Media News Digest: Journalist arrested for email, GameTV sold again, Competition Bureau raids Postmedia and Torstar

News about news

Continue reading

Yet another “Ways to fix the Canadian Screen Awards” post

I watched Sunday’s Canadian Screen Awards. Not because I was really excited by it, but because I felt some sort of civic (and professional) duty to do so.

I’ve seen several of these, so I know what to expect. Hosts trying their best with not very good comedic material. Nominees and winners that most of the audience is unfamiliar with. Quebec movie stars feeling like fish out of water in this very English Canada environment. And overall a gala and broadcast that tries to be like the Oscars or the Emmys or even the Screen Actors Guild Awards but with much fewer resources.

The budget issue won’t change unless the CSAs become as big a spectacle as the American awards shows, and we’re pretty far from that.

Continue reading

Media News Digest: Disappointing budget, Radio-Canada affiliate shuts down, Bad Blood gets Season 2

News about news

Continue reading

My top 2018 Olympic moments

Well, it’s over. After 16 days of competition, 29 medals for Canada and dozens of stories of triumph, heartbreak and fun (and only one DUI that we know of), the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games are over.

It was a good year for Canada. The number of total medals was a record, though when you take event inflation into account we did about as well as Sochi and Turin and a bit behind Vancouver.

There were great stories about medallists like Kim Boutin, Ted-Jan Bloemen, Alex Gough and of course Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. There were equally great stories about athletes who didn’t make the podium. And, thanks to the hard-working team at CBC Sports, we got to see as many of those stories as they could cram into their coverage.

I was glued to the Olympics, sacrificing sleep to wake up at 6am to watch competitions live. It was fun to be so caught up in it, cheering every victory and feeling for every defeat. The Olympics are big money, and for the athletes involved it’s their entire lives, but for the rest of us, it’s two weeks of entertainment before we go back to our regular day-to-day.

It might come as cold comfort to those who were expected to win and didn’t, but the Olympics are a crapshot. For most sports, the level of competition is so high that the margin for error is virtually nonexistent. And, frankly, if the results could be so well known in advance, there wouldn’t be much fun doing it in the first place.

So while not every Canadian could finish on the podium, or in the top 10, the more that achieve that level of greatness, the more chances the country has of finding success in unexpected places.

Anyway, based on my experience watching these games, here are some top (mostly Canadian) moments, in chronological order, that got me right in the feels.

Continue reading

Barry Wilson returns with his Postscripts on YouTube

Barry Wilson said he wasn’t ready to retire when he was laid off in November. And on Friday he showed it by launching a YouTube version of his Postscript political opinion series.

The first video, which tackles the same subjects he did weekly on CTV Montreal, albeit shot at home and illustrated with still photos instead of video, is well produced, thanks mainly to Dave Maynard, former chief director and operations manager at CFCF.

Wilson has also launched a website and Facebook page for his new venture.

“I think the English speaking community of Quebec needs as many voices as it can get and I’m so happy to be part of the dialogue,” he explains on the website. “Quebec politics never ceases to surprise me. It is never boring. And the challenges it presents to our community are sometimes formidable. I hope my voice can continue to be part of the conversation because as I have said so many times, ‘This is our home’.”

What happens now is a good question. Can this gain a large enough audience to be viable economically? Will someone take notice and offer him a paying gig out of it? Or will it just be a side project that keeps his name in the conversation, perhaps supplemented by some freelance work that can keep the money flowing?

“This is more of a sideline than anything,” Wilson tells me. “I realized after I had been laid off that Postscript was more popular than I had even believed. It really struck a nerve with a lot of people. Bringing back an online version was Dave’s idea and we will see how it goes. Not expecting to make money with this. But it’s nice to know that (there) can be life after corporate media. It’s nice to have another voice out there for English-speaking Quebecer, especially in an election year.”

Wilson’s new Postscript, like its TV incarnation, is planned to be published every Friday, and he says he’ll try to keep to that schedule. In the meantime, he says he’s “still open to other opportunities.”

Media News Digest: English on Télé-Québec, Le Soleil stops printing Sundays, CBC poaches Vassy Kapelos

News about news

At the CRTC

  • Télé-Québec’s CRTC licence is up for renewal, and among the interventions was one from the English Language Arts Network, which Vincent Brousseau-Pouliot found, writing a story about its demand that English be more represented in TQ’s programming, and even a 10% English quota imposed. Specifically, ELAN is asking the CRTC to:
    • Require TQ to develop and publish a policy to reflect the full diversity of Quebec society,
    • Require TQ to develop and publish an action plan for creation of content that fulfils its diversity policy and a promotion policy to encourage viewership from members of Quebec society who have not traditionally felt reflected, 
    • Require TQ to track the language of its viewers so that it knows which language groups are watching which programs,
    • Create a consultative committee that includes the diversity of Quebec society, which will advise the board of directors on issues concerning the broadcasters diversity of programming throughout the license period.
    • Place ads in English-language media when pertinent programming for the English- speaking minority is scheduled and when new programs are being developed,
    • Create an on-line playlist of Anglo-Que?be?cois reflective content (following the NFB’s example),
    • Require TQ to increase the production and programming of content reflecting the Quebec minorities, especially English-language, indigenous, and visible minority communities to at least 20% of the schedule, and at least 20% of the production budget; and
    • Require TQ to establish English-language programming for 10% of its schedule, and 10% of its production budget, to reflect the English-language community in Quebec.
  • The commission has approved the acquisition of four Ontario radio stations by Bell Media, which will pay $15.64 million to Larche Communications for CICZ-FM Midland, CICX-FM Orillia, CJOS-FM Owen Sound and CICS-FM Sudbury. Bell will pay $1,022,004 to various funds and development initiatives as a CRTC-mandated tax on the acquisition.
  • The CRTC has dismissed a complaint by Electronic Box (aka EBOX) against Bell Media, which accused the company of refusing to make Bell’s specialty channels available for a TV distribution service EBOX plans to launch in Ontario and Quebec. Bell says it is willing to negotiate, and the CRTC agreed Bell was willing to act in good faith. If they can’t come to an agreement, they can come back to the commission for mediation or arbitration.
  • TVA is appealing a CRTC arbitration decision to the federal court of appeal, arguing that the commission was wrong to accept a Bell deal that would set Bell TV per-subscriber rates for TVA Sports lower than Bell’s RDS.

TV and video




News about people


CTV Montreal adds local news updates to Your Morning (UPDATED)

Caroline Van Vlaardingen anchors her first morning news break on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.

Of Montreal’s three English-language local TV stations, CTV is the only one without any local programming. Starting Monday, they fix that with the addition of local news updates to the Toronto-based Your Morning show.

Caroline Van Vlaardingen will anchor the segments, which will be inserted into the show just before each half-hour except the last.

Your Morning, the Canada AM replacement hosted by Ben Mulroney and Anne-Marie Mediwake out of Toronto, has a segment each half hour that, in Toronto, is filled with a brief local newscast anchored by Lindsey Deluce. In other markets that don’t have local cut-ins, and on CTV News Channel, it has a local news story taken from a CTV newscast somewhere in the country. (Originally it was an additional national weather update — if you wondered why there seemed to be so much weather on Your Morning, this was why). These segments last two and a half minutes, including pre-recorded intro.

Starting Monday, Montreal adds its own local cut-ins during this segment.

It’s a far cry from a local morning show like you see on City’s Breakfast Television, and not even the two-thirds-local morning show on Global, but it’s better than nothing, or the local ticker updates that Canada AM had after CTV Montreal last had a local morning newscast or local cut-ins.

CTV Montreal News Director Jed Kahane didn’t want to comment beyond the press release, but I’m told that the newscast’s staff was hired internally, giving a bit more work to existing part-timers, and that the newscast will run for a three-month trial period. There is no dedicated morning reporter (though there is an overnight cameraman chasing fires and car accidents), so any overnight updates will be the anchor’s job.

This move comes just under six months after CTV Montreal and other local stations added 5pm weekday newscasts, which similarly tried to produce more local news without making significant additions to staff.

UPDATE (Feb. 20): I watched the first two episodes of Your Morning with the new local inserts, and here’s how it breaks down:

Each insert is a firm two and a half minutes:

  • The Newsbreak intro graphic that you’ve seen during afternoon commercial breaks on CTV
  • A live shot from the roof camera as the anchor begins talking about weather
  • Current weather conditions graphic (temperature, humidity, pressure, wind)
  • Between four and six local news briefs, usually about 15-20 seconds each. Almost all consist of an anchor voice-over with B-roll
  • A live shot from a remote camera showing a traffic location (it changes each day but stays the same throughout the morning), with anchor voice-over about traffic conditions
  • A five-day forecast, and if there’s time, a daily planner forecast and/or current temperatures map
  • A quick goodbye

Generally, one new brief will be inserted in each half-hour break. Often the briefs are quick recaps of news from the previous day, and sometimes new briefs that come from overnight emergencies. In one case there was a short sound clip, but otherwise it’s all voice-over and there are no packaged reports.

Media News Digest: La Presse Olympics editions, new Gazette columnists, L.A. Times sold

News about news

At the CRTC

TV and video

Radio and audio



News about people



Videotron reaches last-minute deal to keep AMC

A month after telling subscribers it is being forced to drop AMC because it couldn’t reach a deal on renewing its contract, Videotron announced on Friday that it has reached a new deal with the popular American channel on the last business day before the channel was to be dropped.

Videotron tells me that “thanks to much effort and perseverance” it has managed to “make the voices of our clients heard.”

Details are confidential, and Videotron declined to tell me even how long their new deal is, but it says the deal “responds to the reality of our regional market” and is satisfactory to both parties. Videotron had previously suggested that AMC’s previous offer was unreasonable because it’s in a francophone market where a smaller fraction of its subscribers would be interested in such a channel.

Videotron tells me that there will be no change to AMC’s packaging. The channel is in some grandfathered theme packages, the Movie Network package, build-your-own packages (with a $2/month surcharge), or completely à la carte for $10 a month.

Thanks to the new deal, there will be a free preview for all digital cable subscribers, from Feb. 12 to 28.

AMC isn’t quite as popular as during the days of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but it still has The Walking Dead, whose new season begins Feb. 25, as well as series like Better Call Saul and Halt and Catch Fire.

UPDATE (Feb. 10): Videotron’s press release is here.

Media News Digest: Coalition wants to block piracy sites, André Arthur fired again, Le Devoir’s new website

News about news

Yet more Weinstein/#MeToo fallout

At the CRTC

  • A coalition including Bell, Rogers, Quebecor, Corus, CBC, Cogeco, and lots of artist and distribution groups is asking the CRTC to start allowing internet providers to block piracy websites. You can imagine how Michael Geist felt about that idea. But the coalition is not impressed by his arguments.
  • The commission has approved the acquisition of independent TV distributor Zazeen by Distributel. The purchase price, which the companies tried hard to prevent from becoming public, is $3, or $1 to each of Zazeen’s three founders. Distributel is a major creditor, according to the application, so it looks like the purchase price is equivalent to whatever the cost of that debt is. Distributel already offered Zazeen TV with its telecom services, and says other companies that offer Zazeen can still do so.
  • Victoria’s CHEK TV has gotten approval for a share buyback plan that would technically result in the local Sampson family moving from a minority shareholder to having more than 50% control when the family’s shares are combined. CHEK made it clear in its application that the Sampsons have no interest in having effective control of the company, which is run by the union, the employees and management, and a special shareholders’ agreement will limit their power. CHEK was bought out by its employees and local investors in 2009 when previous owner Canwest Global decided to shut its secondary E! network down. Several of those employees have since retired or otherwise left and are interested in selling their shares because they provide no income and have actually decreased in value since they were bought.
  • You might remember some anonymous person complaining to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council that The Weather Network’s 30-day forecast had only 27 or 28 days in it (and other minor errors). When the CBSC ruled such minor errors do not amount to breaches of its code, the complainant took the matter to the CRTC, which found no reason to intervene. We still don’t know the identity of the complainant.






News about people



Community station FM 103,3 being forced to move transmitter off Olympic Stadium tower

The government agency that runs the Olympic Stadium has been active the past few years in trying to modernize it. A new really expensive roof was approved by the Quebec government. The tower was renovated into offices for 1,300 employees of the Desjardins group.

But another plan, to open the roof of the tower as an observation deck, means having to remove several radio transmitters, and the Régie des installations olympiques has given at least one of them an eviction notice.

CHAA-FM 103,3, the community station serving the south shore of Montreal, broadcasts from the Olympic Stadium tower, with a signal directed toward Longueuil. In an application to the CRTC, it says it received a notice in 2016 that it must vacate the tower by Dec. 31, 2017. The RIO later offered a three-year lease because work to renovate the roof was delayed, but that lease contained an option to cut it short with 12 months notice.

On top of that, work currently taking place on the tower has interfered with proper operation of the transmitter, due to all the vibration and dust being created. The station, owned by Radio communautaire de la Rive-Sud inc., finally decided it had enough, and has applied to move the transmitter to the CBC/Radio-Canada tower on Mount Royal, which houses almost every commercial FM and TV transmitter in the market.

The application was published Monday by the CRTC, and is accepting comments until Feb. 19, a shortened comment period the commission agreed to so it could expedite the application process.

Current (pink) and proposed (black) transmitter locations and signal patterns for CHAA-FM 103,3

The new transmitter would be higher (284m vs 192m), and slightly more powerful, with a maximum ERP of 1700W instead of 1400W. But its signal pattern would be similar (slightly better toward Brossard and the west), and impacts on nearby stations on the same or adjacent frequencies would be minimal, its engineer asserts.

This move won’t be cheap, though. CHAA estimates a moving cost of $200,000 for new equipment on the new site, and says its rent will double. It’s seeking a loan to cover the costs.

The Mount Royal Antenna is the tallest in Montreal, and the home of transmitters for CBMT, CBFT, CFCF, CFTM and CFJP television transmitters (plus CJNT that broadcasts from a building next to the tower), and CBME, CISM, CKUT, CIRA, CKBE, CBM, CKMF, CBF, CJFM, CHOM, CHMP, CJPX, CBFX, CFGL and CITE FM transmitters, and will soon be joined by CKOI. As a result of its ideal position on top of the mountain, it’s also the most expensive place to put a transmitter, so some stations have used alternate sources, like a nearby Bell-owned tower on the other side of Remembrance Rd. But Olympic Stadium was another option.

Besides CHAA-FM, only one other broadcast transmitter remains on the stadium: CIBL-FM 101,5. And that station is in the middle of a major financial crisis. The last thing it needs is a forced transmitter relocation, even if it had been aware of it for some time.

Correction: This post originally said Télé-Québec’s CIVM-DT transmitter was operating from Mount Royal after moving from the Olympic Stadium. I don’t know where I got that from, but the Industry Canada database shows it still listed as transmitting from the Olympic Stadium tower.

Global Montreal’s Morning News turns 5, and Corus will keep it going

Laura Casella and Kim Sullivan on a recent episode of Global News Morning

As recently as 2012, Montreal did not have a local English-language morning show on television. Now we have two — three if you include the radio-on-the-TV Daybreak broadcast on CBC. Global Montreal was first out of the gate on Jan. 28, 2013, and so today celebrates its fifth anniversary.

Or it would if today wasn’t Sunday.

Nevertheless, there’s cause for celebration, because Global’s parent company Corus Entertainment is keeping the show on the air past its original mandate, even though it’s under no obligation to.

Creating local morning news shows in markets that didn’t already have them was a promise made by Shaw Communications in 2010 when it acquired Global and the other Canwest television assets from the bankrupt company (that also used to be my employer). As part of its $180 million “tangible benefits” commitment to get the deal approved by the CRTC, Shaw promised $45 million toward adding local programming in the mornings — above the requirements in its standard licence conditions — in six markets: Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon. Toronto would get the largest slice of that pie, but Montreal was promised $5 million — or about a million dollars a year.

It took a while to get the Montreal show off the ground — the premiere two years and three months after the acquisition was approved. And even then it had some glitches, with a minimal technical staff, two anchors and a weather presenter.

The original Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross. All three have since moved on to other jobs (Dagenais is at MAtv, Laventure works at Club Med and Ross is an instructor and consultant in London, Ont.)

Tangible benefits are spread out over seven years, which means they should have been all paid out by Aug. 31, 2017. We don’t have Global’s financial report for that year yet, but the 2016 report showed $1,234,800 in spending remaining from that $5 million fund for the 2016-17 year, the largest pool of money remaining for a market.

With the expiry of the tangible benefits, the obligation of Shaw (now Corus) to continue Morning News in Montreal and the other markets ceased. If they could meet their local programming and local news requirements with remaining programming, they could shut the morning shows down.

But they haven’t.

“We’re proud of our morning show in Montreal, which continues to do well and is providing improved results in the market,” Corus told me in a statement. “We also produce more local news content (above our condition of license) above our English language competitors.”

Shaw had told the CRTC in 2010 that it expected the morning shows to keep going past the end of the commitment. Troy Reeb, VP of news for Shaw Media and now head of local news for TV and radio for Corus, told me the same at the time, saying they were striving for a sustainable model.

But it’s nice to see that they’re actually following through with the commitment, at least for now.

Global Montreal’s Morning News doesn’t have a huge audience. According to the 2016-17 season average that Corus is using to tell advertisers what to expect, the show has an average minute audience of 5,500. That’s higher than the 3,500 that City’s Breakfast Television is reporting, or the 1,000 that CBC is reporting for Daybreak on TV.

And then there’s the fact that it’s not all that local. The middle segment of every half hour comes out of Toronto, which continues to give viewers the idea that they’re watching two programs switching back and forth.

The nationalization of local news was also applied to late-night and weekend newscasts, which are anchored out of Toronto. But Global Montreal also added a local noon-hour news, becoming the first station to try challenging CTV Montreal’s noon newscast.

It’s a mixed bag. We can be furious that Global is cutting so many corners and passing off nationally-produced programming as local news, or we can be happy that making such broadcasts as lean as possible has kept them on the air.

As much as I think Morning News isn’t as good as it could be with more resources, I’d rather that than nothing.

So happy birthday.

UPDATE: Morning News marked its anniversary on the air on Monday.

Media News Digest: Bell deals with Starz, The Hockey News sold, CTV suspends reporter

News about news

At the CRTC

  • The Super Bowl will not be substituted. The Supreme Court has denied Bell’s request for an emergency stay of the CRTC’s Super Bowl ad substitution decision in advance of next week’s game. But the decision doesn’t dismiss the case entirely, and allows an expedited determination of whether the court will take the case, which means it might be heard in the fall and a decision reached before the 2019 Super Bowl. Barring some miracle, this year’s game will be the same as last one: CTV ads on CTV and U.S. ads on the U.S. network (in this case, NBC). CTV will once again run its watch-to-win contest during the game.
  • Juicebox, Loud, Vibe and Retro, four channels that used to be part of the Much family but were sold to Stingray, have been re-licensed after losing enough subscribers to qualify for licence-exempt status, and then gaining enough to lose that status (200,000 is the magic number). Stingray had asked for a below-normal Canadian content spending quota, and interest groups like ADISQ and the directors and writers guilds asked for higher quotas or special music-related conditions. The CRTC threw out all those requests, noting that the channels are not tied to their formats and deserve no special treatment either way. They are required to spend 10% of revenue on Canadian content.
  • Vintage TV, a 24-hour music network, has similarly applied for and received a licence after passing the 200,000 subscriber mark. Its licence conditions are standard, but the commission was worried about foreign control since 33% of voting shares are held by a U.K. parent company. The licensee must inform the commission of any changes related to its control bylaws.
  • TVA Sports got a minor licence amendment, allowing it to average out the 12-minutes-per-hour advertising limit over a day instead of having to meet it every hour. RDS got a similar condition. This will allow TVA more flexibility when airing content that has fewer chances for commercial interruption (for example, during soccer games).
  • The commission has approved acquisition of CHLW-FM Barriere, B.C., and a new ownership structure for CKOV-FM Strathmore, Alta.





  • TC Media is shutting down its mobile news application on Jan. 31, directing users to its remaining newspapers’ websites. TC Media is in the process of divesting its newspaper holdings, which once measured in the hundreds, and now amount to a few dozen in Quebec.
  • CNN is shutting down Beme, and ending its relationship with Casey Neistat. If you know what those things are, you know more than me.



News about people



Rogers pulls the plug on Viceland

The news was a long time coming, but was finally made official today: Rogers is ending its $100-million content deal with Vice Media and shutting down the Viceland television channel on March 31.

Vice, though it will regain control of its content, will face layoffs as a result. The recently formed union isn’t sure how many.

Vice still has other deals, notably with Rogers competitor Bell Media for Vice News Tonight on HBO and Much and a documentary deal with CTV’s W5. And of course it still has its online content.

Viceland Canada, formerly the Biography Channel, required significant startup investment after it launched on Feb. 29, 2016, which led to a $2.5-million loss in the 2015-16 broadcast year. In financial projections filed with the CRTC, Rogers expected a further $8-9 million loss each year for the next three years.

Presumably this means the licence for the channel would be turned in (that’s what Rogers is telling, though Vice is suggesting that Viceland could continue. Another possibility might be that Bell decides to take over the rights to Viceland and rebrand one of its zombie channels like Book Television or incorporate it into a related channel like Much or MTV/MTV2. Or someone could ask the CRTC for permission to allow the American Viceland to be distributed in Canada.

More coverage from the Globe and Mail and CBC News.

UPDATE (Jan. 27): The end of the Rogers-Vice deal means job losses. The Canadian Media Guild says 23 people were given layoff notices. The fact that they’re now in a union means they have some protections.

Nirvanna the Band the Show, one of the Canadian Viceland originals, will still be produced because its deal with Vice is still valid.

Meanwhile, InfoPresse asked V about its plans for a French Viceland. V has abandoned the idea of a full-time channel, but will still produce content with Vice.

UPDATE (Feb. 15): Rogers has indeed requested the CRTC revoke the licence for Viceland.

Cogeco is ready for HD Radio, but isn’t eager to jump on it

Richard Lachance, president of Cogeco Media

At Cogeco’s annual general meeting recently, I managed to borrow Cogeco Media president Richard Lachance for a brief conversation about the company’s plans in radio. At an earlier meeting with Cogeco CEO Louis Audet, the focus was on the cable and telecom side, and the radio division didn’t come up until I asked at the very end if there was anything new there.

The truth is there isn’t. Cogeco hasn’t bought, sold or shut down a radio station in years, or even rebranded or reformatted. Its Rythme FM network has gained — and lost — some affiliates, but otherwise there has been little change in the past five years, following realignments that came from the Cogeco acquisition of Corus’s radio stations in Quebec.

There was discussion about Cogeco helping out community station CIBL, but here are a couple of other things I got out of him:

HD Radio: Cogeco’s FM transmitters are ready, or soon will be, to broadcast using HD Radio, a hybrid system that adds digital streams on top of the analog signal. Major broadcasters have been experimenting with it, mostly by simulcasting AM radio stations on FM HD (such as Bell is doing with CJAD and TSN 690 on their 107.3 signal). But Lachance was lukewarm on its appeal. Outside of cars, receivers are hard to come by, and demand isn’t that significant. And activating an HD signal has a negative effect on the power of the analog signal. Cogeco has experimented with an HD signal on CFGL-FM (Rythme FM 105.7), just rebroadcasting a digital version of the analog signal, but that’s no longer running.

If Cogeco followed the path of its competitors, it could rebroadcast its AM station (CKAC Circulation 730) on an FM HD transmitter like 98.5 or 105.7, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge rush to do even that.

CKOI’s current antenna atop the CIBC building

CKOI: The days of Montreal’s most powerful radio transmitter are numbered. The 307,000-watt signal, grandfathered at that power when the federal government imposed a 100kW limit on FM stations in the 1960s, is being replaced by a new transmitter on the Mount Royal Antenna, that will be higher up but lower power (147kW) so its pattern doesn’t extend beyond its current one.

Lachance said the plan is to make the move this year, probably around June. After that, the existing transmitter and antenna on the CIBC building at Peel St. and René-Lévesque Blvd. downtown will likely be torn down. CKOI’s backup transmitter, and others for Cogeco stations and some Bell stations, is in Laval’s Auteuil district.

Most people won’t notice a change. But Cogeco believes the higher antenna will mean less interference from large buildings and the mountain itself.

Other Cogeco stations have applied for and gotten permission to increase to the maximum 100kW. The transmitter for CHMP 98.5 has already been increased. The Beat 92.5 (CKBE-FM) remains at 41kW and its upgrade, though approved, isn’t scheduled in the short term.