Goodbye, CHOM-FM: Why I’m finally switching stations

My g/f cheered when I announced to her last night that I won’t be listening to CHOM-FM (97.7) anymore.

“Finally! Thank God . . . I won’t have to hear their head-banging music anymore!”

Then she eyed me a little suspiciously. I could see it in her eyes: What was I up to? She knows that I have been listening to CHOM since the 1970s, that I have sung its praises to my readers in my various blogs, that I swore I would listen to that station till the day I died.

Yes, I was Ms. Loyalty. I’m like that with companies that treat me well, like my Honda dealer in St-Jerome, for example. Honda rules!! So, why was I suddenly divorcing CHOM-FM, the so-called “spirit of Montreal.”?

She asked simply: “Uh . . . why not?”

Well, I explained, it has — first and foremost — to do with the layoff of the station’s overnight DJ, Ronny Mack. It was, proverbially speaking, the straw that broke the camel’s back. You see, on a personal level, Ronny is, strike that, was part of my life. I’m often on the road after midnight, and listening to his live real-time dialogue between songs on CHOM provided me with some comfort in the dark cloak of night. It’s about warmth. It’s about connections, no doubt something all radio personalities strive to do: connect with their listeners.

Ronny connected with me, and I know he connected with other night folks who are “working the back shift,” as he likes to put it. We need to hear a real voice, not canned programming with ads being the only thing we hear between songs. I mean, if CHOM is not going to give us a warm body to listen to, we might as well listen to CDs . . .

Ya hear that, advertisers!: I won’t be listening to your ads on CHOM anymore. Your reach has been diminished by one . . . and then some (as you will see).

But it’s about more than Ronny. It’s about a corporate parent slashing jobs — i.e. wounding people — less than a week after the #ParisAttacks, and little more than a month before Christmas.

Sure, I could understand if the corporate parent was losing money and struggling to survive. Then layoffs and cutbacks would be necessary — everybody understands that.

But that’s not the case here. Bell Media’s parent company, BCE, is raking in the loot, more than $700 million in profit for the third quarter.

It’s just not enough for the bean counters there, I guess. They want more earnings per share, and they are throwing people into the street to see that eps rise by a few pennies. Yes, that is what this is about: pennies per share, and it is yet another example of capitalism run amok. It’s about greed and selfishness by a wealthy few always wanting more, more, more. It’s about contempt by small-hearted grinches for workers and people like me, the listeners.

And viewers. Because, you see, I am so sickened by Bell Media’s layoffs across the country — hundreds of jobs in various media outlets — I’ve decided to boycott all Bell Media stations and products. On principle. I’m not going to put any more pennies into this Scrooge’s piggybank.

I won’t be watching CTV News anymore; I’ll watch our public broadcaster instead, the CBC.

I had been thinking about getting rid of my telephone landline, because I don’t really need it: I’ve got a great deal going with Rogers for my smartphone and Internet. I kept a Bell telephone landline out of loyalty. Now I can cut it in good conscience.

Ditto for my Bell satellite TV service, which is expensive and not very good, anyway. I had been thinking about cancelling the service and going with another provider.

Ya hear that, advertisers: I won’t be hearing or seeing your ads on any Bell Media radio stations and TV newscasts. Do you care? Does it bother you that good, simple folk have been cast aside and left to struggle while the fat cats in the corporate parent of their former employers celebrate? Does it bother you that consumers like me weep inside for those we know are hurting today because they have been thrown out like so much garbage by a Scrooge hiding behind a corporate logo?

It’s just business, Bell Media and its advertisers might say. It’s about the opportunity to make more money. It’s just business . . .

Business?

To quote the ghost of Jacob Marley, talking to a trembling Scrooge in the classic book A Christmas Carol: “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

And that’s where too many corporations have lost their way, and their spirit. Their owners have forgotten that mankind is our business, even if it means eps will be a few pennies less.

That’s why I can’t in good conscience support Bell Media, and why I must finally tune out a radio station I have loved for so long. It has nothing to do with the wonderful people who still work there: Terry, Rob, Escoban and so many others. It’s simply that CHOM is no longer the “spirit of Montreal,” in my opinion. It has become a symbol of corporate greed to me, of an uncaring entity that puts business before mankind.

So, is it just me, or are there others who feel the same way I do today? Well, a couple of people I know told me they had already tuned out Bell Media, and what took me so long?

And these things do have a tendency to spread. Consumers often turn their backs on companies that treat them — and employees — with contempt.

And so it goes . . . I’m not urging anyone else to boycott Bell Media stations. But I’ve got to live with my conscience.

So what station will I listen to, you may be asking? After all, I am a rock ‘n’ roller. I may watch CBC News and such, but I’m just not ready for the rocking chair serenity of CBC Radio (sorry, CBC folks, maybe in a couple of decades).

My g/f asked the same question, eyeing me suspiciously.

Smiles . . .

Well, there is more than one “head-banging station” out there, darling — though, I dispute the idea that rock ‘n’ roll is head-banging music . . . another time, perhaps. She gravitates to the music of Celine Dion . . . puh lease . . . gag me with a spoon . . .

Anyway, I’ve already made the switch: to the Buzz 99.9, The Rock Alternative, in Burlington. They’re young, they’re hip, and they rock! I contacted them on Twitter and Facebook, and they welcomed me with open arms. Nice folks . . . I’m already developing a loyalty to them.

(Ya hear that, Bell Media advertisers! Bye, bye . . .)

And I’ll also be checking out a certain “handsome and funny morning-show host” on The Jewel 106.7 FM — if I wake up early enough, but ya know, I am a night owl, Ted.

To Ronny Mack: Thank you for being a voice in the night for me and for so many others. And thank you for the kindness you showed on air when my daughter’s dear friend — and my friend, too — died in a motorcycle accident. Thank you for being a good soul. I hope you land on your feet and find employment with a company worthy of someone like you.

Hugs to you, Ronny Mack. We love you . . . Don’t forget that.

So, bye-bye, CHOM. Thanks to all the good folks there for what you’ve done for rock music in this city.

Sorry it had to end this way.

— Jillian Page

Related links:

BellMedia petition: What if?

When one voice becomes 100,000 voices

Goodbye, CHOM-FM: Rob Kemp layoff strengthens my resolve to switch stations

31 thoughts on “Goodbye, CHOM-FM: Why I’m finally switching stations

  1. I get your reasons for switching stations, i seem to have lost the ear for “music” lately and have been tuned in to AM talk radio stations while driving around locally. If i find myself on that stretch between here and Toronto i listen to CBC. My friends are calling me an old fart nowadays.

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    1. I travel to Ottawa a lot, so I have been checking out some of their stations. I need rock ‘n’ roll almost as much as I need coffee, so I search the dial until I find something. Ottawa has some good stations . . . I just have to check which ones are owned by Bell Media so I can avoid them.

      I also listen to a station serving the Laurentians (where I live) . . . it’s French, but it plays a good mix of English and French rock (103.9, I think).

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  2. I feel exactly the same way! They laid off all of our “Bear” ppl, here in Ottawa, and hired all new ppl for a pop station. Ok, I listen to Sirius satellite radio or my mp3. I shop where they treat staff like people and listen/watch the same way. CTV laid off all our great anchors and are keeping the newer “cheaper” people. So CBC for us too!

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  3. Well, that goes for me to. I only listen to Chom when Ronny is on.What a good and faithful person. Very sorry to hear that. Good luck to you Ronny, I’m sure you have work somewhere else, Thank you for all the hard work you put in

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  4. I agree with condemning Bell cuts. But you talk about the CBC as though it invests heavily in local news production. It doesn’t… at all. CFCF is still the biggest Anglo operation in the city… by far. Although, that unfortunately is now changing. Acting as though the CBC is doing right by viewers though… is misguided. Everybody is eroding local news coverage equally for the sake of saving a dime.

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    1. You’re right, Michel. But the CBC is a taxpayer-funded organization, and I don’t think it is very profitable. I actually like CFCF’s newscasts, but there is a principle here, which I spoke about in my piece. I still need to watch some sort of Canadian newscast, and the CBC is a good alternative, though I do watch Global at times.

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  5. My son, a recent radio broadcasting graduate, worked for a series of 5 radio stations in the Hamilton/St. Catherines area, operated by Corus. When Bell bought out the small group of stations, they let a significant number of people go, including my son, replacing them with low or non-paid interns. A shame….just not the same.

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  6. Tragic that Canadian radio is following American broadcasting into canned garbage. The largest criminal here is a conglomeration called “I Heart Radio”. Formerly “Clear Channel”. They have sucked the soul from so many radio stations that I no longer turn that thing on. Every station in the US is beginning to sound EXACTLY alike, and you can even predict which song will follow the one you are hearing. Real time voices and personalities are GONE. 6 hours of air time is 60% pre recorded tripe. Radio is DEAD TO ME.

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    1. It’s a shame that it has come down to this…again. I have written a book (as yet unpublished) about the Golden Years of Montreal rock radio, circa 1964-1985, and interviewed almost 30 radio and entertainment personalities from that era (George Morrris, aka Buddy Gee, Ralph Lockwood and Doug Pringle to mention a few) many of whom experienced a management purge of one kind or another. I like to think of radio as a friend you can always come back to no matter how long the time away form them. The recent moves have sadly sucked the friendship out of Montreal radio at both CHOM and TSN 690. And there are many others from behind the scenes who are feeling the hurt of being redundant. At this time of the year (is there any good time to be fired?) it must hurt even more.

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      1. You’re right, Ian. Many behind the scenes are hurting, too. It breaks my heart. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

        I remember Ralph Lockwood and Doug Pringle — I met Doug briefly when he had hair down to there back in the 1970s. Cool guy.

        I look forward to reading your book!

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  7. I haven’t listened to Chom in years ever since they fired Ted Bird and broke up the morning team of Terry and Ted. I went with satellite radio. I used to tune in once in a while but it was still the same songs played over and over. There was never any variety in the song selection. For example: AC/DC was always back in black. Why not Highway to hell or something from their many other albums? It was the same for Pink Floyd and so on.

    As for Bell. I just switched my cell phone to another carrier. I’m getting the same service for $40 less per month.

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    1. I liked the Terry & Ted team, too. I also liked Pete Marier (Pirate Pete).

      In the short time since I tuned out CHOM, I’ve been listening to the Buzz in Burlington: I’m glad not to be hearing all the oldies anymore. I also plan to listen to The Beat 92.5 at times, Ted Bird’s The Jewel when I am in range of the station, as well as a Laurentians stations, 103.9 FM.

      I’ll look into satellite radio when I buy a new car . . .

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      1. Don’t expect anything different in the way of programming from Sirius/XM. True, the variety of streams is outstanding. But when you’ve listened long enough, it’s still the same old same old. I’m a smooth jazz guy. When they dropped the redundant streams post the merger, they chose to keep XM’s Watercolors instead of Sirius’ Jazz Cafe. I know the Watercolors program director. She’s a very nice lady. But seriously, her programming sucks in comparison. If your next vehicle comes with internet access, or if you can connect your phone to the car audio system, seek out some of the offerings from web broadcasters. Many of them are ex radio people who still do it right, no matter what format you choose.

        If you want to place blame for the situation we face in Canada, and worse in Quebec because of “added requirements”, point your finger directly at the CRTC. They have allowed the few majors to overwhelm the mom & pop shops into oblivion. As I mentioned elsewhere in your blog today, accountants are NOT broadcasters. They’re the ones calling shots in radio today. RIP.

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      2. Good points all around, Al.

        Thanks for the suggestion about Internet radio: I had forgotten about that option.

        Cheers

        P.S. I just posted an item with a link to a good TorStar piece published today.

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  8. Thanks for this.. I’ve been a part of campus radio here in Winnipeg for 17 years. But for all my years before that, I loved music. I just went over to my parents to pull out some vinyl I bought at VV for many pennies. I loved the clear, crips sound of vinyl.. and the funny fact was I wasn’t born during any of these albums releases, but one. I’m currently listening to a small jazz station on an old Juliette 290 Solid State Radio. Again vintage. Do young kids, or old kids get this? I love hearing a voice telling me about the song.. and as you put it: “It’s about warmth. It’s about connections, no doubt something all radio personalities strive to do: connect with their listeners.”
    I turn on the stations here owned by Toronto (or wherever) and know they hire jocks just to temporarily engage people with silly morning shows and drive home shows with prizes out the kazoo. Winnipeg is small, yet I regularly here the same songs, playing at the same time, on our radio stations. Argh.
    Where did the DJs go? Where are the radios anymore? In the car? At work? At home? Where did the people who love radio go?

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    1. I hear you, Alyssa. Thank you for commenting.

      Al Randall suggested we look into Internet radio — see his comments below. I’m going to do that, and I’ll be writing more about it as I explore.

      Cheers

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  9. Dear Jillian,
    Your words on this blog post and on your blog post regarding Rob Kemp could not better express how I feel. I learned of the lay off this morning from a friend whose husband had stumbled on your post. Bell Media does not seem to understand, or to care about, the loyalty the listeners have with their hosts. They do not understand that in getting rid of Rob and Ronny, they are losing outstanding employees, employees who were able to connect to their listeners and to make of us loyal followers and loyal fans. Just like you, I am done. CHOM started changing its content when it was purchased by Astral a few years ago. Less classic rock, more new stuff. Fine, ok. But when Bell took over, it became even less classic rock and even more new stuff. But worst, the station caught the bug all other stations have, playing the same songs over, and over, and over… That’s when I started cheating on CHOM, exploring new stations. When you realize, that during certain periods of the day, stations like Energy rock more than CHOM does, playing really good classic rock songs, you start questioning the accuracy of the “CHOM rocks” sing song. But today, in learning that Ronny AND Rob were cut, I was crushed. I literally cried. And I made a decision. I am done. I will act my age and experience new music venues like Spotify and satellite radio, and I will permanently switch to my “mistress” station, CKKI 89.9 Kic country FM. As I said on Rob’s Facebook page, CHOM no longer rocks, CHOM sucks.

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    1. Thanks, Tania. It’s all so sad, and reminder of just how heartless some corporate executives can be. They put money over people, even when they are already making fat profits. It’s greed.

      We as consumers can only follow our conscience, and refuse to support entities that treat people with such contempt.

      Rock on, sis!

      Like

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