CHIN-AM, Multicultural, Toronto

Radio 1540 Ltd.

CHIN-AM1985154050,000/30,000Radio 1540 Ltd.
CHIN-AM1966154050 dayJohnnie Lombardi


In 1962, Edward S. (Ted) Rogers, owner of CHFI-FM (98.1) signed an AM counterpart on the air. CHFI-AM operated on a frequency of 1540 kHz, operating during daytime hours only. Eventually CHFI received approval to add night-time service using the frequency, 680 kHz (remaining on 1540 during the day). After making arrangements with CHLO 680 at St. Thomas, CHFI now had authority to broadcast on 680 kHz during the day as well as at night. As a result, the 1540 frequency became available for other users. Rogers proposed to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary to take over the assets concerned with 1540 kHz. The company would then dispose of that subsidiary company. The subsidiary company was named Radio 1540 Limited.

Rogers made arrangements to sell Radio 1540 Ltd. to a syndicate headed by Johnny B. Lombardi. The proposed purchaser envisioned a new station that would emphasize European music and carry some hours of European language broadcasts. Lombardi had to convince the regulators of the desirability of the operation of an independent daytime only station in the Toronto market. A big concern was the loss of the frequency to Canada if it wasn’t used immediately. Lombardi said if Canada did not retain the use of 1540 in the Toronto area, the station in Syracuse, New York, on 1540 kHz would automatically gain the priority on the frequency. He also noted that Metropolitan Toronto had a proportionately smaller number of AM frequencies than any other metropolitan area in North America. He added that a daytime only station could be more successful in a large market and that 1540 kHz had produced profits for Ted Rogers to offset the losses of CHFI-FM.

Mr. Lombardi, a second generation Canadian, knew that new Canadians did not speak English well. He had studied and learned to speak Italian. To bridge the gap, he arranged for radio time on 1050 CHUM in the days it was a daytime only station. He played the music of the newcomers, spoke their language, and discussed the lands and cultures the new Canadians had left behind. The original idea was not for 1540 to be an ethnic station, but a cosmopolitan station. It would broadcast close to 15% in languages other than French and English on Saturdays from 12:30 p.m. to sign-off and Sundays from noon to sign-off. All other programming would be in English, but would have a distinctive cosmopolitan flavour, directed primarily to the ‘Third Culture’, that one-third of the population that was neither French nor Anglo-Saxon in origin.

The application for the Lombardi group to buy Radio 1540 Limited from Rogers Broadcasting was approved by the Board of Broadcast Governors but still needed the go ahead from the Minister of Transport. Lombardi would hold a 50% interest in the new station. The other shareholders would be Toronto Mayor Philip Givens 25% and James D. Service (Lombardi’s lawyer) 25%. Givens later changed his mind and backed out. A further application would have to be made in which Lombardi would take on the 25% interest held by Givens.

Lombardi was hoping to have his new station – CHIN – on the air by November 1. CHFI-AM was scheduled to vacate 1540 kHz on that date and move to 680 kHz (full-time). Lombardi had set up a new studio building on the site of a record-bar and supermarket complex at 637 College Street. The transmitter site (existing 1540 site) occupied 100 acres of land, a few miles west of Metro. Lombardi would have been happy to settle for just ten acres but Ted Rogers offered the land on an all or nothing basis. CHIN would carry on in CHFI’s good music vein with limited commercials. The new station would emphasize continental music. There would be a few hours of non English programming on weekends.


Johnny Lombardi
  Johnny Lombardi

Johnny Lombardi and his partners did not have all of the regulatory approvals needed for the new AM station until May 30. Lombardi had years of broadcasting experience, producing foreign language programs for stations like CHUM and CKFH. Most recently, Lombardi had worked for Ted Rogers. 

CHIN-AM signed on the air on June 6, operating on 1540 kHz with a power of 50,000 watts – daytime only. CHIN used the existing CHFI 1540 transmitter site and its two 205 foot towers located on Eglinton Avenue, north of Dundas Street, in Peel County (now Mississauga). A directional antenna pattern was used. The choice of June 6 as the start date was deliberate. Johnny Lombardi had served in the Canadian Army when, 22 years earlier, ‘D-Day” had begun the liberation of Europe. 
CHIN was licensed as a “cosmopolitan” station. Fifteen percent of its air time consisted of programming in languages other than English or French.


At licence renewal time, CHIN-AM-FM sought to have more ethnic programming. President Johnny Lombardi said that building a substantial audience among the city’s various ethnic communities could not be established with English language broadcasts that merely stressed European music. The BBG told him for such a change he would have to make a specific application to the board to increase the percentage for foreign language programming. CHIN was now authorized for 20% and could apply for 40%. The board noted that CHIN-AM was a daytime only operation and that the 24-hour CHIN-FM signal had been recently added. There had been problems with the FM operation because it interfered with some TV signals in the city. Special traps were purchased and installed to eliminate the interference.

On May 28, Radio 1540 Ltd. was authorized to broadcast on AM and FM, languages other than English and French for periods that in the aggregate exceed 20% but do not exceed 40% of the broadcast time per week.

Richard Trotter joined CHIN-AM-FM from CKQS in Oshawa. Ralph Kirchen was program director. 

Slogan: In any language, the talk of Toronto.


On November 5, the transfer of some shares of Radio 1540 Ltd. was denied. The application would have seen the transfer of 324 common shares from John B. Lombardi to John Longo and one common share from Lombardi to Donald Carr. 

Don Percy was program director. Gil Christie was morning personality. 

Between 6 and 9 a.m., CHIN featured a continuing flow of news, weather, sports and international news – in English only. After 9 a.m., the station offered news in English only on the hour. Newscasts on the half hour were in Italian. CHIN had a direct link with ANSA news in Rome. There were four people on the news staff. CHIN-AM offered two and a half hours of news per day while FM presented three and a half hours. The difference was because AM had to sign off at sunset.


On March 25, CHIN had its licences renewed to only December 31, 1970. The CRTC had decided the frequencies would be subject to reassignment because shareholder disputes had not been resolved. A new licensee should maintain service to diverse language groups. The existing shareholders would not be precluded from applying for the licence.

On June 17, permission was granted for a share transfer in both Radio 1540 Ltd. and Radio CHIN-FM Ltd. 25% of the shares in each company would transfer from James D. Service to John B. Lombardi. This decision however, does not change the Commission’s March 25 decision regarding reassignment of these frequencies.

Following a hearing, Radio 1540 Ltd. received a new licence to broadcast in Toronto on 1540 kHz with power of 50,000 watts daytime. The following competing applications were denied: John W. Fisher (to acquire CHIN 1540), Service Broadcasting Ltd. (to operate a new station on 1540 kHz with 50 kW and/or 1370 kHz with 5 kW), and Hewittdale Productions Ltd. (for a new station on 1540 kHz with 50 kW). 

CHIN (AM and FM) promoted the fact it was broadcasting in 25 languages.


In the early 1970’s, Lombardi bought out his partners. 


CHIN had applied for the use of 1600 kHz for night-time only use in Toronto. CHIN was a daytime-only station, unable to use it’s daytime 1540 kHz at night. 1600 could be used in Toronto at night but not during the day. CHIN pointed to the fact that two other Canadian stations had been daytime only but solved their lack of night-time service by using a different channel at night, such as what CHIN was now proposing (CHYR Leamington 710 day and CHIR 730 night – and – CFRG 710 day and CFGR 1230 night at Gravelbourg, SK). In this case, CHIN would use 1540 during the day and 1600 at night. CFRS 1560 Simcoe, CKOT 1510 Tillsonburg and CHSC 1220 St. Catharines also wanted the 1600 kHz frequency that had been used in the past by CJRN Niagara Falls, now on 710. There were also proposals for the use of 1590 kHz by a possible new station at Guelph or waterloo.


On July 9, CFRS Simcoe was authorized to move to 1600 kHz and operate with a power of 10,000 watts, day and night. The change was originally approved February 28 but required clearance from the Department of Communications which was now given. The other applications for 1600 kHz and for 1590 kHz were turned down. For the record, CHIN remained on 1540 kHz – daytime only.


Johnny Lombardi was one of several applicants for a new multilingual television station in Toronto. All of the applications were denied by the CRTC.


To avoid power outages, new generators were installed at both the CHIN-AM transmitter site and at the studios.

The CRTC again accepted applications for a multilingual TV station in Toronto. This time there was a winner. Dan Ianuzzi’s Multilingual Television (Toronto) Ltd. won the licence on December 27. Johnny Lombardi did not participate this time around.


Bill Evanov left CHIN-AM-FM for Burlington’s CING-FM.


Chief engineer Trevor Joice reported the installation of a new stereo production console, Ward-Beck R1200, a 12-input unit with many extras. CHIN also installed a new McKay Dymek DR-33 shortwave receiver. It would be used to pick up three international news broadcasts especially for CHIN from Italy’s RAI. 

Johnny Lombardi had plans for new studios and offices for CHIN Radio. Some time ago he had purchased an old Loblaw’s supermarket across the street from the stations. He had hoped it would be the home of the television station that he never got. The new facility would be a people-oriented community centre, housing CHIN-AM and FM, as well as television production facilities. The modern exterior of the new 80′ x 184′ building would be of reflective glass – a mirror of its surroundings. 


Enzo Di Mauro was Italian news director and Affonso Ciasca was in the Italian news department.


Kirk Stewart left CHIN’s engineering department for CJJD in Hamilton. Trevor Joice became director of engineering at CHIN to allow vice-president Paul Hunter to be more active with PWH Electronics.

It is noted that in addition to running Johnny Lombardi’s talk show, Gil Christy also taught public speaking!


CHIN was making use of satellite technology by broadcasting daily transmissions from various parts of Europe. CHIN could also communicate with the point of origin or relay their own transmissions.

CHIN had plans to build a bilingual newsroom that would combine the existing two newsrooms into one, for the use of newscasters skilful in two or more languages.


CHIN announced plans to broadcast 24 hours a day and in AM stereo – some time in 1984. The station already had plans to change the transmitter site from Mississauga to the Toronto Islands to improve daytime coverage.


On April 10, Radio 1540 Ltd. was authorized to move CHIN’s transmitter site from Streetsville (Mississauga) to Toronto Island. The station had a target date of June 1 to start operating at 50,000 watts from the new antenna site.

A new AM broadcast agreement was signed between Canada and the United States which would officially allow CHIN-AM to broadcast 24 hours a day on 1540 kHz. 


Al Zimmer left CHIN’s news department for CJSB Ottawa.


On March 6, CHIN began transmitting from a new antenna site on the southwest portion of Centre Island, atop Toronto’s water filtration plant. A new 50,000 watt Continental 317C2 transmitter was used. There was also a Continental 316 10,000 watt standby unit. CHIN also began broadcasting in stereo at this time, using the Motorola C-Quam system (or Magnavox). CHIN was Toronto’s third AM stereo station after CFRB and CHUM.

The old 30 acre transmitter site was adjacent to CFTR 680’s, and featured two towers. The new site on the Toronto Islands occupied six acres with five 44 metre (150 feet) high self supporting towers (two used in the day and four at night). Four of the towers were erected over the roof of one of the water filtration beds while the fifth was located on deep concrete caissons. Bell 15 kHz stereo lines were used to link the studios to the transmitter. The new site was situated just 700 feet from the existing CJCL 1430 antenna farm.

In March, the CRTC held public hearings across the country to establish an ethnic broadcasting policy. CHIN had been a mini United Nations for a long time and the new Ethnic Broadcasting Policy that came about from the hearings, brought recognition to what CHIN has been all about, and encouraged similar services across the country.

On June 14, CHIN was given approval to extend its hours of operation from daytime-only to 24 hours a day. It’s programming service would be extended on average by 84 hours per week, including approximately 44 hours in Chinese, 19 hours in Italian, 17 hours in Greek, and small amounts for several other languages. Following extensive negotiations with the U. S., CHIN would now be allowed to operate at night with a power of 15,000 watts. The added hours would allow CHIN to add programming from 11 other languages not already in use on the station.

Because of technical concerns, the night power started out at only 300 watts.

Johnny Lombardi received a civic award of merit from the City of Toronto. Among his achievements: founding of ‘Italian Days’at Ontario Place and Canada’s Wonderland.


CHIN-AM, now a 24 hour a day station, was authorized to increase the amount of ethnic programming it broadcast, to 95.2%. 


CHIN applied for a night-time power increase – from 15,000 watts to 50,000 watts.


Carl Redhead was vice president at CHIN-AM-FM.


CHIN increased night power to 15,000 watts.

A further increase in night-time power was approved by the Department of Communications in November of 1986 and then by the CRTC, on February 5, 1987. Equipment was being purchased to make the move to 50 kW when the D.O.C. advised CHIN that the change could not happen due to objections from the Federal Communications Commission in the United States. 


CHIN became a superstation when carriage of its signal on the sub-carrier of the MuchMusic TV satellite service to cable systems across the country via the Anik D-1 satellite began. CHIN would not be available in Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver as those cities had their own local multi-lingual radio stations.


Lorne Simons, CHIN’s PR director reported listeners were tuning in the station all over North America since it went on the MuchMusic transponder on Anik D-1 in September of 1989. Cable systems in Belleville, Kingston, Sudbury, Timmins and Dryden were now carrying CHIN and others were expected to follow. Individuals with satellite dishes were also picking up CHIN.

CHIN-AM was told that it could operate with a night-time power of 30,000 watts, but not the 50,000 that was requested. This was due to objections from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. 


Carl Redhead was manager of CHIN-AM and FM.

In May, CHIN-AM and FM moved to a new studio location at 622 College Street, almost right across the street from the old facility at 637 College. The new six storey building featured 50,000 square feet of boutiques and professional offices. A senior’s residence was built next door. CHIN Radio occupied floors four, five and six. The radio studios were on the fifth floor with FM on the east side and AM on the west side. McCurdy 8800 series consoles were used in the control rooms. Ward-Beck 1200/1400 consoles were used in production studios B and C. Production studio A was an eight-track recording facility, using a Soundcraft 600 console. The new studios featured Studer and Otari reel to reel tape decks, and ITC and BE cart machines. Construction of the actual studios was started prior to Christmas 1990 and the bulk of the work was done in June of 1991. CHIN-FM was able to begin broadcasting from the new facility on May 8 and CHIN-AM followed on the 16th.

CHIN Radio marked its 25th anniversary on June 6.

HIN moved its signal to the new Anik E2 satellite, sharing the MuchMusic transponder. CHIN had been using the Anik D1 satellite since September of 1989.

David Lee was named chief engineer for CHIN-AM and FM.


September 5 – CHIN-AM was given permission by the CRTC to add a low-power FM re-transmitter at Toronto, operating on 101.3 MHz with an effective radiated power of 22 watts. This repeater improved CHIN’s night-time coverage in parts of Woodbridge, east of Mississauga and Etobicoke.


On May 26,  CHIN was granted a licence for a transitional digital radio undertaking. The transmitter was installed on the CN Tower and employed the EUREKA-147 digital audio broadcasting system. The transmitter operated on a frequency of 1465.024 MHz with an effective isotropic radiated power of 5,084 watts. 


Lenny Lombardi became president of CHIN Radio/TV International. His father, Johnny Lombardi, had held the joint titles of president/CEO and retained his CEO status.


Johnny Lombardi died after a short illness on March 20, 2002. He was 86. Son Lenny became CHIN president and daughters Theresa and Donina vice-presidents.

Joe Mulvihill, former General Manager of Integrated Media Sales, was appointed Executive Vice President and COO of CHIN Radio/TV international.


On April 17, Radio 1540 Ltd. was given approval to change the frequency of CHIN-1-FM Toronto from 101.3 to 91.9 MHz and to increase the effective radiated power from 22 to 35 watts. This was one of three proposals that CHIN had put before the CRTC for approval. The others involved converting CHIN-AM to the FM dial, using the 101.3 MHz frequency; and the other involved moving CHIN-FM-1 (1540’s FM repeater) to 91.9 MHz and converting 101.3 into a brand new multilingual station.

In July, CHIN-1-FM was operating on 91.9 MHz.


On June 30, Radio 1540 Ltd. was authorized to increase ERP for CHIN-1-FM from 35 watts to an average ERP of 161 watts. There would also be a decrease in antenna height and the transmitter would be relocated. 


On August 22 the CRTC renewed the licence for CHIN and its transmitter CHIN-1-FM until August 31, 2011. This short term renewal would permit the Commission to review at an earlier date the licensee’s compliance with its condition of licence relating to Canadian content development. 


On August 28, the CRTC renewed the transitional digital radio licence of CHIN-DR-2.


Theresa Lombardi became Vice President/General Manager at CHIN-AM-FM. Dario Amaral was now Vice President Sales, Adriano Cremonese was Retal Sales Manager and Walter Pastorious was Director of National Accounts. Amaral had been VP Programming/ Operations and Production.

Trevor Joice, a long-time member of the Applied Electronics sales team in Toronto, retired following the 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas. He began his 40-year broadcast career as a technician at CHUC Cobourg, then moved to CHIN Toronto where, in the course of 18 years with the operation, he became Chief Engineer. Joice then spent some time at CJRT Toronto before moving to Applied.


On January 14, the CRTC approved the application by Radio 1540 Limited to change the authorized contours of its transmitter CHIN-FM-1 Toronto by increasing the average effective radiated power from 161 to 1,850 watts (maximum ERP from 350 to 5,000 watts with an effective height of antenna above average terrain of 86 metres). The licensee stated that the technical amendment would improve signal strength and quality and help minimize interference or poor reception issues affecting the communities served by the commercial ethnic station CHIN Toronto and its transmitter CHIN-FM-1.

On August 31, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CHIN and its transmitter CHIN-1-FM until March 31, 2012. The licence for CHIN-DR-2 was administratively renewed to April 30, 2012.

Jai Ojah-Maharaj left CHIN to be News Director at the new CKFG-FM in Toronto.


On March 20, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CHIN and its transmitter CHIN-1-FM to August 31, 2012.

On April 23, the CRTC administratively renewed the broadcasting licence for digital radio programming undertaking CHIN-DR-2 until August 31, 2012.

The CRTC approved the change in the effective control of Radio 1540 Limited, from John Lombardi to Lenny Lombardi, following the death of John Lombardi in 2002. Radio 1540 Limited was the licensee of CHIN, CHIN-FM, CHIN-DR-1 and CHIN-DR-2 Toronto (Ontario), as well as CJLL-FM.

On August 28, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence of CHIN and its transmitter CHIN-1-FM to March 31, 2013.


On March 28, the CRTC renewed the licence of CHIN Toronto and its transmitter CHIN-1-FM Toronto to August 31, 2019. 


On May 5, the CRTC approved the application by Radio 1540 Limited for a broadcasting licence to operate a commercial ethnic FM radio station in Toronto. Radio 1540 proposed to operate the new FM station using the parameters of its rebroadcasting transmitter CHIN-1-FM Toronto. The Commission also approved Radio 1540’s application to amend the broadcasting licence for its commercial ethnic AM radio station CHIN Toronto in order to delete CHIN-1-FM as a transmitter. The new station would operate on 91.9 MHz (channel 220A) with an average ERP of 1,850 watts (maximum ERP of 5,000 watts with EHAAT of 86 metres).


The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council found CHIN in breach for abusive and unduly discriminatory comments and unduly negative stereotyping about Muslims. A listener complaint was filed in reference to the March 24 broadcast of The Zelda Young Show, which discussed issues of interest to the Jewish community.

The story continues elsewhere…
Effective September 1st 2019, we will only be adding new material to these station histories in exceptional circumstances. Our intent to chronicle the early days of these radio and television stations has been achieved, and many new sources and technologies, from the CRTC website to Wikipedia, and others, are now regularly providing new information in these areas.

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