, which Radio Fierté is based on.

Dufferin also has a licence for an FM station serving Hudson/St-Lazare, to be branded Jewel 106.7. It has also applied for a technical amendment for that station, to move its antenna location due to lack of space on the originally proposed tower. If approved, it says that station could launch within weeks. The application received some opposition from competing stations who feel it is trying to extend its coverage beyond its licensed area. It is still awaiting a decision from the commission.

CRTC approves Hudson/St. Lazare radio station

Coverage area of proposed FM station in Hudson/St. Lazare provided by Dufferin Communications

The Montreal area is getting another radio station. On Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved an application from Dufferin Communications Inc. for an English-language radio station in Hudson/St. Lazare.

The station would be a local one, with 500 watts of effective power, operating on 106.7 MHz and playing easy-listening music, similar to that of its other stations that are part of the Jewel network. (Dufferin says the station’s branding hasn’t been decided yet, but “Jewel” is an option.) The application called for 110 hours a week of local programming, including four hours and 22 minutes a week of “pure news”, of which half would be local to the area.

I summarize the decision in this story for The Gazette’s new Off Island section, which targets this community.

This will certainly mean jobs for journalists and radio workers in the region. Dufferin vice-president Carmela Laurignano tells me they plan to hire 15-20 people in total to work at the station. The proposed station’s financial projections show revenue gradually growing from $480,000 the first year to $1 million in the seventh year of its license. Expenses would start at $700,000 (including a $90,000 startup cost) and reach $850,000 in the seventh year.

About 95% of its advertising revenue is expected to be local, with 20-30,000 minutes sold a year at an average rate of between $22 and $34 a minute.  Under these projections, the station would start making money in Year 4 and pay for itself in the seventh year.

The application was not without opposition:

  • Cogeco objected that there wasn’t an open call for applications for what can be considered Montreal’s last available FM frequency. (The frequency was used by Aboriginal Voices Radio until it shut down here, then on an unlicensed basis by Kahnawake Keeps It Country until it got a formal licence for 89.9FM.)
  • Groupe CHCR, which owns ethnic stations CKDG-FM and CKIN-FM in Montreal, objected that the station would negatively affect its station and others
  • CJVD-FM, which is a French-language commercial station in Vaudreuil, objected that the region could not accomodate two local stations that would have to compete with the larger stations in Montreal.
  • Groupe Radio Enfant told the CRTC it planned its own application for a station at 106.7 (the group had a temporary permit to operate a transmitter on that frequency in late 2009). The CRTC says it has received no such application.

In the end, the CRTC dismissed the objections. The commission found that the station’s pattern would not significantly compete with large Montreal radio stations because the signal does not reach far into Montreal. It did not compete with CJVD-FM because they’re in different languages, and most importantly 106.7 FM is not a viable frequency to use in Montreal itself because it is too close to CHCR’s CKIN-FM 106.3 and would cause too much interference. (Though CHCR itself applied to move CKDG-FM to that frequency from 105.1, thinking it would get a better signal. It later withdrew that application.)

Dufferin Communications is also the company behind Radio Fierté, a French-language music and talk station aimed at Montreal’s LGBT community that got CRTC approval to broadcast at 990 AM after CKGM vacates that frequency. Laurignano said they expect to get moving on that station in the new year.

Though Radio Fierté has already been approved, the Hudson/St. Lazare station’s application predates it. It was first filed in February 2010.

Dufferin Communications has two years to get the station running unless it asks for an extension from the CRTC. That means it must be up by Oct. 19, 2014. The licence expires on Aug. 31, 2019. Laurignano said they expect to have it on the air by the fall of 2013.

And by the way, fans of National Public Radio can breathe. Dufferin had listed as an alternative frequency in its application 107.9FM, which is the frequency used by the Vermont Public Radio transmitter that covers northern Vermont and much of Montreal. Unless someone else applies for that frequency (which isn’t protected from interference here), VPR can still be heard on it.

An English commercial radio station in Hudson/St. Lazare?

UPDATE (Oct. 19): The station has been approved by the CRTC.

Coverage area of proposed FM station in Hudson/St. Lazare provided by Dufferin Communications

Is Hudson part of Montreal?

I’m not asking on a technical level, but more on a psychological one. Do people in that triangle between Montreal and the Ontario border consider themselves part of the metropolitan area, or part of their own region? There’s a train that comes once a day to bring commuters into the city, and plenty of people who work on the island live in this region. But is it enough to say that these towns are mere suburbs of greater Montreal?

One Toronto-based company is arguing that it doesn’t, and that forms part of the basis for an application they have submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for a commercial FM radio station to serve the Hudson/St. Lazare area.

The company is Dufferin Communications. You might recognize them as the company that recently got CRTC approval to setup an AM radio station in Montreal with programming targeted at the region’s LGBT community. That station will be running on 990 AM after CKGM vacates the frequency to move to 690 – hopefully to be up and running by the fall.

I spoke to Dufferin VP Carmela Laurignano for an article that appears in the West Island section of Wednesday’s Gazette about the Hudson application.

This application, for an FM music station, actually predates the AM one, even though the CRTC heard the other one first. Much of the application dates from as far back as 2009. Laurignano said she didn’t know why the CRTC waited so long to hear this application, but that she understands they have a lot on their plate and such long waits are not unusual for matters that aren’t pressing.

Laurignano said the big reason behind this application is the sense that this is an underserved market. The region has a French-language commercial music station, CJVD-FM 100.1 in Vaudreuil, but no corresponding English station yet, even though its English-speaking population is large and getting larger.

The frequency

The application, which can be downloaded from the CRTC’s website here, is for an FM station at 106.7 MHz, with a 500 watt transmitter at a Bell tower on Route Harwood in Hudson. As you can see from the coverage map above, it would cover Hudson, St. Lazare, Rigaud, Vaudreuil-Dorion and the area around Oka, but wouldn’t reach much beyond that before it started seeing interference from WIZN 106.7 FM in Burlington, Vt., and to a lesser extent the adjacent-channel station CKQB 106.9 FM (The Bear) in Ottawa. There’s also a reserved but unused channel of 106.5 for a CBC station in Cornwall.

The frequency is important, because it’s considered the last really desirable one in the Montreal area. It was the former frequency of Aboriginal Voices Radio and was subsequently used by the pirate KKIC radio in Kahnawake before it got CRTC approval for a licensed station at 89.9.

And there’s another application pending for this frequency, too. Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio Ltd., the company behind CKDG (Mike) 105.1 FM and CKIN-FM 106.3, has applied to move the former to 106.7, keeping its transmitter location on Mount Royal but increasing its power. Because the coverage areas of CKDG and the proposed Hudson station would overlap, it’s unlikely the CRTC would allow both on the same frequency. UPDATE: CHCR withdrew its application to change CKDG’s frequency this week. Thanks to ATSC for spotting that through an update to the station’s Wikipedia page.

Dufferin’s application includes a backup frequency should the CRTC judge 106.7 improper. It’s 107.9FM. Assigning that frequency might anger National Public Radio fans in Montreal, as that’s the frequency used by the closest transmitter, in Burlington, Vt. Its reception here is quite good for a border station, but it would be hard to see it overcoming a much closer transmitter on the same frequency in Hudson.

The frequency is also less desirable for Dufferin because it’s adjacent to its own Jewel station at 107.7FM in Hawkesbury.

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CRTC gives clear channels to TSN, Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy

The CRTC’s decision on Montreal AM radio stations came out this morning. Here’s the skinny:

The two other applications, TTP’s English-language news-talk station and Cogeco’s English all-traffic station, are denied, not because the CRTC feels they are without merit, but because the other applicants made better cases for the two clear-channel frequencies and neither would accept 990 as a backup. The CRTC hints that the two might be approved if they reapplied for other vacant AM frequencies (like 600 or 850), but that these applications would have to be reconsidered on their own merits.

Also Monday, the CRTC denied four applications for low-powered AM radio stations in Montreal, three of which would target ethnic communities and the fourth a religious station. The CRTC felt they would negatively impact the five existing ethnic stations, notably CKIN-FM 106.3 (Mike FM’s sister station), which has programming targeting the South Asian and Latin American communities, and religious station Radio Ville-Marie (CIRA-FM 91.3).

The second decision has an impact on the first, in that one of the stations had applied to use 600 kHz. The denial of that application means the frequency is available to the big commercial players. Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy has hinted that it might be interested in that frequency, provided it can use a tower or get space for one to build themselves. The only one capable of doing that frequency right now is Cogeco’s towers, which will continue to go unused, but Paul Tietolman says he has no intention of asking Cogeco for them.

You can read a summary of what’s going on in this article I wrote for Tuesday’s Gazette. Below, I go into a bit more analysis.

The hierarchy

Reading the decision, it becomes clear how the CRTC judged the applications based on hierarchy:

  1. CKGM’s frequency change clearly made the strongest case, because it was an already-existing station and because moving it would offer another frequency for another applicant. (The CRTC likes to make as many people happy as possible.) Its content – sports – is also better suited to a signal that carries farther into the regions. So CKGM wins the biggest prize, 690 kHz.
  2. Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy’s application was taken seriously, and the CRTC believes enough in its business plan that it is willing to give them a chance. But it wasn’t going to give the one applicant both clear-channel frequencies. So TTP gets 940. And since they said they would not accept 990, one application has to be denied. The French market is stronger in Montreal and its surrounding regions, and there isn’t as much direct competition for a French news-talk station as their is in English with CJAD, so the French station gets approved.
  3. Cogeco’s application for an English all-traffic station couldn’t convince the CRTC that it required a signal so powerful that it can reach into Gaspé. They made a valiant effort, saying that they need to be heard across the Ontario border for people who commute from that far, and that their application should be approved because otherwise the existence of the French all-traffic station would create an imbalance in services to different languages. But the CRTC remained unconvinced. And since Cogeco wouldn’t accept anything but 690 and 940, that application had to be denied.
  4. Dufferin’s Radio Fierté gets 990 more by process of elimination than anything else. Two applications were approved for clear channels, and the other two wouldn’t accept 990, so Dufferin gets it. That isn’t to say the CRTC wasn’t excited about their application and eager to increase the diversity of the radio industry in Montreal. But it seems pretty clear that if TTP would have accepted 990 for its English station, it probably would have gotten it.

Calling their bluff

One thing I like about the CRTC decision is that it calls a lot of bluffs from the applicants.

Cogeco went all in, saying it’s 690, 940 or nothing. I find it hard to believe they’re just going to walk away from $1.5 million a year, and their deal with the Quebec government was already modified once when they decided to make CKAC an all-traffic station. Because that $1.5 million is based on costs instead of audience (otherwise it would be more for the French station), there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t reach a deal for another frequency like 600 or 850. Cogeco’s Mark Dickie told me before the decision that there is no Plan B. If that’s true, they either have to come up with one or walk away from this project.

The latter option would be particularly embarrassing because both parties have been acting as if this was a done deal. The government has been advertising a coming English traffic station, and Cogeco has even asked for applications for potential traffic hosts, with only a footnote at the bottom pointing out that these jobs might not actually ever exist.

Is Cogeco willing to walk away from $1.5 million a year? Is the Transport Ministry willing to walk away from their promise of all-traffic radio in English? We’ll see.

The CRTC also called the bluff of Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy, which originally said it wanted both clear channels or nothing, then softened that stance suggesting the English station could find another alternative frequency. They continue to insist that they need both stations for the business plan to be viable, but say the English station might not need to be a clear channel if they can get adequate coverage in Montreal and the West Island. So far 600 kHz seems to be the only one able to do this, but that would require either expanding the site they were planning to use or using Cogeco’s CINW/CINF site in Kahnawake. The latter option is very distasteful to Tietolman and his partners.

When I finally reached Tietolman on Monday, he said he wouldn’t comment (other than to point out that TSN said it would be fine with 940, which I guess means TTP felt the CRTC should have given 690 to them and given 940 to TSN). Tietolman said he and his partners are going to study the decision carefully and decide where to go from there.

Though nobody’s pointing this out, the CRTC decision combined with TTP’s position should mean that the group will decline the license. I highly doubt that will happen, but if TTP doesn’t get a decent frequency for its proposed English station, or if the application takes too long, they might face the choice of going with just the French station or going home.

Six months to a year

The big question for the winning applicants is when they’re going to be on the air. Bell Media says it’ll be “within six months” for CKGM, which would mean by the end of May (maybe just before the playoffs start, or just after the Canadiens are eliminated). It’s unclear at this point whether it will operate for any length of time on both frequencies, though that has been the practice in the past.

Evanov/Dufferin hopes to have its station up within a year, but has to wait for CKGM to vacate its frequency first. The decision gives the group a second choice in terms of transmission site. It already had a letter showing it could enter into negotiations for use of the CJAD site, but as part of the hearing Bell Media committed to negotiating use of the CKGM site for another station on 990, and even said it would submit to binding arbitration concerning a transmitter sharing deal. Evanov tells me they will look at both possibilities.

Other coverage

CRTC hears applications for 690 and 940 AM

In what is believe it or not considered an expedited process, the CRTC begins hearings Monday on five applications for the vacant frequencies of 690 and 940 kHz for commercial radio stations.

This story, in The Gazette on Saturday, gives the skinny on what the CRTC will be deciding. (Bonus points if you correctly point out that the file photo attached to the story is of the Mount Royal tower, which has no AM transmitters. Now get a life.)

Quick history lesson: These frequencies belonged to Radio-Canada (690) and CBC radio (940) for more than half a century, until both stations moved to FM (95.1 and 88.5, respectively) in 1998. A year later, what was then Metromedia launched Info 690 and 940 News on those frequencies. Both stations struggled, 940 in particular, for the next decade. Two format changes (news-talk with “940 Montreal” and then automated music with “940 Hits”) later, then-owner Corus put both out of their misery, shutting them down. They’ve been silent ever since.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and Cogeco, which bought Corus Quebec – including the unused transmitters – announces a deal with the Quebec government to run all-traffic stations in French and English, to the tune of $1.5 million per station per year. The deal requires the stations to be running by Oct. 31.

The CRTC application was supposed to be a simple thing, with approval easily acquired by the deadline. The frequencies had been unused for a year and a half, and it had been a year since the licenses for CINW and CINF were revoked, but there were no applications to use them. While the FM band is saturated in Montreal, there are plenty of AM frequencies that sit silent (600 and 850 are two other examples) because nobody wants them.

But the CRTC got quite a few interventions demanding an open call for applications. The CRTC agreed, and set a hearing date for Oct. 17.

Judging that far too late, Cogeco shut down CKAC Sports and replaced it with their French all-traffic station on Sept. 6. They subsequently withdrew their application for 690 AM, figuring they’re unlikely to be awarded a fifth French-language radio station in Montreal.

That leaves five applications for the two frequencies. You can download and read the applications from the CRTC’s website. Here they are in brief:

For 690 kHz:

  • Radio Fierté, a French-language music and talk station targeted at Montreal’s gay community, owned by Dufferin Communications/Evanov Communications, which runs PROUD FM in Toronto.
  • TSN Radio, currently at 990 kHz. The Bell Media all-sports station wants to change frequency to improve its coverage, particularly at night, when it has to modify its signal to avoid interference with other stations on that frequency. Bell says the former Team 990 has never been profitable, and probably won’t unless it gets better coverage.
  • 7954689 Canada inc., a company formed by businessmen Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy, which wants to start a French-language news-talk station. Tietolman (the son of CKVL/CKOI founder Jack Tietolman) and Tétrault (former city councillor and PQ/BQ candidate) unsuccessfully tried to present a counter-offer to Cogeco’s $80-million purchase of Corus Quebec, and part of their offer would have been to revive 690 and 940.

For 940 kHz:

  • 7954689 Canada inc., a corresponding English-language news-talk station with what is so far a nearly identical format.
  • Cogeco’s English all-traffic station, which it says would be operational by “mid-winter” if approved.

The agenda for the meeting has presentations from all these applicants on Monday, and support/opposition debates on Tuesday.

Scheduled to appear are, among others:

  • For Bell Media (TSN Radio), General Manager Wayne Bews, host Denis Casavant, Ringside Report host Dave Simon Bell Media Radio Engineering Director Dave Simon* as well as Bell Media Radio president Chris Gordon and Bell Media regulatory affairs bosses Mirko Bibic and Lenore Gibson
  • For Tietolman/Tétrault/Pancholy, the three owners, representatives of Léger Marketing as well as former CJAD program director Steve Kowch and morning host Jim Connell
  • For Dufferin Communications (Radio Fierté), Proud FM operations manager Bruce Campbell, sales manager John Kenyon, Evanov sales VP Ky Joseph, Proud FM announcer Bob Willette, Dufferin VP marketing Carmela Laurignano, Evanov VP finance Michael Kilbride, and lawyers Chad Skinner and Andrée Wylie
  • For Cogeco (Metromedia CMR), Richard Lachance, VPs Yves Mayrand, Daniel Dubois, and Mélanie Bégnoche, 98.5/CKAC assistant GM Michel Lorrain, The Beat 92.5 GM Mark Dickie and consultants Serge Bellerose and Maurice Beauséjour

On Tuesday, the presentations will get responses, mostly from the other applicants. (Astral Media, which owns CJAD and four music stations in the city, is certainly following this, but isn’t appearing at the hearing.) Radio Fierté and TSN Radio each have four supporters offering testimony to the hearing.

You can read all 226 interventions (many are repetitive, thanks to campaigns by TSN Radio, Cogeco and Dufferin to have people write to the CRTC, in many cases using form letters). All are on the record even if the writers aren’t appearing at the hearing.

The only intervenor appearing independently is Sheldon Harvey, the moderator of the Radio in Montreal group. Harvey submitted multiple interventions, supporting the applications by Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy and opposing those of Cogeco and Dufferin (he didn’t submit an intervention regarding TSN Radio). Harvey deemed the 50,000 watt clear channels “overkill” for an all-traffic station, and proposed Cogeco operate CKAC 730 bilingually instead. He also said a clear channel was “overkill” for Radio Fierté, and recommended they use another vacant frequency.

The deadline for interventions passed weeks ago, so the CRTC won’t be hearing any new opinions on these applications, but

The hearing takes place Monday and Tuesday, starting at 9am, at Delta Centre-Ville, 777 University St., room Régence AB. Audio from the hearing can be streamed online via the CRTC website. You can listen to the direct floor audio here or an English translation here.

*CORRECTION: Dave Simon of Ringside Report emails me to say it’s not him who’s appearing at the hearing. It’s actually another Dave Simon who works at Bell Media Radio. That is, unless there’s a third Dave Simon associated with TSN Radio. Only Cogeco provided titles for the people appearing with them (Tietolman/Tétrault/Pancholy has what companies they work for), hence the possibility of confusion in case there are other cases of people with the same name.