Could North Americans handle Britain’s cheeky advertising?

In 1975, an irreverent U.S. broadcaster named Lorenzo Milam decided to write a book that would serve as a how-to guide on how to start up a non-commercial radio station on a shoestring budget. He decided to call the book Sex and Broadcasting because, as his aunt advised him, the mere suggestion of sex would automatically double the book’s sales and quadruple its readership.

Milam’s aunt couldn’t have been all that wrong. Sex and Broadcasting became something of a classic among its niche audience, and Milam’s book of advice is still considered a valuable reference nearly 40 years later.

The makers of Tom Ford Neroli Portofino body oil are likely hoping that their racy advertising campaign will also double sales and quadruple product use. The ad shown below, which appeared in the London Evening Standard on April 19, a free newspaper distributed at London Underground stations, depicts a young nude couple, with parts of their anatomy not printable in a respectable newspaper cleverly concealed, dousing each other with the product.

London Evening Standard, April 19, 2013

London Evening Standard, April 19, 2013

The ad is the least racy of three used in the full campaign; the other two not-safe-for-work adverts being easily found on Google Images.

A newspaper can get away with such advertising in Britain, which tends to be a bit more socially conservative than its European neighbours, but still has a rich history of suggestive advertising and pushing-the-edge comedy.

Would such ads play well here in North America?

Perhaps they would be tolerated in the continent’s more outward-looking global crossroads cities, but it’s reasonable to presuppose that ads of this type would get a rougher ride in North America’s vast, less worldly, and often very insular provincial regions where reaction was most outraged at Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” that exposed part of one of her breasts on network television. (Violence is fine on North American network television. But sex or nudity? Outside of a few cable television niches, not so much.)

Even as late as 2011, a former NDP MLA in British Columbia caused controversy when he suggested that it was inappropriate for Premier Christy Clark to wear an outfit in the Legislature that displayed a decidedly modest amount of cleavage.

All this suggests that the Tom Ford ad, which was deemed suitable for publication in the London Evening Standard, might still not be considered suitable for publication in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg Sun or Metro.

But, I’ll leave this up to the audience. If you opened the Free Press, Sun or Metro one day and saw the ad above, how do you suppose you and those around you would react?

My brief holiday in London happened by pure chance to coincide with the funeral of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The opportunity to be an eyewitness to history and to watch the funeral procession go by en route to St. Paul’s Cathedral was too good to pass up.

However one feels about Mrs. Thatcher, who is still both loved and hated by many Britons, nobody does pomp and circumstance like the British.


Time for the FM band to turn Japanese?

AM_FM“Hello, hello, this is station CKZC, Winnipeg,” were likely the first words ever spoken over a Winnipeg radio station, by Lynn V. Salton, a former Royal Navy wireless officer who founded radio station CKZC at his Grosvenor Ave. home in February, 1922.

CKZC was a modest operation that only operated on Sunday and Tuesday evenings at a wavelength of 420 meters (roughly 710 on the AM dial) and a power of just 100 watts. The station would sign on with Salton playing the “El Capitan March”, followed by more records from Salton’s collection during the course of the evening.

It is presumed that CKZC disappeared from the airwaves around the time that the Winnipeg Free Press launched the short-lived CJCG at about 730 on the AM dial a few weeks later, with Salton as the station’s first announcer.

Though it was a mere fraction of the power used by modern AM stations — most Winnipeg and southern Manitoba AM stations broadcast at at least 10,000 watts —  Salton’s 100-watt station was picked up as much as 845 miles away (1,360 kilometres) according to the Manitoba Historical Society, thanks to the tendency of lower-frequency AM band signals to be reflected off the atmosphere at night.

It also helped that the radio bands were much less congested 91 years ago, when the first primitive AM radio stations were going on the air.

Tune across the AM band at night now, and you’ll hear a cacophony of sound as stations from up to 3,500 kilometres (2,175 miles) away clash with each other.

Unlike signal range, where AM still has a certain advantage over FM in rural areas, sound quality has never been one of AM radio’s advantages. AM stations still have to pack their signal through a relatively narrow “pipe” about 20 kHz wide, one-tenth the bandwidth typically available to an FM station and one-seventy-fifth the bandwidth used by a satellite radio channel.

It’s not just the bandwidth and background interference from other stations that puts AM at a disadvantage. So does its relatively low frequency, which makes it more vulnerable to crackling, crunching and buzzing noises caused by lightning, machinery, appliances, household electronics and power lines.

As portable FM radios and cassette tape players, with their superior sound quality, took the marketplace by storm in the late ’70s and early ’80s, AM radio stations began losing listeners rapidly. Many dropped music in favour of talk formats, and as profits continued to evaporate, replaced local programming with inexpensive syndicated shows.

AM’s descent into irrelevance continued nevertheless. In the United States, AM reached the turning point in 1978, the last year that it accounted for more listener-hours than FM. Today, AM stations account for less than one-fifth of all U.S. listener-hours, and the typical U.S. AM radio listener is 57 years old, according to a 2009 U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) study.

Among younger listeners, who vastly prefer listening to music whenever they listen to the radio at all, AM is a rarely visited wasteland of feverish haters, conspiracy theorists and religious fundamentalism. The same FCC study found that 12-24 year olds spend just four percent of their listening-hours on the AM band, rising only slightly to a nine percent share among listeners aged 25-34 years.

This led the U.S. broadcasting regulator to conclude that, “the story of AM radio over the last 50 years has been a transition from being the dominant form of audio entertainment for all age groups to being almost non-existent to the youngest demographic groups.”

Consequently, many broadcasters are beginning to give up on AM radio. The former 58 CKY and CKRC 630 have long since decamped to the FM band as 102.3 Clear FM and 99.9 Bob FM respectively. Two more stations — CKSB 1050 and the weaker CKMW 1570 from Morden/Winkler — are poised to join the exodus, with plans to shut down their AM transmitters and to move to 88.1 and 88.9 FM respectively.

This, plus CJNU’s plans to move from 107.9 to 93.7 FM, and plans to open a new country music station in Steinbach on 107.7 FM, mean that the Winnipeg FM dial is running out of bandwidth.

A new station on any other frequency would have to prove that it wouldn’t cause interference not just to any other Winnipeg or southern Manitoba station, but would extend the same courtesy to FM stations as far away as Brandon, Kenora and Grand Forks — a consideration that limits the FM dial to 20-25 local stations in even the largest cities.

Where will that leave CJOB 680, CKJS 810 and TSN Radio 1290, the three remaining Winnipeg stations without an FM slot?

One possibility would be to take over an existing station’s slot. This is a viable option for CJOB, which has a sister station in 99.1 Fresh FM that has been doing only so-so in the ratings. CKJS and TSN Radio, however, could only do this by displacing a more successful sister station.

Another suggested option would allow for massive power increases to fight off electrical and weather-related interference. Yet another would be for AM stations to simultaneously broadcast in both analog and digital, with the receiver switching back and forth between the two modes depending on which one produces a better signal; but results so far in places where digital AM radio has been attempted are far from encouraging.

There is also growing talk in the United States about expanding the FM band by annexing the frequencies currently allocated to TV channels 5 and 6, located just below the FM band between 76 and 88 MHz.

Such an expansion, if it even happens, is probably years away. Though most full-powered U.S. TV stations abandoned channels 5 and 6  in the 2009 digital switchover due to poor reception — digital TV reception on channels 2-13 often ends up looking something like this — a few stations still continue on. Some analog low-power and repeater stations that were exempt from the U.S. 2009 and Canadian 2011 switchover deadlines will continue operating until about 2015, and some might attempt to stay on channels 5 and 6 as digital stations thereafter.

Either the remaining channel 5 and 6 stations would need to move to other channels, or some kind of frequency-sharing agreement would have to be reached.

That latter option has a precedent: while FM radio was expanding rapidly in many parts of the world in the ’70s, Australia was struggling with the fact that it had already assigned the 88-to-108 MHz band used in most of the world for FM radio to Australian TV channels 3, 4 and 5.

After considering the possibility of using higher UHF frequencies, a move that would have made Australian portable FM radios useless in other parts of the world and vice-versa, an agreement was reached to move most TV stations overlapping with the proposed 88-to-108 FM band to new channels, aside from a few repeaters in isolated areas with no FM service. A second agreement will eliminate the remaining TV/FM overlap when Australia’s last remaining rural analog TV transmitters shut down at the end of 2013, reserving the 88-to-108 band exclusively for FM radio.

Given the long distances between the few full-powered channel 5 and 6 digital TV stations that will exist in either Canada or the U.S. after 2015, such a dual-use agreement could be reached. Accommodating FM stations in the space currently reserved for these TV channels should not be a problem in Winnipeg: both channels have been allocated for digital TV use in Winnipeg, but both are unoccupied and almost certainly will remain that way.

A second advantage of expanding the FM band downward is that radios that can tune in those frequencies are already being manufactured for the Japanese market, where FM radio stations have traditionally operated between 76 and 90 MHz, and might soon start showing up in the 90 to 108 MHz band after being vacated by Japanese TV stations during that country’s 2011 digital TV switchover.

Even if the North American FM band is extended down to 76 MHz in the years ahead, allowing all remaining southern Manitoba AM stations to move to FM if they choose, some local stations will continue simulcasting on both bands for 10-15 years after a 76-to-108 FM radio becomes standard in Canadian vehicles, as that is where many Canadians do their radio listening, and no ratings-sensitive broadcaster will give up that market segment.

At least not yet. But radio listening habits, like many other habits, are developed early and are progressively more difficult to change with age. This does not bode well for AM stations competing for the ears of a younger generation that spends more than 90 percent of its radio listening time on the FM band, and many hours more listening to high-quality audio tailored to their own tastes online and on their iPods. Like the listening public, AM radio stations will need to migrate to new technology to survive.

Community TV need not rely on the CBC’s old junk

Do you live in rural Manitoba or northwestern Ontario and still pick up CBC from one of their many towers dotting the region? Then get ready, because that signal will almost certainly be going off the air on July 31.

Canadian government policy once decreed that any community with 500 residents or more should, if possible, live within range of a CBC transmitter. This led to a proliferation of CBC towers across the province in the ’60s and ’70s, extending service to remote communities that had to wait until as late as 1975 to get their first glimpse of television.

Construction slowed in the late ’70s as the rapid growth of a new technology, satellite television, gave remote mining towns and First Nations access to the same array of programming found in the big cities.

By the late ’90s, home satellite dishes were both cheap and compact, leaving the CBC’s aging network of rural transmitters increasingly viewer-less.

Thus, it was no real surprise when the CBC applied on April 4 — less than a week after the federal government cut the Corporation’s funding by 10 percent — to shut down all of its English TV transmitters in Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario, except for the Winnipeg transmitter, on July 31.

Though the shutdown officially needs regulatory approval, the CBC “has already given notice to affected tower landlords and has terminated all of the Corporation’s leases on the sites where our analogue television transmitters are located,” according to an April 4 letter to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

“We have also formally notified all [cable companies] of the termination of our analogue over-the-air television transmission at all sites effective July 31, 2012.”

This will save the CBC the enormous cost of converting its many transmitters across the province to handle digital signals. The Winnipeg stations that had to make this change by Aug. 2011 had to spend millions of dollars on engineering studies, new equipment and channel changes in preparation.

The CBC’s decision has led a small group called the Canadian Association of Community Television User Groups and Stations — or CACTUS for short — to insist that the CBC’s soon-to-be-retired towers and transmitters be made available for local use.

“This transmission infrastructure is worth millions and has already been paid for by Canadian taxpayers,” the group says on its web site.

“Rather than being scrapped, it could be maintained by communities themselves. The transmitters and towers can be used not just to continue free TV service, but also to set up local wireless Internet or mobile service, or a community TV or radio service.”

CACTUS supporters have launched a letter-writing campaign to federal broadcasting regulators, urging them to block the CBC from shutting down its rural transmitters without offering them to local communities first.

The trouble is: the CBC’s aging transmitters and towers are of limited value.

“Analogue technology and the related equipment and parts for repair are no longer readily available in the world,” the CBC noted in its April 4 application to the CRTC. “. . . [T]he expected life of these analogue transmitters is therefore very uncertain, and limited at best.”

Community groups taking over the CBC’s old rural transmitters would essentially have to go through all the steps required to launch a completely new TV station: applying for a broadcasting licence, building studios, buying a new transmitter, hiring staff, figuring out how to get the signal from the studio to the transmitter site, and so on.

And then there would be further complications.

First, there’s the matter of the towers. Many CBC towers are aging and require regular maintenance to ensure that failed strobe lights don’t make the tower a safety hazard to pilots, and to ensure that a tower can withstand the rigours of Manitoba weather.

In 1983, CKX-TV in Brandon was suddenly knocked off the air when its faulty 1,363-foot tower south of the city snapped and fell to the ground during a snowstorm. Across the border in 2004, Prairie Public Television’s Grand Forks transmitter was wrecked when a chunk of ice fell off the tower, and smashed through the roof of the transmitter shed at the tower’s base.

Then there’s the problem of the channel the CBC’s stations operate on.

Of the 48 transmitters that relay CBC Winnipeg programming to communities all over Manitoba, northwestern Ontario and three northern Saskatchewan villages, 46 of them are on the channel 2-13 VHF band.

Those are not good channels to be on in the digital era.

VHF channels 2-13 were fine in the old analog era. Though they were prone to interference from “skip” and everyday household appliances — hence the early abolition of the particularly vulnerable Channel 1 — they provided a reasonable signal at acceptable cost to station owners.

These channels were considered far preferable to UHF channels 14-83. UHF stations offered a cleaner signal, but needed more power to match the range of VHF stations, and reached fewer viewers due to the fact that many early antennas and TVs were not designed to receive UHF channels.

It’s all different in the digital era. Unlike old-style analog signals, digital signals don’t break out in squiggly lines, “ghosting” or dots when they are suffering from interference. The TV simply gives up trying to sort out the weird information it is receiving, and crashes.

VHF is so problematic for digital TV station owners that Rabbit Ears, a blog for digital TV enthusiasts, has started keeping track of stations’ desperate efforts to move to UHF, or at least get a massive power increase approved, under the heading VHF Nightmares.

This has been consistent with some Winnipeg viewers’ experiences: little or no difficulty picking up CBC, SRC, Global or Joy TV, all of which operate on UHF — but significant difficulty picking up CTV or Citytv, both of which stayed on their old VHF channels after the 2011 digital switchover.

To sort it all out, a community group that has been handed the CBC’s old equipment would have to find a UHF channel to move to, and not just install a new transmitter at the tower base, but a new transmitting antenna up at the top, too.

That would get very expensive, very quickly.

Those interested in keeping free CBC service in their community or starting a new community TV station have better options available to them than CACTUS’s plan.

They could follow the same path as local volunteer-run stations such as UMFM 101.5, CKUW 95.9 and CJNU 107.9, which operate from low-power transmitters installed on top of existing high-rises. (UMFM broadcasts from the corner of Portage and Main; CKUW and CJNU broadcast from neighbouring Osborne Village high-rises.)

Currently, nothing stops any community organization that has the funds to do so from applying for a TV station licence, even if it’s just a shoestring-budget operation consisting of a low-powered transmitter and antenna installed on top of a high-rise or a cell tower.

From a 70-metre (230-foot) high-rise or cell tower, a community group putting out a relative low-powered 500 watt signal on UHF channels 14-51 could expect to provide decent indoor reception over about an 11-kilometre (seven-mile) radius.

That would be enough to cover most of a medium-sized city, or a small town and its surrounding area.

Double the power to 1,000 watts (still a fraction of what commercial broadcasters use) and move up to a 110-metre (360-foot) tower or building, and coverage expands further to about 16 kilometres (10 miles).

And there are channels galore available for would-be community TV station operator to choose from. In Winnipeg, there are unclaimed channels on 25, 28, 42, 43, 46, 48 and 49. In Brandon, 16, 18, 27, 34 and 49 are up for grabs. The same is true for channels 30 and 50 in fast-growing Morden-Winkler.

Using the subchannels, a community group could offer CBC, CTV and Global service to a community abandoned by the corporate broadcasters, and offer a community channel based on Shaw’s Cable 9 in Winnipeg — or even on the hilariously bad Videon/Cablevision community access channels of the ’80s.

Community-based TV is within the grasp of any dedicated group of citizens. And it need not rely on the CBC’s goodwill.


QX 104, Ignite 107 seek stronger signals in Winnipeg

Have you been having trouble getting clear reception of QX 104 or Ignite 107 on your alarm clock radio or in the office?

Apparently the owners of those two stations have heard your complaints, and are taking steps to improve reception in Winnipeg.

QX 104 has been battling the fuzzies since it signed on in 1981 as CFQX 92.9, a small-town community station from Selkirk with little more than a fringe signal in parts of Winnipeg. A new, higher-powered transmitter and a move to 104.1 in the late ’80s allowed the station to reach a larger audience and possibly save the station from going dark.

Their equipment still wasn’t able to push a fuzz-free signal in office buildings and high-density neighbourhoods, so the station is seeking broadcast regulator permission to move from its current transmitter site just west of Selkirk to a new site near Oakbank, about 15 kilometres closer to central Winnipeg.

If approved, this should guarantee a reliable signal on even the cheapest of the city’s radios, as well as providing the Steinbach area with better coverage.

A transmitter closer to Winnipeg will leave some listeners in Gimli, Winnipeg Beach and other Interlake communities with a weaker signal.

QX 104’s request comes on the heels of Ignite 107.1 getting regulatory approval last month to upgrade its flea-powered signal.

The plan approved by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will see Ignite 107.1 close down its 920-watt transmitter on top of Chateau 100 on Donald St. and switch on a new 100,000-watt system on Highway 2 between Oak Bluff and Starbuck.

This move will allow Ignite to offer a better signal on indoor radios in suburban areas, and expand its car radio coverage to Morden, Winkler, Portage, Stonewall and Steinbach. Indoor fuzziness might continue to be an issue in the downtown area and the eastern half of Winnipeg.

The station previously had a troubled history, once shutting down for a year due to financial difficulties, returning to air, and then continuing to bleed red ink  until it was sold to Golden West Broadcasting in 2008 for less than the cost of a Vancouver handyman-special bungalow.

Ignite’s move into the big leagues will reduce the city’s stock of low-powered microstations by one, leaving only 45-watt CJNU 107.9, 250-watt Kick FM 92.9 and  450-watt CKUW 95.9 continuing to operate at less than 1,000 watts.

Several Manitoba communities set to lose service after Digital TV switchover

Forget the Government of Canada ads about “clearing the snow” from Canadians’ over-the-air TV reception after this week’s digital TV switchover in Canada’s big cities. Some Manitoba communities will have nothing but snow thanks to some little-publicized changes the TV stations are making.

Manitoba’s TV stations aren’t just changing to digital. Many of them are reducing power and some are moving from tall rural towers to city rooftops, reducing their signal’s range.

  • CBC and Radio-Canada used to broadcast from a 324-metre (1,063-foot) tower near Starbuck, Man at 100,000 and 59,000 watts respectively. They’ll be moving by October to the roof of the Richardson Building, and reducing power on their new UHF frequencies to 42,000 watts and 7,600 watts respectively.
  • CTV will be staying put on their Ste. Agathe tower, south of Winnipeg, but reducing power from 325,000 watts to 24,000 watts on Channel 7.
  • Global has moved to the top of the former CanWest building in downtown Winnipeg, and is now on UHF Channel 40 with a power of 25,000 watts. They formerly operated from the CBC’s Starbuck tower at 325,000 watts.
  • Citytv will be continuing to broadcast from its Elie tower, west of Winnipeg, but will reduce power from 325,000 watts to 8,300 watts on Channel 13.
  • Joy TV will continue to broadcast on Channel 35 from their tower just off St. Mary’s south of the Perimeter, but will be reducing power from 22,000 watts to 6,000 watts.

These power reductions are based in part on some controversial calculations made by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which oversaw the 2009 digital transition south of the border.

Even though digital TV should require less power than traditional analog TV to produce a watchable picture, many critics argue that the Commission grossly underestimated the power needed for a station’s signal to overcome the challenges of the urban environment, where signal-absorbing trees and buildings and interference from machines and appliances take their toll on a signal.

When the U.S. switched to digital in 2009, some stations frantically sought power increases or to move from the Channel 2-13 VHF to the Channel 14-52 UHF band as it became clear that their digital signals weren’t strong enough to penetrate the urban jungle.

Since there have been a lot of hits on this blog over the past few weeks from people with questions about digital TV in Manitoba, here is a pre-emptive response to the questions some of you will have as to why you can no longer receive your favourite stations — and some suggestions on what you can do about it.

And if you want to get a better idea of what you should be able to receive where you live, check out Your Guide to Digital TV in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba.

If you live or have a cottage in Gimli/Winnipeg Beach…

  • Radio-Canada Manitoba will remain weak in Winnipeg Beach, even with a rooftop antenna, and will become virtually impossible to receive in Gimli. You’ll probably get better results pointing your antenna east toward their Channel 11 analog transmitter near Fort Alexander.
  • CBC might still have a so-so signal in Winnipeg Beach if you have a rooftop antenna. This signal will become very difficult to receive in Gimli. (Hint: If you point your antenna ESE, you might pick up a weak analog signal from CBC’s Channel 4 Lac du Bonnet analog transmitter. If you point it north, you might pick up another CBC signal on Channel 10 from Fisher Branch.)
  • CTV reception will be very poor, even with a rooftop antenna. (Hint: Viewers north of Inwood might be able to get a weak CTV analog signal on Channel 8 from the station’s Fisher Branch transmitter.)
  • Global, Citytv and Joy TV will be very weak in Winnipeg Beach, even with a rooftop antenna, and will be virtually impossible to receive in Gimli.

If you live in Morden/Winkler…

  • CBC and SRC will become virtually impossible to receive, even with a rooftop antenna. Currently, Morden is on the outer edge of the station’s rabbit-ears range, and Winkler is in the station’s rooftop-antenna zone.
  • CTV and Citytv’s signals will lose strength, and might be difficult to receive with an indoor antenna in the middle of town. Both stations currently offer moderately strong “Grade-A” analog signals or better.
  • Global should be virtually impossible to receive, now that it has reportedly shut down its old analog transmitter.
  • Joy TV will be difficult to receive.

If you live in Portage la Prairie…

  • Radio-Canada Manitoba will become extremely difficult to receive, even with a rooftop antenna. Currently, Portage la Prairie is on the outer edge of the station’s rabbit-ears range.
  • CBC Manitoba will only be putting a very weak “deep fringe” signal into Portage. Currently, Portage is on the outer edge of the CBC’s rabbit-ears reception range.
  • CTV reception will only be satisfactory with a rooftop antenna.
  • Now that its analog signal is reportedly off the air, Global will be very difficult (if not impossible) to receive in Portage. Portage is just outside the western fringe of Global’s digital TV coverage area.
  • Joy TV will be extremely difficult to receive, as Portage will be on the extreme outer edge of its digital reach.

If you live in Selkirk…

  • CTV and Citytv’s signals will lose some strength, and might be difficult to receive with an indoor antenna in the middle of town. Both stations’ current analog transmitters cover Selkirk with a moderate “Grade-A” signal.
  • Joy TV might also lose some strength, with its analog “city-grade” signal being replaced with a digital signal that might not be strong enough to overcome the ground clutter in the middle of town.

If you live in Steinbach…

  • Radio-Canada Manitoba, CBC and Global will all drop from good to marginal indoor reception in Steinbach. Signal quality will depend on how many buildings, trees and other obstructions there are between you and the transmitter.
  • Citytv will be even worse, as Steinbach sits right at the point where any realistic hope of receiving Citytv with an indoor antenna ends.

If you live in Winnipeg…

  • Citytv might be difficult to receive in the eastern half of the city if you’re using an indoor antenna. Signal quality will depend on how much ground clutter — such as buildings and trees — there is between you and the Citytv transmitter.

Incidentally, the stations aren’t necessarily to blame for coverage reductions. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, the federal agency which regulates the airwaves in Canada, invited public comments on both Global’s and the CBC’s plans to reduce rural coverage — and no one objected.

A video trip back to the ’70s

A bit of lighter fare in this week’s View from Seven, as we take a trip back to the ’70s, thanks to the phenomenal video archive maintained and frequently updated by Vancouver YouTuber robatsea2009, and additional clips from GWhizIneedAname and ronj218.

Modern-day Zellers, Wal-Mart and Target stores look like boutiques compared to the rather ugly “new” K-Mart store featured in this 1978 ad from a Cleveland TV station. But at least the musical theme is rather upbeat.

It’s 1979, and this new thing called “VHS” has come on the market, allowing you to record movies anywhere and play them back on your TV set. Trouble is, you’ll need to lug a huge camera and recorder around with you all day.

Jeez, do they still have Saturday morning cartoons? (CBS, 1975)

A young Connie Chung makes a brief appearance during a local station break in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve 1976.

Slow news day in Cleveland? This 1978 newscast (with five anchors, including one who’s wearing a tomato-red jacket) opens with a “bad news” story: yes, the price of hamburger is going up! Check out some ’70s technology at about the 03:00 mark.

A fascinating behind-the-scenes clip showing NBC’s Jessica Savitch letting loose a rant while preparing for an evening news update, possibly in early December, 1979. It’s not clear how this clip came to be in the public domain, but probably came from an unencrypted satellite feed that network staff either accidentally left open, or deliberately left open for the entertainment of master control operators at affiliate stations and the relatively few Americans who owned satellite dishes at the time.

Savitch died in a 1983 motor vehicle accident, only a few weeks after delivering a news update in which some people suspect she might have been slightly inebriated or stoned.

An even more serious meltdown by ABC News Chicago correspondent Max Robinson, recorded from the satellite feed, after discovering that network brass had decided to have a (white) anchorman in Washington do the lead-in to his story on the May 25, 1979 crash of American Airlines Flight 191 at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Lost on the Dial: Winnipeg’s Lesser-Known Radio Options

Scan up and down the radio dial and it might seem that there are more choices than ever on Winnipeg’s airwaves. Indeed there are: No fewer than five new radio stations have gone on the air in Winnipeg since 2000.

That number rises to seven, if you include the rebirth of the failed Freq 107 (now Ignite 107) and the temporary presence of Flava 107.9, which was being run from a 700-square-foot apartment by the time it collapsed in 2007 amid allegations of unpaid wages and the existence of “real” and “fake” members of the Board of Directors.

Despite the increased variety over the past decade, the local radio market continues to be dominated by just a handful of veteran stations. Though a total of 28 stations put a reasonably solid signal into Winnipeg, the top five — CJOB, Hot 103, CBC Radio One, QX-104 and Power 97 — accounted for nearly 60 percent of all listener-hours in Fall 2010, while the top 10 stations accounted for slightly more than 85 percent of listener-hours.

Now here’s a primer on the also-rans in the Winnipeg radio market — the stations you might not have known existed.

810 CKJS Winnipeg

Format: Ethnic  (primarily Filipino); some religious programming

Morning Show: “Good Morning Philippines”

Afternoon Drive Show: “Afternoon Pasada”

Survival Strategy: Target niche audiences, not the general public. Rely on community to generate low-cost programming.

On air since: 1975

Ownership: Newcap Radio

Transmitter: 10,000 watts, located off Waverley south of the Perimeter

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Excellent

Web Site: (Streaming Audio link)

920 CFRY Portage la Prairie

Format: Country music and rural community programming

Slogan: “Real Country Radio”

Morning Show: Ryan Simpson

Afternoon Drive Show: (None in particular)

Survival Strategy: Local, local, local

On air since: 1956

Ownership: Golden West Radio

Transmitter: 25,000 watts (less at night), located just west of Portage

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Good to excellent

Web site: (no Streaming Audio)

950 CFAM Altona

Format: Mix of classical music, rural and religious programming

Slogan: “Your Community Station”

Morning Show: “Al, Michelle and Jayme”

Afternoon Drive Show: “The Drive Show with Kevin Geisheimer”

Survival Strategy: Give the Bible Belt what they want to hear

On air since: 1957

Ownership: Golden West Radio

Transmitter: 10,000 watts, located  south of Winkler next to the U.S. border

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Good

Web site: (Streaming Audio link)

1250 CHSM Steinbach

Format: Classical/rural/religious

Slogan: “AM 1250”

Survival Strategy: Focus on the needs of Steinbach and the sparsely populated southeastern corner of the province

On air since: 1964

Ownership: Golden West Radio

Transmitter: 10,000 watts, located on Hwy. 59 west of Steinbach

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Excellent

Web site: (no Streaming Audio)

CKMW 1570 Morden

Format: Country music

Slogan: “Country 1570”

Morning Show: “Mullin in the Morning”

Afternoon Drive Show: “Afternoons with Wayne Lamb”

Survival Strategy: Shares studio space with CFAM Altona and Winkler’s Eagle 93.5 to keep costs down

On air since: 1980

Ownership: Golden West Radio

Transmitter: 10,000 watts, located south of Morden

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Rimshot to good, depending on quality of radio

Web site: (no Streaming Audio)

CKXL 91.1 Winnipeg

Format: Manitoba Francophone music/culture

Slogan: “Envol 91” (“Flight 91”)

Morning Show: “Un Rayon de Soleil” (“A Ray of Sunshine”)

Afternoon Drive Show: “CDTraké” (“CD Track”)

Survival Strategy: Non-commercial community station supporting Franco-Manitoban culture

On air since: 1989

Ownership: La Radio Communautaire du Manitoba Inc.

Transmitter: 61,000 watts, from the CBC tower southwest of Winnipeg

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Excellent

Web site: (Streaming Audio link)

92.9 CKIC Winnipeg

Format: Talk/Music/Variety

Slogan: “92.9 Kick FM”

Survival Strategy: Target the Red River College campus

On air since: 2004

Ownership: Crecomm Radio

Transmitter: 250 watts, located at the RRC Notre Dame campus

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Good within a kilometre or two of campus, probably acceptable in most of northwest Winnipeg if your radio has an antenna. Strictly a rimshot signal (i.e., passable on a car radio but too weak for reliable indoor reception) for those living east of the Red River or south of the Assiniboine or in the middle of downtown.

Web site: (no Streaming Audio)

95.9 CKUW

Format: Music/Talk/Variety

Slogan: “Open Playlist Opens Minds”

Survival Strategy: Volunteer support at the University of Winnipeg

On air since: 1999 (as a radio station; previously operated closed-circuit)

Ownership: Winnipeg Campus-Community Radio Society

Transmitter: 450 watts, located on a high-rise in Osborne Village

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Good in central Winnipeg, but might require an antenna in suburban areas. Rimshot signal only in ex-urban areas.

Web site: (Streaming Audio link)

101.5 CJUM

Format: Music/Talk/Variety

Slogan: “One-oh-one.five UMFM”

Survival Strategy: Volunteer support at the University of Manitoba

On air since: 1998 (Predecessor station was on air from 1975 to 1980 on 101.1 FM)

Ownership: University of Manitoba Students Union

Transmitter: 1,200 watts, located on top of one of the office towers at Portage and Main

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Good to excellent in most of Winnipeg; antenna might be required on the city’s outer fringes

Web site: (Streaming Audio link)

Link I’ll catch hell for if I don’t include: Winnipeg Internet Pundits

107.9 CJNU

Format: Nostalgia

Slogan: “Music of the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and More”

Survival Strategy: Volunteer support, and use a temporary “special events” broadcasting licence to get a foot in the door

On air since: Intermittently since 2006, pending the awarding of a permanent broadcasting licence

Ownership: Nostalgia Broadcasting Cooperative

Transmitter: 45 watts, located on top of an Osborne Village high-rise

Signal quality in Winnipeg: Should be good in the centre of the city, might require an antenna in some older post-war suburbs. Strictly a rimshot signal if you live out beyond Assiniboine Park, Lagimodiere Blvd., Bishop Grandin or the Chief Pegius Bridge. (Which is probably not bad if your transmitter is less powerful than most lightbulbs!)

Web Site: (Streaming Audio link)

Other stations capable of putting a rimshot/deep fringe signal into Winnipeg which might be audible on more sensitive radios:

  • Mix 96.7 (Hit music; Steinbach)
  • CKDM 730 (Country music; Dauphin)
  • 740 The Fan (Sports talk; Fargo, N.D.)
  • CKLQ 880 (Country music; Brandon)
  • Maverick 105.1 (Country music; Cavalier, N.D./Morden, Man.)
  • Z 106.7 (Hit music; Walhalla, N.D.)

Other stations capable of putting a rimshot/deep fringe signal into Winnipeg: