It was a simple question, posed to me by a woman in a bar recently. It’s something I’ve occasionally thought about in the what’s-the-meaning-of-life way. I’m in my 30s, an age when you’re unquestionably an adult, but still young enough that more of your working-age life is ahead of you than behind. It’s an age when, if you’re single and/or childless, you can hear your biological clock ticking.
But mostly, it’s an age when you have lived enough that you can make an informed decision about what parts of your life you can see yourself maintaining for another decade or four, and which ones you want to change, assuming you have the freedom to do so.
The year that’s ending has been described in Internet memes and on television as a negative one, mainly because of celebrity deaths (David Bowie, Prince) and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. (Some people also throw in a mention of Syria.) A confirmation bias is setting in as people compile more reasons to dislike the artificial construct of time that began on Jan. 1, 2016 and will end in a week.
But celebrity deaths and awful politicians were not invented this year, and they won’t disappear next year. And despite all the doom and gloom, the world continues to improve statistically, with fewer people in poverty, less disease, less war and more technological development.
Personally, I look at happiness in terms of my daily life. I could, like others I see on Facebook, focus on my crises of the moment. On the minor inconveniences and frustrations that I have to deal with regularly. But the truth is I have it pretty good right now.
For the fourth time in as many years, a group owned by a trio of Montreal businessmen has appealed to the CRTC for an extension on their deadline to launch a new AM radio station, claiming that unforeseen circumstances have caused delays but assuring the commission that they’ve been resolved and the station is months away from launch.
TTP Media’s request for an extension for 600 AM
On Wednesday, the CRTC announced that it will grant an extension, until June 30, 2017, to 7954689 Canada Inc. (TTP Media) to launch its English talk radio station at 600 AM, first authorized in 2012.
As it did with the 940 AM station a year ago, the extension was granted despite the previous extension being declared “final” by the commission. Though the previous extensions, despite being requested for only a few months, were given for a full year, this one is limited to June 30, after the group said it should have the station on air by June.
This is the first official communication from the otherwise very quiet group for a year now, so we have some information on what is causing the delays, and what their short-term plans are.
As in previous requests, Managing Partner Nicolas Tétrault blames “the consolidation in the commercial broadcasting business in Montreal,” a reference to the Bell acquisition of Astral Media that was finalized in 2013 (and did not result in any major programming changes to existing stations in the market). But here he indicates that the banks that are loaning them tens of millions of dollars needed some reassuring on the group’s business plan. (This may be, at least in part, why they abandoned plans for a third station at 850 AM, though that station is not mentioned at all in the application.)
The bigger issue has related to the transmitter itself. The group finally came to an agreement with Cogeco Media to buy all the assets of the former CINW 940 and CINF 690 transmitter site in Kahnawake, and signed a new lease with the land owner, Frances Montour. The details of the lease are redacted, but it appears to go until 2022, with clauses for renewal beyond that.
The station, CFNV 940 AM, has legally launched, but a de facto launch is expected early in 2017, according to its Twitter account. In the meantime, it’s running music — currently all-Christmas music — interspersed with recorded messages every 15 minutes:
You’ll notice the station refers to itself as “La superstation”. Time will tell if it lives up to that tagline.
More work needed for 600
For the English station at 600, there’s more work needed than turning the switch back on and transmitting again. The towers that were set to work at 690 have to be re-tuned for 600, and the transmitter itself needs to be sent to the factory to be reset to the new frequency. On top of it all, parts for AM transmitters aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, and nowadays must be custom made, which causes more delays.
From Patrice Lemée, engineer at Commspec:
Concernant la station AM 600KHz, l’envergure des travaux techniques est beaucoup plus complexe. Celle-ci sise e?galement dans les anciennes infrastructures de Cogeco Me?dia Inc. ope?rant a? la fre?quence 690KHz. Par contre, un changement de fre?quence est requis afin de diffuser a? la fre?quence 600KHz. Ces changements touchent l’essence me?me du site de diffusion. L’e?metteur doit e?tre partiellement re?-expe?die? a? l’usine afin d’e?tre re-synthonise? a? la nouvelle fre?quence. Le syste?me de phasage doit comple?tement e?tre redessine? afin de diffuser a? la nouvelle fre?quence d’ope?ration. De plus, ces deux stations (600 & 940) coexistent sur le me?me site de diffusion. Ce qui entraine des complexite?s supple?mentaires quant a? la conception du syste?me.
Afin de proce?der aux diffe?rentes modifications du syste?me de diffusion de la station AM 600Khz, nous avons contacte? diffe?rents manufacturiers. Base? sur les re?ponses des soumissions obtenues, il semblerait que certains manufacturiers ont de la difficulte? a? obtenir les pie?ces requises pour effectuer la conversion dans les de?lais prescrits.
Je vous confirme cependant que les travaux sont de?ja? entame?s et que la conception est pratiquement termine?e. Par contre, la rarete? des pie?ces d’e?quipement AM est une re?alite? de nos jours. Les pie?ces sont maintenant faites sur demande et les de?lais de livraison sont beaucoup plus longs que par le passe?. Il est assez fre?quent de rencontrer des de?lais de livraison de 12 a? 16 semaines.
Suite aux informations cite?es pre?ce?demment, nous estimons qu’il sera possible d’effectuer les modifications du syste?me de diffusion du 600KHz seulement au printemps 2017. Nous demandons donc une extension de la date de mise en service jusqu’au 30 juin 2017.
The application makes no mention of administrative or on-air aspects of either stations, including launch dates, on-air talent or studio location. So we’ll just have to continue to wait.
The CRTC has approved the acquisition of Manitoba’s MTS by Bell. The CRTC decision concerns only the MTS television provider licence, and an associated licence for its video-on-demand programming, so this approval was expected. The bigger part of the acquisition is MTS’s wireless network and other telecom services. Those don’t require approval by the CRTC, but they do need to be approved by the government, which is now the last step in the approval process for this $3.9-billion deal.
Various forces are trying last-ditch political efforts to get the CRTC to reverse its decision on simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl, which is just over a month away. They include an anonymous website being promoted by unions (possibly connected to ACTRA?) urging Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to take action.
Terry DiMonte and Ted Bird did a Christmas podcast together, during which they talk about things like DiMonte’s decision to leave CHOM for a job in Calgary. Nostalgic radio listeners are already clamouring for them to be permanently reunited again. Don’t hold your breath. (UPDATE: It’s been taken down because Bell Media wasn’t happy with it, according to Bird.)
Alexandre Despatie, who was let go from Breakfast Television Montreal a year ago and had a temporary job with Radio-Canada’s Olympic coverage this summer, was hired as a fill-in host on CKOI’s afternoon show. The station says it would like to keep him in some capacity going forward.
More Postmedia buyout announcements include Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun. The Montreal Gazette is losing provincial politics columnist Don Macpherson (though he will write weekly as a freelancer) and business reporter Paul Delean (whose weekly Tax Strategy and monthly Gazette Portfolio columns are being retired as well).
Happy holidays, folks. I’m assuming little news will break over the holidays, so I might take a break from this as well until January. If something crazy happens, though, I won’t be away from my Twitter for long.
The commission has reiterated a preliminary view that Internet providers can’t block websites without its approval (and such approval would not be given lightly) regardless of a new Quebec law that would make that mandatory for a Loto-Québec-provided list of illegal gambling websites. There’s a court case pending over this, so that view could be overturned by a higher authority.
During hearings over the renewal of its licences recently, the CRTC asked Corus (which runs The Disney Channel, Teletoon, YTV and other youth channels in Canada) how long its contract with Disney lasts. Corus wrote in a letter that Disney won’t give it permission to tell the commission (even confidentially) that information. I imagine the commission won’t like that.
CTV Montreal now has a new segment on the 11:30pm newscast called The Last Word, in which the anchor reads viewer tweets and Facebook comments about some issue of the day. (It’s not actually the last word, it comes just after sports and before the last commercial break before the wrap-up.)
Videotron finally added some long-awaited HD channels, including CTV News Channel and The Comedy Network. But they’re only available in areas that have modernized networks and on next-generation receivers capable of decoding MPEG-4.
A bunch of TV channels are on free preview over the holidays on most major providers. The below are available on Videotron,Bell, Cogeco and Shaw until Jan. 16 unless otherwise indicated.
Animal Planet (to Jan. 10)
Bloomberg TV Canada (to Feb. 28 on Videotron)
CHRGD (to Jan. 31 on Videotron)
Cooking Channel (formerly W Movies, to Jan. 31)
Fight Network (to Jan. 2 on Bell, Shaw and Cogeco)
Ben Mulroney (right), with CTV’s Mutsumi Takahashi, CBC’s Sonali Karnick and pianist Oliver Jones at the Montreal Pool Room.
On Sunday evening, six Quebec television networks broadcast a special program about Montreal’s 375th anniversary. It included tributes to the city from celebrities foreign and domestic, songs about the city or closely associated with it, and information about the celebrations planned for 2017.
The French show, which aired (and can be rewatched) on Radio-Canada, TVA, V and Télé-Québec at 8pm and had an average audience of about 2 million people, was called Montréal s’allume, was an hour and a half long, produced by Éric Salvail’s production company and was presented as a variety show with a (standing-room only) studio audience. There were live musical performances and others in which artists stood atop local landmarks and were filmed using drones.
Mulroney again, with Rebecca Makonnen, Jonas and Anne-Marie Withenshaw at Midway pub.
Related was a different show, presented in English on CTV Montreal and CBC Montreal called Montreal Lights Up. It was different in several key ways:
It was aired later, at 11:30pm (on CTV it replaced the late-night local newscast) and was only half an hour long
It had a host — Ben Mulroney, flying in from Toronto for the occasion (that was literally part of the storyline of the show, how he’s reconnecting with his hometown)
It was commercial-free, it was produced by Quebec production house Zone 3, and
It was based more around sit-down round-table discussions and chats in the back of a cab (with Andy Nulman driving) than musical performances during a party.
The English show included some footage from the French one (Canadiens players doing an outdoor game with kids, foreign celebrity tributes, drone-shot rooftop solos, a rendition of Give Peace a Chance, and a bilingual sketch involving Bon Cop Bad Cop stars Patrick Huard and Colm Feore), but it was basically its own separate thing.
Having watched both, the English version seemed a bit more focused, but that just made it seem more like an infomercial for Montreal tourism. The French version tried to be a bunch of things, and in particular an artistic tribute to the city, but left a bunch of viewers wondering what the point was. Especially when the jokes fell flat, many of the celebrity appreciations were uninspired and of poor technical quality (even the prime minister’s message looked shot on a cellphone), and much of the practical information went by too fast to be of use.
The fact that the French networks aired the show across Quebec when they’re already accused of being too Montreal-centric didn’t help.
Alexandre Despatie worked in television, but still hasn’t mastered the whole portrait vs. landscape thing.
Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to double-check the names of those celebrities when you’re editing the show.
Numeris released its quarterly ratings report this week for Montreal and other metered markets. The Montreal top-line results show once again a significant margin between 92.5 The Beat (CKBE-FM) and Virgin Radio 95.9 (CJFM-FM).
Here they are translated into English. Audience shares among Montreal anglophones (all ages) from Aug. 29 to Nov. 27, 2016 (with their average-minute audience for a 24-hour day):
CJAD 800: 29.6% (17,100)
The Beat 92.5: 17.4% (10,000)
Virgin Radio 96: 14.9% (8,600)
CHOM 97.7: 10.2% (5,900)
CBC Radio One: 6.4% (3,700)
TSN Radio 690: 3.7% (2,100)
Rythme FM 105.7: 2.2% (1,300)
Radio Classique 99.5: 2.0% (1,100)
CBC Radio Two: 1.8% (1,000)
Other measured stations had shares under 1%.
Once again, among overall anglophone audiences, CJAD is the clear winner with a 29.6% share, tied with last winter as its highest share in the past five years. The Beat clearly beats Virgin, up by two and a half points. It’s also ahead in the adults 25-54 demographic, which Virgin had a bit of an edge in historically. And even when counting in francophone audiences, The Beat is still ahead.
CHOM, meanwhile, had its worst book in the past half-decade, dropping more than two points.
Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones, ages 2+). Data by Numeris. Click for larger version.
But it would be irresponsible to make sweeping conclusions based on one ratings report. Instead, it makes more sense to look at long-term trends. And here’s what we see from that:
CJAD is doing well, despite everyone’s opinions (usually negative here) about its programming. Since 2014, it has climbed into the 25-30% range, with noticeable dips in the summer, suggesting Montrealers are tuning in when there’s news. No individual programming change would explain this, though 2013 is when there was the last major reshuffling, getting rid of Ric Peterson.
The Beat is winning the battle with Virgin. It took about two years after Q92 relaunched itself as The Beat for there to be real traction in the ratings, and a noticeable drop in Virgin’s share around 2013 led to The Beat taking the lead. Since the beginning of 2014, The Beat has led among anglo listeners, though the adults 25-54 demo has gone back and forth a bit.
CHOM’s bad book could easily be an outlier, so we’ll have to see.
As for TSN 690, a lot of people seem to be very concerned about their ratings (and, like with CJAD, very eager to blame problems on a particular on-air personality), but it’s about the same place it always is. The latest rating is slightly below where it was a year ago, and slightly above where it was two years ago at the same time of the season.
Naturally, every station tried to spin the results to make themselves look good:
CJAD sent out a press release noting their #1 status and adding that it is the best-rated news-talk radio station in Canada in terms of audience share in its central market. (The fact that Montreal has a limited number of English stations is a big factor in that, of course.) And it singled out hosts Andrew Carter (most listened-to radio show in the market), Aaron Rand (most popular afternoon show) and Ken Connors (a 52% share on weekend mornings).
The Beat also sent out a press release, staking claim to the title of highest-rated music station in the market, as well as the adults 25-54 and women 25-54 demographics that advertisers love, and highlighting its high ratings during the 9-to-5 workday, which continues to be its strength.
Once again, news-talker 98.5 FM is the leader among all audiences, though Rythme FM declared victory in the adults 25-54 group.
Radio-Canada bounced back big time from a bad book in the summer, taking third spot overall. CKOI’s rating is also noteworthy. After being stuck with shares around 6%, it’s now several points up on that. Meanwhile, Énergie, whose lineup includes Dominic Arpin, Mélanie Maynard and Éric Salvail, gets smaller audiences overall than Virgin and The Beat.
Self-congratulatory statements from:
98.5FM, which says it’s the most listened-to station in all of Canada (by total average-minute audience, apparently)
Radio-Canada, which notes a 30% year-over-year increase (good news after a pretty bad report in the summer ratings).
Bell Media, which highlights the success of Énergie’s afternoon network show Éric est les fantastiques. Because it’s carried on multiple stations, it gets a large audience.
CHRF 980 AM, which seems to have an actual programming strategy now, had its best ratings ever. Except it only started reporting ratings in the past year, and its share is 0.3% among francophones and 0.4% among anglophones, for about 800 average-minute listeners total.
New on the ratings chart is CIBL-FM 101.5, the community station whose studios are at the corner of St-Laurent Blvd. and Ste-Catherine St. The station unsurprisingly scored zeros for anglophones, and starts on the francophone chart as a 0.1% share, 300 average listeners and an average daily reach of 16,800. The only station with a worse rating among francophones is TSN 690. It’s certainly not a win for them, but the ratings book should give them a lot of information about their audience that they didn’t have before.
Though he called it “one of the most irresponsible pieces of journalism … I have seen in over 15 years working in the business,” the National Observer’s Michael De Souza failed to convince the National NewsMedia Council (the press council that covers Ontario and some other provinces) to agree with his condemnation of a Financial Post article about pipelines. The decision noted that De Souza did not give concrete examples of any factual inaccuracies or journalistic malfeasance on the part of the piece in question.
At the CRTC
I tried to get some clarification from the CRTC about the status of CFNV 940 AM, whose deadline to launch passed on Nov. 21. A spokesperson tells me: “As per staff information and on the Commission’s record, 7954689 Canada Inc. has informed the Commission that it was ready to commence operations. A licence will be issued once the Commission will have received a copy of all the documents from the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Ministry.” Further clarification later: “The applicant has advised the Commission before its deadline and the deadline was met.” So the station can launch legally without requesting a further extension. We’re still waiting on a decision from the commission on an extension request for the English-language station at 600 AM, whose deadline passed Nov. 9.
The commission is cutting staff at its regional offices as it restructures to work more virtually. The offices will remain open, but will have reduced services for the public. It used to be to read applications at the CRTC you had to go to a regional office and look through files. Now, everything is available online, and about the only time you hear about regional offices are when talking about individual commissioners or when someone appears at a hearing via teleconference.
The commission has approved (with no public process) transfers of ownership of two independent TV specialty channels:
GameTV, from Kilmer Enterprises (owned mainly by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman and minority owner Lawrence Tanenbaum) to Leonard Asper’s Anthem Sports & Entertainment (which also owns Fight Network and FNTSY Sports Network) for $4 million. GameTV is one of the few specialty services to not charge a wholesale fee to TV providers. It’s unclear if this will continue under its new owner. The acquisition was announced in August. Asper tells the commission the channel is unprofitable, but synergies might help the group turn toward profitability.
OUTtv, from James Shavick to Ronald N. Stern (via several holding companies), for $850,000. Stern is a major entrepreneur, and owns FP Newspapers, which owns the Winnipeg Free Press.
Shaw has informed the CRTC it will shut down CJBN-TV in Kenora, Ont., Canada’s smallest television station, both in terms of power (178W) and audience. What little local programming it has (including the weekly Good Morning Sunset Country) will be taken over by the Shaw TV community channel after it closes on Jan. 27. Shaw owned CJBN before it bought Global TV, and chose never to bring CJBN fully into the Global family. When Shaw Media was sold to Corus, Shaw kept the station. This summer, as Shaw was seeking renewal of its TV licences, the CRTC said it must either increase its local programming from 30 minutes to seven hours a week, or seek an exception to the policy. Shaw decided in mid-November it would pull the plug. Three jobs are being cut, and two others are moving to Shaw TV.
There’s pressure from both sides of a controversial issue at the FCC in the United States: Whether to weaken protections of Class A AM stations (so-called clear channel stations) so that smaller stations don’t have to drastically reduce (or even eliminate) their signals at night. The big clear-channel stations are on one side, while smaller Class D stations are on the other. These protections are why stations from far-away markets like Chicago, New York and Boston can be heard here at night, and conversely why Montreal Class A stations — TSN 690, CKAC Circulation 730 and the upcoming 940 AM station — can be heard from as far away and even farther.
Le Devoir launched a new smartphone application. It’s simple, with a continuous stream of stories in several sections (starting with À la une) and limited ability to customize. But it’s pretty, allows some flexibility in notifications, and allows favouriting of articles. Best of all, it’s well integrated with the website, so sharing stories between the app and desktop or social media users is seamless. The app is free until March 1, after which it will be available only to subscribers.
Transcontinental has acquired “all B2B financial brands” from Rogers for an undisclosed sum. Included in the deal are Advisor’s Edge, Advisor’s Edge Report, Conseiller, Le journal du Conseiller, Benefits Canada, Avantages, Canadian Insurance Top Broker, Canadian Investment Review and Canadian Institutional Investment Network.
Transcontinental says its media division is no longer a core part of its business. This is usually a hint that such a division would be for sale, but more likely in this case it’s just an acknowledgment that Transcontinental’s printing division is by far its bigger money-maker. Transcontinental Media (now TC Media) has radically transformed through acquisitions and sales in recent years. It owns Métro in Montreal and most community newspapers in Quebec.
Craig Silverman is the new media editor for BuzzFeed. In addition to leading the BuzzFeed Canada team in Toronto, he’ll be continuing his lifelong mission of chronicling media screwups (he was the guy who started the sadly now defunct Regret the Error corrections website).
James Bradshaw, who took over the media beat at the Globe and Mail from Steve Ladurantaye, is switching to covering banking in January. The Globe will find someone else to cover media, but an announcement on who will fill that job hasn’t been made yet.
Tanya Lapointe, who was an arts reporter with Radio-Canada but took a leave of absence a year ago, has decided not to return. She began a relationship with director Denis Villeneuve, who has been very busy of late with Hollywood movies, and she’s been helping him with them.