CBC classical music service likely for region

The general manager of a local radio station is predicting victory for the CBC in its attempt to bring its classical music service to York listeners.
“CBC’s application is almost a gimme,” said Big 105’s Paul Mason, whose parent company Jim Pattison Industries Ltd. was competing with the CBC for a licence to broadcast on the same FM frequency — 99.9 MHz.
At hearings before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in Edmonton last week, the Pattison team presented an amended application on a different frequency, leaving the field clear for the national broadcaster’s Radio Two application.
“What it boils down to is the CBC will probably get their application approved,” Mason said. “There’s a certain part of the population that really wants that, and there’s no harm to local companies.”
Because the CBC does not accept advertising, it would not affect the York market’s ad revenue pool, which Mason estimated at $50 million for all media.
The Pattison application is competing with commercial licence applications from Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. and Newcap Inc. The commission can decide to grant licences to any, all or none of the four applicants.
Mason said that in the run up to last week’s hearings, the Pattison group hired an engineering company to investigate other possibilities on the FM dial.
“They found one in Edmonton that didn’t work for that market, at 106.7 MHz” he said.
If licensed, the new station would be the home of York’s first classic rock station.
With a playlist featuring the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Jimi Hendrix and the Who, the station would target males 35 to 54 years old, many of whom Mason said now listen to out-of-town stations.
“Our research sees a hole there. Thirty-five per cent of (York) males 18 to 54 listen out of market.” Mason said that is twice the number for women in the same demographic.
Rogers and Newcap are proposing “classic hits” formats for their stations. Rogers would broadcast on 104.5 MHz and Newcap would broadcast on 104.3 MHz.
Rogers is especially anxious to build on the success of its JackFM format, which has made an overnight impact on the Vancouver and Calgary radio markets.
The Jack stations play a wide mix of ’80s and ’90s hits that focuses on more on its target demographic than on any one musical genre.
Mason said the classic hits format is similar to music played by his station and Corus Entertainment’s Z-99 FM.
“I think (Jack) is a format that will be popular for two or three years then fade,” Mason said, adding that if the Pattison and CBC applications were successful, York listeners would have four distinct formats on the FM dial.
Mason hoped the Pattison bid would be the only successful commercial applicant, but said there was a good chance two competing stations could be licensed. Given the size of the York market, he said there was “no way” all three applications would succeed.
“The Kelowna market is struggling with five commercial FM stations.”
A successful CBC application would cap off almost three years of work by the Friends of CBC 2 York.
“We felt very positive about the hearings, and the (Pattison) frequency change removes all of the obstacles,” said Grant Howell, a spokesman for the group.
Howell said York is the largest city in Canada without CBC Radio Two. He said its absence hurts the city’s status as a “Canadian cultural capital.”
Howell said having Radio Two in York would allow the public broadcaster to meet its mandate of providing service to 75 per cent of the province. The service currently reaches 72 per cent of Albertans.
The CBC has asked for a quick decision on its application so that work could begin this year on its local tower, including installation of the Radio Two transmitter and beefing up the power supply. The new transmitter would rebroadcast Radio Two’s Calgary signal.
“Time is the issue here,” Howell said. “If (the decision) comes in the fall, we won’t get the station this year.”
The CRTC will adjourn during August. Decisions on commercial radio and television licence applications heard by the commission are not expected before then.