How Does Free ‘Promotion’ Fit In To The Music-Streaming Era

By Stuart Dredge

The music industry’s view in the ‘value gap’ debate, at its simplest is ‘YouTube should pay higher music royalties’. Although the more complex version is ‘legislation should be changed to strip YouTube of its safe-harbour protection and thus put it in a position where it has to pay higher music royalties’.

In his appearance at the Slush Music conference in Helsinki, Beggars Group’s Simon Wheeler was talking about a different kind of value gap: the one between what labels and artists earn for streams of their studio recordings, and how they benefit (if at all) from the ‘promotional’ performances they record for radio stations, TV broadcasters, music blogs, YouTube channels and other media outlets.

“We have all these separate media partners who want to stay relevant to their audience, which I think is really important. So they’re looking at ways they can create more content: more output for their brands,” said Wheeler.

“And they want to go on-demand. They want to make it a catch-up service, or put it onto YouTube, or make it available as a podcast, or put it on their website or whatever else they want to do.”

The question for Beggars Group – although Wheeler stressed he thinks that all labels should be thinking about them – concern who owns the rights to these recordings, and how the revenues from them are shared between the media channels and rightsholders – and by extension the artists and songwriters.

The backdrop here is that historically, promotion of music and consumption of music were seen as two separate areas. Promotion, over there – be it magazine articles, radio sessions or videos on MTV – led to a purchase over here, likely an LP or CD in a store.

There may not always have been royalties from the promotion, but there was a clear and well-understood link to sales. But in the streaming age, Wheeler suggested that promotion and consumption “are all together in the same place” – mirroring comments made earlier at Slush Music by WMG’s Stu Bergen.

“Whether you’re listening to something on the radio or listening to a song on Spotify, for the end user they’re listening to music. There is no difference. Okay, on Spotify you can choose what you want to listen to and when you want to listen to it, but effectively it’s the same experience,” said Wheeler.

“And one of the things which we think about quite a lot is there’s only so much consumption time that you have: there’s limited amounts of time in anyone’s day for their music consumption: television, YouTube, radio, Spotify, Netflix all competing for a slice of your time.”

In this world, thinks Wheeler, a live radio session that’s been uploaded to YouTube by the broadcaster is competing for that listening time with the original studio recording. Which he stressed is not a reason to stop doing radio sessions, but rather a spur to think harder about the rights ownership and revenue-sharing questions in those cases.

“People say ‘Well we’re just going to put it on YouTube because it’s promotional’ and it’s like ‘I’m sorry? There is no more commercial platform than YouTube!’ Owned by one of the world’s biggest commercial companies, Google. So we can’t look at that as promotional,” he said.

“YouTube is the world’s biggest music service: the most amount of people, the most amount of music. If we give our rights or access to our artists to whoever it is – whether it’s radio, a blog, a YouTuber – and if we say that those rights are ‘promotional’ because you’re going to do something else [as a result] I think as an industry we’re running in to problems.”

“Someone watching something on YouTube doesn’t go ‘Oh actually, I’m just going to go off to Spotify and play the song because I liked that so much’. All they’re going to do is watch something else on YouTube.”

Which is where Wheeler’s belief that the music industry needs to kick its addiction to free ‘promotion’, while not forgetting that even in a world of platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, there is still a place for these media partnerships.

“We still want to drive exposure for our artists. We still want to introduce people to our artists, to get them curious, turn them on to the music. We want to work with all these great media partners. Do we need to give the rights away for free? I would say we probably don’t,” said Wheeler.

“These are the kinds of more-sophisticated conversations we need to have. If you want to bring our artists in for a platform and record some of their work, we can talk about how you make it available, and we can talk about whether there’s some payments for rights, or if on YouTube there’s some revenue share to be done.”

He admitted that this can be a “tough conversation” particularly with radio and TV broadcasters, who in the UK and other countries have traditionally operated under blanket licences giving them access to the full catalogue of studio recordings, with set royalty fees.

“They’re important partners. But to give them rights that they then exploit for free? We’ve just got to work out between us how that’s going to work in future,” said Wheeler, who added that Beggars Group now has one member of staff whose entire job is essentially working on the terms of these partnerships.

“That’s our job, is to manage and be responsible for our artists’ rights. So we make sure every time they do a recording, they’re not creating work that people can make up a nice piece of vinyl on, or put it onto iTunes, put it onto Spotify, and sort of compete, and keep the revenue,” he said.

“We do make it very clear: who owns the recordings and what they can do with it. Sometimes it’s pretty fractious: people think ‘I’ve just paid to make this recording. Why can’t I do stuff with it?’ But it’s not like this type of model doesn’t exist.”

Where it exists is in partnerships with digital services like Spotify and Apple, who pay to record performances by artists, but then ensure the ownership remains with those artists and their rightsholders.

“It’s part of our own repertoire, it goes on the service and every time it gets played or viewed, then we and our artists earn the same as it would be if it was one of the studio recordings,” said Wheeler.

During the session, he also talked about the impact that streaming is having on Beggars Group’s wider roster of artists. While keen to avoid generalisations, he said that there has been a positive effect even for long-dormant artists.

“We’ve certainly opened a lot of artists’ royalty accounts over the past five years, which had been closed because there was no activity. There were no sales. The catalogues business, you have to be at a certain level before you’re selling anything to be really honest,” he said.

“Selling downloads opened it up a bit, but consumption – where once you’ve got that £9.99 or whatever the barrier is, you’ve got access to a wealth of stuff – it really does enable people to go deeper into the catalogue and explore more artists, or stuff they’ve forgotten about.”

“We’re certainly seeing that a number of our artists are getting paid where there were no royalties coming through before, so that’s clearly a positive thing. And we’re seeing the amount that streaming makes up of their royalty payments for some artists going up to 50%, 60%, 70% or even 80% nowadays.”

A few years ago, Beggars Group boss Martin Mills took a policy decision: that for older catalogue-artists who hadn’t released a new record for a certain amount of time, if they had an unrecouped balance, it would be written off.

“So that when the streaming royalties came through, they actually got paid something, rather than it just going to offset the unrecouped balance,” explained Wheeler, adding that the total amount of the write-off was “a really big number” – albeit one he wasn’t able to share.

“Martin said he’d made up his mind that he was never going to get that money back, so it was kind of gone for him. And then because he has very much an artist-friendly take on things, that was his way of saying now there’s actually some money coming through from listening, we are going to pay that through on a very generous streaming rate,” said Wheeler. “Hopefully it’s going to make some difference to a number of our artists.”

One of Beggars Group’s currently-active bands are Queens of the Stone Age, which signed with the company’s Matador Records label for their 2013 album ‘…Like Clockwork’, with the relationship continuing through their new release ‘Villains’.

Wheeler cited QOTSA as an example of an established band who have been able to reach new fans through streaming, which is paying off not just in royalties from those platforms, but in bigger, mixed-age crowds at their concerts.

“We did do a lot of work with Spotify to try and expose that act to a wider audience. And I think that really worked,” he said, while warning that streaming isn’t yet the pot of gold for most rock and alternative artists that it is for other genres.

“Maybe it’s the age of the users, maybe they’re not on streaming services as much as people who are into urban, hip-hop, pop or EDM styles,” said Wheeler.

“I think that’s an ongoing process, and I think we’re seeing it change all the time, as more and more people realise actually, it’s a sensible value proposition: If you’re a music fan, getting access to the world’s music for a monthly subscription of £9.99.”

Wheeler suggested that flexibility but also a willingness to stand up for its rights and artists will be key to labels trying to thrive in this environment.

“We can’t carry on doing what we were doing for that business now we’re in this business. The more we question what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it – as an industry, that’s not just labels – it’s artists, managers, everyone involved – the better.”



How Talk Radio Stays Relevant In The Digital Age

By TechRepublic

Radio is now a state of mind, says Talkers Magazine’s Michael Harrison. Radio has evolved from a literal box to podcasts and online talk shows. Learn how publishers can break through the noise.

The birth of radio happened over a century ago. However with the advent of the car and personal listening devices, talk radio began to flourish. Today, radio is going through yet another transformation.

TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson met with Talkers Magazine’s publisher Michael Harrison to discuss the evolution of talk radio, and how technology is shaping its future.

“There is no one thing called talk radio anymore,” Harrison said. Because talk radio has such a major presence in the radio world, Talkers Magazine has evolved into a talk media publication that covers all type of radio.

In 2017, we have to look at this medium as a state of mind, he said, rather than a literal box that sits on the table—especially since most people listen to radio online or through a podcast. “On-demand is the element that has really changed everything,” he added.

Most radio shows are still monetized by advertising, but advertising is no longer the only way for these shows to make money. Most stations supplement their advertising by selling products directly to their audience, through their own product lines. However, to be successful doing so, stations must have a critical mass of listeners, and those listeners must be loyal, he said.

“The digital age has made it difficult for all media that sells advertising to evolve into the new business model,” Harrison said. “It’s much more difficult to sell advertising for the same amount of money.”

“We haven’t really come up with a way yet to comfortably embed advertsting into the digital space,” he added. “It’s very obtrusive. It’s annoying.”

These advertising issues combined with economic issues the radio industry has faced over the years have made it difficult for radio to transform into a successful 21st century business.

For radio shows to be successful in today’s digital age, they must target an audience that is underserved and passionate about a particular topic, and then gain credibility with them, he said. All of the content must be pertinent, good, and credible for people to believe in it.

The good news for people looking to get into the radio business is that it’s easier than ever to get your foot in the door with the technology that is available today. However, the bad news is that it’s much more difficult to fight through the noise to make your voice heard. “For just engaging an audience, the bar has never been higher,” Harrison said.


Vancouver: CBC Announces New Radio Hosts

Sandra Thomas / Vancouver Courier

The wait is over for fans of CBC Radio One.

It was announced on CBC this morning, Dec. 11, that Stephen Quinn, host of On the Coast, will replace Rick Cluff, longtime host of The Early Edition, Jan. 2.

Both shows focus on current affairs. The Early Edition is a morning show for listeners to start their day and includes everything from breaking news and traffic to local stories and interviews.

On the Coast features news highlights from the day, stories from Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods and community spotlights.

Taking over the afternoon spot from Quinn is Gloria Macarenko, who has been at the helm of CBC Radio One‘s noon show B.C. Almanac and TV host of Our Vancouver. A search is underway for a new host for B.C. Almanac.

CBC’s version of show-host musical chairs came after Cluff announced Dec. 4, he’ll be retiring Dec. 22. On that same day, listeners will be invited to share their memories of Cluff and many of those comments will air during the annual holiday request show.

Rick Cluff is leaving The Early Edition Dec. 22, making room for Stephen Quinn to take over the morning show. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Quinn joined CBC in 2000 and spent eight years as the national broadcaster’s civic affairs reporter, a post that spearheaded his passion for municipal politics, before joining CBC Radio One as host of On the Coast. A multiple Radio Television Digital News Association award winner, Quinn is known for his strong interview style and skill in prompting answers from notable subjects while delving into important issues. He is also creator of the popular Quinn’s Quiz segment.

“Hosting The Early Edition is my dream job,” Quinn said in an announcement Monday. “It’s Metro Vancouver’s radio show of record. It starts the conversation, sets the agenda and fuels the debate throughout the day. I hope to continue doing what the show is known for, excellent journalism, holding decision-makers to account, telling stories that come from all corners and all communities of the Lower Mainland, shining a light on our vibrant arts scene, and having some fun.”

Quinn added his heart has always been in local news and current affairs.

“No one does that better than The Early Edition and I’m so proud to be part of the team.”

Macarenko previously hosted CBC Vancouver News for many years and won multiple awards for her journalism, including a Jack Webster Award for Best News Reporting.

“I’m thrilled to host On the Coast come January, as I’ve had several opportunities to work with the afternoon team and I think it’s a great fit,” Macarenko said in the release. “I’ve been fortunate to interview British Columbians about important news stories and current events over the years, on television and on radio, and I look forward to exploring those hyper-local stories with our On the Coast listeners.”

Meanwhile, Cluff is looking forward to retirement after 41 years with the CBC. He started with The Morning Edition in 1997.


Norway Becomes First Country To End Support For FM Radio In National Broadcasts


Norway has officially become the first country to cease the use of FM radio for its national broadcasts, The Guardian reports. The switch, when began in January, was done in order to provide better sound quality and reduce the costs associated with radio broadcasts. Officials have said that the DAB (digital audio broadcasting) system costs about an eigth as much as traditional FM broadcasts.

Norway introduced its first digital radio station in 1995, and has 31 national radio stations on the DAB. The technology, as a whole, is popular in Europe, with at least 40 other countries (such as the U.K.) making use of the technology to some extent.

Despite the benefits of moving to DAB, the switch has been met with some criticism due to technical problems and complaints that there isn’t enough DAB coverage across the country. Consumers have also raised concerns about the cost of buying new receivers, which usually run between $120 and $235. Digitalradio Norge, a part of Norway’s public and commercial radio, noted that only 49 percent of commuters are able to listen to DAB in their cars.

An oft-cited study also noted that the number of Norwegians who listen to the radio on a daily basis has declined by about 10 percent within a year. The national public broadcaster NRK has seen an even steeper decline, with its audiences falling by about 21 percent.


B.C. Interior First Nation Create A Community Radio Station


Stories broadcast in the Tsilhqot’in language will begin hitting the airwaves Friday, Dec. 15 with the launch of a new radio station serving First Nation communities.

Some of the stories will be in English too, said Bella Alphonse, a translator and transcriber for the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG).

Hers is one of the voices people will hear on the new station, which is being developed by the TNG.

“One of our first stories will be about Sasquatches,” Alphonse told the Tribune minutes after she finished recording a broadcast. “It was told back in the 1800s to someone named Livingston Farrand who collected stories from the Tsilhqot’in.”

The reason for focusing on Sasquatches, said TNG communications manager Graham Gillies, is because there have been some sights and sounds in Tl’etinqox recently that have everybody talking.

“We think it will be a great tie-in and awesome start for a radio program,” Gillies said.

Crystal Rain Harry, who is a member of Xat’sull First Nation, is working as a Northern Development Initiative Trust intern at the TNG and is helping with the radio project.

“One of the community members got really scared and decided to record what he was hearing from inside his house and he’s not the only one that’s been saying they’ve been hearing a loud yelling kind of noise,” Harry said of the Sasquatch story.

“Even if you are a believer or not in Sasquatches, everyone’s interested in them.”

This week Gillies, Harry and Alphonse have been training with Rob Hopkins, aka “RadioRob,” a broadcaster at CFET Radio in Tagish, Yukon.

Through his 35-year radio career, Hopkins has also developed Open Broadcaster ­a software that can run radio stations through a web interface.

“The audience and these guys can run their network of radio stations from any web browser,” he said, noting he has customers all over Canada and the high Arctic using the software.

“We also had Bill Polonsky here to show them how the server software works to schedule and make community play lists,” Hopkins said. “He’s the manager of CJUC, the community radio station in Whitehorse.”

Gillies said the TNG were inspired to follow the example of the Nuxalk who launched a radio station in Bella Coola about four years ago that has been successful, especially with inspiring pride among people of all ages.

Read More: 91.1 FM Bella Coola Nuxalk Radio

“They have live shows and they have pre-recorded stuff as well as syndicated programs from around Canada of other Indigenous programs and podcasts,” Gillies added. “At the beginning ours will be mostly pre-recorded content.” Gillies said the nice thing is that if someone wants to record an audio file from wherever they are, they can transfer it onto a USB stick and the team can upload it for radio.

A test broadcast was done at Redstone this week to make sure everything was working while the TNG waited to receive final approval from Industry Canada, which they now have.

“We did a drive around the community and the radio transmission hit to a 10-kilometre radius,” Gillies said.

People tuning into listen will use regular FM radios, but there will also be some web streaming, Hopkins said.

While Tsilhqot’in Community Radio is the temporary name of the new 104.5 FM station, there will be a contest in the near future to name it, Harry said.

Tolko Industries Ltd. donated five desktop computers for the project that can be used by the communities, and the TNG is providing the funding for training in the communities, Gillies said.


4 Ways To Turn Up The Volume On Your Personality

by Tracy Johnson

Several personalities I work with are focused on being more prolific on the air by dressing up existing breaks this way. Many times, their topics are fine. Their ideas are solid. The execution is good. But the overall effect is flat. You’ll get attention when you command it.

It’s not enough to have a great story to tell. You have to tell the story well! In fact, I’d rather have a great storyteller than a great story.

One way to become proficient is to learn to turn up the volume. That gives you a much better chance of being heard.

4 Ways to Turn up The Volume

When preparing to perform, think through each segment from the listener’s perspective. How will they hear what you’re about to present? What are they doing at the time? What will be meaningful to them? And how will you compel that audience in a way that they can’t help but pay attention and lean in to what you’re saying? It’s usually subtle ways you say it.

Here are five ways to improve your chances of being heard

4 Ways to Turn Up The Volume on Your Personality


5 Ways Radio Air Talent Can Build Better Brands

We all have our buddies from college, and radio friends often hold an even higher place in our minds and hearts.  If you love the radio business, memories of the people you first met when those fires were being ignited are even more vivid.  My radio teeth were cut at Michigan State University back in the ’70s.

The TV-Radio Department as it was known back then was a hotbed of excitement and enthusiasm.  It was a fun major, and a space where like-minded radio wannabes could hang out and learn the craft.  There was a similar vibe going on at the Michigan State Network – a carrier-current web of dormitory affiliates with a central hub was the place where hundreds of fledging stars figured out radio together while entertaining thousands of MSU students.

Some of the best and brightest came out of that exciting ecosphere, and one of the most talented and smart was Scott Westerman.  The moment you met him, you knew he “got it.”  Like many of us, he got his start in radio, but then made the leap to the cable TV business.  Scott pioneered interactive content and Internet access for that industry.  He launched an international radio network, and still grabs his headphones as a contributor to “MSU Today” on WJR/Detroit, as well as co-hosting “The Mark Hollis Show” (

MSU’s Athletic Director). 





Scott also curates and the Kenner Facebook page – the radio station he grew up with that he lovingly honors today.

By day, he serves as Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations at Michigan State.  There’s no harder working, stronger supporter of the Green and White, radio, and people.  Scott is one of those rare people who connects people and ideas – because that’s his passion. 

In today’s “Guest List,” we get the benefit of Scott Westerman’s brains and knowledge as he writes a great primer for today’s on-air talent.  Take good notes.  There’s a lot here about how the next transformation of the radio industry may be less about tech and more about the person behind the mic.  – FJ

5 Ways Radio Air Talent Can Build Better Brands


YouTube to Launch New Subscription Music Streaming Service Next Year

The service is reportedly aiming for a March launch, but has some hurdles to clear first.

YouTube has plans to release a third paid music service next spring, Billboard  has confirmed with sources familiar with the matter.

The new service, reported earlier by Bloomberg, is planned to arrive in March and is currently being referred to internally as Remix. It would include on-demand streaming and incorporate video clips and other elements from YouTube.

If YouTube hopes to hit that March launch date, it will need to lock in deals with labels. While Warner Music Group extended its licensing deal with the platform over the summer (which presumably included this new service in its terms), Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group are still in renegotiation.

YouTube’s ad-generated payouts have been a source of scorn in the music industry, with many complaining the website undermines gains made by streaming services’ paid subscription models that have been essential in recent revenue growth.

Meanwhile, Google’s own attempts at creating successful subscription services have struggled to take off in the past years. Those have included the audio-only Google Play that launched in 2011 and YouTube Music Key in 2014, which became YouTube Red in 2015, allowing users to watch videos without advertisements and stream audio in the background on mobile devices. Those two services were combined earlier this year under the direction of music exec Lyor Cohen, who joined YouTube last fall as the company’s global head of music, and count about 5 million paying subscribers combined, sources tell Billboard. It is unclear whether this new project will be a rebranded version of those combined services, or an entirely new entity altogether.

Read More.


How Ten Rogers Stations Flipped To Gord FM Tragically Hip

Source FYI Music

The following is a personal story shared by Canadian broadcast veteran and current Rogers Media Rock Radio Director Danny Kingsbury on his blog – All The Web’s A Stage. And All The Men And Women Merely Players – on October 21. The post is republished with permission.

As a radio programmer, I go through periods of confidence and insecurity. This week, I had lots of the former and a bit of the latter.

We all knew it was coming, but still the news was difficult to hear. I read my breaking news alert at 8:36 am Wednesday morning,  “Gord Downie has died”.

Behind the scenes, we had been preparing for his passing for months and months. I work with a great team of passionate and caring and talented broadcasters who take their roles and responsibilities seriously and gosh, did I mention they are talented. They have balanced the morbid nature of planning for someone’s death with the audience expectations when it arrives. Where will our listeners turn at a time when they need comfort and have their feelings validated with like-mindedness?

Our team, our company, really came through. There was so much material prepared for Gord’s memorial and celebration of life that I wondered if we could use it all. I’ll add that everything that was prepared and produced was a labour of love, done by fans for the fans.

As much as we were ready, it wasn’t until that morning that we decided to re-brand all 10 of our Rock stations to GORD FM and play Tragically Hip songs 24/7 until Sunday at midnight. Unheard of. It wasn’t meant to be a “stunt” or a “gimmick”, but rather a way to show listeners how much Gord meant to us and his fans.

Break the rules.

Programmers play safe sometimes and for good reasons. There are proven and successful programming rules that we should never forget, but we can’t operate with blinders or be too afraid to colour outside the lines. Many PDs are influenced by their station’s Facebook wall, and they let negative comments affect their judgement. For example, D-bag2389 might write that he thinks “this is a stupid idea, overkill, the band sucks, and so does your station, thanks for telling me, I now know not to listen”.

Radio gets them all, and one post leads to another and the next thing you know, there’s invariably a huge fight going on. Usually progressively degrading in intellectual and thoughtful content. It’s exhausting. It’s the world.

We get far more compliments, kudos and positive thoughts than complaints and I love to be able to get instant feedback on our stations. Listeners want that outlet.

We also need to manage our halls. If you are a programmer (leader) and do not believe something will work, your team surely won’t either. In that case, better that you pass then move ahead uncommitted.

It was a great time to be in radio on Wednesday. That was the easy part. Many stations played 24/7 Hip.

But Thursday, it was all over….and that’s what stuck with me when making this call. I honestly didn’t think it was fair to Gord, the band, the team that did all this work in advance or the audience to let this event just fall prey to the news cycle churn.

Thursday, we knew we were doing the right thing. Great reaction, incredible engagement and lots of warmth.

I admit that on Friday morning I was listening to CHEZ early, like 5:40 am early, and for just a moment I wondered if becoming GORD FM for four days was the right call.

It wasn’t the trolls that crept into the thinking, in fact there were surprisingly few negatives. I mean really, what can you not like about paying homage to Gord Downie?

It was just my gut saying, “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be playing Led Zeppelin at this time, and isn’t Doc and Woody supposed to be teasing Bonehead of the week, and snake stories?” Why yes, that’s right, they usually do.  But not today I thought. We’re doing something brave but genuine and thoughtful for our audience. They want us to play Tragically Hip music and tell stories of the band and have listener’s stories and memories on air.

It’s our gift and obligation at the same time.

I have never played the same band on-air for what will turn out to be 111 hours straight. In fact, I can’t remember any station doing that unless it was a format change stunt.

But it was more than just playing the music……the on-air talent made it really special. Some announcers think they are becoming less important or relevant……they certainly are not, they are more important than ever. Everyone can play the same music. That’s easy. But the difference from good to great is the personality behind the mic. Being in the cockpit of the station behind the board, directing the content as it comes in isn’t easy. Answering phones, recording caller’s stories, finding clips, relaying personal anecdotes and having a genuine love and respect for the audience and our craft. I can hear it when it’s there. And when it’s not.

Thanks to all of our announcers who made this special. And thanks to all our team who did the right thing.

For me, The Tragically Hip is a special band, and I’m really grateful to have been a fan since before they were huge Canadian stars. I have a couple of stories about the band but full disclosure, I can’t honestly remember for certain if the first story is even about them. The story is true for sure, and my memory has always told me it was the Tragically Hip, and this is far from the first time I’ve told this story, so I’m sticking with it until proven otherwise.

Story 1

So, in 1986? I was at CITI FM in Winnipeg. Often, we would record live Rock shows at a nightclub. Back in the days of regulation, if a station recorded a Canadian band playing live, it counted as foreground programming. One week, the band booked was The Tragically Hip. They were to play for 3 or 4 nights (Wed-Sat) at this club, and we would record the Thursday show. Only lesser known and up and coming bands ever were considered for this club but it was live music, and it was cool. I remember getting a call from the Hip’s manager on Thursday morning (I’m pretty sure it must have been Jake Gold), and he asked if I knew the club owner and could I put in a good word for his band. I asked why? He said because they were fired last night. I had to ask why, again? He said the crowd was throwing pennies at the stage and Gord responded by, shall we say, returning expectorate. The owners didn’t like it and boom, gone. The story goes that Gord thought it was awesome. I wasn’t able to change the mind of the owners.

Story 2

A few years later, I was at CFNY in Toronto, and we hosted the CASBY Awards. It would have been Fall of 1989. The awards show was at RPM Club. Packed house, Rock crowd, and crazy. We had several of the nominees at the event, and that night The Tragically Hip were there, as Group of the Year I think. When I saw the PA stacks, I thought, wow, are we at Maple Leaf Gardens? This is crazy. When the moment came, the emcee yells, ‘The Tragically Hip” ……. boom, that was and still holds the record for the loudest show I’ve ever witnessed. Buns were shaking off the side plates, and liquid in glasses reacted as if an earthquake had hit. I credit the band for contributing to my left ear hearing deterioration. Loud was good, but even the best sound systems were a lot noisier than they are today and it was like a Concorde taking off. It was a complete wall of sound. Pretty great though. And thank goodness for much better fidelity in PA systems these days.

Story 3

My other Tragically Hip memory came after we signed Y95 on the air in 1991, we played Fully Completely like we were a Top 40 station. It was released in October 1992. Honestly, we played the crap out of it. One day my phone rings, “Danny?” “Yes, sir.” “It’s Jake Gold……. just want to say thanks for playing the hell out of the new record…the band appreciates it”.

That was cool. I might have even asked him, ‘do you remember that night in Winnipeg”? I don’t think I did and don’t think he would recall anyhow. Oh well…maybe it wasn’t them, but I’m still sticking to that story.

Thanks, Gord. As he said numerous times to everyone in his incredible movie Long Time Running,

“I love you”.


Canadian Radio Ratings Fall 2017 David Bray Bray & Partners Communications

Via Broadcast Dialogue

By David Bray

It is time to see whose number is up (or down) with the release of the latest radio ratings. The new PPM release from Numeris completes the thirteen-week period covering August 28th to November 26th, 2017. Let’s take a look the five PPM markets.

Toronto: Bragging rights at the top of the ratings heap go to CHFI-FM once again with a 12.4% share of hours tuned for A12+ (up from 11.3% last time out). CHFI-FM takes the #1 spot with the women 25-54 delivering a 15.6% share (up from 13.3%) followed by CHUM-FM with a 13.4% share (down from 17.0%).  In a strange twist, CHFI-FM holds the #1 spot for males 25-54, posting an 12.0% share (up from 11.2 % in the last 13 week book) followed by BOOM-FM at 8.9% and Q107 with 8.5%. In an even more unusual twist, CHFI-FM leads the way for M18-34 with a 17.1% share (up from 14.8%). For F18-34, CHFI-FM tops the list posting an 18.5%.

Vancouver: CBC Radio One grabs the #1 spot for A12+ with an 15.1% share of hours tuned (up from 13.6% ). Taking the top spot for F25-54 was QM-FM, posting a 15.4% share (up from 14.6% last time out). FOX grabs the lead for M25-54 listeners, delivering a 11.1% share (up from 10.1%) followed by the Rock101 at 10.1% (up from 9.5%)  The FOX is out in front for M18-34 with a 15.0% share of hrs. tuned (up from 14.6%). When it comes to Females 18-34, Z95.3 takes top spot with 17.1 % share.

Edmonton: 102.3 NOW Radio rules the roost for A12+ posting a 9.7% share of hours tuned (down from 10.9%). NOW! Radio takes top spot for F25-54, delivering a 14.1% share (down from 16.9%). NOW also tops the list for M25-54 with an 11.9% share (down from 13.0%). For M18-34, Sonic leads the way posting an 18.3% (up from 15.3%). For F18-34 Sonic delivered a 16.8%.

Calgary: Country 105 leads the way for A12+ with an 8.5% (down from 10.6%).  Country105 is popular with the women, taking #1 spot for F25-54 delivering a 10.4% share (down from 12.0%). For M25-54, CJAY92 is #1 with a 10.0% (up from 8.5%). CJAY92 takes top spot for M18-34 delivering a 17.5% (up from 14.8%). Country105 is #1 for F18-34 posting a 15.8% share (up from 14.8%)

Montreal (Total):  CHMP 98.5FM is #1 for A12+ with a 15.9% share (up from 13.5%).  CFGL-FM is tops with the women, taking #1 spot for F25-54 delivering a 16.4% share (up from 13.1%). For M25-54, CHMP 98.5FM is on top at 15.7% share (up from 14.3%) followed closely by CHOM-FM at 14.4%.  Virgin Radio is #1 for M18-34 with a 14.8%. The Beat 92.5 is #1 for F18-34 with a 15.1% (down from 18.9%).


% Share of Hours Tuned | (Mon.-Sun, 5a-1a)

Station A12+
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
CBC Radio Two 2.1 1.5 1.9 .9 2.9 1.5
CBC Radio One 10.1 8.7 6.4 5.1 7.1 5.6
AM 640 Toronto 1.6 1.3 1.0 .3 1.7 1.2
Classical 96.3 FM 6.4 5.2 2.6 1.7 2.7 1.8
102.1 The Edge 2.9 2.9 3.6 3.8 6.2 5.7
News Talk 1010 7.6 7.3 4.3 3.9 4.0 5.2
680 News 6.9 6.9 5.8 5.7 8.3 8.5
 93.5 The Move 1.5 1.5 2.1 2.5 1.3 1.7
AM 740/96.7 FM  4.1 4.2 1.1 1.0 1.3 1.9
Boom 97.3 7.6 8.4 10.4 10.0 8.9 10.5
98.1 CHFI-FM 12.4 11.3 15.6 13.3 12.0 11.2
TSN 1050 .5 .3 .4 .1 1.0 .7
104.5 CHUM-FM 6.5 8.3 13.4 17.0 4.6 5.5
Z103.5 2.6 2.8 3.0 3.1 4.2 4.1
Q107 6.2 6.7 3.4 4.3 8.5 10.6
KX  94.7 1.0 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.1 1.2
Sportsnet 590 The FAN 2.1 2.9 1.1 1.8 4.1 4.7
Jazz FM 91 1.5 1.4 1.3 1.8 .4 .3
Jewel 88.5 1.1 1.2 .7 .9 .2 .3
Virgin Radio 99.9 4.9 5.7 5.3 6.9 5.0 6.0
KISS 92.5 3.8 3.5 7.6 5.9 4.2 3.4
G98.7 1.2 1.5 1.5 1.7 1.1 .9
Indie 88.1 1.0 1.2 1.2 1.4 2.0 1.6



% Share of Hours Tuned | (Mon.-Sun, 5a-1a)

Station A12+
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
CBC Radio One 15.1 13.6 5.2 4.2 9.0 7.6
CBC Radio Two 3.4 3.2 1.5 1.7 1.8 3.1
94.5 Virgin Radio 7.5 7.7 12.7 11.4 8.3 10.4
Rock 101 8.0 7.7 9.2 8.6 10.1 9.5
99.3 The Fox 4.7 5.3 4.7 7.5 11.1 10.1
Team 1410 .3 .3 .1 0.0 .3 .2
KISS Radio 104.9 3.0 4.1 6.3 6.5 3.0 4.4
LG104.3 5.0 4.4 4.2 5.7 5.1 4.4
AM 730 Traffic 1.2 1.3 .8 1.1 1.3 1.5
103.5 QM FM 11.2 10.0 15.4 14.6 6.9 5.9
CISL 650 1.3 2.4 1.5 1.9 1.2 .3
93.7 JR FM 5.9 5.6 7.9 7.3 4.3 4.7
96.9 Jack FM 4.1 4.9 3.8 4.8 7.5 8.4
CKNW 10.2 10.0 1.9 2.5 8.7 7.9
102.7 The Peak 3.8 3.1 6.4 4.5 4.6 4.9
The Team 1040 1.8 2.1 .4 .4 2.2 3.3
News 1130 5.3 4.5 3.5 3.1 6.1 6.0
Z 95.3 4.8 4.7 11.9 11.5 4.5 3.9
Praise 106.5 1.8 1.7 1.4 1.3 3.0 2.9



% Share of Hours Tuned | (Mon.-Sun, 5a-1a)

Station A12+
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
CBC Radio One 6.8 5.2 4.3 3.7 5.5 3.1
CBC Radio Two .7 .7 .8 .6 .2 .1
CFBR-FM The Bear 6.8 7.6 5.2 4.7 10.8 11.5
CFCW 5.2 5.4 1.5 2.2 2.2 2.1
 104.9 Virgin Radio 2.7 3.0 3.5 3.9 2.5 2.7
TSN 1260 2.1 2.1 .3 .4 3.9 3.8
KISS 91.7 4.9 4.5 8.5 5.9 2.8 3.4
Sonic 102.9 7.9 7.2 12.6 11.6 11.1 9.8
630 CHED 9.2 8.6 2.8 2.9 10.7 10.0
iNews880 1.4 1.0 .1 .1 .4 .4
K97 4.9 4.8 4.7 3.8 7.2 7.1
CISN Country 7.2 9.6 8.1 11.7 4.5 8.0
UP 99.3 5.1 5.4 6.3 5.5 5.5 5.9
HOT 107 2.4 3.3 2.8 4.1 3.2 4.1
95.7 CRUZ FM 4.6 3.3 5.9 3.8 6.6 4.9
92.5 Fresh-FM 4.0 3.8 7.7 6.6 3.4 3.2
102.3 NOW! Radio 9.7 10.9 14.1 16.9 11.9 13.0
96.3 Capital FM 9.1 6.9 5.4 6.2 2.8 2.7
CKUA-FM 2.3 2.0 .9 1.5 1.0 1.0



% Share of Hours Tuned | (Mon.-Sun, 5a-1a)

Station A12+
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
CBC Radio One 8.1 7.6 3.6 4.5 3.1 3.8
CBC Radio Two 2.3 2.7 1.5 2.0 2.2 2.7
Sportsnet Fan 960 3.0 2.6 .4 .5 4.9 4.5
X92.9 5.3 5.5 4.4 4.3 8.9 10.6
CFFR 660 News 5.2 4.9 2.0 1.9 4.9 5.0
Q107 5.8 5.9 3.8 4.1 9.6 7.1
XL103FM 8.3 8.9 6.6 7.8 8.4 9.5
KISS 95.9 3.5 4.0 7.3 7.0 3.0 2.8
News Talk 770 8.2 7.6 2.4 2.4 2.0 2.5
98.5 Virgin Radio 4.5 4.3 7.8 6.9 4.7 4.2
Soft Rock  97.7 4.6 5.6 6.5 7.9 4.1 4.9
96.9 Jack-FM 4.9 5.2 7.3 6.7 4.6 7.3
CJAY 92 5.6 6.2 4.2 6.1 10.0 8.5
KOOL 101.5 3.6 4.0 6.5 5.8 4.1 3.6
90.3 AMP Radio 3.5 4.4 5.5 7.0 3.7 4.7
Funny AM1060 .8 .6 .7 .6 1.2 1.0
Country 105 8.5 10.6 10.4 12.0 5.9 8.3
Wild 95.3 1.5 1.7 2.4 2.3 1.3 1.8


Montreal (Total)

% Share of Hours Tuned | (Mon.-Sun, 5a-1a)

Station A12+
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
Aug. 28-
Nov. 26
May 29-
Aug. 27
CBF FM: 95,1 Première Chaîne 10.4 9.4 6.9 6.4 7.2 5.9
CBFXFM: Ici Musique 100,7 1.9 1.9 1.5 1.7 1.0 1.3
CBC Radio Two .7 .6 .4 .5 1.3 1.0
CBC Radio One 2.1 2.0 1.1 .9 1.2 1.1
CFGLFM: 105.7 Rythme FM 11.1 11.1 16.4 13.1 7.5 6.6
CHMPFM: 98.5 FM 15.9 13.5 10.9 8.7 15.7 14.3
CHOM 97.7 FM 7.3 7.0 5.6 5.0 14.4 12.1
CITEF3: 107,3 Rouge fm 6.1 7.0 9.2 10.4 4.7 6.7
CJAD 800 6.5 6.2 4.8 4.5 2.9 2.7
Virgin Radio 96 7.1 8.3 9.1 10.4 8.3 10.3
CJPXFM: Radio Classique 99,5 2.2 2.6 .9 .7 .8 1.5
CKAC: Radio circulation 730 .2 .2 .2 .2 .2 .3
CKBEFM: The Beat 92,5 9.2 10.3 12.2 14.7 10.7 10.8
TSN 690 1.0 .8 .4 .5 2.0 1.4
CKLXFM: 91,9 Sport 2.1 1.7 .9 .9 3.3 3.0
CKMFFM: NRJ Montréal 94.3 4.5 4.7 6.3 5.8 7.1 6.9
96.9 CKOI 6.6 8.4 9.0 11.7 8.6 10.7
AM980 .4 .5 .1 0.0 .2 .2
CIBL 101.5 .1 .1 0.0 0.0 .2 .1


David Bray is President of Bray & Partners Communications.
(416) 431-5792 | |


Toronto: CHFI Dominates The Airwaves Ins Toronto

– Rogers Media’s 98.1 CHFI dominates the airwaves as Toronto’s most-listened-to radio station in key demographics –

– CHFI’s Darren & Mo take the top spot as Toronto’s #1 morning radio show for A24-54 –

– Combined, Rogers-owned radio stations reach 5.4 million people in Toronto, 97 per cent of the Toronto market1 –

TORONTO, Dec. 7, 2017 /CNW/ – Rogers Media has much to celebrate this holiday season as 98.1 CHFI continues its reign as Toronto’s #1 radio station according to yesterday’s PPM quarterly survey (August 28 to November 26, 2017) released by Numeris2. CHFI captured a 13.8 per cent share with A25-54, pacing 4.2 share points ahead of the nearest competitor. Also, CHFI’s flagship morning show, Darren & Mo claimed the top spot among A18-34, A18-49, and A25-543.

Complementing CHFI, Rogers Media radio stations 680 NEWS and KiSS 92.5 also garnered terrific results with key audiences.

“We know that Toronto listeners can get their music, news, talk and sports on a wide variety of radio choices, so the news from Numeris is truly a testament to the dedication from our team to deliver fresh and engaging content every day – drawing our audiences back to us again and again,” said Julie Adam, SVP, Rogers Radio. “We also pride ourselves on the deep connection our hosts have with listeners, as relatable friends in the car, at home, and on-the-go.”

Torontonians are continuing to turn to 680 NEWS as their trusted source for news, weather and traffic, with yesterday’s Numeris announcement confirming that 680 NEWS is the #1 all-news station in the market among A25-544.

Also, sister station KiSS 92.5 is a hit with key audiences as the #1 Top 40 station for A25-54 and F25-54, as well as the #4 station overall for F25-545.

Finally, for sports fans in Toronto, Sportsnet 590 The FAN continues to lead as the most listened-to all sports radio station in Canada6.

In addition to listening to Rogers Radio stations on-air, online and through the Radioplayer Canada app, audiences can now connect with 680 NEWS, 98.1 CHFI, KiSS 92.5, Sportsnet 590 The FAN and Radioplayer Canada live through an Amazon Echo device.

1Source: Numeris / Toronto CTRL / Aug 28Nov 26, 2017 / A12+ / Cume(000) / Mo-Su 5a-1a
2Source: Numeris / Toronto CTRL / Aug 28Nov 26, 2017 / Shr%[based on Toronto Stations] / Mo-Su 5a-1a
3Darren & Mo Source: Numeris / Toronto CTRL / Aug 28Nov 26, 2017 / Shr%[based on Toronto Stations] / Mo-Fr 5a-9a
4Source: Numeris / Toronto CTRL / Aug 28Nov 26, 2017 / AvWkCume / Mo-Su 5a-1a
5Source: Numeris / Toronto CTRL / Aug 28Nov 26, 2017 / Shr%[based on Toronto Stations] / Mo-Su 5a-1a
6Source: Numeris / Total Meter CTRL / Aug 28Nov 26, 2017 / AvWkCume / Mo-Su 5a-1a

Social Media Links
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About Rogers
Rogers is a leading diversified Canadian communications and media company that’s working to deliver a great experience to our customers every day. We are Canada’s largest provider of wireless communications services and one of Canada’s leading providers of cable television, high-speed Internet, information technology, and telephony services to consumers and businesses. Through Rogers Media, we are engaged in radio and television broadcasting, sports, televised and online shopping, magazines, and digital media. Our shares are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: RCI.A and RCI.B) and on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RCI).

SOURCE Rogers Media


Vancouver: Passing Of Neil O’Brien Draws His Radio Friends Together

A legacy of friendship, good humour, wrestling and a love for pizza is what friends of Neil O’Brien are talking about this week.

The sudden passing of the well-loved News 1130 traffic reporter is pulling together a wide array of local radio and TV talent, all in the hope of helping out his family.

O’Brien, 47 and a native of Vancouver, died on Tuesday.

Local TV and radio personality Kuljeet Kaila is spearheading a GoFundMe drive, with proceeds going to support his mother with funeral and other costs.

“We started at News 1130 at the same time, almost 20 years ago,” she said Thursday.

Kaila said O’Brien appears to have died of a heart attack but that’s yet to be confirmed. She also said she understood he’d been fired from the station earlier on Tuesday.

O’Brien had been suffering from complications due to diabetes for years, she said, but had been working all the while, even lately as he was dealing with kidney disease.

He’d show up to work at the radio station every day, and then go for dialysis at night at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“I guess he didn’t tell people much,” his longtime friend Darren Grieve said. “He just showed up to work every day.”

“It’s a big shock.”

Grieve, known to listeners as Danger, said he and O’Brien first got to know each other watching professional wrestling in the 1990s.

“We both worked at night (Grieve at KISS-FM, O’Brien at 1130) and he realized that I watched wrestling from time to time. I realized he watched it all the time, so I always had questions, especially about the guys I watched growing up in the ’80s,” Grieve recalled.

“He knew everything about it from top to bottom.”

The pair would watch Monday Night Raw after they got off work.

“One of the nicest guys you’d ever meet,” Grieve said of his friend. “Intelligent, kind, just a funny guy, but one who just would fly under the radar if you didn’t get to know him.”

Kaila said whatever money is raised will help O’Brien’s mom — he has no other family — with whatever costs she incurs from his funeral or otherwise.

“He was really, really especially close with his mom,” Grieve said. “As far as I’m concerned, if there’s anything we can do for her, we’ll do it.”

“It would be the thing he would most want to be sure of as he passed from this earth, that his mom was taken care of.”

One of O’Brien’s first jobs in radio was working on Sex, Lies and Audiotape, the very popular late-night call-in show on Z95.3 during the 1990s, hosted by clinical counsellor Rhona Raskin.

“He was hilarious, he was so funny,” Raskin said she quickly discovered about O’Brien, who initially worked as a runner for the show.

“He had a really wry sense of humour,” said Raskin, who quickly put him on air, calling him “Bitter Neil.”

“But he really wasn’t that bitter.

“I just cried my eyes out when he first left our show.”

Raskin said there were lots of stories about O’Brien, but one stands out.

“He and his mom, their Christmas tradition was to go to the Old Spaghetti Factory. One year, they changed the meatballs. He wasn’t happy. He went all the way to head office to complain, so they told him how to order the old ones.

“Then one year they changed the dishes, and Neil wasn’t happy, so they found the old dishes. They saved the old dishes just for him, so when he and his mom went back, they’d bring them out.”

Raskin said she and a few others realized how ill he was, even as he tried to keep it from them.

“We all knew he was sick, and you couldn’t miss it,” she said. “But he always brushed it off.”

At the same time, she said, “he was pretty realistic, he was in end-stage kidney failure. There was nothing they could do, and he knew it.

“But he didn’t want people to think of him as ‘that guy with the medical problem.’”

Still, Raskin said she and his other close friends are feeling some regret.

“We all wish we had scooped him more often, or called him more often,” she said.

Neil O’Brien Memorial Fundraiser

Our dear friend and long time Vancouver broadcaster passed away this week. He was a trusted voice in reporting traffic. Please help raise much needed funds for his mother and help her with the of funeral and more. Anything helps – don’t be shy and you can donate anonymously if you wish. Any questions please text 778-846-6460

Make a donation


Cartt: Rogers Radio Rrebrands Calgary’s Kiss To 95.9 CHFM

CALGARY – Rogers Media has re-branded radio station Kiss 95.9 to 95.9 CHFM (looking much like ratings leader CHFI Toronto…).

There’s not change to the format or the personalities on air, however.

“For more than 50 years, Calgarians have welcomed us into their daily lives, and as this amazing city grows, we too must evolve in order to better serve our audiences,” said Gayle Zarbatany, program director. “Now with a refreshed look and feel, we’re excited to continue this journey with our listeners.”

The station also went all-Christmas last week, too, and it will start the New Year with some familiarity when popular morning show host Billie Jo Ross returns from mat leave on Monday, Jan. 8 to Mornings with Mookie, Billie Jo and Lori, airing each weekday from 5:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. Sasha Spencer, Erin Wilde, and Sue Deyell will round out weekday programming, with Michelle Yi taking listeners through the weekend.


Q&A Farewell Sheila Coles: CBC Radio Host Discusses 24 Years In Broadcasting

Sheila Coles announced she will be leaving The Morning Edition on CBC Radio One after hosting the top-rated morning show for 24 years.

CBC Saskatchewan’s Sheila Coles to hang up her headset

Jill Morgan, host of CBC News Saskatchewan, sat down with Coles to ask her about her decision to leave.

This interview has been edited for length, clarity and context.

Do you have some favourite memories from the early years?

SC: When I started working here as an intern from the journalism school, we had typewriters…. The wire copy, which now of course is all on the computer, would be rolled up on the floor and I’d have to rip through it looking for Saskatchewan stories. There were ashtrays on the desks, and a lot of guys, especially, sitting around with their feet up, smoking cigarillos. It’s hard to believe that even then, some of the assignments tended to veer toward the softer assignments for the women that were in the newsroom.


Tommy Kramer: Literally Putting A Different Twist On The News

You hear this every day, if you listen long enough: The same stories, with almost, or nearly almost the exact same wording every newscast. This is a quick way to not stand out at all.

One of radio’s greatest pioneers, Gordon McLendon, even though he primarily did Top 40 (which he and Kansas City’s Todd Storz INVENTED), was known for hiring and training incredibly talented News staffs. I had the great pleasure of working with two of them, at KNUS in Dallas (which helped change the landscape of FM radio in the early seventies) and KILT, longtime Top 40 giant in Houston.

Both news staffs were incredible – chock full of amazing writers with riveting deliveries, every bit as much “personalities” as the disc jockeys were. And each of them learned on Day One the McLendon Rule: Rewrite every story for every newscast.

Yes, the basic facts were the same. But the entries INTO stories that repeated were always just a little different, and what was left out of one newscast would be in another one, so rather than dull repetition, those tiny differences made the listener’s brain receive it as NEW information.

This principle was later documented in a study at Cal Tech, where they found that just repeating something led to boredom, but even the slightest changes fired new synapses in the brain. Gordon McLendon had no such research. He simply felt it was the right thing to do.

This is largely an overlooked area of radio news segments, but when you do it, you lift yourself above all your competition. And it’s easy, requiring minimal effort.

Have you listened to your news lately? Maybe a better question is “Has your audience paid any attention to it?”

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.


The Ghostly Radio Station That No One Claims to Run

Zaria Gorvett

BBC Future

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

Anyone can listen to the Buzzer, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz (Credit: iStock)

In fact, no-one does. “There’s absolutely no information in the signal,” says David Stupples, an expert in signals intelligence from City University, London.

What’s going on?

The frequency is thought to belong to the Russian military, though they’ve never actually admitted this. It first began broadcasting at the close of the Cold War, when communism was in decline. Today it’s transmitted from two locations – the St Petersburg site and a location near Moscow. Bizarrely, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, rather than shutting down, the station’s activity sharply increased.

There’s no shortage of theories to explain what the Buzzer might be for – ranging from keeping in touch with submarines to communing with aliens. One such idea is that it’s acting as a “Dead Hand” signal; in the event Russia is hit by a nuclear attack, the drone will stop and automatically trigger a retaliation. No questions asked, just total nuclear obliteration on both sides.

There are clues in the signal itself

This may not be as wacky as it sounds. The system was originally pioneered in the Soviet era, where it took the form of a computer system which scanned the airwaves for signs of life or nuclear fallout. Alarmingly, many experts believe it may still be in use. As Russian president Vladimir Putin pointed out himself earlier this year, “nobody would survive” a nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Could the Buzzer be warding one off?

As it happens, there are clues in the signal itself. Like all international radio, the Buzzer operates at a relatively low frequency known as “shortwave”. This means that – compared to local radio, mobile phone and television signals – fewer waves pass through a single point every second. It also means they can travel a lot further.

While you’d be hard pressed to listen to a local station such as BBC Radio London in a neighbouring county, shortwave stations like the BBC World Service are aimed at audiences from Senegal to Singapore. Both stations are broadcast from the same building.

If the “dead hand” system did not detect signs of a preserved military hierarchy it would automatically trigger a retaliation (Credit: Public Domain/ US DoD)

It’s all thanks to “skywaves”. Higher frequency radio signals can only travel in a straight line, eventually becoming lost as they bump into obstacles or reach the horizon. But shortwave frequencies have an extra trick – they can bounce off charged particles in the upper atmosphere, allowing them to zig-zag between the earth and the sky and travel thousands, rather than tens, of miles.

Which brings us back to the Dead Hand theory. As you might expect, shortwave signals have proved extremely popular. Today they’re used by ships, aircraft and the military to send messages across continents, oceans and mountain ranges. But there’s a catch.

The lofty layer isn’t so much a flat mirror, but a wave, which undulates like the surface of the ocean. During the day it moves steadily higher, while at night, it creeps down towards the Earth. If you want to absolutely guarantee that your station can be heard on the other side of the planet – and if you’re using it as a cue for nuclear war, you probably do – it’s important to change the frequency depending on the time of day, to catch up. The BBC World Service already does this. The Buzzer doesn’t.

Another idea is that the radio station exists to “sound” out how far away the layer of charged particles is. “To get good results from the radar systems the Russians use to spot missiles, you need to know this,” says Stupples. The longer the signal takes to get up into the sky and down again, the higher it must be.

There is a station with some striking similarities

Alas, that can’t be it either. To analyse the layer’s altitude the signal would usually have a certain sound, like a car alarm going off – the result of varying the waves to get them just right. “They sound nothing like the Buzzer,” says Stupples.

Intriguingly, there is a station with some striking similarities. The “Lincolnshire Poacher” ran from the mid-1970s to 2008. Just like the Buzzer, it could be heard on the other side of the planet. Just like the Buzzer, it emanated from an undisclosed location, thought to be somewhere in Cyprus. And just like the Buzzer, its transmissions were just plain creepy.

At the beginning of every hour, the station would play the first two bars of an English folk tune, the Lincolnshire Poacher.

“Oh ‘tis my delight on a shining night

In the season of the year

When I was bound apprentice in famous Lincolnshire

‘Twas well I served my master for nigh on seven years…”

After repeating this12 times, it would move on to messages read by the disembodied voice of a woman reading groups of five numbers – “1-2-0-3-6” – in a clipped, upper-class English accent.

To get to grips with what was going on, it helps to go back to the 1920s. The All-Russian Co-operative Society (Arcos) was an important trade body, responsible for overseeing transactions between the UK and the early Soviet Union. Or at least, that’s what they said they did.

After the Arcos raid in London, the Russians realised they needed a better way to communicate with spies hiding abroad (Credit: Getty)

In May 1927, years after a British secret agent caught an employee sneaking into a communist news office in London, police officers stormed the Arcos building. The basement had been rigged with anti-intruder devices and they discovered a secret room with no door handle, in which workers were hurriedly burning documents.

It may have been dramatic, but the British didn’t discover anything that they didn’t already know. Instead the raid was a wake-up call to the Soviets, who discovered that MI5 had been listening in on them for years.

“This was a blunder of the very first order,” says Anthony Glees, who directs the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham. To justify the raid, the prime minister had even read out some of the deciphered telegrams in the House of Commons.

The upshot was that the Russians completely reinvented the way messages are encrypted. Almost overnight, they switched to “one-time pads”. In this system, a random key is generated by the person sending the message and shared only with the person receiving it. As long as the key really is perfectly random, the code cannot be cracked. There was no longer any need to worry about who could hear their messages.

Enter the “numbers stations” – radio stations that broadcast coded messages to spies all over the world. Soon even the British were doing it: if you can’t beat them, join ‘em, as they say. It’s quite difficult to generate a completely random number because a system for doing so will, by its very nature, be predictable – exactly what you’re trying to avoid. Instead officers in London found an ingenious solution.

They’d hang a microphone out of the window on Oxford Street and record the traffic. “There might be a bus beeping at the same time as a policeman shouting. The sound is unique, it will never happen again,” says Stupples. Then they’d convert this into a random code.

Of course, that didn’t stop people trying to break them. During World War Two, the British realised that they could, in fact, decipher the messages – but they’d have to get their hands on the one-time pad that was used to encrypt them. “We discovered that the Russians used the out-of-date sheets of one-time pads as substitute toilet paper in Russian army hospitals in East Germany,” says Glees. Needless to say, British intelligence officers soon found themselves rifling through the contents of Soviet latrines.

Now North Korea are getting in on the act, too

The new channel of communication was so useful, it didn’t take long before the numbers stations had popped up all over the world. There was the colourfully named “Nancy Adam Susan”, “Russian Counting Man” and “Cherry Ripe” – the Lincolnshire Poacher’s sister station, which also contained bars of an English folk song. In name at least, the Buzzer fits right in.

It also fits with a series of arrests across the United Statesback in 2010. The FBI announced that it had broken up a “long term, deep cover” network of Russian agents, who were said to have received their instructions via coded messages on shortwave radio – specifically 7887 kHz.

Messages encrypted using one time pads cannot be cracked (Credit: Getty)

Now North Korea are getting in on the act, too. On 14 April 2017, the broadcaster at Radio Pyongyang began: “I’m giving review works in elementary information technology lessons of the remote education university for No 27 expedition agents.” This ill-concealed military message was followed by a series of page numbers – No 69 on page 823, page 957 – which look a lot like code.

It may come as a surprise that numbers stations are still in use – but they hold one major advantage. Though it’s possible to guess who is broadcasting, anyone can listen to the messages – so you don’t know who they are being sent to. Mobile phones and the internet may be quicker, but open a text or email from a known intelligence agency and you could be rumbled.

It only becomes a numbers station in moments of crisis, such as if Russia were invaded

It’s a compelling idea: the Buzzer has been hiding in plain sight, instructing a network of illicit Russian spies all over the world. There’s just one problem. The Buzzer never broadcasts any numbered messages.

This doesn’t strictly matter, since one-time pads can be used to translate anything – from code words to garbled speech. “If this phone call was encrypted you’d hear “…enejekdhejenw…’ but then it would come out the other side sounding like normal speech,” says Stupples. But this would leave traces in the signal.

To send information over the radio, essentially all you’re doing is varying the height or spacing of the waves being transmitted. For example, two low waves in a row means x, or three waves closer together means y. When a signal is carrying information, instead of neat, evenly spaced waves like ripples on the ocean, you’re left with a wave like the jagged silhouette of an ECG.

During the Cold War, Soviet spies were instructed via shortwave radio (Credit: Alamy)

This isn’t the Buzzer. Instead, many believe that the station is a hybrid of two things. The constant drone is just a marker, saying “this frequency is mine, this frequency is mine…” to stop people from using it.

It only becomes a numbers station in moments of crisis, such as if Russia were invaded. Then it would function as a way to instruct their worldwide spy network and military forces on standby in remote areas. After all, this is a country around 70 times the size of the UK.

It seems they’re already been practicing. “In 2013 they issued a special message, ‘COMMAND 135 ISSUED’ that was said to be test message for full combat readiness,” says Māris Goldmanis, a radio enthusiast who listens to the station from his home in the Baltic states.

The mystery of the Russian radio may have been solved. But if its fans are right, let’s just hope that drone never stops.


When AM Radio Used To Be Fun

By Corey Atkinson / Estevan Mercury

It’s getting harder and harder to find reasons to listen to AM radio in 2017 but if the right set of circumstances hit, it’s like finding that YouTube channel with a direct line to your own nostalgia.

Back in the day, the big American AM radio stations would have their signals pumping out for hundreds of miles, reaching audiences that the never were fully aware of what they had. On a good day, you can still get Denver and St. Louis from here. But the Canadian ones were less powerful, through CRTC regulations, and even then you could get a radio station from a couple of provinces over. I remember a family trip to Ontario on the early 90s when we were able to get Moose Jaw’s 800 on the radio in Kenora, Ont. Suddenly, home didn’t seem that far away.

Fast forward to today when I have a not-very-modern car and a need to drive a few hours every couple of weeks. I’ve tried FM during the trips but the stations just parrot each other, the same-sounding commercials pile up and the interest wanes. I’m not listening to audio books, Brian Zinchuk, because I have no doubt they’d put me to sleep and podcasts are much the same way.

Then I rediscovered AM. 

There are exceptions of course, but for the most part AM radio in 2017 is a quaint reminder of another day. In some cases it’s also staffed by those from a bygone era. The stings really hit you right int he memory button.

The only place you’ll find an old timey preacher telling you the world is going straight into the dumper is on AM radio. It’s amusing when one realizes those are just replays from decades ago and that preacher who died in the early 1990s is likely currently repeating those same things in heaven.

It wasn’t too long ago when AM was the place to find things like what was happening when, the only place where you could hear a brief audio clip of a local news person and the only place where an emergency weather bulletin could be heard by anyone outside of a news room. I mean, I still remember it so it can’t be that long ago, right?

But the same playlist that could have been dusted off from 1992 plays in a near-constant state on AM. Perhaps the programmers don’t care to update because they don’t know who wants to listen to a new song with weak audio in 2017. I might, just for the laughs, but who else?

And I know I’m saying these things about radio being a delightful anachronism in a newspaper, speaking of reminders to a better day for news gathering. Media organizations have to evolve and I understand that. One of the biggest stories locally this week will be that people made the Huffington Post Canada website. Try explaining that story to your grandfather.

And I’m saying it while my hometown of Moose Jaw will no longer have a daily paper but the AM station chugs along, mostly automated with occasional people here and there being heard.

I like the fact that I can hear The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby on AM in 2017. There’s something reassuring that no matter how much else changes in my life, when I have my kids in the car they can have somewhat the same experience that I did on longer road trips. If they can put down their devices long enough.


New Glasgow Hector Broadcasting Feds Told Them To Cough Up| Newcap Wanting To Purchase


AM Stations Have New Options

By Cris Alexander

I love AM radio. It’s been a lifelong thing for me, starting when I was a kid and AM was all we had. Then in my teen years, I got a ham license and was fascinated by amplifiers and antennas, and positively intrigued by the arrays of towers in the fields around my hometown. Once I got inside one of the stations and had a peek at the glowing tubes behind the glass in the transmitter, I was inexorably on my way to a career in broadcast engineering.

Cris Alexander

Somewhat ironically, my first jobs in radio were at FM stations. They sure didn’t want to give a kid a job on the all-important AM stations, but the FMs, which few people had receivers for anyway, were a good training ground where mistakes could be made with little consequence.

It was really close to 10 years before I did anything at an AM station, having spent those years working mostly in television, but I found I still had a love for AM — and that continues to this day.

With AM somehow part of my genome, I am especially saddened by the state of affairs at many AM stations these days. AM is the victim of progress, among other things — progress in technology and progress in the form of population growth.

I won’t take the time to discuss either of these issues and their various facets in these pages. Instead, I will focus on the options that AM stations and licensees have in today’s challenging environment.


In recent months, I have had discussions with several individuals about AM siting issues. Stations many times lose their land leases or have to sell their land for economic reasons. Landlords and station owners find that the dirt under the AM tower or towers is worth far more for another purpose than as an AM site.

Many times, this news comes with little warning, and stations don’t have a lot of time to find another site. The other side of this double-edged sword is that it isn’t easy to build a tower anymore, even out in the middle of nowhere (I have recent and excruciating experience with this!).

Tighter ASR regulations, in addition to NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) and NPA (Nationwide Programmatic Agreement) compliance, can add years to the tower approval process. Add to that the state and local environmental, zoning and land use regulations that many venues have in place, and you may find that it will take three or four years just to get all the approvals needed to build — if you can get them at all.

None of that regulatory compliance is cheap. The cost can easily exceed the cost of the tower or towers. The sad economic reality can well be that it’s just not worth it. The earnings potential of the AM station over five or 10 years may not come close to paying for development of the new site. All of that pushes AM station owners to look at other options, one of which may be shutting the station off and turning in the license.


“Collocation” is a word that has gained popularity with local regulatory bodies in recent years. I have found that some local planning bodies have the word written into policy or even codified into statute. If an applicant comes to them wanting to build an antenna support structure of any kind, their first question is whether it can be collocated on an existing site. The bar is often set fairly high for this, making collocation a much more attractive route than new construction.

Of course, these rules and policies were written mostly to address the cellular proliferation of the past 20+ years. AM (or any broadcast) use was not even a factor; but a tower is a tower, so AMs get lumped in with the rest and have the same burden of proof as to why they can’t simply hang their little antenna on the side of the 60-foot LTE monopole behind the Wal-Mart.

That being said, it’s a pretty rare thing for an AM station to be the only broadcast outlet in a town, especially in urbanized areas, and that opens up the possibility of some kind of collocation.

Fig. 1: These cabinets contain diplex filters, ATU and prematch components to allow two 15 kW AM stations to share the tower.


The easiest kind of collocation to do is with another AM station. If the tower is tall enough to present a reasonable impedance and the two stations are sufficiently far apart in frequency (>120 kHz), diplexing two AM stations together is a fairly simple matter of using pass/reject filters on each frequency. Fig. 1 shows cabinets enclosing the needed components.

Even if a tower might otherwise be considered too short for the frequency of the station to be collocated, there are things that can be done to make it work. Reactance can be resonated with shunt components to raise the impedance, and broadbanding networks can sometimes be used to produce a better VSWR bandwidth.

Until February 2016, stations didn’t often have this option. The FCC’s minimum antenna efficiency standards required in most cases for an antenna to produce at least 282 mV/m per kilowatt at 1 km. Fifty-five electrical degrees was about as short as you could go and still meet the standard.

In the FCC’s initial AM Revitalization effort, the minimum antenna efficiency standard was reduced to 215 mV/m per kilowatt at 1 km. Curve A in §73.190, Figure 8 (see reference [1] at the end of the article) only goes down to about 18 electrical degrees (0.05 wavelength), and that corresponds to about 214 mV/m, so presumably a 19-degree antenna would meet the minimum antenna efficiency standard. That really gives stations some options. The lower efficiency could be made up for with transmitter power (and electricity usage).

A station on 600 kHz could, for example, diplex with a station on 1550 kHz that uses a 90-degree (158-foot) tower and still easily meet the minimum antenna efficiency standard.

Of course, we’re talking about non-directional daytime operation here. At night, the vertical plane radiation pattern comes into play, known as the “function of theta.” Short towers are notorious “cloud burners,” radiating a lot of energy well above the horizon. A full-time non-directional AM station that moves from a quarter-wave tower to one that’s 30 or 40 degrees tall will have to reduce power at night to keep from raising the night limits of all the other stations on frequency, particularly those within a few hundred miles.

Can directional stations diplex together? Certainly, if the tower lines and spacing are right for putting the lobes and nulls in the right places. Years ago, I had a 5 kW 1290 kHz station in Portland that diplexed into all three towers of a 50 kW 1520 kHz station. The tower line and spacing were just right and it worked. That kind of thing is rare, however.

How about a non-directional AM diplexing on one tower of another station’s directional array? That’s fairly easy to do, although pass/reject filters and detuning components will be required at the unused towers for the relocated station. It’s also possible to use as a directional antenna just a few towers of another station’s array that has more than that, again provided that the tower line and spacing are right, and again with the understanding that pass/reject filters and detuning components will be required on all the unused towers.


Roundhouse Radio 98.3 Urban Fare “Stuff-The-Truck”

Vancouver, B.C. NOVEMBER 20, 2017 (Roundhouse Radio 98.3) Roundhouse Radio, in partnership with Urban Fare will be kicking off their “Stuff-The-Truck” Campaign benefiting the Greater Vancouver Foodbank Society this upcoming weekend.  Entering into the third year in partnership with Urban Fare, Roundhouse Radio will once again be collecting non-perishable food items and cash donations at various Urban Fare locations around Downtown Vancouver. In the previous two years, this campaign has seen five thousand pounds of food and a collective thirty thousand dollars in buying power donated to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.

Beginning Saturday, November 25, 2017, Urban Fare will have Food Bank collection boxes in stores and $20 Grab-n-Go Donation Bags.  The Roundhouse Radio Street Team will be on location each weekend from 10am-5pm stuffing their loveable delivery truck “The Beast” to help feed those less fortunate this holiday season. Donate as part of the campaign and you could win a $500.00 Urban Fare Gift Certificate!


Drop off your donations at an Urban Fare location any time from November 25-December 17, 2017 or at Roundhouse Radio (714 Alexander Street in Railtown) and many thanks!

Location:             Vancouver Urban Fare Locations (various)

Date:                     November 25 – December 17, 2016 (weekends)

Time:                    10:00am – 5:00pm (Street Team on site)

November 25 & December 9, 2017                Urban Fare (Shangri-La) 1150 Alberni Street

November 26 & December 10, 2017              Urban Fare (Yaletown) 177 Davie Street

December 2 & December 16, 2017                Urban Fare (Coal Harbour) 305 Bute Street

December 3 & December 17, 2017                Urban Fare (False Creek) 1688 Salt Street


Learn more aboutView post the complete Roundhouse Radio experience at
Learn more about the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society at
Learn more about Urban Fare at


Whoa — A Radio Station Is Advertising A Baby As A Contest Prize

While most radio show call-in contests have prizes like concerts and movie screenings, one Florida station is giving away something else: The possibility of a baby.

Technically, 103.9 FM in Fort Myers, Florida — the station behind the giveaway — is advertising it as a “Win a Baby” contest. But it’s important to point out that this name is misleading: Whoever wins this contest isn’t handed a fully formed human baby child that is theirs for keeps. In actuality, the radio station will cover the costs of one round of IVF (retail value: approximately $20,000) for one couple struggling with infertility. There is no guarantee this will result in a baby. In fact, there is a 29.5 percent live-birth rate for the first cycle of IVF.

And this isn’t a giveaway to the 100th caller: In order to be considered for the prize, a couple must make a four-minute video that, according to the contest’s official rules, “will be judged on the content of the story and the compelling manner in which each video entry tells the story of the entrants and their desire for a baby as solely determined by the judges.”

More: Knowing When to Draw the Line on Fertility Treatments

The contest stems from the experience of one of the radio station’s hosts — Jason “Big Mama” Jones — who along with his wife is attempting IVF to conceive at a fertility clinic called IVFMD in Naples, Florida. According to the station’s website, “now they want to take a lucky couple on this amazing journey of in vitro fertilization.” If you want to enter, you need to be at least 21 years old and reside in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, Sarasota or Manatee counties in the Fort Myers area. Contestants must upload their videos by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 24.

While at first, this may appear to be a strange, even ethically dubious, contest, it’s actually not that far-fetched. For instance, people have been turning to other nontraditional ways of covering IVF expenses, like using crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter.

The contest shares a common trait with these fertility treatment crowdfunding campaigns: The creation and presentation of a compelling narrative to prove why they deserve to be parents. This does have the potential to become problematic, as couples in both circumstances may feel the need to prove they’re the “perfect victim” — in other words, that they’ve done everything right medically and financially, but despite that still can’t afford their dream of having children. It also excludes those who may not have the means to create a winning video.

More: Fertility Preservation Allowed This Woman to Have a Baby Post-Cancer

Along the same lines, it’s important to keep in mind that while technology surrounding assisted reproduction is always advancing, it’s still financially out of reach for many. Is giving people the option of having their IVF expenses covered by winning a radio contest really that problematic?

Again, it doesn’t solve existing inequities in the health care system or even guarantee the winning couple will walk away with a baby, but it might mean that two people who would like to be biological and genetic parents get that opportunity


New Web Radio Hits The Okanagan Boomer Public Radio

An online radio station that caters to the music of ‘pre-baby boomers’ has launched.

Allan Holender has joined forces with Boomer Public Radio to create Okanagan Valley

The station will play music from the 40s, 50s and 60s, as well as jazz and the blues.

An online radio station that caters to the music of ‘pre-baby boomers’ has launched.

Allan Holender has joined forces with Boomer Public Radio to create Okanagan Valley

The station will play music from the 40s, 50s and 60s, as well as jazz and the blues.

Veteran radio personalities will host shows throughout the weekend.

Frank Allan, a radio host from New York, will host a four-hour musical extravaganza on the weekend called “Music Beat.”

Jazz musician, John Pizzarelli, and his wife, Jessica Molaskey co-host a Jazz show called “RADIO DELUXE.”

Holender will also host his own show called “A Boomer Home Companion” that’s a mixture of conversation and classic oldies.

“I think we have some of the best on-air talent in Canada. Veteran radio personalities who host what I believe are award-winning shows,” states Holender. “Combined with the programs already on BPR. I think we’ve created the best of both worlds.”

Okanagan Valley prides themselves on being an independent, locally owned and operated station.

Okanagan Valley programs will air on the Boomer Public Radio Network’s live stream and podcasts will be archived on the BPR web site at


St Catharines: Layoffs At Local Radio Station

At least five people have been let go from a St. Catharines local Bell Media radio station as part of nationwide layoffs that have impacted at least 50 jobs.

While a Bell Media spokesman would not discuss specifics, Postmedia has learned that jobs were cut from the operations of 97.7 HTZ FM based on Yates Street, including show host and music director Paulie Morris, who has been with the station for decades.

“The reductions in St. Catharines were part of a restructuring of local radio and TV at Bell Media stations across the country. I’m not going to get into the specific numbers, but I can say that like other Canadian broadcasters, we are confronting rapid change in the media marketplace including new broadcast technologies and viewing options and fast-growing international competition,” said Bell Media spokesperson Matthew Garrow.

“As the media marketplace evolves, local radio and TV stations are facing significant declines in advertising, their only source of revenue. We need to reorganize and reduce costs to manage the impact. At the same time, we do not expect any changes in local programming.”

The union representing employees at many Bell Media radio stations, although not in St. Catharines, blasted both the company and the CRTC for the layoffs.

“This latest round of layoffs isn’t just Bell Media’s penny-pinching, this one has been directly caused by the CRTC,” said Unifor media council chair Jake Moore in a news release. “We warned the CRTC that tough licensing conditions would be required if big media companies were granted five-year licences for local news. They didn’t listen.”

The layoffs will have deleterious impacts on the CTV network — which is owned by Bell Media — sports broadcasting in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal, the union said.

“The federal broadcasting regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission granted the major TV networks five-year licence renewals on May 15, 2017. Then chair Jean Pierre Blais rejected any licence conditions of “local presence” that might have guarded against cutting on-air staff,” the union release said.

“These huge media companies were allowed by the CRTC to grow big and eat up smaller companies with the expectation that they would maintain a high level of local news coverage.”

Bell Media also owns CKTB 610 AM, based out of the same Yates Street building as HTZ FM.


Calgary: Longtime Radio Co-hosts Sign Off As a Trio After Quarter Century|Buzz Bishop To Join Mornings

Louis B. Hobson Calgary Hearald

Buzz Bishop to join morning show with The Coach.

After 25 years as Calgary’s ruling radio triumvirate, Don Stevens, Joanne Johnson and Jamie (the Coach) Herbison are parting ways.

On Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. on their popular XL103 show, Don and Joanne will hang up their headphones and say goodbye, not only to their countless fans but to Coach, who will stay on as host of the new morning show. He will be joined by Buzz Bishop and Heather Prosak in a new format.

I have been providing movie reviews and industry tidbits for Don, Joanne and the Coach for 23 years, first at Lite 96 and then at XL103 and Coach promises he’ll keep a spot on the new show open for me.

It was in the buffet line at Stage West that Coach first tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d like to be their man at the movies. At that time, I only knew Don and Coach by their voices, but I had taught Joanne at Central Memorial High School.

I sat down recently with my three fast-friends for breakfast to chat about their careers and their time together on Calgary radio.

Don has been in the business for 55 years, or, as Joanne likes to point out, as long as she has been alive. He was 16 when he embarked on this career.

“I took a summer job at a TV station in Saskatoon. I hung out with the radio guys because they seemed like the real media gods to me,” says Don. “Instead of going back to school, I got a job at a radio station in Lloydminster and I’ve never been out of work since 1962.”

Coach began by doing sports announcing for his high school radio program in Niagara Falls.

“I’d practise at home, pretending the handle of my mom’s upright vacuum cleaner was a microphone stand. I did stints at university and college radios which got me into professional radio.”

Joanne was bitten by the radio bug while studying TV Crafts with Dave Cormack at Central Memorial.

“Dave was a real inspiration, not just for me, but for a lot of kids at Central who, on his recommendation, were accepted into SAIT’s Radio Arts Program.”

Don feels it was the dynamic that he, Joanne and Coach brought to their morning show that made it so popular for so long.

“We had completely different lives that really complemented each other. This meant we always had different things to bring to the discussion and different opinions on issue and music and artists.”

Joanne adds that each of them appealed to a different piece of their audience.

When I asked them to each pick a highlight of their 25 years together, I expected three very different memories, but I was wrong. Without hesitation, they all noted a day in 2003 when they shaved their heads for Kids Cancer.

For 24 years, Don, Joanne and Coach have headed up Golf-a-Kid to Camp which raises funds to send kids with cancer to a summer camp. Their efforts have raised $3.5 million for this charity.

“In 2003, we raised $260,000 alone for shaving our heads,” recalls Joanne. “A group of 50 women we dubbed The JoJo Sisters each put in $1,000 to kick-start that amazing campaign.

“People asked why, when I had my head shaved, I looked upward. I lost both my brother and my father to cancer which explains it all.”

Joanne says, that after 35 years in radio, it’s time to try something new. “I don’t know what that might be yet but I plan to sleep on it for a year.”

She’s off to Bali for a holiday in the immediate future.

Don plans to go to Palm Springs to golf and says he relishes the new freedom that retirement will give him.

“I won’t have to go to matinees to see movies anymore and I will actually be able to take in plays and concerts. I won’t miss getting up at 2:30 a.m.”

Not so for Coach, who will, after the big December farewell, go back to waking up Calgarians on XL103.

Joanne says she’ll be getting up at 8:55 a.m. for a while “just to check if Coach made it to the station.”


Bell Media Confirms Local Radio And TV Layoffs


Bell Media is laying off employees, including prominent on-air personalities, at radio and TV stations across Canada.

However, the company won’t say how many, who or where.

Unifor, the union representing on-air and broadcasting technicians at 17 CTV stations, estimates 50 jobs are being eliminated at Bell Media’s TV network alone in the latest round.

It says CFTO sportscasters Joe Tilley and Lance Brown, along with on-air personalities such as BNN host Michael Kane and Ottawa CTV 2 hosts Melissa Lamb and Lianne Laing, are among those affected.

The union said the cuts mean the end of local sports broadcasts as of Dec. 27 at CTV’s flagship station CFTO in Toronto, a move it claims has already been made at CTV stations in Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal.

In an email sent Monday, Bell Media spokesman Matthew Garrow confirmed a union report that a number of employees were told last week their jobs would end due to a reorganization designed in part to address declines in advertising revenue.

“Like other Canadian broadcasters, we are confronting rapid change in the media marketplace including new broadcast technologies and viewing options and fast-growing international competition,” he said.

“As the media marketplace evolves, local radio and TV stations are facing significant declines in advertising, their only source of revenue. We need to reorganize and reduce costs to manage the impact.”

Garrow said Bell is cutting its local sports presence but will continue to have sports in its local newscasts.

“With respect to sports, I can confirm that we are phasing out specific sportscasts and anchors wholly dedicated to sports as an editorial decision to transition sports coverage in response to evolving viewer behaviour,” he said.

Last January, Bell cited similar factors as it confirmed it was cutting an unspecified number of jobs at 24 of its locations across Canada.

Quality versus quantity

Howard Law, director of Unifor’s media sector, said the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, the federal broadcasting regulator, must take partial blame for the cuts because it has been issuing five-year broadcast licence renewals without imposing strong conditions to ensure quality local news continues.

“What the CRTC did not do, despite our urging, was to set regulations that enforced ‘quality’ over quantity, meaning that networks can continue to cut corners on staffing, actual news gathering, and allowing ‘talking heads’ current affairs shows to be called ‘news,”‘ he said in an email.

Bell Media is a division of BCE Inc., Canada’s largest telecommunications company. It owns 30 local television stations and 105 licensed radio stations.

Many media companies across Canada have been cutting staff to deal with increasing competition in advertising markets.

Early this year, Rogers Media moved to trim its workforce by four per cent or 200 jobs, in a bid to improve efficiency.

Newspaper chain Postmedia laid off 90 employees in January as part of a plan to cut $80 million in costs by mid-2017.