During my second tour of duty with My Broadcasting Corporation (2008-2020), I was involved, usually on the programming or tech sides, with the company’s acquisitions of existing stations – over those twelve years, MBC acquired a total of six, including, in September 2015, the three stations of the Cobourg-based Pineridge Broadcasting – CHUC-FM 107.9 and CKSG-FM 93.3 in Cobourg, and CJWV-FM 96.7 in nearby Peterborough. On an unseasonably warm Leap Day Monday, February 29th, 2016, I joined my then-supervisor, programming head D’Arcy Magee, for a day-long visit to the CHUC & CKSG studios on Telephone Road, beside the the 401 between Cobourg and Port Hope, to tackle some programming stuff prior to CKSG’s change from hot adult contemporary “Star 93.3” to the slightly softer AC “93.3 myFM”.
CHUC, then at 1450 on the AM dial, set up shop way out here in the mid 1970s, a purpose-built facility replacing separate studios in Port Hope and Cobourg. At the time, CHUC (“C-H-U-C”, not “chuck”) was required to super-serve the two towns, and building new studios halfway-ish enabled the station to do so with a single studio facility instead of two. Powerful commercial classical outlet CFMX-FM 103.1, now part of Moses Znaimer’s “ZoomerMedia” group, had its beginnings here at 7805 Telephone Road, and stayed here until the Rosenthals purchased CFMX in the ’80s and moved the station to an office park on Division Street in Cobourg.
pastIn we go, and our first stop on the tour is CHUC’s on-air studio. The station launched in 1957 at 1500 on the AM dial, later 1450, and converted to FM around 2006, picking up a classic rock format branded as “The Breeze”, and after MBC’s acquisition of CHUC, “Classic Rock 107.9”. The Ward-Beck console in here was all analog, but the entire facility’s audio sources and destinations were all interconnected via a Wheatnet digital audio network from Wheatstone, a popular American manufacturer of radio and TV audio consoles.
Behind CHUC on-air are two production rooms – one is the main prod room, and the other is primarily used for recording jock talk. Both are based around Dixon Systems SP-16 consoles, one of which was CKSG’s first on-air board when that station launched in summer 2002. Visible in main prod are “Producer Tim” and his collection of vintage transistor radios, some of which were contributed by a now-former CHUC/CKSG news reporter.
Finally, we’re in the CKSG on-air studio – that’s D’Arcy on the phone. The station’s first studio, circa 2002, was a rather small room right about here, with little more than a Dixon console, an automation computer (the DOS-based version of Digital Jukebox) and a couple of microphones, but some renovations were done around the late 2000s, doubling CKSG’s space in the Telephone Road building. CKSG is now using a 16-channel Wheatstone E-6 console, really just a big controller for that station’s I/O on the Wheatnet system, and at the time, the three ex-Pineridge stations were still running the popular WideOrbit playout/automation system; MBC later dropped WideOrbit and switched to the company’s standard automation platform.
Lastly, just prior to our three and a half hour drive back to Renfrew, which included some heavy snowfall from about Calabogie to Renfrew, here’s a shot of the two stations’ now-former STL (studio-transmitter link) tower, sending their program feeds to the 93.3 & 107.9 transmitters at the Global TV site on Alnwick Hill, north of Cobourg. In the late 2010s, a driver heading west on the 401 lost control of their vehicle, possibly due to a snooze at the wheel, and veered off the highway, landing in the stations’ backyard and hitting one of the guy wire anchors. As a result, the STL tower was no longer physically stable and had to be taken down – a new, more solid-looking freestanding tower was quickly built not long after, and the CHUC & CKSG STL antennas were moved over to the new tower, which you can’t miss when driving east on the 401 past Port Hope.
About a month after our visit, the programming changes on CKSG took effect, and are still in place to this day. As for CFMX, that very powerful (87 kW) signal is still alive and well today, with a Cobourg studio and sales office not far from the waterfront, while most of its programming now originates from the “ZoomerPlex” in Toronto’s Liberty Village.