HAPPY NEW YEAR, HAPPY NEW CALENDAR!
Still don’t have a new calendar on your wall for 2023? We can fix that – and fast!
The Tower Site Calendar for 2023 is brighter and better than ever: more historic dates, more great photos of broadcast sites near and far (everywhere from Navajo Nation on the cover to Boston to Toronto to Texas, and beyond), plus a lovely “centerfold” you can keep on your wall for 2024.
It’s still shipping daily, and you can have yours in just a couple of days!
Order your copy and you’ll see what we mean.
If you have already ordered your calendar, make sure you check out the other items in the store, too!
Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Living near the middle one of the Great Lakes is an interesting experience, both radio-wise and in real life. Even at the widest point of Lake Ontario, it’s barely 50 miles in a straight line from the Port of Rochester here on the south shore of the lake to the pretty towns that line the lake’s north shore. Especially right up by the lake, our radio dial here on the US side is full of signals crossing the lake from the Canadian side.
A century ago, it was pretty easy to get back and forth: you could go right to downtown Rochester and buy a ticket for the train that connected to the coal freighter that made daily trips across the lake to deliver its load to Cobourg, Ontario. Today, it’s a four-hour drive around the east end of the lake and up to the Thousand Islands Bridge to get over to the north shore, so we don’t get to see these stations nearly as often as we hear them.
But in the spring of 2022, our local minor-league hockey team made the playoffs, which was all the excuse we needed to make that drive, watch the Amerks eliminate the Belleville Senators – and see some of the radio stations so close and yet so far.
East of Belleville, we caught the studio site of CKYM (88.7 Napanee), one of the many “MyFM” stations owned by My Broadcasting, run by veteran Ontario broadcaster Jon Pole. In the last few years, he’s found a formula to bring local-ish radio to small towns like these, centralizing most operations with a handful of local hosts, news and sales people. (The CKYM antenna is south of here in Prince Edward County, at the tall tower that used to broadcast CJOH-TV-6, with a signal that regularly reached across the lake in the analog TV days.)
We’ve shown you the Belleville stations many times thanks to our near-annual visits to Freddy Vette at CJBQ (800), but if you’ve been paying close attention, you might have noticed that while we’ve shown you the transmitter sites of two of those stations – CJBQ and longtime Belleville sister CIGL (97.1) – we’ve never shown you the third. That’s because CJTN-FM (107.1 Quinte West) is about 14 miles (22 km) west of Belleville, a relic of the days when Quinte West was still “Trenton” and CJTN was an AM station on 1270, a semi-satellite of CJBQ.
After the AM-to-FM move in 2004, CJTN relocated to a tower north of the 401 off Carman Road, operating with a very directional signal aimed eastward to protect co-channel CILQ (Q107) from the CN Tower in Toronto. For almost two decades, CJTN (“Rock 107”) was heard pretty well here in Rochester, until the cluttering of the FM dial on this side added a translator in Rochester on 107.1 for WDCX (990).
Moving just a little bit west along the 401, there’s another relatively new signal owned by My Broadcasting. CIYM (100.9) signed on from Brighton, Ontario in 2009, and could at least occasionally be heard here in Brighton, New York until a new Rochester LPFM, WXIR-LP, signed on at the same frequency.
Long before that, one cross-border FM always made it to Rochester with a tremendous signal. CFMX (103.1) signed on from Cobourg in 1979, becoming Canada’s first commercial classical station with a license for 117 kW from a new site on Alnwick Hill Road, six miles northeast of Cobourg. It took five years to get to full power, by which point its signal was so good across the lake that it offered free FM dipole antennas to Rochester listeners and even briefly established a sales office here.
In later years, CFMX changed ownership, being sold to broadcast entrepreneur Moses Znaimer. What started as a Mississauga rebroadcast transmitter for CFMX eventually became Znaimer’s main classical station, CFMZ (96.3), while the Cobourg operation turned into a rebroadcaster of Toronto.
In 1989, Global TV built a taller new tower for itself and CFMX at this site, topped with an antenna for its Peterborough signal, CIII-TV-27, which also put a good signal into Rochester in the last decades of analog TV. More recently, two newer FM stations set up shop below CFMX’s 10-bay antenna: CKSG (93.3) hit the air in 2002, with a very directional signal to protect a co-channel 93.3 in Rochester, WFKL (though interference still occurs by the lakeshores between both stations). And CHUC, the original Cobourg AM station that had been on 1450 and had spawned both CFMX and then CKSG, itself moved to FM in 2006 on 107.9 with a three-bay antenna below CKSG’s.
A few smaller FMs have signed on in Cobourg in recent years, both using water towers as their transmitter sites. UCB, the Belleville-based religious broadcaster, runs CKJJ (90.7) from a vertical-only antenna atop a water tower in a commercial area on the west side of Cobourg (I think that’s the right antenna shown above, but it’s possible I missed it!)
Community broadcaster CFWN (89.7) is on the other water tower in an industrial area just north of downtown, with a little one-bay antenna just visible on a pole behind that two-bay antenna in the photo above.
And we come full circle on the west side of Cobourg, just north of the 401 along Telephone Road.
That’s where we find a studio building that dates back to the late 1970s, when CHUC consolidated what had been two separate studios in Cobourg and nearby Port Hope. CRTC rules at the time allowed for a single studio as long as it was midway between the two towns – and so CHUC (and then CFMX) ended up out here.
These days, this is another My Broadcasting facility, home to CKSG with the “MyFM” AC format, CIYM with “Oldies 100.9” and CHUC-FM, now “Classic Rock 107.9.” While there’s nobody here late on a Saturday afternoon, we hope to get back sometime on a weekday to see more on the inside, after all those years of listening to Cobourg radio from across the lake.
And don’t miss a big batch of Ontario IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: WGL/WIOE, Fort Wayne