Review: Municipal election night on English-language TV

I was busy last Sunday night, helping the Montreal Gazette put together its coverage of the Montreal municipal election. But my PVR recorded the broadcasts of three English-language television stations in the city to see how they covered the evening. Below, I offer some thoughts on how well they did, based primarily on the actual information they provided.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching an election results show, I’m looking for election results. Analysts are great for filling time, but the more data you can show me, the more races you can announce, the better.

So below, you’ll see me focus less on the in-studio analysts, who were all fine, and more on what someone would have actually learned watching the broadcast.

CBC Montreal

11:00-11:30pm (9:45-11:30pm on Facebook)

Anchor: Debra Arbec

In-studio analysts:

  • Reporter Jonathan Montpetit
  • Social media editor Molly Kohli
  • Reporter Sean Henry with results

Reporters:

  • Simon Nakonechny at Plante HQ
  • Ainslie MacLellan at Coderre HQ
  • Sabrina Marandola in Westmount
  • Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire (Facebook broadcast only)
  • Marika Wheeler in Quebec City (Facebook broadcast only)

Reported results — ticker (top three candidates, party, vote count, polls reporting):

  • Montreal mayor
  • All Montreal borough mayors
  • All Montreal city councillors

Reported results — graphic (top 2-4 candidates, party, vote count, lead):

  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Ahuntsic-Cartierville mayor
  • Lachine mayor
  • Sud-Ouest mayor
  • Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension mayor
  • Plateau-Mont-Royal mayor
  • Montreal city council standings (leading, elected, total)
  • Dorval mayor
  • Côte-Saint-Luc mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Westmount mayor

The public broadcaster clearly won in the graphics department, and was the only English-language network with a lower-third ticker with live results. The ticker showed only results from the city of Montreal, but it did not only the city mayor but also borough mayors and all borough councillor races. It took about nine minutes for the top of the ticker to do the rounds of all 64 elected city council seats, so viewers got to see each race about three times.

While CBC was the only station to include Montreal city council results, it failed to include anything off the island of Montreal — no mention of Quebec City, Saguenay, or even Longueuil or Laval.

CBC was also the only one to include a live speech in their broadcast, carrying 10 uninterrupted (and untranslated) minutes of Valérie Plante’s acceptance speech to lead off the half-hour show (which had no commercial interruption).

The broadcast actually started on Facebook, where it went for an hour and 45 minutes, but still didn’t start early enough to get the Plante victory call on live. It did mention the Laval, Longueuil, Quebec City and Sherbrooke races, which didn’t get into the TV broadcast, and had live hits from Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire and Marika Wheeler in Quebec City. And it carried Denis Coderre’s speech in full. My review here is based mainly on the television broadcast, but I’m adding this for the record.

For an election night broadcast with so many races to deal with, there was a lot of time devoted to analysis. And as much as I like listening to the soothing voice of Jonathan Montpetit, I didn’t learn much from him and Arbec repeating stuff that happened during the campaign, promises that were made and stuff that the candidates said in their speeches. Fortunately, they still managed to get a bunch of results into the broadcast, both on Facebook and TV.

Overall score: B+

CTV Montreal

11:30pm-12:04am

Anchor: Tarah Schwartz

In-studio analyst:

  • Former Westmount mayor Peter Trent

Reporters:

  • Cindy Sherwin at Plante HQ
  • Rob Lurie at Coderre HQ
  • Kelly Greig in Westmount (also reporting on Côte-St-Luc race)

Reported results (winner only unless otherwise noted):

  • Montreal mayor (with popular vote of top two)
  • Laval mayor
  • Westmount mayor
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Montreal city council makeup by party
  • Beaconsfield mayor
  • Brossard mayor
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Quebec City mayor
  • Dorval mayor
  • Longueuil mayor

CTV Montreal is the market leader. It has the most journalists, the largest audience, the most history. So it should be expected that they would slay election night coverage.

Which makes it all the more disappointing how little actual data was provided to viewers. Not only was there no ticker, but the individual race graphics didn’t even provide vote totals or party names. Instead, they just had names and photos and a checkmark next to the winner.

Only for the Montreal mayor’s race was any vote total given in an on-screen graphic. For the rest, well you’ll just have to guess.

This is the reason people tune in to election night broadcasts, and CTV’s viewers were left horribly underserved when it came to actual data.

It was the shortest of the three broadcasts, since it had four commercial breaks, and the last to start at 11:30pm. And CTV didn’t even think it was worth bringing in one of the two main anchors on a weekend shift, leaving the duties to regular weekend anchor Tarah Schwartz.

It had the fewest live reporters, which is surprising, and just about everything about this seemed like it was phoned in.

Still, CTV’s prestige meant it got the first live interview with the mayor-elect, right at the beginning at 11:30. And its reporters were more experienced and seemed to provide more useful information.

But overall, it should be embarrassing for CTV how poorly it did compared to its competitors.

Overall score: C-

Global Montreal

11:00pm-11:57pm

Anchor: Jamie Orchard

In-studio analysts:

  • Montreal Gazette columnist Celine Cooper
  • Former city councillor Karim Boulos

Reporters:

  • Amanda Jelowicki at Plante HQ
  • Tim Sargeant at Coderre HQ (also reporting on Pointe-Claire and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor’s races)
  • Elysia Bryan-Baynes in Westmount
  • Felicia Parillo in Côte-St-Luc

Reported results (vote totals for top 2-4 candidates, percentage of vote for each, percentage of polls reporting, and indication of incumbent):

  • Montreal mayor (x4)
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor (x2)
  • Pierrefonds-Roxboro mayor (x2)
  • Westmount mayor (x5)
  • Beaconsfield mayor (x2)
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor (x2)
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor (x4)
  • Dorval mayor (x2)
  • Pointe-Claire mayor (x2)
  • Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor
  • Senneville mayor (x2)
  • Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor (x2)
  • Montreal-West mayor (x2)
  • Brossard mayor (x2)
  • Longueuil mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lambert mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lazare mayor
  • Laval mayor
  • Anjou mayor

There are always two ways to judge Global Montreal when compared to its competitors: judge the quality alone, as a viewer probably would, or judge how well Global did with its limited resources.

By either measure, the station did well on this night. It extended its TV broadcast to a full hour, had informative graphics, and updated results through the night, though like its competitors it focused a lot on the island of Montreal and areas immediately adjacent.

The graphics weren’t as flashy as CBC, and there was no ticker, but you got vote totals, percentages, and an indication of who the incumbent was and the amount of polls reporting. Just missing the party affiliations.

Global also conducted an interview with Plante (just after CTV’s), and made good use of analysts and reporters.

They get extra points for being the longest broadcast, having a special “Decision 2017” opening theme, and putting in the extra effort. But it would have been nice for the only station that still has transmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke to actually mention the mayor’s races in those cities. I know it’s not Global Quebec anymore, but I’m sure viewers there would have appreciated it.

Overall score: B+

City Montreal

No election night special. We’ll see if that changes when they start having local newscast next year. They have four years to prepare for the next municipal election (and one year to prepare for the next provincial one).

Overall score: F

9 thoughts on “Review: Municipal election night on English-language TV

  1. Anonymous

    Nice roundup of coverage. Just a word to say Radio is still where it’s at. CBC on from 8:00 – 11:30ish with updating results from Montreal and across the province, live speeches, live interviews etc.

    Reply
  2. DS

    As privatization of the media grows we should demand that CBC do better. Mits, Jamie and Paul are the only anchors I trust in this town to spend election night with. Tara, though great on the desk, always seems to be calling it in. Breaking news has never been Arbec’s strength. City TV will never garner the maturity to foster an election night audience. Global wins the night , or at least an A+ for effort). CTV was too complacent (cannot blame Toronto now). CBC – it is your time to shine.

    Reply
  3. Richard G

    Great recap . I think it’s fair to mention that the newscasts only beginning at 11 PM is in itself saying something about English TV news in Quebec . ( I was unaware CBC began coverage at 9:45 on Facebook )

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I think it’s fair to mention that the newscasts only beginning at 11 PM is in itself saying something about English TV news in Quebec .

      The French networks weren’t much better. They still carried their regular Sunday night programming, though the two all-news channels had election coverage through the night.

      Reply
  4. dilbert

    CBC actually isn’t surprising. They are the national broadcaster and stuff like this really does fall solidly into their mandate. They appear to have pretty much hauled out the stuff from the last provincial election, changed the graphic colors and stuff, and they were on their way. They appear to have treated it in the same way you would treat a “real” election (ie, one that has a provincial or national interest).

    Using Facebook and such is a “big thumbs up” as far as I am concerned. They used a new method to deliver to the people who were interested without having to disrupt the OTA feed. The future of news coverage, perhaps?

    CTV is pretty shameful, really. Considering their dominant market position, you would think they would go full on something like this. But when you consider the amount of effort (including the remote switching and control in Toronto) and the lack of ability to general local live programming, it’s surprising they did anything at all. They pretty much kept it in the local news frame, and didn’t appear to put much more effort than actually required to give you the rough crayon outline of what happened. Once again, Bell proves that bigger is nowhere near better!

    Reply
    1. MBR

      Where the station’s master control is located doesn’t determine what kind of local programming can be done and for how long. That can be arranged and scheduled ahead of time (and adjusted at the last minute) regardless whether MC is in Montreal or Toronto. Also, CTV Montreal does have their own production control room AFAIK. The decision to go only 30 minutes on an important news night lies squarely on CTV management either in Montreal or Toronto.

      In Alberta a few weeks ago, there were local elections. CTV Calgary and Edmonton each had an 8 PM election special for 1 hour, came back at 11 PM and bumped the Lisa-cast to after 11:30 PM. They also streamed online on CTV.ca all night when they weren’t on CTV. Both stations’ master controls are in Calgary, and each have their own production control rooms. I would ask why CTV Montreal couldn’t do the same thing.

      Reply
    2. Mediaman

      And why should they not disrupt OTA? Not everybody has unlimited data. TV uses a lot of bytes.
      I thought they or one station should have started at 9.
      As for Bell and their nonsense, if this was a Toronto municipal election, CFTO.. Oops CTV Toronto would have probably gone all the way from first vote counted.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        And why should they not disrupt OTA?

        Because they have spent a lot of money on Sunday night primetime programming and don’t want to throw it away.

        As for Bell and their nonsense, if this was a Toronto municipal election, CFTO.. Oops CTV Toronto would have probably gone all the way from first vote counted.

        I don’t believe CTV Toronto eliminated primetime programming for the sake of their municipal election either. In any case they don’t have to, because that kind of thing could be carried on CP24.

        Reply
        1. Aytononline

          Just a short comment, Global local weekend news is pre taped from Toronto on the weekend, So that fact that Global had a live show from Montreal is good. CTV did not spend any money on this. They just used the staff that were already working the weekend shift.

          Reply

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