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John Mahoney
John Mahoney
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is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

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Posted 05.07.02
Knowlton, Quebec

JOHN MAHONEY

Radio Missisquoi vows to fight on

KNOWLTON, QC | Bloodied but not down and out, backers of Radio Communautaire Missisquoi (RCM) have vowed to fight on to get their community radio station on the air.

The Canadian Radio & Television Commission (CRTC) rejected their license application on May 6, 2002. RCM had applied for the unused 101.9 Mhz frequency for their station.

At the same time, the CRTC awarded the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) the 101.9 frequency to repeat its Radio One English-language programming.

The CRTC ruled that this is "the best use" and will "better serve the public interest."

"I'm devastated," said Dewey Durrell, who has been in the forefront of the fight to get Radio Missisquoi up and running. "Community radio is very important. The quality and quantity of CBC's programming is dwindling. It's becoming a 'state radio'."

Durrell feels as if Radio Missisquoi has been sucker-punched by CBC and the CRTC, which paid lip service to "the importance…of…the role of community radio" while ruling against them.

Consider this:

  • CBC claimed, and the CRTC bought the claim, that its repeated signal -- not new programming but repeated programming -- would reach 90,000 English-speaking listeners.
  • There are only 44,000 Anglos in the entire Eastern Townships.
  • Only 26.5 percent of them live in the Brome-Missisquoi region that would be served by Radio Missisquoi.
"Is there a new definition of Anglo?" asked Hyman Glustein, RCM's radio consultant.

Glustein charged that "CBC discovered 90,000 Anglos in their proposed broadcast area."

(There haven't ever been 90,000 Anglos in the Eastern Townships. Peak population was reached 140 years ago with 89,748. It has been declining ever since 1861.)

Durrell said that RCM will file an appeal within thirty days, as specified by CRTC procedures.

There is one other possible solution: the 98.1 Mhz frequency. But there is a major problem with this frequency.

Radio Missisquoi's signal would interfere in a small area of the Townships with the signals of CHOM-FM and CKOO-FM, broadcasting from Montreal.

Management of these two commercial stations have objected in the past to RCM using the 98.1 frequency because of this interference.

Whether they will drop their opposition, now that CBC has been awarded 101.9, remains to be seen. If the CRTC denies the RCM appeal, Durrell and his colleagues will have to conduct a powerful sell job to win the commercial radio people over to their side.

Durrell noted the choice of language the CRTC used in denying RCM its license, and said it was indicative of a pro-CBC bias.

The CRTC, in its ruling, noted the RCM had filed "a competing application."

However, the facts are that:

  • RCM filed its license application first.
  • CBC filed its application for the 101.9 frequency at the last minute.
  • This would seem to indicate that late-comer CBC had filed the competing application.

CBC contends that the national Broadcasting Act makes it clear that Canadians ought to be able to listen to CBC wherever and whenever they choose, and that CBC needs 101.9 to fulfill this mandate.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been a paid once-a-month correspondent for CBC's Anglo morning radio show Quebec AM for a decade. However, I am not an employee of CBC.]

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