In April 2003, I was nearly finished my final year of the radio broadcasting program at Belleville’s Loyalist College, and around this time that year, I was one of four Loyalist radio students doing their internships at the Quinte Broadcasting Company, which, in ’03, consisted of three stations: CIGL-FM 97.1 “Mix 97”, one of the city’s most popular radio stations at the time, airing a hot adult contemporary format; CJBQ 800, then airing country and lots of local news; and Trenton-licensed CJTN 1270, which was a soft adult contemporary outlet in 2003 and into its first years on FM (107.1), starting in 2004. Today, Mix 97 is still more or less doing the same format; CJBQ has evolved into a “full service” station; and CJTN is now “Rock 107”. The three stations’ studios are in the Morton Building, a 1985-vintage office building belonging to the Morton family, owners of the Quinte Broadcasting stations; their former holdings include The Intelligencer newspaper, and Cablevue Quinte, the local cable TV system which is now a Cogeco system. CJBQ and CIGL spent many years co-located with “The Intell” downtown, at Bridge & Pinnacle Streets, prior to the Morton Building opening in ’85.
During my internship, Mix music director and midday host Dan Mellon was in charge of the four of us from Loyalist, one of whom was in during the day, likely working with the sales team. Throughout the month of April, Dan scheduled the majority of my on-air slots in the overnight hours on Mix 97, and I also worked a few overnights on CJBQ. If I remember correctly, I did only one evening slot on CJTN – there were two other interns covering ‘TN, one in the evening, the other on overnights. (Dan since became a radio prof at his alma mater, Ottawa’s Algonquin College, and has most recently taken on some on-air duties at 97.5 Moose FM (CKVV-FM), in his current home base of Kemptville.)
In 2003, all three stations’ control rooms were based around Canadian-made Ward-Beck consoles, built in the 1970s or early ’80s – Mix and CJTN had the R1200 model, while CJBQ had an R1400. Playout/automation was handled by Broadcast Electronics’ AudioVault system, whose computer hardware was upgraded to brand new PCs around fall 2002, to run Windows 2000 Pro and the newest version of the AudioVault software. Before the upgrade, CJTN was actually still using BE’s old DOS-based “CORE” system, primarily to automate the local commercial breaks during Blue Jays baseball and Leafs hockey, both of which CJTN dropped by late ’02. (Look carefully in the CJBQ studio pic above – through the announce booth windows, you can see Mix’s then-evening host, the late Joey Martin, who was planning his upcoming vacation on the Internet-connected computer in that studio.)
During my college years, Mix 97 had a wicked-sounding audio feed. Most radio stations around the world use a broadcast “audio processor” to keep audio levels somewhat stable, shape the station’s “signature sound” using all kinds of tricks and tweaks, and (on FM) generating the stereo audio signal before it goes out to the transmitter. Mix, in the early 2000s, had an Orban Optimod-FM 8200, that bluish-greyish box with the dial and screen, in the third equipment rack in the above-right photo. The 8200 and its settings at the time were just awesome, and when I went to Cornwall later that year, the adult contemporary station in the building, CFLG-FM 104.5, was also using an Optimod, and sounded very similar to Mix but with slightly less aggressive settings.
The Quinte Broadcasting AMs were using totally different processing hardware in 2003 – CJBQ, which was still an AM Stereo station (using the Motorola C-QUAM system), had a pair of Texar Audio Prisms, one each for the left and right audio channels, and CJTN, still mono, had a Dorrough DAP-310 box. Today, all three stations are processed using the BW Broadcast DSP-X series of digital processors.
Before I finish this Throwback Thursday post, I’m gonna toss in a related TTINPO – “Top Ten, In No Particular Order”. This one, powered by Spotify, contains ten then-popular songs that I remember being played frequently on Mix 97 in April 2003:
Next Throwback Thursday, we head to the “city by the bay” to check out the transmission facilities of a television station that, in the late 1950s, was likely the first in Canada to take a shot at round-the-clock programming. Stay tuned!