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CRTC denies Golden West’s application to drop folk music from CHOO-FM’s schedule

On February 6, 2015, the CRTC denied Golden West’s 2014 request for permission to stop playing folk music on CHOO-FM Drumheller, Alberta.

According to the CRTC (2015-35), Golden West “stated that it was unaware” of the requirement, and said that its presentation to the CRTC in Edmonton (May 27, 2008) did not include any reference to folk music.  Golden West also told the CRTC that “that it had never intended to play this form of music and that the requirement was “not a good fit” for CHOO-FM’s musical sound or its listeners” (paragraph 5, of 2015-35).

Golden West is correct that its oral remarks at the CRTC’s 2008 public hearing to consider radio applications from Golden West, Newcap and Thomas Bolin (on behalf of a company to be incorporated) did not refer to folk music – but its application and its response questions from the CRTC hearing panel did.

When Golden West applied in January 2008 to the CRTC for the Drumheller station, its application form included a table describing the proposed station’s “Music sub-category breakdown”:  90% pop, rock and dance, and 10% folk and folk-oriented (see below).

Music sub-category Description Minimum % of total music
21  Pop, Rock and Dance 90%
22  Country and Country-Oriented
23  Acoustic
24  Easy Listening
31  Concert
32  Folk and Folk-Oriented 10%
33  World Beat and International
34  Jazz and Blues
35  Non-classic Religious


Golden West did not agree, though, to have this format made a condition of its licence (it checked “NO”, signifying it would not operate, by condition of licence, within the Specialty format).

At the May 2008 hearing, however, Commissioner Candace Molnar, Golden West’s President and the company’s CEO had this exchange:

1146             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Thank you.  And I will move off of music in just a minute into some of the other elements, but I have a couple more questions related to music.

1147             One relates to your ‑‑ in your application you stated that 10 per cent of your music would be folk and folk‑oriented music as part of your adult contemporary format, that 10 per cent would be in the sub‑category 32, folk and folk‑oriented music; is that correct?

1148             MR. FRIESEN:  Yes.

1149             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Could you tell me how many hours 10 per cent is?

1150             MR. FRIESEN [President, Golden West Broadcasting]:  Offhand, I won’t be able to do that because it would be a guess but, you know, what we’re trying to do there is to emphasize the  broad‑based appeal or broad‑based approach to scheduling music and playing music.

1151             So, that’s what we’re trying ‑‑ so, no, I can’t give you a specific number.

1152             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So, I assume that you’re not planning to play that as a program in a dedicated period of time but more within your entire ‑‑

1153             MR. FRIESEN:  Right.

1154             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:   ‑‑ musical list.

1155             MR. FRIESEN:  Right.

1156             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  So, under that situation would you be willing to commit to the 10 per cent ‑‑

1157             MR. FRIESEN:  Sure, yes.

1158             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  ‑‑ as a condition of licence, to have that as a condition of licence?

1159             MR. FRIESEN:  Sure, yes.

1160             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  Thank you for that.

1161             MR. HILDEBRAND [CEO, Golden West Broadcasting]:  I think the other area where this comes into play is in the emerging area of music which all of us are having a hard time    defining, but if you look at our existing radio stations, the half‑hour weekly program that we put on from local artists, I mean, it’s a broad cross‑section of music.  And, so, some of that would certainly fall into that category there as well.

1162             So, it just enables us to sort of be a little broader.

1163             COMMISSIONER MOLNAR:  Okay.  I’m going to turn away from music now and speak of some of your spoken word commitments.

In granting Golden West the Drumheller licence (2008-194) the CRTC specifically addressed Golden West’s commitment to folk music in its reasons:

14. The addition of this service would contribute to the musical diversity of the Drumheller radio market, with an Adult Contemporary format targeting an audience from 25 to 50 years of age. Golden West indicated that a minimum of 40% of all musical selections from content category 2 (Popular Music) broadcast during the broadcast week and between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday would be Canadian selections, which exceeds the requirements set out in the Radio Regulations, 1986 (the Regulations). The applicant also indicated that 10% of the musical selections broadcast in each broadcast week would be drawn from subcategory 32 (Folk and folk-oriented), as defined in Public Notice 2000-14. The Commission considers that the programming proposed by Golden West and the audience targeted by its proposed service would repatriate out-of-market tuning, in particular, to out-of-market radio stations that operate under a format similar to that proposed by the applicant.

The same decision included a folk-music requirement in the list of conditions of licence that the CRTC applied to the licence:  “3. The licensee shall devote 10% of all musical selections broadcast during each broadcast week to selections drawn from content subcategory 32 (Folk and folk-oriented).”

The CRTC’s current decision to deny Golden West’s application applies its 2011 approach to radio stations’ non-compliance, in which a licensee’s application is s evaluated in terms of the quantity, recurrence and seriousness of the licensee’s regulatory non-compliance.  The decision also reflects the CRTC’s concern about the integrity of its licensing process:  “The Commission’s general practice has been to expect that an applicant awarded a licence as part of a competitive process maintain its programming commitments for at least the first term of its licence and to evaluate any amendment requests on a case-by-case basis while reviewing the station’s compliance with its conditions of licence and the Regulations” (para 8 of 2015-35).

Golden West’s licence for CHOO-FM expires this August – will the CRTC give the same detailed consideration to the other commitments made by Golden West at the 2008 hearing, about local news, reporters, local musical talent hours, local talent expenditures, and staffing levels?:

1059 MR. FRIESEN: Local news is an integral and essential part of local content and a top priority, certainly our top priority. All day local announcers will talk about current issues and stories.
1060 The cornerstone of our local content will be a comprehensive, fully staffed team of interactive reporters gathering and reporting ongoing news stories and community events while also giving in‑depth coverage to a busy sports community, a large, very diverse and active arts community and of course the agriculture and ranching industries. And because the pulse of a community is its people you will just as likely hear from everyday citizens as you will the mayor, councillors and other prominent locals. We will be talking to Drumheller’s business leaders, chatting with parents getting their kids off to school and getting comments from the cheering crowd at the local Peewee game.

1075 [Mr. Friesen] Another Golden West hallmark is the promotion, support and exposure of local musical talent. We actively promote and provide exposure for a host of local musicians and emerging artists. For us this is all about giving exposure to local groups and musicians, showcasing their local brand of music. For Drumheller this includes airing and producing weekly programs featuring local talent. There is an amazing source of local musical talent in Drumheller, more than enough for us to produce Made in Drumheller, a weekly 30‑minute program showcasing the music and talent of singers and songwriters from the region.
1076 We will also create a new and separate music category specifically for emerging local artists, scheduled a minimum of three times a day, seven days a week, all in primetime, 6 A to 6 P.

1087 [Mr. Hildebrand] As an example, our weekly half‑hour program featuring local artists will have a value of more than $200,000 alone in real exposure over the first licence term.
1088 We have also committed $5,000 annually for seven years to the Drumheller Composite High School music program, $5,000 annually for seven years to the East Coulee Spring Music festival, $2,000 annually for seven years to Beethoven in the Badlands, $8,000 annually for year six and seven to artists that have not yet emerged. This is a total commitment of $100,000 in cash over the seven‑year licence term.

1252 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I wanted to ask a couple questions about hiring local. First off, approximately how many people are you expecting to hire within the Drumheller ‑‑ for the Drumheller radio station?
1253 MR. FRIESEN: I think when we start it will be 10 to 12 people.
1254 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I want to understand what you mean about, we will be 100 per cent local and we will hire local.
1255 We heard, for example, Newcap this morning talking about the very important element that synergies bring to being able to have a profitable station within a market such as Drumheller.
1256 Are you looking to have synergies with some of your other stations and take advantage of anything within your other radio group?
1257 Or, when you say you are 100 per cent local within Drumheller, is it an autonomous, you know, 100 per cent operated within that market?
1258 MR. HILDEBRAND: What we do, basically, is we have 100 per cent autonomous on‑air news and programming that the back room ‑‑ I mean, as you heard from Newcap, there are a lot of synergies in our accounting, traffic, administration, engineering and overall management, but the local service is provided by local people that are right at the station.

(Source:  CRTC public hearing transcript, May 28, 2008 – Edmonton, Alberta, considering the FM radio applications for Drumheller,

Finally, it will be interesting to see whether the CRTC, in considering Golden West’s application to renew CHOO-FM, offers residents of Drumheller some indication of the station’s economic impact on the community.  Financial projections submitted by Golden West on March 12, 2008 for the new station forecast local advertising revenues of $12.277 million (from Years 1 to 7), and total operating expenditures on the station of $11.397 million.  (CHOO-FM launched in  April 2009 – meaning that its first year of operation ended August 2009, and its seven year in August 2015).

Has Drumheller received the benefits offered by Golden West to the community – and will the CRTC’s renewal process set out the details and evidence needed to answer this question?

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