|City of license||Hamilton, Ontario|
|Broadcast area||Hamilton and Southern Ontario|
|Frequency||820 kHz (AM)|
|First air date||1959|
|Power||50,000 watts daytime
10,000 watts nighttime
(Bell Media Radio, G.P.)
|Sister stations||CKLH-FM, CKOC|
CHAM is a Canadian radio station in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Owned by Bell Media, the station broadcasts Premiere Radio Networks' 24/7 Comedy radio network under the brand "Funny 820". CHAM's studios are located on Upper Wentworth Street near Lime Ridge Mall in Hamilton, while its 6-tower array is located near Binbrook.
CHAM began operations in November 1959 as a 5,000 watt station at the 1280 AM frequency under the CHIQ call letters. Initially the station broadcast a classical music format but rock and roll was featured later in the 1960s, with Canadian radio personality David Marsden among the station's DJ roster. In 1965, the power was increased to 10,000 watts day / 5,000 watts night (the station went full-time 10 kW in 1968). The station was purchased from CHIQ, Ltd. in 1967 by (Ted) Rogers Broadcasting Ltd., which received approval from the CRTC to change the call letters from CHIQ to CHAM. Under Rogers' ownership and management by Dancy Broadcasting, Ltd., CHAM launched a "Middle of the road" music format on November 1, 1967.
By 1970, CHAM switched to Top 40 format, directly competing with CKOC (a future sister station of CHAM's in the 2000s) and including in its playlist many records that didn't receive exposure elsewhere in the market. Some of the personalities who worked at CHAM during this time period included Paul Godfrey, Dick Joseph (who worked there twice - the second time under their next call letters), Gil Harris, Rockin' Ron Baptist, Ravin' Dave Mitchell, Don Collins, Bob Wood (later program/operations manager of WBEN AM/FM in Buffalo), Ike Isaac, Ken Packham, Skip Dewling, Wayne Dion, J.J.Clarke, Don West, Len Robinson, Dave Fisher Ted Michaels, and newscaster Glen Darling. CHAM published a weekly Top 40 poster approximately between 1971 and 1974. In an unusual move, CHAM's broadcasting facilities were located inside a shopping mall called Terminal Towers, from which passers by could peer into the station's glass walls and watch the announcers work.
In 1976, CHAM was sold to Keith Dancy and the station adopted a "gold and great" format under the CJJD call sign. Soon afterward, the station's facilities were moved out of Terminal Towers (and the public eye) and up a few blocks to Lloyd D. Jackson Square. For one year in 1978, the station held the radio broadcast rights to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football team; it remains, to date, the only year in the Tiger-Cats' history that it did not broadcast on flagship CHML.
In 1981, Moffat Communications, Ltd. acquired CJJD and immediately upgraded the station's facilities, expanded its news staff, and included some talk programming in the lineup. Moffat changed the station call sign back to CHAM in 1982, and in July 1983, changed format to country music, broadcasting in AM stereo. In August 1985, CHAM moved to a stronger frequency at 820 AM, increasing power to 50,000 watts day and 10,000 watts night
As a pioneering country station, "820 CHAM" would earn its greatest fame and following, having had a good run for 2+ decades under various management and ownership, including Golden West Broadcasting (acquired the station in 1993), Affinity Radio Group (1997), and Telemedia (2000). CHAM was honoured as Canadian Country Music Association Station of the Year in 1989, the same year the Country Music Association bestowed Medium Market Station honours.
In 2002, Standard Broadcasting acquired CHAM and its sister stations (CKOC and CKLH), and on January 31, 2005, at 8:20am, with contemporary country listeners having gravitated to the FM dial, adjusted CHAM's format to become "All Time Country Favourites: 820 CHAM - The Legend," with the station concentrating on classic country music (though a few current songs would later be included on a limited basis).
In October 2007, Astral Media acquired Standard Broadcasting's terrestrial radio and television assets, including CHAM. On August 29, 2008, the station began stunting with all-Christmas music, teasing listeners that on September 2, 2008, there would be "ten thousand reasons to tune in at 8:20am." On September 2, CHAM's new format was revealed—a talk radio format as "Talk 820." CHAM's talk schedule would include local talk shows hosted by Mike Nabuurs, Becky Coles, Jason Farr, Jodi Gaskell, Dave Shuttleworth, and Mike Bullard, along with syndicated shows including Dennis Miller. The new CHAM format included live sports coverage, including Hamilton Bulldogs hockey, Toronto Blue Jays baseball, and National Football League broadcasts from Westwood One.
The "Talk 820" format of CHAM did not provide the total numbers that Astral was looking for, with the station lagging behind longtime Hamilton talk stalwart CHML. Seeing an opportunity to fill a country void in the Hamilton market left by CING-FM's changeover to classic hits in 2009, and taking advantage of a staff restructuring at the Astral Hamilton station cluster, CHAM reverted to an all-country format (and the "820 CHAM" branding) on July 22, 2010 at Noon. The playlist concentrated on both current country and hits from the past 20 years, with a greater than usual focus on Canadian content. The station would keep many of the sports commitments it adopted during its talk format, many of which it had already held prior to the talk format's debut.
By August 2011, CHAM gained country competition when CHKX-FM flipped formats from smooth jazz to country. CHKX and its clearer-sounding FM signal would eventually surpass CHAM in the ratings, leading to speculation that CHAM would drop country a second time. On August 20, 2012, Astral Media would confirm that CHAM would change to an all-comedy format; at 8:20AM the next morning (August 21, 2012), after playing "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts and "Sideways" by Dierks Bentley, the station became "Funny 820," Astral's second full-time comedy station (after London's CKSL). The content on "Funny 820" relies heavily on vintage and archived stand-up and improvisational comedy bits provided by 24/7 Comedy Radio, a US-based service to which Astral owns exclusive Canadian broadcast rights. Local content is currently limited to voiceovers and traffic and entertainment updates provided by Mike Nabuurs, the "Funny 820 Ambassador of Funny" and the only on-air talent carried over from "820 CHAM," although spotlights on local comedy talent have not been ruled out in the future.
In early 2013, the station added Astral's new late night Humble & Fred show. Most recently, for the 2013-2014 hockey season, the station is airing Toronto Maple Leafs games in addition to their usual comedic fare.
24/7 Comedy is set to cease terrestrial distribution in August 2014. A new format for the network's Canadian stations has not yet been announced.
- Decision CRTC 85-13
- "CHAM swings back to country format; three hosts lose jobs", from Hamilton Spectator, 7/22/2010
- "No kidding: Hamilton radio station CHAM goes all comedy," from The Hamilton Spectator, 8/20/2012
- "Hamilton, Ontario Gets Funny," from RadioInsight, 8/20/2012
- "Humble And Fred Return To Radio Via Astral Media, CFRB". Mediabase, January 14, 2013.
- The official "Funny 820" website
- CHAM History - Canadian Communications Foundation
- Query the REC's Canadian station database for CHAM
- Query the FCC's AM station database for CHAM
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