Montague Monitoring Station
Policing The Air Waves
There's an unobtrusive building in Montague, P.E.I., where the radio is on 24 hours a day-every day. It is one of D.O.T.'s ten monitoring stations, which serve as the police force of the air waves.
Montague's Officer-in-Charge Bob Ferguson and four radio operators work in shifts to "patrol a beat" that includes parts of Quebec and New Brunswick, all of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, the Labrador Coast and, of course, the Island itself.
Radio Operators Bert Bryand, George Warner, Bill Brehaut and Dave Clarkson listen to all transmissions ranging from commercial stations such as those of the CBC network, to private radio systems used by taxis, ships, police and military personnel. Canadian industry has greatly increased the work load. "Even cement mixers on their way to the job keep in touch with headquarters by radio", was one quote on the way radio is so closely integrated with commerce.
The monitor centres ensure that national and international regulations covering radio and television transmission are observed and in doing so keep a continuous round-the-clock vigil. This job is a big one. In Canada there are approximately 520 radio and television stations of all kinds, and a total of 65,520 sources of transmissions that must be monitored!
Monitoring all emissions from 121 kilocyles to 500 megacycles, the D.O.T. men make sure station operators stick to their assigned frequencies. "Drifting" off frequency, usually the result of technical failure and rarely done on purpose, easily causes interference with transmissions by other stations in today's crowded air. Only a very small tolerance in frequency "drift" is permitted and when this is exceeded the offending station is immediately notified. Automatic and semi-automatic transmitters, such as teletype, are also monitored because machines can go wrong and interfere with other traffic. The monitoring staff also keeps a check on what is said over the air. Not only are such obvious sins as profanities banned, but a taxi despatcher must despatch taxis not chit-chat about last night's ball game. Radio licenses prescribe specific uses and the sky is by no means the limit in the use of Canada's air waves.
It's Done with a Tiny Quartz Crystal
Frequency is determined by a tiny quartz crystal which is sensitive to temperature changes. These high-precision crystals are as fine as one part in ten million. Although transmitters have built-in temperature controls, the mechanism sometimes goes wrong and then the station finds itself off frequency. The monitor centre with its specially designed measuring equipment not only detects drift, but is used to help the station get back on to its frequency.
Common practise is to assign the same frequencies to two stations-provided they are low-powered and far enough apart so that mutual interference is kept to minimum. For instance, giving the same frequency to a Maritime station and one on the West Coast is not unusual.
Canada's Most Easterly
The monitoring station at Montague is Canada's most easterly one. There are others at Beaumont, Quebec; Stratford and Port Arthur (Lakehead), Ontario; Churchill, Manitoba; Melville, Saskatchewan; Wetaskiwin, Alberta; and Ladner, B.C. A new station is planned for Fort Smith, N.W.T., and when completed next year it will be the most northerly.
The station at Montague was moved there in July, 1961, from Hartlen Point, N.S., which was too close to the international boundary and picked up too many U.S. transmissions.
The building, situated on a slight rise, measures 40 by 60 feet and cost $50,000 to construct. The equipment in it is worth $60,000.
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