Tuesday, 10 July 2012

I feel a kinship with that place

The Montreal sports landscape was shaken today.

I was shaken today.

I have never worked for TSN 990 or The Team 990 before it, but like many of you I feel a kinship with that place.

Like many of you, I have been listening since day one. I've heard people like Tony Marinaro turn from passionate caller to a fan with his own show (albeit originally alongside a stout comedian) to a very good reporter delivering stories with "true fan conviction". 

I have listened to Montreal radio icons like the late Ted Tevan, the late Ted Blackman and the incorridgeable Terry Haig lend their credence to the airwaves.

I've listened to the next generation of media in this town - some of whom who have moved on from the station - work hard at their craft and creep in to the same territory of some of their mentors. People like hockey night in canada's PJ Stock, CBC Daybreak's Andie Bennett, MLB.com's Ben Raby, and of course station stalwarts like Shaun Starr, Conor McKenna and Moe Khan.

Over the years, I've listened as a station with only one locally produced show, added fifteen hours of local content. A station that attracted many long time respected montreal radio personalities into their fold. People like Elliot Price, Barry Morgan, Randy Tieman and most recently, Ted Bird.

The station has grown so much since that fateful day in May 2001 with so much more room to grow. Since adopting the TSN monicker, and adding Montreal Canadiens broadcasts it seemed to be growing exponentially.

I find it shameful that in the not too distant future, this station will be fading away. Bell Media - who owns TSN and by extension TSN 990, recently entered into an agreement to purchase Astral Media. Astral Media owns other local Anglo stations - CJAD, CHOM, and VIRGIN. The CRTC will not allow one body (in this case Bell) to hold on to so many English Language stations. The Bell Media solution is to change TSN 990 to RDS 990 (and eventually RDS 690).

The Always excellent Steve Faguy (aka Fagstein) has a great story up on this today, going into all the details that exist at the moment.

I'm truly saddened today, as I feel this whole thing is a lost opportunity for Bell Media. TSN radio 990, and The Team 990 before it have "stars" - many of whom they have created in house. I had the opportunity to work with one of them a few months ago - Dave Kaufman.

I had an idea, one that Dave seemed to like. Bell Media has a channel available on FIBE and Bell Satellite. They call the Channel TSN HABS. The Channel airs about 30 Montreal Canadiens games a season, and lies blank the rest of the year. That's about 8670 hours of dead air. I thought those hours could best be used for brand cross promotion. I thought if I'm Bell I look and say to myself "I have a radio station and a tv station and they both focus on local content.Maybe they should cross-promote".

I thought that was coming to fruition a little when John Bartlett handled play-by-play on a few games on the TSN Habs' TV feed. There were even ads "tune in to the post-game show on TSN 990". But that was it.
I thought, why not go one step further? Put a camera in the studio. Show the post-game on TV. Add things to it that radio can't offer (like highlights) but still have the radio show so people can tune in from their car and what not.

I happen to big a big fan of Dave Kaufman's excellent "The Kaufman Show". He and I spoke. I came in to the studio and recorded his show one evening with Ari Grunzeweig of Imagination Creations. We weren't broadcasting live, clearly. We edited the show in our spare time, and brought in many of the elements I talked about before. It took us a month, and then the show was put up online. A show with sports information a full month out of date - and it still racked up a few hundred hits. The audience is there for this kind of stuff.

Missed opportunity.

In the suburban on June 20th, Mike Cohen wrote "TSN 990 has been on fire" - who knew it would be their own parent company that would snuff that fire out.

I'm not naive enough to think that everyone will be out of work, nor can I believe everyone will be re-assigned. Many will never leave our airwaves, some we may never here from again - things are going to change. 

I'll reserve judgement on what the future holds, but I know for certain it doesn't hold another TSN 990. For now they're still on air, so tune that receiver to 990 and catch some of these great voices before the transmission ends - because whatever they do next won't be the same.  Sometimes change is good, in this case - I think not.

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk at all about the godfather of the station - the godfather of sports shows in Montreal, at least to my generation.Mitch Melnick.

I think Mitch himself did it all today, and summed up exactly how the listeners are feeling, with a perfect song selection, as only Mitch can do.

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