radio wars 

Local radio suffers if CFOX goes ahead: Mountain FM All-Whistler station in jeopardy By Chris Woodall CFOX radio station's application to turn on a 47-watt transmitter in Whistler will force Mountain FM to scale back coverage of Whistler news and events, says Squamish operations manager Geoff Poulton. Three staff work out of an office in the Fairways Hotel: two advertising sales people and full-time reporter Scott Roberts. "Interventions" or comments on the application, were due to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the federal body ruling in such matters, by Jan. 7. No decision has been made, even to decide if the CRTC will hold a hearing or simply pass judgement on its own, although that is expected soon. Either way, Mountain FM is content it has made a strong case against CFOX. "We're comfortable with the arguments we've made," Poulton says. Mountain FM (102.1FM in Whistler, 104.5FM in Pemberton) is owned by Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. CFOX is owned by Shaw Radio Ltd. and is available on cable. CFOX says in its application that all it wants to do is to broadcast its Vancouver signal to serve Vancouver listeners visiting Whistler. The signal strength would just cover Whistler, from Creekside to Emerald Estates. It has no intention to seek Whistler-area retail advertising, nor will it have a Whistler office, said Chris Pandoff, CFOX general manager, in an earlier Pique Newsmagazine story. He was not available by press time to make a current comment. "We'd find it difficult to fund local programming to Whistler, Squamish and surrounding markets," Poulton says, if CFOX is given the green light. Mountain FM maintains that merely broadcasting a signal will affect the Sea to Sky Corridor radio station's revenues, despite assurances from CFOX that it won't raid Mountain FM's revenue hen house. "We've already been told by one advertiser that they'll pull their advertising from Mountain FM and go to CFOX if the application is successful," Poulton says. And once the Whistler chicken coop gate is open, other Vancouver broadcasting varmints may be keen to enter, too. "If CFOX is allowed to re-broadcast, there's the potential that the other 13 radio stations in Vancouver would like to do it, too," Poulton says. "That will have a devastating impact on our advertising base." CFOX loses nothing if the CRTC sends the hounds after its application, Poulton says. In Mountain FM's intervention, radio operations executive vice-president Gary Miles says a "wholly separate and distinct Whistler-based local radio programming service" is planned by year 2000. Whistler news items currently account for half of Mountain FM’s newscast time each day and up to 90 per cent of the weekend morning newscasts, Miles says. All that would disappear if CFOX is allowed to go ahead, Mountain FM says. Shaw Radio, however, does not recognize that a local radio presence exists. "As there are no local radio stations in Whistler, our proposed rebroadcaster will not have a market impact in this respect," says the CFOX application to the CRTC.


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