Monthly Archives: December 2010

Posted in Media, Video

CBC Montrealers sing Christmas songs for a good cause

Those folks at CBC Montreal have taken to embarrassing themselves in front of the Internet to promote a holiday fundraiser for Dans la rue.

The Carolling Challenge will see personalities and listeners sing along in an effort to drum up donations. There’s even a practice today at 1pm (in case you’re not going to either the protest against the Journal de Montréal or the protest in memory of Mohamed Anas Bennis, which are both taking place at the same time), before they hit five locations between Monday and Wednesday. Send a picture of yourself at one and you could even win a bag!

After that, next Sunday, there’s the annual Christmas Sing-In, a recording that will air on Christmas Day on the radio.

But if you just like seeing videos of CBC radio personalities singing Christmas songs (and if that’s the case, there’s something wrong with you), here’s a bonus video of Sue Smith singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

Posted in Montreal, Opinion, TV

The Alouettes parade and the two solitudes

A TV camera setup for live coverage of the Grey Cup parade and party in 2009.

Last year, when the Alouettes won the Grey Cup with a spectacular last-second field goal against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (though TSN’s placement of it as the #1 wacky CFL moment of all-time was a bit over-the-top), I went down to Ste. Catherine St. and the new Place des Festivals and joined in the party, taking a few photos of the assembled media. It was fun being in such a large crowd celebrating a pro sports championship.

This year, the Grey Cup wasn’t as exciting. (I barely noticed it was over, looking up from my copy editing station.) And with the same parade-and-party planned, and the weather not looking too hot, I reluctantly stayed home to watch the coverage on TV.

Thankfully, there wasn’t a lack of live parade coverage on television, but where it was covered and where it wasn’t made it clear to me how geographically biased Canada’s English and French-language networks are.

On the English side, both CFCF (CTV) and CKMI (Global) aired live parade specials, as they had last year. Some kudos are due to Global here, which has awfully few resources and doesn’t even produce its own newscast. I’ve criticized the station for barely meeting CRTC minimums on local programming (and even then by airing repeats of their newscasts at 6am and 6:30am), for outsourcing their production and using a fake, misleading green-screen set, and even having a weatherman who’s based in Toronto (but pretends he’s in Montreal). So to be able to put together a two-hour live special, with Mike Le Couteur in studio, Richard Dagenais at the Place des Festivals and Domenic Fazioli along the parade route, must have been quite the feat for this tiny group. CFCF’s special may have been technically better, but was half an hour shorter and replaced their noon newscast.

CBMT (CBC Montreal) didn’t air a parade special. I can’t remember the last time this once-great station aired a live local special event. A CBC camera was on site with local sports reporter Sonali Karnick, but it was only used to give some live hits for CBC News Network. Online, they had a webcast of the parade and party without any commentary or interviews.

I went over to the all-news and all-sports networks: CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, TSN and Rogers Sportsnet. I figured they all had good reason to cover this parade. It’s not like anything else breaking was going on at noon on a Wednesday.

You know what I found? Nothing.

CBC and CTV’s news channels were going through the motions, recapping the latest headlines. TSN was recapping the previous night’s Maple Leafs game, followed by a broadcast of competitive darts.

Darts!

TSN, which two days earlier had been crowing about how it had 4.94 million viewers for the Grey Cup game (a further 1.1 million was watching on RDS), just short of the previous year’s record, apparently thought that showing SportsCentre and darts was more interesting than a Grey Cup victory parade.

What annoys me most was how little effort would have been required to give this a national audience. Nothing important would have to have been pre-empted. And because CTV owns CFCF, CTVNC and TSN, they could have simply had the national news and sports channels take the CFCF feed for an hour and a half and shown the parade nationally as Montreal viewers were watching it. There are anglophone Montreal expats across the country, not to mention simple fans of the Canadian Football League (surely that 4.94 million wasn’t all Roughriders fans, considering Saskatchewan’s total population is just over 1 million).

CBC would have needed more effort, but even then it already had plenty of resources in place. RDI was covering the parade live, and Sonali Karnick was in place with a CBC camera and live feed. Would it have really been that much more difficult to just air the common parade feed and provide some colour commentary?

Montréal = français, Toronto = English

On the French side, it was the opposite problem: The cable channels had parade specials, but the local channels didn’t air them. LCN, RDI and RDS all had specials lasting more than two hours. Radio-Canada and TVA stuck with regular programming, which at noon means newscasts. Brief stories about the parade, but no live special. V and Télé-Québec, well, they don’t have news departments so I didn’t exactly expect much from them.

Part of me wants to see the Toronto Argonauts win the next Grey Cup so I can contrast the coverage plans. Does anyone seriously believe that CTVNC, CBCNN, TSN, CP24, Sportsnet and the rest wouldn’t give this wall-to-wall coverage if it was in Toronto? And, conversely, that LCN, RDI and RDS would all ignore it completely if it was anywhere other than Montreal (or maybe Quebec City)?

LCN, RDS and CTV are privately-owned networks, so they can do whatever they want. If they want to be homers for the cities their broadcast studios are located in, if they have little interest in covering any event that’s not happening within 50 kilometres of their offices, if they want to be de facto regional news networks, that’s up to them.

But CBC is publicly-financed, and their geographical bias really annoys me, particularly with RDI, which can often be mistaken for an all-Montreal-news channel. I realize that a large part of its market lives within the greater Montreal area, but as a national French-language news channel it has a mandate to cover the entire country, not just wherever they can get to on a tank of gas from the Maison Radio-Canada.

CBC should have been there. And if the Roughriders had won, RDI should have been in Regina.

You might think this is a silly discussion to have over something as trivial as a Grey Cup victory parade, but it’s a symptom of a larger problem. We see the same decisions being made during municipal and provincial elections, or provincial budgets, or just about any other prescheduled major local news events. During the last municipal election in 2009, the local anglo stations couldn’t be bothered to cut into their American programming, so updates were limited to their websites, the 11pm newscasts and the occasional news break during commercials. The last provincial election was better, but there was more national interest in that vote. That press conference of Alouettes president Larry Smith announcing his resignation? Live on RDI and LCN, but all but ignored by CTV News Channel and CBC News Network.

As local stations get gutted of their resources and national networks continue to figure out ways of centralizing the basic functions of broadcasting, the ability to do special event programming is severely reduced. And as those same network bigwigs continue to put competitive interests above their duties to serve national populations, these geographical biases from our national news and sports networks will only get worse.

You can re-watch the parade specials (or parts thereof) online from CFCF, CKMI, RDS (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10) and RDI

Posted in Media

FPJQ award winners (with links)

Last weekend, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec held its annual meeting and journalism conference in Montreal, and part of that is handing out its annual awards for the best in Quebec journalism.

As usual, media reports about these awards are heavily based on whether those news outlets won any of those awards, as you can see from these gloating pieces:

As is usual with these kinds of awards, neither the list of Judith Jasmin prize nominees nor the list of winners included links to the articles or broadcast pieces in question. (It’s a problem I pointed out three years ago and many times since.) So I will attempt to provide them here.

Winners in each category are listed first, with their names bolded.

Prix Judith Jasmin

Prix Hommage

The Prix Judith Jasmin Hommage, honouring a career of achievement in journalism, went to Paule Beaugrand-Champagne, who has worked for various media outlets and is now retired. She was in the news recently for a piece in L’Actualité about the Journal de Montréal, written from the perspective of a former editor-in-chief who’s not pleased with the way the business is run these days. She has been previously profiled in Trente.

Grand Prix Judith Jasmin

  • Alain Gravel, Marie-Maude Denis, Emmanuel Marchand, Claudine Blais: «Collusion frontale» (Enquête/Radio-Canada).

Journalisme de service

  • Annick Poitras: «Comment vieillir riche» (L’actualité)
  • Pierre Craig, Claude Laflamme, Luc Tremblay: «Service à la clientèle» (La Facture/Radio-Canada)
  • Catherine Dubé: «Grippe A(H1N1), Tout savoir – Comment se protéger» (Québec Science)

Nouvelles / médias locaux et régionaux

Nouvelles / médias nationaux

Entrevue et Portrait

Opinion

Grand reportage

Chantal Guy happened to be in Haiti on Jan. 12, writing a story about author Dany Lafferière, when the earthquake struck. Despite being unprepared to cover a disaster zone, she turned into a news reporter and filed this story. Others followed after it over the next few days, until a team of journalists arrived from Montreal. You can read about her experience in this article, and find other stories about Haiti on La Presse’s Haiti page.

Enquête

Collusion frontale didn’t win in this category, but was given the Grand Prix.

It’s worth reading the FPJQ’s list of winners to see what stood out in the winning stories in each category.

Prix Antoine Désilets

The photography winners are always harder to track down, mostly because they’re poorly described and can’t be searched as easily as a headline on Google.

The winners are listed here, along with why they were chosen. All the finalists will be on display during expositions across Quebec, including one at the Maison de la culture Ahuntsic from Jan. 20 to Feb. 26.

Vie quotidienne

  • André Pichette, La Presse, for «Pluie désaltérante»
  • Normand Blouin, Reuters, Photo Solution
  • Marie-France Coallier, The Gazette
  • Yan Doublet, Le Soleil
  • Jacques Nadeau, Le Devoir

Nouvelles

  • Ivanoh Demers, La Presse, for a photo from Haiti
  • Normand Blouin, Reuters
  • David Boily, La Presse
  • Marco Campanozzi, The Gazette
  • Jacques Nadeau, Le Devoir
  • Philippe Renaud, Stigmat Photo

Photoreportage

Portrait

  • Sébastien St-Jean, ICI, for a photo of Denis Villeneuve.
  • Bernard Brault, La Presse
  • Alain Décarie, RueFrontenac.com
  • André Pichette, La Presse
  • Chantal Poirier, RueFrontenac.com
  • Alain Roberge, La Presse
  • François Roy, La Presse

Sports

  • Bernard Brault, La Presse
  • Judith Cailhier, Le Reflet
  • Benoît Gariépy, Journal de Québec
  • Olivier Jean, RueFrontenac.com
  • Daniel Mallard, Journal de Québec
  • André Pichette, La Presse

Multimédia

Other prizes and honours

  • The Bourse Arthur-Prévost, designed to encourage young journalists, went to Gabrielle Duchaine of Rue Frontenac, the second time in as many years that the bursary has gone to a journalist from the publication of locked-out workers of the Journal de Montréal. (Duchaine was also Rue Frontenac’s only nomination for a Judith Jasmin award, though there were two Antoine Désilets nominations for photographers. Though they didn’t win any of those awards, they can at least take comfort in the fact that the Journal de Montréal wasn’t nominated for anything.) Nancy Beaulieu, a journalist at La Voix de l’Est, got an honourable mention.
  • The Conseil supérieur de la langue française, which is independent of the FPJQ, handed out awards at the latter’s gala. Presse canadienne has a story. It gave its Prix Jules-Fournier for French language competence in print to Mélanie Saint-Hilaire, a freelance journalist who has worked for L’Actualité. L’Actualité links to some of her articles from here. The Prix Raymond-Charette, for broadcasting, went to Pierre Craig of Radio-Canada. Each prize is $5,000.
Posted in Montreal, Opinion, TV

Sorry kids, no telethon

The Telethon of Stars last year (left to right): CFCF reporter Tania Krywiak, weather presenter Lori Graham, news director Jed Kahane, foundation chair Michel Lanteigne, TVA's Claudia Marques, CFCF reporter/anchor Paul Karwatsky and CFCF sports anchor Randy Tieman

For the first time since 1977, CFCF-12 won’t be airing a fundraising telethon this year.

The Foundation of Stars (formerly the Foundation for Research into Children’s Diseases) has decided this year to forgo the telethon, particularly because it doesn’t have a francophone broadcaster (TQS had been the francophone broadcaster for many years, but V stopped that tradition last year). Instead, it will hold an eight-hour webcast from 11am to 7pm Sunday (warning: video auto-play), and partner with Astral Radio stations like Rock Détente and CJAD in addition to a diminished role for CTV.

“Although disappointed that the annual telethon will not air this year, we are very pleased to continue to work closely with the Foundation in their various fund raising initiatives,” said Don Bastien, CTV Montreal’s general manager. The station won’t air the “webathon”, but will provide hosts including Lori Graham for the event, and will promote the telethon with “short TV clips”, according to a foundation release (PDF). It’s also featuring ads for the foundation on its website.

Maryse Beaudry, spokesperson for the foundation, didn’t respond to a request for comment about why the foundation has pulled the telethon. An email to the foundation sent almost two weeks ago hasn’t been responded to.

My guess is that the decision is mainly a financial one. A look at the foundation’s latest annual report (PDF) shows that the 4.5-hour telethon cost $562,654 in expenses last year (half what it was a year earlier, when it lasted more than 24 hours). And while that number in the photo above looks much higher, it includes a lot of high-profile, giant-cheque, high-money corporate donations that would have come with or without a telethon. The amount of money that actually came in from television viewers calling in could easily have been below what the telethon cost.

And so it’s understandable that the foundation would have wanted to go with a low-cost option this year.

But at the same time it’s sad that Montreal television viewers can’t even fork over enough money over a weekend to pay for the expenses of a fundraising telethon.

Much as I appreciate the effort of a “webathon” to take its place, it kind of misses the point. You don’t stumble on it when you turn on your TV. You don’t catch it and decide to sit through the scrolling telephone numbers while you watch an 80s action movie until you finally feel guilty enough to phone in a donation. Anyone who is going to experience this webcast already knows about it.

It’s also, I think, sad for CFCF itself. The station used to be a powerhouse of television production, with special productions throughout the year. But while its newscast still reigns the Montreal anglophone ratings, there’s little else produced there now. The telethon was an exception, one it highlights on its “About Us” page online as one of two “long-term community projects.” Aside from things like provincial elections and today’s Alouettes Grey Cup parade (which CTV is airing live in place of its noon newscast), special event programming is an endangered species on Quebec anglophone television.

If only they had telethons for telethons.

The Day of Stars webcast runs from 11am to 7pm on Sunday, Dec. 5, at telethon.qc.ca. You can donate to the Foundation of Stars here, because whatever your opinion of CFCF and the telethon, the kids still need help.

Further commentary from Montreal Radio Blog

UPDATE (Dec. 5): The Day of Stars raised $3,540,903 this year, less than the $3,916,620 raised in 2009 and well short of their $4 million goal. More than $2 million of that money came in the form of giant cheques featured in this Flickr gallery (and of that, more than $1 million was from the foundation’s fundraising ball).