April 30-May 7, 2004

Ottawa-Hull, part I

We're getting back on schedule here at Tower Site of the Week, now that we're back from the NAB convention (and note a minor schedule change: new episodes of Site of the Week will now appear here with a Friday date instead of Thursday), and we're picking up where we left off on our 1998 trip across eastern Canada.

In that trip - and in repeat visits in 2000 and 2002 - we had a chance to check out just about everything that emits RF in the National Capital Region. And there's no spot that emits more RF than the tower at Camp Fortune, perched atop a ski area in the Gatineau Hills north of Hull, Quebec.

(Remember the "Meech Lake Accord" of the eighties? That failed attempt to resolve Quebec's status within Canada was hammered out almost within sight of this tower in Gatineau Park.)

I believe this tower was built jointly by the CBC (which operates six stations here - CBOT 4, CBO 91.5 and CBOQ 103.3 in English and CBOFT 9, CBOF 90.7 and CBOX 102.5 in French) and CTV's CJOH (Channel 13), but it now accommodates many more stations as well.

On the TV side, it's home to Global (CIII-TV-6 on channel 6), TVOntario (CICO channel 24), Tele-Quebec (CIVO channel 30), TVA (CHOT-TV 40) and TQS (CFGS, formerly on channel 49 and now on channel 34). On FM, Camp Fortune is home to the University of Ottawa's CHUO (89.1), Newcap's CIHT (89.9), Carleton University's CKCU (93.1), CHUM Group's CKKL (93.9) and CJMJ (100.3), Astral's CIMF (94.9) and CKTF (104.1), Rogers' CKBY (105.3) and CHEZ (106.1) and Standard's CKQB (106.9). That's a lot of RF!

Heading into Hull (since merged into the megacity of Gatineau), we encounter several of the French-speaking stations' studios in the dull office parks that sprawl out from the center of the city. Radio Nord owns both TVA affiliate CHOT and TQS affiliate CFGS, and they've since been joined in their building on rue Jean-Proulx by CHLX (97.1), which signed on in 2002 as a French-language classical station and now does smooth jazz as "Couleurs FM."

Astral's CKTF (104.1) was nearby in a building near a shopping mall; CJRC (1150) was then housed with it, but I believe the eventual spinoff of the Radiomedia AM outlets will lead to a relocation for CJRC if it hasn't happened already. (Hull was also home to CKCH 970 until the early nineties, when it signed off as part of the Telemedia-Radiomutuel merger that created Radiomedia.)

Jumping across the river to the west side of Ottawa, we pass CBC corporate headquarters (the "Graham Spry Building") in a rather remote part of town, well west of downtown on Lanark Avenue. The CBC's Ottawa TV stations have their studios here as well; CBC radio in Ottawa has lived for more than 70 years in the penthouse of the historic Chateau Laurier hotel downtown, a nifty spot indeed.

Continuing west into the suburb of Nepean (since integrated into the Ottawa megacity, along with untold hectares of farmland stretching way out into the countryside), we arrive at 1500 Merivale Avenue, the spot CJOH-TV has called home since its debut in 1961 as one of CTV's first affiliates. That brick building seen just to the right of CJOH is 1504 Merivale, the studios of CKQB (106.9 the Bear), the successor station to AM rocker CJSB (540), still fondly remembered by DXers almost everywhere.

Not far away on Carling Avenue sat a squat brick building that was (in 1998, anyway) the home of Rawlco's CJBZ (1200) and CJMJ (Majic 100.3). CJBZ was doing top 40 as "the Buzz" (it would switch to sports as "OSR 1200" within a few months) and it was the descendant of the old AM top 40 CFGO, which started on 1440 as CKPM back in the sixties. (That woman at the right of the picture was trying to pick up a prize, but it was a weekend and the place was locked up tight.)

It wasn't long afterward that CHUM Group, which already owned CFRA (580) and CKKL (93.9), bought 1200 and 100.3 from Rawlco. 1200 went back to its old CFGO calls and picked up the "Team" sports format when it launched in 2001. After the Team folded, CFGO stayed sports.

In the meantime, the CHUM radio stations and CHRO-TV (a move-in of sorts from Pembroke, now operating as part of the CHUM "NewNet" of independent stations) moved in together in the Byward Market area of downtown Ottawa, taking over the failed Market Mall, renamed "MediaMarketMall," packed with storefront studios and crowned with a nifty STL tower. You can see the before (2000) and after (2002) pictures of that facility here.

When we continue our look at Ottawa next Friday, we'll go inside what was then the CHEZ/CFMO studios just down the street from the MediaMarketMall, and then we'll see where they went (and where CFRA and CKKL came from) - not to mention a bunch of AM siites. Stay tuned!

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