Posted in Montreal, TV

Bell Media opposes Rogers plans for CJNT

It’s not that Bell Media, which owns CTV, is opposed to adding a third private English-language station to the Montreal market. But it tells the CRTC it thinks such an application should be done in a straightforward way with a call for new applications, rather than the roundabout two-step process that Rogers is proposing with CJNT.

Normally, when an application is made for a new commercial television or radio station, the CRTC responds by evaluating the market to see if it can sustain an additional station, and if so issuing an open call for applications. The various applications are evaluated and the commission chooses the best one.

With the Rogers acquisition of CJNT, which it proposes to convert into an English station, and a related application for the new ICI ethnic station, which would take over the ethnic programming responsibilities from CJNT, the new application isn’t technically for Citytv, but for an ethnic station to replace an existing one. In comments filed to the CRTC, Bell’s vice-president of regulatory affairs Kevin Goldstein says Rogers is “looking for an extraordinary result from this process” and the CRTC should reject the application, instead issuing an open call for applications for a new English television station in Montreal. Indeed, he questions why it wasn’t the group behind ICI that didn’t seek to acquire CJNT, and Rogers issue the new application.

Even under an alternative proposal, in which CJNT remains an ethnic station but with relief from rules like the one requiring 75% of its programming between 8pm and 10pm to be bilingual, Goldstein says “its commitment to local ethnic programming hours will be drastically reduced and much lower than what is required by other ethnic stations. This would represent a significant loss of diverse programming for Montreal’s ethnic audiences, particularly during the prime time hours when they tune in the most.”

Other Bell concerns include:

Timing: Bell points out that if the two applications are approved, the ICI service would take some months to launch, while Citytv could be converted into an English television station “essentially overnight.” In the interim, Montreal would be absent any ethnic programming on local television.

Programming: Though it doesn’t object to Rogers’s proposed English programming grid per se, Bell does suggest that it might not be the best option in terms of local programming. It points out that the station would have “limited local news” which would be done within a morning show and a weekly sports show. Goldstein suggests that, with an open call for applications, another proposal could offer a better option that would have more or better local programming.

Bell’s main objection, that Rogers seems to have structured this plan as a clever way to get around normal CRTC process for a new television station, makes a lot of sense. But it’s also kind of an academic argument to make, for the simple reason that there’s little demand for new conventional television stations. I’d be surprised if an open call for applications for a commercial English station would result in an application from anyone other than Rogers for the simple reason that there’s no other large mainstream commercial Canadian television network that doesn’t already have a station in Montreal. The only other networks in Canada are the small, mainly religious Joytv and CTS.

In 1996, when Canwest applied to acquire Quebec City station CKMI-TV and convert it into Global Quebec, CFCF objected strongly, saying the market could not sustain a second television station. Ownership of CFCF has changed a few times since then, though.

Shaw: Rogers exaggerates market’s health

Shaw Media, which owns the Global television network, also submitted comments about this proposal. Shaw senior vice-president of regulatory affairs Jean Brazeau says the company doesn’t directly oppose the applications, but that a study Rogers included from Strategic Inc. is unrealistic in its glowing predictions about the future of local television in Montreal.

“Since 2005, audience to English-language Canadian conventional television stations in the Montreal Anglo market has declined significantly – a pattern that holds for the overall schedule (down 40%) and for primetime (down 45%). Over the same timeframe, market leader CFCF-TV (CTV) has experienced marked audience erosion (down 53% during primetime), while already small audiences to local CBC and Global stations have remained flat or declined.”

“According to TVB Timesales Survey, between 2004 and 2009, total spot advertising in the market fell from $62.9 million to $49.2 million – a 22% decline across the market.”

Shaw uses figures from CKMI as an example, allowing us to get some insight into the station’s overall performance. As one might expect for one of Global’s weaker stations, it’s not good:

“Our own experience illustrates the challenges facing this market. As evidenced by the Annual Returns filed with the Commission, and despite initiatives to contain costs while remaining viable, CKMI-TV has posted significant operating losses over the past thirteen (13) years. In the most recent broadcast year (2011/12), CKMI-TV’s advertising revenues declined by 10% while operating losses grew significantly. Shaw assigns only 4% of its overall foreign programming costs to CKMI-TV, so the station’s financial performance is in no way a function of arbitrary foreign program cost allocations.”

That last sentence reflects a common complaint about large broadcasters playing with the books by downloading more costs for national programming onto local stations in order to make their financial situation seem more dire than it really is.

Nevertheless, rather than oppose the application outright, Shaw says that if the CRTC approves bringing Citytv to Montreal, it should allow “and even encourage” other stations to apply for “regulatory relief — especially from onerous local programming obligations that result from the Commission’s designation of the Montreal Anglo market as a metropolitan market.”

According to CRTC policy, in general stations in large metropolitan markets (population over 1 million) are required to broadcast 14 hours a week of local programming. Stations in non-metropolitan markets are required to broadcast only 7 hours a week. The markets are split by language, but the CRTC considers language proficiency, not mother tongue. So both Montreal’s English and French markets qualify as metropolitan (it’s the only market that does so). The other metropolitan markets are all English-language ones: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa-Gatineau.

Not on this list is Winnipeg, which Shaw argues Montreal’s English market is similar to, as part of its argument that Montreal’s English market should be considered non-metropolitan. It’s true that both cities have a similar population of anglophones (700,000), but that’s by mother tongue, not language proficiency.

The argument is also kind of moot since there aren’t many practical differences for Global, which runs reruns of its news broadcasts at 6am in order to meet local programming requirements. Once its morning show launches, it will be producing 17.5 hours of original local programming a week (assuming it doesn’t cancel Focus Montreal or its late newscast, which I wouldn’t count on).

Winnipeg, by the way, has all three English commercial broadcasters, as well as a Joytv station.

Shaw argues that reducing the number of hours of local news for each station would not have an adverse effect overall if combined with a new station.

Finally, Shaw calls Rogers on its statement (repeated in many supporting interventions) that Citytv would have Montreal’s “only” morning show, by reminding Rogers that it is planning to launch its own. “We anticipate launch of CKMI-TV morning news within the next 150 days,” Brazeau writes, putting the launch before March 4, 2013.

Both Bell and Shaw filed their comments on the last day to do so. Rogers will be given an opportunity to reply in writing. Neither Bell nor Shaw said they wished to appear at the hearing into these applications, scheduled for Nov. 7 in Gatineau.

CMPA calls foul on benefits plan

While most of the interventions filed by individuals and interest groups favoured the plan, the Canadian Media Production Association wrote to the CRTC to oppose a specific part of the proposal – using $1 million in tangible benefits to create programming for ICI.

The CMPA quotes CRTC policy regarding tangible benefits, a 10% tax on the purchase of television stations that is supposed to be used on programs or funds that benefit the broadcasting system as a whole, saying that it specifically forbids such money from being “dependent upon approval of an application yet to be considered by the Commission.”

Of course, since the application for ICI is being considered at the same hearing, this would not seem to apply directly in this case, at least by my reading of it.

A similar argument was used by various groups to oppose a proposal by Bell Media to use some tangible benefits from its proposed purchase of Astral Media to help fund the launch of a new French-language all-news television channel.

In general, the CMPA opposes the plan because CJNT and the new ICI station are two separate entities “and the Commission must therefore consider the ici application on its own merits.”

“Moreover, under the policy, the benefits from this transaction must flow primarily to the community to be served by a Rogers-owned CJNT-TV; they are not to flow to an entirely different community served by another, entirely different broadcaster.”

This brings up a good question: Under this acquisition plan, should the benefits money go primarily to the local ethnic broadcasting system (because it’s the purchase of an ethnic television station) or to the local English broadcasting system (because it would result in the creation of a new English television service)? The CRTC will need to determine this.

The CMPA says allowing this plan would create a “dangerous precedent” of broadcasters proposing similar deals in order to make it more likely for the CRTC to approve them.

The association says the funds should be instead given to “a new self-administrated fund to independent producers based in Quebec, for English-language programming to be broadcast on CJNT-TV/CityTV Montréal.”

QELPC: Quebec’s English community is underserved

The Quebec English-language Production Council had one of the longer interventions. It wrote that the CRTC should take a more broad view of how broadcasters are serving the English minority in Quebec. It’s issues include that Videotron does not offer an English-language community channel, and that English stations in Montreal are not eligible to receive funding from the Local Programming Improvement Fund (which is being phased out anyway).

In regards to this application, the council supports bringing Citytv to Montreal, which it says will “help stabilize this fragile undertaking.” But it’s not happy with the lack of independent production, saying the $200,000 a year budgeted to independent productions is “inadequate.”

It proposes that Rogers be required as a condition of licence to spend 3% of its national Citytv independent programming budget in (English) Quebec, which is the same as Rogers currently spends, increasing to 6% after the first three years.

It also takes issue with reduced Canadian programming budgets (due in large part to reduced local programming at various stations), combined with leaps in foreign program acquisition budgets. “We do not want to see CJNT simply become another channel simulcasting U.S. programming,” it says.

Under the alternative plan of CJNT becoming an OMNI-like ethnic broadcaster, the council says it supports the plan, but still wants 3% of independent programming for Citytv to come from Quebec’s English minority, increasing to 6% after three years.

As for benefits money going to ICI, the council says it opposes spending all the money this way, and wants at least 40% of tangible benefits to be spent on English-language production “whether ICI is licensed or not.”

Other comments about CJNT, Citytv and ICI

  • English Language Arts Network: Supports the plan, particularly because of the increased exposure of Quebec’s anglophone cultural community that Citytv would bring. Also supports the alternative proposal of an ethnic CJNT with reduced ethnic programming requirements during prime time, if Rogers makes a commitment to produce “a minimum amount of Quebec-produced English-language content on the Citytv network”. The alternative proposal for CJNT would have it air local ethnic programming, but not any local English programming.
  • David Birnbaum, Quebec English School Boards Association: Supports bringing Citytv to Montreal as an addition to the number of voices in English media in Quebec. (He expressed similar comments about CKGM at the CRTC hearings in Montreal last month).
  • Montreal School of Performing Arts: Sees Citytv Montreal as “an opportunity to grow more Montreal talent in the entertainment industry, specifically in the English sector.” Name-drops Montreal Alouettes player Brandon London, who’s studying to become an actor.
  • Griffintown Media: Wants more local programming. “Specifically, locally-focused shows that celebrate and support the efforts and achievements of the community.” President Jim McRae says that “every opportunity to bolster (the voice of Montreal’s English community) should be taken. The proposed acquisition represents just such an opportunity.”
  • Valerie Smith: Supports bringing a local morning show back to Montreal. Also supports ethnic programming.
  • Youth Fusion: A charity that has as its goal to reduce the high school dropout rate, says Rogers is “a key partner in supporting our programs” and sees Citytv as an “opportunity for visibility of our program activities and to showcase our students’ accomplishments.”
  • Urban Diversity Forum: Worried that Rogers is essentially dictating a course of action to the CRTC. Feels an open call for applications – both for an English station and for an ethnic station – would be advisable. Also calls for all of Rogers’s OMNI stations to increase their ethnic programming minimum to 70% of the broadcast day. (The CRTC will likely reject this as being outside the scope of this hearing.)
There are also interventions in support of bringing Citytv to Montreal from Rogers production and advertising partners:
  • Anaïd Productions
  • Buck Productions
  • Cream Productions
  • Eyesteelfilm
  • Force Four Entertainment (supports benefits package, but says comments subject to CMPA’s position)
  • Galafilm (but echoing concerns raised by the CMPA about benefits spending)
  • KBS+P (marketing)
  • Marketel
  • Retail Communications
  • Rezolution Pictures International
  • Rotating Planet Productions
  • Thunderbird Films
  • Worldwide Bag Media
  • Jean D. Codère

And others who look like they just filled out the form letter calling for Citytv to come to Montreal:

  • Bruce Hills of Just for Laughs
  • Boys and Girls Club of Dawson Community Centre
  • Generations Foundation
  • Linda Leith Publishing

Other supporters of ICI

Most of these are simple letters of support, explaining the need for local ethnic programming in Montreal. They are in addition to the letters of support ICI included in its own application.

Festivals, cultural institutions and ethnic media:

  • Vues D’Afrique
  • Festival Nuits d’Afrique
  • Le trait d’union d’art et de la culture
  • Média Arabe au Canada Inc.
  • FOUNOUN Events
  • Canadian Asian News
  • Bharat Times
  • Accent Montreal (Romanian community newspaper)
  • Italian Cultural Center of Quebec

Consulates and ethnic associations:

  • India-Canada Association of Montreal
  • Communauté hellénique du Grand Montréal
  • Hellenic Congress of Quebec
  • Hindi Quebec Association
  • Communauté Angolaise de Montréal
  • Armenian Community Center of Montreal
  • Armenian Community Center of Laval
  • Association des retraités d’origine haïtienne du Québec et du Canada
  • Bharat Bhavan Foundation
  • St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral
  • St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral Sisterhood
  • St. John of Suchawa Greek Orthodox Parish

Consulates:

  • Consulate General of Egypt in Montreal
  • Consulate of El Salvador in Montreal
  • Consulate of Bolivia in Montreal
  • Consulate of the Dominican Republic in Montreal

Former TEQ/CJNT shows:

  • Images de l’Inde

Politicians:

  • Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos
  • Mary Deros, City of Montreal executive committee
  • Dominique Anglade, president of the Coalition avenir Québec

Others:

  • Shield of Athena Family Services

Individuals:

  • Wilhelmina Fredericks
  • Francine Gagné
  • Nelly Nlonda
  • Costantinos Papachristou
  • Elizabeth Platonow
  • Howard Riback
  • Tatiana Schicharew
  • Bemvindo Woollams
  • Joujou Turenne, Flaubert Chéry, Frantz Lafontant, Félicidade Jacques Joseph and Joseph Jean-Gilles, in various roles with the local Haitian community

19 thoughts on “Bell Media opposes Rogers plans for CJNT

  1. Steve Hatton

    So Bell argues that this is a clever way to get around the normal CRTC process for a new English television station. But isn’t Bell’s RDS 690 proposal a clever way to get around the normal CRTC process for a new French radio station? Are both companies not trying to avoid a call for applications?

    Reply
  2. Alex H

    I have to say Bell objecting to competition is quite the laugh. Bell is trying their damndest to buy a dominant position in almost every market in Canada. They make more than a billion (with b) year of profits from operations. You don’t think they can handle a little competition?

    The timing issue for the change over to ICI could be handled by having CJNT stay on the air as is until ICI comes online. Further, the CRTC could mandate that a certain amount of advertising space on the new city-tv station promote ICI and it’s programming for a given period of time, easing the transition. There is no absolute requirement for City to flick the switch overnight, basically killing most of Bell’s direct objections over lost programming.

    Further, considering CJNT for the moment is in a 3 year old stasis, moving forward with ICI is the best way to get NEW community programming on the air.

    I think that Bell’s real objection is that they risk having City as a national network competitor over time, an alternate english network (aside from CBC, obviously) that could compete with them for US programming and thus sim-sub revenues. Right now no other playing in the market has the money or audience to buy the rights to top line dramas (such as say CSI or whatever). But City, with enough stations and exposure might be able to do just that, tipping things dramatically in the broadcasting world.

    Considering that Bell has all but abandoned the local markets they serve, with no real local programming outside of news produced in their stations anymore, it seems like a real benefit for Montreal to have an anglo station that is going to operate on a more local level, with more local programming. It’s a market Bell doesn’t seem to want, so why should they get to block it?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I have to say Bell objecting to competition is quite the laugh.

      It’s not objecting to competition. It’s objecting to the process being used. The fact that it wants an open call for applications suggests that it has no problem with a new English station in the market.

      The timing issue for the change over to ICI could be handled by having CJNT stay on the air as is until ICI comes online.

      This is true.

      Considering that Bell has all but abandoned the local markets they serve, with no real local programming outside of news produced in their stations anymore, it seems like a real benefit for Montreal to have an anglo station that is going to operate on a more local level, with more local programming.

      The proposal for CJNT would have the same amount of local programming as CFCF – 15.5 hours a week. And Bell would argue that live news is much more expensive to produce than other types of programming.

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        “The fact that it wants an open call for applications suggests that it has no problem with a new English station in the market.”

        Well, that doesn’t appear to be true. What Bell appears to want is an open call so that the CRTC is forced into looking at market studies to determine if a new station has enough commercial space. That of course would be driven by Bell and Shaw bringing all sorts of bad numbers into the game, showing that there is no market.

        ” Bell would argue that live news is much more expensive to produce than other types of programming.”

        yes, but it’s not the only type of programming on a local level that is meaningful. Repeating the same news reports multiple times a day isn’t exactly on par with running a morning show, example. Bell wants to talk at the community, it appears the City-TV ideas are much more “talk with” the community, and that would be a big difference.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          What Bell appears to want is an open call so that the CRTC is forced into looking at market studies to determine if a new station has enough commercial space.

          Perhaps. But the point is that Bell hasn’t argued that the market can’t support another station, and we can’t blame them for arguing against it until they actually do.

          Reply
          1. Alex H

            I think that is part 2 of the plan – try to get the CRTC to put it to a full hearing and then slam them with the “this market won’t support” arguments, showing the bottom line of CFCF being terrible because of all the network costs they incur. You have to imagine that all the technical services to support the newscast must cost a fortune!

            Reply
  3. ATSC

    It was expected that the owners of CFCF-DT (CTV – BellMedia), and CKMI-DT (Global – Shaw Media) would say something that would try and point to a cloud on the proposed changes to CJNT-DT (Channel Zero). So, no big deal there.

    What I find problematic with are the comments for Shaw Media. They mention that they plan to offer a morning show as well. Suggesting that two local english language morning shows are a bit of a problem in the fragile Montreal market. Sure, I get it. But, instead of complaining about that, why isn’t CKMI-DT looking to identify other needs for its local news production for Montreal. Why can’t they counter program.

    Example. Do we really need CBMT-DT, CFCF-DT, and CKMI-DT all having their local evening news run at the 6pm slot? If you see that your ratings are terrible, why not move your local news to 7pm? The same with the two new proposed morning shows. Has CKMI-DT looked to see that week-end local news is horrible for the local english market. Perhaps offer a Saturday and Sunday week-end news show at noon. Nobody is offering that. Why is it that all these stations can’t see a need to be filled in. But rather always go for the simple, traditional placement of local news. 6pm, 11pm, and a morning show.

    Now your going to tell me that two week-end news shows will not cover CKMI-DT’s license requirement for the number of local hours a morning show would offer. True. But, I’m talking about counter programming. Identifying a under serviced part of the broadcast week, and filling in that need. If CityTV wants to create a local morning show for CJNT-DT, why compete with them for the same advertising dollar.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      They mention that they plan to offer a morning show as well. Suggesting that two local english language morning shows are a bit of a problem in the fragile Montreal market.

      They didn’t say they’re against competition in morning shows (though I can’t imagine they’re too happy about it). They just wanted to correct the record.

      Example. Do we really need CBMT-DT, CFCF-DT, and CKMI-DT all having their local evening news run at the 6pm slot? If you see that your ratings are terrible, why not move your local news to 7pm?

      CBC starts its local news at 5pm. And I’ve suggested Global moving its newscast to 7pm before, but I doubt it will happen, because it would deviate from the national schedule (it would put the local news after Global National instead of before), and because it would cut into the ET/ET Canada block, which makes a lot more money than the local news.

      Perhaps offer a Saturday and Sunday week-end news show at noon. Nobody is offering that.

      Because nobody watches television at noon on weekends. And besides, how much would really be new at noon on Saturday that’s different from what was reported at 11pm on Friday?

      If CityTV wants to create a local morning show for CJNT-DT, why compete with them for the same advertising dollar.

      Shaw has already committed to the CRTC to create local morning shows. And Citytv doesn’t want to compete with the noon, 6pm and 11pm newscasts, so it has decided to go mornings. It’s easier to compete with the Global startup than the CFCF giant.

      Reply
      1. Michael D

        Steve, it seems there’s a lot of people generally commenting for Rogers/City TV to come to town…As with radio and TTP..there seems to be a swing to Montreal for new players and national players not here…

        And they seem to realize that by not looking at jus tmother tongue but proficiency as wel, , which makes Montreal and South Shore and Laval,etc a very big area..Bell is just scared and doing the same runaround with the TSN/RDS thing..

        CTV did a faux pas by getting of their great local shows like I believe Sports Magazine, it was called with Ron Reusch, the entertainment show with Mose and Orla Johannes…A news magazine As it Happens or On Assignment with Bill Hauglans was good stuff..So Bell drop the hypocrisy…

        I like the Focus Montreal show as it accents on special people or events not covered by a conventional newscast for time reasons..So the above proposals for some news/info show on weekends would go over well if promoted properly..You are right about not much new news from Friday night..but there could be updates, both in news and of course, there’s always sports happening…But you would get viewers with special segments on the local entertainmnet scene and the many talented people out there, that I have discovered on Fcebook, You Tube, etc..

        the local cultural and educational scene are poorly underserved..but a big network needs to take a chance and promote it…But I and others, am willing to bet would watch a show like that if someone I knew or a son or daughter of someone I knew was featured on a show like that……

        this is the key here network people..LOCAL …..it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out..

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          You are right about not much new news from Friday night..but there could be updates, both in news and of course, there’s always sports happening.

          But what kind of news and sports happens between midnight and noon on Saturday?

          But you would get viewers with special segments on the local entertainmnet scene and the many talented people out there

          Plenty of pre-taped entertainment/arts/food/etc. stories air on CTV’s weekend newscast at 6pm or weekdays at noon. There’s no reason such a show would need to air at noon on weekends when the audience is very low.

          Reply
          1. Lorne

            Between midnight and noon Saturday there are tennis matches from overseas and soccer from Britain and golf from the European Tour.

            Reply
  4. Marc

    I wonder if any one would object the conversion to CityTV on quality grounds. Let’s face it: CityTV is very trashy. Anytime you hear “A CityTV original” you know you’re in for a steaming hot crap-fest.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Let’s face it: CityTV is very trashy.

      What does that even mean? Low-quality? Of poor morals? And how would it be worse than what CJNT is right now?

      Reply
        1. Robert G.

          “Modern Family” is camp for the “Jersey Shore” crowd? Oooooooooooookay then. Outside of “The Bachelor” stuff, I have NO clue where you’re going with this one (and even that show hardly draws a “Jersey Shore” crowd. More like a delusional crazies one.)

          Reply
  5. Steve

    Citytv isn’t the same station Marc from the 1990’s. Since Rogers took over, it has become more of a corporate network and all the former programming i.e Citytv Original are gone except for Cityline and Breakfast Television. The crap you talk about is over on CTV and Global…oh wait they don’t do Canadian Content either.

    Reply
    1. Alex H

      Of course they do Canadian content – the absolute minimum required, preferably run at times when actual viewers don’t tune in. You wouldn’t want to subject Canadians to actual Canadian content, you can see how well that works out for the CBC!

      Reply
  6. Dan Shields

    Such zero sum bullsh*t.

    Metropolitan market, non metro, stfu.

    If you look at successful TV stations in markets the size of anglo Montreal in the states they offer a lot more than 1 or 2 hours a day because they have determined that local programming, esp news, is a profit centre for their businesses.

    Dan Shields,
    Ottawa

    Reply

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