Monthly Archives: May 2014

Global Montreal has a new virtual set

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Global Montreal updated its set this week. The change is mostly virtual, since everything but the desks and the talent are inserted virtually.

The anchor desk got a paint job so it’s less grey and more blue-green, and the logo is now white on dark blue instead of black on a cloudy light blue.

The virtual part of the set is also redesigned, with diagonal pillars, a darker floor, more virtual windows, and in some shots the words “Global” and “Montreal”.

The old set looked like this in January 2013:

Camille and Richard

I find it still looks a bit unrealistic, too spacious considering how small the studio actually is. But it’s the substance that matters, not the style, right?

Radio ratings: CHOI still #1 in Quebec City; Jeff Fillion boosts NRJ Québec by 447%

Radio ratings for mid-size markets across Canada were released this week by BBM Canada. Unlike big markets like Montreal and Toronto, these markets are measured twice a year by written diaries, which are less accurate than electronic meters.

Here’s what they show (updated with notes from Bell Media Radio’s analysis):

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Shawn Apel named host of Radio Noon

Shawn Apel

Shawn Apel

Shawn Apel, the soft-spoken CBC Montreal radio veteran with the driest of wits, has been named the permanent host of Radio Noon, he weekly radio show broadcast throughout Quebec on CBC Radio One.

Apel replaces Bernard St-Laurent, who leaves that job to focus full-time on his role as chief political correspondent in Quebec. It’s a move that comes concurrently with various cuts to local staff, though not directly related to it.

Last day for three staffers

Speaking of those cuts, Friday is the last day on the job for three others at CBC Montreal. Andrew Chang does his last show as anchor before leaving on paternity leave and coming back to some other job at CBC outside of Montreal. You can watch his last show here, or just the career retrospective here.

Web editor Corinne Smith is leaving the corporation to lecture at Concordia University.

And Pierre Landry does his last episode of Homerun as its arts reporter. He’ll be a fill-in on All in a Weekend over the summer, but there’s no guarantee of any work after that.

Here’s 11 minutes of excerpts from Landry’s last hour at Homerun:

 

Competition Bureau: Transcontinental can buy 74 Quebecor papers, but must (try to) sell 34

The Competition Bureau has ruled that Transcontinental can acquire Quebecor Media’s 74 regional newspapers in Quebec, but in order to preserve competition, it must then sell 22 of those papers and 12 of its own.

In its decision, the bureau said it looked closely at the financial situation of the Transcontinental and Quebecor papers, noting that rivalry between the two intensified in 2009:

Since 2009, Transcontinental and Quebecor Media have engaged in aggressive competition for advertisers, entering markets where the other Party was the historical incumbent and cutting advertising prices. While a few independents remain in certain markets, Transcontinental and Quebecor Media own the only community newspapers in many of Quebec’s local communities and, as such, the Proposed Transaction may allow Transcontinental to have the only community newspaper(s) in numerous local markets.

The Bureau determined that at least one of the Parties’ newspapers was in financial distress in the vast majority of markets where the Parties compete. These were typically the newspapers that had been launched in recent years.

The competition rules by which the bureau operates allows for mergers that would reduce competition if the alternative is that one of the parties goes bankrupt and nobody picks up its assets, which would reduce competition anyway. The bureau’s assessment shows the community newspaper sector isn’t doing that well, but that Transcontinental should nevertheless put the newspapers on the block, and for no minimum price, for a period of 60 days, and managed by a third party.

“Following the completion of the sale period defined in the Consent Agreement, if no potential purchaser is identified for a particular paper, Transcontinental will be entitled to retain ownership of the newspaper,” the bureau writes. So Transcontinental could end up keeping many of these papers (or being allowed to shut them down and merge them with their competitors in each market) if no one else is interested in buying them for even $1 (with printing and distribution provided by Transcontinental for a limited time).

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CKRS-FM Saguenay wants to become a Rythme FM station

CKRS logoA week after the Journal de Montréal reported that CKRS-FM in Saguenay wants to become a Rythme FM, the CRTC has published an application from the station that confirms the news.

CKRS is owned by Richard Speer’s Attraction Radio, a growing new player in the Quebec radio scene. It officially owns five radio stations, including CJIT-FM in Lac-Mégantic. It currently has an application in front fo the CRTC to purchase CJLM-FM (M 103.5) in Joliette from a cooperative for $750,000, a deal announced in January 2013. (The deadline for comments on that was last week, and there were no comments filed on that application. A hearing is scheduled June 26, but that’s a formality. The parties aren’t being asked to attend.) And it recently announced a deal to buy the Réseau des Appalaches, owner of Passion Rock and O97,3 stations in the region of Victoriaville/Thetford-Mines.

La Presse’s Nathalie Collard profiles the group in a recent story.

History of losing money

CKRS, whose AM predecessor dates back to 1947, was once part of the Corus Quebec radio network. It was left off the list of radio stations sold to Cogeco in 2011, and was slated for closure. It was picked up by Radio Saguenay Inc., a group whose owners included Guy Carbonneau. But losing about $400,000 a year (less than the $1 million a year that it lost under Corus), Radio Saguenay gave it away to Attraction for $300,000, a purchase approved by the CRTC in 2012. CKRS and became Attraction’s third station, all of them acquired mere months apart.

Though CKRS’s licence was renewed just a few months ago, Attraction says it feels it can’t continue operating the station in its current format.

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Q&A: CJLO vs. VPR

Since the announcement last month that Concordia’s CJLO radio station has applied for an FM retransmitter downtown to allow listeners at the downtown campus to hear it, but would block out Vermont Public Radio for many more, there’s been a lot of questions, debate and differences of opinion about this proposal.

The CRTC has already received 645 interventions, almost all of whom are radio listeners who support one side or the other. The majority are VPR listeners responding to the organization’s public call-out on its website. Others are CJLO fans who want to be able to hear the station on the downtown campus and say this is the only practical way to do so.

In most (but not all) cases, the interveners don’t have bad things to say about the other side. The VPR fans hope for an alternative solution to the reception problem. Both CJLO and VPR say they support the other and don’t want to prevent anyone from being able to listen to the other.

I look a bit deeper into this application in this story for The Gazette, which appears in Friday’s paper. Below, I’ll tackle some of the questions and perceptions that people have and try to come up with some unbiased answers to them.

A map of potential interference between VPR and CJLO on 107.9 FM, based on terrain data, created by Yves R. Hamel and Associates (click for larger)

A map of potential interference between VPR and CJLO on 107.9 FM, based on terrain data, created by Yves R. Hamel and Associates (click for larger)

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Andrew Chang leaving Montreal for new job at CBC

Andrew Chang

Andrew Chang

When CBC Montreal detailed the 10 jobs being affected as a result of the latest round of budget cuts, nine of those changes were well explained, but one remained mysterious, described only as a “reassignment”.

Now we know who it involves, though still not what the new assignment is. Andrew Chang announced on Wednesday’s newscast that he will be leaving Montreal for a new job at CBC. He said he couldn’t say where he’s going or what he’ll be doing when he gets there.

Chang has been at CBC Montreal for 10 years. (He started around the same time I worked there briefly. I remember because CBC user accounts for me and him were started at the same time, with the expectation that we’d both be around for a while. That wasn’t so in my case, though casual workers and interns for years would use my name to login to CBC’s systems, causing me to have some strange mythology there even in the years before this blog.)

After doing many different jobs at CBC, including being a reporter, he took over the anchor desk in 2009 with Jennifer Hall (now at CBC News Network) after Michel Godbout left. Though he was a young choice, Chang was instantly comfortable in the new position, able to mix gravitas of serious news and lightheartedness of news that wasn’t so serious. And though he was a hard worker, he never seemed to take himself too seriously.

Debra Arbec will continue to host the evening news on CBC Montreal solo. CBC tells me they’re not looking for a co-anchor for her.

Chang is expecting his first child in about a week (give or take the usual uncertainty with pregnancies). He’ll go on paternity leave, fill in as host of The Current for a week, and then go on to his new assignment.

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CRTC approves two new ethnic radio stations in Montreal serving south Asian community

UPDATE (May 22): See also a story about this in The Gazette.

Last year, the CRTC received two apparently competing applications for new radio stations serving Montreal’s south Asian community. Today, it approved both of them.

ITR, 102.9 FM

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station (click for larger)

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station at 102.9 FM (click for larger)

The first, by AGNI Communications, would broadcast at 102.9 FM with a weak 50-watt transmitter on Chabanel St. near Highway 15, which would allow it to reach Ahuntsic and surrounding boroughs, but no farther than that because of interference from stations in Sherbrooke, St-Jérôme, Valleyfield and St-Jacques-le-Mineur on the same or adjacent frequencies.

The service already exists as on a subcarrier of CISM-FM on 89.3. It specifically targets the Tamil community, and the location of its transmitter will, it believes, cover the majority of Montreal’s Tamil-speaking community.

Radio Humsafar, 1610 AM

Projected broadcast pattern of Radio Humsafar on 1610AM

Projected broadcast pattern of Radio Humsafar on 1610AM

The second station is Radio Humsafar, which exists as an online, subcarrier and phone-in audio service. Its programming would be in English, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Pashto.

The station would operate with a 1kW transmitter sharing the transmission site of CJLO 1690 AM on Norman St. in St-Pierre. Because the two would have the same antenna and operate at the same power, their patterns should be similar, so if you can hear CJLO you should be able to hear this station.

Humsafar has been trying for years to get a radio station on the air in Montreal, where it’s based. It had originally applied for 1400 AM, but the long-delayed move of CJWI (CPAM Radio Union) from 1610 to 1410 delayed that application and changed its frequency to 1610. Humsafar also owns CJLV 1570 in Laval and had tried to convert that into an ethnic station, an application the CRTC denied in 2012.

Radio Humsafar’s president, Jasvir Singh Sandhu, tells me he’ll begin discussions with engineers about quickly getting the station on the air, which should happen in the coming months. He projects hiring a handful of people as Humsafar expands the number of languages it broadcasts in. The phone-in and online streaming services will continue after the station is on the air, but the SCMO subcarrier it rents on CKUT will be discontinued after a few months of simulcasting. Sandhu also issued a press release which is republished below.

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Postmedia outsourcing Gazette printing to Transcontinental

You’ve probably already heard this news, but just for the record, Postmedia announced this week that it is outsourcing the printing of The Gazette to TC Transcontinental Printing, beginning August 2014. (Transcontinental has its own press release.) The decision will mean the layoff of 54 full-time employees and 61 casual employees. (Transcontinental says it doesn’t need additional resources to take on the Gazette contract.)

Unlike editorial, advertising, reader sales and business office employees, which are represented by the Montreal Newspaper Guild, a local of CWA-SCA Canada, the plant employees are represented by a local of the Teamsters union.

This will also mean the same of the presses, the building and the land it sits on, with the money from it going to pay down Postmedia’s debt. Whether its vocation as a printing press remains depends on who buys it, but there isn’t much optimism of that happening. So expect that land on St-Jacques St. W. in N.D.G. to be repurposed for some industrial or commercial purpose.

Since I’m an employee of The Gazette, I won’t go much into detail about this decision. Even though I’ve never met most of the people at the plant in person, I haven’t had any bad experiences with them either. Same thing for Transmag, the Anjou-based printing plant that will put out The Gazette. I worked with them a decade ago when I was editor of The Link at Concordia University. Deadline was a fluid concept to us, but thankfully they were much more reliable than we were.

Transmag is unionized, by the way. Their current contract goes until October 2015, and the details of it are here.

CBC cuts affect 10 jobs at CBC Montreal; five people let go

For three weeks after CBC President Hubert Lacroix announced cuts equivalent to 657 full-time positions at the public broadcaster, employees at the CBC Montreal office finally learned how those cuts would trickle down at the local level.

This week, I met with Shelagh Kinch, the Quebec regional director for English services, who laid it out for me: 10 positions are being “affected” by the cuts, and at this point it looks like five people will be leaving the CBC as a result.

I explain it all in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette.

The changes break down as follows:

  • Management is being restructured, eliminating the job of news director. Mary-Jo Barr has been let go. Helen Evans will be in charge of both news and current affairs, while Meredith Dellandrea will be in charge of non-daily programs (like Cinq à six, À propos and Our Montreal) and have “a major role” in the CBC Montreal website. “Helen has an extensive background with us,” Kinch said. “She’s probably produced every one of those programs for us. She also has very strong leadership skills. I need somebody that people are behind and people want to work with.”
  • Two retirements won’t be replaced: journalist Ivan Slobod, who left in September after 30 years at the CBC, and Sally Caudwell, who produces Radio Noon.
  • The two part-time jobs producing Cinq à six and À propos are being replaced by one full-time producer. Tanya Birkbeck, who produced Cinq à six, will stay at the CBC as a news reporter. Sophie Laurent, who produced À propos, is out of a job. Frank Opolko will take over producing both jobs.
  • Web development is being centralized in Toronto, and a local developer is being made redundant. The person in that position will be able to apply to the Toronto job, Kinch said.
  • A communications officer position is being made redundant. Catherine Megelas is the unlucky one. She said in a Facebook post that it was “a super shitty day” the day she was told. Redundancy means that the union will try to find another job for her to fill, a process that could take up to 90 days.
  • A late-night camera operator is being reassigned.
  • One arts reporter position is being eliminated. Pierre Landry, the arts reporter for Homerun, is the only one who’s on contract, so his won’t be renewed past the end of June.
  • One position, described as a reassignment, that CBC said it couldn’t give any details on. (UPDATE: It’s anchor Andrew Chang, who’s taking up a new job at CBC outside of Montreal)

The departures will be staggered over the summer, as contracts end, notices are given and alternative jobs explored. But by September, the changes should have taken effect.

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NADbank: Journal de Montréal is still king, but…

NADbank, the company that measures newspaper readership through audience surveys, came out with its latest report recently, which on the surface doesn’t show much to write home about. Overall, the Journal de Montréal is still the most read newspaper in the metro area with 1.17 million readers, or 1.25 million if you include digital. (Quebecor has its press release crowing about this with some cherry-picked numbers, as well as some slides comparing its demographics with La Presse.)

But reading a bit deeper into the numbers and we see some interesting facts popping up.

La Presse has two and a half times the Journal’s digital readership. Two major changes explain this. First is La Presse+, the iPad app launched last year that’s the new flagship product for that company. But even with all the hype, the data shows only a 3% increase in the number of people reporting they read La Presse in a digital format in 2013. The bigger factor is a 9% drop in the Journal de Montréal’s digital readership, which is probably explained mainly by the setup of a paywall in September 2012.

Métro has more weekly print readers than La Presse. Even though La Presse’s print readership is up by 5%, Métro’s up by twice that, and can now claim to be the #2 most read newspaper in Montreal. (It already claims to be the #1 paper on the island.) Métro has 903,900 print readers a week compared to La Presse’s 879,200. And that’s with Métro putting out one fewer edition a week. But La Presse has 28% more people reporting they read that newspaper “yesterday” (i.e. the day before the survey was taken), meaning La Presse’s readership is more loyal and more interested than Métro’s.

24 Heures shows double-digit gains in print readers. Compared to 2012, 24 Heures had a great year, at least in print (and it doesn’t hesitate to tell people that). The number of people reporting having read the paper the day before shot up 25%, from 252,900 to 317,300. Weekly, the paper is up 15.5%. But three years after 24 Heures wrestled away the right to distribute its paper exclusively in the metro system, it still hasn’t managed to beat Métro in readership. Métro now has 10% more readers than 24 Heures though, and that margin is smaller than it used to be. And 24 Heures is now effectively tied with La Presse in terms of print readers on weekdays (it reports to be slightly ahead, while NADbank’s numbers report it slightly behind).

Several papers are showing double-digit drops in digital readership. Whether it’s paywalls or disinterest or something else, there’s a lot fewer people reading newspapers online. Overall, the market showed an 8% drop in weekly digital readership, while print gained 2%. Other major markets showed little change in digital readership. Here, the smaller papers took the biggest hit. 24 Heures’s digital readership is down 21%, the Globe and Mail’s is down 19%, and the National Post’s is down 18%.

As for The Gazette, the numbers put out by NADbank show modest drops across the board, though internally the paper is reporting increases, particularly in digital. Overall, it has 240,000 print readers on an average weekday and 499,000 people read it in either print or digital format every week (which I’m sure I can extrapolate into meaning that half a million people read every article I publish in that paper).

For the full numbers for each paper, you can read this chart from NADbank. The chart below shows the difference between those numbers and the previous year’s.

Change Yesterday print Yesterday total Weekday total Saturday print Sunday print Weekly print Weekly digital Total weekly
Any +2.80% -0.11% +1.67% +6.40% +4.43% +2.20% -8.39% -0.75%
La Presse +2.53% -0.54% +2.10% +8.13% +5.31% +3.24% +1.25%
Journal de Montréal +6.40% +18.13% -1.40% +17.20% +4.43% +0.52% -8.86% -1.73%
The Gazette -1.63% -1.21% -10.18% -3.39% -8.20% -0.56% -10.06%
Métro +12.59% +9.97% +11.19% +11.19% +9.17% +9.72%
24 Heures +25.46% +22.40% +15.53% +15.53% -21.56% +12.97%
Globe and Mail +11.58% -9.71% +7.63% +37.56% +5.87% -18.53% -16.40%
National Post -3.70% -20.35% +23.23% +62.35% +22.72% -18.18% -1.94%

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TSN to expand to five channels, install cameras at TSN Radio stations

TSN Radio 690's new studio on René-Lévesque Blvd. You may start seeing it on TV soon as TSN looks for more daytime programming for its additional channels.

TSN Radio 690’s new studio on René-Lévesque Blvd. You may start seeing it on TV soon as TSN looks for more daytime programming for its additional channels.

Even though it won’t have a lot of NHL hockey games to fill them with, TSN is planning to expand from two to five channels this fall to allow it to broadcast more sports programming.

Along with that move comes a desire for more programming, and in addition to more live sports and different time zones for SportsCentre, they’re going to add “local hockey programming generated by production expansion at TSN Radio stations in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton.”

TSN tells me that this will mean installing television cameras at those TSN Radio stations. “We will announce specific programming details later this summer, but we are looking to build on the success of our TSN Radio programming and integrate new content on TSN channels,” said Greg McIsaac of their PR department.

Currently, TSN2 airs televised versions of the Mike Richards morning show and Dave Naylor afternoon show from TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto (at least when it doesn’t have live events that are more important). After the expansion to five channels, we could see similar things done to Montreal’s TSN shows like Mitch Melnick’s afternoon drive show, or the morning show with Shaun Starr, Elliott Price and Rick Moffat. The details won’t be announced until later, so we don’t know if this will be a daily thing, or weekly, or maybe just Habs pregame shows. Lots of possibilities are in the air. But what we do know is that TSN Radio 690 personalities should expect to see their faces on TV more often.

TSN’s need for additional channels became clear during the first round of the NHL playoffs, when it had a Raptors game and two NHL playoff games airing simultaneously. The Raptors were the priority, pushing the Boston-Detroit game to TSN2. The New York Rangers-Philadelphia game, which was originally scheduled to air on TSN2, had no place to go, so TSN cut a quick deal with Rogers to air the game on Sportsnet 360. Once TSN expands to more channels, this won’t be necessary.

Of course, TSN loses NHL playoff games starting next season, but as its president tells the Globe and Mail, there are hundreds of hours of programming in other sports that it can’t air live because it doesn’t have the space. Sports like tennis are particularly hard, because in early rounds you might have one or two feeds showing big stars, then one or two others showing Canadians. Channels quickly fill up.

The big question will be about carriage. Most major distributors have added TSN2, but some still don’t have it. And putting three more channels, all in HD, takes up a lot of bandwidth that is in short supply these days. We can assume that Bell will be quick to add the extra channels, and maybe Shaw as well, but for cable providers like Rogers, Cogeco and Videotron, the decision might be harder to take.

The addition of more channels with more content will also likely coincide with demands from TSN for higher wholesale fees from distributors. According to CRTC data released last week, TSN gets an average of $2.57 a month from its 9.07 million subscribers (this includes TSN and TSN2), which is a very high fee for a specialty channel. In 2009, it was $0.87 per subscriber per month on average. As its deals with distributors come up for renewal, it’s demanding much higher subscription fees. And distributors will pass those costs along, either by raising their rates overall or by pushing TSN into premium packages that will start costing a lot more.

In other words, TSN is getting better, but we’re still the ones who are going to have to pay for it.