Anglos want to keep its sports talk station

Steve Kowch blog photoFrom where I sit On The Kowch, I’m not surprised that Bell’s application to the CRTC to turn Montreal’s only English language sports radio station into a French sports station is being met with a lot of opposition by it’s long time listeners. “We don’t need an independent Quebec to get rid of English language media outlets, it’s happening right now,” reads a posting by one angry listener on the popular Fagstein media blog in Montreal.

A reference to what the separatist Parti Quebecois said it would do if ever it won a referendum. The PQ always thought there were too many anglo radio stations polluting Montreal’s French airwaves.  It vowed to shut down some of the English stations or force them to broadcast in Quebec’s only official language in an independent Quebec.

Well, Ma Bell isn’t doing this for political reasons. It’s all about money. TSN 990 has a 3.5 share in the Montreal market generating only about $600,000 a year in revenue according to Bell’s application to the CRTC to switch TSN 990 to RDS 990 on January 1, 2013.

Bell owns the French language RDS Sports network. RDS 990 will be a marketing vehicle to promote the RDS brand to Quebec francophones much like Bell uses 1050AM in Toronto to promote its TSN brand. For Bell, it’s all about creating synergies across all platforms of its established brands like TSN and RDS.

Montreal doesn’t have a 24-hour French language all sports station. It was shut down to provide Montreal with a French language 24 hour traffic station funded by the Quebec government.

Last year Bell was successful in convincing the CRTC to let them move TSN 990 to a 50,000 watt clear channel on the 690 AM frequency. The CRTC stated that Bell’s service to Montreal’s English language community represented the best possible use of the frequency.

Now the Commission says it wants to examine Bell’s proposal to fundamentally change the nature of its radio service from the English to the French language and also examine Bell’s proposal in the context of its compliance with the number of English AM stations it can own in the Montreal Market. Rules state you can only own one English AM station in Montreal. When Bell acquires Astral Media stations, it will also own CJAD, Montreal’s most listened to English news talk radio station. Bell says it has no choice but to turn TSN 990 into a French radio station to comply with CRTC ownership rules.

The CRTC is thinking of having Bell re-apply to move their sports station from 990 to 690 on the AM band if the language of the station is to be changed from English to French. It would be part of the public hearings starting September 10th in Montreal into Bell’s purchase of Astral Media. Bell says if that happens it might reconsider changing the language of their sports station from English to French.

Listeners are so upset with the possibility of losing their English sports radio station they launched two Save TSN 990 Facebook pages. Each recommending supporters email the CRTC to block Bell from turning 990 into a French station.

From where I sit On The Kowch, the problem I have with the announcement is I’m in a conflict of interest. For full disclosure, most of you know I’m involved with the outfit in Montreal that wants to open a French language and English language talk radio station later this year.

Lost in all the hoopla over Bell’s announcement was the fact Tietolman Tetrault Pancholy Media has applied to launch an English talk station on the heritage 600AM frequency. Home to North America’s first English language radio station, the old CFCF AM radio station.

The CRTC will not make TTP Media’s application part of the public hearings that start September 10th in Montreal unless there are interventions against the launch of an English news talk radio station at 600 on the AM dial.

If all goes well, pending CRTC approval, our French and English stations could be up and running by the end of the year or early 2013.

Steve was in charge of programming Canada’s two largest newstalk radio stations for 14 years

You can email Steve at steve@kowchmedia.com

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