ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 90-441

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Ottawa, 11 May 1990
Decision CRTC 90-441
Telemedia Communications Ontario Inc.
Stratford, Ontario - 890723000
Following a Public Hearing in London beginning on 20 February 1990, the Commission denies the application by Telemedia Communications Ontario Inc. (Telemedia) for a licence to operate an English-language radio station at Stratford on the frequency of 104.1 MHz, with an effective radiated power of 3,000 watts, to broadcast locally-produced programming. The applicant had indicated that, if this application for a Group I (Pop and Rock - Softer) FM station were approved, it would cease the operation of its existing AM station, CJCS Stratford.
The principal coverage area of CJCS, a station which has been broadcasting since 1928, includes Stratford and the neighbouring communities which comprise Perth County. The applicant stated at the hearing that the present application was submitted as the means to overcome severe technical restrictions that have affected its ability to provide adequate radio service throughout its entire coverage area, particularly at night. The applicant also sought to improve its position in the face of growing competition that has eroded CJCS's audience. At the hearing, Telemedia explained that the AM signal of CJCS suffers sky-wave interference resulting in "a post-dusk to pre-dawn signal which is undependable and very limited". The applicant indicated that it has already investigated "alternative technical ideas", but that it preferred the solution offered by the current application.
Telemedia outlined its efforts to provide "a dedicated community service", including local sports coverage; it emphasized the fact that, despite the technical limitations, "no other radio station can service Stratford and Perth County residents with immediate local emergency information" and other updates on school closings, bus cancellations, storm warnings and the like. According to the applicant, a move to the FM band would ensure adequate signal quality and the continued provision of such necessary surveillance information throughout CJCS's coverage area on a 24-hour basis.
On the subject of the increasing competition confronting CJCS, the applicant noted that there has been a steady growth in FM radio listener tuning in the Perth County area over the last several years, at the expense of AM radio. Telemedia referred to BBM figures which reveal that FM listenership accounts for 60% of all hours tuned, a substantial increase from the level of 44% registered in 1984. It stated further that the gradual "audience erosion due to the increase in FM tuning is having a negative economic impact" on its AM operation, such that the station's profitability has declined by approximately 30% since 1986.
Telemedia stated that, in order to better understand and effectively target area listeners, it had commissioned a research study in March 1989, involving telephone interviews with 300 Perth County residents. It added that certain of the study's recommendations have already been implemented. The applicant did not dispute that since their implementation, CJCS's audience ratings have improved. In fact, the Commission notes that CJCS continues to operate at a profit and that, from 1988 to the present, the audience share of CJCS in Perth County has increased from 8% to 12%.
With respect to its proposed use of channel 281, Telemedia stated at the hearing that it had little choice but to consider that channel as, according to the FM allotment plan, it represents the last remaining channel alloted to Stratford. The Commission notes that the frequency of 104.1 MHz was the same as that proposed as part of three of four competing applications for a new FM station in Kitchener/Waterloo which were also considered at the London Public Hearing (applications 894150200, 894176700, 894175900, 890242100). These applications were denied in Decision CRTC 90-440 also released today.
Although channel 281 is presently alloted to Stratford, two of the competing applicants for stations in Kitchener/Waterloo suggested that Telemedia consider the use of an alternate frequency, namely channel 252 or 298, so as to free channel 281 for their use. Telemedia indicated its preference stating that the technical quality of channel 281 is superior to the alternate transmitting frequencies proposed.
The Commission notes, however, that this frequency would be underutilized at the power of 3,000 watts proposed by Telemedia. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that the frequency of 104.1 MHz may also be used at Kitchener and in the Waterloo County area as a Class B or C1 channel (maximum power 50,000 or 100,000 watts, respectively).
Given that FM frequencies are public property and a scarce resource, the Commission must ensure, in the public interest, that any proposal predicated on the use of the last remaining frequency alloted to the Stratford area represents the optimum use of the frequency. The Commission acknowledges that there are technical limitations associated with the operation of CJCS on the current AM frequency of 1240 kHz, particularly at night.
While the Commission is disposed to carefully consider any proposal to improve the service provided to listeners throughout the Stratford area, the Commission is not satisfied that using an FM frequency to alleviate these problems is an acceptable solution in the circumstances. Nor have the arguments advanced by the applicant in its application and at the hearing convinced the Commission that the technical constraints associated with CJCS' present frequency are the only cause for the audience decline it has experienced in recent years. After careful examination of the licensee's application, the Commission does not consider that a move from the AM to the FM band is warranted at this time. Furthermore, the Commission is of the view that the applicant's proposal does not utilize the full potential of the last FM frequency alloted to Stratford.
Another concern with the present application is that approval would result in the common ownership of two FM undertakings serving the same market. Specifically, the contour of the proposed Stratford FM station would include the Town of St. Mary's, a rural area of potential growth and an area already served by CIQM-FM London, a station that Telemedia purchased in 1989 (Decision CRTC 89-525 dated 28 July 1989). At the hearing, Telemedia admitted that the CIQM-FM signal was receivable in Stratford, but claimed that it was of poor quality. Moreover, Telemedia stated that it had no intention of soliciting advertising in Stratford and would accept a condition of licence prohibiting such sales activity.
In light of the factors noted above, the Commission has denied the application as presented to operate a new FM station in Stratford on the frequency 104.1 MHz (channel 281A).
The Commission notes that, subsequent to the filing of the present application, Telemedia acquired London radio stations CIQM-FM and CKSL (Decision CRTC 89-525). Because the contours of the newly-acquired London AM station overlaps the proposed contours of the Stratford FM station, Telemedia proposed programming amendments at the hearing, revising certain foreground and combined foreground and mosaic commitments, in order to conform to the minimum requirements of a joint FM licensee, pursuant to the Radio Regulations, 1986 and the FM radio policy.
In light of the aforementioned denial of Telemedia's application, however, the Commission notes that any further consideration or determination with respect to the applicant's programming plans or to the proposed amendments submitted at the London Public Hearing is unnecessary.
The Commission acknowledges the supporting interventions received from elected officials, local organizations and businesses, as well as residents of the area.
Rosemary Chisholm
Acting Secretary General

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