Call letters CKAC to vanish from Montreal radio landscape
The call letters CKAC have been on the Montreal radio landscape for nearly 90 years, but as of Tuesday, they will exist no longer.
Cogeco, the owner of CKAC Sports 730, announced Friday that the city's lone French all-sports station will be switching to an all-traffic format through an agreement with Transport Quebec.
The new station will be called Radio Circulation 730, and will essentially serve as a constant feed of traffic information fed by the provincial transport ministry.
The news was a shock to the city's sports fans, and to the ones who fed those fans hours and hours of sports talk on the CKAC airwaves.
"If you told me 20 years ago when I started my career that one day someone will shut down CKAC for a traffic radio station," said talk show host Michel Langevin, "I would have bet my house against that."
Langevin and two other hosts on CKAC lost their shows. Two others, Michel Villeneuve and Ron Fournier, will have their shows moved over to 98.5 FM, also owned by Cogeco. The broadcasts of Canadiens, Alouettes, Impact and Université de Montréal football games will also move over to the FM station.
Cogeco described CKAC's financial situation as fragile, and the company had entered into an agreement with Transport Quebec to provide all-traffic stations in both French and English by September.
In return, Transport Quebec has entered an agreement to purchase $1.5 million in advertising per year for three years on both the French and English stations – for a total of $9 million.
The original plan was for Cogeco to obtain a license from the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to broadcast the traffic stations on the 690 and 940 AM frequencies they own.
The hitch was that Cogeco already operates four French stations and obtaining a fifth license would have been very difficult.
Competitors Bell Media – which owns CTV – and Astral Media opposed Cogeco's license application, forcing a public hearing that is scheduled for Oct. 17 – long after the required September delivery date for the all-traffic station for Transport Quebec.
"We had a deal with the transport minister that we were supposed to operate right at the beginning of September," said Michel Tremblay, 98.5 FM sports program director. "So the fact that this opposition could (cause) some delay, that's why we decided to do that."
Cogeco withdrew its application for 690 AM, but maintained the application for 940 AM for the English channel, meaning that project is on hold until the CRTC renders its decision on the license.
A Transport Quebec spokesperson said they had no control over the delay of the English station because it is up to the CRTC, but that the radio station has assured them that as soon as they get approval they'll be ready to go.