CKLO-FM, Classic Rock 98.1, London

Blackburn Radio Inc.

CKLO-FM201198.140,000Blackburn Radio Inc.


On February 2, the CRTC approved the application by Blackburn Radio Inc. for a broadcasting licence to operate a new FM radio station to serve London. The licence would expire August 31, 2015. A number of competing applications were denied. Blackburn was the former owner of The London Free Press newspaper and CFPL-AM-FM-TV. The company operated radio stations in Chatham, Leamington, Sarnia, Windsor and Wingham. Blackburn was a corporation controlled by Cogent Investments Inc., which in turn was controlled by Richard Costley-White. The company’s proposal to offer an Adult Album Alternative (Triple A) music format targeting adults from 34 to 64 years of age would add to the musical diversity of the London radio market and address an underserved demographic in the market. The applicant committed to devote at least 40% of all category 2 (Popular music) musical selections broadcast during each broadcast week and between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, as well as 30% of all category 3 (Special Interest Music) musical selections broadcast during each broadcast week, to Canadian selections. The applicant would also devote 10% of the category 3 music broadcast each broadcast week to Jazz and Blues, World Beat and Folk musical selections. Blackburn’s proposal would introduce competition in the London radio market and add to the diversity of news voices in the city. In addition to providing significant local reflection through the proposed 120 hours of local programming per broadcast week, Blackburn committed to devote, in each broadcast week, 12 hours and 50 minutes to spoken word programming, including five hours and ten minutes of “pure” news. Blackburn’s FREE FM would operate on 98.1 MHz (channel 251B1) with an average effective radiated power of 4,000 watts.


On January 12, the CRTC approved the application by Blackburn Radio Inc. to change the authorized contours of CKLO-FM by increasing the effective radiated power from 4,000 to 12,600 watts (maximum ERP from 7,000 to 40,000 watts), by increasing the effective height of antenna above average terrain from 106.5 to 150 metres, and by changing the transmitter site. Blackburn stated that these technical changes were required as the original transmitter site had become crowded, and that the addition of CKLO-FM to that site would create interference. The Commission received a comment from Astral Media Radio G.P. in regard to this application. In its comment, Astral stated that that the proposed power increase had the potential to cause interference with its CIQM-FM London, but noted Blackburn’s commitment to resolve interference issues. Further, Astral requested to be informed by Blackburn in advance of its on-air testing of CKLO-FM. In reply, Blackburn affirmed that it will coordinate with Astral to remedy any potential interference, and would inform Astral as soon as it was ready to begin the on-air testing phase of CKLO-FM. Blackburn had originally planned to transmit from atop 1 London Place, the city’s tallest building. Under this application, CKLO-FM would now broadcast from a new tower at 3700 Old Victoria Road, right at Highway 401.

In May, studios and offices were under construction on the ground floor of Blackburn’s corporate building at Richmond and Picadilly Streets.

98.1 Free FM (CKLO) began on-air testing on June 22. Blackburn Radio had returned to London’s airwaves for the first time in 12 years.

The on-air line-up would include Tim Donovan (mornings), Kate Wright (mid-days), Steve Hart (afternoon drive) and Meredith Geddes (evenings). In the newsroom….Scott Kitching (News Director), Lisa Brandt and Laura Carney. Ron Dann was general manager. Jon Eisler was general sales manager.

CKLO officially signed on the air July 5 at 6:00 a.m. With the return of Blackburn Radio to its hometown, President Richard Costley -White said it’s great to be back in London. “My family’s roots are here. It’s where I grew up. It’s where the Blackburn businesses began. It’s where our company’s traditions and special culture were established.” Studios and offices were on the first floor (unit 101) of the Selby Building, 700 Richmond Street.

Pasqualina joined Tim Donavan on the morning show. She had been with CHST-FM (BOB-FM). Pete Newman did weekends. 

Meredith Geddes left FREE FM for CFUN-FM in the Vancouver area. 

Derek “Rock” Botten returned yet again to Blackburn Radio, this time as co-host of Free FM London’s morning show. He’s worked for Blackburn on three other occasions.


Jon Bond was doing the evening show. Erin Bateman was heard on weekends. On April 28, Saturday mid-day announcer Pete Newman did his last show. Gord St. Dennis did his first Free FM show on April 30.

Free FM changed it’s image statement to: The greatest classic rock and the new rock that matters. 

Pete Newman returned to Saturday mornings (on-air) on September 15.

On November 5 at 5:30 a.m., 98.1 FREE FM ushered in a new era of Morning Show to the airwaves of the London area. It saw the launch of “The BIG Show,” cohosted by legendary London announcer, Derek “Rock” Botten, the formidable Blair Henatyzen and renowned lead anchor Lisa Brandt. Beginning at 5:30am each and every weekday, the show brought fast paced entertainment, laughter, and up to the minute traffic and weather.


Dan Wylie was named Program Director at Free-FM. He had been with Bell Media Radio in Brockville. His last day in Brockville was February 1.

In February, Gord St. Denis joined Free FM as evening host (7-midnight).


Richard Costley-White passed away in June at the age of 48. Richard joined the Board of Directors of his family’s holding company, Blackburn Group Inc. in January 1996, three and half years after the death of his mother, Martha Blackburn. Costley-White served as both chairman and president until ill health forced his resignation in 2014.


In the summer, CKLO changed its branding from FREE FM to Classic Rock 98 1.


On April 3, the CRTC gave Blackburn Radio approval to delete a condition of license on CKLO that stated “The licensee shall ensure that at least 10% of musical selections broadcast during each broadcast week are from content category 3 (Special Interest Music)”. The condition was originated when CKLO aired a Triple A format and was no longer relevant to its existing Classic Rock format.

The story continues elsewhere…
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