Montreal Radio Blog

Monday, September 27, 2010

Selling Misery Like Fast Food

There was a story that made the news a few days ago about how marketing firms are making tons of money off of charities. It kind of bothered me, as it should bother most rational thinking people. I find it hard to fathom that there are people getting rich off of the suffering of others, but I guess it shouldn't really be a surprise.

I used to donate to this foundation for many years. It seemed like the right thing to do, after all... Then, about ten years ago, they started sending me stuff in the mail. These were little things like personalized letters, calendars and notepads. I didn't think much of it at first, but it then hit me that these things were surely being paid for out of donation money. It angered me to the point that I stopped donating to that particular charity - for a year. But that didn't stop them from sending the stuff in the mail!

I was involved in a fundraiser a few weeks back, but all the work was done by volunteers. It's a lot of work, and I can understand why some charities turn to the professional "marketers". Still, it seems to have gotten out of hand.

Have you noticed that they now market diseases with the same methods they use to promote sneakers or fast food? It's pretty distasteful when you come to think of it. They've got fancy logos, catch phrases and over-hyped PR events for just about every cause imaginable. What they don't tell you is that a far-too-sizable portion of the money raised will go to pay the "geniuses" behind the campaigns. There has to be a better way - or is there? Like I said at the beginning, it disgusts me to think that there are opportunists out there making their fortunes off of the misery of others.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When Twitter Says You Are Dead...

I was reluctant to join the Twitter bandwagon, but changed my mind after I became involved with the "Digital Life Show" on Radio Centre-Ville. I was forced to catch up on my “new media” knowledge. I must admit that I find Twitter very useful in coming up with breaking news items.  But what do you do if several high profile news organizations report something that ends up being false?

Twitter was in the news a few days ago because of an unfortunate incident in which Pat Burns was mistakenly declared to be dead. Burns himself had to publicly issue a statement to confirm he was still alive. It is very sad in that Pat Burns is gravely ill, and doesn’t need the added aggravation of hearing about how he has been pronounced dead by most of the mainstream media.

This whole sorry affair began on Twitter. It's not exactly clear how it started, but the rumour was quickly picked up by several major news outlets, who in turn reported it as fact. They started running the obits they had obviously prepared a while ago.

Earlier this year, a Twitter rumour claimed that Gordon Lightfoot had died. The same thing also happened to Bill Cosby a few months ago. The disturbing thing about this is how some members of the media chose to go with a story based on Twitter activity before having a chance to confirm whether it was true. In many cases, people rely on Twitter as sort of news ticker. Therefore, when something comes over the Twitter “ticker“, then it must be true - right?

I was listening to CKAC earlier this week and one of the hosts was making the point that with sites like Twitter, you may have a problem when journalists use one feed to post relevant news items and also use that same feed to post personal information. The argument was made that perhaps they ought to have a separate feed for their private "stuff".

This is still all so new, even though it seems like it's been around for years and years... Traditional media is still figuring out how to use sites like Twitter as extensions of themselves. One has to wonder if any new policies will be put in place to prevent what happened to Pat Burns from happening to anyone else.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Amateur Radio and 146.910 MHz

I'll say right off the bat that I have never actually involved myself in the hobby I'm about to write about. But anything radio-related will spark my interest...

Back in the early 1990s, I bought a fancy little radio scanner. It was supposed to pick up fire, police and so on. One of the more interesting frequencies I found was 146.910 MHz. It seems I stumbled upon a ham radio repeater - I guess that's what you might call it. I know there are other repeaters in the area, but I got most of my enjoyment listening to this one.

What I found was a bunch of people chatting away at all hours of the day and night about just about any imaginable topic. It was clear that many of them knew each other, and some would meet once and a while at so-called DX club meetings.

Amazingly, it was by listening to them around 1995 or so that I first discovered the existence of something called the Internet. Technologically savvy as they were and are, they were quick to jump on that bandwagon.

You do have to complete a course to be able to jump on those airwaves. Some of the communication takes place from moving vehicles, but a lot of it seems to come from people's homes. They've got this amazing radio equipment and antennas that not only get them on the air, but allow them to pick up all kinds of far away frequencies. And that seems to be a big part of the attraction.

I've mentioned before that when disaster strikes, radio once again becomes an essential way to communicate. And if the big stations get knocked off the air, ham radio becomes an important tool for emergency communication.

You may be interested to hear an example of what you may hear on some of these sorts of frequencies. If you don't have access to a receiver, there are some web sites that stream them. One of them can be found at

For years there has been a weekly "gathering" on the frequency on Sunday evenings for an exchange of radio news. I know that Sheldon Harvey used to handle that. He's the guy who administers the Radio in Montreal  Yahoo group and co-hosts the International Radio Report on CKUT. I don't listen to my scanner as much as I used to, but I still pick up the occasional conversation on 146.910 MHz. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I have only been a listener and my knowledge ends with what I have heard others say...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All-Traffic Radio in Montreal

Transport Quebec is set to launch it’s own radio station. It’s going to keep motorists informed of Montreal area traffic. They intend to broadcast on 910 AM. It will cost over $2 million dollars to launch the station. About a dozen antennas will be put up across the region.

No word on whether the information will be broadcast live or whether it will be a recorded loop. We also don't know if the station will be bilingual. There is supposed to be some kind of an announcement made soon.

There are supposed to be similar services in other parts of the world. It seems that in Europe the services tend to be live, while in the States, they are usually recorded. I happened to hear one of the stations while heading down to New York City a few years ago. It played a loop informing drivers of traffic problems. I don’t know how often it was updated, but it seemed to be pretty accurate as to what was going on at the time.

We already hear a loop around Trudeau Airport. I don’t know if they ever update that with timely news or just play general information. I’ve only heard it a few times when in the vicinity. That one is bilingual. If the new traffic station isn’t, it won’t do much to help tourists… I’m also wondering whether there will be commercial breaks and sponsors… I’m pretty sure there are commercially-run all-traffic stations operating in Canada right now. It makes sense, actually… Do you think commercial radio stations will be thrilled with the idea or an all-traffic station run by the government? Probably not. Perhaps they will use it to gather traffic info for themselves.

Remember the classic scene from WKRP, where Les Nessman pounds his chest to make it sound like he’s reporting from a helicopter?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Radio Centre-Ville Radiothon - September 10-12

I'd like to inform everyone who values the importance of community-run radio in Montreal about a special event that is taking place September 10-12 on Radio Centre-Ville. We will be holding a radiothon to fund the station's operations. You will hear lot of special programming over the three days dedicated to the fundraiser in many languages. As always, you can hear English-language programming from 10:30 PM on Friday until 4 PM on Saturday.  If you are a regular listener and enjoy our programs, please help us out. You can do so online by clicking HERE.