Tag Archives: ethnic radio

Two proposals for radio stations serving Tamil community

Despite repeated indications from the CRTC that Montreal already has enough ethnic radio stations, two groups have applied for new ones to serve a South Asian communities they feel are underrepresented on radio today.

AGNI Communication, 102.9 FM

The first is one I wrote about in January, a low-power FM station at 102.9 FM whose signal would only cover the centre north of the island. (It already has a proposed callsign, CILO-FM.) Its programming would be mainly Tamil, but also programming for the Sri Lankan, Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian, Maldavian, Malaysian, Somali, Nepalese and Singaporean communities.

This application was first supposed to be considered at a hearing in March, but was pulled from that hearing by the CRTC for a reason that it did not specify, but likely had to do with a second potentially competing application.

Interventions for the application the first time around prompted a letter of opposition from McGill’s CKUT, which said the company’s owner Philip Koneswaran had a subcarrier service on its station and left it with a $24,700 debt, plus would compete with a different Tamil service that’s now on CKUT’s subcarrier. (Subcarrier services are not protected from competition.)

The application also solicited strong opposition from Groupe CHCR, which runs CKDG-FM (Mike FM) and CKIN-FM, arguing that there would be overlap with its services and that the application lacked key information that could be used to evaluate its impact on the market. CHCR president Marie Griffiths also strongly criticized the applicant’s business plan as unsustainable.

Radio Humsafar, 1610 AM

The second application is by Radio Humsafar, an ethnic radio service that is looking for a transmitter (it’s available online, as a subcarrier service and over phone lines — getting about 1,000 calls a day averaging 20 minutes each — until then). It has proposed setting up a 1kW transmitter at 1610AM, the frequency recently vacated by CJWI (CPAM Radio Union, the Haitian station), using the same antenna as Concordia’s CJLO 1690AM, along Norman St. above Highway 20 in Lachine.

A third of the programming, 42 hours a week, of Humsafar’s radio station would be in the English language, but targeted at “English speaking Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, West Indian, Indo-Africans and 2nd generation South Asians.” It would also have 16 hours a week of Tamil programs (around noon each day), 16 hours a week in Urdu (late evenings and weekend mornings), 15 hours a week in Punjabi (mid-mornings), 15 hours a week in Hindi (a three-hour weekday morning show), 14 hours a week in Bengali (8pm to 10pm), six hours a week in Gujarati (weekend mid-mornings) and two hours a week in Pashto (late evenings on weekends).

With the exception of Hindi and Punjabi, Humsafar argues these languages and ethnic groups aren’t served on Montreal radio, with the exception of campus radio and a 30-minute music show on CFMB.

Radio Humsafar owns another radio station, CJLV 1570AM in Laval. Shortly after acquiring it, the group applied to the CRTC to increase the amount of ethnic programming it could air. The CRTC rejected that application despite Humsafar’s claims that the station could not survive without more ethnic programming. The station remains on the air, but hasn’t done much since then.

Financial projections for the new 1610 AM station show it spending between $90,000 and $142,000 a year on programming, with revenues rising from $214,000 to $552,000 a year. Under these optimistic projections, it would start making money in its second year.

The CRTC will consider both of these applications at a hearing in September. While the two are not technically mutually exclusive, the fact that they would be targeting the same communities suggests the commission would likely approve at most one of them.

But even that is not guaranteed. In 2011, judging that Montreal already had enough ethnic radio stations, the CRTC rejected three applications for new ones. One of them was a proposal by Radio Humsafar very similar to this one: The same transmitter site, same power, same frequency (technically it was for 1400kHz, but with 1610 as a backup if/when CJWI changed frequency to 1410), and serving many of the same ethnic groups.

This new application focuses a bit less on Hindi and Punjabi, and more on Tamil and other unserved languages. If the CRTC approves it this time, that will be the reason.

The station’s application includes letters of support from CHOU (Radio Moyen Orient) and CJWI, and mentions discussions with CHCR.

Comments on the two applications are being accepted until 8pm ET on Tuesday. They can be filed here. Remember that all information supplied, including contact information, goes on the public record.

New low-power FM station would carry mainly Tamil programming

“…there are for all practical purposes no more FM frequencies available to serve Montréal.” — CRTC, July 6, 2007

Five and a half years after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission made that statement in approving two new FM stations in Montreal, there are still people finding holes on the FM band to fill with low-power stations or stations in Montreal’s suburbs.

The latest is an application published on Wednesday for a low-power FM station carrying mainly Tamil programming.

The station, at 102.9 MHz, would essentially be a migration of an existing service that operates on a subcarrier of CISM-FM. Before that it was on a subcarrier of CKUT-FM. Subcarriers are great because they can piggyback on existing stations, but they require special receivers to listen to.

And that’s the problem that AGNI Communications Inc., owned by Phillip Koneswaran and Jenoshan Balasingam, is trying to overcome. According to the brief they submitted with their application, a younger demographic is more mobile, and the special receivers aren’t built into car radios. To them, getting on FM, even at only 50 watts, is a better way to reach their audience.


For those familiar with the existing service, it will stay mainly the same. The proposal is that more than half of the programming (before 10am and after 5pm weekdays; before 10am and after 8pm weekends) will be in the Tamil language. The rest of the schedule will be filled with programming for the Sri Lankan, Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian, Maldavian, Malaysian, Somali, Nepalese and Singaporean communities.

If that seems like an obscure mix, it is. The main selling point is that these communities and languages are not served by any other radio station in Montreal.

In 2011, the CRTC denied applications for three new ethnic radio stations in Montreal, mainly because they would compete with existing ethnic stations in markets that can’t handle that kind of competition. By limiting its programming to those communities not served by any existing stations, this service can argue that it’s not competing with them and there would be room for more.

According to the application, the radio station would be 100% ethnic programming, with no programming in either French or English. Its programming would be mainly local, and it proposes a minimum of 60% local programming being imposed as a condition of licence, increasing to 70% in the third year.

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station (click for larger)

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station (click for larger)


The low-power station would operate as a 50W transmitter on top of a building on Chabanel St. next to Highway 15. The signal covers Saint-Laurent, Ahuntsic, Mount Royal, Park Extension and parts of western Villeray before it starts hitting interference from other, much more powerful stations (the shaded areas above).

The technical brief goes through each of the stations that could cause interference problems:

On the same frequency:

  • CHOC-FM-2 St-Jacques-le-Mineur (34km away): This retransmitter of the French community station southeast of Montreal would not receive any interference in its current pattern, but at its theoretical maximum it might get some interference in a sliver around Candiac and La Prairie, most of which it would see interference from anyway from another station on the same frequency.
  • CFOI-FM-1 Saint-Jérôme (42km away): This retransmitter of a Quebec City-based Christian station would not receive any interference in its primary pattern, which covers a radius of about 20km. In fact, you wouldn’t have to get far from the Montreal station before you start hearing this one instead.

On the first-adjacent frequency (103.1 or 102.7):

  • CITE-FM-1 Sherbrooke (102.7) (113km away): This 100kW Rouge FM station has a huge pattern that reaches into the Montreal area, and will be the primary cause of interference for this new proposed station. Only a tiny sliver of the station’s coverage area of more than 30,000 square kilometres could be affected by interference from the new station, and the technical brief says the protection for stations of that class is limited to a radius of 86km, where there would be no interference. And it’s kind of a moot point practically because people in that area (roughly downtown Montreal) would be listening to Montreal’s Rouge FM station anyway.
  • CKOD-FM Valleyfield (103.1) (45km away): Though closer together, this station and the proposed one would not interfere with each other to any great extent.

On the second-adjacent frequency (103.3 or 102.5):

  • CHAA-FM Longueuil (103.3) (9km away): This Longueuil community station, whose transmitter is actually on the island of Montreal, is far in frequency from the new proposed station, but is physically very close. The technical brief nevertheless shows no interference between the two stations.

The analysis also includes stations even further away in frequency, CKRK-FM at 103.7 and CINQ-FM at 102.3. The first won’t cause any issues because of its distance, and the station has promised to resolve any interference issues affecting the second.


The financial projections for the station are modest: $120,000 a year in revenue, increasing steadily to $300,000 by the seventh year. The first-year projection is perfectly reasonable, since it made that amount in 2011. Whether they can double that in five years is another story.

Operating expenses would be even more modest, going from $76,200 in the first year to just over $100,000 in the seventh. This means the station would be making a profit already in its first year.

The cost of actually setting up the transmitter is only $20,000.


The CRTC has called a hearing for March 20 to consider this application (the same hearing at which it will consider an application for a French sports-talk station at 850AM). Unless significant objections are raised, a presentation by the applicant will not be required at the hearing, which will take place in Gatineau.

People wanting to comment on the application, or express support or opposition, have until Feb. 15 to do so (this includes other broadcasters who might oppose the station for technical or programming reasons). They can do so by clicking here, choosing Option 1 and then 2012-0821-5: AGNI Communication Inc.


After the hearing, it’s up to the commission to decide when to come to a decision and what that decision will be.