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.