Global Montreal replaces Jamie Orchard with Toronto-based anchor, cancels Focus Montreal

Tracy Tong anchors the Global Montreal flagship newscast out of Toronto on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.

You can end the speculation of who will replace Jamie Orchard as lead anchor at Global Montreal: It’s Tracy Tong.

In Toronto.

Tong announced the news shortly before anchoring the 5:30pm newscast on Monday. (Andrea Howick had been filling in on most nights since Orchard announced she had been laid off.) Tong has also been anchoring the 11pm Montreal newscast out of Toronto.

The move completes the conversion of Montreal’s local newscasts into Global’s “Multi-Market Content” model, which replaces locally-anchored live newscasts with a copy-paste edited newscast produced and anchored out of Toronto with a mix of local and national stories. Being recorded and produced in advance means Tong can do separate newscasts on Global Toronto and Global Montreal, even though they air simultaneously.

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Radio ratings: The Beat, Virgin, TSN 690 all falter during pandemic

Numeris released its summer 2020 ratings this week, and combined with the ratings from the spring, we see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as fewer people tune in.

The Beat 92.5 saw the most noticeable drop in terms of raw audience numbers, going from an average of 10,000 anglophone listeners a minute down to 6,800 and 6,600. But it maintained its second-place rank among English-language stations. Virgin also saw a drop, continuing a long decline that has seen it lose more than half its audience in three years.

Conversely, CHOM managed to grow its audience slightly, which gave it its best audience share in years as its competitors declined. And Énergie 94,3, which has refocused itself on rock music and away from talk, saw a jump in audience that put it ahead of sister station Rouge FM 107,3 for the first time since at least 2011, and claiming the adults 25-54 demographic over Rythme FM (though Rythme has much higher ratings overall).

In Toronto, Corus’s Q107 also had a big jump in ratings, making it the #1 station among adults 25-54, a status it didn’t hesitate to crow about.

So does this mean rock music stations did well during the pandemic?

Well, no. I crunched the numbers for this story for Cartt.ca and it turns out these three stations are the exception. Across Canada, rock and alternative stations were flat, and most lost audience.

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OMNI adds Arabic, Filipino national newscasts as new licence term begins

Anchor Reham Al-Azem hosts OMNI News Arabic from the Montreal studio.

As of Sept. 1, the OMNI television channels have entered into a new CRTC licence term, which means a higher wholesale per-subscriber fee ($0.19 per month, up from $0.12) and some new obligations, including more news.

OMNI made good on that last part last week by launching OMNI News in Arabic and Filipino (Tagalog). Like the existing Italian, Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese newscasts, which don’t look like they’re changing, the new newscasts have journalists in different cities. I was told they wouldn’t have anchors, but it’s clear they do. OMNI News Arabic was hosted its first week by Reham Al-Azem out of the Montreal studio (built for the former Breakfast Television Montreal), while OMNI News Filipino was hosted by Rhea Santos in Vancouver.

Both newscasts are also produced in part out of Toronto.

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Paul Karwatsky leaves CTV Montreal to devote himself to autism awareness

Paul Karwatsky.

After taking a leave from his job long enough to have people wondering about his status, Paul Karwatsky has decided to leave his job as anchor at CTV Montreal to focus on autism awareness, a subject close to his family.

The news was announced to staff on Friday morning, leading to a story in the Gazette, and an announcement was posted to CTV’s website on Friday afternoon.

It included a statement from Karwatsky explaining his decision:

As many might know, I’ve been heavily involved in raising autism awareness for years. I’ve decided to dedicate myself full-time to this cause which is close to my, and my family’s, heart. It’s a key time in history for all those living with autism and so much needs to be done to ensure our children have all the opportunities they deserve as they grow. All my efforts will be focused on this moving forward. The details on what exactly I’ll be doing are to come.

Though it’s unsaid in the statement, the fact that changing his career would mean a more family-friendly work schedule had to be a consideration. He has been hosting both the 5pm and 11:30pm newscasts since the 5pm news was added in 2018, and the late-night news slot is tough for people with children. Previous anchors like Cathrine Sherriffs*, Debra Arbec, Tarah Schwartz and Annie DeMelt who worked the late-night or weekend newscasts (or both) all left those jobs for more 9-to-5 ones, and only Arbec (the 6pm anchor at CBC) is still in the industry.

On Facebook, Karwatsky said leaving was a “massively difficult decision” and would provide more details about his future in the next few weeks:

This was a massively difficult decision. The outpouring of well-wishes I’ve been getting is overwhelming. I’m going to post a proper goodbye to everyone who sat through my bad jokes at home over the years . I really want to say that there is no better group of people than the hundreds and hundreds of Montrealers I’ve been privileged to meet who’ve supported our station over the years.. people who I truly feel are part of a huge extended family for me… a family I joined nightly all those years ago in watching CFCF when I was a kid. I’ll still be a part of that family watching from home. I can’t express how much I’ll miss being a direct part it all. But I’m excited about the future and some of the great things I’ll be getting behind. Details to come over the next few weeks! Thank you to you all.

Karwatsky’s departure was briefly noted during the 5pm and 6pm newscasts on Friday, the latter by Mutsumi Takahashi.

CTV says it will name a replacement for Karwatsky. As it happens, all of the potential internal candidates are women. Caroline Van Vlaardingen would be the most obvious choice. Others with some anchoring experience include reporters Amanda Kline, Kelly Greig, Cindy Sherwin, Angela MacKenzie and Maya Johnson. If they really wanted to go for a man, the pool is much thinner locally. There’s … Rob Lurie?

Externally, well, there’s one person with decades of Montreal English-language newscast anchoring experience who’s currently available.

When Karwatsky’s replacement is named, she or he will be Takahashi’s fifth co-anchor, after Bill Haugland, Brian Britt, Todd Van der Heyden and Karwatsky. Though because the two split the four daily newscasts, they don’t actually anchor together anymore.

UPDATE (Sept. 15): Karwatsky explains his new job in a video, and opens up a bit to the Gazette’s Bill Brownstein about how autism has affected his life as a parent.

*Correction: I listed Catherine Sherriffs as an example of someone who left a late shift for a 9-to-5 job, but in fact it was because she was being moved from the late shift to a day job that she decided to leave CTV.

Rogers offers to buy Cogeco — what it means

Today, we learned Canada’s already concentrated telecom/media industry could soon become even more concentrated: Rogers has teamed up with American cable company Altice USA to make an unsolicited $10.3-billion offer for all of Cogeco’s assets. As part of the deal, Altice would take over Cogeco’s U.S. assets (Atlantic Broadband) and Rogers would take over the Canadian assets (Cogeco Connexion and Cogeco Media) for a net purchase price of $4.9 billion.

Rogers already owns a significant part of the two companies that make up Cogeco, via subordinate voting shares (41% of Cogeco Inc. and 33% of Cogeco Communications).

But both companies are controlled by the Audet family — Henri Audet founded the company more than 60 years ago — and the family has announced that it will not support the bid. Meanwhile, Quebec premier François Legault says he will do whatever is in his power to prevent Quebec from losing another corporate headquarters. But it’s unclear what powers he would have in this case. (Rogers responded by saying it “reaffirmed its commitment to expand and grow its presence in Quebec,” comparing Cogeco to Fido, which is still “headquartered” in Montreal, something at least one expert called BS on.)

Remember Videotron?

If Quebec does decide to step in somehow, this would make the second time it has intervened in a sale of a major cable company to Rogers. In 2000, Rogers came to an agreement to buy Videotron from the Chagnon family. But for similar reasons, the government stepped in and the Caisse de dépôt partnered with Quebecor to present a competing bid that was eventually accepted.

That deal had significant consequences for the media and telecom sphere in Quebec. Videotron became Quebecor’s main source of income as legacy media outlets faded, and now Videotron and Rogers compete for wireless customers, giving Quebec lower wireless rates than other large provinces.

Without Videotron, it’s clear that Quebecor would not be the same company it is now. Not only would it not own the cable company, but it wouldn’t have owned TVA either, since TVA was owned by Videotron at the time. Quebecor would have kept TQS, and either invested enough to improve it or seen it decline along with its other media assets.

(TQS was sold to a partnership between Cogeco and Bell, with Cogeco having the controlling interest. It eventually went bankrupt, was sold to Remstar, and just recently sold again to Bell.)

The Caisse/Quebecor deal didn’t work out so great for the public pension fund. Various analyses of the deal have shown that while the Caisse made money over the years, it would have done much better just putting it into the market.

Will it happen?

If Quebec doesn’t decide to step in (or does something like accept the deal if Rogers keeps some nominal headquarters for Quebec operations in Montreal), then it’s up to the Audet family.

Their deal was submitted to the boards, but the boards quickly rejected the deal as well. Altice responded that it is still pursuing a deal, but the Audet family said point blank “our shares are not for sale” and “our refusal is not a negotiating position, it is definitive.” Altice and Rogers Rogers say they’re playing the long game.

Competition concerns

If the deal is eventually accepted by shareholders, then the CRTC and Competition Bureau will look at it (or at least the Canadian part of it). The bureau looks at competition concerns from an economic perspective — will this deal in some way reduce competition? — while the CRTC considers other factors like diversity of voices.

From a media concentration standpoint, it’s worrisome that another medium-sized player will get scooped up by a large one. Over the past few years we’ve seen Astral Media, MTS and V get bought by Bell, most RNC Media radio stations bought by Cogeco, Public Mobile bought by Telus, Groupe Serdy bought by Quebecor, and a bunch of other smaller transactions.

But Rogers and Cogeco don’t really compete directly in anything. As cable companies, they each have their own territories, and though they may operate in the same regions (like southern Ontario), they don’t overlap. Rogers doesn’t own any radio stations in Quebec, and the only market where both companies operate is Ottawa/Gatineau, where Cogeco has 104,7fm and Rogers has CHEZ 106, Kiss 105.3 and 1310 News. Because they operate in different languages, they are considered part of different markets.

Cogeco had been looking to enter the wireless services market, to offer a bundle option to its cable subscribers. It was waiting on the CRTC to offer better conditions for virtual mobile network operators, which it hasn’t done yet. If Rogers buys Cogeco, the issue becomes moot, and Cogeco’s spectrum simply gets added to Rogers’s services.

Size

According to CRTC data, as of Aug. 31, 2019, the largest companies had the following Canadian television subscribers:

  • Bell 2,820,284
  • Shaw 2,081,536*
  • Rogers 1,606,213
  • Videotron 1,440,097
  • Telus 1,127,676
  • Cogeco 627,608*

*Updated figure from last quarterly report.

Rogers and Cogeco combined would have about 2.2 million subscribers, making it the #2 television provider in Canada behind Bell.

Rogers owns 54 radio stations and Cogeco owns 23. Combined, they would have 77 radio stations, which is just above Stingray’s 74 (it claims to own more than 100 stations, but that includes a lot of retransmitters), and would be #2 in Canada behind Bell’s 109 in terms of number of stations

Rogers is already the #2 radio broadcaster in Canada in terms of annual revenue (figures from 2018-19 reports to CRTC, percentages based on latest Communications Monitoring Report):

  1. Bell: $347 million (25%)
  2. Rogers: $226 million (15%)
  3. Stingray: $152 million (10%)
  4. Corus: $109 million (8%)
  5. Cogeco: $96 million (7%)

If the deal goes through, 45% of all Canadian commercial radio revenue would be controlled by two companies, and 65% by the top four. As we learned from the Bell/Astral acquisition (which created a larger company than Rogers/Cogeco would), the CRTC doesn’t consider national market power in radio acquisitions, just number of stations in individual markets.

Since it got rid of TQS, Cogeco doesn’t own any television assets beyond the community channels associated with its cable companies. It also doesn’t own any newspapers or magazines (and since Rogers sold its remaining magazines to St. Joseph Communications, neither does it).

CJMS 1040 goes off the air … and then back on the air

Having been denied their licence renewal by the CRTC, CJMS 1040 AM in St-Constant spent the last six hours of its licence term on Monday reminiscing about its past and talking to country music artists and others about what the station has done but also about its plan to become an online-only streaming station.

At 12:00:38, the host was cut off mid-sentence saying goodbye, and there was just dead air.

But by Tuesday morning, there was audio again at 1040 AM, as if nothing had happened.

Owner Jean Ernest Pierre told me in a brief email he received authorization late Monday to continue operating. He didn’t expand on that.

But while CJMS is trying to appeal the CRTC’s decision, neither the commission nor the court has issued any order.

As I explain in this story for Cartt.ca, CJMS’s filings with the Federal Court of Appeal were deficient, so had not yet been accepted as of Thursday. The CRTC said it was aware of the appeal (and lack of decision). “The Commission is monitoring the situation and will take additional steps if necessary,” a spokesperson said.

According to the filings provided by the court, Groupe Médias Pam (which is CJMS’s official licensee) is arguing that the CRTC unfairly took into account licence violations committed by the station’s previous owner and failed to show “procedural fairness” that would have called for progressive discipline before refusing to renew a licence.

The station raised the same argument at the hearing, but the CRTC countered in its decision that “when the licensee acquired the station in 2014, the licensee was informed of CJMS’s previous non-compliance.”

Indeed, in that 2014 decision allowing Pierre to buy CJMS from previous owner Alexandre Azoulay for $15,000, the CRTC said this:

The Commission emphasizes the importance it places on a licensee’s fulfillment of its regulatory obligations. It is the licensee’s responsibility to ensure that it is aware of and respects its regulatory obligations at all times. In this case, Groupe Médias must comply with the terms and conditions of licence set out in Appendix 1 to this decision, with the CJMS code of ethics set out in Appendix 2 and with the orders set out in Appendix 3 and Appendix 4. The Commission reminds Groupe Médias that in addition to complying with the appendices to this decision, it must comply with the Regulations at all times.

The commission does not explicitly state that violations by previous owners are taken into account when evaluating whether a station should lose its licence, but Pierre had to be aware the station was on thin ice, with short-term licence renewals issued in 2014 and again in 2018.

In arguing for a stay of the CRTC’s decision, CJMS notes the precedent of cases involving Toronto’s CKLN-FM 88.1 and the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network. One of the filings even accidentally refers to CKLN where it should refer to CJMS.

In both those cases, the court did halt enforcement of the CRTC’s decision, but in both those cases it eventually sided with the CRTC and those stations were forced off the air.

You can read the CJMS appeal documents here.

UPDATE (Sept. 11): The station went off the air again on Thursday. A Facebook post says it’s a temporary shutdown for maintenance, but that’s some suspicious timing.

CRTC gives Haitian radio station CPAM 1410 another chance

Almost a month after refusing to renew the licence of country music station CJMS 1040 for failure to abide by its licence conditions, the CRTC has ended the suspense of what it would do for sister station CPAM Radio Union (CJWI) 1410, which was brought before the commission on the same day to answer the same apparent compliance issues.

In a decision published Thursday, the commission has decided to give that station another chance, renewing its licence for two years and imposing special conditions including three mandatory orders (even though it found the station in breach of two of its three previous mandatory orders), a requirement to broadcast their non-compliance, and a de facto fine of $2,836 (for the harm done to the Canadian music industry by not playing enough Canadian music).

The renewal comes despite the commission finding that “the licensee seems to lack both the willingness and the knowledge required to operate the station in compliance.”

So what was the big difference between the two stations? Why was one renewed and the other not? Partly because of their history (CJMS had more issues dating from before it was taken over by CPAM), but partly because the CRTC felt that the Haitian station made an effort to solve its issues with the commission:

However, after hearing the licensee during the public hearing, the Commission acknowledges that, despite its belated efforts, the licensee contacted Commission staff many times to obtain clarifications on its music programming obligations. The Commission notes that the licensee appears to now better understand the nature of the music categories and the appropriate manner to compile them. Further, the licensee mentioned multiple time to the Commission during the public hearing that it, if in doubt, it would contact the Commission to verify its understanding.

Although the licensee has a history of severe and repeated non-compliance, it demonstrated a willingness to continue operating CJWI in compliance and proposed additional corrective measures to try to comply with its obligations.

Of course, CPAM also owns CJMS and I don’t see how its efforts to save CJWI are more significant. The history (CJMS had been threatened with licence revocation before) is probably the more important factor, and the fact that CJWI serves a marginalized community can’t be overlooked. Had it been a simple commercial station the commission may have had less patience.

A two-year renewal and mandatory orders suggest this may be CJWI’s last chance to satisfy the commission. If the same issues come up next time, they’re probably looking at non-renewal, no matter how much the community may care about it.

In the meantime, as I’m writing this, CJMS is still on the air, with two days left in its licence. Programming director Jocelyn Benoit says the station will continue as an online-only broadcast as of Sept. 1, and has renamed its Facebook group and page from “CJMS 1040” to “CJMS 2.0”.

Global Montreal repays Jamie Orchard’s decades of service by laying her off

Jamie Orchard at her desk in the Global Montreal studio

In 1997, as the Global Television Network was preparing to launch a new station in Quebec, it tapped a 31-year-old entertainment reporter for market leader CFCF to be one of its anchors. Jamie Orchard told the Montreal Gazette at the time that “it was one of those offers I couldn’t resist. Being part of a new station getting off the ground is rare opportunity and an unbelievable challenge.”

At first, she hosted an entertainment show on the local station. Then the morning show, another entertainment show, the late-night newscast, and since 2004 she has been the senior anchor and the face of the station and its local news.

Or had. On Thursday, Orchard announced that she had been laid off, one of apparently dozens of people across the country that Corus Entertainment has decided are no longer needed.

While it’s usually standard procedure in broadcast media to have on-air staff escorted out the door when they’re told they’re being dumped, and certainly never put in front of a live microphone again, Orchard was allowed to stay on for another month, keeping the news secret that whole time, and give an on-air goodbye. (It doesn’t look like Global posted it online.)

It’s a testament to the trust Orchard has built with the station, and its viewers, and station manager Karen Macdonald, who has also been with it since the beginning.

Orchard’s social media announcement sparked a lot of reaction, including a message from Montreal’s mayor and its former mayor.

The union, headed by veteran reporter Anne Leclair, also issued a statement saying “Jamie is an excellent journalist who always approached every subject with great professionalism. She is a model for ethical journalism. We are also losing an important voice and key connection between our newsroom and Montreal’s English-speaking community.” The statement notes that the station has lost 10% of its newsroom permanent staff this summer, not including Orchard.

Naturally, the news angered Global Montreal’s viewers. Not that it has too many of them, falling well behind CTV Montreal in audience for its entire existence.

Its small audience may be loyal, but their threats to change the channel won’t matter. Local news is a money loser for Global in eastern Canada, and cutting costs has more of an effect on the bottom line than feeding that loyalty.

My reaction to this news isn’t so much anger as it is disappointment. Global seemed to be headed in the right direction. After years of cutting to the bone and centralizing the tasks of news production, there seemed to be an air of renewal, with new staff being hired and a new focus on online reporting as the future of journalism. But this summer, facing a budget crunch caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Global backtracked and laid off that young, diverse workforce it had just hired.

Since I first visited Global Montreal and met Orchard more than a decade ago, I was left with the impression that the small station with limited resources had one special thing going for it: its staff was close, like a family. That’s why, I was told at the time, staff turnover was so low.

It’s why Orchard said she would stay as the station’s anchor for as long as it would have her. It’s why she was allowed to say goodbye on air, because she could be trusted with that.

It’s unfortunate that, 23 years later, Corus Entertainment couldn’t be nearly as loyal to Orchard as she was to her employer.

UPDATE (Sept. 22): Rather than hire a new anchor, Global has decided to have Montreal’s local evening newscast anchored out of Toronto.

CRTC orders CJMS 1040 AM to shut down Aug. 31

After more than a decade of the station failing to meet its licence obligations, the CRTC decided Friday it has had enough, and refused to renew the licence of St-Constant country music station CJMS 1040 AM. As a result, it will no longer legally be allowed on the air after Aug. 31.

The decision reads:

In light of the severity and recurrence of the current instances of non-compliance; of the station’s history of non-compliance and the licensee’s actions, which demonstrate a poor understanding of its conditions of licence and regulatory obligations, or a lack of willingness to respect them; of its inability to implement the necessary measures to ensure compliance; and of its disregard for the Commission’s authority and for its responsibilities as a broadcaster, the Commission is convinced that the imposition of conditions of licence or of mandatory orders, a suspension, or a short-term licence renewal would not be effective measures. Consequently, the Commission finds that not renewing the licence is the only appropriate measure in the circumstances.

In a separate decision also released Friday, the commission also refused to renew the licence of troublesome station CFOR-FM Maniwaki.

CJMS, which launched in 1999, has a long history of licence compliance issues, and might have had the licence revoked in 2013 had its owner of the time, Alexandre Azoulay, not agreed to sell it to Jean Ernest Pierre, owner of Haitian station CJWI (CPAM 1410). When CJMS was last asked to appear before the commission, Azoulay surprised the commissioners by blaming his father’s dementia for the compliance issues.

There’s also the fact that Michel Mathieu, a broadcast consultant who was the original licensee of CJMS, filed a strongly-worded intervention demanding the CRTC pull the license.

The decision should worry Pierre about the future of CJWI, which like CJMS has a long list of compliance issues and was the subject of mandatory orders that appeared to be insufficient to keep it in line. But CJWI has more original programming and is more vital to its community than CJMS, and the fact that the CRTC didn’t issue a decision Friday, giving the stations exactly one month before they were to shut down, suggests it might be given one last chance.

CJMS could appeal the decision, by asking the federal government to intervene or by asking the federal court to overturn the decision if it can find some error in law. Pierre told the Journal de Montréal he’s looking at options. But neither are likely to succeed. Instead, if someone wants to start a new commercial radio station serving St-Constant, there’s a transmitter that can probably be bought for pretty cheap.

Other country options

So if you’re a fan of country music in Montreal, where can you go for your fix? There aren’t any big commercial country stations here like in other Canadian markets, but you have options besides going online:

UPDATE (Aug. 29): It looks like for the time being the plan is to keep CJMS running as an online-only radio station once its licence expires. Program director Jocelyn Benoit posted on Facebook that it would continue streaming as of Sept. 1, and he renamed the station’s Facebook group and page from “CJMS 1040” to “CJMS 2.0”.

UPDATE (Sept. 1): CJMS went off the air at 38 seconds after midnight on Sept. 1. I recorded its final minute on air, which ended with announcer Jocelyn Benoit being cut off mid-sentence.

A new website is being worked on at cjms.ca.

CJMS 1040 AM, CJWI 1410 AM fight for their lives in CRTC hearing

Jean Ernest Pierre is appearing in front of the CRTC on Wednesday hoping to save the two radio stations he owns.

Country music station CJMS 1040 AM and Haitian station CPAM Radio Union (CJWI 1410 AM) are two of the five stations that were told to appear at a CRTC hearing in Gatineau to justify their licence renewal applications, and explain why those renewals should not be for short terms or straight up denied because of their repeated non-compliance with their licence obligations. (The hearing, originally scheduled in person on May 12, will now be by teleconference June 16-18.)

Both CJMS and CJWI not only have short-term licences already, but both are subject to mandatory orders to require they remain in compliance with their obligations. Both stations have nevertheless had compliance issues, the commission says.

CJWI and CJMS had their licences renewed for two years in 2018 and three mandatory orders issued to each station after failure to comply with mainly paperwork-related issues.

For CJMS, which hasn’t had a compliant licence term since it was first licensed in 1998, “the Commission remains concerned that CJMS continues to be in severe and recurring non-compliance and that this is the fifth consecutive licence term in which the station has been found in non-compliance with regulatory requirements,” it said two years ago. Now, in its sixth licence term, it is still not compliant.

Compliance issues

CJMS

  • Missing financial statements for the 2018-19 broadcast year. Pierre blamed this on the accountant uploading a file that may have been too large for the CRTC’s server.
  • Inaccurate music lists, comparing the station’s auto-evaluation report with its music list for the period of Nov. 4-10, 2018. Pierre said some songs were miscategorized.

CJWI

  • Missing financial statements for the 2018-19 broadcast year. Pierre blamed this on the accountant uploading a file that may have been too large for the CRTC’s server.
  • Music quotas (based on a self-evaluation and music list for the period of July 7-13, 2019):
    • Too much popular music (31.32% vs. 30% maximum)
    • Too much francophone popular music (25.6% vs. 15% maximum)
    • Not enough world beat and international music (68.68% vs. 70% minimum)
    • Not enough of its world beat and international music selections were Canadian (15.8% vs. 35% minimum)
  • Inaccurate music lists (based on the same self-evaluation and music list). Pierre said music-related non-conformities were because some songs played in the system but were muted by the host and so never actually broadcast.

In addition to these, both stations are accused of failing to abide by mandatory orders requiring them to remain in compliance with their licence conditions.

Interventions

The applications prompted four interventions, all of which were sent by fax and seemed to share a similar format. Broadcast consultant Michel Mathieu, who co-founded CJMS, and three others said the commission should not renew the licences because of the compliance issues, and brought up additional ones, including that CJMS had been filled with “ethnic” programming from the Haitian station and that CJMS had been continuing to broadcast repeat programming hosted by Pascal Poudrier, who died two years ago.

Pierre called criticisms of Haitian-Canadians on CJMS “racist” and said conformity issues were due to “technical problems” and non-renewal of licences would be an extreme reaction to this.

The CRTC hearing into licence renewals of non-compliant stations begins June 16 with CICR-FM Parrsboro, N.S., and CKMN-FM Rimouski/Mont-Joli, Quebec, followed by CJWI and CJMS on June 17 and CFOR-FM Maniwaki on June 18. Mathieu has been invited to speak as an intervener on the 17th, following which Pierre will be given a chance to respond.

Radio-Classique 99,5 is dead; WKND 99,5 launches June 17

Those who hadn’t paid attention when the financial and regulatory process was under way were probably surprised when they tuned to their favourite classical music station on Sunday and heart franco pop music instead.

Leclerc Communication, which got CRTC approval for its acquisition of CJPX-FM in April, officially took over the station at 2pm on Friday, according to a Facebook post from Nicolas Leclerc, vice-president of sales and marketing. Quebec City’s CJSQ-FM was not part of the sale and remains a Radio Classique station, though who knows how long it can hold out without a Montreal big brother.

Leclerc will relaunch CJPX-FM as WKND 99,5, with the same branding as its Quebec City station, on Wednesday at 5pm. Until then, its programming is 100% francophone music. Leclerc says the station will start with 100% music programming for the first few weeks before official programming begins.

WKND’s website is montreal.wknd.fm. No spoilers there about programming.

Énergie 98,9 drops talk format, goes back to rock music

Maybe Quebec City isn’t such a strange creature after all. On Friday, Énergie 98,9 (CHIK-FM) told its talk personalities their services are no longer required and it would go back to being a rock music station.

Let go were afternoon host Jérôme Landry, who had been there for four years, plus morning host Stéphane Gasse, as well as Laurent Gaulin, Samuel Matte, Alexandre Tétreault, Marie-Josée Longval, Pierre-Yves Boies and Nicolas Lacroix.

Bell Media told me it would not comment on layoffs or say how many there were.

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Radio ratings: COVID-19 causes sports radio audiences to plummet

I had an idea for a blog post with a cool analysis showing the changes in radio listening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would show, through a bunch of number-crunching, that Canadians turned away from music radio stations as they stopped going to work, but kept in touch with news-talk stations.

Unfortunately, the data didn’t have my back here. I compared average minute audience measured by Numeris from this spring (March to May) versus last spring, and looked at the relative change in audience. While some news-talkers did well (98.5 and CJAD in Montreal), others did badly (CBC Radio One here and in some other cities).

There were some undeniable trends, though, and they aren’t terribly surprising:

Sports radio: Without sports, there’s much less interest in hearing it or talking about it. Every sports-talk station in Canada’s five largest markets lost audience, between 50% to 72%. Hardest hit was Montreal’s 91,9 Sports.

All-traffic stations were also hit, but because there are only two of them in Canada and they have very low audience, it’s hard to really quantify that.

Less listening overall: Montreal’s total average-minute audience was 202,600 a year ago, and 167,400 this spring, the lowest level since Numeris began publishing overall AMA numbers in 2015. Across Canada, the same deal, with each of the five major markets losing between 10 and 18% of its average audience.

So with that out of the way, here’s how the ratings break down by city:

Montreal

Total average minute audience, spring 2020 (vs. spring 2019):

  1. 98,5fm: 38,900 (up from 32,000)
  2. Rythme FM; 20,200 (down from 22,000)
  3. ICI Radio-Canada Première: 18,700 (down from 21,800)
  4. CJAD: 14,500 (up from 14,100)
  5. CKOI: 12,300 (down from 19,000)
  6. CHOM 97.7: 12,100 (down from 15,900)
  7. The Beat 92.5: 11,600 (down from 17,200)
  8. Rouge: 11,100 (down from 19,700)
  9. Énergie 94,3: 8,300 (down from 11,700)
  10. Virgin Radio 95.9: 6,700 (down from 9,700)
  11. ICI Musique: 4,100 (down from 5,100)
  12. CBC Radio One: 3,900 (down from 6,100)
  13. CBC Music: 1,400 (down from 1,700)
  14. CHRF AM 980: 1,400 (up from 500)
  15. TSN Radio 690: 1,200 (down from 2,500)
  16. 91,9 Sports: 900 (down from 3,300)
  17. Radio Circulation 730: 100 (down from 300)

Of the 17 measured stations, only three (which I’ve bolded here) saw ratings increases from a year ago. One is CHRF, which has since shut down. The other two are commercial talk stations.

Anglo average minute audience:

  1. CJAD: 13,500
  2. The Beat: 6,800
  3. CHOM: 5,600
  4. CBC Radio One: 3,600
  5. Virgin: 3,100
  6. CBC Music: 1,200
  7. TSN 690: 1,100
  8. 98,5fm: 900
  9. ICI Première: 700
  10. Rythme: 600
  11. Énergie: 600

Things got so bad for TSN Radio it dropped below CBC Music in terms of audience share, both among anglos and overall. Meanwhile, Virgin Radio is still behind CBC Radio One and less than half the audience of The Beat. “Montreal’s #1 Hit Music Station” is going to have to do more than replace its morning team to fix this disparity.

Self-congratulations

Toronto

Biggest gains:

  1. Jazz.FM91: 28%*
  2. Q107: 22%
  3. CHFI: 17%
  4. CBC Radio One: 14%

Biggest losses:

  1. TSN Radio 1050: 67%
  2. Sportsnet 590: 67%
  3. G98.7: 53%*
  4. Virgin Radio: 48%
  5. Jewel 88.5: 48%
  6. Energy 95.3: 43%*
  7. Zoomer AM740: 41%

*Station-specific issues probably had a bigger role in these changes: Internal turmoil at Jazz FM and G98.7, and a format change at Energy (formerly Fresh 95.3).

Calgary

Biggest gains:

  1. CBC Music: 38%
  2. 101.5 Today: 32%
  3. Funny 1060: 25%

Biggest losses:

  1. Sportsnet 960: 50%
  2. 90.3 AMP: 50%
  3. Virgin Radio: 36%

Edmonton

Biggest gains:

  1. 840 CFCW: 39%
  2. CBC Radio One: 10%

Biggest losses:

  1. TSN 1260: 61%
  2. Kiss 91.7: 37%
  3. CISN Country: 35%
  4. 95.7 Cruz FM: 34%
  5. 102.3 Now!: 32%

Vancouver

Biggest gains:

  1. CBC Music: 57%
  2. Peak 102.7: 48%
  3. JRfm: 37%
  4. Global News Radio: 37%
  5. BNN Bloomberg: 33%*

Biggest losses:

  1. Sportsnet 650: 71%
  2. AM730 (Traffic): 70%*
  3. Rock 101: 34%
  4. CBC Radio One: 33%
  5. TSN 1040: 23%

*Stations with very low audience will see exaggerated relative changes.

Evanov Radio shuts down CHRF 980 AM

Evanov Radio’s CHRF 980 AM in Montreal announced it has shut down effective midnight Sunday.

Host Serge Plaisance announced on the station’s website that he’s moving to its sister station, CFMB 1280 AM:

Ici Serge Plaisance,

Chers amis auditrices et auditeurs du AM980, CHRF, c’est avec regret que nous vous annonçons la fermeture définitive du AM980, ce dimanche, 31 mai 2020, à minuit.

Un énorme merci de votre écoute, mais heureusement, nous avons une autre station du groupe de Radio Evanov à Montréal, soit le AM 1280, CFMB, une station multilingue, aussi d’une puissance de 50,000 Watts, 24 heures sur 24.

Je vous reverrai, j’espère à cette antenne, avec une nouvelle émission, LES AIIRS DE PLAISANCE , diffusée tous les dimanches de 16 à 18 heures. Prenez note que Johanne Verdon Naturopathe aura son émission tous les lundis de 14 à 15 heures, SANTÉ 360 DEGRÉ et Mario Lipari pour ARCOBALENO MUSICALE, y sera les jeudis de 14 à 15 heures.

C’est un nouveau rendez-vous sur AM 1280 CFMB,

À très bientôt

Serge Plaisance pour Evanov Radio

The news was met with some disappointment from fans on the station’s Facebook page.

Carmela Laurignano, vice-president of Evanov, confirmed to me the company was giving up the licence for the station. Shortly thereafter, the CRTC published a notice that it has revoked the licence at the licensee’s request.

At the end, because of previous cutbacks and COVID-related ones, CHRF was only employing two people, Laurignano said. Both remain with the company, working for CFMB and Evanov’s other Quebec station, CHSV-FM (Jewel 106.7 Hudson).

As I explain in this story for Cartt.ca, Evanov had several reasons for shutting the station down, from the COVID-19 pandemic to a miscalculation of market demand for music on AM and even an obligation to subscribe to Numeris ratings (Numeris policy is all-or-nothing for large broadcasters, with some exceptions that didn’t apply to CHRF). Evanov also puts some blame at the foot of the CRTC for rejecting applications to improve its signals in Toronto that would have given it access to more ad revenue.

CHRF was Evanov’s only French-language radio station. It was awarded the licence as part of a surprisingly competitive CRTC proceeding in 2011 that also saw TSN Radio awarded the 690 frequency (Evanov was given its old 990 frequency and then changed to 980) and TTP Media given a licence for 940 AM.

The plan was for a station called “Radio Fierté” which would target Montreal’s LGBTQ+ community, modelled after the “Pride FM” format in downtown Toronto. But the format lasted less than a year and by the holidays it dropped the brand and moved to a format of Christmas music and Jewel-like easy listening.

“The biggest challenge for the station was that it had to be operated almost as a standalone,” Laurignano said. “There were no programming synergies with our other stations. The news could not be shared in terms of language production. Station imaging, even the sales force for that matter. It requires a dedicated sales force. It just became a situation of the station being subsidized for a long time.”

She didn’t have an exact cumulative figure, but said the losses are in the millions.

Laurignano stressed that the move is in part to protect Evanov’s other Quebec stations. CFMB will remain at the Papineau Ave. studio, and “we’re very dedicated” to it and The Jewel.

The shutdown means a vacancy at 980 (or 990) in Montreal. But even though there were five applicants for two (or three) frequencies in that 2011 hearing, there isn’t much demand for a new full-power AM station here. TTP Media got a licence for its second station at 600 AM (plus a French-language sports station at 850 AM, which it gave up for technical reasons), and Cogeco abandoned plans for an English-language traffic station.

Julia Caron gets to show her love for Quebec City as Quebec AM host

Julia Caron is the new host of Quebec AM (photo: Simon Dumas, via CBC)

I learned a lot about Julia Caron this week, after CBC named her the new permanent host of Quebec AM, the radio show in Quebec City broadcast throughout the province except Montreal and Gatineau.

Over a longer-than-I-expected phone call, she told me about her childhood, her education, her family, her career. But beyond that, I was also interested in hearing from someone who has worked in English in Quebec City for more than a decade about why an anglophone might like to work in a place where few people speak the same language.

But Julia Caron is not an anglophone. Nor is she a francophone. She’s an interesting hybrid of the two, which helps make her a good fit to succeed Susan Campbell in the big chair of that small studio on rue Saint-Jean.

Caron, 34, was born in Halifax, but moved out of there when she was three and spent most of her upbringing in Ontario as part of a military family. “Name a military base in Ontario and I lived there,” she tells me half-jokingly.

The closest thing she has to a home town is Petawawa, Ont., northwest of Ottawa and right on the border of Quebec. Her maternal grandparents live there.

“People like to guess that I’m a franco-ontarian,” she says. And that’s sort of true. Until moving to Quebec City in 2007, she’d never lived in this province, even though all her grandparents have a connection to it. But the franco part isn’t accurate.

“I hate it when people ask me if I’m a francophone or an anglophone,” she says. (She prefers to call herself a franglophone.)

In 2007, the last year of her undergraduate degree studying women’s studies and history at Trent University in Peterborough, Caron took part in an exchange program between Quebec and Ontario. It was a way to ensure she wouldn’t lose her French.

She worked as a tour guide at J.A. Vachon in Ste-Marie-de-Beauce. “Any questions you have about the benefits of Jos Louis,” she told me with a laugh.

“I just felt this warmth here,” she said.

In 2008, she made the move to Quebec City.

For a while, she did what comes naturally to a fully bilingual person in Quebec City: teaching English. But it was hard to earn a living that way, and riding a bus an hour and a half from Cap-Rouge downtown to teach a one-hour course was not ideal.

Enter the 2010 Olympics.

In December 2009, the Olympic torch made its way to Quebec City, and Caron decided to check it out. At one point a journalist asked if she spoke English and could talk about what was going on for the radio.

The journalist was Jacquie Czernin, whose name and voice was very familiar to Caron as an avid CBC Radio listener at the time, but whose face she didn’t immediately recognize.

“After she finished interviewing me, she asked me: are you looking for work?”

Finding someone who can articulate well in English in Quebec City isn’t easy.

Czernin “strongly encouraged me to send my CV to Kim Garrity, who is now my producer,” Caron said.

Caron has worked for CBC in Quebec City ever since. Mostly it was an off-air role, as the researcher for Quebec AM or researcher-technician for Breakaway, a job she still officially had until this week’s announcement. (“Apply for my old gig, it’s a great one,” she interjects.) She also filled in as CBC’s travelling journalist, reporting from communities across Quebec.

With the Quebec AM host chair vacated by Susan Campbell, first as part of a medical leave and then choosing to try another role at CBC, Caron was brought in as a fill-in host, and applied for the permanent job in February.

“It’s been a super-long process,” she tells me. (Even by CBC standards this took a while.) “The pandemic changed everything.”

Since she was already doing the job, and had so many ideas for the show that her interviewers had to ask her to stop listing them, the choice was pretty clear.

So what should listeners expect from the new Julia Caron Quebec AM?

Not much change, at least in the short term. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted most other things to the back burner. “The focus is really on the audience and what they need to know, because things are changing day by day,” she said.

But eventually,  “you might hear a bit more of my passion for the arts,” she said. “It’s one thing I really love doing as a host and haven’t been able to do for a while.”

She also has a bunch of story ideas. One she was willing to share:

“There has been such an expansive appetite for camper vans in Quebec,” she said. Caron bought a 1976 Dodge Tradesman 200 van in 2015 “and it’s been an amazing way to see the province relatively on the cheap.”

Expect to hear about that soon.

And expect to hear more about Caron’s love for her home.

“I absolutely adore everything about Quebec City,” she says. “It’s such a huge privilege to get to (work in English here). … Our listeners are so kind, they’re the kindest people I’ve met in my whole life.”

I asked her what she would say to an anglophone who was considering moving there for a job. Her answer was short: “Do it.”

Despite what outsiders like myself might think, “there is a surprisingly active English-speaking community in Quebec City, you just have to know how to find it.” Even she took a while to find out where anglo culture was thriving there. It may not be the most diverse community, especially when you’re comparing it to greater Toronto, but it’s alive.

“I still would not live anywhere else,” she says.

Not that she could just pick up and go if she wanted to.

Enter Feist.

Caron was going to see a concert featuring the Canadian indie-pop singer and indie rocket Chad VanGaalen when she met a man named Simon “who very quickly charmed me.”

“After my summer in Quebec he promised to visit me in Ontario. I didn’t believe him (but) he did.”

They’ve been together ever since and have a four-year-old daughter together. So she’s in this to stay.

Quebec AM airs 6-8:30am weekdays on CBC Radio One on the Quebec Community Network (CBVE-FM 104.7 and transmitters throughout the province). You can follow Julia Caron on Twitter and Instagram.

Nancy Wood leaves anchor chair: Meanwhile in Montreal, Nancy Wood announced she is leaving her anchor chair this summer, at least temporarily, to join the web desk and try something new. “I may or may not come back to TV…we’ll see how it goes!” she writesSean Henry moves from weekends to fill in for her.