The Disappearing Anglo Media

Silencing Montreal Sports Fans

My heart sank when I heard that TSN 990 was going to be shut down—for several reasons.

For starters, I have the radio dial in my car set to 990 AM, 24/7. The first question I asked myself was “Damn, what the hell am I supposed to listen to now?”

The second, more haunting thought, was about my future (selfish, I know).

Since the first day that TSN 990 (then Team 990) began broadcasting, I have not only been a loyal listener, but an aspiring radio host, dreaming of one day walking into the offices at 1310 Greene Ave.—not to pick up a pair of tickets or a hockey helmet my dad won for me in a contest—but to walk down the hall and sit in front of a microphone, so that I could drop some sports knowledge on this city.

But back to the real problem: we’re losing our station. I say “our” with reverence to the loyal, hardcore TSN 990 following that has been there since day one. I’m referring to the Louies, the Dominics, and Jerry from Rosemont—the guys who call in to every show to have their voices heard.

And now, that collective voice is about to get its windpipe crushed.

Pick your poison: the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission made the rules that have caused this travesty, and Bell Media made the decision to cut TSN instead of Virgin 96, CHOM* or CJAD 800.

Bell Media did make a request to have an exception made for TSN, but it was quickly denied by the CRTC, and that was that.

Let’s get one thing straight: this has nothing to do with the French-English debate, or spiting the anglos, or even separatism. This was a business decision. As Mike Boone wrote in The Gazette last week, the latest statistics taken indicate that the number of anglo listeners tuning into TSN 990 during an average day is 53,600; heavily outnumbered by CJAD (186,400), Virgin (255,700) and The Beat (202,800).

In short, the station was the least popular, despite its following and the fact that they own the rights to broadcast Montreal Canadiens games, and was the obvious casualty when the CRTC came calling.

That being said, there’s still a major problem here. There is no doubt in my mind that there should be a francophone sports-radio station in this city, but not like this—not at the expense of an anglo station, and not by causing even more tension between the two sides.

CKAC was the last all-sports French station in Montreal, before shutting down last year. Was there not a single French media company that could afford to save the station? Or better yet, start it anew under a new name, on a new channel?

The most disappointing part of all this is the talent we are going to be losing. Mitch Melnick is a Montreal radio legend. Tony Marinaro went from daily caller to one of the top sports insiders in the city. Randy Tieman is the nicest guy on the radio, and a smart one at that.

“The Morning Show,” consisting of Elliott Price, Shaun Starr, and recent addition Ted Bird brings consistent, insightful analysis while managing to get you laughing like a maniac, even on the dreariest of mornings.

We can’t forget the young talent coming up through the ranks. Connor McKenna, Dave Kaufman, Moe Khan and others have given us a glimpse into the future of English sports-radio in Montreal; a future that now, barring a miracle, looks pretty damn bleak.

*Factual correction made in seventh paragraph. The third station Bell Media is looking to purchase (from Astral Media) is CHOM 97.7, not the Beat 92.5 as previously reported. The Link regrets the error.