Montreal: License Expires for 850; will 940 and 690 be next?

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Montreal: License Expires for 850; will 940 and 690 be next?

Postby jon » Fri Aug 05, 2016 1:27 pm

CFUN was owned by Jack Tietolman from 1968-72. At that time, Jack also owned CKVL-850 in Verdun, just outside of Montreal.

His son Paul had, with two partners, a Montreal license for 850 that recently expired, plus licenses for much better frequencies, 940 and 690, also in Montreal, that currently expire in a few months.

TTP Media abandons 850 AM, shows no progress on other unlaunched stations
Steve Faguy
blog.fagstein.com
August 4, 2016

For the past five years, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked by people in the local broadcasting industry is what’s going on with TTP Media, a group of local businessmen who won CRTC licences to launch three AM talk radio stations in the city and had promised to revolutionize the market with big investments in quality programming.

Unfortunately, for years now the answer has been “nothing that I know of.” And unfortunately that continues today.

Since getting the licence for 850 AM in 2013, the group’s only on-the-record activity has been asking for extensions and technical changes from the CRTC, each time indicating that the stations were mere months from launch.

But now there’s finally some news, even though it’s not clear what it means. In June, the authorization from the CRTC to launch a French sports-talk station at 850 AM expired. Because the decision approving the station was published in 2013, and the first extension given last year, a second request for a final one-year extension should have been a matter of formality.

But that request was never issued. So on June 19, when the deadline was reached, the authority to launch the station expired.

According to the CRTC, the frequency is now available for anyone else to apply for.

I chronicle my attempts to seek comments from the partners in Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media in this story published by Cartt.ca. Paul Tietolman, whose father Jack founded the station that used to be on 850 AM in Montreal, was the only one who would talk to me, but he wouldn’t answer questions about the group’s plans, wanting to defer to his partners and not act as a company spokesperson.

My attempts to talk to partners Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy failed. I started with an email to the addresses both have registered with the CRTC. But those emails bounced, because the domain name they use, ttpmedia.ca, has expired. That’s certainly a bad sign.

I called both of them and left messages. Weeks later, I called again. Tétrault answered, and I identified myself. That was followed by a pause, and then he hung up. I called back and was sent straight to voicemail. Someone answered the phone for Pancholy and took a message for me. Neither of them have gotten back to me.

History

Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media, officially 7954689 Canada Inc., was founded in 2011 when Cogeco applied to revive two AM transmitters in Kahnawake to start government-subsidized all-traffic stations serving the Montreal area. The three businessmen objected, and said they have their own proposals for radio stations using the two vacant clear channels (690 and 940 kHz). This led to a hearing at which Cogeco and TTP Media presented their proposals, as did Bell Media (which wanted to move TSN Radio to 690 from 990) and Evanov Radio (which wanted to launch an LGBT station and didn’t mind too much which frequency it was on).

The TTP group is composed of three businessmen: Tietolman, who seems to be perpetually working on broadcasting-related projects that haven’t materialized yet; Tétrault, a former Montreal city councillor and candidate for the PQ and BQ whose day job is as a real estate agent (the company’s address is the same as his Royal Lepage office) and Pancholy, a wireless communications executive who’s now CEO of India-based OnMobile (I’m told this means he spends a lot of time commuting between Montreal and India).

A year earlier, Tietolman and Tétrault had attempted to give a counter-offer to Cogeco’s $80-million acquisition of Corus’s Quebec radio stations with an $81-million after-the-fact offer. Corus rejected this and the sale to Cogeco went through.

Though their business plan is based on a lot of wishful thinking, TTP Media succeeded in getting three licenses from the CRTC:
  1. 940 AM: French news-talk station, approved Nov. 21, 2011, with a (second) final deadline of Nov. 21, 2016
  2. 600 AM: English news-talk station, approved Nov. 9, 2012 with a final deadline of Nov. 9, 2016
  3. 850 AM: French sports-talk station, approved June 19, 2013 with a deadline of June 19, 2016
Each had a different transmitter site when approved (940 from the CJMS 1040 transmitter, 600 from the Cogeco Kahnawake site and 850 from a new site built in Île Perrot). But TTP Media eventually found a way to consolidate all three at the Kahnawake site, which they said they were buying from Cogeco.

The group, and Tietolman in particular, talked big about how the news-talk stations would revolutionize radio. Their application spoke of a “face-à-face” format where people of diverging political views would debate the issues of the day. There was talk of something called “radiovision”, offering some sort of multimedia component to counteract the unappealing AM-quality sound. And Tietolman promised other mysterious aspects of these stations, things he couldn’t discuss lest competitors steal their ideas, that would totally change the game.

If Tietolman sounds a bit like a used car salesman to you, then I’m glad I’m not the only one with that impression. He likes to flatter, make big promises and use a lot of hyperbole. He’s a nice, professional guy, but his ability to sell you on such little substance might be a cautionary tale.

Even though last November, when the 600 and 940 license authorizations were expiring, the group said it was a few months from launching and had purchased all the equipment at the Kahnawake transmission site, Cogeco Media president Richard Lachance tells me they are still at the discussion stage about that sale.

For the record, here’s the list of equipment at the Kahnawake site, which has been dormant since Info 690 and AM 940 went off the air in 2010:

Image

Maybe there’s a strategy here

Tietolman didn’t seem too concerned by the group’s failure to apply for an extension for the 850 AM station.

It could be, though no one has confirmed this, that the decision was strategic. A French all-sports station made sense after 2011, when Cogeco flipped CKAC 730 from sports to traffic, moving Canadiens and Alouettes games to CHMP-FM 98.5. And Tietolman had said at the time that getting rights to live games wasn’t a necessity.

But last fall, CKLX-FM 91.9 switched formats to go sports-talk during the day. That makes the business case for a French AM sports-talk station much more perilous. Two sports-talk stations in the same language, neither of which has actual live sports, seems non-viable, especially when you consider 91.9’s ratings.

The 850 station wouldn’t be locked into sports-talk, and could adopt some other talk format, or even a music one. But music doesn’t work very well on AM, and if you’ve already got one talk radio station, why split your audience needlessly?

This is still speculation on my part. But the only other reason I can think for failure to apply for the extension is a catastrophic breakdown of operations at TTP Media. And considering the domain name expiry, Tietolman’s projects outside the partnership, Pancholy’s new job, the group’s failure to communicate and the fact that so little has happened in five years, I can’t discount that.

No one’s waiting to pounce

You might wonder why the CRTC doesn’t put its foot down and yank the licence authorizations. It may do that in November. But there’s so little demand for full-power AM radio stations in Montreal that there’s no pressure to vacate the frequencies. The clear-channel 940 might be useful for a station like CJAD 800 or CFMB 1280 or CHRF 980 or one of the smaller commercial or ethnic stations, but otherwise if TTP Media loses the frequencies they’ll probably still be vacant if they ever come around and re-apply. Both 600 and 850 kHz have been vacant since 2000, and other frequencies like 650 could also be used for high-power AM stations.

Dispersed team

When it first went in front of the CRTC in 2011, TTP Media had an impressive lineup of people, including former radio managers and survey experts. Some were just hired for the purposes of the hearing, but others were ready to take over management of the new stations. Unfortunately none of them are on TTP Media’s payroll:
  • Steve Kowch, former program director for CJAD, was tapped to run the English station. He’s still waiting, and in the meantime is a radio consultant in Toronto.
  • Jim Connell, former 940 AM morning man and program director, gave up on the project and went to work for Global Montreal’s morning show for two years. He’s now a freelance voice-over artist.
  • Yves Guérard, the radio executive who headed CJMS, CKMF-FM and CKLX-FM when it was under the Couleur Jazz banner, was to run the French AM station. Guérard died of cancer last week.
People keep asking me if these stations will ever get on the air. The truth is I don’t know. At this point they have three months before they lose the 600 authorization, and they’ll lose the 940 one two weeks after that, unless the CRTC grants yet another extension and loses all credibility when it says these extensions are “final”. It’s possible to launch a station in that time, but every day closer to that deadline makes it less likely that they’ll pull it off.

If the project does die in November, that will be bad news for all the laid-off radio personalities and graduating students who were hoping for jobs, for the listeners who were hoping for new competition to force an increase in quality, and for me, who wouldn’t mind having another group to report on that isn’t named Bell or Cogeco.
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Re: Montreal: License Expires for 850; will 940 and 690 be n

Postby the-real-deal » Fri Aug 05, 2016 8:39 pm

I wonder. Are the owners of AM 850 flogging a dead horse.

I will be more blunt. Are they from Hans Christiaan Anderson's tall tale of "The Emperor who wore no clothes."

At one point in Montreal's proud and storied radio history, AM stations like CFCF 600, 850 CKVL Verdun,1280 CJMS, and even 980 CKGM, ruled the roost and were virtual licences to make and print money.

No longer. Just because AM Radio worked for his father (Tietolbaum senior) doesn't mean it will work for his son.

As everyone knows, AM Radio has been on a sharp decline for years. Not just in Quebec, but everywhere.

Although I am aware that many of you are proponents of AM Radio, here, that part of the dial is suffering from an image problem and other problems, namely sound quality, plus other issues like finding creative engineers to fix and repair your AM station, when needed, (a BIG issue recently pointed out in another discussion) the exhorbitant cost of an AM station versus FM, the need for expensive land to ground the antenna properly, and the fact that the FM spectrum has been maxed out in Montreal for many years.

Unfortunately, HD radio hasn't taken off in Canada the way that proponents would like.

As I recall, (and I once lived in Montreal for 26 years) 850 CKVL had a horrible, shitty signal, with an annoying buzzing noise, akin to CKNW's signal, in that you can barely hear it in certain parts of the island of Montreal.

What I would recommend for TTP is, (and for anyone in radio?) and assuming that they have the venture capital, is to move the signal to 940, and, before throwing all their money into the toilet, do some serious marketing research as to whether Montrealers have an appetite for another sports talk radio channel.

People like the Yerxa family from Edmonton, the company that owns the new radio station in Cranbrook, and Kelowna's Walter Gray, these are VERY wise businessmen and broadcasters that know what they are doing and they don't f*ck around, when it comes to market research.

I say do your market research, first, before laying up the cash, extracting money from your investors and, wasting everybody's time, including the people of Montreal.

We Montrealers have been hoodwinked, frankly f'ed over,, by lousy, deceitful businessmen over the years. The former AM Corus station, Oldies 940, was poorly managed and not enough money was invested to make the station work. Mayor Jean Drapeau and his poorly made Olympic Stadium debacle, we all know about that, then the ruining of the Montreal Expos baseball franchise by crooked American businessman Jeffrey Loria and so on. If TTP the so-called numbered company doesn't know what it is doing, so be it and let them fold, I'd say.

Let the "one third" partner from India go back to India where he belongs, as well.
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Re: Montreal: License Expires for 850; will 940 and 690 be n

Postby Aaron » Sat Aug 06, 2016 7:32 am

the-real-deal wrote:
What I would recommend for TTP is, (and for anyone in radio?) and assuming that they have the venture capital, is to move the signal to 940, and, before throwing all their money into the toilet, do some serious marketing research as to whether Montrealers have an appetite for another sports talk radio channel.



As per the article above, they already have a license for 940. They have thee - 600 for English News Talk, 940 for French News Talk, and 850 for Sports. They've officially given up on 850, which makes sense as it was the most ridiculous of the three, especially since an FM sports station signed on in the meantime.
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