Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
How do you draw the line around “metro Toronto?” Our friends in urban planning have plenty of definitions, but for the purposes of looking at radio towers, we’ll use the 407ETR toll highway on the outskirts of the metropolis as a very rough definition of what is and isn’t “metro.”
By that very loose definition, the short drive from the CBC’s Hornby AM site (which the CBC itself featured in a blog post this past week) up Trafalgar Road takes us out of the metro and out to a site that would very much like to be thought of as a Toronto signal.
CHLO (530 Brampton) is the latest incarnation of an AM station that’s been around since 1953. CFJB, a 250-watt daytimer on 1090, evolved into CHIC and moved to 790 in 1964.
For a small suburban AM, CHIC had a high profile – it experimented with an all-female airstaff befitting its call letters (“Chick”) and launched an FM signal, CHIC-FM 102.1, that eventually became influential modern rocker CFNY.
The 790 signal was always a troublesome one, experimenting with ever-larger DAs (six, then 10, then 11 towers) to squeeze out more power as it became ethnic station CKMW and then CIAO. It attempted to move to 820 and 640 with no success (we’ll see where those frequencies went next week), then finally landed on 530 in 1992 after that channel was abandoned in Fort Erie by CJFT.
Nine of the 11 towers of the final 790 array came down, leaving CIAO on 530 using two towers, then eventually just one after owner Evanov was able to build a taller tower here in 2014. All along, 530 has been a multi-ethnic signal, now under the callsign CHLO.
The 530 site also carries an aux antenna for Evanov sister station CIDC (103.5), which has been angling to get closer to the core of the Toronto market almost from the time it hit the air in the 1980s. Licensed to Orangeville, 67 km northwest of downtown Toronto, “Z103-5” moved from its original transmitter site north of Orangeville to its current site in the Caledon Hills in 2000, and it has tried and failed several times since to relocate fully to the 530 site or even to downtown Toronto (through an unsuccessful attempt to swap frequencies with another Evanov station, low-power CIRR 103.9 Toronto).
From the main CIDC site, as far north as we’re going to get on this trip, we meander south and west out toward Guelph, which sits between Toronto and the Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge “Tri-Cities” market to the west.
Along the way out to Guelph, we get a quick peek at a little community station. CHES in Erin signed on at 101.5 in 2006 but was later able to increase power a bit with a move to 88.1 from its current site on the town water tower. It’s still a limited signal, constrained by co-channel CIND in Toronto.
Guelph is a university town, and we find the University of Guelph station, CFRU (93.3), atop a dorm on the east side of the campus and the east side of the city.
The commercial stations in Guelph share an owner (Bell) and a transmitter site off Laird Road south of the city. CJOY (1460) traces its history back to 1948, originally on 1450. It slid up the dial to 1460 from this site in 1960 and was joined here 20 years later by its FM sister, now CIMJ (Magic 106.1). The FM station had signed on from a different location in 1968 as CKLA and took its present calls and hot AC format in 1992; on the AM side, it’s still oldies, a rare AM survivor that simply was never able to find a space on the FM dial for a move.
You don’t have to go very far from Guelph to be in the Hamilton market, where transmitter sites spread out surprisingly far from the core of the city at the western end of Lake Ontario.
Two of the Hamilton market’s three big FMs actually transmit from Burlington, the next city to the north, with transmitter sites near each other up on the escarpment that rises sharply from the lakeshore. It’s not hard to see the sites of CKLH (102.9) and CJXY (107.9) as you look up from the retail sprawl along the QEW/Highway 403 interchanges (that’s where our “local” IKEA location sits, for instance), but it’s a surprisingly rural drive uphill to both towers.
It’s not easy to get all the way back to Bell’s CKLH site off King Road at the edge of the escarpment, so we get our long shot from a nearby dog park with a terrific view over Hamilton and the end of the lake. For such a large signal, CKLH (which is “Move 102.9” these days, with hot AC) was a relatively late arrival; it took 20 years of applications before venerable Hamilton station CKOC (1150) was finally granted the FM frequency and put it on the air in 1986.
Corus’ CJXY (107.9) is actually licensed to Burlington, where it started out in 1976 as CING, a quirky independent station that served Hamilton and Toronto with everything from big bands to dance music before becoming part of a cluster with CHML (900) and the former CKDS (95.3) in Hamilton; in 2001, the 95.3 and 107.9 formats and calls were swapped, putting the former “Y95” up here as “Y108,” the classic rock format that endures today. (The present transmitter site up here dates from 1997.)
CALENDARS ON CLEARANCE
If you don’t have your 2023 Tower Site Calendar yet, now is the perfect time to get it. Because we have lowered the price to just $14.
The calendar has 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 regularly, 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!
And don’t miss a big batch of Ontario IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Hamilton’s AMs and south of Lake Ontario