May 7-14, 2004

Ottawa-Hull, part II

When we left you at the end of last week's episode of Tower Site of the Week, we were in Ottawa's funky Byward Market neighborhood, just east of the Parliament buildings and the Rideau Canal. That's where CHUM built its MediaMarketMall facility - and just around the corner and down York Street, it's where rocker CHEZ (106.1) lived from its debut in 1977 until just a few years ago.

CHEZ started in a relatively unimpressive York Street building, but when we visited in 1998 it had recently moved into a new "Broadcast Centre" shared with sister station CFMO (101.1 Smiths Falls). Production guy Craig Jackman showed us around, and it was a nifty facility indeed - angles, pretty colors, exposed wiring and all of that.

But things change, and as CHEZ and CFMO (later modern rock CIOX, "Xfm 101") merged in with oldies CIWW (1310) and country CKBY (105.3), which had been operating from a downtown skyscraper, Rogers ended up moving the whole cluster out to a suburban office park on the east side of town. Ironically, it's just around the corner from the Walkley Road office that had been home to CFRA and CKKL before they moved to CHUM's downtown MediaMarketMall, demonstrating some strange law of conservation of studio space that must only exist in Ottawa.

Now that we've moved pretty far south of Ottawa, we've reached the land of AM arrays. With the exception of the defunct CKCH (970 Hull), all of the market's AM signals have always come from the south and beamed north, in classic Canadian fashion. CFGO (1440, later 1200) was once the closest in to the city, at Woodroffe and Greenbank Roads, but in the eighties it relocated a few miles to the south, where it now occupies a six-tower array near the old Highway 16. Not far away are the five towers (two for day use, all five at night) of CIWW on 1310, the former CKOY, one of the more widely-heard Ottawa signals at night.


CJRC (1150 Gatineau) sits a few km east of these sites, and then we head south to catch some ghosts: CBO (920) and CBOF (1250) occupied a site near Manotick, now just an empty field with a lonely transmitter building, and another nearby field was home to CJSB (540). All three stations went to FM in the nineties: CBO to 91.5, CBOF to 102.5 and CJSB to 106.9 as CKQB.

Also in Manotick, well to the south of Ottawa (yet now within the limits of the Ottawa megacity), we find the four towers of CFRA (580). Once a landmark along Highway 16 south of town, they've now been bypassed by the new 416 freeway, but they're still the highest-rated AM signal in town by a wide margin.

And we'll close our Ottawa visit with a look at the other major FM/TV site in town. The "Rogers tower" sits about 25 km southeast of downtown Ottawa, and in recent years it's become a useful secondary site for stations that didn't fit on the big Camp Fortune FM/TV tower. On the TV dial, this site is home to CHCH-TV-1 (Channel 11, a relay of Hamilton's CHCH-TV), CHRO-TV-43 (the Ottawa transmitter for CHUM's "New RO," nominally based up in Pembroke but targeting Ottawa viewers), CFMT-TV-2 (Channel 60, relaying Rogers' multilingual CFMT) and CITY-TV-3 (Channel 65, relaying Toronto's CITY-TV). On FM, it's the home of CHRI (99.1), the very first religious station to sign on in Canada when the CRTC began to allow them in the nineties.

From here, we'll head back across the border to show off the sites of Watertown and New York's North Country next week...see you then!

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