Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S…and so here we are showing you pictures from a jaunt last summer to Canada. That makes sense, right?
Last week’s installment took us into downtown London, Ontario for the launch of the new CBC Radio One local studio there, then around the western and southern fringes of the city to see its FM and TV sites.
This week’s installment starts east of London, on the way to Woodstock, the next city of any significant size along the Highway 401 corridor.
Just west of Woodstock and south of the 401, we turn off to get a glimpse of the tower for CITY-TV-2, the local relay of Toronto’s CITY (Channel 57). This was the very first CITY relay signal, operating in analog and now in digital on RF 31 with a potent signal that often makes it all the way across Lake Erie to be visible in greater Cleveland.
Woodstock’s FM sites are all very easy to see with a quick set of turns off the 401. Up on a hill above the local sand and gravel quarry, just north of the 401 off Bower Hill Road, several towers carry cell phones, two-way traffic and three FM stations. CKDK (103.9) started way back in 1947 as CKOX on 1340, migrated to 102.3 in 1986, then shifted to 103.9 in 1993 to make room for a new 102.3 in London. It’s part of Corus’ London-based cluster now, as “Country 104,” and it reaches from Woodstock over to London from the tall guyed tower shown at the left in the photo above. (This has been the site for CKOX/CKDK going back to the AM era; I’m not sure if any of the towers here was the original AM stick, though.)
The self-supporter at the right is home to Byrnes Communication’s local Woodstock signal, “Heart FM” CIHR (104.7), which was one of the first Canadian stations to add HD and then an HD-2 subchannel, which had flipped to country right around the time we took these pictures in the summer of 2017. There’s also a small Christian station up here on the hill, “Hope FM” CJFH (94.3).
So once you’ve seen all the sites of London, where do you head next? Paris, of course – in this case, the small town of Paris, Ontario, halfway between Brantford on Highway 403 and Kitchener-Waterloo on the 401. Paris achieved broadcast fame in 1974 when the new Global Television Network launched its flagship signal here – “here” actually being a little north of Paris near Ayr, Ontario, on the side of county highway 15.
The idea, evidently, was that this “Paris” station, then known as CKGN-TV on channel 6, would provide at least fringe reception 50 miles east into Toronto and 40 miles or so west into London. (Toronto’s previous channel 6, CBC flagship CBLT, had moved to channel 5 to clear the way for the use of 6 at Paris.) It never quite worked out that way, and while channel 6 came in well in Kitchener-Waterloo and Brantford, it was never much of a Toronto signal. Global used a UHF signal northeast of Toronto at Uxbridge for a while on channel 22, then eventually got a full Toronto signal on channel 41 from the CN Tower in 1988 to serve as a better metro flagship.
Today, there’s still Global at the top of the tower, now digital on RF 17. Below it, the CBC has installed a small fleet of FM signals: CBLA-FM-2 (89.1) went up as a Radio One relay when CBL (740) was replaced by CBLA (99.1) in 1999; it was later joined by CBL-FM-2 (90.7) with Radio Two and CJBC-FM-2 (89.9) with Radio-Canada’s ici musique. And Conestoga College’s CJIQ (88.3 Paris) rounds out the FM lineup here.
Our next stops this summer evening found us closer to Toronto, up where the 401 meets the 403 and the 407 toll road at Hornby, north of Oakville. It had been a while since we’d driven by the old CBC transmitter site here, where we’d memorably watched the shutdown of CBL back in 1999. Today, it sits unmanned, still broadcasting 740 (now privately-owned CFZM, “Zoomer Radio”) and Radio-Canada’s CJBC (860), and it’s a little less neatly groomed than we remember from back in the day.
(It’s also a little harder to reach – there’s been lots of development up here in the Toronto exurbs, which means the road access back to the sideroad in front of the site keeps changing, leaving it for now on a little dead-end stub road.)
Our final stop before dark is just a couple of miles to the north up Trafalgar Road, where Evanov Broadcasting’s CIAO (530) serves Toronto and beyond on its bottom-of-the-dial clear channel. This used to be CKMW (790 Brampton) with a much bigger directional array (ten towers, if memory serves); the move to 530 cut things down to just a couple of towers here, and so far Evanov has been thwarted in its attempts to build a much taller tower here – 300 meters or so – that would carry both a stronger CIAO and an antenna for its Toronto rimshot FM, CIDC (103.5 Orangeville). Its latest plan for the FM calls instead for a much smaller CIDC signal up north and a bigger signal for its sister Toronto FM, CIRR, which would move from 103.9 to 103.7 from downtown Toronto.
The Fybush Media podcast is back!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of southern Ontario IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Long Island, 2017 (part I)