CBLA-FM - History


The station originally aired in 1925 as AM 910 CKGW, a commercial station owned by Gooderham and Worts. Due to the instability of frequency allocations in North America at the time, the station's frequency changed several times over the next number of years, to 960, 690, and finally clear channel 840. In 1932, the station was leased by the CBC's predecessor, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission. It used the call letters CRCT until 1937, when the station was purchased outright by the CBC and adopted the callsign CBL, moving to a new transmitter facility in rural Hornby. With NARBA in 1941, the station moved to 740 kHz; its former channel, now 860, went to CFRB. (See Canadian allocations changes under NARBA.)

Between 1938 and 1943, CBL had a rebroadcaster, CBY, to supplement coverage in Toronto. CBY broadcast on 960, switching to 1420 in 1939 and then to 1010 in 1941. CBY is now CJBC 860, Toronto's Première Chaîne station.

In 1946, CBL-FM was launched, bringing the CBC's FM network (now known as CBC Radio 2) to Toronto. It originally broadcast on the same 99.1 frequency now used by CBLA, but moved to 94.1 in 1966. (The 99.1 frequency was vacant until 1977, when it was assigned to the CKO radio network. CKO ceased operations in 1989, and the frequency was again vacant until it was assigned to CBLA.)

The CBC's transmitter tower on Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto, built in 1952, was for many years the tallest structure in Canada. The facility was used by CBL (studios only), CBL-FM, CBLT, CBLFT, CJRT and TVOntario. In 1976, almost all broadcast signals in Toronto moved to the CN Tower. Although the Jarvis St. transmitter was no longer in use, the CBC continued to use the studio facilities at that site until moving to the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in 1992.

CBL established a large low-power relay transmitter (LPRT) network in Northern and Central Ontario during the 1950s and 60s. These transmitters, all on AM frequencies, mainly rebroadcast the CBL signal but also offered some separate regional programming directed towards the regions served by the LPRT network in place of some local Toronto programming. One example of this was the daily Northern Ontario Report, which aired in the late afternoon. Most of these LPRT network transmitters now rebroadcast CBCS in Sudbury or CBQT in Thunder Bay. Some of these transmitters have switched to FM as well, or have been shut down as FM transmitters covering areas served by multiple AM transmitters have signed on.

In 1997, CBL applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for conversion to FM. AM 740's daytime signal easily covered Buffalo, New York; Erie, Pennsylvania and Youngstown, Ohio; while its nighttime signal reached much of the eastern half of North America (including three-fourths of Canada). Howeveer, radio frequency interference made the station nearly unlistenable in some parts of downtown Toronto. In a controversial decision, the CBC was awarded the 99.1 frequency over Milestone Radio, who had applied to open an urban music station, which would have been the first station operating under that format in Canada, to serve the city's large black community. Adding to the controversy of the CBC being awarded a station on the FM band in the country's biggest market, 99.1 was believed at the time to be the last available FM frequency in the city.

On June 18, 1999, the station completed its move to FM, adopting the CBLA calls. CBL remained in operation for an additional day, broadcasting a recorded loop listing alternative FM frequencies for any remaining listeners. The final announcement ran thus:

This is CBC Radio One, broadcasting from the Hornby transmitter at 740 AM. In the Toronto area, we will now move to 99.1 FM, with additional frequencies throughout southern Ontario. This transmitter has served the community well since 1937, and has been at 740 AM since 1941. This is the end of an era in Canadian broadcasting history. Now, signing off, from CBL, adieu. —Philip Savage, CBC Communications department

The CBC subsequently surrendered two relay transmitters outside the city which overlapped with the CBLA signal. In 2000, the CRTC awarded one of the new frequencies to Milestone, who launched CFXJ in 2001, and the other to Aboriginal Voices, who launched CFIE in 2002. The Hornby transmitter was leased to the new occupant of 740, CHWO, in 2001. That station is now known as full service oldies station CFZM.

The Jarvis Street transmitter site was demolished in 2002 to make way for the RadioCity condominium development.

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