With less than three weeks to go until Super Bowl LI, the rhetoric is heating up about a decision made by the CRTC two years ago to end simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl, now that it’s about to finally come into effect.
There’s good reason for this. Simultaneous substitution is worth $250 million to the Canadian television industry, according to one estimate, and substitution for the Super Bowl alone — the most watched program on Canadian TV every year with an average around 7 million (plus another 1 million on RDS) — is worth $18 million a year to Bell Media, which owns the Canadian rights through 2019. There’s a huge financial interest for Bell to keep fighting this.
In the arguments for and against the decision, from interest groups, newspaper columnists and others, there have been a lot of good points and a lot of poor ones made. Those who want to oversimplify this issue have taken plenty of logical short cuts that can lead casual observers to incorrect conclusions.
Here are some of the arguments used by both sides that I’ve heard over the past few weeks (in some cases I’ve included links to those who have used them or implied them), and why I think those arguments are invalid.
Rogers Media has announced the cast of Bad Blood, the miniseries about Montreal’s Rizzuto crime family: Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) as Vito Rizzuto, Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) as Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) as Declan Gardiner, and Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint) as Bruno Bonsignori. The series will air on City TV in the fall.
CHXX-FM 100.9, RNC Media’s other station in the Quebec City region, is switching formats, from rock music to adult hits (70s-80s-90s pop), as of Jan. 30. The station, officially licensed to Donnacona, 45km west of the provincial capital, will lose six on-air jobs as it brings in new talent. This change also happened to the Capitale Rock station in Gatineau last fall. The two former rock stations now adopt the same “Pop” branding. But while the Ottawa-Gatineau market has an anglo rock station to fall back on, Quebec City is left without a full-time rock station.
It’s hard to take the Canadian Screen Awards seriously when there are 134 categories, including ones like Best Sound in a Variety or Animated Program or Series, Best Sports Opening/Tease, and Best Biography or Arts Documentary Program or Series. The Oscars, by comparison, have 24 categories. And though the Emmys are a similar mess of too many awards (especially if you include local Emmys), I don’t think that’s necessarily something to look up to.
Anyway, because just about everyone was nominated in the list announced today — the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards got three nominations — there were some accolades for English-language TV series produced in and around Montreal.
19-2, the Bravo cop drama based on a Radio-Canada series by the same name, had nine nominations (most of these categories have equivalents for other types of programs):
Best direction (Louis Choquette)
Original score (Nicolas Maranda)
Photography (Tobia Marier Robitaille)
Picture editing (Arthur Tarnowski)
Writing (Bruce M. Smith)
Lead actor (Adrian Holmes)
Supporting actor (Dan Petronijevic)
Mohawk Girls, the APTN comedy based on the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, had three nominations:
Best comedy series
Best direction (Tracey Deer)
Writing (Cynthia Knight)
Interrupt This Program, the CBC documentary series based in Montreal, had three nominations:
Best direction (Olivier Aghaby)
“Best Biography or Arts Documentary Program or Series”
Documentary picture editing (Geoff Klein)
YidLife Crisis, the online series, had three nominations in digital categories:
Actor (Eli Batalion)
Actor (Jamie Elman)
Original program (fiction)
This Life, the CBC drama based on Radio-Canada’s Nouvelle adresse, had two nominations:
Supporting actress (Lauren Lee Smith)
I may have missed other Quebec-based anglo series nominated for awards (if you spot one, let me know), and there are plenty of Quebec films nominated in the film category (including Xavier Dolan’s Juste la fin du monde).
There were no local nominees in the many categories for news (though shout out to former CBC Montreal anchor Andrew Chang, nominated for best local anchor at CBC Vancouver).
The CRTC has approved two new radio stations for Edmonton: An ethnic station, 10kW at 580 AM, and a French-language community station, 180W at 97.9 FM. There were 10 applications for ethnic stations, not all of them using the same frequency, but the CRTC decided with one existing ethnic station the market could handle only one more at this time.
The commission has yet another vacancy now that Candice Molnar’s term has come to an end. There are now only seven commissioners left, and more will leave as their terms expire. The Trudeau government has made only one appointment — a temporary six-month one — since taking office.
Norway has begun the process of shutting down FM radio, which though it was announced two years ago has gained attention across the world in the past week. (I gave a series of interviews with CBC Radio stations today.) Journalists in other countries are wondering if they could be next. In Canada, at least, that’s just not happening. Digital radio here is still in its infancy.
There was no announcement of this, but CHLX-FM, the RNC Media radio station in Gatineau that became a Rythme FM affiliate, has dropped that affiliation and adopted the brand of WOW FM. On Facebook, the station has been telling listeners the change was made to become “100% local”
La Voix de St-Lo, the community radio station based in the Centre communautaire Bon Courage de Place Benoit in Saint-Laurent, is moving toward getting the station’s low-power FM transmitter, which was approved last summer, operational. A consultation was held in December about installing the antenna tower, a website has been set up, and the Industry Canada database lists a callsign for it: CJPB-FM. When it’s operational, it will broadcast at 90.7 FM, but its coverage won’t extend much beyond the eastern part of the Saint-Laurent borough.
Canadian University Press, an association of university student newspapers, has dramatically lowered membership fees, one of the key complaints from member papers that has led many to decide to leave the organization, prompting a financial crisis.
Ines de La Cuetara, who previously worked at Global Montreal and CNN and was most recently covering the U.S. presidential election with ABC, is Global News’s new Washington correspondent. She joins Jackson Proskow, who remains in Washington.
Tom Clark, who left his job as host of Global TV’s The West Block, has announced where he’s going. It’s a PR job.
TVA Sports, which is aggressively fighting with RDS for broadcasting rights to sporting events that Quebecers want to watch, scored a pretty big coup today, wrestling away the national French-language Major League Soccer rights from RDS.
Similar to the NHL and other leagues, MLS sells a national package, which includes marquee matchups, events like the all-star game and all playoffs, while the team sells rights to other games in the regular season. (Thankfully, unlike with the NHL, we don’t have to deal with regional game blackouts with MLS.)
TVA Sports’s national rights deal is for five years, from 2017 through 2021.
On the English side, TSN extended its rights agreement for an unspecified number of years (but probably five as well). That means some Impact games (including most likely its matches against Canadian opponents) will continue to be aired on TSN. TSN has all the rights to Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps games, but the English-language package sold by the Impact for its remaining games still seems to be up for grabs.
Financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed, but there were rumours that Sportsnet might try to outbid TSN, and I’m certain RDS wanted to keep its MLS rights.
I won’t compare TVA and RDS broadcasts of Impact games, since everyone seems to have an opinion on stuff like that, but I will note that this means we won’t hear the voice of Claudine Douville doing play-by-play of Impact games anymore. When the number of female voices doing play-by-play can be counted on one hand, it’s unfortunate to lose one.
Radio rights, which are held in English by Bell Media (TSN 690 and CJAD) and in French by Cogeco (98.5fm, though it airs only select games), are unaffected by these deals.
TSN 690 being received via HD Radio signal on 107.3 FM.
As major Canadian broadcasters begin their experimentation with HD Radio transmitters, Bell Media has quietly launched a transmitter on its CITE-FM station in Montreal (Rouge FM 107.3), and is using it to simulcast CJAD 800 and TSN Radio 690.
A Bell Media spokesperson confirmed that this is a “soft launch” of the transmitter, with plans to publicize it more in the coming weeks, once testing is complete and everyone is back from the holidays. The plan is to keep the three channels going forward:
HD1: Rouge FM
HD2: CJAD 800
HD3: TSN 690
The Rouge FM station was chosen for this for technical reasons. I don’t know specifically what they are, but CITE-FM is a full-power station (currently at 42.9kW), and has plenty of space on both sides of the frequency to accommodate the extra channels without causing interference to adjacent-channel stations.
There are no plans “at this point” to add more HD channels.
Dave Maynard, the technical director at CTV Montreal who oversaw the technical side of the station and until recently directed newscasts, retired just before the holidays after 40 years. Among many other things, he oversaw the station’s upgrade to high definition and the creation of its new studio.
It was a simple question, posed to me by a woman in a bar recently. It’s something I’ve occasionally thought about in the what’s-the-meaning-of-life way. I’m in my 30s, an age when you’re unquestionably an adult, but still young enough that more of your working-age life is ahead of you than behind. It’s an age when, if you’re single and/or childless, you can hear your biological clock ticking.
But mostly, it’s an age when you have lived enough that you can make an informed decision about what parts of your life you can see yourself maintaining for another decade or four, and which ones you want to change, assuming you have the freedom to do so.
The year that’s ending has been described in Internet memes and on television as a negative one, mainly because of celebrity deaths (David Bowie, Prince) and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. (Some people also throw in a mention of Syria.) A confirmation bias is setting in as people compile more reasons to dislike the artificial construct of time that began on Jan. 1, 2016 and will end in a week.
But celebrity deaths and awful politicians were not invented this year, and they won’t disappear next year. And despite all the doom and gloom, the world continues to improve statistically, with fewer people in poverty, less disease, less war and more technological development.
Personally, I look at happiness in terms of my daily life. I could, like others I see on Facebook, focus on my crises of the moment. On the minor inconveniences and frustrations that I have to deal with regularly. But the truth is I have it pretty good right now.
For the fourth time in as many years, a group owned by a trio of Montreal businessmen has appealed to the CRTC for an extension on their deadline to launch a new AM radio station, claiming that unforeseen circumstances have caused delays but assuring the commission that they’ve been resolved and the station is months away from launch.
TTP Media’s request for an extension for 600 AM
On Wednesday, the CRTC announced that it will grant an extension, until June 30, 2017, to 7954689 Canada Inc. (TTP Media) to launch its English talk radio station at 600 AM, first authorized in 2012.
As it did with the 940 AM station a year ago, the extension was granted despite the previous extension being declared “final” by the commission. Though the previous extensions, despite being requested for only a few months, were given for a full year, this one is limited to June 30, after the group said it should have the station on air by June.
This is the first official communication from the otherwise very quiet group for a year now, so we have some information on what is causing the delays, and what their short-term plans are.
As in previous requests, Managing Partner Nicolas Tétrault blames “the consolidation in the commercial broadcasting business in Montreal,” a reference to the Bell acquisition of Astral Media that was finalized in 2013 (and did not result in any major programming changes to existing stations in the market). But here he indicates that the banks that are loaning them tens of millions of dollars needed some reassuring on the group’s business plan. (This may be, at least in part, why they abandoned plans for a third station at 850 AM, though that station is not mentioned at all in the application.)
The bigger issue has related to the transmitter itself. The group finally came to an agreement with Cogeco Media to buy all the assets of the former CINW 940 and CINF 690 transmitter site in Kahnawake, and signed a new lease with the land owner, Frances Montour. The details of the lease are redacted, but it appears to go until 2022, with clauses for renewal beyond that.
The station, CFNV 940 AM, has legally launched, but a de facto launch is expected early in 2017, according to its Twitter account. In the meantime, it’s running music — currently all-Christmas music — interspersed with recorded messages every 15 minutes:
You’ll notice the station refers to itself as “La superstation”. Time will tell if it lives up to that tagline.
More work needed for 600
For the English station at 600, there’s more work needed than turning the switch back on and transmitting again. The towers that were set to work at 690 have to be re-tuned for 600, and the transmitter itself needs to be sent to the factory to be reset to the new frequency. On top of it all, parts for AM transmitters aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, and nowadays must be custom made, which causes more delays.
From Patrice Lemée, engineer at Commspec:
Concernant la station AM 600KHz, l’envergure des travaux techniques est beaucoup plus complexe. Celle-ci sise e?galement dans les anciennes infrastructures de Cogeco Me?dia Inc. ope?rant a? la fre?quence 690KHz. Par contre, un changement de fre?quence est requis afin de diffuser a? la fre?quence 600KHz. Ces changements touchent l’essence me?me du site de diffusion. L’e?metteur doit e?tre partiellement re?-expe?die? a? l’usine afin d’e?tre re-synthonise? a? la nouvelle fre?quence. Le syste?me de phasage doit comple?tement e?tre redessine? afin de diffuser a? la nouvelle fre?quence d’ope?ration. De plus, ces deux stations (600 & 940) coexistent sur le me?me site de diffusion. Ce qui entraine des complexite?s supple?mentaires quant a? la conception du syste?me.
Afin de proce?der aux diffe?rentes modifications du syste?me de diffusion de la station AM 600Khz, nous avons contacte? diffe?rents manufacturiers. Base? sur les re?ponses des soumissions obtenues, il semblerait que certains manufacturiers ont de la difficulte? a? obtenir les pie?ces requises pour effectuer la conversion dans les de?lais prescrits.
Je vous confirme cependant que les travaux sont de?ja? entame?s et que la conception est pratiquement termine?e. Par contre, la rarete? des pie?ces d’e?quipement AM est une re?alite? de nos jours. Les pie?ces sont maintenant faites sur demande et les de?lais de livraison sont beaucoup plus longs que par le passe?. Il est assez fre?quent de rencontrer des de?lais de livraison de 12 a? 16 semaines.
Suite aux informations cite?es pre?ce?demment, nous estimons qu’il sera possible d’effectuer les modifications du syste?me de diffusion du 600KHz seulement au printemps 2017. Nous demandons donc une extension de la date de mise en service jusqu’au 30 juin 2017.
The application makes no mention of administrative or on-air aspects of either stations, including launch dates, on-air talent or studio location. So we’ll just have to continue to wait.
The CRTC has approved the acquisition of Manitoba’s MTS by Bell. The CRTC decision concerns only the MTS television provider licence, and an associated licence for its video-on-demand programming, so this approval was expected. The bigger part of the acquisition is MTS’s wireless network and other telecom services. Those don’t require approval by the CRTC, but they do need to be approved by the government, which is now the last step in the approval process for this $3.9-billion deal.
Various forces are trying last-ditch political efforts to get the CRTC to reverse its decision on simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl, which is just over a month away. They include an anonymous website being promoted by unions (possibly connected to ACTRA?) urging Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to take action.
Terry DiMonte and Ted Bird did a Christmas podcast together, during which they talk about things like DiMonte’s decision to leave CHOM for a job in Calgary. Nostalgic radio listeners are already clamouring for them to be permanently reunited again. Don’t hold your breath. (UPDATE: It’s been taken down because Bell Media wasn’t happy with it, according to Bird.)
Alexandre Despatie, who was let go from Breakfast Television Montreal a year ago and had a temporary job with Radio-Canada’s Olympic coverage this summer, was hired as a fill-in host on CKOI’s afternoon show. The station says it would like to keep him in some capacity going forward.
More Postmedia buyout announcements include Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun. The Montreal Gazette is losing provincial politics columnist Don Macpherson (though he will write weekly as a freelancer) and business reporter Paul Delean (whose weekly Tax Strategy and monthly Gazette Portfolio columns are being retired as well).
Happy holidays, folks. I’m assuming little news will break over the holidays, so I might take a break from this as well until January. If something crazy happens, though, I won’t be away from my Twitter for long.
The commission has reiterated a preliminary view that Internet providers can’t block websites without its approval (and such approval would not be given lightly) regardless of a new Quebec law that would make that mandatory for a Loto-Québec-provided list of illegal gambling websites. There’s a court case pending over this, so that view could be overturned by a higher authority.
During hearings over the renewal of its licences recently, the CRTC asked Corus (which runs The Disney Channel, Teletoon, YTV and other youth channels in Canada) how long its contract with Disney lasts. Corus wrote in a letter that Disney won’t give it permission to tell the commission (even confidentially) that information. I imagine the commission won’t like that.
CTV Montreal now has a new segment on the 11:30pm newscast called The Last Word, in which the anchor reads viewer tweets and Facebook comments about some issue of the day. (It’s not actually the last word, it comes just after sports and before the last commercial break before the wrap-up.)
Videotron finally added some long-awaited HD channels, including CTV News Channel and The Comedy Network. But they’re only available in areas that have modernized networks and on next-generation receivers capable of decoding MPEG-4.
A bunch of TV channels are on free preview over the holidays on most major providers. The below are available on Videotron,Bell, Cogeco and Shaw until Jan. 16 unless otherwise indicated.
Animal Planet (to Jan. 10)
Bloomberg TV Canada (to Feb. 28 on Videotron)
CHRGD (to Jan. 31 on Videotron)
Cooking Channel (formerly W Movies, to Jan. 31)
Fight Network (to Jan. 2 on Bell, Shaw and Cogeco)
Ben Mulroney (right), with CTV’s Mutsumi Takahashi, CBC’s Sonali Karnick and pianist Oliver Jones at the Montreal Pool Room.
On Sunday evening, six Quebec television networks broadcast a special program about Montreal’s 375th anniversary. It included tributes to the city from celebrities foreign and domestic, songs about the city or closely associated with it, and information about the celebrations planned for 2017.
The French show, which aired (and can be rewatched) on Radio-Canada, TVA, V and Télé-Québec at 8pm and had an average audience of about 2 million people, was called Montréal s’allume, was an hour and a half long, produced by Éric Salvail’s production company and was presented as a variety show with a (standing-room only) studio audience. There were live musical performances and others in which artists stood atop local landmarks and were filmed using drones.
Mulroney again, with Rebecca Makonnen, Jonas and Anne-Marie Withenshaw at Midway pub.
Related was a different show, presented in English on CTV Montreal and CBC Montreal called Montreal Lights Up. It was different in several key ways:
It was aired later, at 11:30pm (on CTV it replaced the late-night local newscast) and was only half an hour long
It had a host — Ben Mulroney, flying in from Toronto for the occasion (that was literally part of the storyline of the show, how he’s reconnecting with his hometown)
It was commercial-free, it was produced by Quebec production house Zone 3, and
It was based more around sit-down round-table discussions and chats in the back of a cab (with Andy Nulman driving) than musical performances during a party.
The English show included some footage from the French one (Canadiens players doing an outdoor game with kids, foreign celebrity tributes, drone-shot rooftop solos, a rendition of Give Peace a Chance, and a bilingual sketch involving Bon Cop Bad Cop stars Patrick Huard and Colm Feore), but it was basically its own separate thing.
Having watched both, the English version seemed a bit more focused, but that just made it seem more like an infomercial for Montreal tourism. The French version tried to be a bunch of things, and in particular an artistic tribute to the city, but left a bunch of viewers wondering what the point was. Especially when the jokes fell flat, many of the celebrity appreciations were uninspired and of poor technical quality (even the prime minister’s message looked shot on a cellphone), and much of the practical information went by too fast to be of use.
The fact that the French networks aired the show across Quebec when they’re already accused of being too Montreal-centric didn’t help.
Alexandre Despatie worked in television, but still hasn’t mastered the whole portrait vs. landscape thing.
Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to double-check the names of those celebrities when you’re editing the show.
Numeris released its quarterly ratings report this week for Montreal and other metered markets. The Montreal top-line results show once again a significant margin between 92.5 The Beat (CKBE-FM) and Virgin Radio 95.9 (CJFM-FM).
Here they are translated into English. Audience shares among Montreal anglophones (all ages) from Aug. 29 to Nov. 27, 2016 (with their average-minute audience for a 24-hour day):
CJAD 800: 29.6% (17,100)
The Beat 92.5: 17.4% (10,000)
Virgin Radio 96: 14.9% (8,600)
CHOM 97.7: 10.2% (5,900)
CBC Radio One: 6.4% (3,700)
TSN Radio 690: 3.7% (2,100)
Rythme FM 105.7: 2.2% (1,300)
Radio Classique 99.5: 2.0% (1,100)
CBC Radio Two: 1.8% (1,000)
Other measured stations had shares under 1%.
Once again, among overall anglophone audiences, CJAD is the clear winner with a 29.6% share, tied with last winter as its highest share in the past five years. The Beat clearly beats Virgin, up by two and a half points. It’s also ahead in the adults 25-54 demographic, which Virgin had a bit of an edge in historically. And even when counting in francophone audiences, The Beat is still ahead.
CHOM, meanwhile, had its worst book in the past half-decade, dropping more than two points.
Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones, ages 2+). Data by Numeris. Click for larger version.
But it would be irresponsible to make sweeping conclusions based on one ratings report. Instead, it makes more sense to look at long-term trends. And here’s what we see from that:
CJAD is doing well, despite everyone’s opinions (usually negative here) about its programming. Since 2014, it has climbed into the 25-30% range, with noticeable dips in the summer, suggesting Montrealers are tuning in when there’s news. No individual programming change would explain this, though 2013 is when there was the last major reshuffling, getting rid of Ric Peterson.
The Beat is winning the battle with Virgin. It took about two years after Q92 relaunched itself as The Beat for there to be real traction in the ratings, and a noticeable drop in Virgin’s share around 2013 led to The Beat taking the lead. Since the beginning of 2014, The Beat has led among anglo listeners, though the adults 25-54 demo has gone back and forth a bit.
CHOM’s bad book could easily be an outlier, so we’ll have to see.
As for TSN 690, a lot of people seem to be very concerned about their ratings (and, like with CJAD, very eager to blame problems on a particular on-air personality), but it’s about the same place it always is. The latest rating is slightly below where it was a year ago, and slightly above where it was two years ago at the same time of the season.
Naturally, every station tried to spin the results to make themselves look good:
CJAD sent out a press release noting their #1 status and adding that it is the best-rated news-talk radio station in Canada in terms of audience share in its central market. (The fact that Montreal has a limited number of English stations is a big factor in that, of course.) And it singled out hosts Andrew Carter (most listened-to radio show in the market), Aaron Rand (most popular afternoon show) and Ken Connors (a 52% share on weekend mornings).
The Beat also sent out a press release, staking claim to the title of highest-rated music station in the market, as well as the adults 25-54 and women 25-54 demographics that advertisers love, and highlighting its high ratings during the 9-to-5 workday, which continues to be its strength.
Once again, news-talker 98.5 FM is the leader among all audiences, though Rythme FM declared victory in the adults 25-54 group.
Radio-Canada bounced back big time from a bad book in the summer, taking third spot overall. CKOI’s rating is also noteworthy. After being stuck with shares around 6%, it’s now several points up on that. Meanwhile, Énergie, whose lineup includes Dominic Arpin, Mélanie Maynard and Éric Salvail, gets smaller audiences overall than Virgin and The Beat.
Self-congratulatory statements from:
98.5FM, which says it’s the most listened-to station in all of Canada (by total average-minute audience, apparently)
Radio-Canada, which notes a 30% year-over-year increase (good news after a pretty bad report in the summer ratings).
Bell Media, which highlights the success of Énergie’s afternoon network show Éric est les fantastiques. Because it’s carried on multiple stations, it gets a large audience.
CHRF 980 AM, which seems to have an actual programming strategy now, had its best ratings ever. Except it only started reporting ratings in the past year, and its share is 0.3% among francophones and 0.4% among anglophones, for about 800 average-minute listeners total.
New on the ratings chart is CIBL-FM 101.5, the community station whose studios are at the corner of St-Laurent Blvd. and Ste-Catherine St. The station unsurprisingly scored zeros for anglophones, and starts on the francophone chart as a 0.1% share, 300 average listeners and an average daily reach of 16,800. The only station with a worse rating among francophones is TSN 690. It’s certainly not a win for them, but the ratings book should give them a lot of information about their audience that they didn’t have before.
Though he called it “one of the most irresponsible pieces of journalism … I have seen in over 15 years working in the business,” the National Observer’s Michael De Souza failed to convince the National NewsMedia Council (the press council that covers Ontario and some other provinces) to agree with his condemnation of a Financial Post article about pipelines. The decision noted that De Souza did not give concrete examples of any factual inaccuracies or journalistic malfeasance on the part of the piece in question.
At the CRTC
I tried to get some clarification from the CRTC about the status of CFNV 940 AM, whose deadline to launch passed on Nov. 21. A spokesperson tells me: “As per staff information and on the Commission’s record, 7954689 Canada Inc. has informed the Commission that it was ready to commence operations. A licence will be issued once the Commission will have received a copy of all the documents from the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Ministry.” Further clarification later: “The applicant has advised the Commission before its deadline and the deadline was met.” So the station can launch legally without requesting a further extension. We’re still waiting on a decision from the commission on an extension request for the English-language station at 600 AM, whose deadline passed Nov. 9.
The commission is cutting staff at its regional offices as it restructures to work more virtually. The offices will remain open, but will have reduced services for the public. It used to be to read applications at the CRTC you had to go to a regional office and look through files. Now, everything is available online, and about the only time you hear about regional offices are when talking about individual commissioners or when someone appears at a hearing via teleconference.
The commission has approved (with no public process) transfers of ownership of two independent TV specialty channels:
GameTV, from Kilmer Enterprises (owned mainly by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman and minority owner Lawrence Tanenbaum) to Leonard Asper’s Anthem Sports & Entertainment (which also owns Fight Network and FNTSY Sports Network) for $4 million. GameTV is one of the few specialty services to not charge a wholesale fee to TV providers. It’s unclear if this will continue under its new owner. The acquisition was announced in August. Asper tells the commission the channel is unprofitable, but synergies might help the group turn toward profitability.
OUTtv, from James Shavick to Ronald N. Stern (via several holding companies), for $850,000. Stern is a major entrepreneur, and owns FP Newspapers, which owns the Winnipeg Free Press.
Shaw has informed the CRTC it will shut down CJBN-TV in Kenora, Ont., Canada’s smallest television station, both in terms of power (178W) and audience. What little local programming it has (including the weekly Good Morning Sunset Country) will be taken over by the Shaw TV community channel after it closes on Jan. 27. Shaw owned CJBN before it bought Global TV, and chose never to bring CJBN fully into the Global family. When Shaw Media was sold to Corus, Shaw kept the station. This summer, as Shaw was seeking renewal of its TV licences, the CRTC said it must either increase its local programming from 30 minutes to seven hours a week, or seek an exception to the policy. Shaw decided in mid-November it would pull the plug. Three jobs are being cut, and two others are moving to Shaw TV.
There’s pressure from both sides of a controversial issue at the FCC in the United States: Whether to weaken protections of Class A AM stations (so-called clear channel stations) so that smaller stations don’t have to drastically reduce (or even eliminate) their signals at night. The big clear-channel stations are on one side, while smaller Class D stations are on the other. These protections are why stations from far-away markets like Chicago, New York and Boston can be heard here at night, and conversely why Montreal Class A stations — TSN 690, CKAC Circulation 730 and the upcoming 940 AM station — can be heard from as far away and even farther.
Le Devoir launched a new smartphone application. It’s simple, with a continuous stream of stories in several sections (starting with À la une) and limited ability to customize. But it’s pretty, allows some flexibility in notifications, and allows favouriting of articles. Best of all, it’s well integrated with the website, so sharing stories between the app and desktop or social media users is seamless. The app is free until March 1, after which it will be available only to subscribers.
Transcontinental has acquired “all B2B financial brands” from Rogers for an undisclosed sum. Included in the deal are Advisor’s Edge, Advisor’s Edge Report, Conseiller, Le journal du Conseiller, Benefits Canada, Avantages, Canadian Insurance Top Broker, Canadian Investment Review and Canadian Institutional Investment Network.
Transcontinental says its media division is no longer a core part of its business. This is usually a hint that such a division would be for sale, but more likely in this case it’s just an acknowledgment that Transcontinental’s printing division is by far its bigger money-maker. Transcontinental Media (now TC Media) has radically transformed through acquisitions and sales in recent years. It owns Métro in Montreal and most community newspapers in Quebec.
Craig Silverman is the new media editor for BuzzFeed. In addition to leading the BuzzFeed Canada team in Toronto, he’ll be continuing his lifelong mission of chronicling media screwups (he was the guy who started the sadly now defunct Regret the Error corrections website).
James Bradshaw, who took over the media beat at the Globe and Mail from Steve Ladurantaye, is switching to covering banking in January. The Globe will find someone else to cover media, but an announcement on who will fill that job hasn’t been made yet.
Tanya Lapointe, who was an arts reporter with Radio-Canada but took a leave of absence a year ago, has decided not to return. She began a relationship with director Denis Villeneuve, who has been very busy of late with Hollywood movies, and she’s been helping him with them.
Aboriginal Voices Radio, the organization that ran radio stations in major cities that were to target indigenous Canadians in urban communities, has lost its case at the Federal Court of Appeal to have it reverse a CRTC decision revoking its licences for blatant violation of its conditions of licence. This clears the way for the commission to order the stations off the air and proceed with applications from other groups to launch new indigenous stations on those frequencies in those cities. The decision says the CRTC has received 12 applications from five groups for new stations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa.
The CRTC is giving itself an extra year (so until August 2018) to deal with licence renewals for several independent television services, including Super Channel, Family Channel, Évasion, Silver Screen Classics, Explora, Télémagino, Rewind, Wild TV, Playmen, NTV in St. John’s, CFTV-DT in Leamington, Ont., and some ethnic channels. This will bring their licences in line with other CBC and independent services so that new conditions of licence can be implemented for all of them at the same time.
The CBC has published its quarterly financial report (PDF). It shows increases in both revenues and expenses mainly related to broadcasting the 2016 Olympics. There was also a $1 million drop in revenue from subscriptions to specialty channels (CBC News, RDI, ARTV, Explora and Documentary).
Videotron looks to finally add The Comedy Network and CTV News Channel in high definition (though only for subscribers with next-generation Illico boxes), according to illicotech.com. Others are MTV Canada, E!, Gusto, Nickelodeon Canada, Treehouse and Haiti HD. There are still some more it could upgrade, like TVO, BNN and MSNBC, but Comedy and CTV News, both owned by Bell Media, were probably the most in demand.
Rogers has let its staff — and the public — know what’s happening to its French consumer magazines. It’s keeping Châtelaine, though like its English counterpart it will go down to only six issues a year. L’actualité is in the midst of a sale process. And it couldn’t find a buyer for LouLou, so that magazine is shutting down in both languages. About 60 employees will lose their jobs, though some of those could be rehired if L’actualité is sold. Rogers is meeting with staff at English magazines today (including Maclean’s) to detail staff cuts on that side.
Média Boutique, which works on a business model started at Voir in which businesses buy ads through gift cards that media then sell to consumers at discounted rates, is growing its client base. It has signed with V and RNC Media.
More news about specific people cut at Postmedia should come this week as the deadline for responses to buyout applications passes. Some Citizen staff like Ian MacLeod, Janet Wilson and Jason Fekete announced their departures already on Twitter.