Posted in Montreal, TV

CFCF GM Don Bastien signs off

UPDATED Jan. 21 with comments from new CTV Montreal GM Louis Douville.

Don Bastien speaks at a recent CTV Montreal upfront presentation to advertisers

While viewers concern themselves with a high-profile change behind the anchor desk, there’s another, perhaps more important, staffing change happening behind the scenes at CFCF.

Don Bastien, who as you can see from the photo above has been general manager of CFCF/CTV Montreal since 2001, is retiring. Today, coincidentally the 51st anniversary of the station, is his last day.

Louis Douville, the general manager at CJOH (CTV Ottawa), takes over starting Monday.

Bastien described his retirement to me as having “a touch of sadness” because of all the people he would be leaving. He’s been with CTV and related company Baton Broadcasting since 1972.

“That’s probably the most difficult part, when you’ve been interacting with them on a daily/weekly basis for all this period and all of a sudden that’s going to come to an end.”

Bastien’s planning to take it easy for a while, taking some time to catch up with life and family. They’re going to a ski trip in France next week, and he jokes that he might be playing golf “a little more than I did”. Beyond that, he plans to keep up with various philanthropic activities, and he’s been appointed to the board of St. Elias Mines of B.C., and he’ll be looking for other opportunities to keep active. But he says the days of a Monday-to-Friday 9-to-5 job are over.

The decade under Bastien was transformative for CFCF, in good ways and bad. When he was appointed to the position in 2001 after being CTV’s national sales director based in Montreal, the station had just been bought by CTV from WIC when WIC was bought by Canwest Global. CTV imposed a common brand for all its television stations, and the “CFCF-12″ and “Pulse News” brands that had existed for decades were eliminated. A few years later, even the call letters were gone and everything became “CTV”. Many viewers still resent this stripping of the station’s identity.

A few years before the acquisition, the station cut just about all programming except for the newscast. What little additional programming remained would eventually be cancelled as well. The telethon, the morning newscast, Entertainment Spotlight and Sportsnight 360 all disappeared under Bastien’s watch. Some elements of the latter two have been incorporated into the weekend newscasts, but to a large extent CFCF is just a CTV rebroadcaster with a local newscast.

It’s a popular newscast though, with ratings that continue to obliterate the competition, and a high percentage of local news content. Bastien said maintaining this dominance, particularly in the face of increasing pressure from specialty channels, will be a challenge for his successor.

More recently, there has been significant technological change at the station. It began transmitting in high definition, later swapping out its analog transmitter and 50-year-old antenna on Mount Royal. Just last September it moved into its new studio, a million-dollar investment as it prepares to upgrade its newscast to high definition.

But when asked what his biggest challenge was in his decade here, Bastien points to the 2003 move from 405 Ogilvy Ave., where CFCF had been based since just after its launch in 1961, to 1205 Papineau Ave. in what has become the city’s broadcasting neighbourhood.

“The relocation project was a huge undertaking,” Bastien said. “Not necessarily from a technical point of view. But it was an opportunity for us to upgrade technology. When we went from tape-to-tape editing to linear editing. The real challenge in the relocation project was not moving from one building to the next. We were not moving technology, we were moving people, who had worked in a single building all of their career. We were changing areas of the city. That was huge, working with entirely different facilities.”

The move meant CFCF’s master control was moved to Toronto. Though the newscast itself is controlled from their building, advertisements and network programming are handled way down the 401.

The technological change is still ongoing. CTV is moving ahead with upgrades to equipment to prepare for the newscast moving to high definition. This will require new studio and field cameras (scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks) and new editing equipment and servers, which represents a substantial investment. Bastien said it will be dependent on how CTV authorizes capital expenditures. No date has been set, but Bastien said he expects it to happen either this year or next. Hopefully the recent upgrades of both CBMT and CKMI’s newscasts to high definition (or at least partly HD) will put more pressure on CTV to follow suit.

Asked what advice Bastien had for his successor, Bastien said Douville will need to “maintain our connectivity to our viewers, to our market, to our community.”

It’s a connection Montreal anglophone television viewers take very seriously.

Louis Douville

Douville comes back home

“It’s always been a dream to come back home,” says Douville, who takes over as CFCF’s general manager starting Monday. At that point, he said during a phone interview on Friday, he will be introduced to the staff and learn about things like where the photocopiers are. “Monday is mostly going to be about passing the torch,” he said.

But the training should be short. Douville has a lot of experience as general manager of a CTV station and said he’s very familiar with CTV Montreal.

Douville grew up in Montreal, attended Concordia University, and his family lives here. But his 30-year career took him to Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Ottawa before coming back home.

Douville described CFCF as the “crown jewel” of CTV, mainly because it’s the only station covering all of Quebec, while much smaller regions have multiple CTV stations.

“I’m fortunate that I’m taking over a station in good shape,” Douville said. With the station’s ratings dominance, “there are no pressing issues” and he reassures that “I’m not coming in to make many changes.”

Douville recognizes that the conversion to high definition is a priority. “It’s a situation we face in all our CTV stations” outside of Toronto, he said.

But he also said that it’s the content, not the resolution, that matters most. The market share is holding even though the newscast is still standard-definition, he said, and “those numbers speak for themselves.” Douville also said the technical quality is still very high (the lighting, the set design, etc.) and if it wasn’t for the 4:3 aspect ratio people probably wouldn’t notice it wasn’t HD.

CTV Montreal’s 6pm newscast on Friday ended with a brief goodbye to Bastien.

28 thoughts on “CFCF GM Don Bastien signs off

  1. silhouette

    So that local programming tax that was a big deal a while ago, it went to what? the new HD cameras or the only local newscasts? :/

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      So that local programming tax that was a big deal a while ago, it went to what?

      If you’re talking about the Local Programming Improvement Fund, it’s only for small-market stations. CFCF and its competitors in Montreal are ineligible to receive funding.

      Reply
  2. Jimmy jack

    He presided over the complete dismantling of a once thriving local production facility. Woo, hoo. I am sure he has destroyed more jobs and wealth on his watch than Air Canada has in Montreal but I don’t hear Tremblay or Harel saying a peep. “maintain our connectivity to our viewers” . Excuse me, you have NO connectivity to your viewers. Your news numbers are by default. Two lousy competitors and hundreds of thousands of elderly viewers who can’t be bothered or are unaware how to change the channel.

    Reply
    1. Alex H

      You hit the nail on the head.

      His time at the helm as been probably the most significant declines for the station in so many areas. The take overs, the loss of local control, the shutting down of local productions, etc. He appears mostly to have been the “go to guy” to explain to the local workers why their jobs have disappeared. I know, he isn’t personally responsible for it, but it’s been his name on the corner office over there during the process.

      CFCF is dead, stop trying to celebrate their 50th year or 51st year. CFCF made it 40 something years, and then died and was replaced by this new thing called “CTV Montreal”. They don’t have the rights to the past, because it isn’t their past.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        His time at the helm as been probably the most significant declines for the station in so many areas. The take overs, the loss of local control, the shutting down of local productions, etc.

        I don’t know what “take overs” means – the station was owned by CTV through Bastien’s term (though CTV itself had ownership changes). And the shutdown of local productions mostly preceded his arrival, happening mainly in the late 1990s after Global arrived in the market (at least that was the excuse they used). There wasn’t much left to shut down after that.

        But there was definitely a significant loss of local control in the few years after he arrived, notably with the move to Papineau. That was obviously a decision made far above his head.

        Reply
        1. Alex H

          Mr Bastien had been with Baton / CTV for 40 years. He has been around during the takeovers, and also during the dishonorable stripping of identity from the local stations. While he may not have been in charge, he was around and keenly aware of the history (and the various bosses). Truly, his job appears to have been to implement all of CTV / Bell’s wishes to strip the local channels of all their identity, production, and even control of their on air product.

          He didn’t sentence CFCF to the electric chair, but he certainly had a hand in flipping the switch.

          Reply
      2. Marc

        @ Alex H: CFCF 12’s decline started in 1979 when Jean Pouliot bought it. It’s been all downhill since that time.

        Reply
        1. Apple IIGS

          Perhaps, but for the following two decades it still remained a unique channel, with presence, charm and its own sole. I grew up watching CFCF-12 in the late 70’s and well throughout the 80’s and 90’s. If there was *ONE* channel that was important to me, it was CFCF-12 (it really was “The one two watch!” as the old jingle used to go!).

          Today I seriously would not so much as blink if the station shutdown forever, it’s gone from most important to least important. I’ll admit I still watch the local news but that one last staple is slowly eroding away. Save for Mutsumi (and Barry Wilson’s weekly editorial), all my favorite anchors are gone, and we’re nearly at the point where I could switch to CBC or Global for local news.

          And about the local programming tax. I don’t pay it, I canceled my cable TV service long ago and proudly use an indoor antenna to pick up my TV channels….FREE (and in glorious, uncompressed High Definition). :)

          Reply
          1. Josh

            Because this guy was not liked. CFCF staff knew him as a numbers man, not a peoples man, he drew a big salary and did nothing but chop, no people skills, a real goof.

            Reply
    2. ATSC

      Whatever this “CTV Montreal” is, it is no “CFCF-TV 12 Montreal”. This new re-imaging is nothing more than a network clone.

      Reply
  3. josh

    Having known many people who worked and still work for CFCF, Bastien was not liked on Papineau. Came across as a used car salesman who knew very little about broadcasting except for sales. One current employee once said, ” Don Bastien could not name more than 10 people in the newsroom” yet he makes all the decisions. Mr Fecan put him there and protected him, instead of promoting Goulakos which was a shame. Goes to show, it’s who you know not how good you are.

    Reply
    1. Gazoo

      guess the catch phrase of the day went something like :

      Good riddance and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

      Reply
  4. Ibrahim Imiru

    I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the negative comments here are from current/former CFCF staff. Let’s not forget that CFCF has by far the largest English news operation in the city, and that includes The Gazette.
    100+ staff and bulletproof ratings.
    Though I will admit it’s sad to see programs get cut over the years, many other newsrooms have it much, much worse and at much lower salaries.
    Let’s cheer up a bit, eh?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      CFCF has by far the largest English news operation in the city, and that includes The Gazette.
      100+ staff and bulletproof ratings.

      CFCF does not have “100+” staff in news. There are a lot of people there (mainly on the technical side), but if you include those involved in production, The Gazette still has more.

      Reply
    2. Apple IIGS

      My negative comments about CTV Montreal stem from the fact it everything unique about it is now *completely* gone. Not simply eroded, but 100% obliterated.

      What is unique about it now? Well, let’s see. There’s a 4 hour block in the afternoon (between 2 PM and 6 PM) where talk show programming is shuffled compared with other CTV stations. Same shows, just different air times. (effected are Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Ellen show, Anderson). I’m assuming its done for advertising logistics, nothing else.

      Otherwise CTV Montreal is just a re-broadcaster of CTV Toronto. If you replace one with the other you would never know the difference, apart from the news (and even then only when you start seeing news stories covering another city; even the newscasts has been stripped of their uniqueness).

      And no, not a former or current CTV employee. :) Just a former loyal viewer.

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        You got it spot on.

        Regardless of the number of technical people required, CFCF Montreal has been gutted, pretty much from one end to the other. In fact, without the “network support”, I don’t the channel could actually go on air (because switching is done in Toronto, I gather). Outside of the news, there is precious little left that is Montreal. You know it’s a bad sign when your studios are used mostly to produce programs for other channels rather than your own, and in the other official language to boot!

        Local TV matters is possibly one of the biggest joke campaigns of all times, a wonderful “either way we win” situation that allowed the network owners and distributors (cable, sat, etc) to get together with the CRTC is find a way to raise your rates while being able to blame each other for it. Did all that extra cash convert into anything? Nope. As Montrealer paying this “tax”, it is disappointing to see no new production in my local market, no new local shows. It’s disappointing to know that the local station probably doesn’t have all the tools in house to do the job anyway, and worse yet, they aren’t getting any of the tax money because they are “too big”.

        I remember CFCF. I miss it. I don’t miss CTV Montreal (I rarely if ever watch it… longest time in years was watching the two football games on the weekend in HD… better quality than Bell sat signals. Otherwise, why would I tune in to watch Toronto’s news with a Montreal presentation crew?

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          You know it’s a bad sign when your studios are used mostly to produce programs for other channels rather than your own, and in the other official language to boot!

          I’m assuming this is a reference to RDS. But RDS doesn’t use CFCF’s studios, and the building is shared between the two.

          Local TV matters is possibly one of the biggest joke campaigns of all times, a wonderful “either way we win” situation that allowed the network owners and distributors (cable, sat, etc) to get together with the CRTC is find a way to raise your rates while being able to blame each other for it.

          While the Bell/CTV and Shaw/Global acquisitions kind of torpedoed this campaign (and the corresponding “stop the TV tax” version of the cable/satellite companies), that doesn’t mean the arguments are without merit. There are plenty of independent television stations that need to find some funding model. And there are cable companies (Cogeco, for example) that don’t own TV stations and are still fighting the “value for signal” model proposed by the CRTC in court.

          Did all that extra cash convert into anything? Nope. As Montrealer paying this “tax”, it is disappointing to see no new production in my local market, no new local shows.

          A couple of things:

          1. The “value for signal” model that “Local TV Matters” led to hasn’t come into effect yet. Local television stations are still distributed without per-subscriber fees.

          2. The “tax” you’re referring to is probably the Local Programming Improvement Fund. But none of the Montreal stations are eligible to receive benefits from this fund because this is a large market.

          Reply
  5. Jimmy Jack

    How many people does it take to rebroadcast American shows and count the ill gotten gains.

    I am cheerful and still think CFCF is a mere sliver of what it once was.

    Reply
    1. Apple IIGS

      I am cheerful and still think CFCF is a mere sliver of what it once was.

      Sliver nothing, that implies there’s something left. Let’s try microscopic spec.

      And that microscopic spec is Montreal CTV News (nee Pulse News). That’s the last unique piece of the station, but to be fair really no more unique than Ottawa’s, Toronto’s or Vancouver’s local news cast. Gone is the the Pulse name brand, its theme music, its sets and most of its segments. Gone is it’s 6 AM morning news show, gone is all its legacy and familiar anchors (Mutsumi is now the last one standing). And this very last spec of CFCF-12 continues to fade away, as more of the old staff leaves and segments disappear.

      Reply
  6. Jimmy Jack

    “Douville grew up in Montreal, attended Concordia University, and his family lives here. But his 30-year career took him to Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Ottawa before coming back home.”

    Why come back home? There is nothing left to sanitize. CTV Montreal looks, acts and is CTV Edmonton, Regina, and Ottawa now. is there actually any more profit you can squeeze from “CTV Montreal” ?

    Reply
  7. Zero Idea

    Since Donald Bastien has joined SLI out of Vancouver nobody has heard a peep from this guy or what the heck he is even doing there? Sur makes you wonder why he would join a Jr Gold company? I guess the CEO has decided to hide him away and work on any deals that might be fast appoarching? Sure wish I could find a job that is paid by sharholders and I don’t even have to show my face or talk about why I joined the company in the first place.

    Reply

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