November 05, 2014

Erin Radio Orangeville transmitter rejected

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin Radio’s plan to rebroadcast programming in Orangeville, in order to ensure its survival, has been rejected by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The agency supported the validity of complaints from other radio companies that the station was “attempting a ‘back-door’ entry into the Orangeville radio market”, which it is not licensed to serve.

It also ruled that the new signal of 50 watts would be too weak to make optimal use of the frequency 89.1 – the last remaining frequency in the Orangeville area that could be used for the operation of a higher-powered radio station. The CRTC was also not convinced that the transmitter would improve Erin Radio’s financial viability.

Chair Larry Peters said the Board of Directors is likely to meet soon to discuss possible strategies. “Until we do, it’s business as usual,” he said.

Last December CHES-FM 88.1 applied to the CRTC to operate a second FM transmitter in Orangeville, which would repeat their programming at 89.1 MHz. Erin Radio has branded itself as the Headwaters New Mix, and despite some power upgrades, it is still only reaching part of Orangeville with a weak signal. Peters said previously “a better signal in Orangeville would allow the station to build the revenue base necessary for survival.”

The non-profit station, started in 2006, has been struggling with low revenue due to lack of advertising by Erin businesses. In May they closed the Erin studio, and while production has been temporarily moved to the facilities of Centre Wellington Community Radio in Fergus, the signal is still transmitted from the Erin Water Tower.

The CRTC received an intervention in support of Erin Radio from the National Campus and Community Radio Association. It also received interventions in opposition from Dufferin Communications Inc. (CIDC-FM Orangeville), My Broadcasting Corporation, which has approval to launch a new commercial FM radio station in Orangeville, and Bayshore Broadcasting Corporation (CFDC Shelburne).

CHES argued that Erin does not have a sufficient advertising base to support a radio station, and that its mandate includes providing service outside its core area. It said a non-commercial community radio service is needed in the Orangeville market.

In 2010 the CRTC approved an increase in effective radiated power (ERP) for Erin from 50 watts to a maximum of 250 watts and in 2013 allowed it to increase to a maximum of 1,250 watts. The CRTC noted that power increases for the Erin signal have been intended to improve its local coverage, not to increase its territory.

“Although Erin Radio stated that the current proposal aims to address reception issues within Orangeville, the Commission is of the view that it would increase the station’s coverage to encompass the town, which it was not licensed to serve,” the decision says.

“The licensee has not demonstrated a compelling technical need for the proposed transmitter. Whether the station is in a position to improve its financial situation as a result of having improved its signal remains to be seen.”