North East RadioWatch Special: June 28, 1999

The 1998 Trip Revisited

by Scott Fybush

It's been a year, to the day, since the NERW-mobile pulled into a motel parking lot in Syracuse, ending a nine-day radio trip that began in Boston and took your editors through Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, New Brunswick, Maine, New Brunswick, (no, we did not get lost!), Quebec, Ontario, Quebec, Ontario, and New York.

On the way, we sent out dispatches every other day or so. These were never collected on the NERW archive page, since I had intended to compile a more detailed log of the trip...but a year later, that remained undone. So here are the dispatches presented more-or-less verbatim, with notes after each day providing some "year later" retrospective. My 1999 notes will be in brackets; everything else is as it ran a year ago.

Friday, June 19, 1998

The weather did us no favors, delaying the flight out of Rochester by nearly two hours. Garrett and I were planning to be on our way out of Boston by 9:00...but 11:30 ended up being more like it.

Things looked up from there, as we stopped to visit several Friends of NERW at Portland-area stations. Adam Wolf (ex-WBZ) and Chuck Bullett gave us a nice tour of the WGAN/WZAN/WMGX/WYNZ facility, and we got to meet up with Dan Cole, too.

From there it was over to Fuller-Jeffrey land and WHOM, WJBQ, and WJA--um--E. The delay cost us our chance at meeting R.L. Caron and J.J. Jeffrey, but we did enjoy a visit with program director Tim Moore.

Still a few hours behind schedule, we pulled in at Bob Bittner Broadcast Center North, a.k.a. WJTO Bath, where we had a very nice visit with Bob, Dan Billings, and Tory Gates, and even had a chance to tape a "Let's Talk About Radio" while we enjoyed the view.

The fog started rolling in as the NERW-mobile headed north on Route 1, and while it made it impossible for us to see the Rockland transmitters of WMCM/WRKD and WAVX, we enjoyed our stop at the studios of the "Classical Wave" and our visit with Jon LaVeen and family. Commercial classical in Mid-Coast Maine? Ayuh, and it's doing quite well, it seems.

We saw the studios of WQSS (102.5 Camden) from the outside, and had a bit of a surprise when we found the WMCM/WRKD studios a few miles further south than expected on US 1 -- seems they moved from 415 Main Street earlier this spring.

The last daylight stop was at the former site of WBME (1230) in Belfast, which seems to be a condo development now.

Heard along the way...not a lot of great DX, although we did pick up the sign-off of WNTY (990) from Southington, Connecticut at the improbable hour of 9:40 PM. Maybe it was just coincidence that WNTY, the flagship station of the New Britain Rock Cats, was signing off right after the game with the Trenton Thunder...but then we tuned up the dial to hear an unusually strong signal from WJHR (1040 Flemington NJ) doing its Thunder post-game show. Hmmm...

On Saturday morning (after we tape some Bangor-area radio...and try to figure out what's up with WBZN in Old Town; seems the new CHR outlet is either off the air or inaudible down here in Bar Harbor), we'll tour the Bar Harbor-Ellsworth area, including a stop at WERU (89.9 Blue Hill), always a favorite of ours when we're in the vicinity.

And then we go way down east, through Machias to Calais, Eastport, and then across the border into Canada, ending up in Saint John for the night.

We'll see you in Canada tomorrow (where you'll get 1.42 NERWs for the price of one!)

1999 notes: How fast things change Stateside! The storeroom we saw at WGAN is being converted into studios for WPOR.

Over at Fuller-Jeffrey, well, it's not Fuller-Jeffrey anymore, or at least it won't be soon. We wonder whether Citadel will keep the studios scattered around Portland, or consolidate them into a single facility.

Bob still owns WJTO; some things never change. I never did find the roll of film that had the Portland pictures on it, alas.

A bit up the coast, we had no idea when we visited Jon LaVeen that he was in the process of selling WAVX -- and he couldn't tell us yet. Well, an independent classical station on the coast was fun while it lasted, and at least the new WBQX is still classical. The other half of the simulcast, LMA'd WBYA 101.7, is now simulcasting news-talk WVOM 103.9 Howland.

WBZN was indeed off the air, but had returned the next morning in time to roll a tape or two.

Saturday, June 20, 1998

Remember when we promised you daily updates from the road? Well, we tried...but read on for the explanation of why there was no Saturday update.

Saturday morning dawned cold but clear in Bar Harbor. Setting off into downtown, we began the radio day with a stop at the studios of Scott Hogg's WMDI (107.7), located on the second floor of a shopping arcade. The studio is in a bay window that faces into the arcade, and the jock on duty was happy to see us and say hello.

From there, it was back up to Ellsworth and the studio sites of WKSQ/WLKE/WBFB and WDEA/WWMJ/WEZQ. Both had plenty of stickers and we departed happy.

WDEA's transmitter was next, a two-tower job with guy wires all the way out in the water. Then it was on to Blue Hill and Blue Hill-licensed WERU (89.9). After seeing the transmitter on its eponymous hill, we headed into East Orland and the nifty new studio building. Thanks to volunteer DJ Kim Mitchell for setting this one up; we didn't meet him but we had a very friendly visit with the folks on duty. It's a wonderful facility, complete with three well-equipped studios, a basement performance space, and a huge record library -- and it's a great station to listen to as well.

We headed Down East next, stopping at the WMDI transmitter (the road to which was blocked by a fallen tree) and the WLKE transmitter, then to Machias. We are now prepared to answer some of the confusion about AM 1400 in Machias: it is not on the air, but the tower is still standing out behind a garage. Machias' WALZ-FM (95.3) is on the air, but it's a total relay of WQDY from Calais, though we're told a local studio is in the process of being built.

Continuing on the road east, we found ourselves in Eastport, home of the most easterly radio station in the U.S., Shead High School's WSHD (91.7), which was not, alas, on the air for our visit. Calais' WQDY (1230/92.7) certainly was on the air, and we had a very nice visit with Tom McLaughlin, who wears many hats -- WQDY news director, oldies show host, WSHD advisor, and alumnus of WTBS/WMBR in Cambridge (where he went by the name "Firedog.") Proof of the power of NERW -- he knew who we were when we showed up unannounced. And since we now know NERW shows up on the WQDY bulletin board, we'll mention that it was wonderful to see a station with so much local emphasis and so little satellite programming.

And from there it was across the bridge into Canada, where our first stop was at CBAO (990), the CBC's low-power relay transmitter in St. Stephen. We didn't know what to expect, so it was a pleasant surprise to drive up to the site the GPS receiver pinpointed -- and find a longwire strung between two telephone poles, at an NBTel maintenance depot!

With darkness setting in, we pushed on to Saint John, stopping at the transmitter sites of the late CHSJ (700) and the still-living CFBC (930) before heading into town.

The less said about Saturday night's lodgings the better; suffice it to say the rule for future NERW trips is, "Name brand hotels, only."

At least there was a cable hookup; we were able to plug in and watch some of the programming from CBC's CBAT (Channel 4), ATV/CTV's CKLT (Channel 9), and Global's CIHF (Channel 12) before drifting off to sleep -- but not before noticing that CHSJ's new FM outlet on 94.1 had signed off for the evening.

We really did enjoy ourselves at WQDY -- a very friendly bunch of people and a nifty little small-town station. The other station in town was brand-new when we visited. WCRQ (102.9 Dennysville) was and is mostly automated, with a killer signal well into New Brunswick.

As for the hotel in Saint John, it really was a pit. Should you be headed that way, contact the editors first and we'll tell you where not to stay. One more note on the cable hookup, though: in Saint John and for much of the rest of the Maritimes portion of the trip, we watched the Fox station from back home in Rochester, WUHF, on cable. Bangor's WLBZ was the NBC affiliate, with Detroit and Toledo providing ABC and CBS.

Sunday, June 21, 1998

Sunday morning started with a round of airchecking, which was dampened somewhat by the realization that half the stations in Saint John were running religion on Sunday mornings.

Leaving the hotel, we stopped for breakfast with NERW reader Alan Lamb (thanks for the donuts!), and a trip around Saint John's studio facilities. It seems CFBC (930) and CJYC (98.9) have moved out of the Fundy building on Chesley Drive; through the window there we could see a room with studio furniture, an inflatable shark, but no radio equipment. We're told CFBC and CJYC have moved in on Union Street with CIOK (100.5). CFBC was having a bad day; much of their morning was filled with the sound of the transmitter going on and off the air and miscellaneous buzzing and strange noises. The jock must have been on a hard drive; there was no mention of the technical problems after the station came back on the air mid-song.

We tried, and failed abysmally, to get to the Saint John TV/FM site on Mount Champlain. We did succeed in finding the listed location of CJYC's transmitter above Rockwood Park, but there were no FM bays to be seen.

A brief stop yielded the transmitter site of Saint John's CBAFT (CBC French TV) relay, which was inexplicably located far northeast of the city -- perhaps a spacing issue with co-channel WABI-TV (Channel 5) down in Bangor?

So it was off to Sussex we went, where we spent more than an hour driving in circles in search of CJCW (590), which proved to be nothing more than a relay of oldies station CKCW (1220) from Moncton, which at least had the good graces to do a double-legal ID for both stations.

Regaining our senses of direction, we plowed on to the Moncton area, where we promptly got lost again on some mountainous dirt roads until finally finding the transmitters of Moncton's TV and FM stations, including the CBAT relay on Channel 7 (co-located with CIHF/Global on 27), the CHMO (103.1) tower, and the tall beast that carries CKCW-TV (Channel 2, CTV/ATV) and CHQM (103.9).

We made it down from the mountain just as the needle on the gas tank hit the bottom of the "E," but we found an Irving station just in time (it's not a difficult task in New Brunswick!) and gassed up for the drive to Prince Edward Island.

As most of you (well, the roadgeeks among you, anyway) know, the ferry to PEI has been replaced by a bridge, and what a bridge it is. In between glimpses of the scenery on the eight-mile crossing, we had plenty of time to play with the radio. AM reception in mid-span is incredible; we think we heard the 870 from Newfoundland, we know we heard WBZ, and CHNC (610) from New-Carlisle, Quebec was like a local. WBZ disappeared once we were off the bridge and on land, but CHNC might as well be Radio-Media's local affiliate for PEI, considering the strength of the signal.

Our first stop in PEI was in Summerside, at CJRW (1240), a little country outlet with a big signal that we heard across most of the drive from Moncton. We made the required tourism stop at the House of Green Gables in Cavendish, where we noted that the national park TISes, CBPP-1 (1280) and CBPP (1490) were not on the air.

From there it was back to Charlottetown and the transmitter sites of CFCY (630) and CHTN (720), a yummy dinner of seafood and steaks, and a hotel we could actually enjoy for the evening.

On Monday, we'll head back off-island, with scheduled stops at CKDH (900) in Amherst, Nova Scotia, along with the Radio Canada International site in Sackville and a visit with the CBC/SRC folks in Moncton before spending a night in Fredericton. We'll check in tomorrow night from Fredericton...and we'll also share some closing thoughts about the state of radio and TV in the Maritimes.

There's not much to add to the descriptions here, but this is as good a point as any to offer a market listing for the first few spots we visited, starting with Saint John:

Interesting to note that the "Fredericton" FMs come from the same Mount Champlain site as Saint John's CHSJ-FM and CIOK and serve both cities equally well...but more on that in a bit. First, the Moncton market:

And from there, on to radio in PEI:

Up around Summerside one can hear Moncton FM as well; down near Charlottetown it's much harder -- but Nova Scotia signals like CKTO 100.9 Truro and 25-kilowatt CKEC 1320 New Glasgow are nearly local.

While driving, we also logged many CBC FMs from Nova Scotia, including the 89.5 New Glasgow, 106.7 Mulgrave, 90.1 Bay St. Lawrence, and a hint of 90.5 and others from Halifax, too.

Monday, June 22, 1998

Hello from the luxurious Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, where the NERW Northeast Radio Expedition is wrapping up day six! It's been a few days since we've posted an update from the road; here's what we've been up to:

When we left off, we were in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where we started Monday morning with a drive around the island. In addition to listening to the local stations, we found a nice little FM opening, which yielded catches such as WKIX (96.9) Goldsboro, N.C. and WLGI (90.9) Hemingway, S.C. The latter is -- we kid you not -- an all-Baha'i radio station. The experience of driving around eastern Prince Edward Island whilst listening to a Baha'i radio station from South Carolina is an incredible one, to be sure. Not for the faint of heart!

From there it was over the bridge (sadly, for we liked PEI a lot and hope to return someday) and back to the mainland -- which started with a brief excursion to Amherst, Nova Scotia, partly so we could say we'd been in Nova Scotia and partly to visit CKDH (900) there. We did both, had lunch, and headed back up the Trans-Canada Highway to Sackville, New Brunswick and Radio Canada International.

The RCI site is someplace every radio nut should visit someday. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a friendly employee who promptly fetched an engineer, who gave us an extensive tour of every nook and cranny of the building. It's a wonderfully well-maintained site, and we're relieved to hear that funding for RCI seems to have stabilized of late. They really do enjoy having visitors, and asked us to encourage all of you to go visit, so: go visit. You won't be sorry.

After RCI it was on to Moncton, where we headed for the CBA (1070) transmitter (which was itself at Sackville until about 1970). On the way there, our attention was grabbed by a building on the side of the road with a big green sign reading "CBAF 1300 kc Radio-Canada." Yep, that's right: the former CBAF AM site. The towers are long gone, but the building, tower bases, and STL tower remain. After gawking at that, we drove to the very tall 1070 tower, then into town for a studio visit.

The CBC complex in Moncton is really the Radio-Canada complex, since almost everything that's produced there is for the French-language services. We saw both sides of the building, including the nifty new digital control room being built for CBA's Information Morning program.

We also saw Moncton's other studio buildings, as well as the transmitter site of CKCW (1220), and then hit the road for Fredericton, where we spent the night.

I realize now, in looking back on my visit to RCI, that it must have been designed by the same architect who did the CBL site in Hornby, near Toronto, since both feature similar "visitor's galleries" overlooking the transmitter rooms. RCI is much bigger, of course, and has the slight advantage of still being on the air. More defunct CBC transmitter facilities are yet to come, though...

Tuesday, June 23, 1998

Tuesday morning started on a bad note -- a nail in the tire of the NERW-mobile prompted a visit to the local tire place, where we had to wait for a bit while the damage was repaired.

Back on the road, it was a whirlwind tour of Fredericton's stations, including the inexplicable CIHI (1260) -- a station whose pattern nulls to the south, yet is located north of town. As a result, "C-hi" is heard on two FM repeaters as well.

Fredericton's lone local French-language station, CJPN (90.5), was found in the local French community centre, and we found CBZ not far away.

We also stopped by the studios of the commercial stations, CIHI, CKHJ (105.3), and CIBX (106.9). CIBX is the former CFNB (550), but all that remains of CFNB is some old equipment in a display case in the studio lobby. As for bumper stickers, "the guy who has them is out right now."

And then it was on to the border, with a stop at the old CFNB site, which still stands, complete with the huge "CFNB" calls on the building south of town.

Crossing the border at St. Stephen/Calais, we headed to the Meddybemps, Maine transmitter site of WMED-FM/TV (89.7/13) and the new WCRQ (102.9). It wasn't as tall as we had expected, but was easily accessible and had call letters on the door, so we'll settle.

Trying to continue our complete trip of U.S. 1, we headed north through Danforth and not much else before reaching Houlton, where we listened to WHOU (100.1), which was live and local, then went back into New Brunswick to see the site of CJCJ (920) in Woodstock. The border guard at the I-95 crossing in Houlton was amused to learn that we'd only been in Canada for twenty minutes or so -- so much so that he started laughing and let us right through.

There was no sign of the old WHGS (1340), so we drove north to Monticello, where we stopped at the transmitter of WREM (710). Owner Al Weiner has filled the land next door to the station with all manner of antiquated broadcast equipment and other machinery. No sign yet of Weiner's shortwave station, which will be built next door.

We drove past Mars Hill, site of WMEM (106.1/10) and WQHR (96.1), and then up to Presque Isle for a very pleasant visit with Andy Soule at the cramped but functional building that's home to WQHR, WBPW (96.9), and WOZI (101.7). We also saw the WEGP (1390) site south of town, the college station, WUPI (92.1), which was not on the air, and of course WAGM-TV (Channel 8), complete with the "CBS-NBC-ABC" sign out front (though almost everything seems to be CBS these days). There was little local programming to be heard -- WQHR and WBPW are local in morning drive, WCXU (97.7 Caribou) and WCXX (102.3 Madawaska) are local for much of the day, and everyone else is on the bird.

In Caribou, we saw the brick building that houses religious WFST (600), but there was nobody home, so we headed north to a cabin in Madawaska for the night, where we watched the WAGM newscast before settling in. News in market number 201...need we say more?

We'll start off with the market list for Fredericton, which looks like this:

Fredericton can also hear most of the Saint John FMs, except the 98.9, which is closer to Saint John than the rest. On our morning there, we also had what was probably trop-enhanced reception of Moncton FM, CKLE 92.9 Bathurst (simulcasting CJVA 810 Caraquet, from the French-speaking northern part of the province we didn't have time to visit), and WQHR from Presque Isle, too.

A note here, as well, about what's on TV in the Maritimes: it's almost all networked out of Halifax. The ATV network is now owned by the national CTV network, and programs its local news out of its Halifax station, with newsrooms in Saint John, Moncton, Charlottetown, and possibly Sydney as well contributing items to the regional newscasts. The newly-national Global network had recently taken over the "MITV" independent network that broadcasts from CIHF transmitters in Saint John-Fredericton, Moncton, Charlottetown, and several Nova Scotia sites. We saw a small Global newsroom in Moncton, but programming for this service also originates in Halifax for the most part. The CBC does province-wide 6 PM newscasts on weekdays for New Brunswick (originating from Fredericton with bureaux in several other cities), Nova Scotia (Halifax), and PEI (Charlottetown), with a single regional newscast at 11:30 from Halifax and national news only on weekends. On the French side, Radio-Canada's regional 6 PM news is broadcast from Moncton to all three provinces via CBAFT transmitters; other programming comes from Montreal. TVA and TQS programming is available on cable from Montreal as well.

One more development: CJCJ was recently granted a construction permit for a new FM transmitter a bit to the north, in Grand Falls.

Across the border, there have been a few changes since our visit to Presque Isle and Monticello. Allan Weiner put shortwave WBCQ on the air last fall, with a very solid signal this way. WOZI moved to 101.9, and moved transmitter facilities up to Mars Hill at the same time. Also moving to Mars Hill is WAGM-TV, which could return it to the TV dial in Fredericton, where Toledo's WTOL is the CBS affiliate of choice -- or at least was, as we hear Detroit's WWJ-TV has replaced WTOL on the Canadian satellite system. But then, Fundy Cable just asked for permission to put WBZ on in place of WTOL, so who knows?

Wednesday, June 24, 1998

On Wednesday morning, we began by heading for the end of the road -- or at least the end of U.S. 1 in Fort Kent. After taking the obligatory photos, it was off to WUFK (92.1), which was not on the air, and Maine Public Radio's WMEF (106.5), the most northerly station in New England, which was on. There was no sign of the tower of the now-deleted WLVC (1340).

Returning to Madawaska, we admired the view of the St. John River valley from the WCXX site before heading across to Edmundston, New Brunswick.

Driving up on Tuesday, we had noted that Edmundston's CJEM (570) had turned on its FM transmitter on 92.7. Imagine our surprise when, upon stopping by CJEM, the station manager told us Tuesday afternoon had been the very first time the FM had been on the air. A moment of history...and your NERW team was there for it! The CJEM-FM signal is quite impressive, covering all the way down to Presque Isle. We saw the AM site, which will go dark in about two months.

From there, it was across the border into Quebec, where we heard the station in Degelis, CFVD (95.5), and saw from a distance the FM and TV transmitters for Rivière-du-Loup before heading into the town to see their studios.

Then we began heading south, where after an unsuccessful attempt to find the studios of CHOX (97.5) in La Pocatière, we drove to Quebec City.

The two remaining AM stations, CHRC (800) and CBV (980), are both south of town. CBV has only a few months remaining on AM; its FM on 106.3 is on the air already.

The day's last stop was at the Ile d'Orléans site of CBVT (Channel 11), a tall tower festooned with no fewer than 20 FM bays -- 10 for CBV-FM (95.3), 10 for CBVE (104.7), and neither in use since both stations moved a while back.

And from there it was into the Old City, a wonderful dinner of pasta and seafood, and back to the hotel.

Next stops: Montreal on Thursday, Ottawa on Friday, and home! We'll try to check in at least once more, and then we'll have a complete report next week.

We haven't heard much about CJEM since then, but one would have to assume the AM is long since defunct.

The CBC situation in Edmundston is a bit strange, since CBAM on 1320 is a very low-power relay transmitter that barely covers the city, while big-coverage CBZC on 103.3 in Bon Accord serves the surrounding area much better. It probably matters very little, since Edmundston is a Francophone city and CBC listenership likely hovers near zero. We'll note here that the CBC TV signal on channel 6 from Bon Accord is the English-language service for all of northern Maine and northwest New Brunswick.

For some reason, I omitted one stop on the drive up to Rivière-du-Loup: we just had to take a picture of the sign announcing the small village of St.-Louis-du-Ha-Ha. We still don't know why they called it that.

Rivière-du-Loup's dial looks like this:

Many of the stations listed in the vicinity no longer exist, like the 98.3 and 102.7 in Cabano and the 105.1 in La Pocatière. I suspect these were relays of low-powered AM stations that have since been replaced by higher-powered FMs (like the 95.5, ex-1370, in Dégelis).

What we didn't realize yet was how Rivière-du-Loup was one of the few Quebec cities not to have been taken over by the Radiomédia networks. CJFP and CIBM remain locally-programmed, albeit under common ownership. Also of note here: no Radio-Canada second service, and no English radio to be heard at all, the only spot where this proved true.

Thursday, June 25, 1998

Welcome to the last update in our "NERW On The Road" series. It's been a long trip from Boston to Prince Edward Island and then back west; here's how we spent the last two days.

Thursday morning found us leaving Quebec City with a trip around town to the various stations' studios. One thing that was immediately apparent is how the Radio-Média group has homogenized its station lineup across Quebec; we found CHIK (98.9) using the same logo and "Energie" format as Montreal's CKMF, and CITF (107.5) sharing the "Rock-Detente" format with CITE in Montreal and several others across the province. On the AM side, the old CJRP (1060) and CKCV (1280) are gone; the only remaining commercial one is CHRC (800), which uses the same news-talk format and network programs as CKAC (730) in Montreal.

Walking around Place d'Youville, we found the small office that houses CBVE (104.7), Quebec City's lone English-language station. CBVE produces its own morning and afternoon drive programs, which are fed to the rest of the CBC English network in Quebec outside Montreal as the "Quebec Community Network."

We drove by the avenue Myrand studios of CFCM (Channel 4), which are also nominally the studios of CKMI, Global's Quebec City affiliate, which was created by taking the license of Channel 5, once a private English CBC affiliate, and moving it to 20 (and more importantly, adding relays to reach the English-speaking viewers in Montreal on 46 and Sherbrooke on 11). Channel 5 is now CBVE-TV, a straight relay of CBMT in Montreal. Its transmitter remains on the self-supporting tower that also has CFCM.

From there it was up the mountain to see the rest of Quebec City's TV and FM transmitters -- a most impressive drive with a nice cluster of towers up top carrying most of the FMs, and a smaller tower down the hill holding CHOI (98.1).

One more Quebec City note: there are plenty of billboards around town advertising CBV's move from 980 to 106.3. The former CBV-FM on 95.3 is now identifying as CBVX.

Leaving Quebec City behind, it was off to Trois-Rivières, where it began to rain. We waited out the rain over lunch, then headed up to Shawinigan to see the tower that carries Trois-Rivières' FMs and TVs. It's a monster -- well over a thousand feet tall with an impressive encrustation of TV and FM bays.

We saw the Trois-Rivières TV studios as well; one for TVA affiliate CHEM (Channel 8), the other for Radio-Canada affiliate CKTM (Channel 13) and Quatre-Saisons outlet CFKM (Channel 16). And when we hit the radio studios, sure enough, Radio-Média had struck again: "Energie" on CIGB (102.3), "Rock-Détente" on CHEY (94.7), and news-talk on CHLN (550), with a simulcast in Shawinigan on CKSM (1220).

Crossing over the St. Lawrence River, we stopped at the former site of CJTR (1140), where one tower remains standing, then to the CHLN site and onwards towards Montreal under cloudy skies.

Our first stop on Montreal's South Shore was in Brossard, where a short walk took us to the transmitter of CBF (690) and CBM (940), at least for the moment. Both stations have added FM service, CBF on 95.1 and CBME on 88.5 (with a miserably bad signal, we might note), and the clock is ticking on the AMs.

We also stopped by the former site of CFMB 1410, which left the air a few years back when the multi-lingual station took over CJMS' old 1280 facility. 1410 was reactivated earlier this year as a temporary home for CJAD, which lost its own 800 kHz facility to the ice storm. More on that in a moment...

From there it was over the bridge, into the city, and dinner along the streets of the Old City.

We should have stayed longer in Quebec City, if only to soak up more of the history. I hope to go back sometime soon.

When I do, CBV will be long gone from 980 -- it signed off from AM a few months after our visit. Little else has changed in Quebec since then, but a few more notes need to be made here:

It's interesting that the CBVE/Quebec Community Network studios aren't even in the same building as the French-language Radio-Canada facilities in Quebec. A sign, no doubt, of the linguistic tension that persists in la belle province?

In addition to the stations mentioned above, there's a vibrant FM dial in Quebec City, including university and community radio from CKRL 89.1 at Université du Quebec, CHYZ 94.3 at Université Laval (recently granted a power increase), and CKIA 96.1, a community station in the Basse-Ville section of Quebec. There's a religious station, CION 90.9, that we didn't hear, and several suburban stations that converted from AM to FM and now serve Quebec itself, most notably CFOM Levis, which seems to have combined the old CFOM 1340 and CFLS 920.

As for Montreal, CBF and CBM are history now, and we'd best get back there soon to see the CKVL 850 site before that station moves to the old CBF 690 frequency. But we digress...

Friday, June 26, 1998

On Friday, we started off back on the South Shore, beginning with CFMB's current towers, a six-tower inline array. As the rains set in again, we drove further south to CJAD, where we were greeted with a pleasant surprise. The transmitter plant supervisor, who lives next door, saw us taking pictures in the fog and invited us in to see the old Continental transmitter and the even older Continental backup. He then pulled out the photo album so we could see the damage that kept 800 off the air for almost six months. The site itself was without power for more than three weeks.

From CJAD it was off to CKGM's seven-tower array on 990, which switched a few weeks ago from being an interim home to CJAD to running mostly-automated oldies. Then we looked for CHAI (101.9) in Châteaugay, only to find the GPS receiver pointing us towards -- a church?!?!? Indeed, there were two FM bays crowning the steeple. Now we've seen everything.

Well, almost everything -- we kept driving north, passing the four towers of CIQC (600) and pulling into the Kahnawake Indian reservation for a look at CKRK (103.7), the very professional-sounding station that serves the South Shore and West Island as "K103" or "The Monster on the Seaway," or "103 dot 7", or, sometimes, "Mohawk Radio." We saw the tower next to the reservation's sports center, but couldn't find the studios, and went back into the city to see some downtown studios.

Those included the Télé-Québec facility on rue Fullum; the huge Maison Radio-Canada on blvd. Réné-Levesque (alas, we weren't able to get a tour) that is the headquarters for the CBC's French-language radio and TV operations; the TVA headquarters on ave. de Maisonneuve, and the CFCF/Quatre-Saisons monolith on ave. Ogilvy. We also took the mandatory drive up Mount Royal to see the massive antenna covered with TV and FM bays that's home to nearly every station in town. If the weather had been better, we'd have walked up to get a closer look, but unfortunately the rain kept us away.

Then it was time for lunch and the drive out of town, this time heading north and west towards the CKAC (730) two-tower array in Pointe-Calumet and the other native station in the Montreal area, CKHQ (101.7) in Kahnesetake. Unfortunately, CKHQ wasn't on the air, and on 101.7 we heard WCVT in Stowe, Vermont and CJSO in Sorel instead. The GPS led us to a house that was supposed to be the CKHQ transmitter site, but it sure didn't look like much, so we pressed on towards Hawkesbury.

Crossing the river, we tuned into a nifty little two-province simulcast, CJLA (104.9) Lachute, Quebec and CHPR (102.1) Hawkesbury, Ontario. The CHPR transmitter appears to be on one of the stubs from the old CHPR(AM) on 1110 south of town. At Garrett's insistence ("We've gotta see what this looks like!"), we also turned off Highway 34 to see CICO-TV-96 (Channel 48) and CHLF-TV-2 (Channel 39), which both rebroadcast TVOntario programming, the former in English and the latter in French, a rarity since most viewers get TVO's French service only on cable. That's changing, apparently, as TVO puts up more French transmitters in Francophone areas of the province.

From there it was down Highway 417 and into Ottawa for dinner and a night at the historic Chateau Laurier (hey, we hunt towers in style!). One thing missing from the airwaves: there was no sign of the CFDT tourist-information stations on 96.5 and 99.9 that are supposed to be along 417 heading into the city from either direction.

In our final update later in the weekend: visiting the Ottawa transmitters and studios, Smiths Falls, Brockville, back over the border and, at long last, home. And sometime next week, once we've caught up, we'll update all of you on the news of the last nine days. Has WBZ been bought by Salem and will it become all-religion? We've been on the road so long, we'd have no idea! We can't wait to see what we've missed...

Not that much, as it turned out -- but you can look in the NERW archives for that.

A note here on TV in Quebec: it, too, is heavily networked around the province. Radio-Canada appears to produce a local suppertime newscast for Montreal and one for the rest of the province from Québec, and other than that and the sign-off slate, it's the same diet of programming on all the R-C owned transmitters. But our hotel room in Montreal offered a magnificent view to the south towards Sherbrooke, allowing us to see programming from CKSH-TV 9, one of several privately-owned R-C affiliates. CKSH had its own promos and presumably its own suppertime news as well, but the programming was still fed from Montreal otherwise. TVA, the original private commercial network, is entirely a network slate of programs with some local IDs and spots, and apparently one local newscast a day. In some markets, Sherbrooke again being one of them (via CHLT-TV 7), the same private company owns both the TVA and R-C stations. In others, like Trois-Riviéres, the same company owns affiliates of R-C and TQS, the other commercial network. The public provincial network, Télé-Québec, feeds the exact same programming to all its transmitters, it seems. In English, all programming originates in Montreal, with CBC, CTV (via CFCF-TV), and Global all maintaining a presence locally, and CBC and Global maintaining transmitters elsewhere in the province as well. U.S. network programming originates in the Burlington-Plattsburgh market and appears to be fed by microwave from Montreal at least as far up as Québec.

And that TVO/TFO transmitter in Hawkesbury? It looked like a heavily-loaded paging/cellular/etc. tower with a few small UHF antennas attached...

Saturday, June 27, 1998

So here's how the Great Radio Trip of '98 wound down...

Saturday morning began with a distinctly non-radio event, as your editor indulged another hobby interest with a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa.

Returning to form, we walked over to the York Street studios of CHEZ (106.1) for a guided tour from production guru Craig Jackman. CHEZ just recently moved into its new digs in a converted grocery warehouse, and it's a really nice place, largely arranged in an open plan (no walls around the newsroom or engineering areas, for instance). A stop at a used bookstore around the corner also turned up some Canadian gems for the NERW bookshelf, including books by CBC stars Barbara Frum and Knowlton Nash.

After lunch, it was back on the road, stopping at studio locations on the Quebec side in Hull (CIMF and CHOT/CFGS in the same industrial park) and Gatineau (CKTF, which now shares space with CJRC in a building adjacent to the big shopping mall there).

Recrossing the river, we passed several more studios, including the CBC's TV operations in a residential neighborhood on Lanark Avenue and the CJOH/CKQB complex on Merivale Road, before turning south at day's end.

Time allowed us only a handful of additional stops: a failed attempt to get close to the CJRC (1150) transmitter, a stop at the CFRA (580) array on Highway 16 south of the city, and then the long drive down the 401, over the Thousand Islands Bridge, and into Watertown, where we made the last stop at public TV WNPE (Channel 16) on Arsenal Street.

And from there it was dinner and another hour or so south to Syracuse, where our long journey came to a close some three thousand miles from its start.

A return to Ottawa is also in order, since much has changed in the last year. Rogers ponied up C$15 million in September to buy CHEZ and Smiths Falls sister stations CFMO/CJET to add to its existing CIWW and CKBY in Ottawa, with the latter stations due to move into that nifty CHEZ studio eventually. CJBZ on 1200 dropped its CHR format for sports last fall, as we'd known it was planning to do -- but it also went back to its old CFGO calls, which we didn't expect. Rawlco is selling CFGO and sister FM CJMJ ("Majic 100") to the CHUM group, which already owns news-talk CFRA 580, CHR CKKL 93.9, and "The New RO," independent TV station CHRO.

Which reminds us to point out that the Ottawa-Hull market has more TV stations than anywhere else in the country, with just about every network represented, both English and French. Top to bottom:

In short, there's almost nothing you can't see in Ottawa, except the CTS religious TV service from Hamilton (which will probably be on cable soon), TFO (which is available on cable), and a handful of independent and provincial public networks from western Canada. U.S. TV signals come from Rochester, which is an arrangement that dates back to the early days of Canadian cable when the Rochester signals were picked up over the air at Belleville and microwaved up to Ottawa. The only exceptions here are Fox, which comes by satellite from WUTV Buffalo, and PBS, which comes from Watertown.

That Watertown station changed calls after our visit, becoming WPBS-TV in September. Very clever!

And we'll once again leave off in Watertown, which was the very next stop a few weeks later, as we headed back up to finish seeing the sights and the sites. That, however, is a story for another day.

Eventually I'll finish compiling all the tapes from the trips and put an ID compilation on the site somewhere...but for now, I hope you've enjoyed the trip back a year. We'll be back with our regular NERW on Friday!

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