Posted in Radio

Rythme FM expands with third new affiliate in six months

The network of Véro, Mitsou and Sébastien Benoit is continuing to grow.

Owner Cogeco Diffusion announced on Tuesday that it has added an affiliate in the Abitibi region to the Rythme FM brand, expanding it to seven stations throughout Quebec.

CHOA-FM, which operates at 96.5 FM in Rouyn-Noranda, 103.5 FM in Val-d’Or and 103.9 FM in La Sarre, is owned by RNC Média and operates under the Planète brand. The changeover is expected to happen on March 9.

Like other Rythme FM affiliates, the Abitibi station will carry the noon-hour show hosted by Mitsou Gélinas and Sébastien Benoit, and the afternoon drive show hosted by Véronique Cloutier. Its morning show and daytime programming before and after lunch, will be local. The station promises no reduction in local programming, and that announcers Isabelle Harvey, Amélie Pomerleau and Véronique Aubin will remain with the station.

CHOA is the third station in six months to add itself to the Rythme FM family. CHLX-FM 97.1 in Gatineau, another Planète station, became Rythme FM Outaouais in August. CKRS-FM 98.3 in Saguenay and CKGS-FM 105.5 in La Baie, owned by Attraction Radio, are also adding themselves to the Rythme FM network on Feb. 9.

CKRS, a station formerly owned by Corus but which wasn’t sold to Cogeco, had until recently been a talk station, but last month got approval for a licence amendment allowing it to switch to music.

The expansion gives the Rythme FM network a presence in most major regions of Quebec: Montreal, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Abitibi and Saguenay, plus CIME-FM in the Laurentians, which is part of the Rythme FM brand but doesn’t carry its network programming.

The big missing link here is Quebec City. CJEC-FM 91.9 used to be a Rythme station, but when Cogeco bought Corus it was forced to sell the station. New owner Leclerc Communication eventually rebranded it WKND. Convincing it to return to the Rythme FM brand would be the most obvious choice, since it’s the only adult-contemporary music station there not owned by Bell Media. Cogeco could also rebrand M 102.9, its classic hits station in Lévis. But since that station just adopted that brand, it’s probably not in their plans.

It might also look to expand in the Bas-Saint-Laurent (Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski), Centre-du-Québec (Drummondville, Victoriaville) and Gaspésie regions. Attraction has other stations that might fit the bill, but others are owned by smaller companies that might be less interested in replacing local shows with Véro.

Posted in Radio, TV

CBC cutting local TV newscast from 90 to 30 minutes starting next fall

As the CBC continues finding ways to save money, the corporation announced today that it is making changes to local programming.

The biggest one is that evening TV newscasts are being cut from 90 minutes to 60 or 30, depending on the market. Montreal is one of the unlucky ones, being cut to 30 minutes, starting at 6pm. This happens to be CBC Montreal’s weakest half-hour, because it competes directly with CTV News at 6 and Global News.

Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Windsor and Fredericton are also getting cut to 30 minutes. Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s will stay at 60 minutes because there’s still a “business case” for longer newscasts there, and CBC North will have 30 minutes in English and 30 minutes in Inuktitut.

Evening and weekend news are unchanged, as are local programs on CBC Radio One.

On the French side, the weeknight local Téléjournal broadcasts will be cut to 30 minutes everywhere but Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa/Gatineau and the Acadian region.

There are also smaller changes. CBC Daybreak will be broadcast on television from 6-7am. Currently CBC Television airs a national CBC News broadcast at this time, surrounded by local news, weather and traffic graphics.

There’s also going to be new one-minute hourly news breaks throughout the afternoon and evening on CBC Television.

How this will affect jobs at CBC is unclear at this point. Chuck Thompson, head of public affairs for CBC English Services says there are “no new cuts beyond those announced in June.” The CBC tells Canadian Press that it’s too early to talk about job cuts resulting from this, but not counting staff these changes will save $15 million a year.

Good news, too, kinda

If you want to ignore all that and pretend this is good news, as the CBC does in its press release, these “changes” are part of a transformation process that will focus more on digital. The corporation is vague on what changes are happening to the digital side, but apparently they will be improvements.

On the local side, the CBC will also be adding a videojournalist position in the Eastern Townships to expand coverage there. Right now there’s no private English-language TV or radio journalist permanently assigned to the townships. The CBC has a “researcher columnist” in the region covering it for radio, and occasionally supplements that with the travelling journalist who contributes to CBC Radio’s Quebec Community Network based out of Quebec City. This new position would be in addition to that, covering the townships for TV, radio and the web.

Fort McMurray, Alta., will also get a new news bureau.

See also:

Posted in Radio

CRTC approves purchase of CJMS 1040 AM

CJMS

CJMS 1040 AM St-Constant, Montreal’s French-language country music station, has been given the go-ahead for a new life.

On Thursday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a change in ownership of the station, from 3553230 Canada inc., a company owned by Alexandre Azoulay, to Groupe Médias Pam inc., owned by Jean Ernest Pierre. The latter also owns Montreal Haitian station CJWI 1410 AM, CPAM Radio Union.

The sals is for $15,000 plus an hour’s worth of advertising airtime a week for a year (52 hours total). Because it’s a purchase of a station that was losing money, and will require investments to bring it into compliance with its obligations, the CRTC did not impose additional tangible benefits on the transaction.

Much of what the station will look like under the new owners has already become evident. It launched new branding and a new website, and is simulcasting a news show from CJWI during rush hours (6-9am and 4-6pm weekdays). The new owners promise that the rest of the schedule will be unique to CJMS, that it will not air ethnic programming, and that it will continue to serve the community of St-Constant.

The new owner also told the commission that the plan is to modernize the music at CJMS and bring in more contemporary country.

The sale follows a bizarre hearing last year in which Azoulay blamed serious and repeated failures to comply with CRTC licence obligations on his father’s dementia, a statement that left commissioners dumbfounded.

The commission responded by imposing mandatory orders on CJMS requiring it to come into compliance with its licence, with the threat of contempt-of-court charges if they don’t. Those orders have been maintained under the new owner.

The change in ownership comes with a new licence and de facto renewal until Aug. 31, 2017. The three-year licence term reflects the fact that CJMS has repeatedly failed to meet its regulatory obligations.

Posted in TV

André Corbeil leaves CTV Montreal as job cuts reduce station’s workforce by 12

André Corbeil

André Corbeil

André Corbeil, a sports reporter/anchor at CTV Montreal, surprised a few people late last week announcing via Twitter that it was his last week at the station.

Corbeil’s job was eliminated as part of a series of cuts designed to reduce the station’s staff by about a dozen. We learned about those cuts over the summer, but the actual cuts are only happening now. Most of those leaving are in technical or behind-the-scenes positions, and most are leaving voluntarily.

Corbeil, who usually anchors on the weekends and reports three days a week, was offered a part-time position that would have kept him as the weekend anchor, but “he opted to leave,” general manager Louis Douville told me.

“He was an absolute gentleman, understood that it was a business decision,” he added later. “He was an important part of our family and we’re sad to see him go.”

Corbeil is originally from Timmins, Ont., and joined CTV Montreal in 2007 after four years at CTV in Sudbury.

“[I’m] not sure exactly where I will land in the coming months, but it most likely will not be on TV,” Corbeil told me. “Not suitable for a young family.” His wife works full-time and they have a two-year-old daughter. “So, nights and weekends make life pretty difficult.”

He said he’s going to try to “use this situation to my advantage and find an opportunity that will provide a better work/family balance.”

The loss of Corbeil will likely mean a drop in the amount of sports coverage on CTV Montreal, particularly of amateur sports. While Brian Wilde is the go-to guy for Canadiens coverage, and Randy Tieman covers the Alouettes, Corbeil was usually the reporter assigned to Impact games, and would often file reports about university sports. Douville said news reporters could cover events that straddle the barrier between news and sports, but it seems clear that there will be less than there used to be of stories in this category.

Net loss of 12 jobs

The positions being cut also include the late-night anchor position that was filled by Catherine Sherriffs before she left on maternity leave. But Corbeil is the only other on-air personality who’s leaving the station.

The exact fallout is still not known because it looks like a few positions may change as some laid off exercise a right to bump less senior people out of jobs in other classifications. That has some people (particularly those that would be bumped) concerned about unqualified or less qualified people occupying posts of young talented staffers.

Among the jobs that have been eliminated are the late weeknight lineup editor (the late anchor will instead line up his own show), one researcher position, the news archivist, an editor position and several other technical jobs.

In all, it’s a net loss of 12 jobs, with 12 people leaving voluntarily. Other cuts are being offset by the creation of new positions, usually with combined responsibilities. Susan Lea, the head of the union local, says a total of 15 positions have been eliminated.

“How this will impact (the station) remains to be seen,” she said. “Our product is news, that’s our one and only product. Every job is related to that. It definitely impacts the quality and our ability to cover news.”

“We don’t want to be a jack of all trades and master of none.”

The good news is that, besides Corbeil and the voluntary layoffs, Lea doesn’t expect anyone else to lose their job. “It will be more of an internal shuffling.”

Asked about concerns these cuts would affect the quality of the newscasts, Douville seemed confident viewers wouldn’t notice anything.

“We’re convinced we’re still going to be able to do exactly the same,” he said. “Our commitment to covering local sports remains unchanged. It’s just a reality that we have to do more with less. There are many people who are going to have more responsibilities. That’s a reality that all broadcasters are living with right now.”

“We have a 60 per cent share in the market and we intend to keep that.”

The unionized workforce at CTV Montreal has been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2013. Negotiations began this spring, but were put on hold either because of the layoffs or because everyone became busy, depending on which side you talk to. Douville said the employer is committed to resuming talks for a new contract.

Weekend sports anchor job available

Corbeil’s decision to leave ironically means a job has opened up at the station for a two-day-a-week sports anchor. Though someone with a young family is probably not crazy about working weekends, there’s no doubt and endless supply of eager young broadcasters who would jump at the chance for a job like this.

The most obvious choice would be Paul Graif, who has filled in as sports anchor many times over the years. But Graif works weekdays at K103 in Kahnawake, and might not be crazy about working seven days a week.

Chantal Desjardins would have been next on the list if she hadn’t taken a job at Sportsnet.

TSN 690’s Eric Thomas would be a good choice in light of his excellent debut in October. And there are plenty of people at the sports station who would probably make fine TV sports anchors.

Douville said the job would probably be filled early in the new year.

Posted in Radio

Gregory Charles agrees to buy Radio Classique from JP Coallier

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, which operates classical music stations in Montreal (CJPX-FM 99.5) and Quebec City (CJSQ-FM 92.7), is being sold to Groupe Musique Greg, the company owned by Quebec personality Gregory Charles.

The acquisition price is unknown (the Journal de Montréal says it’s more than $10 million), but should be made public when the CRTC publishes the application to change the ownership of the stations. (The sale can’t be final until the commission approves it.) Legally, the two stations are owned by separate companies, Radio Classique Montréal Inc. and Radio Classique Québec Inc., both of whom are controlled 90% by Jean-Pierre Coallier and 10% by Pierre Barbeau.

Radio Classique launched in Montreal in 1998, and the Quebec station in 2007. I’d been hearing rumours for a few years now that Coallier, who turned 77 last month, was looking to find a new owner for the stations. Charles heard those rumours too, and told Les Affaires that’s why he initiated talks for a purchase. This transaction would keep one of Montreal’s few independent commercial radio stations in independent (and artistic) hands.

It’s unclear what Charles and his company plan to do with the stations (he wouldn’t tell the Journal if he plans to become an on-air personality at the station), but they are unlikely to change formats, at least in the near term. Charles says he acquired the stations because of their niche format, which the major broadcasters won’t touch. Getting rid of classical music and replacing it with Katy Perry would be disastrous for its reputation, and it would likely lose more listeners than it gained.

The stations operate as specialty-format stations, and CRTC approval would be needed before they could convert to pop, rock, dance or country music formats. CJSQ has a specific condition of licence limiting 90% of its content to “concert” music, defined as classical music, opera, operetta and musical theatre.

The latest ratings information from Numeris shows CJPX-FM in Montreal had a 2.7% share among francophones and a 1.8% share among anglophones, while CJSQ-FM in Quebec City had a 4.6% share total.

Posted in Media, My articles

What would you do if you were CBC’s president?

Découverte host Charles Tisseyre’s cri-du-coeur last week at the CBC Annual Public Meeting has already gotten more than 100,000 views on YouTube. Straddling the line between passionate and angry, it deplored the situation at the public broadcaster, how much it has seen its programming cut (his own show now has fewer episodes and more repeats as a result) and has been kicking its young talent out the door.

But while Tisseyre’s words got wild applause from the crowd assembled in the basement of the Maison Radio-Canada, and Tisseyre politely but firmly challenged CBC president Hubert Lacroix on the latter’s failure to answer a question about why he hasn’t done more to fight the federal government on CBC funding, the Radio-Canada personality doesn’t necessarily share the crowd’s animosity toward Lacroix.

A concerned citizen helps Hubert Lacroix out with the tedious resignation-letter-writing thing.

A concerned citizen helps Hubert Lacroix out with the tedious resignation-letter-writing thing.

“Animosity” is perhaps an understatement here. Many in the crowd wore T-shirts that seemed to directly blame Lacroix for the thousands of job cuts the broadcaster has seen since he took office. The second question of the event asked if he should resign. Later, someone handed him what he described as a pre-written resignation letter that needed only Lacroix’s signature.

But Tisseyre told me later in a one-on-one interview that Lacroix’s resignation would serve little purpose. “If the people who were there resigned, they would be replaced by others, who would be faced with the same cuts. I think the problem is much deeper,” he said.

You can read more about Tisseyre’s comments in this (paywalled) piece I wrote for Cartt.ca. It also includes my impressions about Lacroix’s problem with expressing the right emotions to relate to his employees and CBC fans among the general population.

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Posted in Radio

Jeremy White returns to The Beat

Jeremy White

It seems Tony Stark isn’t the only one going home. Jeremy White, the radio kid from Kahnawake who left The Beat for Virgin Radio in Edmonton earlier this year, is coming home to his old overnight shift.

Did things not work out in Edmonton? It wasn’t that, White tells me, but rather he just wanted to come back home:

Everything was great in Edmonton! The station, the company, the people. Some of the nicest folk I’ve ever met and will definitely remain friends with as well as some amazing times I won’t soon forget!

I’ll be 100% honest cause there’s no reason to lie and I’m sure there’s some younglings reading this that can learn something. I got to a point where I realized I wasn’t ready for the distance. I made the move at 19 years old thinking I was ready to take on the world, I wasn’t. And I have no shame in admitting that. I’m extremely close to my family, my little brother is 12 years old and he needs his big brother around.

(Beat Program Director) Sam Zniber got in touch with me at literally the perfect time as I was going to hand in my resignation at the end of August, I wanted to give Virgin at least three months and another ratings period cause I’m not one to just jet without notice. I’ve known of Sam for a while through some mutual friends and it was a shock to actually to hear from him! This is a world renowned radio guru. I’m extremely excited to get back on The Beat and soak up every piece of knowledge Mr. Zniber has to offer!

I actually announced my departure from Virgin Edmonton the day after Tony Stark announced he was leaving Virgin Montreal, you can only imagine the amount of messages I got asking when I was starting on Virgin Montreal! Which obviously isn’t the case, was never even on the table actually.

It’s going to be nice being back on The Beat, when Leo (Da Estrela, Zniber’s predecessor) gave me my one show a week when I was 17 years old on a Wednesday night, I never would have thought all this would happen.

I’m going to learn from all of this, stay humble and continue to learn the ways of the biz to master my craft. Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about this industry. Eddie Van Halen once said, “You don’t play music, you live it!” Radio isn’t something you do, it’s something you live! And I thank Andre St-Amand and Sam for allowing me to continue to my dream.

It’s not often I see that kind of honesty from a radio personality. White, who’s now 20, is still very young for what he’s accomplished so far in his career. And he wouldn’t be the first radio personality to sacrifice some career advancement to stay in Montreal.

White’s first shift back is Sunday-night-to-Monday. He takes the place of Thom Drew and Jimmy James Spencer, who have apparently been let go.

“Sadly my time at The Beat here in Montreal is done,” Spencer posted on Facebook on Nov. 20. “It was a great run (mostly) So onward and upwards and all that.” He’s currently looking for work and has posted airchecks here.

Posted in TV

A white guy’s review of Mohawk Girls

Tuesday night was the first time most people in the Montreal area got to see the new TV series Mohawk Girls, a “dramedy” produced by Tracey Deer that is set and produced in Kahnawake and airs on OMNI and APTN.

The series has bean a long time in the making, and the first season was actually shot two years ago. It got a good deal of attention when it was being produced then, and even more so now that it’s actually on the air.

I watched the first two episodes as they aired on APTN tonight, both as an amateur TV critic and as a regular TV viewer interested in good storytelling. I’m not an expert on Mohawk culture, nor am I an expert on television production, but I’ll offer some thoughts of how I personally see the series so far.

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Posted in My articles, Radio

The Beat cancels Anne-Marie Withenshaw’s All Access Weekend (and she’s suing over it)

Anne-Marie Withenshaw filed a lawsuit against Cogeco Diffusion in Quebec Superior Court this week.

Anne-Marie Withenshaw filed a lawsuit against Cogeco Diffusion in Quebec Superior Court this week.

Listeners to 92.5 The Beat may have noticed that it’s no longer broadcasting its weekly All Access Weekend show with Anne-Marie Withenshaw, and that all evidence of her has been wiped from the station’s website.

Now we know that the station has decided to cancel the show as part of an apparent new direction in programming that involves on-air personalities being heard less and less. But what makes this story different from every other radio-personality-is-fired stories is that she’s responding with a lawsuit.

I explain the details of the suit in this story in the Montreal Gazette. Essentially, she and her company Killer Queen Productions are alleging that the station strung her along under false pretences after her contract expired at the end of August, making her believe they would renew her contract in order to prevent her from jumping to another station.

That allegation hasn’t been proven in court, and station owner Cogeco Diffusion will have a chance to present a defence.

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Posted in Montreal, Radio

CFMB 1280 AM sells to Evanov Radio for $1.125 million

Control room at CFMB's main studio in the basement of its office

CFMB’s studios in Westmount

Evanov Radio hasn’t launched its first radio station in Quebec, but it’s already working on its third.

Earlier today, staff at CFMB 1280 AM were informed that the station has been sold to the Toronto-based company. The sale, for $1.125 million, has to be approved by the CRTC, for which an application was filed last Friday.

I have more details about the acquisition in this story for the Montreal Gazette, which appears in Wednesday’s paper, and this story at Cartt.ca, which gives a more national perspective about Evanov.

The sale ends a 52-year run for CFMB under the ownership of founder Casimir Stanczykowski and his family. After his death in a car accident in 1981, it was up to his widow Anne-Marie and son Stefan to manage it with business partner and minority owner Andrew Mielewczyk.

But Mielewczyk and Anne-Marie Stanczykowski are well past ready to retire, and Stefan Stanczykowski is a lawyer who wants to return to that practice. Though he describes the decision to sell as bittersweet, and it was originally turned down a couple of years ago, he said he believes it’s the best decision for the future of the station.

For its part, Evanov doesn’t plan any cuts among the station’s staff of about 50. The vision is to eventually move the station’s offices and studios to co-locate with Radio Fierté on Papineau Ave. downtown. And there could be shared programming with Evanov’s other multilingual stations, CIAO 530 in Toronto and CKJS 810 in Winnipeg (the latter was also founded by Casimir Stanczykowski, but later sold to Newcap, who sold it to Evanov).

Radio Fierté 980 AM and another station, The Jewel 106.7 (CHSV-FM) in Hudson/St-Lazare, are in on-air testing and set to launch once that’s complete, officially before Christmas but with major announcements in the new year. Both will employ about 20 people.

If approved by the CRTC, CFMB would become the 18th radio station in the Evanov group, of which 14 stations (15 including this one) were launched or acquired in the past 10 years.

I wrote more about CFMB in a feature story that appeared in 2012 for its 50th anniversary.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the frequency of CIAO AM in Toronto. It’s 530, not 540.

Posted in Media

Transcontinental sells 15 magazines to TVA for $55.5 million

The transfer of large collections of print media to and from Quebecor has taken another step, with the announcement that Transcontinental is selling 15 magazines to its Groupe TVA subsidiary for $55.5 million (or $3.7 million each on average). (Quebecor release, Transcontinental release)

The deal, which also includes a contract that will see Transcontinental continue printing those magazines for seven years, includes the following (with number of editions a year and average circulation where I could find it):

French magazines

  • Coup de pouce (general consumer magazine for women) — 12 x 209,260
  • Véro Magazine (women’s lifestyle magazine tied to TV personality Véronique Cloutier) — 4 issues/year
  • Décormag (home decorating) — 10 x 74,038
  • Fleurs Plantes Jardins (gardening) — 6 x 54,166
  • Québec Vert (horticulture) — 6 x 6,200
  • MaisonNeuves.com
  • Condo Maison Direct
  • Elle Québec (51%, with Hearst) (fashion and beauty) — 12 x 81,211
  • Le Bel Âge (50%, with Bayard Group) (lifestyle magazine for seniors) — 11 x 130,122

English titles

  • The Hockey News — 24 x 100,058
  • Canadian Living (general lifestyle) — 12 x 521,169
  • Style at Home (home decorating) — 12 x 233,878
  • Canadian Gardening — 6 x 92,624
  • Elle Canada (51%, with Hearst) (fashion and beauty) — 12 x 126,967
  • Good Times (50%, with Bayard Group) (lifestyle magazine for seniors) — 11 x 131,487

Digital

Not included are Les Affaires magazine or other business publications, or magazines regional to Western Canada, Vancouver Magazine and Western Living.

These would be the first major English magazines to come under the umbrella of TVA Publications.

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Posted in Radio

Tony Stark leaves Virgin Radio for Jump! 106.9 in Ottawa

Tony Stark

Tony Stark, the evening host at Virgin Radio 96, surprised his listeners Thursday by announcing that that was his last show and he’s leaving the station he’s worked at for four and a half years.

Stark didn’t say why he’s leaving, saying only that he’d make an announcement in a few weeks. This almost certainly suggests that he’s moving to another station that isn’t ready to announce his hiring yet.

My guess on that would be Jump! 106.9 in Ottawa, based on some circumstantial but telling evidence I’ve seen. The station recently announced a job opening for a morning show host, which would make sense. We’ll see if that’s true. Jump, CKQB-FM, was The Bear until a relaunch this spring under the management of Mark Dickie, the former general manager at The Beat in Montreal. It’s a mainstream top 40 station, and has a style similar to Virgin.

UPDATE (Nov. 24): As Neil points out in a comment below, Jump! 106.9 in Ottawa now lists Stark as its morning host. Corus sent out a press release Nov. 27 announcing the Stark hire. His show will be called JUMP! Mornings with Tony Stark and it begins Dec. 1.

Two years ago, Stark announced he was leaving Virgin for another job at a radio station in Halifax. But then he changed his mind and stayed in Montreal. He said the reconsideration was for “personal reasons” without elaborating.

Kelly Alexander has been shuffled over to Stark’s 6-11pm time slot at Virgin. Program Director Mark Bergman says he’ll be “searching the planet for the best possible person to fill this role” over the next few weeks.

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