CFPL-FM, FM 96, London

Corus Entertainment Inc.

CFPL-FM199995.9179,000Corus Radio Company
CFPL-FM199595.9179,000Blackburn Radio Inc.
CFPL-FM198495.9179,000Blackburn Group Inc. (London Free Press)
CFPL-FM196895.9179,000CFPL Broadcasting Ltd. (London Free Press)
CFPL-FM196195.9179,000London Free Press Printing Co.
CFPL-FM194995.94,440London Free Press Printing Co.
CFPL-FM194893.53,000London Free Press Printing Co.
CFPL-FM194893.54,440London Free Press Printing Co.


Walter J. Blackburn
Walter Blackburn

Having received a licence, CFPL hoped to have its FM station on the air and in full operation in December.


CFPL’s application for FM at 4,400 watts and antenna height above average terrain of 131 feet was recommended for approval by the CBC Board.

CFPL-FM was on the air in the spring.

CFPL-FM made its official debut a day after the opening of CHLO in nearby St. Thomas. The CFPL celebration was held May 15. CFPL started the event with cocktails at the Hunt Club, followed by a buffet supper in the studio. The official FM opening was broadcast before a packed house at the Grand Theatre. The first half hour of the 2-hour celebration included music from the CFPL Chorus, the CFPL Orchestra, and the Leslie Bell Singers, as well as addresses from Walter Blackburn and CBC Director General of Programs Ernie Bushnell. London Mayor George A. Wenige was also on hand. The second half hour was music sponsored by radio manufacturer Stromberg-Carlson, which also aired the first commercial on CFPL-FM. The second hour, known as the CFPL Showcase, included various musical acts including vocalist Don Harding. The event was emceed by Murray Brown. The public was invited to order tickets for special tours of the newly expanded CFPL-AM and FM studios between May 17 and 22. A Mantel radio was given away on each of those days to one ticket-holder in attendance. Initial station power was 3,000 watts (4,440 watts ERP), and programming fully duplicated CFPL-AM. Studios were on the third floor of the Free Press Building, 442-446 Richmond Street. The transmitting facilities were at the CFPL-AM site on Lots 14 and 15, Concession 5, Westminster Township. The “FPL” in the calls: Free Press London. Engineer Glen Robitaille built CFPL-FM’s transmitter himself.


CFPL-FM received CBC approval to change frequency from 93.5 to 95.9 MHz. Power would remain 4,440 watts. The change of frequency took place on August 25.

In September, the station began airing some programming separate from CFPL-AM. The separate programming was mainly classical music.


The CBC Board of Governors approved the transfer of control of CFPL-AM-FM from The London Free Press Printing Co. Ltd. to a company with the same name. There was no change of control. 


The CBC approved CFPL-FM’s request to program separately from CFPL-AM for a maximum period of two and three quarter hours nightly.


The London Free Press Printing Co. Ltd., owner of CFPL-AM-FM, filed an application for the operation of a television station at London. Walter Blackburn said his company was prepared to invest in the proposed station $775,000 or more if needed. He said it may be necessary to finance it from the profits of the radio station and newspaper. The CBC Board approved the television application. 

CFPL-TV went on the air in November.


CFPL-FM received approval for a change of facilities and transmitter site – effective radiated power would increase from 4,440 watts to 4,890 watts. Effective antenna height would decrease from 131 feet to 99.2 feet (above average terrain). 


Walter J. Blackburn announced the appointment of Murray T. Brown as president of CFPL Broadcasting Ltd. as of December 17. Brown became commercial manager of CFPL Radio in 1945 after serving as a part-time announcer. In 1949 he was named AM-FM station manager. He added TV responsibilities when it went on the air in 1953. In 1956 Brown was named general manager of the electronics division of London Free Press Printing Co. Ltd. and became vice president and general manager in 1966.


C.N. Knight, manager, appointed Hugh Bremner as the station’s first Radio Editor. Bremner had been news director since joining the company in 1954. This appointment signalled a new approach to news coverage by the station. As of September 1, Bremner would be responsible for the editorial stand of the station on various local issues. He would also present not only the factual side of local, national and international developments, but a further dimension of interpretation by personally commentating on the news of the day. The new editorials would be interspersed from time to time with his daily commentaries which now would air at 12:40 p.m. in addition to the established times of 8:15 a.m. and 6:10 a.m. on CFPL-AM and 12:40 and 6:10 p.m. on CFPL-FM.


While every other station in town (CFPL-AM, CJBK and CHLO) went through some kind of format change in recent times, CFPL-FM was the only station that wasn’t touched by change. The station featured CBC programming and several classical music programs, but the main staple was “wall-to-wall” music with no singles. Instrumentals and plums were used often, along with the occasional new LP cut. Between midnight and 3 a.m. (12-6 a.m. on weekends), CFPL-FM offered progressive rock, programmed by Radio Western (University of Western Ontario). The free-form program offered some competition to CHLO St. Thomas but could change as Radio Western was seeking its own FM licence. 

By the end of the year, CFPL-FM had disaffiliated from the CBC Radio Network. CBC programming continued to be offered by CFPL-AM. Prior to disaffiliation CFPL-FM aired a number of programs from the CBC FM network, including Ideas.


In November, the CRTC approved an application by CFPL Broadcasting Ltd. to delete classical, opera, jazz, and folk music on CFPL-FM, and replace it with rock and country music as well as increased spoken word content.


On January 6, CFPL-FM  re-launched as FM96, with a format featuring a variety of musical genres with album-oriented rock being most prominent. In addition to rock, FM96 features jazz music nightly from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., country music on Saturday afternoons, an all-night show hosted by Bill Gadgeon that includes genres including reggae and new wave, and Sunday morning feature programming. Greg Simpson hosts “Chart Talk” on Saturday evenings, which is a Top 40 album rock countdown. Sundays from 8-9 p.m. features all-Canadian music, and Mondays from 11 p.m. to midnight features live jazz from London’s Marienbad Tavern.

Barry Smith was the program director of CFPL-FM, and Greg Simpson was the music director, a post he would hold on two occasions at FM96 between 1979 and 1993.

In the first BBM book following the launch of FM96, the station had 61,900 listeners. That number would grow immensely in subsequent years as the station moved to pure rock, and became the highest-rated station in London by the 1990s.


CFPL-FM had a mobile unit that it took throughout the listening area. An ad promoting the unit: The Road Runner – FM96 London – Rollin’ Over Southwestern Ontario.


C. N. (Bud) Knight was promoted to vice president and general manager for CFPL AM and FM.


Glen (Robbie) Robitaille retired March 1. A retirement party was held February 26. He had been vice president in charge of engineering, electronic and mechanical services for CFPL-AM-FM-TV and the London Free Press. He had been associated with CFPL since 1949.

Murray T. Brown retired as president of the broadcasting divisions of London Free Press Holdings Ltd. He would remain as a company director. Robert V. Elsden became president of CFPL-AM-FM-TV. William (Bill) J. Brady became manager of CFPL-AM-FM, succeeding vice president and general manager C.N. (Bud) Knight who retired.

The licenses for CFPL-AM-FM and TV were extended to a full five-year term following a review of cross-ownership. The CRTC concluded the market had been well served by London Free Press Holdings.

Walter J. Blackburn died December 16. Control of the company passed to his daughter, Martha. 


Mike Smolders became sales manager for FM96.


Eric Samuels left FM96 to become program director at the new CHTZ-FM in St. Catharines. Gary Ennett became news director.


Bill Brady was general manager.


CFPL-FM-AM news director Gary Ennet became RTNDA Regional Director – Radio (Central Canada).


Robert V. Elsden was appointed vice-president of broadcasting for what was now The Blackburn Group Inc.


Former CFPL newsman Hugh Bremner passed away at age 74. For nearly 30 years, he aired news and commentaries on CFPL radio. He also anchored the evening news on CFPL-TV for a number of years. Bill Brady was appointed vice president of radio for Blackburn Communications Systems.


In early May, Martha Blackburn, chair of the Blackburn Group Inc. announced the sale of CFPL-TV and CKNX-TV to Baton Broadcasting Inc. Martha Blackburn-Hughes, 47, died suddenly on August 15. She was the daughter of the late Walter J. Blackburn and became head of the company following his death. Despite the death of Blackburn, the proposed sale of CFPL/CKNX to Baton was to proceed. The future of the London Free Press newspaper and CFPL / CKNX radio stations was up in the air.


The CRTC approved the sale of CFPL-TV and CKNX-TV to Baton Broadcasting, in January. Program Director Barry Smith left for CKSL/CIQM as Operations Manager. Greg Simpson left FM96.


Following the sale of CFPL-TV to Baton Broadcasting, and the sale of The London Free Press to The Toronto Sun, the corporate name changed to Blackburn Radio Inc. Rick Moss became general manager of CFPL-FM-AM, reporting to Blackburn president Bill Brady.


John Wilson provided weather forecasts to CFPL-FM-AM.


Dave Burgess was afternoon drive host.


FM96 celebrated 50 years on the air. Sports anchor Jim Van Horne leaves for CFPL-TV. Grant Stein, who has been with the station for three years, becomes music director. Tracy Walsh moved from promotions coordinator at FM96 to a similar position at CJAY Calgary. Trisha Freriks remained as promotions manager for FM96/CFPL-AM/The Hawk. Bill Brady was senior vice president and corporate secretary of The Blackburn Group (parent of CFPL Broadcasting). Tim Kilpatrick, formerly part of the CKIS-FM Calgary morning team, was the new sports director at CFPL/CFHK. Late in the year, Blackburn Radio announced it had placed CFPL-AM-FM on the market. Ernst & Young Corporate Finance was engaged to assist in the sale. CFPL/CFPL-AM were in a Local management agreement (LMA) with 103.1 the Hawk, which was not involved in the sale but would remain a partner within the LMA.


Shaw Communications agreed to acquire CFPL-AM/CFPL-FM and CFHK-FM London from Blackburn Radio. Blackburn operated the two CFPL stations and had an agreement to purchase CFHK from Vern Furber. Late last year, Blackburn announced that CFHK would not be part of a sale as the company was only operating “The Hawk” through a local management agreement. On August 23, the CRTC approved the purchase of CFHK-FM St. Thomas by Blackburn Radio Inc. from CFHK Radio Ltd. and the purchase by Shaw Radio Ltd. of CFPL-AM and FM London and CFHK-FM St. Thomas from Blackburn. Corus Entertainment Inc. was formed September 1 from the media assets of Shaw Communications Inc. Corus became a separate and distinct, publicly traded corporation. The Shaw family continued to hold the majority of voting shares in Corus. Corus took ownership of the Blackburn stations in September.


Brad Gibb joined FM96. Scott Tucker left for CIKR-FM in Kingston.


On May 20, the Corus radio stations in London, moved from the London Free Press Building at 369 York Street to City Centre at 380 Wellington Street (the former home of Telemedia’s London stations). Grant Stein left commercial radio, later resurfacing as program director at CHRW. Brad Gibb replaced Stein as music director.


Andrea Dunn and Mark Cameron join FM96. Paul Damon moved from afternoon drive to morning drive, replacing Pete & Jeff. Heather Manners left.


Morning hosts, Paul Damon and Melinda Williamson (“Big D & Mindy”) moved to CFHK to host mornings, replaced by Scott Tucker and Chris George, better known as “Tucker & Taz” who had come from CIKR. Tucker had previously been on-air at FM96.


Jeff McArthur moved from afternoon drive on FM96 to morning drive on CKDK. Mark Cameron left but returned the following year.


Brad Gibb left for CFMK-FM in Kingston after over five years as music director at CFPL-FM. He was replaced by Mark Cameron. CFPL-FM marked 60 years on the air on May 15.


Dave Hopkins left Corus Radio London as retail sales manager to become general sales manager at K-ROCK/KIX Country/The LAKE in Kingston.


There were a number of changes at Corus Entertainment related to its organization review to streamline decision-making and clarify roles and mandates. Among the changes: Reporting to Hal Blackadar, Executive Vice President and interim President of Corus Radio – Chris Sisam, VP/GM, Corus Radio, Southwestern Ontario (based in London, Sisam would be responsible for Corus Guelph, Corus Kitchener/Cambridge and London). Corus London GM Dave Farough was now VP, Brands and Programming at Corus Radio Toronto. On November 30, the CRTC renewed CFPL-FM’s licence to August 31, 2017. Lesley Graham died at age 50. She had been a copywriter at Corus London for 17 years. Dean Sinclair, former General Manager at Corus London, was the new GM at Humber College Radio in Toronto. Mike Patterson, who’d been Retail Sales Manager at FM96/1039FM since March 3, 2008, become General Sales Manager at the sister Corus Radio Barrie cluster. He began October 12. Patterson was no stranger to the Barrie market. He was with CKVR-TV before being recruited by Rogers TV Barrie.


Jim McCourtie left FM96 / 1031 Fresh FM as program director to take up the same post at sister stations Y108/Vinyl 95.3 Hamilton. He was replaced at FM96 by Brad Gibb who had been PD at CKWS-FM in Kingston. His first day was February 7. Gibb had been music director and assistant PD at FM96 between 2001 and 2008.


Murray Brown died February 4 at age 96. He joined CFPL Radio in 1945 as a weekend announcer. Brown eventually became station manager and helped launch CFPL-TV in 1953, and became manager of that station as well. Between 1968 and 1984, he served as president of the Blackburn stations.

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.

Contact this station