Posted in Radio

Marie-France Bazzo leaves Radio-Canada morning show after 19 months

Marie-France Bazzo, the host of ICI Radio-Canada Première’s Montreal radio morning show C’est pas trop tôt, surprised listeners this morning by announcing she was leaving the show because of a disagreement over the “orientation of the show.”

The news has been confirmed by Radio-Canada. It takes effect on April 3.

Bazzo, who was the first woman in the post, succeeding René Homier-Roy in 2013, also hosts Bazzo.tv on Télé-Québec. Before taking the job at Radio-Canada, she was a contributor to Paul Arcand’s morning show on 98.5 FM.

Richard Therrien of Le Soleil says the rumour is Radio-Canada wasn’t happy with the amount of time Bazzo was devoting to this show versus her other projects. That makes sense. We could have a long discussion about Quebec TV and radio hosts who have several regular jobs that you’d think would all be full-time gigs.

UPDATE: Rumours are already circulating about a possible replacement: Former TQS anchor and duo-tang nemesis Jean-Luc Mongrain.

Posted in Media, Radio, TV

Another wave of cuts at CBC will mean 9 jobs lost in English services in Quebec

The cuts just keep coming at the CBC. The latest wave, announced today, affects local services across the country in both English and French, with 144 and 100 jobs cut, respectively.

J-Source has a copy of the memo outlining the regional breakdown for English services, which says nine jobs will be cut in Quebec.

We don’t know which jobs those will be yet. “Affected people will be informed in the coming weeks,” says communications manager Debbie Hynes.

The cuts relate to changes in the way local programming is managed, including the reduction of evening TV newscasts from 90 to 30 minutes this fall. Local radio programming is not being cut.

On the French side, Louis Lalande give some details about the cuts, including shows on ICI Musique that will be cancelled.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Can CTV News and BNN be trusted to report on themselves? Depends on Kevin Crull’s mood

Was Bell Media President Kevin Crull misinterpreted by the managers under him? Bell won't say.

Bell Media President Kevin Crull made a major gaffe that cost CTV News its integrity.

CTV News has a solid reputation for integrity, built from decades of strong journalism and a deeply entrenched culture of professionalism. It’s not perfect, and it’s vulnerable to the same biases that affect all other media, but I have no doubt that if a source tried to use financial or other pressure to affect how a CTV News story was told, that person would justifiably be told to get lost.

So when people start spouting conspiracy theories about CTV News coverage, I’m very skeptical. Yeah, them not reporting on some minor thing involving a competitor could be direct orders from Bell Media’s president, but more likely it’s because some assignment editor didn’t think it was newsworthy.

Now, I’m starting to wonder if I should rethink the assumption that CTV News wouldn’t throw away decades of work building its reputation because of a senior executive’s narrow-minded attempt to intentionally bias a story.

On Wednesday, the Globe and Mail reported that Bell Media President Kevin Crull interfered in news coverage of last week’s CRTC decision involving channel packaging, effectively ordering CTV News President Wendy Freeman to forbid Bell-owned news outlets from interviewing CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

The report, based on sources that would not be named publicly, was damning:

Mr. Crull told Ms. Freeman he was in charge of the network and that Mr. Blais was not to appear on air again that day, according to accounts of the exchange.

After the call, sources say, Ms. Freeman contacted CTV staff to tell them of the directive from Mr. Crull and not to use clips of Mr. Blais, telling some she felt she would be fired if they did not comply. Other CTV employees were concerned for their jobs, according to a source.

Hours later, Blais issued a statement expressing concern about CTV News’s editorial independence. It amounts to little more than a wag of the finger, and does not suggest any consequences if Bell continues to act in this way. It says complaints should be directed to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, but doesn’t say the CRTC itself or its chairman will complain.

Finally, after initially downplaying the story through a spokesman, Bell Media issued a statement credited to Crull apologizing for his actions:

I reached out to the CTV News leadership team to let them know I felt the focus on the CRTC itself by CTV and other Canadian news organizations would be better placed on a broad and necessary discussion of the impacts of the CRTC’s decisions on consumers, our team members, and our business.

It was wrong of me to be anything but absolutely clear that editorial control always rests with the news team. I have apologized to the team directly for this mistake. Indeed their strong and straightforward reaction to my intrusion only heightens my appreciation of their independence, integrity and professionalism. It is crucial to note that CTV’s coverage of the CRTC’s decisions was fair, balanced and extensive, and stands up in comparison to coverage of the issue by any Canadian news organization.

In short, I’ve re-learned a valuable lesson from the best news team in the business.

Re-learned indeed. Because this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In 2013, Crull was accused of trying to meddle in CTV News coverage of a policy issue affecting Bell. There too, Bell’s statement said news decisions rest with the news team and are not directed by Crull. I asked Bell’s spokesperson if there was a failure of communication there, and if the news team should have been better educated that Crull does not direct news coverage. The response I got was a refusal to comment further.

Crull’s apology is a good step, but an entirely empty one. It contains no mention of any measures to prevent this from happening again. It fails to address the accusation that Crull told Freeman “he was in charge of the network” or reassure CTV News and BNN employees that their jobs are not in jeopardy if they cover a story in a way that Crull or BCE don’t like.

Crull credits the “strong and straightforward reaction to my intrusion” even though the reaction was the exact opposite of that. No one called Crull to defiantly say he had no business interfering in news coverage. They followed his order until finally by the time of CTV National News they decided to ignore it. Then they anonymously complained to the Globe and Mail. Nothing about this was straightforward.

That’s not a complaint against CTV News staff. It takes a lot of guts to go against the boss. My point is that if he thinks he has no influence over CTV News, he’s out of his mind. If the Globe’s report is accurate, Wendy Freeman thought she’d be fired. That’s serious, and it requires a much more serious response than “oops my bad but it was no big deal”

Crull also says “CTV’s coverage of the CRTC’s decisions was fair, balanced and extensive” which means either he thinks it doesn’t matter that they censored the commission’s chairman because they eventually stopped censoring him, or he doesn’t think it’s important for a TV story about a major CRTC decision to include comments from the CRTC.

If Crull is serious about respecting the editorial integrity of CTV News and protecting it from himself, some serious measures need to be put in place, because otherwise we have only Crull’s assurance that this won’t happen again after it already happened at least twice (and possibly more — Dwayne Winseck quotes a BNN employee saying it was common for Bell brass to get special treatment in their news coverage).

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is not the appropriate body to deal with this. It acts based on complaints, and if anonymous sources hadn’t come forward to the Globe and Mail, no one would have known about this intrusion.

Crull needs to do more than apologize. He needs to launch an independent investigation into the editorial integrity of Bell Media’s news operations when dealing with stories about Bell. He needs to put a stronger wall between himself and CTV News/BNN, which prevent him from contacting news managers about news coverage. And he needs to offer guaranteed assurance that whistleblowers exposing attempts to meddle in CTV News coverage won’t be punished for coming forward.

Meanwhile, other large media companies should similarly put in place measures to protect their newsrooms’ integrity: Quebecor, Shaw Media, Rogers, Cogeco, Transcontinental and others often put their journalists in positions where they have to report on their parent companies. What assurance do we have that they aren’t getting similar orders from their CEOs about how to do it?

Yes, this is an argument about vertical integration. But non-integrated companies are not immune to this kind of interference. Even the smallest community newspapers can have publishers who put the bottom line above journalistic integrity. The difference is that CTV News has the budgetary resources to hire an ombudsperson or other independent person who the public can trust to blow the whistle whenever journalism is threatened by self-interest.

Until these major steps are taken to restore and preserve trust, unfortunately Mr. Crull’s actions have caused CTV News to lose the benefit of the doubt.

UPDATE: CTV National News included a story about Crull. It did not include any interviews with Crull or anyone at CTV News.

And the Globe and Mail’s Tabatha Southey has a more satirical take on the news.

Posted in Media

Competition Bureau approves Postmedia’s acquisition of Sun Media

I’m about to acquire a lot of colleagues.

The Competition Bureau has approved (in the sense that it will not oppose) the $316-million acquisition of Sun Media’s 174 newspapers and publications in English Canada, the Canoe portal and other assets by my employer, Postmedia Network.

Press releases from Postmedia and Quebecor say the deal will close in the coming weeks. Once that happens, Postmedia will own the lion’s share of print media in English Canada, including three of six dailies in Toronto, and two paid dailies in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa.

The bureau appears to have agreed with Postmedia’s argument that competition from other forms of media, particularly online, will prevent this transaction from becoming anti-competitive. The bureau also points to “the lack of close rivalry between Postmedia’s broadsheet and Sun Media’s English-language tabloid newspapers” and “existing competition from free local daily newspapers” in its decision.

I’ll update my media ownership chart once news comes down that the transaction has closed.

Posted in My articles, Radio

The Beat beats Virgin: a fluke, or a turning point?

The quarterly radio ratings haven’t interested me much in a while, mainly because there’s few stations owned by even fewer owners, and the ranking never changes. People talk about a few extra listeners here and some demographic shift there, but overall it’s always the same: CJAD has the highest market share*, Virgin is No. 1 with adults 25-54, CHOM does best with men, and we ignore the fact that all three of those stations are owned by the same company.

This time though, there was a noticeable change. And it made a big difference. The Beat 92.5, which had been slightly ahead of Virgin Radio 96 in most reports the past two years but behind in the key demographics, shot ahead under both measures. Instead of them fighting it out at around 16% or 17% of the audience, The Beat had 20% and Virgin was under 15%.

That was enough to write a story for the Gazette and get the program directors on the record.

That wasn’t easy, mind you. Sam Zniber, who was hired last August at The Beat, flat-out refused to tell me what he thought contributed to the ratings increase, fearing his competitor would find out and copy him. He would only say it’s a team effort.

Mark Bergman at Virgin, meanwhile, did his best to put a positive spin on the ratings, pointing out that the station has a larger reach, and saying that because the measured period included December, the numbers biased in favour of The Beat.

That’s half true. Virgin’s market share does go down in the winter ratings period, but The Beat’s doesn’t spike during that period. And it wasn’t nearly this bad last winter, so it must be something else.

I listened to The Beat, trying to figure out what changed. Was it the announcers? No, because their lineup has been stable for the past year. Was it the amount of music? Anne-Marie Withenshaw’s lawsuit suggests a shift toward less time on air for announcers, and I’ve noticed that many breaks are very brief — like seven seconds brief. But studying the “recently played” lists of Virgin and The Beat, they play about the same number of songs per hour (about eight during peak hours when they have contests, traffic and other stuff, and about 13 an hour during off-peak hours).

The type of music played seems to have changed. Instead of just Katy Perry pop, it’s got more R&B, more dance. Its slogan “Montreal’s perfect mix” and describing itself as airing a “variety” of music make it seem more and more like The Beat of today is the Mix 96 of a decade ago.

Or maybe it’s a combination of factors — a new program director bringing in some new ideas, an experienced on-air staff (many of whom used to work at Virgin) keeping the audience loyal, a more popular mix of music, lots of contests and stunts to keep people engaged, a better-than-expected boost from Christmas music season, and a bit of luck.

We’ll know in three months (or maybe six) how sustainable this lead is. I suspect it won’t last long, but the trend (at least among 2+ audience) has clearly been in The Beat’s favour since it relaunched in 2011.

radioratings

* An earlier version of this post said CJAD had the “most listeners”. As a reader points out, if you count everyone who listens for at least a minute during a day or a measuring period, Virgin has more listeners. I’m more interested in the average, but for clarity I’ve referred instead to market share.

Wayne Bews let go from The Beat

Wayne Bews, hired only a year ago as general manager of The Beat, filling the role vacated by Mark Dickie, has once again fallen victim to corporate management deciding that a station doesn’t need its own general manager. Cogeco tells me that the position has been eliminated and his functions taken over by other people within the company.

Bews left his job at TSN 690 for similar reasons in the fall of 2013, though at least that time Bell got him a job at CTV Montreal.

Charli Paige is Virgin’s new evening announcer

Meanwhile, a new face at Virgin. Tony Stark’s old evening show has been given to Charli Paige, who comes from 101.3 The Bounce in Halifax, where she was Jillian Blinkhorn. Her show airs 6-11pm Mondays to Thursdays.

Stark, meanwhile, is in the middle of a contest at The Jump in Ottawa to find a morning co-host.

Posted in Media

Gesca sells six newspapers to Martin Cauchon, keeps only La Presse

This one hit like a ton of bricks: Gesca, the media company owned by Power Corporation, is selling six of its seven newspapers to Groupe Capitales Médias, a new company (literally formed on Monday and registered yesterday) owned by Martin Cauchon, former Liberal Party MP for Outremont.

The sold newspapers are:

  • Le Soleil in Quebec City
  • Le Droit in Ottawa
  • Le Nouvelliste in Trois-Rivières
  • La Tribune in Sherbrooke
  • La Voix de l’est in Granby
  • Le Quotidien in Saguenay

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. The new owner says current management at those papers will remain in place, including Claude Gagnon, who is president of the new company and remains in charge of the regional papers.

Gesca, for its part, says it wants to focus on La Presse+ and international sales of the platform it spent $40 million to develop. It never brought the other newspapers into this system, which many people found curious. Now I guess we know why. (Negotiations took several months — La Presse says it was a year — and other parties were interested in a purchase.)

UPDATE: Some details from InfoPresse: La Presse will continue selling national ads for the regional papers, and they will continue sharing copy. Plus La Presse+ and other technology will be shared with the regional papers, according to publisher Guy Crevier.

Reaction

Posted in Radio

The Jewel 106.7 Hudson launches Monday … live from Hawkesbury

The Jewel 106.7

Five years after the initial CRTC application for a new radio station serving Montreal’s western off-island community, two and a half years after it was given a licence, and four months after it started testing, CHSV-FM The Jewel 106.7 finally comes to life Monday morning with regular programming.

The lineup

As previously announced, Ted Bird is the big star being brought on to host the morning show, 5:30-10am weekdays. Joining him is Tanya Armstrong, a Montrealer who’s not as well known but who has been around Montreal radio many years. Her CV on LinkedIn lists experience with WebSports Media, the people behind the Montreal Hockey Talk show. Previously she worked as an intern on CHOM and did production on what was then Team 990. She’ll be handling news and traffic on the show.

Producing their show is Kris Leblanc, who will also be hosting on weekends. He’s worked previously at Mix 96, CJAD, 940 News and K103.

The afternoon drive show, from 3 to 7pm, will be hosted by Bob Coley, a voice-over artist who lives in Hudson and previously worked at CHOM and CKTS 900 AM in Sherbrooke. He’ll be joined by Sylvia Asche Bullard doing news and traffic. Bullard worked at CJMQ in Sherbrooke, the English-language Townships community station, as well as for the Canadian Traffic Network and The Jewel in Ottawa.

Leblanc, Coley and “another announcer still to be determined” will host weekend shows. The rest of the schedule will be syndicated, including middays (10am-3pm is John Tesh) and evenings (The Jewel’s The Lounge, 7-11pm).

Ted Silver, program director for The Jewel stations in Hudson and eastern Ontario, says there may still be “some surprise announcements” concerning programming.

The location

Even though they’ve been working on this station for half a decade, owner Evanov Radio hasn’t found it a home in Hudson yet, so for the time being it’ll be broadcasting out of the office of its sister station The Jewel 107.7 in Hawkesbury, Ont., 40 kilometres away. (Which I note is less than the distance between Hudson and downtown Montreal.)

I’ll be tagging along on Day 1, and will have more details in the coming days here and in the Montreal Gazette’s off-island section.

Posted in Media, Sports

It’s still not easy being a girl in the boys’ club of sports broadcasting

Women in sports broadcasting, from left: Amanda Stein (TSN 690), Andie Bennett (CBC), Jessica Rusnak (TSN 690), Kelly Greig (Sportsnet), Robyn Flynn (TSN 690)

Women in sports broadcasting, from left: Amanda Stein (TSN 690), Andie Bennett (CBC), Jessica Rusnak (TSN 690), Kelly Greig (Sportsnet), Robyn Flynn (TSN 690)

As we mark International Women’s Day on Sunday, we can choose to think of the injustices that still exist, of the women around the world who face injustice merely because of their gender in direct and indirect ways. We can choose to think of how far we’ve come as a society, ending some of those injustices and actively encouraging more women to come forward and become leaders and role models. Or better yet, we can do both.

In the media, we like to think of ourselves as more progressive than other industries. Look in most journalism classes and you’ll find more women than men. There are plenty of women working in print, radio, television and digital media, particularly in positions that expose them to the public.

But when we narrow that view to the sports department and dedicated sports media, a different picture appears, one where if there are women at all, they’re kept on the sidelines (literally).

On Thursday, as part of a week of activities at Vanier College, five women who work in sports broadcasting in Montreal were invited to talk about their experiences trying to find their place in this man’s world. It was eye-opening.

Here’s what I learned:

Continue reading

Posted in Media

Montreal Gazette loses veteran reporters, Pierre Foglia retires from La Presse

While students in Quebec were heading out on spring break last Friday, veteran journalists in two newsrooms were packing their boxes.

Friday was the last day on the job for five journalists and one administrative assistant at the Montreal Gazette. They leave as part of the latest wave of buyouts meant to reduce operating costs at the newspaper, which means they won’t be replaced. Instead, other staff’s responsibilities will be shifted to cover their work.

Sue Montgomery was the Gazette’s justice reporter. She covered the trial of Luka Magnotta and many other lowlifes before him. Reviews of her career inevitably bring up her trip to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, her coverage of the sexual abuse at Les Frères Ste-Croix at Collège Notre Dame, and her work with Antonia Zerbisias to create the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported in the aftermath of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.

She was also very outspoken, sometimes to the displeasure of her employer.

In her farewell column, she writes:

I became a journalist almost 30 years ago, not so much because I loved the craft of writing, but more to give a voice to those who aren’t otherwise heard. I wasn’t interested in the politicians, who never seem to say anything meaningful, or the boring businessmen, incomprehensible sports stars or fake celebrities. None seemed real.

I was drawn to and intrigued by the everyday people like you and me who experience extraordinary loss, suffering and injustice and still manage to somehow carry on. We can all learn from such stories — about the resilience of the human spirit, empathy and strength.

You can read some of her work here. She also did an interview with CBC’s Daybreak.

Peggy Curran was the Gazette’s city columnist, returning to a writing job after a brief stint as city editor. Curran wrote in an almost poetic manner about the city and its problems (if I was nearly as good, I could have described her style better), and like Montgomery she preferred the stories about real people.

She has a wicked sense of humour, too. Along a wall of portraits of journalists past and present who have received awards for their work, there’s a photo of Curran leaning on the wall of her cubicle. Below her is a cutout of what looks like a tabloid headline she cut out and posted on her wall: “PSYCHO IRISH BITCH”.

In her farewell column, she worries about the future of the industry she’s leaving:

Being a journalist is a job of great intensity, more so as deadlines have multiplied. The daily miracle is now measured in minutes since the last update.

To do this right requires abundant energy and unconditional love.

Curran has compiled her five favourite stories here.

Pat Donnelly was the Gazette’s theatre critic (sandwiching a brief time as literary columnist), spending her evenings attending previews and performances, some of which were very good and many of which were very bad. Though in her farewell column, she focuses on the good:

As a theatre critic, I was privileged to witness one of the most exciting periods in Quebec theatre history, when Robert Lepage was first making waves, the Montreal Fringe Festival was born and Montreal’s bilingual Les Misérables won the admiration of the world. Sylvie Drapeau starred in all the best French plays. The Cirque du Soleil went from one triumph to another. Montrealer Richard Monette ruled the Stratford Festival. The biennial Festival TransAmériques, founded by the indomitable Marie-Hélène Falcon, expanded to became an annual hybrid of theatre and dance. And La Licorne, my favourite francophone theatre, began to lead the way with English surtitles.

Though theatre tends not to be on the radar of most people, Donnelly did manage to stir up some controversy, when she highlighted the use of blackface at a year-end review show at Théâtre du Rideau Vert. The story spread for more than a month afterward as people (mostly white) debated how offensive it is for white actors to put on dark makeup in Quebec.

Donnelly has compiled some highlights from her career here.

Lynn Moore was a journalist in the Gazette’s business department. She specialized in natural resources until she became the coordinator of the business section, tasked with the thankless job of putting together a section with few journalists and lots of news. She was also responsible for commissioning freelance pieces, including many from me.

You can read a small selection of her stories (including several Jazz Festival reviews) here.

François Shalom also worked in business, where he specialized in aerospace, an important beat in the city that is not only home to big industry players like Bombardier, Air Transat, CAE and Héroux-Devtek, but also the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Air Transport Association.

His last day as an employee came on the same day that Bombardier did its first flight test of its CS300 aircraft, though he didn’t get a chance to cover it.

You can read some of Shalom’s stories here.

These five people were colleagues, and I could probably write a lot of the same things about all of them: they had a good sense of humour, they cared about their work, they cared about the organization they worked for and the damage it has taken from its reductions in staff and quality, and they were kind people who nevertheless had little tolerance for bullshit.

And the Gazette will be worse off for having let them go. (Matthew Hays articulates part of what the paper is losing in this piece for Rover.)

The Gazette also lost a member of its support staff: Helen Ciampini had the title of “executive assistant” but was effectively responsible, with newsroom manager June Thompson, for all the little things that kept the operation running. The Gazette has lost almost all of the administrative staff it had when I was first hired, and has struggled to cope as a result.

None of the departing staff have indicated any future plans other than vacation.

« Ceci n’est pas une chronique d’adieu »

On the same day the Gazette lost staff with a combined experience of more than 100 years, La Presse lost a columnist who just about matches that by himself. Pierre Foglia announced in his Saturday column that he’s retiring, though he plans to contribute occasional stories about books.

Foglia, who has been with La Presse since 1972, according to Presse Canadienne, has been described as a unique columnist with a poetic style and wisdom that made him the envy of his colleagues.

Journal de Montréal blogger Marie-Claude Ducas writes a piece appreciating Foglia. As does Louise Latraverse a week later in La Presse.

Posted in Canadiens, TV

TVA Sports to expand to three feeds during NHL playoffs

tvasports3

When TVA Sports launched, people wondered if it could fill 24 hours. When it acquired NHL rights, it had to expand to two channels even though it only really had scheduling conflicts on Saturday nights.

Now, with the NHL playoffs coming, and TVA having rights to all playoff games, Quebecor has decided to add a third feed to the service.

TVA Sports 3 will come online on April 15 on Videotron, Rogers, Bell Fibe/satellite and Telus Optik TV. It will be free to all subscribers who have TVA Sports and TVA Sports 2 in their packages. (Some subscribers have TVA Sports but not TVA Sports 2, and probably won’t get this new channel.)

In the two weeks leading up to that, from April 2 to 14, TVA Sports and TVA Sports 2 will have a free preview. (There’s only one Saturday night Canadiens game in that span, the season finale against the Maple Leafs.)

The most interesting thing about TVA Sports 3 is that it’s a temporary channel, and will be removed at the end of May, when the first two (three?) playoff rounds are over and there aren’t any more scheduling conflicts. That doesn’t mean it can’t return in the future, though. There’s a lot of sports out there.

If you only have TVA Sports, by the way, there’s probably no need to worry. They haven’t put any Canadiens games on TVA Sports 2, and there’s no reason they would start now. (RDS only moved a regular-season Canadiens game to RDS2 once, and that was during the World Series.)

Yes, it’s necessary

TVA Sports 3 is needed because there are situations, especially in the first round of the NHL playoffs, where two channels isn’t enough. Last year, TSN had to give away a playoff game to Sportsnet because it had the Raptors on the main network and it couldn’t put two simultaneous games on TSN2. (Now that TSN has five channels, that’s no longer a problem.)

The NHL tries to schedule the playoffs so there is as little overlap as possible, but when western conference teams play 8pm or 9pm starts (because many teams are in Central or Mountain time zones), you can have three going at once.

And jokes aside, TVA Sports does have rights to other sports. It has some Impact games, some Blue Jays games, some NFL games and some tennis events. It still has a long way to go to catch up to RDS, but it’s working on it.

Some context

Three channels might seem like a lot, but there’s a long list of sports channels in Canada owned by Bell and Rogers:

Bell (English): TSN1-5, ESPN Classic, plus minority stakes in NHL Network, Leafs TV, GOL TV, NBA TV, and CTV and CTV Two can air sports programming

Bell (French): RDS, RDS2, RDS Info

Rogers (English): Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet One/Vancouver/Oilers/Flames, Sportsnet World, OLN, plus minority stakes in Leafs TV, GOL TV, NBA TV, and City, OMNI and FX Canada can air sports programming, plus its deal with CBC for hockey

And on top of that there’s NFL Network, MLB Network, Golf Channel and others with English programming that TVA could pick up the French rights to.

Don’t expect Canadiens on TVA

Since the TVA NHL deal was first announced, people have been asking about Canadiens games on the main TVA network. Rogers even assumed it would happen in some early schedule mockups, and TVA never ruled out the possibility.

The press release isn’t clear, but seems to imply Canadiens playoff games will be on TVA Sports. Remember that Quebecor spent a lot of money securing these rights, and no NHL team draws francophone audiences nearly as much as the Canadiens. If they’d gotten all 82 Canadiens games, then a Saturday night free-to-air game might have made sense, but as it stands it needs Canadiens fans to subscribe to the sports channel.

Things might change if the Canadiens go deep in the playoffs. Most if not all Canadiens playoff games should be available for free in English on CBC or City, so casual fans jumping on the bandwagon might decide to forgo a TVA Sports subscription and just watch the games in English. If the Canadiens make the Stanley Cup final, TVA might decide that advertising revenue for such a huge audience outweighs the potential gains in temporary TVA Sports subscriptions.

Posted in TV

CBC greenlights English adaptation of Radio-Canada’s Nouvelle adresse

On the same day it holds a public consultation in Montreal asking its audience how it can best represent English-speaking Quebec in its programming, CBC announced it has green-lit an English-language drama set in Montreal.

The new series is an English adaptation of Nouvelle adresse, the Radio-Canada drama written by Richard Blaimert and starring Macha Grenon as a journalist whose extended family is turned upside down after she learns that she has an incurable cancer. The series, which began last fall, is already in its second season, and though it faces tough competition from TVA’s Lance et compte in the Monday 9pm timeslot, it’s seen its audience steadily grow over the past few weeks.

New Address, for which Blaimert will be a consultant but not the writer, will begin production this summer and could be on air as early as this fall, CBC says. We don’t have too much detail (no cast announcement yet), but we know that the series will be set in Montreal, and that the family name is being changed from Lapointe in the French version to Lawson in the English.

Both the French series and its English adaptation are produced by Sphère Média Plus, which is responsible for several attempts to turn its French-language hits into English versions, with mixed success:

  • Sophie, the English adaptation of the comedy Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin, about a talent agent whose life goes nuts, which lasted two seasons and 32 episodes on CBC before being cancelled because of poor ratings. (That series was also written by Blaimert, though he defends it a bit to La Presse.)
  • Rumours, the adaptation of the half-hour comedy Rumeurs about a group of magazine employees, which lasted 20 episodes on CBC.
  • And, of course, 19-2, the adaptation of the Radio-Canada cop drama of the same name, which is now in its second season on Bravo, where it is both a critical and popular success. It landed there after CBC passed on the chance to pick up the series.

The company was also commissioned by NBC to create a pilot that adapted the dramatic comedy Le monde de Charlotte. It never got picked up.

UPDATE (Feb. 26): Now comes news that it’s going to adapt Mémoires vives in English for Rogers, which could put it on City or FX Canada.

Can this be the one that works?

The success of 19-2 compared to the lack of same from Sophie and Rumours probably leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the programming decision-makers at CBC Television. But it doesn’t change the fact that these Sphère Média Plus adaptations are more likely to fail than succeed.

Nouvelle adresse is a good series, well-written, well-acted, and will probably pick up several awards come awards season. But then again Sophie and Rumours were based on series that picked up more than a dozen Gémeaux awards, so that’s not a guarantee of anything.

I’m a fan of Nouvelle adresse, even though it, like 19-2, is pretty heavy. But while 19-2 has police officers with guns patrolling gritty streets, Nouvelle adresse is about middle-class families dealing with disease, divorce and drama. I’m not sure how well that will translate.

A big difference will probably be the cast chosen for the English version. Though I doubt it would happen, Grenon is bilingual and could theoretically reprise her role in the language of Shakespeare. Among anglo Quebecers, she’s still remembered best as the lady from the Pharmaprix commercials of the 90s:

On jase, as they say in French. Sphère Média Plus’s success with 19-2 has earned it another chance at turning a Radio-Canada hit into a CBC one. Let’s be cautiously hopeful that it succeeds, if only because it’s nice to see another series set in Montreal on English-language television in Canada.

UPDATE: Brendan Kelly has more on the adaptation of Nouvelle adresse, including quotes from the creators.

No Unité 9 en anglais

Richard Therrien at Le Soleil tells us that CBC couldn’t come to an agreement to adapt the Quebec mega-hit Unité 9 into an English series. Apparently the CBC’s desire to cut down on the number of episodes was a problem for author/producer Fabienne Larouche.

Posted in Media, My articles, Radio, TV

CBC holding its first public consultation for English-language minority in Quebec

The CBC wants to hear from you, not just because it wants to, but because it’s required to by a condition of licence.

In fact, it’s the very first condition of licence for CBC’s English and French-language services in a new CRTC licence approved in May 2013: The public broadcaster has to consult with minority-language communities: Francophones in Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Western Canada and the North, and anglophones in Quebec. It has to happen once every two years and it has to be reported to the CRTC.

As CBC Quebec Managing Director Shelagh Kinch explains in this story I wrote for the Montreal Gazette, this is merely a formalizing of regular consultations the CBC did with anglophone community groups in Quebec and collection of audience feedback.

The consultation takes place Tuesday (Feb. 24) from 6:30pm to 8pm at Salle Raymond David of the Maison Radio-Canada in Montreal. You can also tune in via live webcast and participate on Twitter using the hashtag #CBCconsults.

In addition to Kinch and a panel of local journalists (All in a Weekend/Our Montreal host Sonali Karnick, C’est la vie host and political columnist Bernard St-Laurent, Shari Okeke and Raffy Boudjikanian, plus travelling journalist Marika Wheeler), there will also be two bigwigs from CBC who can make a real difference: Jennifer McGuire, editor-in-chief of CBC News (who is also responsible for local radio across the country) and Sally Catto, general manager of programming for CBC Television. (Sadly, there isn’t anyone from national CBC radio, nor is CEO Hubert Lacroix on the panel.)

The CRTC imposed this condition of licence among several changes in the last licence renewal to ensure CBC is fulfilling its mandate toward minority language communities that aren’t large enough to have commercial broadcasters catering to them. And while Montreal is big enough that we have four English TV stations and several commercial radio stations, the rest of Quebec is pretty underserved. The only major broadcaster catering to them directly is the CBC Radio One station in Quebec City.

So if you have some beef with CBC’s programming, or feel as though it needs to better reflect your reality, whether you live on the Plateau or in Gaspé, this is your chance to make yourself heard.

And yeah, the just-shut-down-the-CBC suggestion has already been made.

The Facebook event for the discussion is here.

I can’t make it because of a meeting I have to be at, so I won’t get a chance to ask why our public broadcaster took a pass on the only English-language Canadian scripted drama series that’s actually set in Montreal.

Posted in My articles, Radio

The Jewel in Hudson hires Ted Bird as morning show host

Ted Bird

Ted Bird

Three months after it began on-air testing, The Jewel 106.7 (CHSV-FM) in Hudson/St-Lazare is getting ready for a launch in early March and has hired its morning man: Ted Bird.

I have some details in this story in the Montreal Gazette’s Off-Island section.

With the hire, Bird gains his fifth employer and fifth station in five years. He left CHOM in 2010 over “creative differences” with management and months later landed at community station K103 in Kahnawake. In 2012, he left K103 and joined what was then TSN 990. In the fall of 2013, after the Bell/Astral merger put his old CHOM bosses in charge of TSN, he was let go, and joined KIC Country 89.9 in Kahnawake. His last shift at that station was on Friday.

Bird also freelances as a sports commentator. He had a regular segment on CTV Montreal, and recently started doing the same thing for City’s Sportsnet Central Montreal.

Evanov Radio, which owns The Jewel, confirms that it has hired Bird as the morning show host.

“We have also hired a sales team which consists of three representatives to start and are looking to add our sales manager shortly,” says Evanov vice-president Carmela Laurignano.

There’s no word yet on other talent, but we’ll know that in the coming weeks. I’ve heard of a few names familiar to Montreal radio listeners that have tried out.

The Jewel is licensed to serve Hudson and St-Lazare, and its signal also covers Vaudreuil, Rigaud, Oka, Île Perrot and the western part of the West Island. Its programming will be mainly easy-listening music, but will have news and information specific for the Hudson/St-Lazare community (its application promised four hours and 22 minutes a week of news, of which half would be local to that community). Evanov told the CRTC in applying for the licence to the station that this community of should be considered a separate market from Montreal. (According to the CRTC’s measure, Hudson and St-Lazare alone have about 22,000 anglophone residents.)

Posted in TV

CRTC finds MAtv failed to fulfill its community TV mandate, denies additional funding for English-language channel

In a victory for those who feel community TV channels run by cable companies are using loopholes to get around the spirit of the rules, the CRTC has ruled that Videotron’s MAtv community television channel has not complied with its obligations, but will be given a chance to do so.

In short, the CRTC agreed with the complaint by Independent Community TV, an independent group that wants to replace MAtv with its own grass-roots service, that MAtv isn’t providing enough community access programming, and instead counting shows created and hosted by professionals as access programs.

It also found some programs MAtv counted as “local” aren’t specific enough to Montreal.

The regulations require community channels to be 45% access and 60% local, but found MAtv was, during a sample week studied, only 30% access and 39% local.

The CRTC held up an application for an English-language version of MAtv in Montreal as it dealt with this complaint. That decision was also released today, and it allows Videotron to start up the service but denies the additional funding necessary to do so.

Cable companies start community channels because the CRTC allows them to deduct that funding from the 5% of gross revenues that they must spend on Canadian programming (mainly contributions to the Canada Media Fund). The rules allow up to 2% of gross revenues to be used for a community channel. But recently the CRTC has been allowing some companies to deduct a further 2% to create a second channel in another language — Rogers has this in Ottawa, Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, while Bell has this for its Bell Local service in Montreal.

But because of the non-compliance, and because it felt MAtv already had enough funding, the CRTC says Videotron must start this new service without any additional funding. That severely lessens the chances of it happening.

In addition to a general requirement to come into compliance by the time its licence is up for renewal in August, Videotron must establish a citizen advisory board for MAtv by March 15.

The commission notes that the community TV policy will be reviewed in the coming year, and presumably the discrepancy between Videotron and Bell will be addressed through that.

I have reaction from the parties in a story in the Gazette. La Presse also has a story, as does Le Devoir, with commentary from ICTV.

You can read more background on this issue here and here.

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