Posted in Photos, Radio

TSN 690 personalities raise more than $2,000 for charity with surprisingly good standup comedy

Mitch Melnick performs a standup routine during One Mic Stand at Comedyworks Wednesday night.

Mitch Melnick performs a standup routine during One Mic Stand at Comedyworks Wednesday night.

I didn’t know what to expect paying $15* for a ticket to watch a standup show featuring TSN 690 radio personalities, but they took the exercise seriously enough to deliver a decent night of comedy to the sold-out Comedyworks venue on Bishop St.

One Mic Stand raised a bit more than $2,000 for the Erin Sports Association, which is … actually I don’t know what it is other than it being Irish and about sports. But supposedly it’ll be for a good cause.

They didn’t want anyone filming the event, and I was specifically asked to keep the potentially embarrassing jokes off social media (plus I didn’t have time to write any of them down), so if you didn’t make it I’m afraid you’re going to miss out. That’s probably for the best.

They did allow pictures, though.

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Posted in Radio

CRTC explores adding a new FM radio station in Quebec City, possibly an English one

The Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission is opening the door to adding another commercial FM radio station in Quebec City.

On Thursday, the commission issued a call for comments, prompted by two applications for new commercial radio stations in the provincial capital — one French, one English. The first step in the process is for people to comment on whether they believe the market can handle another station, and if so whether there should be a general call for applications from all interested parties.

The commission published basic information for the two applications it received. Both are for the same frequency, 105.7 MHz, with a power of a few thousand watts.

The French-language station is proposed by Gilles Lapointe and Nelson Sergerie. The English-language one is proposed by Dufferin Communications, a subsidiary of Evanov Radio Group.

Another chance for Evanov?

This isn’t Evanov’s first attempt at a Quebec City station. In 2010, the CRTC denied a similar application — for the same frequency — for an English-language commercial station using the same easy-listening format of Evanov’s Jewel network of stations. (The commission also denied an application by Evanov for a sister French-language station.)

The decision was controversial, even within the commission itself, prompting a dissenting opinion from commissioner Timothy Denton. The majority found, as it had with a similar application from Standard Radio in 2006, that because Quebec City’s anglophone population is so small, a new English-language music station would necessarily have to target francophone listeners, and would introduce unfair competition because English-language stations don’t have French-language music quotas. (A policy the commission is in the process of reviewing.)

Denton argued that it’s not up to the commission to protect French-language stations from competition from English-language stations, nor to protect Evanov from the danger of trying to make money by targeting only the anglophone community.

Has anything changed?

In the six years since that decision, there’s been enough turnover at the CRTC that none of the commissioners who were part of it are still there, including Denton. That could prompt a change in mentality.

The market, meanwhile, appears to have changed fairly little in the past half-decade. Its nine stations have had a profit margin around 20% over the past five years, which is actually down from 30-40% margins when the CRTC made its decision. And advertising revenue is also flat at around $45 million for the market.

The economics are the same, so if the commission does decide to go ahead with a new station, it will be because of a change of mentality of the commissioners or the strength of the applications.

What’s next?

Interested parties, including incumbent radio stations who want to stop competition, and others who might be interested in applying, have until May 30 to comment. After that, the commission will decide if it makes sense to add a new station. If it does, and there’s clear interest from other parties, it will issue a call for applications and set a hearing. If it’s just those two applicants that express interest, it could simply consider those applications without issuing a call or having the parties appear at a public hearing.

If you wish to add your two cents about whether Quebec City can handle another commercial radio station, you can file your comments here until 8pm ET on May 30. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

Posted in TV

More than 40 Quebec TV series have celebrity-guest-of-the-week as part of their concept

When musician Pierre Lapointe appeared on Radio-Canada talk show Tout le monde en parle on Sunday, complaining that Quebec television is too timid and is focused on seeing the same faces over and over again, most Quebecers didn’t see it, ironically because they were busy watching the Gala Artis on TVA, the popularity-contest award show in which the same A-list faces as last year got rewarded for still being popular.

After a clip of Lapointe’s montée-de-lait was posted to YouTube and everyone rewatched the interview online or on their PVRs, the inevitable analyses started appearing. Le Soleil’s Richard Therrien dug around and found out that despite Lapointe’s complaints that his music talk-show series Stereo Pop was badly managed by Radio-Canada, it was actually Lapointe himself that was poorly managing the situation and acting like a diva.

Meanwhile, Radio-Canada VP Louis Lalande responded to Lapointe’s complaints that the public broadcaster is asleep at the wheel when it comes to broadcasting culture.

The issue has gotten so much attention that even my newspaper has a column on it.

I never watched Lapointe’s show, and I’ll leave it to others to debate what happened to it. And there are plenty of reasons to suggest Lapointe might be a hypocrite (he was a judge on La Voix, after all) or to defend or complain about Radio-Canada.

But Lapointe hinted at an issue that goes far beyond the public broadcaster: Quebec television is obsessed with celebrity.

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Posted in Radio

Andrea Collins leaves Virgin Radio 96 for Toronto

Virgin's Andrea Collins

Andrea Collins, the Virgin Radio daytime host and occasional CTV fill-in weather presenter, is pulling up stakes and moving to Toronto after five years.

She made the announcement last week on social media, and today was her last day, which prompted a surprise sendoff from her coworkers.

Collins will be taking a job co-hosting the morning show on Virgin Radio 99.9 in Toronto, replacing Maura Grierson, who’s taking maternity leave. She’s also becoming the “iHeartRadio Canada ambassador” — in January, the U.S. radio brand signed a partnership with Virgin owner Bell Media.

She starts May 2, a few days before she turns 32.

Collins was hired by Virgin in 2011, after previous radio jobs in Winnipeg and Victoria, to replace Nat Lauzon, who bolted for The Beat. Then, after Cousin Vinny Barrucco did the same, she was moved to afternoon drive, becoming the first woman in this market to host an afternoon show solo at a music station. She later moved back to daytime when Mark Bergman went back behind a microphone.

When I profiled her for a Gazette feature in 2013, she described her career as a series of being in the right place at the right time. I think that downplays her talent, but there’s also some truth to it.

No announcement has been made about who will host from 9am to 1pm weekdays now (or maybe it was and I missed it, just like I missed this announcement more than a week ago). A job posting for on-air host at Virgin was made last week.

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Posted in Opinion, Radio

Radio host Jeff Fillion fired for insensitive use of sarcasm, emoji

Today, we learned that even Quebec City’s trash-talk radio has its limit.

Or, well, we learned that again. Because it’s happened several times before, including with the man at the centre of the issue today, the king of the format, Jeff Fillion.

At exactly 1pm on Wednesday, Bell Media and CHIK-FM (Énergie Québec 98.9) announced that Fillion, who hosted the afternoon drive show from 3-6pm weekdays, no longer works for the company. (It’s not explicitly clear if he was fired, quit or some mutual agreement was reached, but it’s clear this was more the company’s doing than his.) The station has put Maxime Tremblay in his timeslot for the time being.

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Posted in TV

TVA pulls the plug on Argent

argent-logoArgent, the only French-language business specialty channel in Canada, is being shut down on April 30, owner Groupe TVA announced on Tuesday.

The television and cable industries are in turmoil and TVA Group has concluded that, despite the marketing efforts made in recent years to support Argent, it would be difficult if not impossible to achieve the profitability to continue operating the economic and financial channel.

I’m not sure what those “marketing efforts” were exactly (I’ve never seen an ad for the channel, beyond the branded business pages of the Journal de Montréal), but questions can certainly be raised about TVA’s commitment to the channel, which for one thing was never distributed in high definition, even on Quebecor’s Videotron cable system.

After taking its usual unnecessary swipe at Canada’s public broadcaster (which doesn’t have a business news channel), TVA said the decision would affect an unspecified number of employees. La Presse reports its nine permanent employees will stay with TVA, but their shift to other jobs might affect temporary employees at LCN and elsewhere.

The channel launched in 2005.

According to data submitted to the CRTC, Argent’s financial situation has been in significant decline since 2010-11, going from $4.2 million in revenue to $2.4 million in 2013-14. (Data for the year ending Aug. 31, 2015 should be out within the next month or two.) This is largely because of a decline in subscription revenue (advertising makes up only 2% of revenue), which in turn is because of a decrease in the number of subscribers, from a high of 957,000 in 2010 to 552,000 in 2014.

In the three years from 2012-14, the channel lost almost $2 million, and nothing indicates that 2015 or 2016 would have been any different.

The news of Argent’s shutdown has interesting timing since Canada just added its second English-language business channel (Bloomberg TV Canada) and the first one, Business News Network, is still doing quite well financially, with a 40% profit margin.

And the suggestion that this decision comes out of the CRTC’s recent pick-and-pay TV decision also doesn’t jive with the fact that its financial troubles started long before then and that Videotron, also owned by Quebecor, has been offering custom channel packages for many years now.

But these days it makes more sense for a Canadian business channel to be based in Toronto than Montreal. The only place I remember seeing Argent on TV was at my local Caisse Desjardins bank. I guess they can switch to LCN.

Cuts in QMI’s investigative bureau

UPDATE (April 21): Meanwhile, there were cuts to the investigative reporting team at Agence QMI, Quebecor Media’s shared journalism outlet.

Andrew McIntosh is an investigative reporter who’s been in the business more than 30 years, working for the Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette and National Post before joining QMI in 2010 as their top investigative reporter. His awards include three National Newspaper Awards.

You can read some of his reporting for QMI here.

The other high-profile departure is Michel Morin, who was a journalist with Radio-Canada until he became a CRTC commissioner. After his term at the broadcasting regulator ended, he joined QMI’s investigative team. You can read some of his stories here.

Posted in TV

Éric Lapointe gets no respect: A quantitative analysis of La Voix

Is Éric Lapointe the least popular coach on La Voix (TVA photo)

Is Éric Lapointe the least popular coach on La Voix (TVA photo)

If you’re at all in tune with French-language TV in Quebec this time of year (and if you aren’t, you really should be), it’s hard to miss the phenomenon that is La Voix, Quebec’s version of the Dutch singing competition show whose distinguishing feature is blind auditions.

(If you don’t care about that show, don’t bother reading the rest of this post. It won’t interest you.)

The show has an audience that hovers around 2.5 million each week, and will probably reach 3 million during Sunday’s finale. To put that in perspective, there are about 6 million people in the province that have French as their first language. And a bit under 1 million of them are watching La Voix’s direct competitor, Tout le monde en parle, on Radio-Canada. That’s half of francophone Quebec watching one of two shows on Sunday nights.

After ignoring it at first (I don’t tend to watch reality competition shows), I kinda got hooked on it a bit last year and have been following it intently this year (even watching the behind-the-scenes shows on Monday and Thursday nights). That means I’ve had my heart crushed when a contestant I liked got eliminated, and I’ve taken sides in the heated debates among fans about who is the better singer, or scandals where the public complains that popular voting has too little say in who wins or that popular voting has too much say in who wins. (But seriously HOW THE HELL DOES THIS NOT WIN? COME ON! #TeamGeneviève)

Anyway, back to those blind auditions. The way they work is the contestant goes on stage and sings for two minutes, and coaches that want the contestant on their team press a button that causes their chair to turn around. If more than one coach turns around, the contestant gets to choose their coach from among those who did so. The process continues until all four coaches have 12 singers on their team.

It didn’t take me long to notice patterns, both in how the coaches acted and how the contestants did. Éric Lapointe, in particular, would often be the first to turn around, especially if the singer was a rocker. And, it seemed, in battles between him and another coach over a contestant, he would more often lose. After I noticed someone else make a joke on TV that suggested the same, I decided to put that theory to the test, analyzing the choices made by coaches and contestants during blind auditions for Seasons 2, 3 and 4 of La Voix. (Lapointe wasn’t a coach in Season 1.)

Here’s what I found.

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Posted in Radio

Radio Shalom is no more — what happens to CJRS 1650 AM?

Radio Shalom has been shut down.

Kind of.

CJRS 1650 AM is still on the air (you can catch the live stream here), but since last Friday at 6pm it has been broadcasting non-stop evangelical Christian programming supplied to it from CKZW (not an official callsign), a Christian audio service operated by André Joly. CKZW had supplied programming for CJRS during the Sabbath, when Jewish rules prevent practicing members from operating a radio station. Owner Robert Lévy has decided, at least for now, to have them provide programming 24/7.

I explain what happened in this story for the Montreal Gazette. Basically Radio Shalom was not breaking even, and Lévy was no longer willing to fund the station by himself. Despite a public plea in December, it seems no one (or not enough people) stepped up, and despite giving extensions, he’s decided it’s the end of the road.

Though there were some goodbye messages on Facebook, the end on the air was anti-climactic. The last Jewish program was actually a syndicated broadcast from France, and made no mention of Radio Shalom going off the air. It was cut off mid-sentence during an interview, switching awkwardly to CKZW programming with some dead air.

So what happens now? I couldn’t get an interview with Lévy — I was promised a press release that never came — but others provided more detail. Joly will provide CKZW programming 24/7 (including some bilingual programming, he said) and Lévy will remain the owner to satisfy CRTC ownership requirements.

Joly said there are discussions about him buying the station (which would require CRTC approval), but that’s not a given. He suggested there still might be hope of a benefactor coming forward and bringing Radio Shalom back.

But that doesn’t look likely at this point. Despite Montreal’s strong Jewish population, the community hasn’t rallied behind this station. There are various reasons I was given for this. Among them, the French/English split was also a cultural one, between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews. There was a religious versus secular split, with the former following hard-line (and sexist) rules. And the station’s insistence on its independence, refusing to become a mouthpiece for any Jewish community organization.

Plus the running joke that Montreal already has a Jewish radio station in CJAD.

And there were the kinds of problems that any small radio station faces. The AM signal was poor and hard to hear in many parts of the city, the programming was all produced by volunteers and didn’t attract many listeners, and some people at least felt it was poorly managed. (Though no one is stepping up and promising to turn things around if they’re put in charge.)

What happens now is still up in the air. Joly would like to keep CJRS and turn it into a Christian station, but that would require him and Lévy agreeing on a sale price for the station. If an agreement isn’t reached, Lévy’s options are limited, but he could shut down the station, return the licence and sell off whatever assets are still there.

The likelihood of a Jewish radio station returning to Montreal, though, seems slim at this point. There might be better hope of having Jewish-themed shows on ethnic stations — right now I know of only Radio Centre-Ville that has a regular show on Judaism, but others have had shows for that community in the past.

Posted in Uncategorized

24 Heures changes format, to be distributed as anarchist zine

Reeling from the recent loss of exclusive distribution rights in Montreal’s metro system, free daily 24 Heures announced today it will undergo a radical transformation, and as of Monday will be distributed as an anarchist zine.

The zine format, which will see the newspaper photocopied on 8.5×11″ letter-sized sheets folded in half, will give it a more edgy look, its publisher explains. The entire paper will be in black and white only, and editors will abandon the sleek digital layout tools they have been using for 15 years and instead lay articles out by hand.

“We hope these changes, combined with a new editorial focus, will help us better reach the youth market,” a note to readers explained. In an interview, the publisher (who did not want his name published) said the idea was to “be more like Vice News and other things the youth like.”

24 Heures will continue to be distributed by people on the street, particularly outside metro stations, but those distributors will change their looks. Gone will be the orange vests, replaced with black ones that have anti-government and anti-corporate stickers and pins all over them.

Distributor Marc Quenneville says he looks forward to adopting the new fight-the-man attitude. “Finally there will be a newspaper that stands up for the working man,” he said.

Monday’s first issue of the new 24 Heures will be sponsored by Subway.

Posted in Uncategorized

CBC admits it already spent $675 million in new federal money on coke-fuelled orgy

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is in hot water with federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly after admitting it already spent the promised $675-million in additional federal funding on a coke-filled orgy for top executives last month.

“We will be conducting an investigation into this incident, but I want to remind everyone that the CBC is an arms-length organization and the federal government will not dictate how it is to spend its money,” Joly explained today at a press conference in Montreal.

Details are sketchy, but it appears that some time around St. Patrick’s Day, senior executives including the board of directors and everyone at the vice-president level and above checked into an expensive hotel in Toronto and went to town on drugs and prostitutes. Cocaine was specifically referenced, but it’s believed heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs were also used, as well as “a considerable quantity” of marijuana.

Board member A. Prelfoulle is still in critical condition at a Toronto hospital being treated for an overdose.

Joly said it’s unfortunate more of the drugs and prostitutes were not shared with more front-line employees, who have also had it rough over the past few years. “I’m sure some of them would have liked this extra money,” she said, once again stressing that the government will not dictate how the corporation is to spend its money.

Posted in Uncategorized

Normand Brathwaite announces retirement as counterexample to criticisms of racism in Quebec media

Normand Brathwaite as François Bugingo parodying Uptown Funk

Normand Brathwaite in one of his last but-we-have-a-black-guy roles in Bye-Bye 2015

Normand Brathwaite, who for 35 years has proudly been Quebec’s go-to counterexample when confronted with criticisms of racism in the media, says he’s ready to hang up his token hat.

In an announcement posted to Facebook this morning, just after his latest contract with the Union des artistes expired, Brathwaite wrote that it’s time to pass the hat to a new generation of token black guys.

“In my 35 years in showbusiness, I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he wrote. “I went from being the only black guy in a room full of white people to being the only black guy in a room full of white people with a few arabs around.”

Brathwaite pointed to young black actors whose names I couldn’t recognize and said the future of making white people feel less guilty about profiting from a system that discriminates in their favour was in their hands.

But it’s expected that musician and TV and radio host Gregory Charles will take up much of the slack of being referenced by hard-line Quebec sovereignists and media executives alike in smug defiant response to people who say we’re not seeing enough diversity on television screens.

The Parti Québécois issued a statement congratulating Brathwaite for his service. “As an experienced counterexample myself, I know the amount of commitment it takes to be a perfect token, and the toll it takes on you to be constantly used in Twitter discussions between partisan trolls,” said Maka Kotto, on behalf of the entire PQ black caucus. “You should be proud, as I am, of how comfortable you’ve made white people feel for decades now.”

The sudden departure of Brathwaite has led to some scrambling from some quarters, with one Télé-Québec executive asking around if he could consider Adib Alkhalidey a black guy “or just a general ethnic.”

Posted in Uncategorized

CRTC proposes “hottie basic” rules that would offer all Canadians free TV porn

As Canadians look to new “skinny basic” packages by cable companies with a sense of disappointment, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has decided to try again to win consumers over with a new set of packaging rules.

The new proposal, to be released today, calls for all providers to offer a new “hottie basic” package that would include mandatory channels and at least two pornographic channels, at least one of which would have to be Canadian. The porn channels would have to be offered at a price of $0.69 each, CRTC commissioner Jean-Michel Rousseau said with a nudge.

Rumours of the proposal led to immediate questions about quality, and whether there would be a regulatory way to distinguish, say, Playboy TV from the kind of bland, poorly produced crap you can find anywhere on the Internet these days.

Rousseau said the commission has similar concerns, and has proposed a working group of himself and “mon chum Yannick” to personally monitor the channels offered to see if they meet the commission’s standards. “But we won’t do that together, because eww.”

If all goes according to plan, consumers could see their hottie basic packages as early as Valentine’s Day 2017.