Media News Digest: Supreme Court takes sources case, Attraction Radio sold, Saroja Coelho leaves CBC Quebec

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At the CRTC

  • There was no public process, but the CRTC has approved the acquisition of Attraction Radio and its 14 radio stations for $21 million. The new owner is Sylvain Chamberland, who already leads the group and co-founded it with Attraction Media owner Richard Speer. He has 50.25% of the stake in the new group, with the rest going to the CSN’s Fondaction fund. The deal was announced in March, and means Speer’s Attraction Media will no longer have radio assets. (It also means Attraction Radio will need a new name and identity.) The CRTC had some issues with the agreement between Chamberland and Fondaction, and they agreed to changes in wording to ensure that Chamberland remains the person in effective control of the radio licenses.

Ethical reviews

Another dump of Quebec press council decisions:

  • A 2016 decision about a series of 2015 columns by La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé was appealed and then sent back to be reconsidered after the appeals committee found that they should be analyzed as factual journalism rather than opinion journalism. The review nevertheless maintained that as a columnist Lagacé is not bound by the same rules about balance and has leeway in his writing. This is a problem that I think needs further study. As newsrooms and particularly newspapers cut back on staff, we often see columnists doing original reporting, and newspapers doing away with companion factual news stories because they’re seen as redundant. In other words, they’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too. Columnists are considered journalists and their reporting treated as front-page scoops, but when they’re called out for any bias in their stories, they hide behind their columnist logo. (I’m not speaking about Lagacé here — I haven’t read the stories and have no opinion on their potential bias.) We need new rules to reflect this new reality.
  • Stéphane Thibodeau vs. Le Soleil: A complaint about a story on the ridiculous pseudoscience of “electromagnetic hygiene” was dismissed because the story was found not to be a de facto advertisement for the company mentioned in the story, and the complaints about impartiality were not specific enough. The story is single-source and presents absolutely no skepticism about the idea that electromagnetism is dangerous to your health, that fluorescent light bulbs pose a risk of mercury poisoning or that LED light bulbs create “dirty electricity”, whatever that is.
  • Union des producteurs agricoles vs. La terre de chez nous: A complaint about a story critical of the UPA was judged to be outside the press council’s jurisdiction because it was in the form of an opinion piece submitted by the public.
  • Jimmy Girard vs. La Presse: A story about an investigation into a man who allegedly encouraged people to not pay taxes based its reporting on information submitted to court to obtain a warrant, and made that clear in a story that accurately reflected its contents, and so Girard’s complaints as to accuracy were dismissed.
  • Autobus Dufresne vs. Le Soleil de Châteauguay: The bus company subcontracted by the Conseil intermunicipal de transport du Haut-Saint-Laurent (CITHSL) complained about the Soleil story about a lawsuit because it believed the word “transporteur” could have been construed to refer to it rather than the transit agency. The council found that was not the case, because, among other things, Autobus Dufresne is never mentioned in the article. Dufresne also complained about the photo used, because it shows a bus with the word “Dufresne” clearly visible. The council was split on this, with 4/5 finding no fault in presenting a story about a transit agency with a photo of a bus being used on one of that agency’s routes.
  • Josée Couture vs. Le Soleil: A François Bourque column about Frédérick Tétu, who resigned from his teaching job after a radio appearance as a CHOI-FM contributor sounded like he was drunk on-air (he said he was just extremely tired) found no fault, and the complaint that bringing up his teaching job was an invasion of privacy was dismissed because it’s relevant, he’s a public figure, and he himself had brought that up publicly in the past.
  • Marc Plamondon vs. 24/60: A TV interview with far-right French party leader Marine Le Pen was not unfair or unduly hostile to her.
  • Julie Lévesque vs. La Presse: A François Cardinal editorial that mentioned an attack on Khan Shaykhun in Syria was based on reliable sources and, while it could have been less firm about assigning responsibility for the attack, did not violate the ethics code.
  • Huguette Poitras vs. La Presse and Le Soleil: A story about disputes between neighbours was criticized by Poitras for not getting her side of the story after speaking with the neighbour she was in conflict with. The story did not name Poitras, but she said people close to her recognized her from the description in the story. La Presse had already apologized for not getting the neighbour’s side of the story. The council said it’s not enough that people close to you recognize you, but strangers must be able to easily identify you based on what’s in the story for it to violate your privacy. As for the lack of balance, 4/6 panel members dismissed that complaint because that particular conflict was not the focus of the article.

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“Expert reacts” videos and accuracy in TV and movies

I’ve recently stumbled on a new trend in YouTube videos: experts taking popular movies and TV shows and reviewing scenes from them for accuracy. Wired and Vulture have done several of them, and some educational YouTube channels have found that they’re very popular with viewers.

I’ve watched dozens of them over the past few weeks, and many of them are fascinating, not only for people who like to nitpick about fiction as presented on screen, but because they demonstrate how hard it can be to get things right, and how great it is to see when they do.

If this kind of thing interests you as well, I’ve compiled the ones I’ve found below, grouped by topic. Enjoy.

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Major cable TV companies’ licences renewed: What the CRTC decided

On Aug. 2, the CRTC renewed the broadcasting licences of most of Canada’s major cable TV companies, including Videotron, Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Eastlink, Telus, VMedia and Bell MTS.

Though it wasn’t technically a policy proceeding, the omnibus licence renewals allowed the commission to impose a bunch of de facto policies, or clarify existing ones, on everyone at the same time. (Licenses for Bell’s Fibe TV operations, Bell satellite TV, Shaw Direct and some other distributors weren’t part of this proceeding, and smaller distributors who are exempt from licensing aren’t affected.)

Here’s what was decided:

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Atikamekw communities have no use for CBC North’s Cree programming

CBC and Radio-Canada have radio transmitters across the country, but most of them don’t have original programming. So often the question has to be asked: which local station should they retransmit? In some cases it’s easy — just pick the closest one — but in others it’s more complicated.

In the Atikamekw communities of central Quebec — roughly halfway between Lac Saint-Jean and Val-d’Or — there isn’t a Radio-Canada Première originating station anywhere close. Between Saguenay, Rouyn-Noranda, Trois-Rivières and Quebec City, the distance is about the same.

But these stations aren’t serving francophone Québécois audiences, they’re serving First Nations communities. So it made sense that the station it would retransmit would be none of these. Instead, Wemotaci (Weymontachie), Manouane (Manawan) and Obedjiwan retransmit CBFG-FM in Chisasibi, a community along James Bay that is the base for stations in northern Quebec. That station mainly rebroadcasts CBF-FM Montreal, but broadcasts three one-hour shows a day in the Cree language, produced by CBC North.

A recent consultation with the Atikamekw communities showed that there’s little interest from their members in that programming. In an application to the CRTC, Radio-Canada says it’s because there is a negligible number of Cree-language speakers in those communities. Atikamekw (which is well spoken in the region) is considered a Cree language, but is a different dialect from the James Bay Cree spoken in Chisasibi.

A letter from Constant Awashish, Grand Chief of the Atikamekw council, says only that the communities felt that the Mauricie station would be a more appropriate source of programming, without explaining why.

So the CRTC has approved the application (without a public comment period) and transferred the retransmitters to the Mauricie station CBF-FM-8 Trois-Rivières — between 200 and 315km away. The change reduces the network of CBFG-FM from ten stations to seven, the furthest south being Waswanipi, 135 kilometres northwest of Obedjiwan.

Media News Digest: Press council reverses Homolka blame, the Roast of Tony Marinaro, Celine Cooper ends Gazette column

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At the CRTC

  • The commission has published the applications for the acquisition of Évasion and Zeste by Quebecor and Newcap by Stingray. The deadline for comments is Sept. 4.
  • Looks like no public comments were filed with the CRTC about the proposed licence renewal of CFNV 940.
  • The proposed acquisition of RNC Media radio stations by Cogeco prompted only two comments, one by ADISQ questioning Cogeco’s plans for expanding the Rythme FM network and suggesting closer monitoring of licence compliance, and one by District Média seeking assurances that Cogeco won’t abandon its affiliation agreement for Rythme FM in Saguenay now that it will own stations in that market.
  • The commission has denied an application by Bell Media to boost the power of CKKW-FM (KFUN 99.5) in Kitchener. Bell argued that thermal ducting was causing interference to the signal and that people in Kitchener were getting the HD Radio signal of WDCX-FM Buffalo. The CRTC said CKKW adding HD Radio to its own signal would probably solve the HD Radio interference, and analog interference problems it reported were not from people in its primary service area.

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CHOC-FM in St-Rémi to shut down

After 19 years on the air, and only months after a $220,000 upgrade to boost the power of its transmitter, community station CHOC-FM 104.9, which serves the MRC des Jardins de Napierville, announced on Friday that it is shutting down on Monday.

The station had exhausted both human and financial resources, leading to the decision, the announcement said.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. After about a decade of trying solutions including adding two retransmitters, the station had finally succeeded in getting a power boost that allowed it to be received through its licensed area. The boost, approved in 2016, allowed the station to increase its maximum power from 250W to 1,714W (though in reality the previous transmitter was putting out much less power than that because of technical issues).

The station also worked on the marketing side, organizing a “Tournée CHOC” in 2016 with 50 events over 50 weeks.

And it was also getting its regulatory affairs in order, after the CRTC called it to a hearing to deal with issues of licence compliance. It hired a new general manager, Serge Paquin (who spent 17 years at the Alliance des radios communautaires), to put its administrative affairs in order. In June, he appeared before the CRTC to try to reassure commissioners that the station was on the right track.

Though he didn’t give any hint that shutting down was a possibility, Paquin did foreshadow one of CHOC-FM’s major mistakes: a single-minded focus on dealing with its signal problems, saying it was their “absolute priority.”

Friday’s announcement called this project, which was finally completed in February, its “swan song” and said the many delays and costs associated with it had a major impact on its finances and pushed back other projects that could have helped financially, such as the launch of a radio bingo program and local ad sales.

The station told the CRTC it cost $220,000 to implement the transmitter upgrade.

And now, mere months later, that transmitter is being shut down.

Three permanent employees will lose their jobs as a result of this, including Paquin. The station had about 50 members, of which about half were considered active volunteers.

Highlights, strange sights and crazy nights at Just For Laughs, Off-JFL and Zoofest 2018

54 shows, 21 nights, 15 venues, 144 artists (for a grand total of $190 plus tax, not including drinks). I made a lot of use out of my Just For Laughs and Zoofest/Off-JFL passes in July. And I saw a lot of comedy. Not all of it was fantastic. A lot of it wasn’t even that great. But I can’t complain that I didn’t get a lot of value for my money.

For the benefit of those who couldn’t get out, or even those who did but couldn’t see the same shows — the peak of the festival had almost 100 shows a day including outdoor events — I’ve compiled a list of memories that stuck out below. I can’t remember every joke or even every comedian, but I do remember how I felt leaving their shows.

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Should the CRTC allow an English-language commercial radio station in Quebec City?

For at least the third time, the CRTC is about to make a call on whether Quebec City should be allowed to have an English-language commercial radio station.

An application by Evanov Radio subsidiary Dufferin Communications, which also owns stations running the Jewel format (including 106.7 in Hudson), plus CFMB 1280 and CHRF 980 in Montreal, prompted a request for comment by the commission in 2016 about whether a general call for applications should be issued. So far two applications (the other one for a French station) have been filed for the use of 105.7 MHz, considered one of the last available usable frequencies in the city.

On Wednesday, the CRTC issued another notice of consultation, effectively reopening the file. It never came to a decision in the case, ironically because of a lack of francophone commissioners. With recent appointments that problem has been solved.

This is Evanov’s second attempt to do this. In 2010, the CRTC denied a previous application by the company, ruling by majority vote that because the English-speaking population of Quebec is so small (1.1% speak it most often at home), “for all practical purposes there is virtually no advertising market in Québec for an English-language station” and “its service is almost entirely dependent on Québec’s French-language audience.”

In 2006, the CRTC similarly denied an application by Standard Radio (which at the time owned Mix 96, CHOM and CJAD, before it was bought by Astral Media the next year).

Why does it matter that an English station would attract a francophone audience? (After all, Montreal’s English-language music stations have larger francophone audiences than anglophone ones.)

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Media News Digest: White House bars CNN reporter, layoffs at NY Daily News

News about news

At the CRTC

Ethical reviews

TV

  • Roku has launched a free ad-supported streaming channel in Canada. The selection is pretty weak — highlights include the 1995 Will Smith/Martin Lawrence movie Bad Boys, 12 seasons of Unsolved Mysteries, some John Wayne movies and 3rd Rock from the Sun.
  • Bell signed a content deal at Just For Laughs with Jae and Trey Richards of 4YE, to produce an eight-part comedy web series called Judge Tyco for Much Studios.
  • Speaking of Just For Laughs, there was a lot of TV taping going on there. I don’t have an exhaustive list, but the ones I’m aware of:
    • The galas, as usual, recorded in both languages for various uses
    • France’s Canal+ at the Quebec/France show at Cinquième Salle, for broadcast this fall
    • An Amazon Prime Video documentary series following some of the New Faces at their Monument National and Katacombes performances
    • Netflix taping solo shows in French and English at Club Soda and Monument National
    • Comedy (soon to be CTV Comedy) recording the Katherine Ryan standup shows and Homegrown Comics show at L’Astral
    • Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud recording LOL Live at Théâtre Berri
  • HBO will broadcast a recording of a live Flight of the Conchords special this fall.
  • OMNI begins the second season of scripted comedy series Second Jen on Aug. 4.
  • A plan is in place to bring back Buffy The Vampire Slayer to TV. But don’t worry, they’re not replacing the characters.
  • Hearst Television in the U.S. has shut down the transmitter for WNNE, its 40-year-old station in Hartford, Vt., which has sold its spectrum for $50 million for wireless companies to expand. WNNE, a sister station (and de facto retransmitter) of WPTZ in Plattsburgh, N.Y., has moved its city of licence to Montpelier and is sharing a channel with WPTZ. The net effect is virtually unnoticeable for viewers in the north of the state and in Canada, as digital channel 5.2 will still carry CW programming, with CW now the primary network of WNNE.

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Dave Chappelle, John Mayer bring the magic at Midnight Surprise show at Just For Laughs

An Instagram video of a singalong by Tiffany Haddish, one of the few allowed to use a cellphone inside the venue.

It’s past 4am and I just came home from a party at a bar with Dave Chappelle and John Mayer.

Well, technically it was a show: Friday’s Midnight Surprise at Newspeak on Ste-Elisabeth St. But while the Midnight Surprise is normally a one-hour series of short standup sets, this was a two-hour-plus mix of rock concert, comedy and silliness that made it the biggest show of the festival before it even began.

And while Chappelle and Mayer’s show at the Bell Centre will charge from $75 to $229 plus tax for seats that get progressively far from the stage, tickets for this show were sold at under $30 apiece for general admission to this small venue.

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Media News Digest: KIC Country licence renewed, Mulcair in and Farber out at CJAD, Tenneriello leaves City

News about news

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TTP Media’s CFNV 940 plans to change format as it seeks licence renewal

CFNV 940 logo

The process to launch TTP Media’s talk radio stations in Montreal has taken so long that they’re now in the process of getting their licences renewed after the end of their initial seven-year term. And the publication of the application for the first of those stations suggests that the company may be moving away from its proposed news-talk format and toward health and wellness, which sounds like the kind of thing that has been tried on other AM stations in the market.

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How to binge Just For Laughs on a budget (2018 edition)

Just For Laughs time is upon us. Or as I like to call it: Summer Christmas. (I’m lying. I would never give this such a lame name.) The English shows start tonight, but I’ve been going to French shows in the companion Zoofest festival for two weeks now, and I’ve already seen more than a dozen shows and booked three more for tonight and three for tomorrow for a grand total of $90 plus tax.

Two years ago I explained how to maximize the quantity (if not always the quality) of the JFL/JPR experience with the use of passes. But things have changed a bit since then so it’s time for an update. Here’s how things work in 2018:

"Ultra Zoøff" Zoofest pass

“Ultra Zoøff” Zoofest pass

The Zoofest/OFF-JFL pass

Start by getting one of these. The Zoofest passes (ZOØFF, as they call them) cover shows that are part of the Zoofest and OFF-JFL series at Just For Laughs. These shows are mostly an hour long, and normally go for $20 to $25 apiece. They feature up-and-coming comedians, some right out of Quebec’s comedy school, those testing out materials for bigger one-man/woman shows (en rodage, as they say in French) and more experimental shows like theatre and improv, so going to these involves taking more of a risk than going to a gala at Place des Arts or seeing Kevin Hart at the Bell Centre.

The Ultra pass is the highest level of this pass. It costs $120 (or the equivalent of about six Zoofest/OFF-JFL shows) and will let you book six shows during the festival. But its real power is that for many Zoofest/OFF-JFL shows, you can get a ticket for free 48 hours in advance. And you can do this for three shows a night. (The first shows generally begin at 7pm and the last ones at midnight. So it’s easy to do three in a night. I’ve done four in the past — 7, 8:30, 10 and midnight.)

The pass applies to both English-language OFF-JFL shows and French-language Zoofest shows. If you don’t care what language it’s in, that’s up to three and a half weeks of shows.

Not every show will be available this way. Some shows are popular and seats available for pass holders can be gobbled up in minutes, if they’re made available at all. And because seats are opened for different categories, a show can be out of free daily pass tickets but still have tickets available for the retail price. Most of the English OFF-JFL shows during the peak week of the festival featuring well-known visiting comedians have this issue, making the value of the pass diminished slightly (and turning you into a paranoid junkie constantly refreshing the free tickets page hoping to get it just after a new block is opened.) But there are almost always shows available every night if you’re willing to be flexible on what they are and what language they’re in.

If you don’t have time for three shows a night, you can get the lowest-level pass for $50. It’ll let you in one free show a night (booked 24 hours in advance), plus three reserved shows during the festival.

If you get any of the passes, there’s a 15% discount for the 2018 edition with the promo code PASSE15. That covers the equivalent of taxes, so you get the pass for about $120 total. If you’re looking at buying one for next year, keep an eye out around Christmas for an offer to buy the Ultra pass for $90, which I took advantage of.

You can’t use these passes to get tickets to Just For Laughs galas or the big solo shows (except for special one-time offers), but they’re good for a lot of shows that have big-name comics. You can see a full list of the OFF-JFL shows here. Some worth noting:

  • Midnight Surprise, midnights. The ultimate risk-taking show, you won’t know who’s in it until they perform. This could mean a comic you’ve never heard of, but some big-name comedians have shown up here and done surprise sets, including Dave Chappelle, Louis CK and Kevin Hart. At worst, you get a mediocre one-hour show. At best, you get to tell everyone you saw an A-list comedian do a secret show in a 100-seat venue.
  • The Alternative Show, midnights. The name might put you off, but this is actually pretty mainstream. Hosted by Andy Kindler, this show features a lineup of comedians doing 10-minute sets. Because a lot of the travelling comedians want to get in as much on-stage time as possible during the festival, you’ll often see them doing a solo show, a gala appearance and a set here all in the same night.
  • Best of the Fest (Newspeak) and Fest at the Nest (Comedy Nest). It shouldn’t surprise you that actual comedy clubs are also busy during the festival. Often, big-name comics will stop by the comedy clubs before one of their big shows and test out material on a smaller audience. Maybe some jokes will flop, but you might have more fun here than at a gala, and for a much lower price. (The Best of the Fest show used to be at Comedyworks, but with that venue still closed because of a fire, it has moved to Newspeak for this year.)

As of this year, the Zoofest pass isn’t actually a physical pass unless you pay extra. Instead, you’re emailed a bar code that you can print or keep on your phone. It’s scanned by a volunteer holding a smartphone at the entrance to the venue. For Ultra Zoøff pass holders, tickets become available at 6pm ET two nights before the show. For the other passes, it’s 6pm the night before.

You book shows by going to a website that’s emailed to you (and is linked to from the Zoofest app), punching in a pass number and PIN, and selecting shows one at a time.

Also new this year is a punishment system for ticket hoarders who book shows using the pass but don’t show up to them. After three no-shows using the free tickets, your pass is suspended for 72 hours (the three or six booked tickets still work). After another three no-shows, the privilege is revoked. (Keep an eye on the website: if your ticket doesn’t scan properly — and almost every time it takes a couple of tries — you could end up listed as a no-show even if you were there. If that happens, email JFL’s ticket office and they’ll fix it for you.)

You have until noon the day of the show to cancel a free ticket without penalty. If you do, you can use that pick for another available show. And you have until the actual showtime to select a ticket, if you want to go really last-minute. But show up on time, because your free ticket isn’t guaranteed after the show starts, and could be given to someone else.

(When you’ve selected your third free show on the Ultra pass, the other possible selections disappear, so you can’t see if other, better shows are made available later. My strategy is to pick two shows I really want to see, and will likely fill up quick, and leave the third selection open until the day of if I’m not too excited about it and hoping for something better.)

The JFL pass

Just For Laughs also has passes, that work in a kind of similar way. The cheapest pass is two shows for $100, but with that you also get a free ticket every night at the height of the festival, which can be used on the big shows — galas, club shows like the Nasty Show and Ethnic Show, or solo shows by big comedians.

But the free tickets are subject to availability. If there’s a must-see show in town with only one or two showings, there might not be tickets available on the pass. Like with the Zoofest pass, you have to be pretty flexible in what you’re willing to see.

OFF-JFL shows are available on the JFL pass, but unless you only plan to see a couple of shows during the whole festival, or there’s really nothing else that works for you on a particular day, it’s a bit of a waste. Either pay $20 separately to see the OFF-JFL show or get both passes if you can afford it and want to really binge.

Use the last-minute ticket booth

At the corner of Jeanne-Mance and Ste-Catherine Sts., inside a tent that sells merch, is the festival’s last-minute ticket booth. Shows that aren’t selling well get deeply discounted here in the hours before they start, and you can find some sweet deals if you’re flexible with your plans.

So head here and find out what kind of deals can be had for shows where the supply is exceeding the demand. (In my experience the deals here the past few years aren’t nearly as enticing as they’ve been in previous ones, but you may get lucky.)

Follow the action on social media

So much of what happens at the festival happens at the last minute. A comedian might be in town completely unannounced and decide to perform a show. Maybe something that’s selling well gets dates added. Or maybe for some entirely different reason things are added or special deals announced during the festival itself.

In 2015, Just For Laughs announced on Twitter with less than three hours of notice that Aziz Ansari was doing a show, and tickets would be $20 at the door. People who didn’t follow JFL on Twitter might have missed a great chance there.

So add these to your follows and likes:

Also, download the Zoofest and JFL apps. Each has push notifications that will alert you to last-minute changes.

Be flexible

The passes, the last-minute ticket booth and special deals announced on social media have one thing in common: They mean you’re not going to know more than a day or two in advance where you’re spending your evening. That might work for some people more than others. If you’re with a group of friends, it might not be practical. But if you’re like me and have no friends and no life, you can surf this wave of improbability for savings.

Always have a backup plan until you have tickets in your hand. Better yet, have two. If a Zoofest/OFF-JFL show you planned to use your pass for gets sold out quickly, you won’t get any free tickets. (In fact, the show doesn’t even need to be completely sold out for your pass to not work this way.) The risk inherent in operating like this is you might not get to see the show everyone’s talking about.

Remember some times are more popular than others

Friday and Saturday night shows are actually slightly more expensive than shows on other nights, because of how much more popular those nights are for people casually heading out. Despite the price difference, and the large number of available shows, the last Friday and Saturday of the festival are the busiest and that means you’re less likely to be able to get access to shows using your pass.

So how do you deal with this? Well, if a popular show is playing throughout the week, go to a weeknight show instead. And if there’s a Friday or Saturday night show you want to go to, use one of your included tickets to book it well in advance rather than waiting and trying to use the pass. Otherwise, keep in mind that your ability to be flexible on these nights will be tested more than other days.

Take in the outdoor shows

Though much of the outdoor action during the JFL festival is more fun than funny, there are a few outdoor shows worth taking in, in both languages. The biggest ones begin around 9pm and end by 11. You certainly can’t beat the price: It’s free. Outdoor shows are also a good way to kill time if you have a long break between shows on any particular night.

You can see the full lineup of outdoor shows here. And wander around the festival grounds during the day to see all the other stuff going on, from the labyrinth to the board games to the circus acts.

Other tips

Some other things to keep in mind about shows at Just For Laughs, OFF-JFL and Zoofest that don’t pertain specifically to saving money.

  • Be on time. If you arrive late, you end up disrupting a lot of people during the show and opening yourself up to ridicule. Don’t be that person. Some shows might even refuse you entry.
  • Get there early. Aside from the galas and other shows at the Place des Arts theatre venues, most shows are general admission, so where you sit depends on how many people get in the venue before you. If you want to sit up front and risk being the victim of a crowd-working comedian, get there first.
  • Schedule travel time. Most Zoofest and OFF-JFL shows are about an hour long (gala-type shows and some midnight shows are exceptions and can go longer). But that doesn’t mean you can schedule a show at 7pm and another at 8. Give about 15 minutes of leeway in terms of the actual length of the show, and consider that you have to get from one venue to another between them. 75 minutes between show starts can work if the shows are in the same building (Monument National has four venues), 90 minutes if both shows are in the same neighbourhood, and give yourself more time if you have to get to a farther-away venue like Mainline Theatre or the Comedy Nest. For JFL shows, the Ethnic/Nasty Shows or big solo shows, the show length can be longer, as much as two hours. Err on the side of giving yourself an extra 20 minutes. (If you’re not sure how long a show is, you can click on a show just before you select it, or look at the schedule for when the next show at that venue begins. If it’s an hour and a half later, then expect an hour-long show. If the first show is at 7 and the next one at 9:45, then expect a show a bit longer than two hours.)
  • Don’t heckle. You’re not funnier than the people on stage, who have been working on material for a while in preparation for their shows. If a comedian asks a question to the audience, feel free to respond, but otherwise keep your mouth shut and avoid embarrassing yourself. Hold your solo performance for open mic nights if you don’t want to get thrown out of the venue.
  • Expect repetition. If you go to a lot of shows, particularly those with multiple comedians, you’re going to see several comedians more than once, doing the same jokes. You might even hear the exact same 10-minute set multiple times. You’re just going to have to deal with that possibility. Similarly, the pre-show videos (at least at the French-language Zoofest shows) are pretty repetitive.
  • Don’t take pictures or video. Each show will begin with this reminder (though there are some shows that actually allow taking pictures discreetly — they’ll make this clear in the pre-show announcement). You’re here to enjoy yourself, not film the show for later broadcast using your crappy cellphone camera. Getting caught filming a standup act is grounds for a quick ejection, aside from being distracting to the performer and the audience. Instead, take a picture of the venue before the show, or of your ticket (don’t show the bar code if you’re using a pass or posting to social media before the show begins). You’ll be able to see the gala performances and some other shows broadcast on CBC or Comedy Network or Netflix in a few months, recorded and edited by professionals.
  • Don’t use your cellphones at all. These venues are dark, and the bright light of a cellphone screen is very distracting. Wait until after the show to text your friends. And make sure the ringer is turned off. If you want to make note of a particularly great joke to tweet about it later, use a pen and paper (and be sure to credit the joke to the right comedian).
  • Spread the word about what you see. Help out those people looking for a good show, and the lesser-known comedians who are putting them on. If you liked something, write about it on Twitter or Facebook and spread the word. Use the hashtag #JPRMTL or #Zoofest (French) or #JFLMTL (English). A lot of these smaller shows don’t have big marketing budgets and rely on word of mouth more than anything else.
  • Respect your comedians. It doesn’t take a PhD in mathematics to conclude that a comedian doing a one-hour show in a 100-seat venue where most people paid between $25 and $0 to attend isn’t making that much money from it. Keep that in mind when you check out a show. They’re there for the love of the craft, one they spend a lot of time and effort honing. They might also be on their third show of the night. So show them some appreciation, even if it’s just telling them they did a great show, but make it brief because they’re probably way busier than you are.

Bigger is better

Not sure which show to go to? Too lazy to check out comedians’ videos on YouTube or look for reviews? One way to gauge how big/popular a show is going to be is to look at what venue it’s in. Here’s a list of venues being used for the festival and their capacity in a theatre setup:

  • Bell Centre: 15,000
  • Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier (Place des Arts): 2,996
  • MTelus (formerly Metropolis): 2,300
  • Maison symphonique (Place des Arts): 2,100
  • Théâtre Maisonneuve (Place des Arts): 1,453
  • Olympia: 1,282
  • Théâtre Berri: 1,160
  • Salle Ludger Duvernay (Monument National): 804
  • Hyatt Grand Salon Opera: 800
  • Théâtre Jean-Duceppe (Place des Arts): 765
  • Club Soda: 530
  • Usine C: 472
  • Gesù: 425
  • Cinquième salle: 421
  • Maison Théâtre: 400
  • Phi Centre: 376
  • Hyatt Inspiration: 350
  • L’Astral: 320
  • Hyatt Ovation: 225
  • Comedy Nest: 160
  • Studio Hydro-Québec (Monument National): 150
  • Salle Claude-Léveillée (Place des Arts): 128
  • Katacombes: 120
  • Théâtre La Chapelle: 116
  • Mainline Theatre: 102
  • Café Cléopâtre: ~100
  • Cabaret du 4e (Monument National): ~100
  • Théâtre Ste-Catherine: ~100
  • Montreal Improv: ~75
  • Balustrade (Monument National): ~50

I probably forgot a few things. Hit me with questions in the comments. But don’t expect responses between 7pm and midnight, because I’ll be busy for the next week and a half.

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Citytv to launch local evening newscasts in Montreal Sept. 3

More than a year after it was announced that Citytv is creating local evening newscasts in markets including Montreal, we finally have a launch date: Sept. 3.

On that date, CityNews launches newscasts at 6pm and 11pm in Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

Rogers has also announced staffing for those newscasts. In Montreal, the anchorless newscasts will be staffed by the following reporters (bios from the press release):

  • Akil Alleyne – Alleyne is a graduate of Princeton University and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he studied constitutional and international law. His previous experience includes stops at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as a Research and Program Associate; and CBC where he assisted with production, and writing.
  • Andrew Brennan – A newly-minted reporter with Breakfast Television Montreal, Brennan will continue to engage Montrealers with the local buzz on CityNews. For the last five years, Brennan has been a news anchor and reporter at CJAD 800. He graduated from Concordia University with a double-degree in Communication Studies and Journalism. (He announced his move last week.)
  • Emily Campbell – Campbell is an experienced video journalist, most recently having worked in reporting and as an anchor with CJAD 800 News and her work has appeared on CNN.
  • Giordano Cescutti – With a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Concordia University, Cescutti is a recipient of the Sportsnet Scholarship in Sports Journalism for excellence in journalism and sports reporting. His previous experience includes MAtv, Montreal Gazette and CJLO 1690AM, where he was co-host and producer of award-winning sports talk show The Starting Rotation.

They will work under Supervising Producer Melanie Porco, who has been with Citytv Montreal since its launch in 2013. Two people have also been hired to work behind the scenes with the newscast in Montreal, which will be directed out of a centralized control room in Vancouver.

Last fall, Citytv hired two reporters in Montreal in preparation for the new newscasts: Tina Tenneriello and Cora MacDonald. MacDonald left Citytv recently to join Global Montreal. (UPDATE July 20: Tenneriello is also gone. She’s leaving to host a web series about “inspiring people transforming their communities through social initiatives”)

As previously announced, the newscasts will be an hour long, at 6pm and 11pm, seven days a week.

When the announcement was made, the plan was to have the newscasts running in the winter. Rogers wouldn’t say what caused the delay, beyond this: “The fall launch is reflective of our commitment to ensuring we are delivering a gold standard of local news in these markets.”

In Vancouver, the staff is:

  • Ashley Burr, formerly of CKPG in Prince George, Alta.
  • Kyle Donaldson, producer and on-air personality with Breakfast Television Vancouver
  • Travis Prasad, formerly a news writer at CTV Vancouver
  • Isabelle Raghem, formerly of CHEK News and CHCH
  • Tom Walsh, Breakfast Television reporter since 2017
  • David Zura, formerly of Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver
  • Mary Cranston, Thor Diakow and Greg Harper, existing Breakfast Television Vancouver reporters

In Calgary, the newly announced staff is:

  • Kristen Fong, formerly of Global News Radio
  • Kendra Fowler, formerly of 660 News
  • Crystal Laderas, formerly of 660 News.
  • Michael Lumsden, reporter for Breakfast Television Calgary since 2017
  • Jonathan Mumam, formerly of 660 News
  • Brittany Rosen, formerly of CTV Regina

CityNews launched in Edmonton and Winnipeg last fall (those stations had dropped their Breakfast Television programs, so launching newscasts became a requirement to meet new local news quotas). Once the new newscasts are running, City will be able to meet its local programming and local news conditions of licence with just the evening newscasts, meaning Breakfast Television will no longer be required.

“There will be no changes to BT as a result of the launch of CityNews Montreal,” Rogers spokesperson Michelle Lomack tells me, repeating what has been said previously. But that could always change as the decline of ad revenue puts more pressure to cut costs.