Monthly Archives: June 2014

TVA Sports announces NHL broadcast details

With less than 24 hours until it becomes the official national French-language broadcaster of the National Hockey League, TVA Sports has announced details of its plans for the upcoming season, including which Canadiens games it will air nationally.

The schedule is much less complicated than the one Rogers announced last week. TVA Sports will carry the season opening game on Wednesday, Oct. 8, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And it will carry all 21 Canadiens Saturday night games, for a total of 22. All other games (including all preseason games) will be carried regionally on RDS. (A Saturday afternoon game on Super Bowl weekend is regional and so will be on RDS. It’s the only Saturday game that won’t be broadcast nationally.)

TVA Sports will also broadcast the NHL Winter Classic, all outdoor matches and all playoff games, including the Stanley Cup Final, as well as special programming like next year’s NHL Draft, the NHL Awards and the NHL All-Star Game.

The schedule creates an interesting situation where there are 10 games (mainly Wednesday and Sunday night games) that will air nationally on City and Sportsnet in English but only regionally in French. (We still don’t know how people outside the Canadiens’ region, which ends in eastern Ontario, will be able to watch the team’s regional games, in either language.)

In all, TVA estimates it will have 200 regular-season NHL games on TVA Sports and its soon-to-launch companion channel TVA Sports 2. Add about 75 playoff games and QMJHL games, and that’s lots of hockey

Séguin, Lalime lead broadcast team

TVA also announced the broadcast team for its Canadiens Saturday-night games. As previously announced, Félix Séguin (that one, not that one) will be the play-by-play man for those 22 matches. He’ll be joined by Patrick Lalime as an analyst. Also on the team are hockey insider Renaud Lavoie, who will take a position near the players’ bench, and Elizabeth Rancourt, who will recap other NHL matches (similar to what Andi Petrillo did at Hockey Night in Canada).

Dave Morissette will host TVA Sports’s postgame show.

Fans vote on games

Another thing TVA announced is that it will allow hockey fans to choose which games are broadcast on TVA Sports for some nights. It didn’t specify which nights, but assume it’s those in which it’s not obvious which team would be most popular among viewers.

TVA specifically notes that, when the Canadiens aren’t playing, it will focus on games involving the Canadiens’ rivals, particularly the Leafs and the Bruins, and those of particular interest to Quebecers, including the Colorado Avalanche (because of Patrick Roy) and Pittsburgh Penguins (because of Sidney Crosby). No mention is made of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which was also popular in Quebec but much less so now that Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis are no longer on the team.

TVA says it will announce full details of its NHL schedule by the end of July. It had previously confirmed that it has no plans to put any NHL games on its over-the-air network, even though games will be free-to-air in English on Saturday nights.

UPDATE (Aug. 5): TVA Sports has published its full schedule, which has games on almost every night through the season. Fan-voting night is Monday, but not all Mondays, and none before January. And TVA has already narrowed down the voting to two games for each of those nights.

Shaw Media plans new national all-news channel called Global News 1

Buried deep within its 30,000-word submission to the CRTC as part of its Let’s Talk TV consultation process, Shaw Media dropped this little bombshell:

There are other means of fostering local programming through market-based innovations. Global News has been a market-leader in the adoption of news gathering and production practices that maximize efficiency while preserving local voices. Building on its leadership role as a local news service, Shaw will submit an application to the Commission for a new hybrid local/national, English-language, Category C specialty programming undertaking to be known as Global News 1, a service that will expand and diversify the amount of news and information-related programming in the Canadian broadcasting system. There is no specialty news service that currently provides such a service in this country, namely the provision of uniquely local reflection.

The submission provides no other details on this proposed service, including what exactly it means by “hybrid local/national”. I’ve asked to get more details, but everyone’s out of the office for Canada Day. (UPDATE: Canadian Press got an official no comment from Shaw.)

Category C is the category that the CRTC has established for all-news channels that compete directly with each other under common conditions of licence. CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, Sun News Network, RDI and LCN are all licensed under that category. (CP24, BNN and others are in a different category.)

Shaw Media already has a regional all-news channel, Global News BC 1, which operates in British Columbia, where Global has strong ratings and Shaw Cable is the dominant cable provider. It’s not clear if this new service would replace BC 1 or be complementary to it.

An application for such a channel would go through the regular CRTC process, which would take months at a minimum, so don’t expect this kind of channel on air this fall.

This channel, like CTV and CBC, would undoubtedly rely on sharing resources with the newsrooms of local television stations. Global’s TV network has stations in Vancouver, Kelowna, B.C., Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Saint John, N.B., and Halifax, with an affiliate in Thunder Bay. Shaw also owns CJBN-TV in Kenora, Ont., which doesn’t brand itself as a Global station.

Add in the resources of Global National, The West Block and other national news programs, and this kind of channel makes sense, though it might be a bit western-focused (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). If it’s similar to BC 1, we could see a mix of national and local news presented on screen 24/7 along with local weather and other graphics.

(Hat tip to this Channel Canada forum post, which first spotted the paragraph in the submission.)

UPDATE (July 4): This story has gotten its first mainstream attention now that Canadian Press has spotted it. That story is being picked up by CTV, HuffPost, Toronto Star, Financial Post, La Presse and others.

A quantitative analysis of Canadiens draft picks

Friday is the beginning of the National Hockey League entry draft, when the 30 teams select young players, each hoping that they pick out a diamond in the rough and that their pick becomes the next superstar and doesn’t spend the next decade wallowing in minor leagues or get concussed and give up on hockey altogether.

And it’s the time when amateur general managers pontificate, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, on the failed choices of yesteryear, looking further down the list to find players who would turn out to be superstars, but failing to look up the list to find duds that weren’t taken.

I was curious about finding a more quantitative, non-subjective way of evaluating historical draft choices that takes into account both the overlooked superstars and the avoided mistakes. So I thought, why not just compare the Canadiens’ draft pick in a given year with the pick that came just before or just after?

With some help from Hockey DB, I took a look at the three picks before the Canadiens’ first-round selection, and the three picks after, from 1994 to 2013.

Needing some simple metric to determine success, I went with total games played. It’s an incomplete figure, sure, but it also serves as a pretty simple way to separate those who made long careers in the NHL from those who barely or never made it at all.

I score success and failure this way: if the player the Canadiens selected played more regular-season NHL games than two of the three players selected before him, it’s a success. If he plays fewer NHL games than two of the three players selected after him, it’s a failure. If it’s both (or neither), it’s neutral. (In case of ties, the number of career regular-season points breaks the tie.)

Here’s how it looks:

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15 topics for debate in the CRTC’s “Let’s Talk TV” policy review

It’s hard to overstate how much is at stake in the CRTC’s wide-ranging review of television policy that’s currently going on. The commission has put everything on the table, from the very nature of specialty channels to simultaneous substitution. Anything within its mandate is up for discussion and possible amendment.

With a day to go until the deadline for comments (it was originally Wednesday, but the commission gave a two-day extension), almost 2,000 comments have been put on the public file. This number will increase as the big media and telecom companies file their submissions, which usually happens at the last minute. (The CRTC has taken the unusual step of asking these companies to file comments in both French and English, and in an accessible format — Microsoft Word, text files or HTML files.)

The process began last year with a sort of informal consultation with regular Canadians, highlights of which are posted here, followed by a phase of asking those people who commented to make decisions based on a limited number of choices. The results of that survey are posted here.

The third phase of the process is the formal one, where the serious policy discussion happens. The commission launched that phase in April, and it will lead to a public hearing in Gatineau in September. Anyone wanting to be part of this discussion officially can join in until the deadline for comments, Friday June 27 at 8pm ET.

The announcement sets a framework for the policy discussion, which in turn gives us an idea what types of changes we could see as a result of the hearing. They are:

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NHL schedule: Rogers will air 32 Canadiens games nationally in 2014-15

UPDATE: For complete details by team, including regional games, click here.

The National Hockey League has released its full schedule for 2014-15, and a the same time Rogers Media has announced its national broadcast schedule for the same year.

For Canadiens fans, the schedule for that team is posted here, and as we expected, generally the games will be carried nationally if they play on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday nights, and regionally otherwise. Rogers will carry a total of 32 Canadiens games nationally — 21 on Saturdays, five on Sundays, five on Wednesdays and one on Thursday.

The exceptions to the general Wed-Sat-Sun rule are the following:

  • A Wednesday night game against the Ducks in Anaheim at 10pm on March 4 is not on Rogers’s schedule.
  • The Saturday matinee game on Super Bowl weekend (Jan. 31, against the Capitals) will be regional, however the Sunday afternoon game the next day (Feb. 1, vs. the Coyotes) is national, and will air on City.
  • A game on Sunday, April 5 at the Panthers at 5pm isn’t on Rogers’s schedule
  • Rogers will broadcast the Thursday, Nov. 13 game between the Canadiens and Bruins at the Bell Centre (it’s listed as being on Sportsnet, but Rogers hasn’t definitively decided which channel it will go on yet).

Also as a general rule:

  • Wednesday night games will be on Sportsnet, except where there are conflicts (none of them affect the Canadiens)
  • Sunday night games will be on City (the exception is Feb. 8, when City is carrying the Grammys), and
  • Saturday night games will be on as many as nine different channels — CBC, City, Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet 360 and FX Canada. Generally, Rogers has booked five early games on Saturday nights and two late games.

The Canadiens will also be playing seven preseason games (eight if you include a red-vs-white intrasquad game at the Bell Centre). Those games are regional, so will air on RDS but not on Rogers channels unless Rogers picks up those rights in the coming months.

Rogers also has the rights to all playoff games regardless of team, plus special programs like the Winter Classic, NHL draft (starting next year) and NHL All-Star Game.

For other teams in the regular season, Rogers will broadcast:

  • All 82 Vancouver Canucks games (at least 25 nationally)
  • All 82 Edmonton Oilers games (at least 22 nationally)
  • All 82 Calgary Flames games (at least 22 nationally)
  • 22 Winnipeg Jets games (all nationally)
  • 56 Toronto Maple Leafs games (at least 40 nationally)
  • 29 Ottawa Senators games (all nationally)*

*Sportsnet said it would be 28 games in its NHL schedule preview on Sunday night, but a 29th was added at the last minute, Rogers tells me. All 29 games are now listed on the Senators’ schedule online.

Despite Rogers’s “no blackouts” promise, there will be blackouts for many regional games. Sportsnet president Scott Moore says “We have the ability to take a limited number of our regional games national.” But the other regional games, whether they air on Rogers or non-Rogers channels, will be blacked out in the rest of the country.

For most of the schedule, Saturday night games are listed as being on “Hockey Night in Canada”, because Rogers hasn’t decided which channel each game will be on. But looking at what has already been decided for October, it’s clear that Rogers gives the Toronto Maple Leafs the priority. CBC will be carrying the Leafs whenever they’re playing on Saturday night, leaving City for the Canadiens, Senators or Jets. The October schedule shows the Canadiens on City on Oct. 11 and Oct. 25, with the Senators on Sportsnet channels, but on Oct. 18, Ottawa gets to be shown on City and the Canadiens drop to Sportsnet.

Sportsnet's regional channels will be split on Oct. 11

Sportsnet’s regional channels will be split on Oct. 11

Unlike CBC, which split the main network regionally on Saturday nights so everyone could see their home team, under Rogers that won’t be happening anymore. If splits are necessary, such as on the first Saturday, it will be the Sportsnet channels that break up geographically.

So on one hand, there will be twice as many games available on free over-the-air television for Canada’s major cities, but on the other hand some regions won’t have their home team on free TV, such as the Senators on Oct. 11 or the Canadiens on Oct. 18.

What about the other 50 games?

Having 32 games airing nationally in English means there are 50 games that will not be. It’s not clear at this point what happens to those games in English. TSN had a deal to air some Canadiens regional games last season, but no announcement has been made about regional rights for the coming season. If Rogers picks up those rights, it could mean more games being broadcast nationally. If TSN does, it’ll be more complicated. We’ll see.

TSN also has regional rights to 60 Winnipeg Jets games, 10 Toronto Maple Leafs games, going up to 26 in 2015-16, and 52 Ottawa Senators games. RDS also has regional rights to 40 Senators games.

What about out-of-region fans?

One question I’ve been trying to get Rogers to answer and it hasn’t yet is how fans outside a team’s home region will be able to catch that team’s regional games.

Rogers promised no blackouts when it announced the 12-year, $5.2-billion NHL deal, but it seems that isn’t actually true. While some more games will air nationally, anything that’s still regional must be blacked out elsewhere.

The Canadiens’ region includes all of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and Ontario east of Belleville and Pembroke (it’s the same region as that is covered by Sportsnet East). So how do all the Canadiens fans in Toronto watch Thursday night games? It’s still unclear. They might be forced to buy NHL Centre Ice, or maybe Rogers has some other solution for them. We’ll probably get more details when the regional schedule comes out in the coming weeks.

“We are still discussing how we deal with Centre Ice and Game Centre Live,” Rogers tells me. “Both products will continue to be available. We expect to have some answers on that well before the start of the season.”

In French

On the French side, where TVA Sports has the national rights and RDS has all Canadiens regional games, the breakdown is different. We know that TVA will get 22 games, mainly Saturday nights, and RDS will get 60 games. We do know that RDS will be blacked out in southern Ontario and western Canada during those Canadiens games.

UPDATE (June 30): TVA Sports has announced its plans: It will carry the season opener on Wednesday, July 8, as well as all 21 Saturday night games (but not the Saturday afternoon matinee game on Super Bowl weekend), for a total of 22, plus all playoff games.

Don’t blame Rogers

Since news of the schedule came out, I’ve seen a lot of anger directed at Rogers, particularly from Canadiens fans outside of the home region, who will no longer be able to see every game on RDS.

The anger at Rogers is misplaced, though. The real group that should be blamed is the NHL. Rogers would love nothing better than to take all 82 games of each Canadian team national, but the NHL breaks up its TV rights into national and regional games, and imposes blackouts outside of a team’s broadcast region. What’s more, it’s the teams, not the league, that sign the regional rights deals. This is why the NHL dealt with Rogers and TVA, while the Canadiens dealt with RDS, and the Senators and Jets with TSN.

In English, things haven’t changed much in regard to blackouts. TSN Habs was not available in Toronto or western Canada (or, for that matter, to Videotron subscribers), and western teams’ regional games were blacked out on Sportsnet West and Pacific to subscribers here.

What’s different in French is that we now have competition, and the national and regional rights to Canadiens games are held by two different companies. (The decision to split the rights was the Canadiens, who decided to sell them separately to RDS after TVA Sports picked up the national rights.) RDS no longer has the ability to nationalize all its regional games, so we have blackouts.

If you want the system to change, tell the NHL to overhaul its TV rights system in Canada. But don’t expect that to happen before 2026.

UPDATE: A petition has started imploring Rogers to not black out RDS in western Canada during Canadiens games, but as I discuss above, it’s not Rogers that’s forcing this blackout (though they might be able to help stop it if they really want).

Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph turns 250

The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, whose claim to fame is billing itself as North America’s oldest newspaper (it predates The Gazette by 14 years), turns 250 years old on Saturday.

The English-language weekly in the provincial capital almost didn’t make it this far. In 2010, it almost folded, going online-only and raising both subscription and advertising prices while adopting a hard-line religious editorial line that turned many away. The paper was sold to a new owner who brought back the print paper and has been keeping it going since.

Since 250 is a pretty big deal, the paper has been going all out drawing attention to itself and the anniversary, and the media have taken notice. Here is a sample of the media coverage given to it:

The paper itself is keeping a running list on its website, and has a Storify of tweets and links.

Also worth delving into:

Happy birthday, QCT.

Gémeaux nominations highlights that interest me (and maybe you)

Nominations for the Prix Gémeaux, Quebec’s TV awards, were announced this week (the full list is here), and everyone is congratulating themselves over it. When you have 84 categories, and hundreds of nominees, just about anyone who did anything in television this year (and submitted their application along with a fee of up to $1,260) to the academy can claim a victory.

I have some bones to pick about the number of categories. (Five for best documentary? Three for best research? Five for best editing? Seven for best host?) There are enough that there’s actually three separate awards ceremonies. And according to financial statements, the Canadian Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, which runs the Gémeaux and the Canadian Screen Awards, gets $800,000 a year in award entry fees, representing about 18% of its overall budget (which is mainly spent on the awards shows themselves). Makes you wonder how much of the multiplication of categories is meant to suck as much money out of the industry as possible.

(The full rules for nominations are here, in case you’re interested.)

But let that not get too much in the way of acknowledging the nominees and who have worked hard in the past year.

The big story picked up by the francophone media is Série Noire, the Radio-Canada comedic drama about two television writers, which led with 16 nominations. The series had poor ratings because it was crushed every week by Les Jeunes Loups, a drama on TVA about the lives of newspaper journalists. With critical acclaim on one hand and low ratings on the other, Radio-Canada has yet to decide whether the series will be renewed for a second season.

A few other things I and others spotted:

  • Mensonges, a series that premiered on Videotron’s Club Illico subscription service and is currently airing on TVA’s AddikTV channel, received 15 nominations.
  • Unité 9 has no nominations because it didn’t submit any. Producer Fabienne Larouche has a long-standing beef with the Gémeaux and refuses to submit her productions. Ditto for TVA productions by Julie Snyder.
  • Tamy @ Royaume-Uni, the Évasion travel series starring Tamy Emma Pepin that I talked about this spring, picked up three nominations, for best cultural show, best graphic design, and best host of a cultural or service show.
  • 24CH, a behind-the-scenes show about the Canadiens which aired in both French and English, was nominated for best sports show. But it’s up against Radio-Canada’s Sochi Olympic coverage.
  • Ces gars-là, the buddy sitcom on V starring Sugar Sammy and Simon Olivier Fecteau, had three nominations, for best directing in a comedy (Fecteau), best writing in a comedy (Sammy, Fecteau and India Desjardins), best supporting actress in a comedy (Mélissa Desormeaux-Poulin).
  • Anne Dorval is nominated in the lead actress in a comedy series for two separate shows — Les Parent and Les Bobos. Similarly, Véronique Cloutier and Antoine Bertrand are nominated together twice for hosts of a comedy or variety show, for a regular episode and a special of Les Enfants de la télé.
  • SNL Québec has a nomination for best performance in a comedy series for the cast as a whole.
  • La Presse has two nominations for best host of an original series produced for new media: Hugo Meunier and Tristan Péloquin. Both are for videos produced for La Presse+.

Videotron’s illico iPad app: Cool, but hardly revolutionary

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Version 2.0 of Videotron’s illico iPad app was finally published on the Apple App Store on Wednesday, almost two weeks after it was announced in a big press conference at Quebecor HQ in which it was described as a revolutionary thing that would change TV forever.

As I explain in stories for The Gazette and Cartt.ca, the app doesn’t have any specific features that are particularly revolutionary, but it does bring everything together into one package. Using one interface, people can stream 70 live TV channels (assuming they’re subscribed to them), check out various free video-on-demand titles or watch programs from the Club Illico subscription video service. You don’t have to remember which program is available using which service. Just search for it and the application will find it.

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Ricochet: A bold idea for crowdfunded journalism — but is it sustainable?

When I first heard about Ricochet, the proposed new bilingual media outlet that sells itself as a counterweight to “corporate” journalism, I wasn’t terribly excited. As someone who works as a journalist for the so-called “corporate” media, I’m well aware of its faults. I know that the drive to stay profitable has led to the blurring of lines between news and advertising, cost-cutting that has gone beyond cutting to the bone, and a hesitation to be too critical of the hand that feeds you.

So I welcome new voices. I want to see people investigate where others aren’t, to hold accountable people who aren’t used to being accountable.

But what bothered me about Ricochet was three things: First, its business model, based on crowdfunding and actually asking readers to pay for the journalism being produced, while also guaranteeing that everything that will be published will be free.

The second was the people behind it: Ethan Cox, who regularly goes back and forth between journalist and NDP/Projet Montréal political activist; Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the most radical student association during the student strike; and a host of others whose backgrounds include things like NDP candidate, Idle No More organizer, environmentalist, feminist, philosophy teacher, and the catch-all “activist”. Is this really an endeavour to create a new type of journalism, or is this about creating left-wing journalism, doing for the left what Sun News Network does for the right? (And if that’s the case, don’t we already have plenty of outlets like that, from Rabble to The Tyee?)

Finally, duplication. Why not join forces with The Tyee, or Rabble.ca, or any of the other socially progressive non-profit Canadian media outlets out there?

I spoke with Cox recently to ask him about his project and give him a chance to respond to my concerns.

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CRTC approves new licence for CKHQ-FM Kanesatake

CKHQ-FM, the Kanesatake Native radio station that became defunct and lost its CRTC licence 10 years ago, has gotten that licence back. The CRTC approved a new seven-year licence for the station on Tuesday, to be given to a yet-to-be-incorporated non-profit corporation set up by James Nelson.

The station’s technical parameters are identical to what it had previously: 101.7 MHz with 27 watts of power (11 watts average) from an antenna on the reserve 30 metres above the average terrain. That setup gives the station a signal that reaches into Oka and across the river into Hudson, but not much further.

The application, published in December, received only one comment, from someone in favour of bringing the station back.

The situation for CKHQ is very similar to that of CKKI-FM, KIC Country 89.9 in Kahnawake, in that it was a station that went on the air without a licence, and people from the CRTC and Industry Canada walked the station through the application process rather than trying to force it off the air.

At the moment, the station is running with a live DJ during business hours, and raises money through fundraisers and radio bingo. Its programming is mainly country music, with some community announcements and other spoken word in English.

If you can’t hear it on the air, the station streams online here. It also has a Facebook page.

CBC cuts first half-hour of Quebec AM

Susan Campbell's morning show on CBC Radio One will start at 6am instead of 5:30

Susan Campbell’s morning show on CBC Radio One will start at 6am instead of 5:30

Quebec AM, the CBC Radio One morning show heard throughout Quebec outside of Montreal and Gatineau, will be starting later in the morning, at 5:57am instead of 5:30am, starting Monday.

The change, which is permanent, is based not so much on saving money, though CBC is in the middle of some deep cuts, but rather on audience.

“Morning radio listenership dramatically increases at 6am,” explains Debbie Hynes, CBC Quebec’s communications director.

The move makes sense. The number of people listening to CBC Radio One in English outside of Montreal before 6am is pretty low. You don’t have the people in Montreal suburbs who have to get up that early because of the long commute. You don’t have early-morning joggers getting up before civilization to take advantage of quiet roads and parks. Though you might have some farmers getting up with the sun who now have half an hour less of regional information on the radio.

Montreal’s Daybreak, hosted by Mike Finnerty, retains its 5:30am start time.

“Quebec AM made this choice in order to better serve its audience with stories that run in peak listening times,” Hynes said. And people wanting local news will still get that at 5:30. “Shawn Lyons will still do a hit at 5:30am with a local newscast. From 5:30-5:57am, listeners will hear the overnight service.”

As Hynes points out, 6am start times are common for CBC Radio One local morning shows in Canada. Most stations either carry regional programming from 5:30 to 6am before starting a local show or carry the overnight service, which broadcasts best-of-CBC and public radio shows from the BBC and other international broadcasters.

“Homeless spikes” are gone — but what about Montreal’s other homeless deterrents?

Scars on the concrete outside a window of Archambault on Berri St., where spikes had been installed to deter people from sitting or lying down there.

Scars on the concrete outside a window of Archambault on Berri St., where spikes had been installed to deter people from sitting or lying down there.

When Le Devoir came out with a story this week noting the presence of anti-homeless spikes outside of a downtown business, the outrage was immediate. Heartless, disgusting, inhuman, dangerous. All sorts of angry comments directed at Archambault, the music and book store who Le Devoir said installed them.

Mayor Denis Coderre, outraged, promised to have them removed by any means necessary within the day.

As it turns out, Archambault wasn’t at fault, it was the owner of the building. And public pressure resulted in a crew removing the spikes by noon. News outlets discussed the issue, offering comments from the public who again noted their outrage. There was a comparison with a similar thing being done in London, another move that was reversed after public outcry. Or with a similar thing at a McDonald’s two blocks away as seen in Google Street View images taken in 2012, but those had already been removed.

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