Posted in Media

Did François Bugingo fabricate his international reporting?

“François Bugingo: des reportages inventés de toutes pièces” reads the headline today in La Presse: An investigative report by Isabelle Hachey reveals the Quebec journalist famous for his international reporting lied about his trips abroad and reported as first-hand accounts things he merely heard about or did not exist.

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Posted in TV

Review: New Global Morning News is a mess of disconnected hosts

When Global announced last month that there would be yet more centralization of local programming in eastern Canada, I didn’t exactly have my hopes up. They promised the centralization of resources would only affect non-local stories, and that the amount of actual local stuff would remain the same or even improve.

This week was the first under the new system for Global Montreal Morning News. And my analysis of the episodes that have aired so far suggest that Global has not lived up to that promise.

Not only that, but the melding of local and national elements creates this confusing mess of different on-camera personalities that is no better than someone switching channels at every commercial break.

Two shows in one

Co-host? What co-host? (Please pay no attention to that Twitter handle in the ticker)

Co-host? What co-host? (Please pay no attention to that Twitter handle in the ticker)

Like other morning shows, Global’s Morning News is broken up into six half-hour blocks, which are in turn broken up into three segments separated by commercial breaks. Here’s how the average half-hour block breaks down, rounded to about the nearest minute:

  • :00 Welcome/coming up plus quick weather hit
  • :01 Traffic
  • :02 Local news (including one packaged report)
  • :08 Local weather
  • :10 Commercial break
  • :12 National segment
  • :19 Commercial break
  • :21 Local weather
  • :23 Traffic
  • :24 Local interview segment (or two packaged reports)
  • :27 Commercial break

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Posted in Radio

CKOD-FM Valleyfield being sold to Torres Media

CKOD-FM 103.1, the Valleyfield radio station whose history goes back to 1961, is being revived after being off the air for months thanks to a sale to Torres Media, or rather Torres Media Valleyfield, a company owned by Ed Torres, Frank Torres, Todd Bernard and Yves Trottier.

Torres Media also owns Dawg FM (CIDG) 101.9 in Ottawa, and has a licence for an unlaunched station in Uxbridge, Ont.

CKOD has been off the air since Jan. 29, and was evicted from its offices in February for non-payment of rent, according to the local newspaper. CKOD is licensed to Radio Express Inc., owned by Robert Brunet.

In order to get the station back on the air as soon as possible, the station has applied for — and the CRTC has granted — permission to temporarily transfer management of the station to Torres, which according to a brief management agreement signed on April 7 would assume all the expenses and collect all the revenue from broadcasting operations. This deal will be followed by a formal acquisition of assets, which will require a CRTC hearing.

The CRTC approved the application on May 8 but only posted it online today.

Details on sale price or Torres’s plans for the station are not included in the application. I’ll update this once I hear back from the parties involved.

UPDATE: Some information about the sale from InfoSuroit.com

Torres paying $150k+ for community station to swap frequencies

Speaking of Torres Media, the broadcaster is also waiting for a CRTC decision on an unrelated matter that would see Dawg FM swap frequencies with bilingual community station CHIP-FM 101.7 in Fort Coulonge, Quebec, 80 kilometres to the northwest.

The frequency swap would allow Dawg FM to increase power from 5.5 kW to 19.5 kW max ERP, and improve its coverage of the Ottawa region, because it would not have to offer as much protection to stations on 101.9 in Cornwall and Kingston. According to Torres, Dawg FM covers only 75% of the Ottawa region as defined by Numeris, and parts of Ottawa receive the Cornwall station better than the Ottawa one.

Existing (purple) and proposed (black) coverage map for CIDG-FM Ottawa.

Existing (purple) and proposed (black) coverage map for CIDG-FM Ottawa.

The improvement would be particularly noticeable toward the southwest, in areas like Nepean and Kanata.

For CHIP-FM, the change in frequency would make little difference to coverage area, but there’s a big financial boost. The amount is apparently confidential, but financial projections from CHIP-FM show $168,000 in additional revenue over three years coming from this agreement. It’s unclear if the deal involves further payments past these three years or if this includes payments related to the frequency change, which Torres has agreed to pay for, including engineering reports, legal services for the drafting of the agreement, and technical changes.

The public comment period for this application has closed, and a decision should be forthcoming in the coming weeks. The actual change would take a while after that because Dawg FM would be changing transmitter sites.

This kind of deal is not unprecedented. In 2013, the CRTC approved an application by Rock 95 Broadcasting, owner of Indie 88 Toronto, that proposed technical changes to three stations (all on 88.1 FM) so that Indie 88 could increase its power. Rock 95 agreed to compensate the other stations for the technical changes required.

Posted in TV

Montreal TV station ICI launches free livestream

Without the benefit of a well-staffed PR machine, Montreal’s ethnic television station ICI has been quietly launching new local programs and improving its service since it launched a year and a half ago.

Today, the station launched a free high-definition livestream on its website.

Free livestreams of TV stations aren’t very common because of the difficulty securing online streaming rights to content. And livestreams of specialty services are even less so because distributors and consumers complain when they have to pay for a TV service that’s given away for free online.

ICI doesn’t have to deal with those problems, because most of its content is original or acquired cheap from foreign countries, and as an over-the-air station it broadcasts for free.

Posted in Radio

Groupe CHCR sells ethnic station CKIN-FM 106.3 to Neeti P. Ray for $500,000

There was no announcement of the transaction, so the CRTC application for a change in ownership is the first we hear of the sale of CKIN-FM 106.3 by Marie Griffiths to Mississauga-based businessman Neeti P. Ray, owner of Mississauga’s CINA 1650 AM and Windsor’s CINA-FM 102.3.

According to the application, the purchase price is $500,000. Add in an $18,000 consulting contract ($1,500 per month) and $22,500 over five years for the assumed lease for the transmitter, and the total cost for CRTC purposes is $540,500.

Griffiths and CHCR will keep ownership of CKIN’s sister station CKDG-FM (Mike FM 105.1) and use the proceeds of the sale to help the financial situation of CKDG.

The sale doesn’t include the offices of CKIN, which are shared with CKDG. “The purchaser has an option to co-occupy Groupe CHCR Inc.’s existing premises for a period of up to one year to permit an orderly transition of ownership and operations for CKIN FM,” the application reads.

Ray says the transfer of ownership won’t result in a loss of local programming:

Centralized management will not detract from the essentially local nature of CKIN’s ethnic radio station. The station will continue to be operated from offices located in Montre?al and day-to-day responsibility for programming on the station will remain in Montre?al. The principal synergies relate to the centralization of management and ownership, not operations.

For CHCR, the transaction represents a much-needed cash infusion. The company is privately held, so this is a rare glimpse into its finances (emphasis mine):

At the same time, approval of the current application will enable Groupe CHCR Inc. to refocus its resources to maintain and build on the strength of its original FM radio station, CKDG-FM. Groupe CHCR Inc. has developed a particular expertise in creating multicultural programming with a mainstream appeal (the Radio Culture Fusion format) and in serving Montre?al’s Greek-language audiences.

The sale of CKIN-FM is taking place at a critical time for Groupe CHCR Inc. Despite years of effort and investment, it has become apparent that the company requires an injection of capital to reach its potential in the current financial climate. The programming, operating and capital requirements of both stations have proved to be quite challenging for Groupe CHCR Inc. to meet on its own.

It has become apparent that building on CKIN-FM’s success will require additional investment and a focused management effort to improve the station’s visibility and realize its potential. Regrettably, this investment is beyond Groupe CHCR Inc.’s means at this time. Without this investment, there is a real likelihood that the station will continue to be a strain on Group CHCR Inc. as a whole.

From the perspective of Groupe CHCR Inc., the proposed transaction will enable the company to revitalize CKDG-FM, its flagship station; to retire most of its third-party debt, which has accumulated with the launch of the two stations; and to focus its management effort on a single radio station, the Radio Fusion Format, and the linguistic and cultural groups served by that station.

 

CKIN-FM was first licensed in 2007 and launched in 2010. Like CKDG, it offers ethnic programming in several languages, and uses non-ethnic programming during peak hours to subsidize that. While CKDG’s rush-hour programs are in English, CKIN’s are in French. CKIN offers programming in Arabic, Creole, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish and Urdu. Ray says he will continue serving those groups, which makes sense because South Asian is Ray’s specialty.

The contract comes with non-compete clauses for both sides. Ray agrees not to broadcast any Greek-language programming on CKIN, while Griffiths agrees not to broadcast any South Asian programming (Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati) for five years after the sale. This clause does specify that it doesn’t apply if the other station ceases programming in that language.

Ray has proposed a standard tangible benefits package of 6% of the cost of the transaction ($32,430), distributed to Canadian content funds, the Community Radio Fund of Canada and other approved initiatives.

Though he only owns two stations, Ray has applied unsuccessfully to start several others, including in Montreal. In fact, he competed with Griffiths for the 106.3 frequency in 2007. In 2011, the CRTC denied an application by Ray to start a new ethnic radio station in Montreal (250W at 600 AM) mainly because of the negative impact it would have on the then year-old CKIN-FM. And he complained when the commission went through with applications in 2013 for two new ethnic stations in Montreal, saying he missed the notice that the commission was accepting applications.

He has an application pending for an AM station in Brampton, Ont. He also applied for a station in Calgary in 2011, but missed the deadline.

The CRTC will hold a hearing on this proposed purchase (and others, including Radio Classique) on July 22 in Gatineau. The parties are not expected to attend. People wanting to comment on the application can do so here until June 19 at 8pm ET. Note that all information submitted becomes part of the public record.

Posted in Radio

NRJ shuffles its lineup, brings in Dominic Arpin as morning man

The changes at NRJ this fall are going beyond the departure of Les Grandes Gueules.

Bell Media announced today the morning and noon show lineups are also changing as of Aug. 24. Here’s how it breaks down:

Mornings, 5:30-9am: The morning team of five (or six depending who you count) gets pared down to three. Dominic Arpin, the host of TVA’s Vlog and one of Quebec’s most followed people on Twitter, moves over from competitor 98.5, where he was a contributor. Arpin makes the announcement this morning on his blog. He’s joined by Anaïs Favron, who remains on the morning show, and Maxim Martin. Journalist Étienne Phénix and sports reporter Martin Lemay also remain with the morning show, although they don’t get a mention in the press release. François Morency and Philippe Bond move to other shows.

Lunch, 11:30am-1pm: Claudine Prévost gets replaced by Morency, who says the noon time will fit in better with his schedule with standup shows at night. He’s joined by Marie-Claude Savard, whose previous jobs have included TVA and Radio X.

Afternoon drive, 4-6pm: As previously leaked, Éric Salvail will take over the afternoon show, thanks to a special Véronique-Cloutier-like arrangement that sees a studio built in his office so he doesn’t have to commute back and forth to Papineau Ave. every day. Philippe Bond will be a contributor to his show, moving from mornings. The afternoon drive slot will face strong competition from TV stars including Cloutier at Rythme FM and Marina Orsini at Rouge. Salvail replaces Les Grandes Gueules, which just signed off after 20 years at the station.

Bell Media is no doubt hoping that the dramatic lineup change does something to boost the station’s ratings. The latest report showed it falling below direct competitor CKOI, and its 6.6% overall share among francophones wasn’t much higher than the anglo stations, Virgin and The Beat.

 

Posted in Media

Le Devoir replaces its paywall with a meter as it struggles financially

As Canadian newspapers have gone back and forth over the idea of charging online readers directly for access to content, trying to find that sweet spot between encouraging them to subscribe to read high-quality reporting and getting as much ad revenue as possible through traffic to popular stories, one newspaper’s strategy has stayed the same for the past decade.

Until now.

As it made its yearly announcement of its financial situation to the public recently, Le Devoir announced that it is opening up holes in its paywall. What was previously a hard paywall that restricted access to most of its exclusive content to paid subscribers has now become a metered system similar to what most paid newspapers (including my employer’s) have adopted.

People without subscriptions will now be able to access 10 paid articles per month before the paywall comes down. (And, of course, as with any metered paywall, there are many ways around that restriction.)

This news is good for those of us who follow just one particular subject. And it might help improve their ad revenue situation slightly. But Le Devoir is facing the same troubles as other major newspapers. And as this analysis shows, the numbers are getting worse.

Posted in Radio

Tributes for CJAD’s Tom Armour

Over the past few months I’ve gotten occasional queries about Tom Armour, the weekend morning news anchor at CJAD. He disappeared from the air, and no one outside the station seemed to know why.

Last week came official news that Armour has retired. The career retrospective by Shuyee Lee interviews people who worked with Armour, but notably doesn’t include any clips or quotes from the man himself.

I never met Armour, and have nothing personal to add, so I’ll just compile some comments posted on social media by people who do know him.

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Posted in Media

Alexandre Taillefer, two managers buy Voir from its founder

Voir

Pierre Paquet, who founded the alternative weekly Voir in 1986, has sold it to a group composed of two of its managers, Michel Fortin (executive vice-president and general manager) and Hugues Mailhot (vice-president digital solutions), and investment company XPND Capital, owned by Alexandre Taillefer, better known as one of the dragons on Radio-Canada’s Dans l’oeil du dragon.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. It includes Voir editions in Montreal and Quebec (now biweekly and the only alternative weeklies left in those cities), plus Voir.ca, Boutique Voir, Guide Restos Voir and other related brands, plus distributor Diffumag and interior advertising network Panoramik.

Without knowing the price, it’s hard to say if this is good news or bad. But the continued involvement of current management will no doubt reassure its 50 or so employees. And Taillefer isn’t the kind of guy to invest in a doomed company.

Communications Voir had previously owned editions in Saguenay and Mauricie, as well as the English Montreal alt-weekly Hour. Those were all shut down in 2012. Sherbrooke and Gatineau editions followed in 2013.

UPDATE: Taillefer in interview with Radio-Canada. Suggests the purchase price was in the low seven-figures. And in an interview with La Presse, he says the big reason for buying the company was the Boutique Voir concept.

And also in La Presse, Nathalie Petrowski on Voir’s declining influence and Taillefer’s vague plans for rebuilding it.

Posted in Radio

The Jewel shuffles its lineup, moves Tasso to drivetime

Not even a month after he started, Tasso has gotten a promotion.

Starting Monday, Paul Zakaib and his alter-ego move to the afternoon drive slot (3-7pm) from mid-mornings.

That shift bumps Bob Coley to weekends. Kris Leblanc, who was doing weekends, will produce the Tasso show as well as doing weekend and fill-in work.

The move means that Tasso will for the second time be in the same time slot as former partner Aaron Rand. Though just as he did when he started doing afternoon drive at Mike FM, Tasso downplays the idea that his music show and Rand’s talk show are directly competing against teach other.

Posted in My articles, TV

How local is Global’s plan for local news?

Shaw Media calls it innovative and transformative. Critics and the union calls it cost-cutting at the expense of local programming. What the CRTC calls it might become an issue.

Earlier this month, Global announced changes to the way it does local news across the country. The biggest one is that 11pm and weekend newscasts will no longer be anchored locally. Instead, an anchor or anchors in Toronto will produce local newscasts for the various local stations, customized for those stations and containing local news.

I get into the details of what’s changing in this story for the Montreal Gazette.

This is a step beyond what they did in 2008, when they centralized newscast control rooms in four broadcast centres (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto) so that one team could produce several newscasts in a day instead of just one or two.

What we’re left with are newscasts that feature reports from local journalists and are presumably lined up by local staff, but where the anchor, weatherman, director and just about all technical staff are in another city. Can that really be considered local programming?

Morning show co-host Richard Dagenais is being let go from Global next month

Morning show co-host Richard Dagenais is being let go from Global next month. (File photo)

There are also changes to the morning show, which will soon feature eight-minute segments every half-hour produced nationally that will be identical for all markets. As a result, the morning show is losing three employees, including co-host Richard Dagenais.

The promises

The union representing Global Montreal employees isn’t happy. It sent out a press release last week (later corrected) that condemned the loss of local programming. Except for a couple of tweets, no one paid attention.

CUPE/SCFP tells me they will be watching the new shows with a stopwatch to see if Global is meeting its obligations to the CRTC, and will complain if they’re not.

Like all commercial television stations, Global Montreal has to ensure a minimum amount of local programming is aired. For stations in large markets like Montreal, that’s 14 hours a week.

Shaw also made a separate promise to create morning shows at least two hours long when it purchased Global from Canwest in 2010, and to keep them running until at least 2016-17, contributing $45 million to that cause ($5 million for Montreal). Because that’s a tangible benefit as part of a major acquisition, those 10 hours a week have to be in addition to the usual 14 hours a week of local programming.

If we consider Morning News, Evening News, News Final and Focus Montreal as local programming, including their repeats and best-of shows, Global is meeting that obligation of 24 hours a week.

But are they really local?

As far as I can tell, the CRTC only really got around to establishing a definition of local programming in 2009, when it established the since-terminated Local Programming Improvement Fund. In Paragraph 43, it decided on the following definition:

Local programming is defined as programming produced by local stations with local personnel or programming produced by locally-based independent producers that reflects the particular needs and interests of the market’s residents.

Are these late-night newscasts produced by local stations? Do they use local personnel? It depends how you define “produced” and “personnel”, I guess.

When Global first outsourced technical production in 2008, the unions complained then too, saying these newscasts were not really local. The CRTC didn’t see it that way,

In 2009, the commission decided that there was no evidence that Global was contravening its licence requirements by outsourcing production of local news. It confirmed this later that year in renewing the licences of Global stations, but said it “will continue to monitor the situation.”

There’s also a separate definition of “local presence”, which has three criteria:

  • providing seven-day-a-week original local news coverage distinct to the market;
  • employing full-time journalists on the ground in the market; and
  • operating a news bureau or news gathering office in the market.

Global’s new plan fits all three of these criteria, though the first might be arguable depending on how distinctive the newscasts really are.

Global points out that it’s not unprecedented to anchor local newscasts outside of the local market. Its New Brunswick newscast is anchored out of Halifax. Other small stations owned by Global and CTV have their local news produced out of neighbouring markets. And the CRTC hasn’t seemed to have a problem with that.

The CRTC will be reviewing its local television policy in the coming year, and this could become a central issue.

What the new Global Montreal will look like

So how will this affect what actually goes on air? Here’s what we know:

  • The 6pm newscast is unchanged. It will still be anchored locally by Jamie Orchard, and produced out of Edmonton with a weatherman in Toronto. Its news will still be local, since it’s followed directly by Global National at 6:30.
  • Focus Montreal is also unchanged.
  • The late-night and weekend newscasts will have a Toronto anchor, and 11pm newscasts will be expanded to a full hour.
  • The morning show will have more nationally-produced content.

Many details are still unclear, but here’s some things I’m predicting will happen:

  • The morning show will have national news, world news and entertainment segments that are nationally produced, but still have the local anchor doing local news. There may be a temptation to do sports nationally, but unless they do something like City where the national sports segment is customized to the local market, it would probably be better to leave that local. We might also see some national lifestyle segments produced for all markets, or special all-markets broadcasts like we’ve seen on City.
  • The quality of the morning show will decrease thanks to its staff cuts.
  • Late-night weeknight and weekend newscasts anchored out of Toronto will no longer be live. Which is fine because they’ll be mainly rehashes of the 6pm news anyway, with maybe a report from an evening reporter thrown in. The hour-long 11pm newscast will be heavy on national segments, including some sports content. The ability to make late changes because of breaking local news will be significantly diminished.

One thing that’s unclear is who will be running the show locally nights and weekends. Global says it will commit to having a local person exercising editorial control over those newscasts, but setting aside how hard it is to effectively use that control when everyone is in another city and there’s enormous pressure to not be different from other markets, who will be the person doing this?

Under the current system, the only person in the newsroom for most of the night or weekend is the anchor. They’re handling assignment duties, lining up the newscast, and even calling the cops to get updates. Will there still be a reporter doing this? And if so, why not just have that person still act as anchor?

Global’s plan is clearly to focus on content over its container. But I think the company is underestimating the contributions that anchors make to their newscasts. It’s not a job that involves only 30 minutes a day of work.

How will the viewers react? Well, when your late-night newscast gets a couple of thousand viewers, you might ask if it even matters. And will they even recognize that their anchor is in Toronto, with little or no knowledge of the city he’s describing every night?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter. After all, TV newscasts are so 20th century. And Global is looking toward the future. Its plans for Global News 1, which ironically involve hiring a bunch of staff instead of laying them off, is a similar blend of national and local where the local resources are all gathering news instead of producing newscasts. But we’re still waiting for the CRTC to publish the application for that proposed service.

Other reading

Posted in TV

UPDATED: Global to have late local newscasts anchored out of Toronto

Updated April 21 with new details. See also this Gazette story.

global-studio

You’d think that Global couldn’t go any further in centralizing the production of their regional newscasts. As it is, stations like Montreal have their control rooms in hubs thousands of kilometres away. All that’s left are the newsroom, the journalists, some ad sales and marketing people, and a small green studio with a desk and an anchor.

But they’ve managed to find a way to take it even further. On Thursday, Shaw Media announced that in eastern and central Canada, late-night and weekend newscasts will be done out of Toronto. Like what they did with control rooms, now even the anchors will produce multiple newscasts for different regional markets in one shift.

It’s part of what Global News boss Troy Reeb describes as a move to “a story-centric production model and that means moving past some of the traditional ways we’ve produced television newscasts.” In other words, the focus is on having local people work on the content, while saving as much money as possible on the container for that content.

This won’t be the first time Global has had people from Toronto do local news. Evening news weather man Anthony Farnell is based in Toronto, a fact that’s never made obvious to viewers.

But it’s odd that Global thinks that local anchors aren’t important. After all, they’re not just pretty faces that sit at their desks until they’re ready to go on air: They’re writing scripts and checking up on local news, work that presumably would need to be taken up by someone else if the anchors are taken out of their jobs.

In Montreal, the jobs affected would be those of late-night anchor Elysia Bryan-Baynes and weekend anchor Peter Anthony Holder. Bryan-Baynes is staying on as a reporter, but Holder, who’s technically a freelancer, is out of a job this fall.

Also gone are morning co-host Richard Dagenais, morning show associate producer Gloria Henriquez, and morning show control-room director Jim Connell. Connell is already gone, the others leave May 15.

Connell says he plans to return to freelancing. The others either declined to comment or didn’t respond when I asked them to.

“While we can’t comment on specific individuals, many of the impacted studio positions will be converted to field reporting which should help provide more local content not only for the late and weekend shows but for online and mobile,” Reeb told me.

Montreal station manager Karen Macdonald referred comment to national PR in Toronto.

Reeb put the cuts at less than 30 nationwide, which suggests maybe four or five on average per market affected.

No changes are planned for the evening newscast at 6pm, which will still be anchored locally, or for the weekly interview show Focus Montreal.

And on the plus side, the late-night news will be extended to an hour from the current half-hour when the change happens sometime over the summer. Late weeknight newscasts in New Brunswick and Halifax are also being extended to an hour.

National segments in local morning shows

The other major change is centralizing content for the local morning shows. Shaw promised to create local morning shows as part of its acquisition of Global in 2010. That promise included $5 million of total funding for Montreal’s morning show until 2016-17.

While the morning shows will still be three hours, still feature local anchors and still be produced locally, segments that are the same in different regions will be produced on a national level.

Reeb explains:

“Each half hour, an eight-minute segment covering national and international content will be produced centrally and will air in all shows. This is approximately equal to the amount of national content covered currently in each local show. Again, the goal is to eliminate the duplication that occurs when multiple anchor teams in multiple studios discuss the same trending stories, and to focus our local newsrooms on distinct, local content.”

I’m not sure how true it is that eight minutes each half-hour is of non-local content. There’s entertainment and sports news, sure, but in Montreal at least most of the morning show’s time is spent on local headlines and in-studio interviews.

This change is expected to roll out by the end of May.

The Global News 1 model

The strategy of centralizing news production and leaving local news to local journalists is nothing new. CTV makes use of its media empire to put business news from BNN and sports news from TSN on its newscasts. City TV’s local morning shows have sports updates from Sportsnet, personalized for each market.

But Global is taking it a step further with outsourced anchoring, giving us something a bit closer to what they have planned for their Global News 1 project. Submitted to the CRTC in September, the plan is to have news feeds for each market contain a mix of local and national news without requiring their own control rooms.

Global is still waiting for the CRTC to process and publish its application for the unique all-news service.

UPDATE (April 15): The Canadian Union of Public Employees has sent out a press release decrying the loss of local programming on Global Montreal. The statement says that the morning show will also be anchored out of Toronto, which contradicts the information I have above. I checked with Global, and a spokesperson responded by calling CUPE’s statement “inaccurate and misleading.” The way I describe the situation above is correct, Global says.

April 16: CUPE has sent out a correction, claiming it was given incorrect information from management the first time. The two stories are now consistent.

Posted in Media

Bell fires Kevin Crull — but that doesn’t solve the problem

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

Kevin Crull: Bad apple or scapegoat?

The head of Canada’s largest media company is suddenly out of a job. And the press release announcing the departure of Bell Media president Kevin Crull makes it clear the departure is related to Crull’s attempt to interfere in CTV News’s coverage of a recent CRTC decision:

“However, the independence of Bell Media’s news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians. There can be no doubt that Bell will always uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news,” said Mr. Cope.

At the same time, Bell announced other executive changes, including the appointment of Mary Ann Turcke to replace Crull as president of Bell Media.

I was highly critical of Crull’s interference in news (particularly because it wasn’t the first time he’d done it), but I don’t know if firing him (or whatever negotiated departure actually took place) is necessarily the right call. I’m willing to take his apology at face value, even if it seems in hindsight as if it might have been forced on him.

What is clear, though, is that this does little to guarantee that such interference in Bell’s news operations won’t repeat in the future. There has been no investigation into whether Crull or other Bell Media executives tried to influence news coverage, and no procedures or independent watchdog in place to protect CTV News, BNN and others from BCE executives in a conflict of interest.

Unless there’s an announcement about that next, it’s hard to be too optimistic that this is a big change. Though it will probably do a lot to reassure journalists working at Bell Media.

Shaw Media also announced executive changes, though not nearly as controversially.

UPDATE: Cue the conspiracy theories — Crull was set up by Bell — and more reasoned analysis: Crull was sacrificed to prevent the CRTC from getting even angrier.

Posted in Radio

The Jewel in Hudson hires Tasso for mid-morning show

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

The Jewel 106.7 FM in Hudson is running a listener contest to guess who their new on-air personality is. I hate to spoil the fun, but it’s Tasso.

Paul Zakaib, known on air as Tasso Patsikakis and Aaron Rand’s long-time morning show co-host on Q92, will be doing the 10am to noon shift on the easy-listening off-island station starting April 8, according to two independent sources who are in a position to know this but not in a position to publicly confirm it until the contest is over.

After being dumped from the Q’s morning show in 2009, he resurfaced in 2011 to do the afternoon show on ethnic station Mike FM with his friend and colleague Patrick Charles. Charles left the station, and in 2013 Tasso left too.

Zakaib and the station have been in talks for a while now. Some details are still unclear, such as how much of the old Aaron and Tasso morning show shtick Tasso will bring along with him.