Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Will CRTC approve English talk radio application for Montreal?

The Canadian Radio-telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is expected to rule on a number of applications for two vacant dials on the Montreal AM band, 690 and 940, by the beginning of December. There were plenty of interveners at the hearings held recently. Industry insiders believe that TSN 990 will move to 690 and benefit from a stronger signal; Cogeco Media’s proposed all-traffic station will get 940 and  Radio Fierté, a French-language music and talk station targeted towards Montreal's gay community  will land on 990.

That being said, those who attended the CRTC hearings do believe that a talk radio proposal being steered by Paul Tietolman, Rajiv Pancholy, Nicolas Tetrault, Steve Kowch and Jim Connell could end up being  a surprise choice over all-traffic. Tietolman et al want a companion French talk station and word has it the CRTC might even be willing to open up a new dial that was not even in the mix to begin with.

Eighty per cent of anglophones and allophones surveyed by Leger Marketing say they want a second  English language news and talk  radio station to listen to on the AM dial,  the  Tietolman group maintains. “Montreal  English language radio listeners have been suffering from the lack of choice and diversity in  English news/talk radio for two and a half years,” he said. Currently, there is only one station providing news/talk programming. There is actually more choice in markets smaller than Montreal's English language market.”

Nicolas Tetrault and Paul Tietolman

Added Pancholy, another managing partner: “A new English news/talk voice will create employment opportunities for many established, creative broadcast talent as well as "new emerging talent" who currently have been deprived of working on radio because of a lack of opportunity.  By approving our request to launch both 690 AM and 940 AM, Montreal will have more choice, new employment opportunities will be created, and Montreal will finally have an  English radio station that will broadcast news and talk programming live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

The Tietolman group had assistance in its presentation from Leger Marketing,  one of the most reputable market research companies in North America.  According to Christian Bourque,

  • 80 per cent of Montreal anglophones are interested and even very interested in the type of talk radio project Tietolman et al are  proposing.
  •    65 per cent are very interested to listen to a new radio station that would present on air head to head debates with strong public personalities from politics to economics and important issues of the day.
  •  60 per cent of anglophones in Montreal expressed a clear interest and intention to listen to Talk 940 for controversial and provocative debates on air.
  •   62 per cent of anglophones clearly state that they would listen outspoken personalities with strong honest opinions.
  • 81 per cent of anglophone and allophone Montrealers have clearly stated their intentions to listen to a new talk information radio station on 940AM.
There is no question that the presence of Kowch and Connell on their team adds credibility. Kowch ran two of the largest news talk radio stations in the country for 14 years CFRB in Toronto and CJAD in Montreal. 

“The  English community needs more than just one voice on the AM dial to inform and stimulate opinions about the issues of the day,” Kowch says. “It isn’t that the other station isn’t doing a good job, no one is questioning their integrity and reputation. But the lack of competition breeds complacency .  English talk radio in Montreal, well, it is what it is; and there is no reason to change or to be better when you’re the only game in town. What they do or say on air goes unchallenged.  Of course,  there is the CBC;  but their local Montreal based programming is limited to morning and afternoon drive. We don’t believe the status quo is good for Montreal’s  English community. We believe the addition of 940talk will win back listeners to AM radio.”

To be successful, the 940 Talk format would  create stimulating fresh programming, hosted by new emerging talent to bring back the audience and attract new listeners to the AM band.
Steve Kowch

“We will be fearless in our approach to covering the news; providing investigative reports to shine the light on corruption and scandals to protect the rights of all Montrealers no matter their age, cultural heritage, language,  religion, sexual orientation or politics,” promises Kowch. “Our talk shows will provide a platform to debate and express opinions on all the major issues of the day. And we will be there for our listeners live, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help them during major emergency situations like civic unrest, serious traffic situations and severe weather. We will cover these events in real time. Providing people with the information they need to stay out of harm's way.”

Connell refers back to 1998, when the ice storm paralyzed parts of Quebec for days and even weeks, toppling CJAD’s transmitter towers. “The  English community had a safety net,” he says.  “At the time there was a second  English news talk radio voice, the former CFCF renamed CIQC. But this summer, when the tail end of  Hurricane Irene passed through the Montreal area one weekend there was no safety net. Currently there is a serious problem in Montreal! Nobody in the local population was served adequately by radio during Hurricane Irene. Let us never forget  Hurricane  Irene wasn't a surprise visit. Environment Canada issued warnings she was heading to Montreal. Both the English and French stations had plenty of time for contingency plans to replace the music and taped shows with live storm coverage.  The lack of competition, the lack of choice and the lack of diversity of radio voices resulted in a very stressful and nervous time for hundreds of thousands of Montrealers.”

Tietolman believes  that stations in both official languages, communicating with each other, will allow, for example, the French language news and talk station to provide the French point of view to anglo and allophone listeners, and vice versa. “Anglophones, allophones and francophones in Montreal don’t live in a vacuum,” Kowch says.  “They are neighbours and as such care about what goes on in each other’s communities. We will help them share their thoughts with one another. 940talk will dig beneath the headlines. Shine a light on corruption, wrong doing and scandals through regular special investigative reports and programs.

Connell says the station  will also support and develop the future generation of broadcasters and broadcast journalists. They pledged to allocate a program block once a week with content managed and produced and delivered on air by radio and broadcast journalism students from Montreal area CEGEPS,  colleges and universities. “Talk 940 believes future stars of talk radio will also be found on the internet;  bloggers with huge followings and people hosting podcasts,” Kowch said. “We just need to search them out and put them on the radio.   

To attract younger and new listeners, Talk 940  would have a prominent  presence on  the platforms where these younger demos get their information  and share it with followers on social media. “We believe that to develop new listeners and encourage them to listen to AM radio, Talk 940 must give on air exposure to the on line bloggers, podcasters and print journalists who don’t  currently have access to the Montreal airwaves,” Kowch says.

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