|City of license||Toronto, Ontario|
|Broadcast area||Greater Toronto Area|
|Branding||103.9 Proud FM|
|Slogan||"The Pride of Toronto"|
|Frequency||103.9 MHz (FM)|
|First air date||April 16, 2007|
|Format||LGBT-oriented Hot AC/CHR|
|Callsign meaning||Rainbow Radio, the station's branding prior to launch|
CIRR-FM, branded as 103.9 Proud FM, is a radio station in Toronto, Ontario, licensed to serve the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, launched in 2007. It is the first radio station in Canada targeted specifically to an LGBT audience, and the first commercial terrestrial LGBT radio station in the world — all earlier LGBT radio stations, such as Joy Melbourne in Australia, Radio Rosa in Denmark and SIRIUS OutQ on satellite radio, were operated by community non-profit groups or aired on non-traditional radio platforms.
The application was filed by Rainbow Media Group, a partnership between Evanov Communications and other private investors, in 2005, and was approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on April 5, 2006. The company first applied for this licence in 2000, but was denied in favour of Milestone Radio's CFXJ, Canada's first urban music station. The 2005 application received widespread support from the city's LGBT community. The station proposal was originally branded as "Rainbow Radio"; the branding that would make it to air, "Proud FM", began to be used in promotional announcements and job advertisements in early 2007.
Proud FM's programming is a predominantly contemporary hit radio format, with some specialty dance music, rhythm and blues, Latin, pop standards and world music programming. The station also dedicates 28 hours per week to news, talk and other information programming. Its program content will be partially overseen by a community advisory committee. It is also one of six stations in Toronto that reports to BDS' Canadian Top 40 airplay panel.
The station will also fund a $5,000 annual scholarship to journalism, art or music students at Humber College and Carleton University, and a $30,000 stage showcase for musical artists at Toronto's Pride Week celebrations.
In spring 2009, Evanov Communications, already the managing partner in Rainbow Media Group, bought out the remaining owners of Rainbow Media Group and amalgamated the company into its existing holdings.
In the station's early years, some listeners noted that even in the Church and Wellesley Village itself, the station's signal was sometimes drowned out by CBL-FM's rebroadcaster in Peterborough or by CKDK-FM from Woodstock. In 2010, the station applied to the CRTC to increase its signal from 50 watts to 128 watts, with an ERP of 250 watts, which received CRTC approval on June 9, 2010. However, the station still broadcasts from a transmitter location near Yonge and Eglinton in the Midtown region, rather than from a downtown location like most other radio stations in the city, and its signal has since deteriorated even further as condominium development has increased in the area.
In September 2011, Dufferin Communications applied to the CRTC to move CIRR to 88.1 MHz, formerly held by CKLN-FM, and to increase its transmitter power. The CRTC issued a Broadcast Notice of Consultation inviting other interested parties to apply for the frequency as well; by the deadline in December 2011, 27 applications had been received. Proud FM did not win the license, however, which instead was awarded to Rock 95 Broadcasting for the indie rock-formatted CIND-FM.
As noted above, CIRR-FM was the first commercially-licensed LGBT-oriented radio station in Canada and the world. Evanov Communications was granted a license in November 2011 for a 2nd LGBT-oriented station, a French language signal in the Montréal, Quebec market. The station, CHRF, which was originally proposed to have launched in 2013 at the 990 AM frequency, will likely be delayed until 2014 in order to launch at a stronger signal (980 AM).
In May of 2014 a live feed of the station was added to Bell Fibe TV channel 982.
On September 13, 2006, Evanov announced that the station's morning program would be hosted by Ken Kostick and Mary Jo Eustace, the former co-hosts of the television cooking show What's for Dinner?. Eustace left the program in June 2008. Kostick would also depart the station in December 2008, after which the morning show was co-hosted by Deb Pearce and Adam Lawrence. Lawrence left the station in June 2009 to pursue a teaching career, and was replaced by Patrick Marano.
The current Proud FM lineup includes Richard Ryder and Chris Howson in the morning ("Your Morning with Richard and Chris") and Mike Chalut for the afternoon drive ("The Mike Chalut Show"). Weekend programming is hosted by a variety of personalities, including Pearse Murray ("A Fabulous Morning"), Mark Andrew Lawrence ("Front Row Centre"), Samantha Bruton and Stark, Your Dyke Around Town.
Other hosts that have appeared on the station include Cajjmere Wray, Shaun Proulx, Deb Pearce, Patrick Marano, Mark Wigmore, Paul Bellini, Crystal Lite, Danielle Loncar, Acey Rowe and Sean Cowan. Comedian Maggie Cassella was also part of the station's original roster of hosts, but left the station as of August 2007. Pearce, Marano, Proulx and Wigmore were all dropped from the station in May 2010.
The application has faced a number of controversies, both within Toronto's gay community and among outside groups.
Pink Triangle Press, the publisher of the city's LGBT newspaper Xtra!, was originally a partner in the application, but pulled out in December 2005. Pink Triangle alleged that Evanov was not genuinely committed to serving LGBT audiences, but was instead proposing an LGBT station as a "bait and switch" manoeuvre to get the company into the Toronto market (where reception of the company's existing suburban contemporary hit radio station Z103.5 is unreliable), with the intention of dropping LGBT programming and converting the station to a mainstream format, or even a rebroadcaster of Z103.5, shortly after its launch. Evanov stated a commitment to serving LGBT audiences, but refused Pink Triangle's request to have the commitment reiterated in a legally binding contract.
Following Pink Triangle's withdrawal from the application, Evanov threatened to hold Pink Triangle legally liable for any losses incurred by the company if the CRTC failed to approve its application.
Several interventions opposing the application, as well as National Post columnist Lorne Gunter, noted that the CRTC had not issued an open call for other applications, alleging that the application was given special treatment by the CRTC for "politically correct" reasons — notably, Gunter directly linked the station's approval to the CRTC's denial in 2003 of a licence for a Roman Catholic radio station in Toronto, alleging religious discrimination.
In the licence approval, however, the CRTC noted that because the 103.9 frequency is second-adjacent to Evanov's own Z103.5, and Evanov would therefore have to give its consent to accept a zone of radio frequency interference to Z103's signal, the company would effectively have held a veto over any competing application for the frequency. The Catholic station, conversely, was one of eight applicants for a single frequency, which was awarded to the multicultural station CJSA-FM.
Further intervenors, including several major commercial radio companies, indicated that the station's proposed format did not offer a sufficiently clear distinction from other commercial radio stations already broadcasting in the Toronto market.
- PROUD FM makes history. Toronto Star, April 15, 2007.
- CRTC Decision 2006-128
- BDS monitored radio panel update
- "Evanov takes full control of Proud FM". Xtra!, May 21, 2009.
- "Toronto's Proud FM plans to get a little louder". Xtra!, March 26, 2010.
- Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2010-357
- "Proud FM faces signal trouble". Toronto Star, September 7, 2012.
- Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2011-625 28 September 2011
- "Making waves: Montreal broadcasters in flux". The Gazette, August 11, 2012.
- "Radio Fierté requests frequency change, one-year extension to launch," from Fagstein.com, 7/25/2013
- "Gay, lesbian-targeted station hits Toronto radio dial". CBC News, April 16, 2007.
- "Another bloodbath as Toronto's Proud FM fires four hosts". Xtra!, May 5, 2010.
- "Radio partners split", Xtra!, January 5, 2006.
- "Radio Free Canada", National Post, April 10, 2006, reprinted by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
- PROUD FM
- CIRR history at Canadian Communications Foundation
- Query the REC's Canadian station database for CIRR-FM