Posted in My articles, Radio

The Beat cancels Anne-Marie Withenshaw’s All Access Weekend (and she’s suing over it)

Anne-Marie Withenshaw filed a lawsuit against Cogeco Diffusion in Quebec Superior Court this week.

Anne-Marie Withenshaw filed a lawsuit against Cogeco Diffusion in Quebec Superior Court this week.

Listeners to 92.5 The Beat may have noticed that it’s no longer broadcasting its weekly All Access Weekend show with Anne-Marie Withenshaw, and that all evidence of her has been wiped from the station’s website.

Now we know that the station has decided to cancel the show as part of an apparent new direction in programming that involves on-air personalities being heard less and less. But what makes this story different from every other radio-personality-is-fired stories is that she’s responding with a lawsuit.

I explain the details of the suit in this story in the Montreal Gazette. Essentially, she and her company Killer Queen Productions are alleging that the station strung her along under false pretences after her contract expired at the end of August, making her believe they would renew her contract in order to prevent her from jumping to another station.

That allegation hasn’t been proven in court, and station owner Cogeco Diffusion will have a chance to present a defence.

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Posted in Montreal, Radio

CFMB 1280 AM sells to Evanov Radio for $1.125 million

Control room at CFMB's main studio in the basement of its office

CFMB’s studios in Westmount

Evanov Radio hasn’t launched its first radio station in Quebec, but it’s already working on its third.

Earlier today, staff at CFMB 1280 AM were informed that the station has been sold to the Toronto-based company. The sale, for $1.125 million, has to be approved by the CRTC, for which an application was filed last Friday.

I have more details about the acquisition in this story for the Montreal Gazette, which appears in Wednesday’s paper, and this story at Cartt.ca, which gives a more national perspective about Evanov.

The sale ends a 52-year run for CFMB under the ownership of founder Casimir Stanczykowski and his family. After his death in a car accident in 1981, it was up to his widow Anne-Marie and son Stefan to manage it with business partner and minority owner Andrew Mielewczyk.

But Mielewczyk and Anne-Marie Stanczykowski are well past ready to retire, and Stefan Stanczykowski is a lawyer who wants to return to that practice. Though he describes the decision to sell as bittersweet, and it was originally turned down a couple of years ago, he said he believes it’s the best decision for the future of the station.

For its part, Evanov doesn’t plan any cuts among the station’s staff of about 50. The vision is to eventually move the station’s offices and studios to co-locate with Radio Fierté on Papineau Ave. downtown. And there could be shared programming with Evanov’s other multilingual stations, CIAO 530 in Toronto and CKJS 810 in Winnipeg (the latter was also founded by Casimir Stanczykowski, but later sold to Newcap, who sold it to Evanov).

Radio Fierté 980 AM and another station, The Jewel 106.7 (CHSV-FM) in Hudson/St-Lazare, are in on-air testing and set to launch once that’s complete, officially before Christmas but with major announcements in the new year. Both will employ about 20 people.

If approved by the CRTC, CFMB would become the 18th radio station in the Evanov group, of which 14 stations (15 including this one) were launched or acquired in the past 10 years.

I wrote more about CFMB in a feature story that appeared in 2012 for its 50th anniversary.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the frequency of CIAO AM in Toronto. It’s 530, not 540.

Posted in Media

Transcontinental sells 15 magazines to TVA for $55.5 million

The transfer of large collections of print media to and from Quebecor has taken another step, with the announcement that Transcontinental is selling 15 magazines to its Groupe TVA subsidiary for $55.5 million (or $3.7 million each on average). (Quebecor release, Transcontinental release)

The deal, which also includes a contract that will see Transcontinental continue printing those magazines for seven years, includes the following (with number of editions a year and average circulation where I could find it):

French magazines

  • Coup de pouce (general consumer magazine for women) — 12 x 209,260
  • Véro Magazine (women’s lifestyle magazine tied to TV personality Véronique Cloutier) — 4 issues/year
  • Décormag (home decorating) — 10 x 74,038
  • Fleurs Plantes Jardins (gardening) — 6 x 54,166
  • Québec Vert (horticulture) — 6 x 6,200
  • MaisonNeuves.com
  • Condo Maison Direct
  • Elle Québec (51%, with Hearst) (fashion and beauty) — 12 x 81,211
  • Le Bel Âge (50%, with Bayard Group) (lifestyle magazine for seniors) — 11 x 130,122

English titles

  • The Hockey News — 24 x 100,058
  • Canadian Living (general lifestyle) — 12 x 521,169
  • Style at Home (home decorating) — 12 x 233,878
  • Canadian Gardening — 6 x 92,624
  • Elle Canada (51%, with Hearst) (fashion and beauty) — 12 x 126,967
  • Good Times (50%, with Bayard Group) (lifestyle magazine for seniors) — 11 x 131,487

Digital

Not included are Les Affaires magazine or other business publications, or magazines regional to Western Canada, Vancouver Magazine and Western Living.

These would be the first major English magazines to come under the umbrella of TVA Publications.

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Posted in Radio

Tony Stark leaves Virgin Radio (again)

Tony Stark

Tony Stark, the evening host at Virgin Radio 96, surprised his listeners Thursday by announcing that that was his last show and he’s leaving the station he’s worked at for four and a half years.

Stark didn’t say why he’s leaving, saying only that he’d make an announcement in a few weeks. This almost certainly suggests that he’s moving to another station that isn’t ready to announce his hiring yet.

My guess on that would be Jump! 106.9 in Ottawa, based on some circumstantial but telling evidence I’ve seen. The station recently announced a job opening for a morning show host, which would make sense. We’ll see if that’s true. Jump, CKQB-FM, was The Bear until a relaunch this spring under the management of Mark Dickie, the former general manager at The Beat in Montreal. It’s a mainstream top 40 station, and has a style similar to Virgin.

Two years ago, Stark announced he was leaving Virgin for another job at a radio station in Halifax. But then he changed his mind and stayed in Montreal. He said the reconsideration was for “personal reasons” without elaborating.

Kelly Alexander has been shuffled over to Stark’s 6-11pm time slot at Virgin. Program Director Mark Bergman says he’ll be “searching the planet for the best possible person to fill this role” over the next few weeks.

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Posted in Media

Even more journalists of tomorrow

Once a year, my employer the Montreal Gazette hands out bursaries to promising Concordia University journalism students. For the past four years, I’ve been interviewing the winners after they receive their awards to ask them about themselves and their thoughts on the future of journalism. I posted one set of interviews in 2010 and another in 2011.

Though I did more interviews in 2012 and 2013, I never got around to posting them. Today, another set of students will be coming in to receive these bursaries, so I figured it’s time to find those dusty notebooks and finally post what these people told me, along with some updates of what they’ve done since.

So here we are, another series of profiles of, if the selection committee is right, journalism’s latest rising stars:

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Posted in Radio

Hudson radio station The Jewel 106.7 begins testing

The Jewel 106.7

Less than two months after getting CRTC approval for a new transmitter site, CHSV-FM 106.7 in Hudson has begun transmitting.

The station, owned by Evanov Radio subsidiary Dufferin Communications and carrying the brand The Jewel, is currently in its on-air testing phase, which began Nov. 4. Another Evanov station, Radio Fierté 980 AM, is also testing and will launch in January with about 10 full-time employees.

The Jewel is an easy-listening format and has six stations in Ontario and another in Winnipeg. The Hudson station at 1,420 watts ERP should easily cover the western off-island area, plus adjacent areas like Oka, the West Island and Ile Perrot. Reception in the Montreal area is complicated by co-channel interference from WIZN 106.7 in Burlington, Vt., and in eastern Ontario it should be wiped out by Jump 106.9 (CKQB-FM).

Like Fierté, The Jewel is playing music and station IDs. It asks anyone who finds problems to email signal@jewel1067.com.

UPDATE: No word on a launch date, which has more to do with when Industry Canada gives its approval than anything else. If there are no problems reported, “we should be officially on the air by Christmas,” says Evanov VP Carmela Laurignano. “For the first while we will have a music intensive program. The full format will roll out in the new year.”

The station expects to have about 20 employees. No names have been released yet.

Posted in Radio

Bell Media kills Bob FM in Ottawa, turns it into country station

Bob FM OttawaIt’s been almost eight months since the last time an Ottawa radio station suddenly abandoned its format and pissed off its listeners, so I guess it was time to do it again.

On Monday evening, Bell Media, owner of CKKL-FM (Bob FM) announced via the station’s website and Facebook page that the station is no more.

“Market conditions have changed, and it’s time for us to pursue a new opportunity,” reads the vague message, which suggests not so much a shutdown but a rebrand and format change.

Brief announcements on the station that said “something new is coming” confirmed this.

Bob FM is an “adult hits” format, meaning songs your parents remember (or you remember if you’re a parent yourself).

newcountry94On Wednesday morning, a press release announced that the new station, to be launched today, will be called New Country 94, and will be a country music station. (Its webiste is newcountry94.com, registered on Oct. 9.)

The new format puts it up against Rogers station New Country 101.1 FM (CKBY-FM) in Smiths Falls, whose 100kW signal reaches Ottawa but also places like Renfrew and Brockville.

Five on-air staff let go

The change means that five on-air personalities have lost their jobs, according to The Canadian Press. But they will be replaced with new talent.

Among those laid off is John Mielke, the owner of Milkman Unlimited, which posts job opportunities at radio stations in Canada. He posted an update to that website about his own job cut.

The Ottawa Citizen has some online reaction from fans about the disappearance of Bob FM.

Ratings information from Numeris this spring showed the station with a 2.6% share, or about the middle of the pack for English-language music stations. But the share was in decline, which might have convinced management that a change in format was the way to go.

That same data showed Country 101 having a 6.1% share in the Ottawa market.

Posted in Opinion, TV

24 myths about the CRTC, TV and Netflix

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais has had to answer for decisions that the CRTC hasn't made or positions it hasn't proposed.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais has had to answer for decisions that the CRTC hasn’t made or positions it hasn’t proposed.

Over two weeks of CRTC hearings over the future of television in September, I monitored discussion over Twitter. And I saw a lot of crazy ideas being thrown out about the commission, some of which I might simply disagree with, but much of which is just plain inaccurate or misinformed. Since then, the volume has died down, but the same points keep getting brought up.

So to try to clear things up, here are some things people are saying about the CRTC and how television is regulated in Canada that could use a reality check.

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Posted in TV

Radio-Canada shutting down its costume department

Here’s a story that’s getting very little attention in the anglophone media: Radio-Canada is shutting down its costume department at the Maison Radio-Canada in Montreal, which will cease activities on Dec. 7 and shut down entirely at the end of March.

It’s a cut that’s expected to result in three job losses.

What’s upsetting about this to people like C’est juste de la TV’s Dave Ouellet, seen in the video above, is that the costume department isn’t just a closet of dresses. It’s a tool used by television and theatre productions, whether associated with Radio-Canada or not (Les Appendices, a Télé-Québec show, makes use of it), and it’s a cultural archive with many pieces that are historic because they were worn by important figures in Quebec’s cultural history.

And because it rents out costumes, but few people seem to know about this, there’s an argument that it could be made to pay for itself or even make a profit for the CBC if properly managed.

There’s a Facebook page and a petition to save the costume department, but it looks like the decision is made and unlikely to be reversed.

The good news is that heritage costumes won’t be thrown into the garbage. Radio-Canada has identified 72 of the more than 90,000 costumes that would be saved. The rest would be auctioned off, given to the highest bidder — presumably a private costume company — who can continue to make them available to Quebecers.

That wouldn’t be the worst outcome. If the CBC can’t make a collection of 90,000 costumes profitable, then maybe it should go to a private company who can. But taking this collection out of the public control and leaving it to the whims of a private company is a big risk.

I can only hope that Radio-Canada structures its tender for bids and eventual contract so that our cultural institutions can still make use of these costumes without paying through the nose for them.

More from La Presse and Radio-Canada.

Posted in Media

Le Devoir launches tablet app

After La Presse and the Montreal Gazette, Le Devoir has become the latest Montreal newspaper to launch an enhanced tablet app.

Le Devoir’s app, which like its website is available only to paid subscribers (but is free until Dec. 8), isn’t as flashy as its competitors, but it does offer some nice features, including working crossword puzzles and the ability to read in portrait or landscape mode (La Presse+ and the Gazette app are landscape-only). The app is also meant to be read offline after downloading.

It’s available for both the iPad (iPad 2+) and Android tablets (OS 4.4 and above). It promises each edition (Monday to Saturday) will be ready by 4am.

If you don’t subscribe to Le Devoir, you can buy each issue for $1.99. Or you can get a web-and-tablet subscription with no delivery for $17.75 a month, or a digital subscription plus Saturday-only paper delivery for $19.75 a month.

For more details, Le Devoir has an information page with frequently asked questions, and an introduction from publisher Bernard Descôteaux. He also explains that the print edition isn’t going anywhere, and that they don’t have the means to compete with La Presse+ directly.

And Mario Garcia has an interview with designer Lucia Lacava.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Montreal Gazette loses senior manager to sudden death

Ross Teague (photo: Allen McInnis for the Montreal Gazette)

Ross Teague (photo: Allen McInnis for the Montreal Gazette)

On the copy desk of a major newspaper, like in other newsrooms, the employees have developed somewhat of an immunity to the horrors of life. On a daily basis they deal with terrible stories about people dying, whether it’s in war overseas, in a car crash in your home town, or in unusual circumstances just about anywhere. We make macabre jokes that could easily cost us our jobs if they were ever made public. Not because we don’t care about the lives lost, but because it’s how we have learned cope with the exposure without sacrificing our souls.

Ross Teague knew all about this, because he was one of us. He started working at the Montreal Gazette in 1990, and spent many nights working late putting the paper together on deadline (back when paper was the only medium, and the only deadline that counted).

By the time I got to the Gazette in 2005, Teague was a manager with a day job. In fact, he had just become the paper’s city editor, replacing the man who hired me and got poached by the Journal de Montréal before I started my first shift. Most recently, Teague was the “executive producer” of montrealgazette.com, the man responsible for everything having to do with that website.

Until Tuesday night, when he died suddenly. A heart attack, I’m told through the grapevine. He was 56.

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Posted in In the news, Media, Opinion

Some things to consider before your next Jian Ghomeshi think piece

This post was updated Oct. 31 with some new information that has come forward, particularly about how the CBC handled this affair.

When news broke on Friday that Jian Ghomeshi, one of CBC’s biggest personalities, was taking a leave for unspecified “personal reasons”, it seemed suspicious. When news broke on Sunday that the CBC had terminated its relationship with him, it seemed unbelievable. And then it got worse: a $55-million lawsuit, and reports of eight women (oh wait, make that nine) coming forward and saying he abused them, with stories that seem disturbingly similar.

I don’t have any exclusive reporting on the subject — Toronto media personalities are not my specialty and there are plenty of Toronto journalists covering that — but I’ve been seeing so many misinformed comments on social media that I thought it would be useful to round up what is being said and make a few points to better educate those who are talking about this. I’m not an expert in employment law, human sexuality or most other fields, so I’ll try to link to experts where possible. Feel free to suggest other points or improve existing ones if you’re more of an expert than me.

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Posted in Radio

Radio Fierté begins testing on 980 AM

Montreal’s newest radio station, and its first new general-interest commercial AM station in just about forever, is now transmitting as it undergoes the final stage before launch.

For a couple of weeks now, radio watchers have been noticing an open carrier — silence instead of static — on 980 AM. Now that signal is starting to carry music as the station begins its on-air testing in preparation for launch.

Radio Fierté CHRF is owned by Evanov Radio Group, which also owns Proud FM in Toronto, and the two have the same purpose, to serve the local LGBT community. Fierté will be Evanov’s first French-language radio station. Evanov told me last month that the station is expected to be on air by mid-November, so it’s a bit ahead of schedule. The actual launch is expected in January.

Evanov hasn’t announced hires yet, but Marie-Noëlle (Marino) Gagnon has announced she will be the station’s music director and one of its hosts. The general sales manager is Alain Tanguay, and Yvan Ruel is the project coordinator.

The station’s application to the CRTC proposed a format of half music, half talk. The proposed program schedule was vague, but indicated mainly music on evenings and weekends. Though it would be mainly directed at the estimated 5-10% of the population that is gay (Evanov believes it could be even higher than that), its music and information is also designed to appeal to a wider audience.

Its application promises some shows “will take a deeper look at issues of a more serious nature such as relationships, sex, health, politics and current events” with invited experts and call-in shows. Other shows will be music with “light banter.” It proposes 4-6 minutes of hard news an hour, and another 3-7 minutes an hour of sports, weather and traffic.

The application shows a projected annual budget of $1 million to $1.5 million a year, based on ad rates averaging between $42 and $72 a minute.

The station is playing mainly pop music in French and English (Tegan and Sara, Coeur de Pirate, Daft Punk, and a bunch of the songs you’d hear on The Beat or Virgin), but promises a mix of pop, disco and techno. Between songs, it’s airing several recorded messages noting the testing period, and identifying the station as “the first francophone LGBT station in North America” and “radio arc-en-ciel”. People who identify issues related to the transmission are asked to email info@radiofierte980.com.

Fierté was approved by the CRTC in 2011, in the same proceeding that gave approval for CKGM (TSN Radio) to move to clear channel 690 AM. Fierté had originally been approved to take over the vacated 990 frequency and the same pattern as CKGM formerly had, but found that moving to 980 AM and adopting a less directional pattern at reduced power would result in better coverage at night. The CRTC approved a frequency and pattern change last December.