Thursday, May 8, 2008

217th Post - Yet Another CJCH Update

Driving home tonight from the hospital (can't get into why I was there, everyone; sorry) I tuned my car radio to 101.3 FM. It is the designated signal for CJCH, when that venerable station flips from AM to FM sometime soon.

Rather than dead air, I heard music.

When I tuned in, about 8:15 tonight, they were playing a hip hop song I didn't recognize. (What am I saying? I don't recognize ANY hip hop song!) After the song, there was a message to the effect that this is the new home for CJCH FM and they're testing the signal. Call a particular number in the event of signal issues.

I can't listen to these songs and reasonably deduce what the new station will sound like, what the format will be. There was no consistent musical thread I could use to stitch together a musical identity for this station. From the afore-mentioned hip hop tune, they played Patsy Kine, Celine Dion, AC/DC(!), and various 1980's tunes of a soft rock nature. After each song, there was that voice exhorting us to call 453-2524 and comment on the signal quality.

I am not as up on CRTC rules as I perhaps should be, given my inordinate and unhealthy interest in the medium of radio. I do know that they will continue to test this signal at 101.3 FM until the engineers and program director are happy with the quality. After that, they will announce that the station is going live, and the FM signal will supplant the AM signal (simulcasting the FM signal on the AM station) for 90 days. After that, the AM transmitter will be shut off forever. That transmitter was state-of-the-art and is only about 12 or 13 years old.

Questions: 1) What will the format of the station be? I highly doubt it will be a talk radio station. There is already a private talk radio station in this market that's not making money, thank you very much, and adding another one would not make much sense (as much as I would like there to be such a station, of course). There are already 2 classic rock stations; another FM station that plays, in essence, rock and roll oldies; 2 country stations (one AM, one FM); a light rock hits station (C100); a hip hop station; and the present CJCH, playing older songs of various genres, along with the Hotline with Rick Howe.

I can speculate a little bit more. I find this a welcome distraction, as it takes my mind off other, more troubling aspects of my life that I don't want to put in this blog, at least not yet. Canwest Global recently abandoned plans to launch an easy listening station, despite having been granted leave to do so in 2004. That format is one under represented in this market. I wonder, therefore, if the new CJCH FM will be an easy listening station? I am not yet ready to make this one of my fearless predictions. Maybe soon.

Question 2. When will the powers that be at CTV Globemedia, who own CJCH radio, be men and women enough to admit that the Hotline with Rick Howe, that the Halifax Mooseheads games with John Moore, will not survive this transition from AM to FM? Other spoken word programs have disappeared from the CJ airwaves in recent months. They just weren't there any more, and listeners weren't given a heads up to the effect that they would not be part of the station's programming any more.

Every morning, seven clock radios in my house come alive to the sounds of CJCH, 920 on the AM dial. Each morning, as I move from room to room in my preparations for work and breakfast, I expect NOT to hear what Rick Howe has planned for today's Hotline, as I expect the Hotline not to be there any more. No word of warning. It would just be gone, leaving thousands of listeners disappointed by , confused over, and angry at, the program's abrupt passing.

I know that there are people at the radio building (which actually houses 5 stations) who read this blog. Hello, folks. I invite you to send the url for this blog to people in Toronto who can give the thumbs up or thumbs down to the continued existence of the Hotline and the Mooseheads games and have them respond to my modest question number 2.

Just give us an answer. Tell staff first, of course; but then tell the listeners. Do they, do we, not deserve the truth, even if it is unpleasant and disappointing?

I'll shut up now.


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