Monthly Archives: February 2012

Posted in Montreal, Radio

Cousin Vinny leaves Virgin Radio 96, AJ Reynolds let go from The Beat

This post has been corrected. See below.

"Cousin Vinny" aka Vince Barrucco

Vince Barrucco, better known as Cousin Vinny, has resigned from his post as afternoon drive announcer at CJFM to explore “a new opportunity” in the city after a few months off the air.

Mark Bergman, brand director for Virgin Radio 96, confirmed that Barrucco submitted his resignation letter Monday morning. Bergman said Barrucco didn’t say where he was going.

Through social media, Barrucco was coy about his destination, saying only that it was “a new opportunity” and that he’d be staying in Montreal.

AJ Reynolds: gone from The Beat

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that another Montreal drive-time announcer has been scrubbed from the schedule: AJ Reynolds is no longer part of The Beat, his name and face gone from the website (for the most part) and his Beat Twitter account disappeared, all about the same time as Barrucco left Virgin. Barrucco’s sudden disappearance from the air, the lack of announcement about his leaving, and his forced vacation from behind the microphone are all consistent with him being poached by a competitor.

Reynolds, whose Canada’s Top 20 Countdown has been picked up by seven new stations across Canada and will expand to four hours daily as of March 5, according to an ad it’s running on the Airchecker blog, said he was leaving the Beat on good terms and wished them well.

The Beat’s station manager, Mark Dickie, said the station had decided to “make a change” because of disappointing performance at drive time* ”things not working out as expected.” He wouldn’t confirm or deny whether Barrucco had been hired to replace Reynolds.

Reynolds’s syndicated show, Canada’s Top 20 Countdown, will remain on the Beat, at least for now, Dickie said. It airs 5-7pm Sundays.

Claudia Marques, the traffic announcer paired with Reynolds, is on maternity leave (as is morning traffic announcer Natasha Hall, which led to plenty of jokes about the fertility powers of the traffic announcer’s equipment there). Dickie said Marques’s job will be waiting for her when she returns.

I asked Bergman about what a trend that seems to have developed, if it is true that Barrucco is heading to the Beat. Barrucco would be the third Virgin star, after Cat Spencer and Nat Lauzon, that has been poached by the Beat in just the past year. This is noteworthy because CJFM consistently does better than CFQR/CKBE in the ratings, so you have to wonder why people are leaving the No. 1 music station for similar jobs at the No. 2.

Dickie also downplayed the trend, pointing out that the Beat has plenty of people from the old Q combined with new talent from elsewhere.

Bergman, who said he didn’t know where Barrucco was going, said he isn’t worried about losing talent, because the team at the station is stronger than any individual announcer. And the numbers suggest he’s right, at least so far. Nevertheless, Bergman stressed that he has the utmost respect and admiration for Barrucco and that he wished him well. Barrucco had been at CJFM since 2009, and on the afternoon drive show since he replaced Bergman in April 2010.

Barrucco told me he’ll be starting his new job at the end of May.

“A great opportunity presented itself that was hard to refuse,” Barrucco said. “I enjoyed my time at Virgin Radio and wish the entire crew the best! Looking forward to the future!”

Astral has posted a job opening for a full-time announcer (the deadline is March 16), though Bergman says he hasn’t discounted the possibility of using someone already on staff to fill the afternoon drive slot and taking on someone new to fill out the schedule. He says he’s searching around for what’s out there in the talent pool.

He’s been doing a lot of that lately, thanks to Cogeco.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post said Beat general manager Mark Dickie expressed disappointment with the performance of the afternoon drive show hosted by AJ Reynolds. In fact, he said that things had not worked out “as expected” – a statement I had apparently interpreted a bit too much. My apologies to Dickie and Reynolds.

Posted in Media, Montreal

Gazette’s cryptic crossword maker Alan Lee dies

Many years ago, I witnessed family members of a friend of mine doing the cryptic crossword in The Gazette. I don’t remember how it worked. I don’t think I understood how it worked (and I still don’t). I just remember that for these puzzle addicts it was one of the things they did.

Alan Lee has been doing The Gazette’s weekly cryptic crossword since 1994. But his name soon won’t be gracing the weekly puzzles page anymore. Lee died suddenly on Friday at the age of 81.

Reporter Catherine Solyom has an obituary for Lee in Saturday’s paper, a brief glimpse into the life of the man behind the black and white squares and list of clues. He’ll be remembered at a special gathering at McKibbin’s Irish Pub on Friday.

But what of the puzzle, which last Saturday published No. 938? There are some still in the bank, which will take us to April. But after that, it’s still not clear. Maybe his daughter will take it up. Maybe someone else. Or maybe they’ll replace it with another puzzle. Either way, there’s going to be a change.

Posted in Media

Gazette, mailroom strike deal to end six-month lockout

You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but The Gazette has just finished going through a labour conflict.

On Friday, the paper reports it has struck a deal with the union representing mailroom employees, who have been locked out since Aug. 7.

The deal will result in job reductions – seven buyouts and three layoffs with severance for a total of 10 jobs lost out of about 60.

On the other hand, the jobs will remain four days a week. The employer had wanted them to switch to five days a week.

Both sides say they are satisfied with the deal, which is good. It’s just unfortunate that it took six months to get to this point.

The lockout also affected a bargaining unit of two platemakers, who came to a deal in December.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Quebecor’s media wars: It takes two to tango

It seems a week can’t go by without Quebecor or one of its journalistic outlets picking a fight with a competitor. Whether it’s an unwritten company rule to bias its news coverage in this fashion or simply an astonishing coincidence, I can’t say for certain. But either way the result is the same: lots of mudslinging in the direction of Quebecor’s enemies.

And, unfortunately, the response to a lot of this mudslinging is mudslinging in the other direction. Rather than see dispassionate analysis of important issues presented with balance, we’re bombarded with fact-massaging attacks from both sides and left to our own devices to try to pick out truth from truthiness.

Here’s a few examples of the battles it’s been waging recently:

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Posted in Montreal, Radio

CRTC gets an earful from Radio X opponents/Jazz supporters

Updated with interventions published Feb. 14, including one by ADISQ.

Montrealers opposed to an application from RNC Media to change CKLX-FM 91.9 from Planète Jazz to talk radio (likely a Montreal version of their Radio X format in Quebec City and Saguenay) have filed interventions with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission asking them to deny the company’s request for the necessary change in license.

The CRTC website lists 68 74 75 interventions having been filed as of Feb. 14. All but three are in opposition.

The number of interventions is high for an application like this, probably because of campaigns like the one by CIBL to get people to send comments to the CRTC.

Some are factually incorrect. One says RNC already has a talk station in Montreal at 98.5, when CHMP is actually owned by Cogeco. Another seems to think this is about changing the format of a show on CIBL.

Best of the interventions

You can download and read all the interventions yourself, but I’ve compiled a few highlights below. Almost all are either against Radio X, against removing Montreal’s only jazz station, or both. None of those opposed to the application answer the simple question of what the CRTC should do in the face of RNC’s threat to shut down the station if the change in license is not approved, with some suggesting it should continue playing jazz even if it’s not profitable.

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Posted in In the news, Opinion

#6party is over, but the hypocrisy continues at McGill

Showing what I consider to be a rather stunning level of restraint, McGill University allowed a group of students to occupy its administration building for days before finally calling in the police to have them “evicted”.

The occupation has naturally divided the McGill and general population. Some see it as a heroic at of defiance against an evil regime that seeks to undermine student groups that are trying to make societal change that goes against their right-win world view. Opponents see it as a bunch of whiny privileged white kids who are trying to act out their Che Guevara/Berkeley fantasies by pretending to be hippies and engaging in an annoying disruption that will in the end accomplish nothing.

Then again, it looks like some stuff has been accomplished by all this resistance.

But what about the issue that led to the occupation in the first place?

This whole issue came about because of a recent student referendum vote on the renewal of student fees for CKUT radio and the McGill chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group. Unlike other groups receiving student fees directly through tuition payments to the university (including all those at Concordia who do so), these groups are required to renew their fees every few years. The alternative would be either having a process of revoking student fees from organizations (one student unions and the student groups getting the funding would be very hesitant to participate in), or acknowledging that once a group gets approval from students for a fee, that fee remains in perpetuity. Neither alternative is particularly desirable.

But rather than a simple question asking if students wished to continue paying their fees, both questions included a second part about the opt-out system.

Opting in to opting out

Recognizing that some students need every dollar they can get, and it’s incredibly hypocritical to demand a free education on one hand and hold out the other demanding a mandatory fee from every student, many groups have agreed to allow students to opt out and get a refund of their fee directly from the organization.

I’ve always been suspicious of this (some groups at Concordia do the same thing), because the process seems to involve actually going to their offices and demanding money back, which can be pretty intimidating. Does the process require signing paperwork? Do you have to justify your reason to opt out? Will you get a lecture about how much the organization needs your money to survive, or about how you’ll be denied services if you say no? I never went through the process, so I don’t know. Most other students didn’t either, because they didn’t know about it or because they couldn’t be bothered.

Perhaps recognizing this, McGill changed the way it works in 2007 and allowed students to opt out of their fees to these organizations electronically, anonymously, without having to set foot in the offices of the groups concerned.

The result, these groups say, is a significant drop in their revenue from student fees. They point out organized campaigns to get more students to opt out that are hurting their bottom line.

Begging the questions

So the referendum question asking students about maintaining the fee also added in a bit about no longer using this opt-out system.

The questions as they appeared on the ballot, according to the SSMU (PDF) are as follows:

Do you support CKUT continuing as a recognized student activity supported by a fee of $4.00 per semester for fulltime undergraduate students, which is not opt-outable on the Minerva online opt-out system but is fully refundable directly through CKUT, with the understanding that a majority “no” vote will result in the termination of all undergraduate funding to CKUT?

Do you support QPIRG continuing as a recognized student activity supported by a fee of $3.75 per semester for fulltime undergraduate students, which is not opt-outable on the Minerva online opt-out system but is fully refundable directly through QPIRG, with the understanding that a majority “no” vote will result in the termination of all undergraduate funding to QPIRG?

Both questions passed with clear majorities. But the university decided against recognizing the results, arguing that the questions were unclear. Students naturally protested this and hence we have the occupation that’s been getting all the news coverage.

I can see the university’s point here. The part about opting out seems like more of a statement than a question. But loaded questions like this are fairly common in such student referendum questions (most are heavily biased in favour of approving new or higher fees for student organizations), and I’m not sure why McGill has chosen here to start a fight.

The motive

The big question here is: Why don’t these organizations want to make it easier for students to opt out? It’s a question that I’ve yet to see a convincing answer to.

CKUT summarizes its opposition to the system, using arguments echoed by QPIRG McGill. I further summarize them as such:

  1. Having the university administer the opt-out system is an unacceptable encroachment on the finances of those organizations receiving fees.
  2. Students never approved such an opt-out system in a referendum, nor was it negotiated with the groups or with the SSMU.
  3. The university doesn’t allow students to opt out of its own fees with this system.
  4. Because opting out is so much easier, more students will do it and the groups will get less money.

Let’s be honest here: The last argument is the only one that really matters. And it makes it clear that these groups have no intention of making it easy for students who don’t want to fund them to get their money back.

The first argument about jurisdiction makes sense only if you ignore the fact that the university collects student fees in the first place, tacking them on to tuition bills. Why would a deduction at source be unacceptable?

The second argument, about student not approving such a system, could easily be tested by having a referendum question about it. But I’m pretty sure the groups know they would lose that battle if the question was posed fairly.

The third argument is a red herring, and has nothing to do with the debate at hand. Student groups allowing students to opt out of fees shouldn’t mean the university has to do the same.

The arguments about university control are, frankly, minor. This is about money, and how offering an opt-out system has always been more about image than practicality. These groups are interested in making it as hard as possible for students to get their money back.

The hypocrisy

Back when I was at Concordia, the university came to a compromise with the student union, which was upset about an ill-defined “administration fee” that was costing students a lot of money every semester and looked an awful lot like a back-door tuition increase.

The university decided to allow some students to opt out of that fee. To be more accurate, it offered a bursary to students with financial need equivalent to the cost of that fee.

The Concordia Student Union went on a campaign, passing around the form to apply for this bursary to as many students as they possibly could. They wouldn’t be satisfied until every student opted out of this fee. Many did, but again many just didn’t bother.

Now, you could argue that this isn’t incredibly hypocritical because students never approved the administration fee but they did approve the CKUT and QPIRG fees. But somehow that argument feels a bit hollow to me.

The power of apathy is strong, and McGill’s student groups had been exploiting that to keep the money of students that don’t support their activities. Now that McGill has streamlined the process of not paying, and these groups get a clearer idea of how many students don’t think their services are worth the money, they’re up in arms that their existence is threatened.

It sucks, I know. But that’s democracy.

UPDATE (Feb. 13): CKUT writes to the McGill Daily about this issue, and says it lost $27,000 to student fee opt-outs last year, which is very significant. (The part about it being the most listened-to station isn’t right. It’s supposed to say that CKUT is ranked first or second in the annual Mirror readers’ poll.)

Posted in Navel-gazing

Five years of Fagstein

So meta.

It was just after midnight, five years ago today, that during a period of extended unemployment I published my first post on a website I had just set up to share random thoughts with the world.

Looking back at some old posts, I realize how little idea I had of what it would turn into down the road. Many of the posts are short, sarcastic comments about news stories, about all sorts of topics I knew little about. There’s no effort to really think too hard about what I’m writing, and the idea of actually calling up someone for comment would have seemed ridiculous at the time. Often I’ll go back to stuff written around that time and cringe a little bit, either because I was far too fast on the trigger or because my opinions were sorely lacking in nuance.

There are more subtle changes that have happened since then. The headlines at first made no attempt at search-engine optimization, and didn’t use tags. (This isn’t just a question of getting Google traffic, but making it easier to find old posts about a topic as well, which I do often to add context.) There were also far few pictures used back then. (It’s a lot easier now, in part because of the thousands of photos in my database I can use as file art.)

As the months and years went on, I started to focus on things that really interested me, that I could write more than a paragraph or two about. That turned out to mainly be media, but to a lesser extent Montreal urban life, public transit and other issues as well.

As a result, I’ve been branded some sort of expert on local media. I’ve slowly started developing contacts, actually going out and reporting on things, and even breaking stories (and learning hard lessons about how to separate rumour from fact). Whereas five years ago I would have easily passed incognito in an open house at a local TV or radio station, I’m now on a first-name basis with many of the players in local English media and am the go-to person for TV and radio coverage in The Gazette that Bill Brownstein and Brendan Kelly aren’t interested in writing.

Probably the biggest change to this blog came about when I started posting on Twitter. Those short one-sentence posts got replaced by tweets. The result was that the average post got longer, and the frequency of blog posts dropped from about three a day to about three a week. (Going back to work for The Gazette also cut down on the amount of time I could spend on blogging.)

And, of course, there are a lot more comments on posts now, and despite the trolls, the xenophobes, the stubborn radicals who are closed off to reason, the personal attacks, the off-topic comments and the hundreds of spam comments I have to flush out every day, discussion in comments is among my favourite parts of this blog.

I really don’t have any big plans for the future. I’ve had a few people inquire about advertising, but I’ve stupidly turned them down so far, being more than happy with the money I’m making from my job at The Gazette. As it stands, I’m planning to just continue, using this forum as an outlet for things I feel need to be said out loud, and for news that’s of interest to people who have the same interests as me.

Thanks for reading, commenting, linking, supporting, contributing ideas and everything else you’ve done to make this the one-time second-most-popular local English-language blog in the city. I appreciate it.

Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio, TV

CBC Montreal adding weekend newscasts

CBC Montreal's TV news studio won't go dark for 65 hours on the weekends anymore

In case you didn’t see the article in Wednesday’s Gazette, CBC Montreal announced this week that it is adding newscasts on weekends as part of the Mother Corp.’s “Everyone, Every Way” strategy that has brought similar announcements of increased local services across the country.

To be specific (because the press release is anything but), starting in May (the exact date is still to be confirmed):

  • CBMT will get a half-hour local newscast at 6pm Saturdays, replacing the national newscast at that same time. It leads into Hockey Night in Canada.
  • CBMT also gets a late newscast at 10:55pm Sundays, after The National.
  • CBME-FM (88.5) gets local hourly newscasts on weekend afternoons, extending local news hours from noon to 5pm on Saturdays and 4pm on Sundays

A couple of questions remain unanswered.

  • Anchor: For the TV newscasts, an anchor hasn’t been chosen yet. The position is to be posted in the coming weeks. Top candidates would probably be Kristin Falcao, Sabrina Marandola, Catherine Cullen and Peter Akman, who have had experience filling in for vacationing anchors.
  • Jobs: It’s not clear at this point how many people will be hired to fill these new newscasts. CBC Quebec managing director Pia Marquard told me there would be “a couple of people at least”. Certainly an anchor will be needed on the TV side and a second news reader on the radio side. Plus one would imagine more reporters being needed on the weekend to file fresh stories for these newscasts. But Marquard seemed to suggest a lot of this would be done by shuffling around existing staff.

I asked Marquard about programming for Quebec communities outside of Montreal. No news there, even though one would think supporting anglophone minority communities in Quebec is part of the public broadcaster’s mandate. Outside of the Quebec AM and Breakaway radio shows out of Quebec City and programs of CBC North out of northern Quebec, the only radio and TV programming produced in the province comes out of Maison Radio-Canada.

I also asked her about the possibility of more non-news local programming. Things along the lines of the Secrets of Montreal special that ran last fall. She pointed to the CBC Montreal Summer Series, which are one-off one-hour specials that air Saturday nights during the summer, when nobody’s watching. Last year’s crop wasn’t particularly impressive. Of the six one-hour specials, two were English versions of Radio-Canada’s Studio 12 music performance show (which won’t return after this season, by the way, so they’re going to have to find another way to produce cheap one-hour shows). It’s not that I don’t like Studio 12, but it’s like those “CBC/Radio-Canada investigations” in which CBC Montreal repackages the work of Radio-Canada and takes credit for it.

Marquard did point out that CBC News Network will be airing the best of these summer series shows on Saturday afternoons this summer (when even fewer people will be watching, I imagine).

I don’t want to be too negative here. CBC television in Montreal has made a lot of progress in the past few years. It wasn’t long ago that all it had was a half-hour newscast on weekdays, producing 2.5 hours a week of programming. With these changes, it’ll go up to nine hours of local news a week, which is still way behind CFCF.

It would be nice if more of an effort was made to produce more local and regional programming for Quebec’s anglophone community from CBC, especially since there are no private English-language TV stations and few English-language radio stations outside of Montreal. And it would be nice if we had some programming that’s not confined to two-minute news reports or six-minute studio interviews, that could reflect the unique culture that is anglophone Quebec.

But for now I guess we’ll have to be satisfied that news that breaks on Saturday morning doesn’t have to wait until Monday at 5pm to be reported on local public television.

UPDATE (Feb. 17): Jobs have been posted for weekend news anchor and weekend meteorologist. The former is strangely listed as “full-time” even though it’s only two days a week.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Bienvenue, Huffington Post Québec

I suppose I should say something about Le Huffington Post Québec, the new website that is supposed to, as Patrick White writes, “transformer la vision du monde des Québécois.”

It launched this week amid what’s been called “controversy”. It’s funny how easy it is to create a controversy. Just get one person to write something on a blog or in a column, have a bunch of people post links to it on Twitter and Facebook, and then get journalists to ask them for their reaction. Voilà: a controversy.

In the case of the Huffington Post, it started with a blog post from Voir’s Simon Jodoin, accusing people of volunteering their services as writers for the sole profit of the giant AOL empire. (A feeling echoed by La Presse’s Nathalie Collard.) The fallout from that led to some people who had agreed to blog for free (notably Québec solidaire’s Amir Khadir) to change their minds. But not all.

The word “controversy” appears in many stories about HuffPost Québec. The Gazette, Les Affaires (and again), Radio-Canada (and its Triplex blog), CTV, Canadian Press, Branchez-Vous. Bad PR, for sure, but Arianna Huffington dealt with it well when she was surrounded by journalists jumping over each other to talk to her.

(You can read more about Le Huffington Post at Projet J, which visited its offices and covered its launch.)

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Posted in Montreal, Radio

An English commercial radio station in Hudson/St. Lazare?

UPDATE (Oct. 19): The station has been approved by the CRTC.

Coverage area of proposed FM station in Hudson/St. Lazare provided by Dufferin Communications

Is Hudson part of Montreal?

I’m not asking on a technical level, but more on a psychological one. Do people in that triangle between Montreal and the Ontario border consider themselves part of the metropolitan area, or part of their own region? There’s a train that comes once a day to bring commuters into the city, and plenty of people who work on the island live in this region. But is it enough to say that these towns are mere suburbs of greater Montreal?

One Toronto-based company is arguing that it doesn’t, and that forms part of the basis for an application they have submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for a commercial FM radio station to serve the Hudson/St. Lazare area.

The company is Dufferin Communications. You might recognize them as the company that recently got CRTC approval to setup an AM radio station in Montreal with programming targeted at the region’s LGBT community. That station will be running on 990 AM after CKGM vacates the frequency to move to 690 – hopefully to be up and running by the fall.

I spoke to Dufferin VP Carmela Laurignano for an article that appears in the West Island section of Wednesday’s Gazette about the Hudson application.

This application, for an FM music station, actually predates the AM one, even though the CRTC heard the other one first. Much of the application dates from as far back as 2009. Laurignano said she didn’t know why the CRTC waited so long to hear this application, but that she understands they have a lot on their plate and such long waits are not unusual for matters that aren’t pressing.

Laurignano said the big reason behind this application is the sense that this is an underserved market. The region has a French-language commercial music station, CJVD-FM 100.1 in Vaudreuil, but no corresponding English station yet, even though its English-speaking population is large and getting larger.

The frequency

The application, which can be downloaded from the CRTC’s website here, is for an FM station at 106.7 MHz, with a 500 watt transmitter at a Bell tower on Route Harwood in Hudson. As you can see from the coverage map above, it would cover Hudson, St. Lazare, Rigaud, Vaudreuil-Dorion and the area around Oka, but wouldn’t reach much beyond that before it started seeing interference from WIZN 106.7 FM in Burlington, Vt., and to a lesser extent the adjacent-channel station CKQB 106.9 FM (The Bear) in Ottawa. There’s also a reserved but unused channel of 106.5 for a CBC station in Cornwall.

The frequency is important, because it’s considered the last really desirable one in the Montreal area. It was the former frequency of Aboriginal Voices Radio and was subsequently used by the pirate KKIC radio in Kahnawake before it got CRTC approval for a licensed station at 89.9.

And there’s another application pending for this frequency, too. Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio Ltd., the company behind CKDG (Mike) 105.1 FM and CKIN-FM 106.3, has applied to move the former to 106.7, keeping its transmitter location on Mount Royal but increasing its power. Because the coverage areas of CKDG and the proposed Hudson station would overlap, it’s unlikely the CRTC would allow both on the same frequency. UPDATE: CHCR withdrew its application to change CKDG’s frequency this week. Thanks to ATSC for spotting that through an update to the station’s Wikipedia page.

Dufferin’s application includes a backup frequency should the CRTC judge 106.7 improper. It’s 107.9FM. Assigning that frequency might anger National Public Radio fans in Montreal, as that’s the frequency used by the closest transmitter, in Burlington, Vt. Its reception here is quite good for a border station, but it would be hard to see it overcoming a much closer transmitter on the same frequency in Hudson.

The frequency is also less desirable for Dufferin because it’s adjacent to its own Jewel station at 107.7FM in Hawkesbury.

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Posted in Media, Opinion

Bell Let’s Talk Day: “This is why we do it”

Bell Let's Talk national spokesperson Clara Hughes in an interview with TSN Radio in Toronto (Bell Canada photo)

Today is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day, a day in which Canada’s biggest telecom company raises money to help treat mental illness, and helps bring the issue out into the spotlight at the same time.

Until midnight Pacific time, Bell is donating five cents for every long-distance call and text message sent using its network, as well as every (non-robot) retweet of its Twitter account, to this charitable cause.

I was reminded of this campaign when I watched CFCF’s noon newscast today. It was hard to miss it. Half of the first 15-minute block was devoted to it, with a story by a local reporter profiling someone with mental illness, and an interview with the campaign’s spokesperson, Olympian (and national sweetheart) Clara Hughes.

It didn’t stop there. Later, a health news story about the potential causes of suicide (probably a coincidence because the study just came out), a sit-down interview with an expert on mental illness, and a chat with reporter Tarah Schwartz about a special report on depression airing on Thursday. That’s not including the commercials devoted to the subject and all the other programming that’s airing on CTV, including a special at 7pm.

A year ago, I asked similar questions about this campaign, and whether the perfectly laudable cause justified the apparent intrusion of Bell Canada into the editorial decisions of CTV’s newsrooms. (One could argue that many have simply decided to join this cause without being ordered to, which is possible, but there’s a reason we’re not seeing as much coverage of this on CBC and Global, and do we really think it would get so much airtime on CTV if this was, say, a Telus campaign?)

There are also questions to be asked about Bell’s motives in this. Every large company puts profit ahead of anything else, and it makes sense for a company whose reputation is as poor as Bell’s to spend millions of dollars making it seem more human. And it sends the message that if you really want CTV News to pay attention to your cause, no matter how positive it is, you need to get Bell onside.

But rather than rehash all that, I’ll share an email that was forwarded to me by someone from Bell Media, who I’m guessing saw my tweets critical of the campaign today or was directed to last year’s blog post. It was sent from a viewer of CTV’s Marilyn Denis show, which also devoted segments to mental health today, including one on postpartum depression.

He added only: “This is why we do it.”

I’ve redacted the person’s name since it’s not important.

Subject: Thank you thank you thank you

Hello Marilyn

My name is ***, mother of 4 girls 8,6,4 and 5 months.

I started my last pregnancy with depression and it is becoming a giant battle!

I feel darker and darker and the show today made feel good and thank to CTV, let’s talk day. It is good to know that I will talk and search for help.

What a show thank you again.

There are a lot of thing behind my depression, I have in Canada for 17years no status, with 4 children provide a good life. Being a great mother and wife. Keeping on packing weigh. Being there sometimes became a burden etc….but I do it because I love my family.

Well I just wanted to say thank to you and CTV for this day Let’s talk.

I never wrote to a show but the one today saved my life.

By the grace of God!

There are worse reasons to abuse one’s power.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Global Montreal has a new (virtual) set

Global Montreal's new virtual set debuted Monday

There wasn’t much fanfare. In fact, it wasn’t even explicitly mentioned during the first night. But it would have been hard to miss that Global Montreal’s newscast has a new look, thanks to a new set.

Unlike CFCF, which needed to build a new set from scratch, CKMI’s set is entirely virtual, with anchors sitting at a desk in an all-green room. So while it wasn’t quite as easy as flipping a switch (there were complications in planning that pushed back the launch date), all the changes are in a computer’s memory.

Above you see anchor Jamie Orchard in the new set. She’s the only thing real there. The floor, the windows, the pillar, all have been added digitally through chroma key (a bit more advanced than your usual green screen because the camera’s movements are synchronized with the computer changing the perspective of the digital background).

The background cityscape is the work of Gazette photographer Phil Carpenter. He’ll also be doing a daytime version for use during the summer when it’s daylight at 6pm.

The top of the newscast features graphics that fade in behind the anchor

Having a digital set has its advantages, like cool effects. One involves still images fading into place behind the anchor, covering up the city skyline.

There’s also the fact that the set can seem much bigger than it actually is. That has led some to go a bit overboard with perspective. I’ll leave it to you to decide if Global has gone too far here, or if the fantasy-studio-on-the-waterfront look works.

For the sake of comparison with the previous set, here’s a few before-and-after shots:

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