Posted in Radio

91.9 Sport launches with lots of talk, but no sports

Four years after CKAC abandoned its all-sports format, leaving Canada’s largest French-language market without an all-sports radio station in that language, RNC Media’s 91.9 FM officially became 91.9 Sport this morning at 6am. And it made clear that it sees itself as a natural successor to the former CKAC Sports, even though CKAC is owned by its competitor Cogeco Diffusion.

Here’s what the first couple of minutes sounded like today:

RNC announced the format change two months ago, after concluding that talk format “Radio 9” had done about as well as its predecessor “Radio X”.

With the launch, we get some more details about programming. The basics:

  • Live talk shows from 6am to 7pm
  • Repeats (highlights) of the day’s shows from 7pm to midnight
  • Rock music on weekends, 10am to 6pm

The schedule is very similar to what Radio X/9 had before it, and shows that they’re really focusing on daytime audience right now.

No announcements have been made concerning live sports programming. Rights to Canadiens and Alouettes games are held exclusively by Cogeco’s 98.5 FM, which also airs select Impact games. 91.9 Sport could pick up other Impact games, similar to what TVA Sports did when it first started, as well as non-local sports like NFL games. But it doesn’t look like this is a priority for the station.

Some people have been asking how you can have an all-sports radio station without broadcasting rights to live sports, as if this spells immediate doom. But 91.9 isn’t trying to compete during the evenings or weekends, it’s going after daytime audiences that used to listen to CKAC, and daytime at all-sports stations is about talk.

Sure, being the official broadcaster brings prestige and access, but it’s not a dealbreaker. TTP Media, which still plans to launch its own French all-sports station at 850 AM someday, came to the same conclusion: it’s the discussion that matters, not the play-by-play.

The host lineup is as follows:

  • 6-10am: Du sport … le matin! (Michel Langevin and Enrico Ciccone): The return of Langevin to morning radio is probably the clearest link with the old CKAC. He’s joined by former NHLer Ciccone, who like Langevin has been a frequent panelist on shows like 110%.
  • 10am-noon: Langevin en prolongation (Michel Langevin): More Langevin. This guy is going to be on air for six straight hours a day.
  • noon-1pm: Jean-Charles le midi (Jean-Charles Lajoie): One of the Radio 9 personalities to keep his job, Lajoie hosts both the noon show and the drive-home show, but gets a break in between at least.
  • 1-3pm: Laraque et Gonzalez (Georges Laraque and Stéphane Gonzalez): Pairing the former Canadiens enforcer with a numbers guy could be interesting, or could end up as an awkward failure.
  • 3-7pm: Jean-Charles en liberté (Jean-Charles Lajoie): The second half of the Lajoie shift. Langevin and Lajoie alone cover 11 of the 13 hours of daily broadcasts on this station.
  • 7pm-midnight: Les faits saillants: The best moments from the day, condensed, the station’s website promises
  • Weekends, 10am-6pm: Le garage (Jeff Paquet): Like 98.5, 91.9 mainly puts music on weekends.

Add to the list of hosts several regular collaborators, including Michel Villeneuve, Réjean Tremblay, Yvon Pedneault, Daniel Brière, plus non-hockey contributors Étienne Boulay (football), Valérie Tétrault (tennis), Serge Touchette (baseball) and Olivier Brett (soccer).

If you want to get a better idea of 91.9’s on-air team, there’s a half-hour montage posted here, and a “mot du producteur” posted here.

 

Posted in TV

Shakeup in management at City Montreal: Jeffrey Feldman out, Renato Zane in

Updated with comments from Feldman

Jeffrey Feldman, right, takes a picture of the Breakfast Television cast at a fall upfront event in June 2014.

Jeffrey Feldman, right, takes a picture of the Breakfast Television cast at a fall upfront event in June 2014.

A year after its founding executive producer, Bob Babinski, decided to quit to pursue freelance production work, City Montreal has parted ways with Breakfast Television’s supervising producer, Jeffrey Feldman.

Feldman, who worked as a Montreal producer for Bell Media’s eTalk and Fashion Television before joining City in 2013, is no longer with the company, a Rogers Media spokesperson confirmed.

Staff at City Montreal are tight-lipped about Feldman’s departure, referring me to corporate PR in Toronto.

UPDATE: I finally got in touch with Feldman himself. He insists his departure is amicable.

“It was just time to move on,” he said.

He’s considering moving back to his hometown of Toronto, where his family is, but is also considering an offer in Montreal. In the meantime, he’s taking his first real vacation in three years.

But Feldman says he enjoyed his time at City. “It was an amazing two years,” he said.

He said he turned off his Twitter account because he no longer needed it for work, and he didn’t think there was much there anyway.

As for why there was no on-air goodbye or social media well wishes from his colleagues, Feldman noted that he believes “producers’ jobs are supposed to be behind the camera” and he never wanted to draw attention to himself on air.

I guess that makes sense, but it’s still odd that no one has commented on his departure. Feldman mentioned that “I’ve always kept my professional relationships professional”, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t friends with the staff.

He also has only kind words for Renato Zane, the new executive producer (see below), calling him a great guy.

Renato Zane

Renato Zane

Zane, formerly director of news and current affairs at OMNI, has actually been working here for some time now. I met him (and took his photo) in April, and the decision for him to come here had been made, but Rogers wanted me not to reveal his new post until it was official. For some reason that took months.

Zane, who fills Babinski’s former job, admitted he’s new to Montreal, which is a stark contrast to most of the staff at the station, who have strong roots in this city. But he is eager to learn.

On Wednesday, Breakfast Television marked its second anniversary.

Antenna work

People watching City Montreal over the air have been noticing reception issues. Says Rogers: “We are currently in the process of returning the tower to our engineering standards, a long-term solution that will improve both the quality of our signal and its over-the-air reception by viewers; we hope to have these repairs completed very soon.”

City Montreal (CJNT-DT) broadcasts from a small tower next to the CBC Mount Royal antenna tower, which is undergoing its own maintenance this summer. Its lower height and 4kW power have made it more difficult to receive than other Montreal stations.

Posted in Radio

CRTC approves sale of CKIN-FM to Neeti P. Ray

Montreal has a new player in the ethnic radio game. On Tuesday, the CRTC approved the sale of CKIN-FM 106.3 from Groupe CHCR (Marie Griffiths, who owns CKDG-FM aka Mike FM 105.1) to Neeti P. Ray, the owner of ethnic radio stations CINA Mississauga and CINA-FM Windsor.

Ray is purchasing CKIN-FM for $500,000, plus an $18,000 consulting contract for current management, plus $22,500 to take over the antenna lease. The commission also added $150,000 to the calculation for the assumed lease of office space over five years even though the contract says the buyer will leave after one at the most.

The application filed with the CRTC projected no major changes to programming on CKIN, which would continue to be managed in Montreal, but will cease to be sister stations with CKDG.

The CRTC’s decision notes a comment on Radio Humsafar, the company behind a yet-to-launch ethnic station at 1610 AM that also targets the South Asian community. It asked the commission to restrict CKIN’s programming it wouldn’t compete directly with their new station. The commission rejected that proposal, noting that Humsafar was aware of CKIN’s presence when it applied for its licence.

The change in ownership will result in $41,430 being injected into the Canadian content development system as a result of the CRTC’s tangible benefits policy. Most of that will go toward funds supporting Canadian music artists.

Griffiths told the CRTC the purchase money would go toward CKDG’s financial health, eliminating its third-party debt.

Posted in Opinion, TV

Another step in Global’s faking of local news

When Global TV decided to have late-night and weekend newscasts for its less popular markets anchored out of Toronto, it described it as an innovation, a way to increase local news instead of reducing it.

The day before it began in Montreal, it was described as something that will “allow for more local news gathering in the field.”

While it’s still early to judge something so new, after watching a few episodes of the newscast, I think I can at least evaluate Global’s promise of “more local news gathering”, at least as far as it concerns those newscasts:

It’s total bullshit.

The amount of local news gathering is about the same on weekends. What’s different is that it’s now presented by an anchor who has at best a vague understanding of the local market. Not that one is necessary for most of the show because after the first 10 minutes or so it stops reporting on local news.

Let’s break down the newscasts to explain this.

glb-intro

The show starts with the usual teasers and an announcer saying “From the Global News Centre, the Evening News with Kris Reyes.”

Global’s use of green-screen virtual sets means Global can make Reyes appear to be anywhere just by inserting the word “Montreal” behind her in a computer.

glb-skyline

The same goes for the Montreal skyline inserted behind her at the desk when she presents more local news. It almost looks like she’s in the Global Montreal studio.

glb-backdrop

Coming back from the first commercial break, the background changes. Suddenly she’s in front of a control room that has lots of screens but no people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this corresponds to the part of the local newscast devoid of local news. Putting Reyes in a generic could-be-anywhere set allows Global to produce part of a newscast filled with national and international news and copy-paste it into local newscasts across the country.

This is similar to what they’ve done with the Morning News, which goes back and forth between local and national segments.

glb-weather

Another commercial break and we’re back to the Montreal cityscape, and an usual sight for Global, the weather presenter sitting at the anchor desk. This wasn’t possible before because the weather presenter has been in Toronto for years. Moving the anchor there too means they can be seen on camera together instead of in a double box.

Judging by the radar maps used, the weather segments appear to be recorded 1-2 hours before the newscast. That’s not much worse than before — because the weatherman was shared with Global Toronto, they were prerecorded before this change too. And weather forecasts don’t change that much in an hour (says the guy whose newspaper includes weather forecasts which, by the time anyone reads them, are at least 12 hours old).

glb-sports

Back to Generic Set, and Reyes introduces Megan Robinson doing the sports roundup. Previously, Global Montreal’s local newscasts didn’t have sports segments because they didn’t have sportscasters. (They’d do quick highlights of local games, but that’s about it.)

Of course, the Blue Jays are the top story. Even though Michael Sam had made history the previous night in an Alouettes game, neither Sam nor the game made the Aug. 8 sports roundup. But you’ll be happy to know that they got in a roundup of the Shaw Charity Classic golf tournament in Calgary.

glb-outro

After more time-filling news stories from elsewhere, Reyes does a goodbye that seems to be carefully generic so it can be copy-pasted anywhere. Heck, they could just rerun the same clip at the end of every newscast every day. She might not be wearing the same dress next time, but if viewers haven’t spotted all the other trickery going on, they probably won’t notice that.

glb-jackets

Finally, a 30-second collection of cityscape videos that appear to have been taken in the spring because people are wearing sweaters and winter jackets, we’re off to Global National.

The first newscast had two packaged reports from local reporters. I found this suspicious because normally there aren’t that many local resources available on weekends. Sure enough, the next weekend it was down to one local reporter.

Even with those two local reporters, the total amount of local news represented only six minutes of the local newscast. If you add the weather segments, which are also done out of Toronto, it goes up to 10.5 minutes. Add the 30-second cityscape montage to close the newscast (looks like the timing was off for the first show), and it’s 11 minutes, out of a 22-minute newscast.

Production-wise, the newscast went smoothly (aside from being a bit short). There were no technical errors or awkward silences or glitches that I could see. Having the newscast anchored out of Toronto didn’t seem to be that noticeable, except for the changing backdrops and the awkward pronunciations of French names and the use of terms like “Honoré Mercier” (for the Mercier Bridge) that are dead giveaways that someone isn’t from around here.

Day 2, 3…

For the first late newscast, it was much of the same, except that the sports segment began with a roundup of that night’s Montreal Impact game. A 22-second roundup. Followed by a minute and 20 seconds on the day’s Toronto Blue Jays game.

Day 2, the evening news started four minutes late because of golf, but still finished on time. The evening news sports segment consisted entirely of highlights of the Blue Jays game. At 11pm, it also included PGA golf and the Shaw tournament, and ran through a list of Quebec athletes who won medals at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

The second weekend is, I’m assuming, more representative of what we should expect from this newscast. I watched the Aug. 15 6pm newscast with a stopwatch and broke it down. Those elements in bold are local stories:

  • 0:00-0:43 Intro
  • 0:43-3:00 Billy Shields on missing man
  • 3:00-3:24 Accident brief
  • 3:24-3:42 Lane closures brief
  • 3:42-4:34 Horses brief (SOT)
  • 4:34-4:58 PKP wedding brief
  • 4:58-5:36 Roosh V Toronto brief
  • 5:36-6:47 Weather short-term forecast
  • 6:47-7:40 Slide the City brief (SOT)
  • 7:40-8:06 Promos
  • 8:06-10:25 Commercials
  • 10:25-11:08 Trudeau on the campaign trail
  • 11:08-11:38 Fires in western Canada
  • 11:38-13:29 California drought/fires
  • 13:29-15:05 Beijing explosion
  • 15:05-15:35 Promos
  • 15:35-18:21 Commercials
  • 18:21-21:27 Weather forecast
  • 21:27-24:26 Sports with Anthony Bruno
  • 24:26-24:43 Promos
  • 24:43-27:53 Commercials
  • 27:53-29:30 Straight Outta Compton story from Florida
  • 29:30-30:00 Outro

Added up, this amounts to five minutes and eight seconds of local news. Add in the four minutes and 17 seconds of local weather, and you have 9:25 total in that half hour. Another 8:15 were commercials, 2:36 consisted of promos and the goodbye, 2:59 on sports, and the other 6:45 were national and international news stories. Broken down percentage-wise:

  • 17% local news
  • 14% local weather
  • 10% sports
  • 9% promos and filler
  • 22.5% national and international news
  • 27.5% commercials

When there’s more national and international news than local news, you wonder if it can really be called a local newscast.

Saturday’s late newscast was about the same, though it included a story about Michael Sam leaving football again. The story, whose original reporting consisted of a Skype interview, was reported by Jennifer Tryon out of Toronto.

If only all local news could be reported that way.

“Innovation”

This outsourcing of local news is just the latest step in a long process of saving money by centralizing work for small local stations. Even before the change, evening and late-night newscasts were produced in another city, with a weather presenter in Toronto and only local journalists and the local anchor in Montreal. And even before the change, much of these half-hour local newscasts, especially on weekends, were filled with reports from other Global markets or foreign news services.

And though the union has protested the whole way, the last time the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission looked at it, it passed on the opportunity to conclude that Global was no longer producing local programming.

Does the location of the anchor make much of a difference here? We might see the commission be forced to re-evaluate the situation. But it’s hard not to think the boat has already sailed here.

On one hand, Shaw Media is a private company, so it can do what it wants. If it wants to treat local news this way, it can. If it believes that copy-pasting prerecorded segments in Toronto results in a better product than a live local newscast made in Montreal, it can do that.

But on the other hand, it’s trying to sell us on the idea that it’s adding local newsgathering resources when it’s not, and more importantly it’s pretending to the CRTC that this constitutes 30 minutes of local programming when less than a third of it is in any way local.

I understand Shaw’s motivation. The late-night and weekend newscasts have poor ratings. (There wasn’t exactly any protest online when this change happened, because so few people were watching anyway.) And it is adding some resources, including a soon-to-launch noon local newscast.

But I don’t like being deceived, especially by journalists. And so much of this new system seems designed to deceive us into thinking that this is a local newscast when at best it’s half that. If you’re going to anchor a Montreal newscast out of Toronto, just be straight with us instead of using TV magic to try to hide it.

I get that local news doesn’t pay. But local programming is what broadcasters are expected to provide in exchange for the privileges that come with having a television station. If Global doesn’t want to do local news here, maybe it should consider some other form of local programming, or just offer the airtime to community groups that can offer something that truly reflects Montreal.

Because having a Toronto anchor introduce a story from Calgary and calling it local Montreal news is an insult to our intelligence.

The Toronto-produced Evening News and News Final air at 6pm and 11pm, respectively, on Saturdays and Sundays. The weeknight News Final will be similarly moved to Toronto starting in September. Global News at Noon starts Aug. 27.

News at Noon begins

Today was the first episode of News at Noon, a new half-hour local newscast that is produced out of Montreal. Jamie Orchard is the permanent host, but Camille Ross took over those duties today while staff is shuffled because of vacations.

glb-camille

The show had about what you’d expect from a noon newscast: two live hits from reporters in the field (morning reporter Kelly Greig and evening reporter Tim Sargeant), a packaged report from the previous night, and some briefs.

I won’t do a detailed breakdown because I suspect the first show might not be representative of what we should expect on a regular basis. I’ll wait until a future date to give this a more thorough evaluation. But it followed a formula similar to the weekend newscasts, with the first half of it local news and weather and the second half mainly national news and packages and video from other Global stations, particularly in western Canada.

Two of the briefs dated to Saturday, which is a bit of a stretch for a Monday noon newscast. Worse, Global failed to send a camera to the Péladeau-Snyder wedding in Quebec City, so it relied on TVA footage, photos posted to social media and file video of the couple attending Jacques Parizeau’s funeral instead.

Despite all this, it went better than I expected. The production was smooth and it felt more live and local than the stuff I’d been watching on the weekend. We’ll see if they can keep that up.

glb-jessica

I don’t know what hope this newscast can have against CTV News at Noon, which has far more reporting resources and viewer loyalty. But it’s better to have this than not to have it.

Posted in Canadiens

Breaking down the Canadiens 2015-16 TV broadcast schedule

Last week, Sportsnet unveiled its schedule for Canadiens TV broadcasts for the 2015-16 season.

The good news is that there’s little change from last year. All 82 games will be broadcast in English, and 40 of those games are national.

The bad news is that there’s little change from last year. The other 42 games are still regional, inaccessible to those west of Belleville, Ont., unless they fork over big money for NHL Centre Ice.

Actually it’s somewhere between 40 and 42 games, because some of those regional games involve other Canadian teams (which means they’ll be available in those regions): Both games against the Vancouver Canucks are regional, one of two games against the Calgary Flames, and one of four games against the Ottawa Senators. Both games against Edmonton, both games against Winnipeg, and of course all four games against Toronto are national.

Regional games for the most part are on Sportsnet East, but like last year, they’re using City Montreal as a backup when Sportsnet carries baseball or NFL football in the fall. A total of 11 games are planned for City Montreal, the last one on Dec .17.

For national games, a similar situation to last year, with 10 Wednesday night games on Sportsnet and 20 Saturday night games to be decided on a week-to-week basis. (Expect Leafs games on CBC and Canadiens games on City again.) There are also two Thursday night games in October on Sportsnet 360. No games are scheduled for Sportsnet One.

Rogers Hometown Hockey continues this season, but moves to Sportsnet from City now that Rogers has decided to go back to imported dramas and comedies on Sunday nights. The six Sunday night games are all national.

Broken down by time, 39 games start at 7pm Eastern, 30 at 7:30pm, three at 8pm, three at 9pm, two at 10pm and two at 10:30pm. The only afternoon games are the Winter Classic at 1pm and the two Super Bowl matinees at 2 and 2:30.

TVA/RDS share unchanged

On the French side, it’s still 22 national games plus all playoff games for TVA Sports and 60 regional games plus all preseason games for RDS.

Like last year, the national games in French include all Saturday night games plus the season opener. But because the Canadiens are playing in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, that gets added to the national roster in both languages. This means TVA Sports will have 20 Saturday night games instead of 21. (There’s a Saturday afternoon game, which is national in English as part of Hockey Day in Canada, but remains regional in French.)

TVA Sports put out its NHL schedule in June. It’s posted here.

No announcements have been made for changes to NHL Centre Ice or NHL GameCentre Live.

 

Posted in Media

Proposed travel ban would create headaches for journalists

The Conservative Party has come up with a new idea to make us safe: Making it illegal to travel to terrorist hotspots.

Setting aside the fact that the only other countries to do things like this are places like China and North Korea, there’s a practical problem in this proposal for people who are not terrorists.

Harper said there might be exceptions for aid workers and journalists and other people with noble intentions, but the line between journalist and non-journalist is blurry and easily movable.

We don’t have specifics of how the government would determine if someone is a journalist. But it would be tricky to do so using just about any criteria. Make it too lenient, and any freedom fighter can simply claim to be a journalist in order to get around the ban. Make it too strict, and plenty of independent journalists could find themselves imprisoned for trying to cover a war zone.

 

 

It’s one thing if you’re a reporter for the National Post or Maclean’s, but what if you’re a freelancer with Vice? Or you’re publishing your dispatches on Rabble.ca? Or you work for Ezra Levant?

This isn’t a theoretical problem. In Quebec, we’ve seen many people caught in this grey area. During student protests, student journalists have been caught up in police kettles, and refused freedom because the police consider their student press credentials insufficiently mainstream. Meanwhile, many student journalists were also actively involved in the protests and clearly supporting them.

The government could pre-approve people’s journalistic credentials before they enter war zones, but that brings up a whole new set of problems.

Maybe this idea is just that, an idea that will never see the light of day. But maybe it isn’t. And before people start jumping on the bandwagon because they think it’s a common-sense solution to the problem of people heading overseas to join ISIS, think about the fact that the Canadian government doesn’t have any way to legally distinguish between people who are and are not journalists. And there’s a very good reason for that — journalism is a fundamental part of a free society, and everyone has the constitutionally-protected right to practice it.

Posted in TV

Global Montreal begins outsourcing weekend newscasts tonight

A plan to have local newscasts on Global Montreal anchored out of Toronto begins tonight, Shaw Media has confirmed.

The change means that we won’t see usual weekend anchor Peter Anthony Holder on the air tonight, but the company says the timing isn’t related to recent controversy surrounding him.

Holder was criticized by Bloc Québécois candidate Catherine Fournier for retweeting this tweet last week, and replying that he agreed and thought it was funny. That led to several news stories about it, and Holder deleted his tweets and apologized.

Shaw Media wouldn’t comment on Holder, and Holder himself did not respond to a request for comment (both he and the station have ignored or refused requests for comment since the beginning), but the rumour is that Holder won’t be returning to the station in any role, even as occasional fill-in anchor or reporter.

Despite being the main weekend news anchor, Holder was technically considered a freelancer, which means the company doesn’t have to justify firing him.

The outsourced newscasts, in which a Toronto anchor does local news for all markets except Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, will be hosted by Kris Reyes, who had been part of the national Morning Show at 9am weekdays.

Shaw Media reiterates that this change is meant to “allow for more local news gathering in the field” and it’s an “innovative way to deliver quality programming with more local news to viewers.”

We’ll see.

The 11pm weeknight newscast is also being similarly outsourced (insourced? Whatever.) But that starts in early September. The original plan had been a one-hour newscast, but after Global picked up the rights to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, that was shortened to 35 minutes to allow for simulcasting with CBS.

 

Noon newscast to start Aug. 27, hosted by Jamie Orchard

Another previously announced change, the addition of a half-hour noon newscast, has a start date. Global News at noon starts Aug. 27, and Jamie Orchard, who does the 6pm newscast (soon to become the 5:30pm newscast) will be the anchor.

Eventually, anyway. She’s on vacation for the first two weeks of the show, so Elysia Bryan-Baynes and Camille Ross will share anchor duties for those weeks. (After that, Bryan-Baynes returns to 11pm for just two nights. Her last late newscast is Sept. 4.)

New hires

  • Kelly Greig, the former Sportsnet Central Montreal reporter recently hired as a videojournalist at Global, is joining the morning show. She starts on Monday. A news reporter is something the morning show really needs, especially since the launch of Breakfast Television on City, which has had a live in-the-field reporter since the beginning.
  • Brian Daly, a former CTV Montreal staffer who joined QMI Agency and the Sun News Network until that went belly-up, has been hired as the new lineup editor, and will help in the production of the noon newscast. He started Aug. 4.

 

Posted in Opinion, TV

The federal leaders’ debate was good, but the analysis of it was awful

Though it was in the middle of a busy newsroom close to deadline, I tried my best to watch and listen to the federal leaders’ debate last night. It could be the only time during this election season that we see those four party leaders on a stage together.

If you missed it, it’s on YouTube (I can’t embed it here because Maclean’s doesn’t want me to).

Especially in the context of a simultaneous circus of clowns south of the border, it was nice to see four smart, articulate leaders lay out their policies and policy differences under the bright lights. I saw Stephen Harper defend his record on his own without his party machine behind him. I saw Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau set out their economic policies and criticize the current government on its record, all without losing their temper. And I saw Elizabeth May, my pick as winner of the debate, establish herself as an excellent debater with a solid grasp of economic issues.

Sure, there were some annoying things about the debate itself, like the constant interrupting, the repeating of scripted talking points, and the useless closing messages. And limiting the debate to four topics meant a lot of stuff did not get addressed, which is a big issue if Harper doesn’t want to engage in any more general-issue debates in English.

But in general, I was pretty well informed. Maclean’s, moderator Paul Wells and broadcaster City TV deserve credit for this.

Unfortunately, I also watched the hour-long post-debate analysis show, as well as three useless non-commercial breaks during the debate, and it sent me into a bit of a rage.

Rather than discuss whose economic policies make more sense, or fact-check what the leaders said, or really discuss the issues in any way, we got the same old post-debate “who won” discussion, as if leading a country is more about showing off your dramatic presentation skills than having a better plan.

It’s one thing if you don’t take yourself too seriously (like BuzzFeed), but I expected better from the official broadcaster of the debate (even though Rogers pushed the analysis show to OMNI so it could air another U.S. primetime drama on City).

A discussion of a useless Facebook poll after about 20 minutes of debate.

A discussion of a useless Facebook poll after about 20 minutes of debate with Kevin Chan, right.

After the first half-hour, City took a three-minute break to give us an interview with a journalism student in Toronto and a Facebook poll that its analyst admitted wasn’t really based on anything said during the debate because people hadn’t had the chance to listen to the leaders yet. Even though the result of 50% for Mulcair should have been a dead giveaway that the poll is not at all reflective of the Canadian population, they went with it anyway. They also broadcast results showing Canadians almost unanimously in favour of proportional representation and carbon taxes, even though actual scientific polls don’t show anything even remotely similar. And there was the stunning revelation that people in Alberta talk more about oil than the rest of the country.

How this was useful to viewers is beyond me.

Twitter's Steve Ladurantaye, left, discusses how much people were talking about the leaders.

Twitter’s Steve Ladurantaye, left, discusses how much people were talking about the leaders.

Then there was the Twitter discussion, in which they analyzed how much people were talking about the leaders. What they were saying, of course, wasn’t important, and wasn’t discussed.

I guess what we can learn from this is that Donald Trump would make a great Canadian prime minister. Because volume is more important than content.

"Body language expert" Mark Bowden, right, criticizes Elizabeth May's glasses and dress during OMNI's post-debate analysis show with Gord Martineau, left.

“Body language expert” Mark Bowden, right, criticizes Elizabeth May’s glasses and dress during OMNI’s post-debate analysis show with Gord Martineau, left.

But what infuriated me most was when they brought on a body language expert to literally discuss style over substance. Setting aside the sexist criticisms of Elizabeth May’s attire (there was no mention of how any of the other leaders were dressed), the segment reinforced the fact that during a debate, what you say isn’t as important as how you say it.

Throughout the three-hour broadcast, there were panel discussions about who was winning the debate. Some of that discussion was based on what the leaders said, but much of it was about how they said what they said. Were the leaders confident? Did they make any gaffes?

Don’t get me wrong, the leader of a country should have good public speaking skills. A big part of being a leader is being able to convince people to do things for you, so style matters. But this incessant focus on treating the debate like a boxing match or tennis tournament just hammers in the idea that the issues don’t really matter. That if you want to be a politician, it’s better to hone your skills in theatre school than law school.

We Canadians like to think we’re better than the Americans when it comes to our politicians. We look at Donald Trump and we laugh. But based on what I saw of this debate analysis, I don’t see why, if Trump was in this debate, the media wouldn’t have been unanimous in concluding that he would have “won” it.

Posted in Media

Montreal Gazette hires Quebec City reporter Caroline Plante away from Global

Caroline Plante

Caroline Plante

Good anglophone Quebec City reporters are hard to find. Montrealers don’t want to move because their families are based here and there isn’t much going on for anglophones in the provincial capital. Plus, as the National Assembly reporter, the bar is higher. You need to be an expert (or at least very interested and motivated) in politics, and your French has to be impeccable.

So it’s no surprise that various Montreal anglo media have had trouble filling the position. CTV struggled for a while after the Kai Nagata fiasco before hiring Max Harrold from the Gazette. Now, with Harrold returning to Montreal, they’re back to figuring out what to do with the position.

The Montreal Gazette has been in a similar position since the departure of Kevin Dougherty last year. Young reporter Geoffrey Vendeville was recruited into the role, supplemented part-time by veteran Philip Authier doing analysis.

And then there’s Global News’s Caroline Plante, who has been filing reports for the little-watched Montreal newscast for the past nine years. It’s surprising that she hadn’t been poached by CTV or CBC during that time. (Global Montreal has surprisingly low turnover for a station at the bottom of the ratings — staff point to the feeling of family among its small news staff as a big reason nobody wants to leave for the competition.)

But Plante has finally gotten an offer she’s chosen not to refuse. The Montreal Gazette (my employer) has hired Plante to be its Quebec City bureau chief, effective Aug. 24.

In addition to her reporting duties, Plante is also president of the National Assembly Press Gallery.

The hiring will mean Global needs to find a new reporter in Quebec City. Its newsroom is undergoing other changes, with the departures of Domenic Fazioli, Richard Dagenais and possibly others, and the hiring of former Quebecor Media reporter Brian Daly and former City TV reporter Kelly Greig.

Posted in Montreal, My articles

That Weird Al concert was fantastic, despite the rain

Weird Al Yankovic performs Canadian Idiot (because obviously) at Place des Festivals on Tuesday night.

Weird Al Yankovic performs Canadian Idiot (because obviously) at Place des Festivals on Tuesday night.

(TL;DR version: I like Weird Al, and I reviewed his show for the Gazette.)

I was looking forward to Tuesday night’s concert before I knew it existed.

It’s no secret that Weird Al Yankovic is my favourite musical artist. By simple quantitative measure, I have more of his songs than songs by any other. And I enjoy listening to them.

So I was excited when he announced his Mandatory World Tour in January, until I looked through the list of tour dates and couldn’t find Montreal on it. Surely this is a mistake. He’s performing in London, Ont., and Halifax, and Burlington, Vt., but not Montreal?

Super sleuths noted that his schedule had some holes in it around late July and early August. Perhaps he was booked for Osheaga, whose lineup hadn’t been announced yet.

But then Osheaga unveiled its lineup, and he wasn’t on that either.

Maybe Just for Laughs? He’s been here before, and the timing would be about right. Maybe he’d host a gala, or have a solo show at one of the big theatres, or even the Bell Centre. I didn’t care how much it would cost, I’d be there. I’ve never seen this man perform live before (I missed his last appearance at JFL in 2011), and I was determined to do so this year.

So you can imagine my shock when Just for Laughs announced that not only is he coming here, he’s performing a free show at the Place des Festivals.

It might not seem so shocking to hear of a free show during festival season, but these are usually done for the Jazz Festival, or Francofolies, or Pop Montreal. Just for Laughs has outdoor activities, but not big international names.

But Weird Al is both a comedian and a musician, so if anyone’s well suited to this, it’s him.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the entertainment editor at the Gazette. She asked me to review the show for the paper. I hesitated at first, because I’m not a music critic, and I’m hardly objective about Weird Al. But she wanted me because I’m a fan and I know his work.

Reviewing a concert for deadline is a challenge. The show started at 9pm, and the story for the early edition had to be filed by 9:30, only a couple of songs into it. Not nearly enough to provide a proper picture of what happened.

I spoke with Robbie Praw, the Just for Laughs vice-president of programming, to get an idea of why this was made into an outdoor show. His comments provided the bulk of the copy for the early edition. He said they wanted to make a “big statement” and create buzz for the festival. They were booking him for an indoor show, but decided the chance to put him outside was too big to pass up.

Praw said he didn’t lose any sleep over keeping me in suspense for several months about Weird Al coming here.

He also mentioned that his first involvement with Just for Laughs was seeing Al in concert at the Old Port in 1996. That was the last time he did a solo show here. (He came in 2011 to host a musical comedy show featuring other artists, but he only performed a few of his songs there.)

VIP treatment

A half hour before the show, I had to make a decision. I was hanging out with a couple of friends about 20 feet from the stage. The view was great from there, but the crowd was getting more dense. Would I seriously be able to sit down and write on my laptop in the middle of this concert with people dancing all around me?

On the other side of the plaza, a VIP section had been set up for JFL bigwigs, invited guests and media. From there, I was much further from the stage, but I could see the crowd, and I had a chair and a table. Even though part of the reason my friends came was to see me go nuts at a Weird Al concert, I had to abandon them for the sake of work.

It turned out to be the better decision, because a few minutes after I got to the table, the skies opened up. I cowered beneath my umbrella with my laptop, hoping it would pass.

Eventually the organizers set up a tent to shield us from the rain. We ended up watching the show with a partially obstructed view. But I can’t really complain, because I got to see Weird Al live for free from a VIP section.

(I’ve always resented VIP sections and other forms of special treatment. If I hadn’t been filing a story for deadline, I wouldn’t have taken advantage of it.)

Amazing Al

I don’t go to those big Bell Centre concerts, so I don’t know what the standard is for those things these days. I know Taylor Swift had that big elevated rotating stage thing during her show, and she and others have regular costume changes between songs.

Weird Al had those too, donning costumes similar or identical to those he used in the videos for them. He had a giant purple octopus costume for Perform This Way, a dark suit and sunglasses for Party at the CIA, a tool belt for Handy.

But it was his outfit for Fat, one of his first big hits, that impressed me most. Not only did he don the fat suit from the video, but he also had a prosthetic fat face on. I wasn’t close enough to really judge the quality of the makeup, but from a distance it looked incredible for something that was done in under five minutes.

Yankovic played his classic hits from the decades, and several songs from his latest album (but not Tacky?). You could tell which ones were the crowd favourites.

Speaking of which, the crowd wasn’t the biggest this town has ever seen for a free show (I’m guessing it would have been much, much larger had it not rained), but it was dedicated. Every downpour was met with a cheer and chants of “Weird Al” before the show. Many came in aluminum foil hats, referencing his Lorde parody Foil. Many came in garish Hawaiian shirts. One guy looked like he walked right out of a Weird Al lookalike contest.

But did I like it?

What impresses me most about Yankovic and his band is how versatile they are. They can perform rock songs, pop songs, country songs, rap songs, and of course polka, and they all sound good. Some songs are straight-up parodies with nearly identical music. Others are style parodies, that sound like a particular artist or style but don’t copy a particular song. And others are straight-up originals. And though they weren’t as present during the show, the more original songs are the ones I like the most.

I can’t say it was an ideal concert. The rain didn’t help matters as far as crowd enjoyment, and having to write a story was a distraction. But Yankovic himself was fantastic. He’s 55, and he can still kick over his head. His energy was infectious, even though he’s in the middle of a gruelling tour schedule that has shows almost every night.

My biggest complaint about the show, the one that left me actually disappointed emotionally, was that it ended. They could have done another half hour before they would have been forced to shut it down by the city. They could have performed more of my personal favourites.

And then Al and I could have chatted afterwards and become best friends.

Maybe that’s asking too much, though. I had a lot of fun, he put on a great show, and it didn’t cost me a nickel.

Thanks, Al. And come back soon.

Set list

(This is based off my notes, not any official source, so I may have missed a song or two)

  1. Now That’s What I Call Polka!
  2. Perform This Way
  3. Dare To Be Stupid
  4. Fat
  5. Foil
  6. Smells Like Nirvana
  7. Party In The CIA
  8. It’s All About the Pentiums
  9. Handy
  10. Bedrock Anthem
  11. Another One Rides the Bus
  12. Ode to a Superhero
  13. Gump
  14. Inactive
  15. eBay
  16. Canadian Idiot
  17. Eat It*
  18. I Lost on Jeopardy*
  19. I Love Rocky Road*
  20. Like a Surgeon*
  21. White and Nerdy
  22. Word Crimes
  23. Amish Paradise
  24. Yoda (encore)

* These songs were performed to the tune of other songs. Eat It was done to the tune of Eric Clapton’s Layla (the acoustic version). Others to a more jazz-y melody.

Posted in Media

Your morning paper no longer has last night’s lottery results

Loto-Québec made a big presentation today about a group of Rona employees who are sharing in a $55-million Lotto Max jackpot they won in Friday’s draw.

But none of those employees learned about winning by reading the numbers in Saturday’s paper, because they weren’t there. Instead, the papers had the results of Thursday’s draws.

And it wasn’t a misprint or error, but rather an unfortunate consequence of a decision to push back draw times.

Starting a week ago, the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation, which includes Loto-Québec and four other lottery corporations covering Canada’s provinces and territories, pushed back the deadline to buy tickets for the Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max draws from 9pm to 10:30pm Eastern Time. Loto-Québec decided “in the interest of consistency” to apply the same deadline to its other draws.

On the plus side, this gives people more time to buy tickets, particularly out west where the time difference put the deadline as early as 6pm. But on the minus side, it also pushes back the publication of results of the draws to around midnight, too late to make it into the next day’s newspaper.

The change also affects TV broadcast of the results, though the change is more minor. CTV Montreal used to broadcast the results at 11:30pm, just before the late-night local newscast. Now the results are broadcast around midnight. On TVA, results appear in the ticker the next morning during Salut, Bonjour and the noon news, and throughout the morning on LCN.

For newspapers, under the previous system, Loto-Québec purchased ads every day that would be filed on deadline. Often the page with the results ad would be among the last typeset, because results would come in between 10 and 10:30pm.

Results coming at midnight means they could only make some editions of the next day’s newspapers at best. So Loto-Québec is now running newspaper ads on a one-day delay. Wednesday’s paper gets Monday night’s results, Thursday’s paper gets Tuesday’s results, and so on.

It’s perhaps another sign of the declining influence of print media. The fact that there has been so little discussion about this change is perhaps another.

Posted in Media

Montreal newspapers refuse to photograph Taylor Swift concert because of onerous rights contract

If you know any teenage girls, you’re probably aware that Taylor Swift did a show at the Bell Centre last night. You might have heard it was quite a show, with lots of costume changes, and at one point the artist singing her hit song Shake It Off on an elevated, spinning platform.

But you won’t see pictures of the concert in today’s newspapers. La Presse, the Journal de Montréal, Le Devoir, Métro and the Montreal Gazette all refused to send photographers to the concert because they could not accept the terms of a contract the company running Taylor Swift’s tour required media photographers to sign.

Among the terms of the contract, which the Gazette has posted online:

  • The photos could only be used once. Newspapers could not keep the photos for their archives or to use as file shots later on.
  • The photos could not be posted to social media.
  • Swift was allowed to use all photos for non-commercial purposes (including promotion) in perpetuity.
  • Swift or anyone else related to the tour had the right to damage or destroy equipment or data belonging to photographers if the terms of the agreement were not met. And the tour is absolved of all liability for damage or injury to photographers.

Photographers’ protests of the terms of the agreement (which seem to have evolved over the course of the tour) have been made from the beginning, and in particular since Swift wrote an open letter to Apple explaining she was taking her music off Apple’s new subscription music service because it wasn’t paying for the music during the free trial period. Needless to say, photographers saw this as hypocritical on Swift’s part. (Other artists who you’d think would be cool have also been called out on this behaviour, like Foo Fighters.)

Swift’s people (though not Swift herself) responded to concerns by suggesting the agreement has been misread, and pointing out that copyright remains with the photographer. “Any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval,” the spokesperson said, apparently thinking the “with management’s approval” part wouldn’t be noticed.

There were alternatives available. Newspapers that subscribe to Getty Images would have had free access to professional-looking photos of the concert provided to that wire service. Hell, the images can even be embedded for free onto blogs for non-commercial purposes, like so:

 

But whether these photos can be considered editorial is up for debate. These photos were commissioned by the tour, and using them would have been akin to using handout photos.

This strategy of having quasi-official photos done by Getty Images and muscling other photographers out has been criticized by media in the past. Getty distributes NHL game photos from NHL Images, which gets preferential treatment in terms of arena access and shooting positions during games, much to the annoyance of local media photographers.

Simply put, Getty was not an acceptable alternative.

Last week, the Irish Times took a stand, explaining to readers why it didn’t photograph Swift’s show in Dublin.

Today, Montreal papers joined them:

Newspapers and TV stations are used to dealing with restrictive demands when shooting major concerts. Usually they’re permitted to shoot only the first few songs, from only one particular location, and can’t shoot anything backstage. Most of these demands are accepted, if somewhat reluctantly, because the purpose is to ensure the photographers don’t disrupt the experience for the fans.

But Swift’s agreement isn’t about the fans. It’s a rights grab that serves little purpose other than to piss off local media. And it’s clear local media have had enough.

UPDATE (July 12): Le Soleil in Quebec City upped the ante for a Foo Fighters concert there, by opting to send a sketch artist instead.

Posted in Radio

TTP Media gets extension for 850 AM, plans to move transmission site

Nine months after it said it was six to nine months from launching, there’s still radio silence from TTP Media (7954689 Canada Inc.) about its news-talk AM radio stations in Montreal at 600 and 940 kHz.

But we do have some news from the company about its third radio station, a French-language sports-talk station at 850 AM. The CRTC approved that station two years ago and so the deadline to launch it passed on June 19. The company has applied for and the CRTC has approved a one-year extension to that deadline, giving them until June 19, 2016 to launch.

In a letter dated just four days before the deadline (normally the commission asks for 60 to ensure it’s processed on time), managing partner Nicolas Tétrault explains the problems 850 has had in securing a transmission site.

While the 600 and 940 stations were to use a four-tower site in Kahnawake leased from Cogeco that used to broadcast CFCF/CIQC 600, 940 News and Info 690, the site was deemed unusable for 850 and so TTP Media proposed a new site in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot where new towers would be built, beaming a signal straight toward Montreal while meeting technical limits to protect other stations.

Tétrault explains that they got permission from the land owner, and government authorizations, but could not get the city on board because of concerns from “part of the population.” NDIP refused to grant them a permit to construct the towers.

So TTP Media went back to the drawing board, and tried again to find some way for it to work from Kahnawake. Finally, after hiring a Canadian engineering company working with “an American engineering firm ultra-specialized in broadcasting telecommunications”, they recently found a way to make it work, with modifications to the site. (This study happened a few weeks ago, which likely explains the presence of vehicles at the site reported by some observers.)

Tétrault says these modifications to allow the transmission site to broadcast on 600, 850 and 940 kHz will take “a few months” to plan and put in place.

It will also require a separate application to the CRTC to approve a technical amendment to the station’s licence.

Since the delay affects the transmission site of all three stations, it could also prevent the 940 and 600 stations from launching this summer. But the French-language news talk station at 940 must launch by Nov. 21. The last extension from the CRTC is the final one.

We’ll know by that date whether the TTP Media project has been a success or failure at even getting off the ground.

I’ve asked Tétrault for additional comment. I’ll update this if I hear back.

Posted in Montreal, TV

CBC’s Absolutely Quebec series starts tonight

Every summer, CBC Montreal broadcasts six hour-long one-off shows, usually documentaries, that have a local or regional focus. And every summer it gets largely ignored and poorly promoted.

This year, I had to do some searching to even discover it’s happening, and found only this page online listing what’s on the slate for this year. The first episode, Hacking Montreal, about the “hackathon” movement that CBC Montreal itself has been promoting recently, airs tonight at 7pm. The series then takes almost a month off because of the Pan Am Games, and returns with the five others in August and early September.

Of note here is that at least two of these documentaries focus on regions far from Montreal — Northern Quebec and Eastern Quebec. For these regions, it’s incredibly rare to see themselves reflected in English-language television.

Here’s the schedule:

Hacking Montreal
Montreal is a global hub for ‘hackathons,’ weekend-long contests for innovating technology. CBC Montreal looks at how local infrastructure, healthcare, transportation and leisure are being improved by volunteer maverick thinkers.
Airs Saturday, July 04, at 7 p.m. ET

A City Is An Island
A DIY, behind-the-scenes look at the linguistic divide in the music and lifestyles of Montreal musicians Mac DeMarco, Patrick Watson, Sean Nicholas Savage, Tim Hecker, Colin Stetson and many more.
Airs Saturday, Aug 01, at 7 p.m. ET

Living on the Edge
Photographer and garlic farmer Joan Sullivan seeks to capture how people living along the rural coast of eastern Quebec adapt to major climate change events.
Airs Saturday, Aug 08, at 7 p.m. ET

Seth’s Dominion
NFB’s award-winning documentary profiling Canadian cartoonist Gregory Gallant, better known as Seth, creator of Palookaville.
Airs Saturday, Aug 22, at 7 p.m. ET

Okpik’s Dream
A 60-year-old champion dog musher and amputee in Quaqtaq, Nunavik, prepares to race in the Ivakkak–a grueling, 600-kilometre Inuit sled dog race across the Quebec Arctic.
Airs Saturday, Aug 29, at 7 p.m. ET

One Weekend
Multiple generations of one family indulge over Labour Day weekend in a disappearing way of life–the cottage way of life.
Airs Saturday, Sep 05, at 7 p.m. ET

If you missed last year’s Absolutely Quebec series, you can still watch those episodes online. As are those from 2013.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Vermont PBS turns its eye to Montreal

If you’re watching TV tonight, you might want to tune to Vermont PBS (WETK) to catch two shows the focus on Montreal. Or you can watch both online.

At 7:30pm, the weekly panel discussion show Vermont This Week presents its Canada special, focusing on Canada-U.S. relations. The panel includes Montreal Gazette Managing Editor Michelle Richardson and Global Montreal reporter Tim Sargeant. They talk road construction, Quebec-Vermont economic cooperation, Quebec politics and tourism.

Then at 8:30pm, it presents Qulture, a documentary-style show about Montreal culture produced with Cult MTL. This episode, described as a pilot, but with no clear indication whether there will be other episodes, discusses comedian Sugar Sammy, graffiti artists and the local vaudeville scene, and a bit about Cult itself along the way.

Vermont PBS is available on Channel 55 on Videotron Illico, Channel 57 on Videotron analog cable (Western Montreal only), Channel 224/1224 on Bell Fibe, and Channel 33.1 over the air.