Media News Digest: NNA noms, Lilly Singh gets late-night show, telecom bureaucrat in conflict of interest

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Montreal radio ratings: The Beat doubles Virgin, and a spike for Rouge

Numeris came out with its quarterly metered market radio ratings last week. Here’s the top-line data.

I’ll start by pointing out that this is the winter period, covering the Christmas holidays, when radio listening habits are a bit out of the ordinary. But even if you do a year-over-year comparison, two changes are noteworthy.

On the anglo side, The Beat is continuing to pull away from its main competitor Virgin Radio. Among anglophone audiences, The Beat had a higher average audience this winter than Virgin and CHOM combined.

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Media News Digest: Corus sells TLN, Action becomes Adult Swim, Pete Marier on air in French

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Media News Digest: Impact extends radio deal, Windsor Star stops publishing Mondays

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Some context to consider about those TVA Facebook comments

You may have seen the story: TVA Nouvelles deleted a Facebook post pointing to a story about a house fire in Halifax that killed seven children (who happened to be from a Syrian family) because it received several unacceptable comments that appeared to make light of or even celebrate their deaths. Media personality Alexandre Champagne compiled some of those comments in a widely shared screenshot.

TVA Nouvelles posted another post and apologized, saying it would try to police its social media better next time.

I posted a link to the apology on Twitter and it got retweeted a bit, prompting a lot of discussion. I was interviewed for a CityNews story about it, during which I tried to say that a few comments on a Facebook page provides a skewed impression of the views of the audience — and larger population — as a whole.

Through the various discussions, I’ve seen a lot of statements that I feel are missing key context, so I’d like to try to add some of that here.

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MusiquePlus is dead — but music on TV is far from it

There are quite a few eulogies to MusiquePlus this week in various media, after news came out that owner V will be replacing it this summer with a women’s movie channel. (Many news stories talked about it going “off the air” or being “shut down forever”, when neither is true. The only thing really changing that has any connection to its former life is the name.)

Brendan KellyRafaël Ouellet and various former MP personalities shared memories of the music channel, how it influenced a generation and how much fun it was to work there.

The eulogies tend to fall along the same lines, remembering the personalities the channel built up, the live music performances, the interviews with big stars, the excitement of debuting a new song or video. Then they go on to acknowledge that most people can get their music videos on YouTube these days and have no need for a channel that runs them on an endless loop.

There’s a few problems with this logic, though. For one thing, there is demand for such a channel. As I’m writing this my TV is on Stingray’s PalmarèsADISQ music video channel, which is an automated channel that runs nothing but francophone music videos. It doesn’t have live music or video jockeys, though.

And that’s what we really miss about MusiquePlus. It’s not the music videos, it’s everything else related to music.

But live music is expensive to produce. So while it may have worked as a weekly special occasion on a cable channel 20 years ago, it doesn’t make sense any more on Quebec television.

Which would make sense if you didn’t watch Quebec television, and conveniently ignored that the most popular francophone program on Quebec TV right now, with more than 2 million viewers a week, is a singing competition show.

I looked through the TV schedule for next week, and here are shows I found that are directly music-related:

  • La Voix (TVA, Sunday 7pm)
  • Virtuose (ARTV, Monday 10:30pm)
  • The Launch (VRAK, Wednesday 8pm)
  • En direct de l’univers (Radio-Canada, Saturday 7pm)
  • Pour l’amour du country (ARTV, Saturday 7pm)
  • La vie secrète des chansons (TV5, Saturday 8:15pm)
  • Belle et Bum (Télé-Québec, Saturday 9pm)

That doesn’t include general talent competition shows, cultural current affairs shows, dance shows, community television, talk shows featuring musicians as guests or one-off documentaries.

Music is still very present on television. What’s changed is more subtle than that, and has various factors. Music videos aren’t the money-maker they once were. TV channels have to work harder to gain audiences. Automation in TV production, and the job cuts that followed, have made it easier to just run content produced elsewhere than create original live studio programming. Corporate consolidation has led to more caution and a focus more on big-money highly-promoted “event” programming and less on the daily grind that will be mostly forgettable and not reusable, even if it can occasionally create unexpected gems.

I honestly don’t know if someone really committed to bringing back the essence of MusiquePlus (or MuchMusic on the English side, for that matter) could make it financially viable. MP didn’t make money when it was sold in the Bell-Astral merger, and V paid very little for it. If anyone felt they could step in and make it work, they had ample opportunity. And nothing it stopping anyone from creating a TV or online channel that does all of what MP used to do. They might even convince V to sell them the brand, since they won’t be using it anymore.

It’s sad that we’re losing MP’s history (they’re apparently in talks to preserve archives), but from music videos to live performances to interviews and critiques, the programming we found on it still exists.

It just no longer exists all in one place. And we don’t have Véronique Cloutier, Rebecca Makonnen and Geneviève Borne tying it all together.

Media News Digest: Canadian Screen Awards noms, no more print Voir, CBC hires Barbara Williams

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Canadian Super Bowl ads: A statistical analysis

It was the third year in a row that Bell Media was stuck in its impossible position: One of the biggest television events of the year and half its audience is watching it on a channel it doesn’t control because those people want desperately to avoid Bell Media’s advertisements.

Though the USMCA specifically requires the abolishment of the CRTC’s special rule forbidding simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl (the Trump administration added it at the request of the NFL, which would see the value of the Canadian rights to the NFL drop significantly if the rule were kept in place), the new trade deal hasn’t been ratified, and the commission isn’t going to act until it is.

If the USMCA is ratified this year (which is a big if), this could be the last time Canadians watching on cable will get to see big-budget ads from T-Mobile and other advertisers that have no interest in Canada.

I followed both the Canadian (TSN5) and U.S. (WCAX-TV Burlington) versions of the Super Bowl broadcast live to compare the two. Bell had no plans for a watch-to-win contest or other gimmick to get Canadians to tune in to its broadcast, and there weren’t many big announcements about big-budget Canadian ads (Bell pointed to one featuring Michael Bublé, but that ad also aired in the U.S.), so I was curious about the quality of the ads that would be broadcast.

Here is a playlist of all the ads I could find on YouTube that aired on CFCF-DT Montreal during the Super Bowl game (between kickoff and the end of the game, when the simsub exception applies).

Some of the ads were Super Bowl ads that appeared on both sides of the border, including one for Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, an Olay commercial featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar, a Colgate ad with Luke Wilson, an ad for Persil ProClean, a teaser for the Amazon Prime series Hanna (which aired simultaneously in both countries) and a 30-second version of a Budweiser ad touting renewable energy.

For just the Super Bowl-style new ads that appeared only on the Canadian broadcast, you can follow this playlist.

Among the Canadian-only ads that tried something new for the Super Bowl:

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Media News Digest: La Presse wants money, Global expands Morning Show, Sportsnet cuts Elliott Price

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Cousin Vinny leaving The Beat, to be replaced by Andy Wilson

The Beat's Vinny Barrucco

A surprise announcement this morning at The Beat 92.5: Morning man “Cousin” Vinny Barrucco will be leaving his job to pursue another opportunity. His last day is Friday.

At the same time, the station announced that his replacement will be Andy Wilson, former producer of the morning show on Toronto’s Virgin Radio 99.9. Wilson starts on Monday. The new show will be called “Mornings with Nikki, Sam and Andy.”

Barrucco didn’t say what his new opportunity would be, only that he’s “gonna be taking a break from radio for a little while” and “will announce my next move in the coming months.”

A months-long break might suggest a move to a competitor, which requires him to stay off the air for a while first (generally for three months). But there’s no obvious opening at Virgin Radio (which Barrucco left to join The Beat shortly after it launched in 2011) or CHOM.

“I’ve been on the air for almost 15 years so I’m looking forward to taking a step back and enjoying quality time with my wife and newborn daughter,” Barrucco wrote in his Facebook post. Barrucco and wife Tina Oliveri had daughter Sia born in August.

My contribution to solving the two solitudes: Get bilingual anglos to watch more French TV

I never used to watch French TV. Even in the days of analog cable, we’d skip past Radio-Canada, TVA and TQS to get to CTV, CBC and Global. Wouldn’t even bother seeing what’s on. It was in French, and we didn’t want to watch it.

There were a few reasons for this. One, my French comprehension wasn’t quite good enough at a young age to be able to properly understand the fast-talking faces on screen. The fact that many of these series were primarily dialogue-driven (faute de moyens, as they say) made it worse. But perhaps just as important, I was disconnected from the culture. I didn’t get the popular references, I didn’t know the actors, and I wasn’t familiar with the series.

It changed about 10 years ago. I can’t point to a specific moment, or even say why it happened exactly or what the first show I watched was. But it started not long after I moved into a building where all my neighbours were francophones. Combined with writing this blog and covering media including francophone media, I got exposed to a lot more French than before — reading it, speaking it, understanding it.

Nowadays, French-language TV is a large part of my (rather gluttonous) TV-watching diet. A lot of it is low-budget and has horrible writing. But as American TV has reached its so-called golden age, Canadian TV in both languages has also dramatically improved in writing and production quality, at least at the high end.

Watching French TV has given me a lot more insight into Quebec culture, in addition to providing conversation material for the extended (francophone) family get-togethers on New Year’s Day. It’s something I wanted more people to be exposed to, especially as the idea of “two solitudes” in Quebec seems to persist despite how much of both sides of it understand the other language.

So with that in mind I proposed an idea to the Gazette, which was quickly accepted, to compile a list of suggestions of French TV series for bilingual anglophones to check out. A Top 15 list of French TV series is published in Saturday’s Culture section.

Initially, my plan was to look at series that could serve as gateways for anglos. Series without too much complex, fast-talking dialogue or cultural references. And I didn’t restrict it to fictional series either. But in the end the suggestions were all works of fiction, almost all of them dramas, and heavily weighted to more recent series. And some of these series might not be easiest for people who struggle in French (pro tip: turn on closed captioning. I still have to rely on it sometimes when I can’t make out a key word that was spoken).

As part of the effort to unite the languages, I reached out to some experts for suggestions. Three were kind enough to offer them: Marc-André Lemieux from the Journal de Montréal, Amélie Gaudreau from Le Devoir, and Thérèse Parisien from 98.5 FM and C’est juste de la TV. All three watch TV for a living, so they know what they’re talking about.

I also got plenty of suggestions from Twitter in response to this tweet. As well as several responses from anglos who wanted to take note of those suggestions, which is encouraging.

I intentionally left off Tout le monde en parle, the Sunday night talk show on Radio-Canada, which I think is a special case because it’s big enough to be newsworthy in itself. But I included a bonus mention of C’est juste de la TV, which offers TV suggestions and reviews on a weekly basis.

If I were to suggest other non-fiction series, I would suggest hospital documentary series De Garde 24/7, Radio-Canada’s Enquête, En direct de l’univers, and whatever Véronique Cloutier’s latest variety show is.

Feel free to suggest more series, fiction, non-fiction or other, in the comments. And like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, at least try some before you decide you don’t like it.

Media News Digest: La Presse union deal, Cogeco drops TSN/RDS streaming, new CEOs at Postmedia and Videotron

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Cogeco completes radio stations’ transition to new antenna on Mount Royal

A five-stage reorganizing of radio station antennas on the Mount Royal Antenna has been completed, with the most notable change being that the city’s most powerful FM transmitter CKOI is now broadcasting from Mount Royal instead of the CIBC building downtown.

Cogeco Media president Michel Lorrain told me the process (approved by the CRTC in September) was completed before the holidays, but the stations were at 80% power until everything could be properly tested, and the ramp up to full power happened last week.

(Warning: Lots of technical nerdy antenna talk ahead.)

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CRTC approves Quebecor’s acquisition of Évasion and Zeste TV channels

Quebec’s television industry is about to lose a voice.

On Monday, the CRTC approved the proposed acquisition of Groupe Serdy, owner of French-language specialty channels Évasion (travel) and Zeste (food) by Quebecor’s Groupe TVA for $21 million.

The acquisition was challenged by V, on the grounds that TVA already has too much power in the market, but the CRTC said the increased market share would be minimal, and in any case still lower than the 45% limit above which it would normally deny such applications.

The application to transfer the licences was supported by dozens of interveners, including many producers.

In addition to $1.8 million in tangible benefits, split between the Canada Media Fund, the Quebecor Fund and Telefilm Canada’s Talent Fund, the transaction will also result in an increase in Canadian spending quotas for both channels, as they’re integrated into the TVA group licence. Évasion must spend 40% of its revenues on Canadian content, while Zeste has no quota. As a condition of approval, both must now come up to the TVA group quota of 45%. And 15% of their revenues must be spent on “programs of national interest” (scripted drama and comedy, documentary and award shows) for the TVA group.

A similar transaction, involving Bell attempting to buy Historia and Séries+ from Corus, was blocked by the Competition Bureau.

CFNV 940 AM begins simulcasting programming from online radio station

Robert Arcand in the CNV studio, via one of its webstreaming cameras

Several radio watchers have noticed that they’ve been hearing live voices on CFNV 940 AM the past few days, talking between the songs and giving weather and news updates.

Though the programming is still mostly music, far from the news-talk-debate format that owner TTP Media promised the CRTC when they first applied for a licence in 2011, or even the wellness-talk format that they seemed to move to when they renewed that licence in 2018, there’s at least something. (The hosts they have are veterans of the low-budget radio scene, where wellness programs have flourished, with shows on stations like CJMS 1040, CJLV 1570.)

But the voices are not original to the station. Instead, the shows are being simulcast from Mirabel-based digital radio station CNV (it appears to be a mix of programming from its main feed and its Succès absolus second channel, but there’s also some music that’s coming from neither of those sources).

Hosts being simulcasted include Robert Arcand (weekday mornings) and Diane Lafrance (weekdays at 11am). On their shows and on social media, they’re noting the simulcast.

No word on anything yet from the English sister station CFQR 600. I’ll update this if I hear more.