Noted broadcast executive Steve Kowch was in Montreal October 4, still optimistic that a new English language AM radio station will make its debut here in the not too distant future. Paul Tietolman and his partners already have the AM 600 dial approved by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as well as 850 AM for all sports in French and 940 AM for French talk radio. I met with Kowch for breakfast. He was to sit down later with Tietolman. Launching three radio stations from scratch is no easy task and that partially speaks for the delay.
Kowch’s main reason for being in town was to speak at the Rosemount High School Class of 2013 graduation ceremonies. Kowch attended Rosemount High and Nesbitt Elementary as a kid. A few years ago I arranged for him to visit both and he made a solid connection. While he presently resides in Toronto and works as a media consultant, he and his wife are ready to pack up the moving truck the moment Tietolman sends word that he is ready to go on air.
His speech at Rosemount High was inspiring, provocative and revealing.
“I have a few things I want to share with all of you about my experiences here at Rosemount and since I graduated in 1968,” Kowch said in his speech. “Who knew that one day I would return to this very stage where I sang … had my first kiss on stage while in a play or even gave a speech convincing 69 people to vote for me as Student Council president. Where was Facebook when I needed it? Being a teenager is never easy. We take things way too personally and for some of uswe think we’re the only ones living in a dysfunctional family, never going to get a date, never being accepted by those who bully us, never being as popular as the guy or girl sitting next to us in class and wishing our parents would just once believe in us.
“Been there done that. I am here to tell you that as the guy who at times was bullied, never voted most popular kid in class, lived with an alcoholic father and a mother who never believed in me, that if you want to succeed in life you cannot be held hostage by memories of all the bad things that happen to you.”
|Kowch with left to right Principal Demetra Droutsas,Deputy Director General Roma Medwid and Commissioner Agostino Cannavino on stafe at Rosemount High School.|
Kowch told the students not to let the bad things cloud their future. “As you go through life, remember how you felt if shunned, picked on or ignored,” he said. “Use these moments as a learning experience. You know how it feels, so make the world a better place. You can make a difference by being the the first to offer a helping hand, provide words of encouragement, give someone a listen when they need to talk or a hug when they need a shoulder to cry on. “
Kowch recalled how there was a kid in school who for some reason didn’t like him. “ Then one day, as a reporter for The Gazette I covered a fire here in Rosemount and this guy comes running up to me as if he was my best friend,” he recalls. “His apartment was burning and his brand new TV was about to be destroyed. It was the kid in school who would never give me the time of day He asked me, well he really pleaded with me, to have the firemen rescue his TV. My first thought was to ask the firemen to put an axe through his TV screen, but my heart directed me to the fire chief I knew and asked him to do me a favour. A few minutes later a fireman came out of the building with this brand new TV in his arms. Of course, as a reporter I exploited the situation and wrote a story about how I helped a resident get his brand new TV out of the burning building. Helping people is the key to the success of my career in journalism, broadcasting, coaching talent and running radio stations.”
Kowch says that as a street reporter he always helped other reporters by sharing some information with them. “One of those who benefited from my help would become news director at CJAD,” he said. “ His first decision was to hire me away from newspapers to be a reporter. Others would later ask me to help start the Montreal Daily News or pull me back into radio by hiring me to be the news director at the old CKGM and CHOM-FM or recommended me for the position of managing editor of a national news service based in Toronto. I would later become the general manager of that news service before being offered the job of a lifetime, to run Canada’s largest news talk radio station, CFRB. Later, I would come back to Montreal on two occasions to be the program and news director of CJAD.”
In recent years Kowch has written a book (99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Making It BIG In Media), taught at two Toronto colleges and played a key role for the Tietolman group in getting CRTC approval for their radio licenses.
On the political situation here, Kowch asked people on Facebook what he should talk about it. He was distressed to see so many people posted to tell the students to leave Quebec. “I am not here tonight to tell you to leave Quebec,” he said. “ I am here to tell you to stay and carve out your destiny in Canada’s greatest city! I am here to tell you to stay in Quebec and wear your religious symbols with pride, to wear your hijab, kippa or cross at work or at play. You have as much right to call Quebec your home as Pauline Marois and her merry band of Pequistes. If you leave, they win. If you leave, Quebec loses all the potential that you can bring to this province.
“Yes I have left, but I keep coming back. If I didn’t believe in the future of Montreal’s English community, if I didn’t believe in my place in Quebec. I would not be part of the process to launch a new English language talk radio station in Montreal."
I sure do hope AM 600 arrives on the airwaves soon so we can get a regular dose of Kowch.
Here is a video of Kowch's full presentation.