Vermont Public Radio urges Montreal listeners to oppose college station’s repeater

By Ben Mook

A request by a Canadian college radio station to mount a 100-watt repeater in Montreal has triggered stiff opposition from Vermont Public Radio, whose coverage in the market would suffer interference if the signal were approved.

The Concordia Student Broadcasting Corporation, a nonprofit connected to Montreal’s Concordia University, operates CJLO 1690 AM. An area near one of Concordia’s campuses receives the AM signal infrequently if at all.

An engineer looked for room on Montreal’s crowded FM band to accommodate a 100-watt repeater, which would fill the hole in the AM signal. The proposed signal, 107.9 FM, is also used by VPR’s Burlington station, about 100 miles away.

“There is no frequency left in Montreal on the FM band,” said Michel Mathieu, the engineer. “This is the only one we can use. And all we want to do is cover a few blocks in the downtown area near the campus, where the AM signal doesn’t get to.”

Mathieu said the student station knew that VPR was broadcasting on the frequency but that the Vermont station already faces heavy interference on the signal.

“There aren’t many residents in that part of downtown, and I don’t think it will impact them that much,” Mathieu said. “We’re not doing this on purpose, obviously, but we’re kind of stuck. . . . On this side of the border VPR is doing a good job, but it’s not a Canadian station.”

“We’re not out to hurt anyone,” Mathieu said. “We’re just trying to get our little place in the sun.”

The application is now under consideration at the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. VPR is urging Canadian listeners to weigh in with complaints about the application before the May 26 comment deadline. VPR has no other recourse, because the CRTC is not bound to protect signals of U.S.-based broadcasters.

“VPR doesn’t have standing in this, so we’re encouraging our listeners to file complaints with the CRTC,” said VPR CEO Robin Turnau. “And we’re hoping a substantial volume will show the value of having an NPR station in Montreal.”

Turnau said VPR’s own engineering studies showed the repeater would have greater impact than forecast by CPTC’s studies. The Montreal station draws an audience of about 20,000, and about 350 VPR members live in the city.

“It’s important on a number of levels to us,” Turnau said. “But for our Canadian listeners, it’s important to have a station that brings English-speaking news into Montreal, especially U.S. news from NPR. And we’re the only NPR station in Montreal.”

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