With the pandemic, traffic had plummetedand the ratings of Radio Circulation, Montreal’s traffic radio station, had declined. But since the renovation of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel (opened in 1967) began, the station has become very popular again. The tunnel to be renovated, to ensure its operation for another 40 years, passes under the St. Lawrence River and connects the island of Montréal with the south bank of the river in Longueuil, Quebec. It is a vital access route to the city and since three of the six lanes will remain closed until November 2025, many have thrown in the towel and opted for the train or the metro (+15%), while those in cars rely on the radio to seek alternative routes.
A bet won
Moreover, Radio Circulation owes its fortune to traffic jams: it opened in 2011, a year before the opening of the major construction site for the Turcot interchange, a multi-level elevated road system linking three motorways: Autoroute 15, 20, and 720. The station broadcasts on 98.5 FM and 730 kHz mediumwave, and in the studio, two editors take turns every half-hour in conducting and answering listener calls, never losing sight of the twenty or so monitors that show the hot spots at risk of traffic jams. The radio competes with online navigation platforms but manages to give faster and more up-to-date information than Google Maps and Waze, both in the portfolio of Alphabet, the web giant.
It comes full circle, Michael Mallace told Radio Ink, a US radio newsmagazine. He will direct KVIT-FM, the high school station in Chandler, a city in the Phoenix metropolitan area, where he started his career. In fact, the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) has appointed him as general manager of 88.7 FM The Pulse, the high school radio station that aims to engage students to acquire the necessary skills to make their way in the world of radio. Over the past 30 years, he has run various radio groups in the Arizona capital, not just chasing ratings and profits, but valuing people and nurturing talent.
A very American phenomenon
The Pulse is one of more than four hundred US campus radio stations (one in 15 of the approximately 6400 active FM stations) that have been in existence since the 1960s when the FCC (Federal Communication Commission, the US airwaves regulator) began issuing licences. They operate with an identifier (call number) similar to that of commercial and public stations. In Canada there are 52 of them, in FM and even on medium wave: the first was CJRT, from the Ryerson Institute of Technology (Ontario Department of Education). Known as Jazz Radio, it started in 1949 on 88.3 MHz with a power of 3 kW and today is on 91.0 MHz with 40 kW. The United States and Canada have the largest number of FM student stations, but there are such stations in over 40 countries. Often they operate only on the web because regulations do not offer them space on the airwaves.
Talent hubs and trendsetters
Working in college radio is part of the student experience. Stations are run completely independent but can make use of contributors from the community to which they belong for programmes. Some are set up to train professional radio staff, others to make educational programmes or to be an alternative to commercial and public radio. They often uncover musical trends or emerging artists before they make a name for themselves. One example among many? Music promoter Marco Stanzani writes that Anderson Paak, a pop artist of worldwide notoriety, had been noticed when he was still in the early stages of his career by Italian rapper Mondo Marcio thanks to tracks broadcast on a US college radio station. So much so that since 2010, with his agency Red&Blue Stanzani, he has organised Uniweb Tour – a real live acoustic live tour on the web radios of major Italian universities – to promote the artists he covers.
The dismissal of Lisa LaFlamme, one of the most familiar faces on Canadian TV, who was awarded this year’s Best National News Anchor, is causing controversy. This was revealed in a tweet that the journalist posted in August 2022 to inform fans that CTV (major private, English-language network) had fired her after a 35-year career. The reasons for this are confidential, but as the New York Times reports, it seems that age (58), sex and grey hair were influential.
From so to so
During the pandemic, in fact, unable to go to the hairdresser, the presenter had stopped dyeing her hair and then agreed to keep it in its natural grey colour. The company denied it, but failed to erase the doubts: it is indeed strange that such a well-known face should be thrown out of the door at the age of 58 (two years early), while other Canadian TV journalists as famous as her and with a similar role continued until the ages of 69 and 73. But they were men.
The news of the Canadian radio station looping the song Killing in the Name by Rage AgainstThe Machine for 30 hours went viral on 30 June 2022. Some speculated that it was a form of protest by the employees of Kiss Radio, which broadcasts on 104.9 from Vancouver, over the dismissal of two colleagues, so much so that many sites relaunched it as such (the song, in fact, contains an explicit line “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”, however, in the aired version this part was cut out). But The Guardian caught up with and interviewed the station managers, unravelling the mystery: it was just a way to get publicity. In fact, it was a typical gimmick used by broadcasters to attract the attention of listeners: when the news went viral on Twitter, spikes in online ratings were recorded from Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Europe. But it was a marketing operation, to announce a change of format for the station, which switched from soft-rock to alternative music, even changing its name to Sonic Radio.