Saturday 5 October 2013

Powerful speech to students by broadcast veteran Steve Kowch

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.
Steve Kowch

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.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Wayne Bews: fond memories of TEAM 990, TSN 690; happy to be at CTV

 As published in this week's West Island edition of The Suburban.

When the Canadian Radio-televisionTelecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that Bell Media could finalize the purchase of Astral Media properties, among other things it resulted in TSN 690 being saved from extinction. But what was to become of Wayne Bews, the Pointe Claire resident who as general manager literally kept Montreal’s only all sports radio station alive?

Fortunately, the folks at Bell Media decided to do the right thing in the case of Bews. With the management of TSN 690 being folded into CJAD and  Martin Spaulding and Chris Bury, Bews needed a new gig and he got it as regional sales manager for CTV Montreal. He recently welcomed me to his new office, across the street from TSN 690/Virgin Radio/CHOM/CJAD.

Wayne Bews at his new office.

Raised in Lorraine, Bews attended  Rosemere High, John Abbott College and McGill University. Following a stint in real estate, he broke into radio sales in 1992 for CHOM and the former Oldies 990, being elevated to sales manager six years later.  Bews remained in that role when the TEAM 990 was born in 2001, assuming the GM duties in 2005 when his mentor and the man who held that title Lee Hambleton died.

Until THE TEAM 990 acquired the broadcast rights to the Canadiens two years ago and switched its call letters to TSN 990 (now 690), the station always seemed to be on life support. But with Bews at the helm, they somehow remained viable. “We were the little train that could,” he said. “I got a ton of support from Mitch Melnick and when Elliott Price joined he helped a lot. There are not too many stand alone AM stations out there, but we had good support from our owners.”

Not long after the exciting news came that the station was being rebranded as TSN and had  secured a seven year contract to broadcast the Habs, Bell Media announced that it planned to transform the station to a French RDS Radio. Their original bid to purchase Astral properties meant they could not retain four English radio stations.   After hearing from listeners and many other interveners, the Astral takeover was refused.  Last summer, resubmitted, it was accepted.

“TSN 690 is in very capable hands now with Martin and Chris,” Bews says. “I am still listening and feel very much part of the family.”

Bews and his wife Kelli Barrington, a real estate agent for Royal Le Page, have two children. John just entered prep school in Concord, NH, where he is playing hockey and football while Holli, who plays ringuette, soccer and softball on the West Island, attends Villa Maria High School. Bews himself has coached hockey in Pointe Claire for a number of years.

Let me say on the record that Bews was one of the finest individuals I ever dealt with in the radio business. We spoke and corresponded regularly and I just know he will be a big success at CTV.

Sunday 29 September 2013

Sheldon Fried reportedly becomes the latest CJAD casualty

One of the nicest guys in Montreal radio appears to be the latest victim of cuts at CJAD Radio. Only a couple of weeks after Ric Peterson, Claude Beaulieu, Chantal Desjardins and Sharman Yarnell were shown the  door (and Suzanne Desautels demoted  to strictly morning weather and weekend traffic), veteran on air master control producer Sheldon "Twinkles" Fried is reportedly looking for work.
Sheldon Fried
Fried more or less confirmed the news when I reached him via Facebook, but would not elaborate. His Linked In page has been updated to say "worked at Bell Media." Listeners will best know Fried from his time working with Tommy  Schnurmacher. Tommy always made a point of thanking him in a big way during and after each show. But it was Peter Anthony Holder who dubbed  him "Twinkles."

"Sheldon was my producer first when I had him in the evenings back in the early 90's," Holder says.   "It was because of the way that he use to fire the buttons and dramatically raise his hands, almost like a concert pianist, that I dubbed him 'Twinkles.'  If you remember, I created nicknames for all of my producers - at least the ones I liked, anyway) - from Admiral Larry to Rocket Rob to Glenn 'The Wild  Thing' Wildemann.  It all started when I created Sheldon's moniker."

Fried began working for CJAD,  CHOM and Virgin Radio (then CJFM) in 1989.  So here we have another person industry who spent nearly 25 years with the same employer out of work. It is a sad state of affairs, but that is the nasty radio business where there so no such thing as security.

Here is yet another person who would make an excellent contribution to AM 600, when and if it ever signs on.

Three main contenders to take part in CTV's Montreal mayoral TV debate

Montrealers will have their best chance yet to size up the three main candidates for mayor on Sunday evening, October 6 at 6 p.m. when candidates Richard Bergeron, Denis Coderre and Marcel Côté participate in the first English-language debate of the campaign.  
Richard Bergeron
Marcel Côte

The one-hour live broadcast, DEBATE 2013, will be moderated by CTV Montreal chief anchor Mutsumi Takahashi and will cover all of the important topics affecting the city leading up to the November 3 vote.  

DEBATE 2013 will be simulcast on NewsTalk Radio CJAD 800 and a live stream will be available on the CTV News Montréal website. To accommodate the live broadcast of the debate, CTV NEWS AT SIX will air one hour earlier, starting at 5 p.m. ET.

Immediately following DEBATE 2013, there will be a photo opportunity with the candidates in studio that will be followed by media scrums.

Right now the race is too close to call and it will be interesting to see the first polls come out. Debates certainly do influence voyer. Bergeron is certainly ahead in the poster race, with great visibility. Côte's individual posters, of which there are few, are good. However, the ones which show him with members of his team are difficult to see clearly. Coderre's team has decided not to have any posters at this time, clearly relying on his name recognition and an expected media advertisement campaign.

Montreal's other two mayoral candidates, Melanie Joly and Michel  Brule, are not included in this debate. Given their low number of candidates, this will likely be a common theme for them during the campaign. Joly does, though, clearly have the best posters of any candidate.

Denis Coderre