Changes At TSN Radio Montreal


I know I am in the minority when I say the governmental regulations in Canada as they pertain to media ownership are a joke, but so be it.

Today, TSN Radio 990 was pretty much shuttered due to the laws around ownership and language in Canada. From the press release:

“Bell’s acquisition of Astral Media, announced in March 2012, and the CRTC’s Commercial Radio Policy that outlines certain limitations surrounding the ownership of multiple radio stations in a given market.”

So what was TSN radio 990 – home of the Habs, an english language station now becomes RDS radio, a french station.

“With a continued focus on local sports, RDS Radio 990 is an extension of RDS’s powerful brand as the #1 French-language specialty channel in Canada. As the country’s 24-hour all-sports Francophone radio station, RDS Radio 990 will have comprehensive coverage of the Montreal sports scene, along with best-in-class analysis from RDS sports experts and Insiders.

English-language broadcasts of the Montreal Canadiens will move to Astral’s CJAD 800, pending CRTC approval. The Montreal Canadiens broadcast is a great fit for CJAD 800, whose impressive stable of programming also includes the exclusive English radio broadcast of the Montreal Alouettes and the Montreal Impact games”

How exactly this plays out is not entirely certain.

I would imagine that key talent could be available for the taking or re-shuffling to other properties, but time will tell.

I would hope that this news was shared with Montreal radio personality Ted Bird, who joined Team 990 on May 18.

Remember the name Mitch Melnick? He was rumored to be a potential target for a Toronto based sports station. He is good. Really good. How would he do in Toronto? Would he move? Does he have to???

While TSN may blame the ownership situation, it’s true but it’s also convenient. One could imagine that if the station was wildly successful they would have made alternate arrangements. But I digress.

What’s clear to me is that TSN needs to decide if they are truly in the radio business for keeps or if it’s just a promo for tv.

On two occasions recently TSN “talent” has been on the radio and “refused” to discuss timely matters on the air due to the fact that the topic was going to be covered on TV later that night.

If TSN is really in the radio business, that can’t happen.

The Fan doesn’t put Kypreos on with Brady and Lang to talk hockey only to have him promote hockey central either at noon or that night.

Two different times that happened on TSN radio, two different times that I can recall where “insiders” alluded to the fact that they couldn’t discuss an issue due to the fact that they had TV features that night.

As long as that happens it’s hard for fans to take TSN radio for anything other than TV promo. It’s too bad because there are good people with good shows on the network. Either you are all in, or stop pretending.

I will post the June radio #’s shortly, but here is what I can tell you in short. Mccown continues to dominate. I mean BIG time. The Blue Jays are having a killer effect on TSN radio, wiping them off the charts, almost completely. People may not go to games, but they are tuning in BIG.

Happy Hump Day.


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July 11, 2012 2:27 am

Is what i read earlier right? Bell could own 3 english language stations but they bought 4 and tsn is the one they dumped?

If their ratings were better, they could have kept tsn and dumped onw of the other stations, yes?

I also presume theres already a french sprts talk station in montreal.

July 11, 2012 3:37 am

TSN Radio in Toronto is curiously low profile.

The Fan isn’t perfect, but compare the profile of hosts, say, 9AM to 7PM? The Fan has Blair, Millard/Kypreos/Maclean, Tim and Sid, and McCown. TSN has Scott Macarthur, Bryan Hayes and James Cybulski. Those guys are OK, but there’s no star power. The Fan has lots of star power (or the potential of it) with guys like Brady, Tim/Sid and McCown big time.

I haven’t listened to TSN much in a while, but if baseball is hurting them – why not cover it a bit more? I know the Leafs are in their own league in this town, but it’s not like The Fan cut down on Leafs coverage just because they didn’t have the rights. If people want to hear baseball talk, TSN should give a decent alternative. I think Wilner is great personally, but I bet there are many out there who’d like an alternative.

I think TSN Radio is OK. And I’m glad there is competition. But I would say TSM is right – at the moment, it kind of feels like a compliment for TSN TV, rather than its own entity.

July 11, 2012 4:47 am

The best show i think ive heard is dave naylors sat afternoon show but i dont think its podcast available.

I try to listen to cybulskis show on mondays if arhtur is on. Other than that, i see their podcasts and the guests are almosy ways either hockey insiders or entertainers. I do listen to the dan shulman segments.

July 11, 2012 7:13 am

Like him or not, McCown will likely keep Sportsnet 590 in the lead as long as he’s there. And TSN Radio has to work with another major disadvantage at this time of year, with them largely avoiding promoting Rogers property the Blue Jays. As you pointed out yesterday, bringing up the CFL on Toronto sports talk radio, as Richards (or Hogan now filling in for him) seem compelled to do by their bosses, goes over like a fart in a crowded elevator. In the winter when they begin evenly splitting Leafs coverage, it could become a more fair fight.
I’ve preferred 1050 over 590 when I do listen the morning, but with the exception of McCown in the afternoon I have little interest in either station at any time.

July 11, 2012 7:16 am

@Alex, this will be the only current french speaking all sports radio station in Montreal now.

Mike S
Mike S
July 11, 2012 10:49 am

I have a friend who lives in Montreal and he said they have already tried a French all sports radio station and it crashed & burned…………… will be interesting to see how this one does

Raptors Devotee
July 11, 2012 11:50 am

Pretty pathetic how the Montreal English minority continues to get shortchanged, this time with English Sports radio. I blame the CRTC for not making an exception to allow a 4th English radio station by one owner, and Bell is not off the hook either, as they could have entertained other options i.e. shutting down another station, or selling it off. The obvious choice would be to sell off CHOM FM, allowing TSN 990 to continue in its current format. TSN 990 had a very dedicated following, who listened religiously, so although the numbers were not as high as they could be, the frequency certainly was there, and you would think that would be appealing to advertisers.

This is not going to be good either in the sense that a French all-sports radio station is knocking out an English one, if only for the appearance of it. I just spoke to my brother who still lives there, and he told me this is just another case of the marginalization of English Montreal, and that the culture is steadily being eroded there.

TSM, Melnick is everything and more how you described him. If I was TSN Radio in Toronto I would make him an offer he couldn’t refuse to take over from Cybulski, who I can’t listen to. Immediately I would switch over from McCown and never come back.

July 11, 2012 3:49 pm

Since there’s no all sports english radio station in montreal anymore, doesn’t this seem like the perfect opportunity for “Sportsnet 990” to make it’s presence in Montreal?

Raptors Devotee
July 11, 2012 5:18 pm

Daver, that would be great if that could happen. Keep in mind that the CRTC has already approved moving the 990 AM band to 690 AM, and the change was supposed to happen between September 1st and 15th, although with the CRTC meeting scheduled for September 10th, and btw I have already lodged my complaint for the move, I am not sure how this would affect the band change.

If I am Sportsnet I would certainly be looking into it. There is already a campaign to stop the change, and a couple of Facebook pages and twitter campaign has started as well with #savetsn990 currently trending in Montreal.

July 11, 2012 5:39 pm

I’d never heard of Mitch Melnick outside of the comments on this site, and I know nothing about him except for what I just read on wikipedia, where I see the reason I’ve never heard of him is that he has apparently never worked outside of Montreal. Other than the impending change at the station that currently employs him, what leads you to think that a 53-year-old guy who has lived his whole life in Montreal and spent his entire adult life working in Montreal radio would suddenly be eager to move to Toronto?

Raptors Devotee
July 11, 2012 5:47 pm

Mullah, he is not eager to move to Toronto. His family is well entrenched, as you noted, in Montreal. Melnick’s sports knowledge, skill sets, and personality, not to mention a very pleasing radio voice, would do extremely well in this market IMO, but I agree with you, that he is best served by staying in Montreal.

Melnick could make the move to another station i.e. CJAD 800 AM, since there are really no other options, should they incorporate more of a sports oriented station, possibly for the afternoon drive show where Melnick could host.

For me, since I am so in touch with Montreal media, it would be amazing to have Melnick here, where he would immediately connect with lots of Ex-Montreal patriots while still being able to reach out to Torontonians.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
July 11, 2012 6:05 pm

On two occasions recently TSN “talent” has been on the radio and “refused” to discuss timely matters on the air due to the fact that the topic was going to be covered on TV later that night.

…. citation needed?

perhaps these events are common knowledge to others but i have no idea what you are talking about.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
July 11, 2012 6:09 pm

Alex – agree 100% on both points. Naylor deserves to be given a bigger profile. He’s very talented, and would make an excellent co-host/replacement for Cybulski.

Mike S
Mike S
July 11, 2012 6:09 pm

I seem to remember Dreger was very reluctant to talk about Tim Thomas on 1050 because Pierre LeBrun was about to break the story on TV about Thomas possibly taking next year off

July 11, 2012 7:58 pm

No shock re Darren Dreger… the guy takes himself way too seriously…. I never got why TSN brought him over from Sportsnet… he has no charisma and is a complete suck up to Gary Bettman… why do they even need Insiders like Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, and Pierre LeBrun???? are the stories they break really that earth shattering???? Basically the only thing on TSN Radio 1050 thats worth listenting to these days is LAW: Live Audio Wrestling with John Pollock, Jason Agnew, and Dan “The Mouth” Lovranski, and TSN Game Day with Matt Cauz on Sundays….. It amazes me that Mike Richards still hosts a morning show in a major market like this city???? I think his only fan is Bruce Dowbiggin?!!!

Don Mandrie
Don Mandrie
July 11, 2012 8:37 pm

Mitch Melnick might be the best radio talent in the country. McCown is the best sports talk show host in the country but Melnick often goes way beyond sports. It is very difficult to describe the kind of show that he does – you have to listen – for a week or weeks at a time to pick up on everything that he does – but it is deeply rooted in the great but almost long lost tradition of talk radio pioneers.

I still can’t figure out why his own company kept him in Montreal, even as popular as he is in that city. He might be 53 but doesn’t look, act or sound it. He thinks younger but can still draw on an incredible memory bank of sports, music, comedy, film, books & politics.

Melnick has been a consistent ratings winner in the male 25-54 demo over the years in Montreal, wherever he worked and in whichever format. He helped build Team 990 into a viable alternative that caters not only to Montrealers but to so many like me who listen daily on the net. He must be crushed by the news. If I’m TSN I fly him out here immediately and tell him that while there is no future in Montreal, we need you to help build us another station.

Raptors Devotee
July 12, 2012 8:00 am

MONTREAL – Full disclosure: I’m hopelessly biased because the guy is a friend of mine. But lack of objectivity does not compromise this statement of fact: Montreal radio needs Mitch Melnick.

How long we’ll have him has become problematic.

These are tough times for English media in our fair city. The Mirror is gone, and TSN 990 is going.

Bell Media – the communications colossus that owns everything, including the fillings in your teeth that pick up radio signals – plans to convert TSN 990 into a French all-sports station that will bear the imprimatur of Bell’s all-sports television network, RDS.

If the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission approves the switch, my man Mitch and his TSN 990 colleagues will be off the air next year.

At the funky offices on Greene Ave. occupied by the radio station since its distant CKGM days, the staff were summoned to a 10:30 meeting on Tuesday morning. Suits from Bell announced the impending changes to a staff that was gobsmacked by news they didn’t see coming.

Several hours later, Melnick was telling his drive show listeners the announcement “hit a lot of people hard,” himself included. But the 53-year-old veteran of 35 years in the wild and wacky world of Montreal radio was maintaining a stiff upper lip, at least on-air.

“I cannot say what I’d like to say,” Melnick said. “It won’t serve any purpose.”

But working within the strictures of a gag order, Melnick was still able to express “great pride in building a radio station from scratch.” He recalled the station’s 2001 launch as The Team 990 and the poor timing of its first set of radio ratings.

The survey period coincided with 9/11. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, nobody was listening to all-sports radio.

Nor has 990 become a ratings monster in the 11 years since its inauspicious beginning. The latest Bureau of Broadcast Measurement statistics, published in June after a survey period that ran from Feb. 27 to May 27, indicate TSN 990 had 3.3 per cent of the hours tuned by Montreal English radio listeners. CJAD’s share was 23.4 per cent.

The number of anglo listeners tuning 990 during an average day is 53,600. CJAD is heard by 186,400.

Noteworthy is the disparity between these daily audiences and those tuning Montreal’s English FM powerhouses.

Virgin 96 plays to 255,700 listeners every day, while The Beat 92.5 draws 202,800.

AM radio has been in trouble for decades. It is significant that once mighty CKAC, the French AM station that switched from news to all-sports in 2007, became a 24-hour traffic station, subsidized by Transport Quebec, last year.

In an application to change the frequency of its Montreal all-sports station from 990 to 690 – the latter a clear channel that would not be required to power down at night – Bell Media cited losses of almost $5 million at the station from 2007 to 2011. Again, AM radio is a tough slog – especially English all-sports radio in Montreal.

But ratings and corresponding revenue aside, there’s been some damn good stuff on TSN 990 – most of it on weekday afternoons from 3 p.m. until whenever the host splits to go to a game or a concert.

Even if I didn’t know him personally, I’d have no hesitation in saying Mitch Melnick was doing the best radio to be heard on an English commercial station in Montreal. And I’m not sure the modifiers are necessary.

As an informed and articulate broadcaster, Melnick gives Paul Arcand a run for his money. And if it were to drop the commercials – including Melnick’s personal endorsements of a succession of Irish pubs – the afternoon show would not be out of place on the CBC or Vermont Public Radio.

Moreover, Melnick is a good person – a generous and unselfish broadcaster who has fostered the careers of young talents, notably Andie Bennett and P.J. Stock. Melnick is what our people call a mensch.

He and I have our differences. Melnick loves baseball and hockey fights. I’m not overly enamoured of either. But we agree on the allure of the Boston Red Sox, single malt and good writing.

There isn’t a sports commentator in town who’s more knowledgeable or intelligently opinionated than Melnick, a Renaissance man whose formal education stopped at Chomedey High School.

No FM jock, with the possible exception of Randy Renaud, plays better music than you’ll hear on Melnick in the Afternoon. On Black Tuesday, the show began with Shattered – a lesser tune in the Stones’ canon, but appropriate for the occasion. Last song on the playlist was Baby Let Me Follow You Down, by Melnick fave Bob Dylan.

In another song, the latter-day Bard told us we don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

The Montreal Mirror, Mitch Melnick … it’s like an alliterative Agatha Christie murder mystery.

What’s next? Moishe’s?

Raptors Devotee
July 13, 2012 10:45 am

SHOCKING UPDATE written by Brendan Kelly from the Montreal Gazette

Blame Bell, not the CRTC, for the demise of TSN 990

So the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has caught a lot of flak from all of us upset about the demise of TSN Radio 990. But we’ve been mad at the wrong guy.

The villain here is Bell Media. A senior spokesman for the CRTC told me Thursday that Bell never asked for an exemption from the CRTC rule that says that a media company is only allowed to own three English-language stations in a market with eight or less stations. Instead Bell Media has simply applied to the broadcast regulator to shut down TSN 990 and re-open for business – en francais s’il vous plait – as RDS 990.

So it’s Bell that’s killing TSN 990. It’s that simple. Yes the CRTC rule states Bell can’t own more than three stations but the media giant could’ve asked for an exemption and it’s entirely possible Bell would’ve got it.

This is not a theory of mine. Here is the Bell application to the CRTC re TSN 990. It’s pretty darn clear.

“In Montreal Bell is proposing in a separate application to convert its English-language AM station (CKGM) into a French-language sports talk service. This is consistent with the Commission’s Common Ownership Policy and will fill a niche left vacant since Cogego abandoned the format.”

CKGM, by the way, is the call letters for TSN 990. Cogeco used to run all-sports outlet CKAC but the media company converted that station to all-traffic – eds. note: Odd!! – last year.

The CRTC spokesman confirmed that Bell could’ve asked for the exemption in order to keep TSN 990 – but they didn’t. Another interesting wrinkle is that the CRTC could reject Bell’s plan to switch TSN from English to French and force the company to sell TSN 990.

In other words, if you care about TSN 990, hit up the CRTC now and let them know how you feel. “Cause this thing ain’t over by a long shot. Tell the CRTC it’s an outrage to even consider closing down an English radio station here. Tell them – We want our Melnick and we want it now!

July 14, 2012 9:19 am

@Raptors Devotee, thanks for the information regarding CRTC, very interesting indeed. FYI it is my understanding from friends in Montreal that the previous french all sports station switched to traffic due to huge grants/subsidies from the Gov’t for doing so.

Raptors Devotee
July 14, 2012 10:01 am

I was not aware of that Gerry, but given Quebec politics and the level of corruption in the construction industry that has come to light, no real surprise where political favours are bought regularly. There should be room for both an English and French all-sports station in Montreal, and somehow I think that even if Team 990 converts over, some incarnation possibly on the net/satellite radio may arise, although we are not talking Howard Stern here in terms of his audience of course.

There is a huge groundswell of English social media support mobilizing now, and originally a protest was scheduled at a pub, but the confirmations are so huge, over 200 already, that they will move it to an outdoor square downtown to let their feelings be known.


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