Media News Digest: Pulitzer winners, BNN radio in Vancouver, farewell Carl Kasell

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Eight proposals to replace OMNI

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has released eight applications for national ethnic television services, and set a hearing for Oct. 15 to discuss which of them would be the best candidate to replace OMNI.

Last year, the commission caved to OMNI’s demand that it be given mandatory subscription fees from all television subscribers, under the threat of surrendering the licence and leaving the country without a multilingual TV service offering newscasts. But in giving in, the CRTC also set a limit of three years (until Aug. 31, 2020) and said that it would ask other broadcasters if they had better proposals for such a mandatory ethnic service, and consider them at a future hearing.

On Tuesday, the CRTC released eight applications, seven for TV services (including OMNI’s proposal for renewing its status) and one for an ethnic described video guide. Each makes proposals for multilingual programming including national newscasts and proposes a mandatory monthly fee.

I analyzed the nearly 200 documents submitted for the eight applications and below present an analysis of the applicants, proposals and programming:

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The bus and the cyclist

Wednesday, April 11, Sherbrooke St., heading east from Atwater Ave. A cyclist, riding in the right lane, is minding his business when suddenly an STM bus passes within inches of him in a dangerous pass. The cyclist catches up to the driver twice to argue with him, all caught on video. He posts it to YouTube and a day later some prominent local personalities (Dominic Arpin, Patrick Lagacé) share the video on social media.

The response from their followers is overwhelming: the cyclist is at fault. He should have been further to the side. He shouldn’t have been zigzagging around cars. He should have used the bicycle path on nearby de Maisonneuve Blvd. He shouldn’t have engaged the driver.

It’s disappointing that anti-cyclist mentality has reached this point. As an occasional cyclist myself, I’m well aware that there are some really dangerous cyclists out there. But nothing this cyclist did was dangerous, and yet he gains little sympathy from people.

Let’s analyze their arguments.

He shouldn’t have been in the middle of the lane

The bus makes its dangerous pass, inches from the parking lane.

The wide angle of the camera distorts it a bit, but I estimate about a metre, maybe a metre and a half, between the bus and the lane of parked cars as it passes the cyclist. That’s far less than there should be for any semblance of safety.

According to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, Article 487: “Every person on a bicycle must ride on the extreme right-hand side of the roadway in the same direction as traffic, except when about to make a left turn, when travel against the traffic is authorized or in cases of necessity.” What “extreme right-hand side” means isn’t clarified here, and this article has been criticized as being written assuming country roads with wide lanes, not city streets with street parking. In my mind there’s little doubt that the cyclist is as far right as he can be safely. Remember as he passes those cars he has to worry about being doored.

In any case, Article 341 is quite clear: “No driver of a road vehicle may pass a bicycle within the same traffic lane unless the driver may do so safely, after reducing the vehicle’s speed and ensuring that a reasonable distance can be kept between the vehicle and the bicycle during the manoeuvre. A reasonable distance is 1.5 m on a road where the maximum authorized speed limit is more than 50 km/h or 1 m on a road where the maximum authorized speed limit is 50 km/h or less.”

The driver of the bus clearly did not respect the code.

But let’s put that aside and assume the cyclist *was* in the middle of the lane. Is that legal? It’s hard to say. Is it safer? Absolutely. Because drivers do this kind of stuff all the time. They don’t care about what’s a safe distance. They don’t even care if they hit the cyclist, because they’re protected by their car. So if they can squeeze by in the same lane, they’ll give it a shot, no matter how dangerous it is for the cyclist. The only way a cyclist can protect himself is to stay in the centre of the lane.

I’ve been there many times. And believe me, if the lane was wide enough for both, I’d be more than happy to move over to the side. The last thing a cyclist wants is an angry and unpredictable driver right behind them.

The cyclist should have used the bicycle path

From where the video starts at the corner of Atwater Ave., de Maisonneuve Blvd. is about 200 metres away. That’s not far. But past Fort St., that distance starts to increase. By Berri St. it’s 500 metres. But more importantly, there’s a much larger difference in altitude between the two. So much so that at Hôtel-de-Ville Ave., the sidewalk is actually stairs.

Without knowing the cyclist’s origin or destination, it’s hard to say for sure whether it would have made more sense to use the path. But as someone who has cycled on Sherbrooke a lot, the height difference is the main reason why. I’d prefer to take side streets, but there aren’t many options for that downtown above Sherbrooke.

In any case, there’s no law that prevents a cyclist from using a street if another street nearby has a bicycle path.

Why was the cyclist filming this?

Because this kind of stuff happens all the time. Just like Russians have gotten into the habit of installing dashboard cameras in their cars, some cyclists have put cameras on their helmets and set them to record automatically, knowing it won’t be long before they catch some driver doing something dangerous.

Cyclists are all awful

There are a lot of dangerous cyclists out there. Those who run red lights, zig-zag dangerously through stopped (and sometimes not-so-stopped) traffic, go the wrong way on one-way streets, ride on sidewalks, and talk on their phones. We should definitely have more enforcement of safety laws. But that doesn’t mean we should endanger the life of a cyclist who has broken none of these laws.

Anyway, the STM says the driver is going to be spoken to, and the actions were unacceptable. (They should also talk to him about driving with headphones on, which is also against the safety code.) Hopefully he learns his lesson before a decision to risk someone else’s life leads to a mistake with more lasting consequences.

Media News Digest: CTV Vancouver anchors fired, La Gatineau paper shuts down, Monique Lacombe leaves CBC

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Humboldt the untouchable: L’affaire Nora Loreto and the uselessness of hate

It is, unquestionably, a catastrophe, and the worst nightmare for dozens of families. A bus carrying a men’s junior hockey team, travelling to a game in small-town Saskatchewan, collides with a large truck carrying cargo, and the resulting crash leads to 14 people suddenly dying. Of the 15 survivors, two will later die from their injuries, and most of the others are still in serious condition — some have permanent paralysis, some are so injured as to be unrecognizable, to the point where one survivor and one deceased were mistaken for one another.

The response to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has been overwhelming and heartwarming: coast to coast media coverage, statements of support from public figures in Canada and abroad, even a campaign by regular people to leave hockey sticks on their porches overnight as a show of moral and spiritual support. And a fundraising campaign that has raised more than $9 million to help the victims and families affected.

It’s a nice reminder, in the face of such horror, that we are one big family.

But $9 million is a lot of money. It works out to more than $300,000 for each person on that bus. When the campaign passed the $7 million mark, it prompted a question in me: is that enough?

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Sportsnet keeps Jets playoff games off CBC

The Toronto Maple Leafs are Canada’s team. Or at least the CBC’s.

That much has been made abundantly clear this season. Every Saturday night, if the Leafs are playing, they’re on CBC (except when CBC was broadcasting the Olympics). With a market that encompasses a third of Canada’s population, it makes sense that this team would get more attention, but the one-sidedness has been particularly striking.

Habs fans too cheap to pay for Sportsnet have been complaining the past couple of seasons that Canadiens games on Hockey Night in Canada have been punted to Sportsnet rather than broadcast on free TV channels CBC or City. Sportsnet has admitted this was done mainly to drive subscriptions to Sportsnet.

And as the NHL playoffs begin tonight, and CBC devoting its entire primetime schedule to hockey, it seems they’re doing it again, this time to the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets and Leafs are the only two Canadian teams to make the playoffs, and even though their games both start at 7pm ET (6pm in Winnipeg, but in the playoffs you need to be either an early game or a late game), not a single one of the up to 14 games involving the two teams overlap — they’re all scheduled on different nights.

But there won’t be any Jets games on CBC, at least not until Game 5 and likely not until next round at the earliest. Instead, all Leafs games will be broadcast on CBC but all Jets games are on Sportsnet. And while the Jets are on Sportsnet, CBC viewers will get to watch the all-American Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series instead. Even those in Winnipeg.

I asked Sportsnet about the decision, and this was the response I got:

As you can imagine, there are numerous factors taken into consideration when coordinating the broadcast schedule for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In this case, with two series featuring Canadian teams in the first round, the decision was made that Sportsnet and CBC would each have the opportunity to broadcast one of those two series. Winnipeg is a key priority for Sportsnet and Sportsnet is thrilled to be broadcasting the entire Jets series to Canadians from coast-to-coast.

In other words, the Jets are on Sportsnet because Sportsnet wanted a Canadian series. Which sounds reasonable (similar to how CBC and TSN split playoff series before the Sportsnet/NHL deal) until you remember that Sportsnet controls the CBC broadcast as well.

So why keep the Jets off CBC during a time when lots of casual fans might tune in, and Sportsnet is looking to maximize ratings?

Because of money. Of the 82 regular-season Jets games, 60 are on TSN3. Casual Jets fans in Manitoba don’t have much incentive to subscribe to Sportsnet if they’re not otherwise interested in sports. So Sportsnet is hoping to drive subscriptions from those potential fans, even if it means many fans just won’t watch the games and they’ll lose potential ad revenue.

But, of course, that logic doesn’t apply to the Leafs. The Leafs are so popular that ad revenue is more important than subscription revenue. So the Leafs get CBC.

On one hand, Manitoba Jets fans should just subscribe to Sportsnet (it’s available over-the-top for $25 a month). On the other hand, this definitely does feel like a middle finger to a market that has had to suffer for a long time, and hasn’t seen a playoff game win in more than 20 years.

TVA Sports, by the way, is also not giving priority to the Jets. Of the first four matches, three will be broadcast on TVA Sports 2 because of conflicts with Flyers-Penguins or Capitals-Blue Jackets.

The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday with the Jets and Wild playing at 7pm on Sportsnet. The Leafs and Bruins play Game 1 on Thursday at 7pm on CBC. For channel assignments for these and other series, see sportsnet.ca/schedule.

Media News Digest: CBC’s new CEO, Workopolis sold, Michèle Ouimet’s final column

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Toronto Star rebranding Metro newspapers to form pseudo national chain

Metro is dead. Long live StarMetro.

Torstar, which owns the Toronto Star and the remaining Metro newspapers in English Canada, announced Monday that it will be rebranding the Metro papers to StarMetro and bringing them closer to the Star fold, moving their websites to thestar.com and sharing stories between the two. At the same time it is adding 20 journalists to three of the Metro newspapers — Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The Star’s story on the announcement, as well as nearly identical insert-city-name-here stories in each of the Metro papers (Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax), don’t give much details beyond that, but expect to see more Metro content in the Toronto Star, and more Toronto Star content in the Metro papers.

Despite the this-is-good-news nature of the announcement, there are no plans to resurrect Metro papers that have been killed recently. Metro Ottawa and Winnipeg were sold to Postmedia in November to be shut down. Metro also previously had papers in London, Regina and Saskatoon, plus digital-only editions in four other cities.

Métro Montréal, Canada’s only French-language version of the paper, is owned by Transcontinental, which has put it up for sale.

The Torstar changes take effect on April 10. At that point, the Metro app will also be shut down, and visitors to the metronews.ca websites redirected to The Star’s new pages for each city.

Radio station program director admits son’s all-fart-sounds show probably wasn’t the best idea

Radio station 107.5 Le Poisson in Ste-Anne-de-la-Pérade is ending its Saturday evening show made up entirely of fart sounds after its program director admitted that it wasn’t the kind of success he was hoping for.

“My son’s proposal sounded so innovative,” said Paul Natrillé, who has been at the helm of the station’s programming for seven years. “When we launched it last fall, he was really excited about the possibilities. But since then his interest has waned a bit, and we don’t think it’s the best fit for the station anymore.”

Natrillé’s son Thomas said he had fond memories of the show, but it was time to move on anyway. He has several interviews with morning shows in Quebec City.

107.5 will fill the discontinued hour’s time slot with its usual music programming of classical and easy listening music.

CRTC staffer can’t understand why colleagues aren’t also freaking out about how lit the next notice of consultation will be

Saying she’s hyperventilating at even the thought of it, CRTC junior legal affairs staffer Janet Phehknaim just can’t bring herself to comprehend why her colleagues aren’t jumping over themselves about how exciting the notice of consultation to be issued next Tuesday is going to be.

The notice, related to an application received for a new low-power radio station in Dryden, Ontario, and a corporate reorganization at Vista Radio, will be posted to the commission’s website at 11am on Tuesday. Phehknaim said she assumed the announcement would be pushed back to 4pm to avoid any market impact, and that media advisories would be issued on Monday to invite journalists to a press conference.

“The CRTC is an exciting place to work and there are announcements almost every day that affect people’s lives, so you can imagine what this will mean to the people at Dryden and the accountants at Vista,” Phehknaim said.

“Personally, I’m planning a viewing party at work for when the application goes live. It’ll be a potluck, but my colleagues are being slow in getting back to me with what they’re going to bring.”

Quebec talk show guest sues after learning that “merci infiniment” did not mean infinite thanks

Saying he felt humiliated and distraught, Quebec talk show guest Fanny Nonspavré has filed a lawsuit in Quebec superior court against the producers of Tout le monde en parle saying she is owed the infinite thanks she was promised by host Guy A. Lepage at the end of her recent interview, and not the very finite thanks she says she was actually given.

“This is a show that is watched by a million people every week, and the host has a reputation as an honourable man, so when he says ‘merci infiniment d’être parmi nous ce soir’ I take him at his word that his thanks will be infinite,” the statement of claim says. “To later discover, when the cameras were turned off, that Lepage’s thanks were severely limited seems to be a blatant contract breach to me.”

Nonspavré said she didn’t expect Lepage to follow her until the end of days repeating the word “merci” over and over again until one of them dies, but the least he could do if he was serious about offering unlimited thanks is to do her a favour once in a while on demand.

“I don’t want to be greedy about this,” she said. “I’m not doing this for me, but for the next person who will be told one thing on the air and another when the cameras aren’t looking. Mr. Lepage needs to stay true to his word when he says something, and if he doesn’t want to be locked into limitless commitments, he should choose his words more carefully.”

Carlos Leitão asking journalists what they think of chapter of his novel he included in budget

Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitão says he is ready to begin receiving feedback from the province’s political and economic journalists who have by now had plenty of time to read the draft of the first chapter of his new novel, which he included at the back of the 800-page budget plan.

Titled “Prosperity of the heart,” Leitão’s novel, about an economist by day who spends his nights fighting crime and making the world a better place while finding love in an unexpected way, is not quite ready for mass publication, the finance minister said, and he’s still looking for a publisher for it, but he thinks the story is very original and he has an outline for a dozen chapters, each one better than the last.

“There definitely will be an accumulated surplus of warm feelings after finishing this novel,” Leitão joked on Saturday. “And though I plan to keep my day job for now, I can’t discount the possibility that I’ll turn full-time to fiction writing if this takes off as well as I hope it does.”

Global News saves costs by covering only prescheduled breaking news events

Saying it will keep looking for ways to innovate in the production and presentation of local news, Global announced in a message to its staff this week that it will further streamline its operations by only covering local breaking news events that are scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.

“Our efficiency experts found that in newsrooms across the country we have reporters and videojournalists who are just sitting in the office waiting for things to happen, and that’s incredibly inefficient,” explained Global News vice-president May Didupp. “So starting April 1, we’ll only cover fires, car crashes, natural disasters and surprise announcements where the newsroom has been informed at least 24 hours in advance of the event to take place.”

Didupp said she expected that competitors’ newsrooms would follow in that policy, and that once everyone else is on board breaking news will have no choice but to play ball. She reminded police departments that information can be provided under embargo.

RDS documentary chronicles Canadiens’ 25th Stanley Cup they would have won if they just put Alex Galchenyuk at centre

Route vers la victoire, the RDS documentary showing how the Canadiens would have won their 25th Stanley Cup this season if they’d only moved Alex Galchenyuk from the wing to centre last year like you told them to, is set to air just before the first game of the NHL playoffs later this month.

The hour-long documentary, which includes player interviews and simulated game footage showing the projected run to the sacred chalice, presents “as accurate a projection as our best experts could create of the path taken if only Michel Therrien and Claude Julien had listened to common sense and moved Chucky to centre where he belongs,” RDS said in a statement.

RDS expects the documentary to have higher ratings in Quebec than the Maple Leafs or Jets or whichever other English Canada team makes it to the playoffs.

Man yelling obscenity behind TV reporter during standup disappointed after being cut in editing

A man who yelled an obscenity behind a TV reporter while she was filming a standup shot for a report on gun violence in schools says he is profoundly disappointed after seeing the finished report on the 6pm newscast and finding he was cut during the editing process.

“I waited five minutes to get the perfect timing for it,” said Todd Aldushbaig. “And her delivery during that shot was perfect. I feel like she chose another more mediocre version just so she could cut me out of the story.”

The reporter apologized for having to cut the man out of the story. “Unfortunately, as journalists we must often make tough decisions on what to keep in our reports to meet the time constraints of a television newscast,” she said. “But I will keep Mr. Aldushbaig in mind for the next time I need a source about women’s reproductive health.”