Posted in Radio

Radio Humsafar ready to launch on AM, but needs to move its antenna first

Jasvir Sandhu in the Radio Humsafar studio in Lasalle.

Jasvir Sandhu in the Radio Humsafar studio in Lasalle.

A year and a half after it was approved by the CRTC, Radio Humsafar, a South Asian station set to broadcast at 1610 AM, still isn’t on the air.

But there are signs of life. The group has applied to the commission for an amendment after it determined that its original plan to share an antenna with CJLO 1690 AM wasn’t feasible (the frequencies are too close together).

Instead, Humsafar will install its own antenna on 46th Ave. near François Cusson St. in Lachine’s industrial park, four kilometres west of CJLO’s antenna. Otherwise, the technical parameters are the same, 1000W day and night, and the coverage pattern is almost identical.

Humsafar has gotten a permit from Lachine to install the antenna, according to a report in the community paper. But the CRTC needs to approve the location change, so it has opened the application to public comment until Jan. 8. That means it’ll probably be the end of February before it gets the okay from the commission.

In the meantime, you can listen to it online.

Posted in Media

Montreal Gazette adds NP section, makes Basem Boshra columnist

A little over a year after it “reimagined” itself with redesigns on four platforms, the Montreal Gazette — my employer — made some minor changes last week, particularly in print.

The daily “Context” section, which included national and world news stories as well as the editorial and opinion pages, has been eliminated, replaced by “NP in the Montreal Gazette”, a section of content from the National Post.

National Post section in the Montreal Gazette

National Post section in the Montreal Gazette

The NP section, which will be six to 12 pages long, is National Post content presented using the National Post stylesheet. It includes national and world news, opinions and columnists like Andrew Coyne, Michael Den Tandt and Christie Blatchford. Similar sections exist in the Edmonton Journal and Windsor Star, and should follow for other papers.

Doing national and international news this way saves resources because the layouts are identical and can be copy-pasted between the local papers. And it makes it look like you get a free National Post in your Gazette.

The change comes with some challenges though. The A section, which is now just local news plus one page of local editorial, letters and opinion, gets more of the ad stacks that leave oddly-shaped holes for news copy. (Insert joke about ads disappearing from newspapers here.) And since national and international news is in another section, it might be a challenge finding local news copy to fill those spaces, especially around the holidays when there are a lot more ads.

The Saturday paper is changing a bit. In addition to Context being gone, the Saturday Extra section is being retired, and its contents scattered into other sections:

  • The main feature story will occupy clear pages in the A section (and still get that big splash on A1)
  • The weekly Viewfinder photo will go to a page in Weekend Life with Dr. Joe Schwarcz’s chemistry column and Mark Abley’s Watchwords.
  • The Instagram challenge is moving to (usually) Page A2 with Josh Freed’s column
  • Montreal Diary is being discontinued
  • Local editorial, opinion and letters move to the A section
  • Andrew Coyne and other national Postmedia columnists go to the NP section

Saturday Extra has been in the Gazette since Feb. 25, 2006. And I admit to a bit of mourning for the demise of Montreal Diary, a section with short stories about the city. My first freelance story for the Gazette was a Diary story, and many other freelance writers got their start there. But after a decade, these things get old and I can’t honestly say it would necessarily be a bad idea to move on to other things.

People who have comments or complaints are being asked to send them to

Meanwhile, the Gazette has also added a city columnist, which it has been missing for a while. Basem Boshra, who has had many hats but was most recently the city editor, is now writing almost daily with his take on the news of the day. His first column, re-introducing himself, is here.

The Gazette has also launched its Christmas Fund campaign, including the daily anonymous profiles about needy families written by slightly less needy freelancers.

Oh, and since a bunch of people keep asking:

  • Don Macpherson is on leave, but is expected to return. Dan Delmar is filling in as a columnist in the meantime.
  • Stone Soup isn’t in the daily comics pages anymore because it’s no longer a daily comic. And the Gazette does not have the power to force Jan Eliot to work against her will.
Posted in Radio

TSN 690’s Elliott Price, Abe Hefter laid off as part of Bell Media cuts in Montreal

The wave of job cuts sweeping Canada finally hit Montreal today, with the first big names on the list of those getting the axe: Elliott Price, co-host of the morning show on TSN Radio 690, and Abe Hefter, host of the weekend morning show.

I lay out the news in this story in the Montreal Gazette.

“Unfortunately, I can confirm that Elliott Price departed the company as part of the ongoing restructuring at Bell Media,” was the official comment from Bell Media spokesperson Olivier Racette.

Bell Media isn’t offering much comment on departures, and program director Chris Bury referred all comment to Racette.

Price didn’t respond to a request for comment and hasn’t said anything on Twitter, but he did change his Twitter biography:


Price’s departure leaves the morning show in the hands of Shaun Starr and Rick Moffat, along with their contributors.

Price has been a fixture on Montreal radio since 1982, notably as a voice of the Montreal Expos.

Hefter, host of The Locker Room, is also gone, Mitch Melnick announced today on the air.

Other confirmed on-air cuts:

The fact that both Virgin and CHOM have ditched their overnight hosts suggests to me that they might try going announcerless overnight. We’ll see.

There are also several behind-the-scenes jobs at these stations that have been cut. Producers, marketing and promotions people and others.

At CTV Montreal, the cuts have been more modest. No anchors or reporters have lost their jobs yet, though they will be filling the vacant Quebec City reporter position internally instead of hiring someone new, according to union local president Susan Lea.

Five positions are gone, all in operations (i.e. off-air jobs), of which one was a voluntary departure with a severance package to protect the job of a younger employee, Lea said.

“We’re expecting a couple more” jobs to be cut, she said.

Lea said CTV Montreal was probably spared more severe cuts like we’ve seen elsewhere because of more severe cuts that happened a year ago. The station is down to about 100 people.

I haven’t heard about on-air cuts at RDS or other French-language properties in Montreal yet.

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Posted in Media

TVA Publications kills six magazines, including Le Lundi

“TVA Publications is pressing ahead with its strategic plan aimed at strengthening its leading position and better meeting the needs of its readers and advertisers.”

That’s press-release speak for “we’re cutting dead weight to save costs.”

Quebecor’s TVA Publications announced on Wednesday that it is ending six magazines, about 10 per cent of its titles:

  • 150 plans (home building and renovation, 3 times a year at 15,750 copies)
  • Animal (pets, 8 times a year at 10,844 copies)
  • Décormag (home decor, since 1972, 10 times a year at 73,046 copies)
  • Le Lundi (women/celebrity/lifestyle, since 1977, 49 times a year at 18,014 copies)
  • MOI&cie (women, since 2006, 12 times a year at 70,062 copies)
  • Signé M (Louis-François Marcotte’s recipes, 9 times a year at 28,977 copies)

Décormag was one of the 14 magazines TVA acquired from Transcontinental in April. That acquisition and others led to a lot of magazines of similar styles at TVA, and this will help rationalize that a bit.

Lundi is the most interesting shutdown here for me, not just because it’s the only weekly, but because of its history. Lundi was founded by Claude J. Charron after he split off from Pierre Péladeau in 1977. Charron sold the magazine to a company that then sold it to Quebecor, and started a similar magazine called 7 jours. Quebecor bought 7 jours in 2000, and so after a non-compete clause ended Charron started La Semaine. Eventually Charron sold La Semaine to … who else, Quebecor. (Radio-Canada has a story on Charron’s history here.)

Quebecor is keeping 7 jours and La Semaine, but is pulling the plug on the original.

Groupe TVA also issued a press release praising the MOI&cie TV channel, in an effort to cut inevitable speculation about the future of that part of the brand after its magazine’s end.

TVA’s statement doesn’t make any mention of how many jobs will be lost as a result of this decision.

Posted in TV

ICTV files new CRTC complaint against MAtv

In February, following a complaint by an independent group that wanted to start up their own community TV station in Montreal, the CRTC gave Videotron a deadline of Aug. 31 to put MAtv in compliance with its conditions of licence.

According to the group that filed the original complaint, Videotron has failed to do so. And so it has filed another complaint.

Dated Nov. 5 and posted today, the complaint by ICTV (Independent Community Television) alleges that MAtv fails to meet the requirement of 50% community access programming, and not just in Montreal but in eight of nine zones that MAtv operates in. It also notes that Videotron has no programming for an aboriginal audience, which is expected of community services (though there’s no quantitative quota for it).

It also cites the lack of advisory boards outside of Montreal, and the fact that the Montreal advisory board does not include any representatives of ICTV. (“This exclusionary behaviour by Videotron crossed the line when MAtv General Manager we quoted by the press to have implied his station is at war with ICTV, and by extension the communities we represent,” the application states, without giving a source. While it’s true that Videotron has made no effort to approach ICTV, I am unaware of any effort from ICTV to approach MAtv in a constructive way either.)

ICTV comes to its conclusions by studying the program grids posted online over a sample week (Oct. 8-15 for Montreal, Oct. 21-27 for the other eight zones). By looking at where the program was produced, and by whom, it calculates the amount of access programming per region. According to its analysis, these are the levels of access programming for the various regions:

Montreal: 36.61%
Bas-Saint-Laurent: 35.41%
Cap-de-la-Madeleine: 11.89%
Granby: 50.51%
Outaouais: 15.78%
Quebec City: 27.98%
Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean: 45.98%
Sherbrooke: 38.89%
Sorel-Tracy: 9.03%

Only Granby meets the 50% minimum, and even then only barely, ICTV says.

The complaint includes a spreadsheet showing the number of hours devoted to each program and how ICTV has categorized it. No doubt Videotron will take issue with some programs being categorized as not being public access.

ICTV asked the CRTC to seek logs from MAtv to confirm its accounting, and the CRTC has in turn asked Videotron to supply those logs.

If the CRTC confirms what ICTV has claimed, it could take serious measures against Videotron, including revoking the licence for MAtv. At that point, an independent community TV service operating in the same region could replace it and get access to its funding. ICTV wants to be that service, though there is also Télévision communautaire Frontenac, which also operates in Montreal and unlike ICTV has a licence.

The CRTC gave Videotron an August deadline because that was when Videotron’s distribution licence was to expire. In July, the commission renewed that licence for a year to give it more time to deal with it.

You can download the application here (.zip file). Comments from the public are being accepted until Dec. 17. You can file comments online here. Note that all information provided, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

Posted in Media, Radio, TV

Bell Media cutting hundreds of jobs, including 110 in Montreal

Updated Nov. 23: Here are the cuts we know so far, broken down by region:



Most of the above names from this Vancouver Sun blog post




From Unifor:

In Saskatoon a Tech and Administrative Assistant took early retirement, two vacant part-time positions won’t be filled and a temporary contract employee was let go a year early. In Prince Albert, two operations positions were eliminated. In Yorkton, a part-time camera operator position was eliminated. As far as out of scope employees are concerned The Traffic Department manager has retired, and a financial manager was let go.That’s a total of 10 union positions and 2 out of scope positions. Regina is not unionized but I had heard 13 layoffs.


  • CTV: Operations manager, promo manager, payroll manager, shooter, editor, floor director, feed and play operator, web producer, manager of traffic and receptionist.
  • Radio: 9 in total, including in production, sales, street team, and engineering.

Above information via

Windsor, Ont.

London, Ont.

  • CJBK 1290 AM host Steve Garrison
  • CTV Two health reporter Jan Sims
  • Three news editors, two cameramen, and engineer and technical director at CTV Two
  • Several managers in both TV and radio


In addition, TSN is downgrading Off the Record from its own show to a regular segment on SportsCentre. TSN spins this as a positive.

Barrie, Ont. (CTV Two)

  • Weatherman Bob McIntyre (retirement)
  • Creative Service Writers – 2
  • Creative & Promo Editors – 2
  • Promotion Producers – 2
  • ENG/EFP Camera -1
  • Librarian – 1
  • Receptionist – 1
  • Announcer – 1
  • News director, accounts Manager, salesperson and P.T. Executive Secretary

The union says the Barrie station lost a quarter of its workforce with this cut.

St. Catharines, Ont.


Stories in the The Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun. The Sun also reports that CFRA will have its newscasts read by CTV Ottawa personalities. And Unifor says CTV Ottawa will no longer have a local sports segment at 11:30pm weekdays.



Quebec City

The Journal de Québec has a roundup of cuts at Énergie and Rouge FM stations, including Marie-Josée Longval at Rouge in Quebec City and Patrice Henrichon at Énergie in Sherbrooke.

Atlantic Canada

Two positions affected at 21-M in Halifax/New Brunswick/Cape Breton. One each in TV and radio.
A swing traffic/receiptionist was lost in TV, and an on-air person in radio.
Two might not seem like a lot, but in TV for example 21-M is down to fewer than 20 members.

This is a very incomplete list, based on names reported so far. It doesn’t include probably scores of behind-the-scenes staff like cameramen, producers, editors, support staff and more. If you have names to add to this list, or to confirm, or links to other reports, send them my way.

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Posted in My articles, TV

A community television renaissance in Montreal

You ever tried pitching a local TV show to a local commercial station?

Don’t bother.

It’s not that they wouldn’t love the idea. But over-the-air television isn’t what it used to be. Their audience isn’t as captive, their advertising revenue not as robust. Their owners keep them going by centralizing as much as possible, including programming, to keep costs down.

But there is a place that might accept your proposal. In fact, there are two. Both Videotron and Bell now run bilingual community television services in Montreal, offering money and resources to people who want to create shows that reflect the city and its various communities. A third independent community TV service was recently given a licence by the CRTC to operate on independent providers, and its plan is to offer some English programming too in a couple of years.

I wrote about these community TV services and the issue in general in a recent story for the Montreal Gazette. But I collected far more information than I could cram into that article, so here are some additional things I’ve learned.

MAtv (Videotron Channel 9/609)

Those of you following the MAtv saga might remember that it had planned to launch a separate English channel, and Videotron asked the CRTC to double the money it could deduct from its required payments for Canadian programming and redirect to community television. The CRTC said OK to the second channel, but no to the additional money (even though it said yes to a similar request from Bell). So Videotron decided to just add English programming to MAtv.

In September, it launched that programming: Five shows, of which two are English versions of MAtv-produced French shows (Montreal Billboard, hosted by former Global anchor Richard Dagenais, consists of interviews with people from local organizations, and is a French version of Montréalité; and City Life, hosted by former CJAD staffer Tina Tenneriello, is a current affairs show modelled after Mise à jour).

Of the other three shows, two are actually from the same group, though that fact is disguised a bit in the promotional material. There’s Living 2 Gether, a series hosted by Vahid Vidah that lets amateur filmmakers explore the social fabric of the city, and StartLine, hosted (kinda) by Henri Pardo, that profiles small businesses. StartLine was submitted by Gregory Vidah, Vahid’s brother.

To understand how they got involved in this, you have to learn about a guy I didn’t have room to talk about in the Gazette article: Ely Bonder.

Bonder worked at CFCF-12/CTV Montreal for 35 years as a video editor until he retired in January. But he’s had projects on the side for most of that time. In 1984, he was part of a group headed by Roger Price that proposed a youth-oriented television channel to the CRTC. It was later withdrawn because of a lack of funding, the CRTC decision says. In 1987, the commission would finally give a licence to a new specialty programming service called YTV.

Bonder went on to create an organization called Youth eMage Jeunesse, which helped young people, particularly those who are disadvantaged, get access to video equipment to create their own productions. It was one of several organizations to get financial benefits — $200,000 — from the transaction that saw Quebecor buy TVA in 2001.

Fast-forward to last year, and Bonder is at an event called Je vois MTL, which is designed to get people involved in proposing and launching innovative projects that make Montreal a better city. “There I met Vahid, who was coming up with a concept of empowering artists,” he said. “We put our heads together and talked.”

This is where I appear in the story. They came across articles I’d written about Videotron’s MYtv project. “Lo and behold the opportunity fell from the sky to do TV,” he said. They met with MAtv people, and “they suggested that we pitch a couple of shows.”

They came prepared, more so than MAtv anticipated. With the help of Collective Community Services, they reached out to volunteers, and got so many people interested they had to turn many of them away.

“You could tell there was a real sense of community that needed to be fulfilled,” Bonder said.

“We walked into the office of the general manager of MAtv and we wowed them,” Vidah explained. “They ate us like cupcakes.”

As a result, this group has two shows on the air, with a third slated for winter.

“I’m not a TV producer, I’m a musician and a social activist,” Vidah says. “I see myself as a social aggregator.”

Vidah, the son of an African father and French-Canadian mother, has a kind of hippie look at society, but that isn’t in any way insincere.

“We have so much things in common, that it’s kind of useless for us to focus on differences,” he says.

Bonder was so impressed by Vidah that he decided to give him the company. “I felt that he should actually own the entity that he was working for for free,” he said. “I got my freedom and he got the company.”

Vidah is resurrecting it as Zenzoo.TV.

The other independent production is The Street Speaks by Paul Shore. It’s an extension of a project he started online called Quelque Show (he changed the name Quelque Show was used by CBC Montreal back in the day and “I didn’t want the CBC to send me a cease and desist order”).

Ask him about the show and he’ll tell you that when he asked people on the street when was the last time a journalist asked their opinion about something, “97 out of 100 said never.”

The Street Speaks is a kind of everyman’s soapbox, in which people on the street give their opinions about issues. But unlike the man-on-the-street interviews you see on the nightly news, these discussions are more open-ended, about bigger issues than the divisive political issue of the day. “I don’t talk to people about news or pop culture, ever,” he explains. “I don’t have canned questions. I’m not looking for sound bites, I’m looking for people to have the opportunity to express themselves.”

Shore conducted long interviews with his subjects, and broke up their responses into themes to create 12 episodes of 28 minutes, with two themes per episode.

“It wasn’t that hard to get people to talk to me,” he explained. “I gave people the opportunity to express themselves even though they didn’t know they wanted one. Everyone has such rich stories to share.”

He does the interviews himself, without a production team. “It’s much easier for me to get really authentic interviews when I’m one on one with them,” he explains. The professional help comes in the postproduction process, particularly editing.

MAtv has changed a lot since the slap on the wrist from the CRTC. It makes much clearer now that it’s a place for people from the community to pitch programming, and airs a short intro before each episode of an access program pointing out where it came from. It has also launched a programming advisory committee, with input from many communities.

“I’m impressed with what we did over the past few months,” said Steve Desgagné, MAtv’s general manager, at the September programming launch. “We did the job and we’re really happy with the result.”

But there’s still a long way to go. The CRTC highlighted MAtv’s deficiency in presenting programming for an aboriginal audience. Desgagné said a project is in the works, but “we don’t know if it’s going to happen” yet. It all depends on the group that proposed it.

Even English programming was a bit hard to attract. He said they got “maybe 20 or so” submissions for English shows, while there are hundreds of proposals for French shows every year.

“We have to make more of an effort. The response was not what we expected,” he said. But “the projects we got are quality projects.”

The issues aren’t limited to programming, though. Videotron still faces a lawsuit from a group called ICTV that proposed its own grassroots community TV station to replace MAtv, which it successfully argued to the CRTC wasn’t respecting its mandate. In the meantime, ICTV isn’t proposing projects to MAtv, and MAtv hasn’t reached out to ICTV.

TV1 (Bell Channel 1)

Bell beat Videotron to the punch on English programming, mainly because Videotron’s application was stalled for a year by ICTV’s complaint.

Unlike MAtv, TV1, launched as Bell Local, is a video-on-demand channel instead of a linear one. Since Bell Fibe has no analog subscribers or other legacy issues to deal with, it can exploit the system’s technology to its full potential. This also means that episodes don’t have to fit into half-hour blocks.

Some of the shows it’s produced so far:

TV1 also has shows with obvious Bell Media tie-ins. A show about Amazing Race Canada auditions, an eTalk TIFF special, and a 24CH quiz show. Those don’t count as community access.

Discussing with Nicolas Poitras, VP Residential Services at Bell, who’s the big boss of TV1, the word “quality” came up a lot.

“There’s a perception that community TV is of lower quality,” he said. “Our desire was really quality. Our first preoccupation was to make sure that the quality was there.”

Poitras said Bell surveyed its customers and determined four broad themes that they wanted programming on: food, people, places and events. But if there’s quality stuff that doesn’t fit into those categories, they’ll still go for it.

“The only criteria is: Is it going to make interesting TV?”

While MAtv prefers series with 10 or 12 episodes, TV1 is much more flexible. Some are one-offs, some have just a few episodes, and others already have multiple seasons done. And because there’s no weekly schedule, deadlines aren’t as tight.

“We load assets when they’re ready, and people can consume them when they want,” Poitras said.

Another difference between Bell and Videotron is that the former gives more freedom to the producer to do what they want with the content. “We pay for the production and once we’ve aired it, the content is theirs, so they can broadcast the content on other channels,” Poitras said. Many producers have taken advantage of that to put their shows on YouTube (TV1 also puts stuff on YouTube, but it’s segments, not complete episodes.) MAtv, meanwhile, demands exclusivity for two years.

Both TV1 and MAtv are exclusive to their subscribers, and don’t offer full episodes online. That means for someone without a cable TV subscription, it’s easier to watch the latest episode of a hit U.S. drama than a community television show.

Télévision Communautaire Frontenac

There’s a third player in town. In August, Télévision Communautaire Frontenac was approved as Montreal’s first independent community television service. According to CRTC rules, all licensed terrestrial TV providers (cable or IPTV) must now offer TCF unless they have their own community channel.

So far this means only two small providers: Colba.Net and Distributel (Zazeen), both telecom companies that have recently added IPTV service in some areas of the city.

TCF dates back to 1995, and its home is in an office that was very clearly designed to be an apartment on the ground floor of the Tours Frontenac, a nonprofit housing complex across the street from the Frontenac metro station. It’s as bootstrappy low-budget as you can get, with only seven people on salary (not all of them full-time) but producing 200 hours a year of original content, soon going up to 300.

“We put money on the screen,” explains program director Louis-Martin McArdle.

Recently, an empty commercial space was given to the station to use as a studio, but before then it shot all its studio programs inside its cramped offices. For much of its life, TCF served only the towers of the complex, though that’s still about 800 units, or 2,000 people.

“There are community television services in Gaspésie that have fewer subscribers than there are people here,” McArdle said.

TCF eventually became the official community channel of VDN, a cable provider specializing in large apartment complexes. When VDN was bought by Bell, that came to an end, though there was an arrangement to share programming with Bell’s community channel.

TCF is distributed as an analog service inside the building (it’s watchable through cable boxes by choosing the channel reserved for building cameras), though it produces content in high definition and recently updated its editing equipment. It also posts content online.

McArdle said they hope to be running on Colba.Net and Zazeen in the coming weeks. The plan is to add English programming in the third year of operation, 2017-18.

A change in policy?

The fact that Videotron and Bell subscribers can’t access each other’s community programming is one of the things about the CRTC’s community television policy that irk independents.

Soon they’ll have an opportunity to change that. The CRTC is in the process of reviewing its community television policy, in a hearing to take place in January. Community TV, and certain aspects of local TV, were carved out of the recent Let’s Talk TV process so they could be dealt with separately.

Though the fact that community and local TV are being lumped in together also irks Cathy Edwards, executive director of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS). She’s worried that community TV concerns will be overshadowed by debates over local commercial TV.

Edwards wants to take community TV away from the cable companies and give it to independent groups.

“Canada is the only country in the world that recognizes a community media sector where it’s not defined automatically by nonprofit citizen media ownership,” she told me earlier this year.

“I get complaints all across the country we can’t get on our community channel or our community channel is closed.”

The fact that community channels are tied to cable companies is more historical than anything else. Back when cable was analog and there was only one cable company for every region, that was the only technical way that made sense.

But now, distribution isn’t the problem. People can use YouTube for that. What matters more is access to equipment and funding. And besides, the introduction of new competitors to cable means there isn’t just one company offering pay TV anymore.

A grassroots system like Edwards has in mind would be a challenge to set up. Not every community has a group ready to take the reins of a TV station. And even with money from cable companies, it still requires a lot of volunteer work. But the CRTC could start by requiring community TV services in a local area be carried by all providers in that area, and breaking down the silos that limit community programs to the cable company that funded them.

Comments on the CRTC’s local and community television review are due by 8pm ET Nov. 5 Nov. 6 (it was extended again). More than 1,100 comments have already been filed. Comments can be filed here. Note that all information submitted, including contact info, will be made public.

Submissions for new programs on MAtv and TV1 are welcome. Start by going to their website and filling out a form.

Posted in Radio

CRTC changes its mind, gives TTP Media yet another extension on AM radio stations

Le Conseil proroge le délai de mise en exploitation de ce service jusqu’au 21 novembre 2015. À défaut de respecter ce nouveau délai, l’autorité accordée dans la Décision 2011-721 deviendra nulle et sans effet. Cette prorogation est la dernière extension de temps accordée par le Conseil pour la mise en exploitation de ce service.
— CRTC, Sept. 14, 2014

This was going to be it, the deadest of deadlines, the date of no return when we can finally declare that the Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media project for AM radio stations is dead and not coming back. The CRTC had promised a year ago that the first of them would not be given an extension past Nov. 21, 2015. It even bolded the word to make it clear.

But it seems the commission is willing to give this phantom company one more chance. In a decision dated last week and posted online yesterday, it has given a rare third one-year extension for the establishment of a French-language AM radio station at 940 AM, and a second one-year-extension for an English-language station at 600 AM. They now have until Nov. 21, 2016 and Nov. 9, 2016, respectively, to begin operations.

In a letter to the CRTC dated Oct. 20, managing partner Nicolas Tétrault explains that the company is finalizing a deal to acquire from Cogeco Diffusion the transmission equipment at the Kahnawake site, as well as the rights to use the land (subject to Kahnawake band council approval, which they believe is a mere formality).

Tétrault says the site is ready for transmission at 940 kHz, and requires only “minor modifications” to be ready for 600 and 850 (the latter is a French-language sports radio station first approved in 2013).

The letter requested “six to twelve months maximum”, but then again the last extension made a similar months-away promise that was never realized.

So we have another year of guessing and arguing whether this project will ever see the light of day. There still have been no announcements as far as studio location, on-air staff, management, name, callsigns or anything else.

The letter approving the third extension doesn’t give reasons for the exceptional treatment, and only states again that this will be the final extension (a similar letter says the same about the second extension for 600 AM). CRTC’s media relations offered this explanation when asked:

Usually, the second extension granted by the CRTC to start a service is final. However, in certain exceptional cases, the CRTC grants a third extension to commence a service when the justification given in the request is sufficient and that the service appears to be imminently commencing. This was the case for 7954689 Canada Inc.

I guess this means final doesn’t always mean final.



Posted in Media

V buys, giving it increased legitimacy

25Stanley, the sports website best known for spreading gossip about the Canadiens, has been bought by V Média, owners of V, MusiquePlus and Musimax, the latter announced today, followed by the former.

The purchase price was not disclosed. Founder Jean Trudel (JT Utah) will remain with the website, and promises “business as usual.”

25Stanley is a popular website, and its articles are a mix of regular sporting news, particularly about the Canadiens, the kinds of fun little clickbaity stories you’d find on BuzzFeed, Deadspin or BarDown, and TMZ-style gossip about sports personalities.

It’s the latter that has led to the website being dismissed with a sneer as an unreliable gossip site by more mainstream media, even though many stories have been broken there.

Mind you, going through recent posts, a lot of the off-ice gossip isn’t much more than reposting Instagram photos. Last month, it posted a “rumour” about Carey Price’s wife being pregnant. It got lots of traction online but the mainstream media didn’t tough it until it was reported by TSN’s John Lu on Twitter after a game four days later.

When Angela Price got mad that she’d been scooped on news about her own uterus, 25Stanley apologized.

Being acquired by V gives the site some professionals to work with on everything from PR to IT. It also fits in with V’s positioning as a media empire for Quebec’s youth. Expect crossovers in both directions as a result of this deal.

You have to wonder if this might result in the website softening its image, becoming less like the National Enquirer and more like People. Or if in some ways that’s already happened.

But 25Stanley can’t simply be dismissed as some nameless online rumour mill. It has a major media company behind it now, and will be taken more seriously as a result.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Death to unsigned editorials

A lot has been said about newspaper endorsements just prior to Monday’s federal election.

As we now know, the Globe and Mail bizarrely endorsed the Conservative Party of Canada but not its leader, leading to mockery online. And Postmedia, my employer, ordered its newspapers to write editorials endorsing the Conservatives. That decision led to spiking an Andrew Coyne column that would have argued differently, and Coyne resigning as comment page editor for the National Post.

Despite what the editorials in question say, there are some serious questions that can be asked about why so many mainstream media outlets are openly calling for the re-election of a government that has been so hostile and unhelpful toward the media during its last mandate.

But even then, it doesn’t bother me so much that newspapers endorsed the Conservatives. (They’ve been doing that for a few election cycles now.) What bothers me is that the endorsements happened under the cover of anonymity.

It wasn’t until the Globe and Mail got Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey to confirm it that it was clear the order came from up top, that the editorials represented the positions not of the individual papers’ editors-in-chief, or publishers, or editorial boards, or collective of journalists, but of executive management of the parent corporation. The fact that each newspaper wrote their own editorial (except the Sun Media papers, which ran a common one) seemed, frankly, deceiving.

Even I didn’t know who made the call on this. And I work there.

And it’s not just Postmedia. Last year, the Globe and Mail overruled its own editorial board, switching an endorsement from the Ontario Liberals to one of the Progressive Conservatives.

If the editorials had carried the boss’s byline, or a line that said the endorsements were the position of executive management, at least it would have been clear. Everyone would have had all the information needed to evaluate the endorsements’ value. And they would be evaluated based on their content and source, not the process used to get them published.

Without that information, we’re left with opinions whose sources are unclear. We are in effect granting anonymity to the source of an opinion piece, one with the power of the newspapers’ reputations behind it.

I’m not outraged, but I am disappointed. Despite all the challenges, despite all the changes that have caused quality to suffer, despite all the decisions made that I’ve disagreed with, I remain proud of the work I and my colleagues do at the Montreal Gazette, and will continue to defend it against those who say it’s worthless. And the Globe and Mail’s reputation remains excellent, as do many other papers caught up in this.

Because I know this isn’t about “evil corporate media”. It’s a lot more complicated than that. While there was outrage over front-page advertisements that banked on newspapers’ reputations to try to sway the election (The Gazette wasn’t one of those papers, it had a Linen Chest wrap that day), Postmedia has taken steps to make it clearer to readers how advertisers are influencing their content. Advertorial content is clearly disclosed, and generally uses a different layout style and fonts than editorial content. Where there’s a possibility of confusion, there’s a note saying the story was written by the advertising department instead of the newsroom.

Newspaper election endorsements are such a silly issue to me. When was the last time your mind was changed on something because of an unsigned newspaper editorial? And yet it seems to be the only time when upper management at Postmedia, the Globe and other papers seem to care enough to impose their will on editorial boards.

So I say death to unsigned editorials in newspapers. If the CEO or publisher or whomever wants to veto an editorial board’s decision and issue an election endorsement, let that person have the courage to put his or her own name on it.

And that goes for all other editorials, too. If it’s a collective decision of the editorial board, list their names. If it’s the publisher, put the publisher’s photo next to it and email address underneath. That would also have the effect of better shielding journalists from the public’s blame for those editorials.

“As far as we’re concerned, if you’re the editor, you support the editorial position of the newspaper,” Godfrey is quoted as saying in the Globe and Mail article.

I’m with Coyne on this. It’s not wrong for colleagues to disagree on things. It’s not wrong for the media to publish opinions they disagree with. In fact, these things should be encouraged. Because employer-enforced groupthink isn’t how society progresses.

But this isn’t the hill I’m going to die on. Because I can work for people I disagree with.

Posted in Media

Postmedia throws in the towel on page-designed tablet apps

A final one-page edition of the Montreal Gazette iPad app asks people to download the old app instead.

A final one-page edition of the Montreal Gazette iPad app asks people to download the old app instead.

As traditional media, and newspapers in particular, attempt to deal with the rapidly changing technological universe by overhauling their business models, many experiments are being tried out. Some are successful, some are spectacular failures, and most fall somewhere in between.

It’s normal in a period of experimentation chaos that some of those experiments fail. And it’s with that mindset that Postmedia announced this week it is pulling the plug on new tablet applications it launched with the Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette and Calgary Herald, instead reverting to an old application that provides a standardized template for every story, which it simply pulls automatically from the website.

The apps offered evening editions of content from each newspaper, including some national and international news that was done centrally for all three. The original plan was for every Postmedia local paper to get a similar app when it was “reimagined”.

Like the apps from La Presse and the Toronto Star, the “2.0” Postmedia apps involved a lot of work. A professional designer created each page (and most stories were told over multiple pages), which mixed photos, video, animations, graphics and all sorts of other multimedia and interactive elements to create a rich, visually appealing environment.

At its peak, the Gazette iPad app had seven people working on it exclusively full-time, including all of its designers. It was a significant investment (though nowhere near what La Presse or the Star are doing) at a time when otherwise the company was cutting back hard.

In the end, the audience — and advertising revenue — the app generated wasn’t sufficient to keep it going. When it came to Edmonton’s turn to reimagine itself on four platforms, the plan for a new tablet app was ditched. Instead, it would continue to use an older app that was fed stories automatically from the website without the need for human intervention.

The change in the tablet app was reflected in a change in strategy on another platform as well. A smartphone app in which each story was specifically written (or, more accurately, edited) for that platform also changed direction. The Edmonton Journal’s new app is a hybrid, offering some custom smartphone-friendly stories and others that are fed automatically from the website. The other newspapers’ apps will follow its lead, unless there’s another change in strategy before then.

Both tablets and smartphones can also still use the newspapers’ websites, which are responsive and readable on those platforms. The fact that so many of them choose that option is another reason for the change.

Postmedia, like Torstar, Gesca and others, is experimenting. In the big picture, it’s a good thing. But when something of such quality fails, and especially when it’s not clear why (though everyone has their theories), it’s no less sad and frustrating.

I’ll miss you, pretty app.

Posted in Radio

Radio Classique relaunches, hires Bernard Derome as new morning man

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

Radio Classique fait peau neuve. The classical music stations in Montreal and Quebec City have a new owner in Gregory Charles, a new logo, a new website and a new slate of on-air hosts. But as Charles explains, the music is the same and the new group wants to maintain the same passion.

The station’s schedule is posted, but contained a mysterious omission of 6-9am Monday to Thursday. Today we learn through the Journal de Montréal that Charles is putting a big-name hire into that slot: Former Radio-Canada anchor Bernard Derome. He starts on Monday, and will be joined by collaborators who will offer local news updates (the station had promised three minutes of national and international news and one minute of local news each hour during the morning show).

Derome seems to be a pretty good fit for the station, and a great get. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this hire is that the retired 71-year-old would be willing to get up four days a week and be in a studio for 6am.

radioclassiqueOther hosts on the schedule are mainly people who were at the station before:

Plus Charles himself, hosting from noon to 1pm weekdays, repeating at 5am.

Names we no longer see include Raymond Desmarteau, Chantal Lavoie, Julie Bélanger, Karen Hader and the Coalliers — Jean-Pierre, Marc-André and Claude-Michel. (Claude-Michel Coallier is still on the ad sales team.)

UPDATE: La Presse stories on Derome and other changes at Radio Classique.

Posted in Media

Journal de Montréal still most read in print, La Presse most read overall in Montreal

La Presse continues to be the most-read newspaper overall in Montreal even though most of its readers don’t read it on paper, the latest readership data shows.

Results were released Thursday by Vividata, which was formed by the merger of NADbank and the Print Measurement Bureau. It determines readership of newspapers and magazines by public surveys.

The top-line data from the latest survey shows La Presse has an average daily (Monday to Friday) audience just above 1 million, who read it either in print form or online.

As we saw previously with NADbank numbers, the Journal de Montréal has more readers in print than La Presse (530,000 vs. 429,000), but the latter makes up for this by having almost twice as many digital readers (858,000 vs. 473,000).

If you compare La Presse to other newspapers, you also see that few of them have anywhere near the kind of relative success that La Presse does on digital. It has exactly twice as many digital readers as print, while most other daily newspapers in Canada have fewer digital readers than print or only slightly more. The only others with a 2:1 ratio like this are the national newspapers (the Globe and Mail and National Post) and Le Devoir (whose print readership is very low).

La Presse is now third in print readership, falling below Métro and just slightly ahead of 24 Heures on the average weekday. The Montreal Gazette is fifth overall and in print, followed by Le Devoir, though the latter has a higher online readership than the Gazette.

Data for magazines is published here. Reader’s Digest remains the most read magazine in the country according to this measurement.

Posted in In the news

Are parties more likely to have female candidates in no-hope ridings?

Every election, after the final list of candidates is published, there’s some analysis of how many of a particular group (usually women, because they’re the easiest to count) running for office overall or for each political party.

This election, those numbers show either how we’ve made significant progress over the years (in 1980, we had only five female MPs) or how far we still have to go because women make up half the population and no party has women making up more than half its candidates.

The increase in the number of female candidates is encouraging, but I had this nagging doubt in the back of my head: Not all candidates are the same. An NDP candidate in rural Alberta has much less of a chance to get elected as one in Toronto or Vancouver. Ditto a Conservative candidate in downtown Toronto, or a Liberal in Quebec City, or a Bloc candidate in the West Island.

What if the parties were padding their numbers by putting women as candidate-poteaux in ridings they knew were hopeless?

To find out, I did some number-crunching. I took all 338 ridings and used the projections from to separate the candidates into “winnable” and hopeless based on a simple criterion: If the candidate was 15 points or less behind the leading candidate in that riding projection. (This includes candidates who are leading.) Then I counted what percentage of those candidates were women.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Bloc Québécois: 33% (13/40) vs. 28.2% (22/78) overall
  • Conservative Party: 18% (32/178) vs. 19.5% (66/338) overall
  • Forces et Démocratie: 0% (0/1)
  • Green party: 100% (2/2) vs. 39.8% (134/336) overall
  • Independent: 0% (0/2)
  • Liberal Party: 31% (64/206) vs. 30.7% (104/338) overall
  • NDP: 38% (45/120) vs. 43.2% (146/338) overall


Among parties with more than two winnable seats, the difference between the number of women in winnable ridings and those running overall is at most 5.2 percentage points. And in two of the four cases the percentage of women in winnable ridings is higher.

Now, there are a lot of caveats in this calculation. The 308 projections are an incomplete science, and the numbers I used come from after the deadline for candidacies — the number of winnable races for the Liberals has greatly increased since then, and decreased for the NDP. A lot of candidates are considered unwinnable according to the calculation that pundits think could have a shot (Maria Mourani, Anne Lagacé Dowson, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, Allison Turner, Pascale Déry). And it doesn’t account for other factors like incumbency (you can’t take as much credit when you’re running a female MP for re-election), or how contested the nomination race was.

The NDP, for example, shows 43% female candidates overall, and 38% in winnable ridings. But if you exclude Quebec, where a bunch of women were elected in 2011 by surprise and are now incumbents (names like Ruth Ellen Brosseau, Charmaine Borg and Laurin Liu), only 27% of the winnable ridings in the rest of the country have female candidates.

That raises a bit of an eyebrow. Maybe it’s just chance, or maybe it’s subconscious. But overall, as a rough guide, these numbers are enough to convince me that women aren’t being systematically dumped in unwinnable ridings.

It makes for a less interesting blog post, but at least my curiosity is satiated.

(By the way, you should read that CBC story about women in politics. It includes some interesting statistics and comments from female MPs.)

Posted in Media, Opinion

Transcontinental kills the Chronicle and Examiner, the last of its English newspapers in Quebec

It’s true. Transcontinental, the publishing company that owns community weekly newspapers across the province, has confirmed that, for financial reasons, it is ceasing publication of the West Island Chronicle and Westmount Examiner. Their final issues are next week.

The Montreal Gazette has the details, as well as some comments from former Chronicle/Examiner reporters.

But as much as people are reminiscing the official passing of two institutions (the Chronicle dates back to 1924, the Examiner to 1935), the mourning began long ago. The newspapers aren’t so much being shut down as they’re finally being put out of their misery.

The fact that only three people are losing their jobs because two newspapers shut down should be as clear an indication as any of how far these papers had fallen in recent years. Where once they each had a small team of reporters and editors covering stories as best they could, at the end there was only a single reporter being shared by both papers. At that point, to call what’s being done journalism might be a bit of a stretch. The reporters that have gone through there have accomplished herculean tasks, and many have better jobs at larger media outlets now, but there’s just so much that can be done with no resources.

You need only take a look at the Chronicle’s last issue to see how thin it has become, or how much of it is ads, or advertorials. There’s journalism there, too, but nothing even remotely close to what it used to be.

Fortunately, Transcontinental will give them one last issue, just after the federal election, where they can publish results and maybe say goodbye.

The shutdown follows the conversion of the former N.D.G. Monitor to an “online newspaper” in 2009. That no longer exists, its old website URL redirecting to Métro. And this summer, Transcontinental turned another old newspaper, the Huntingdon Gleaner, into an insert in a French-language weekly, getting rid of the Gleaner’s staff. (I’ll have more on that in a future story.)

So now what? Transcontinental made a reference to the western Montreal market being served by alternatives. In the West Island, there’s the weekly West Island section of the Montreal Gazette (my employer). In Westmount, there’s the Westmount Independent. And in both, there’s the Suburban. Will one or more of these boost their resources to attract the closed papers’ former readers (and their advertisers)? Or will less competition open the door to them cutting back?

More coverage:

UPDATE: A “wake of sorts” in memory of the West Island Chronicle is planned for Nov. 11 at Le Pionnier in Pointe-Claire.