Category Archives: Media

Media News Digest: Aboriginal Voices Radio loses in court, CBC wants to go ad-free, Rogers shutting down LouLou

News about news

At the CRTC

The CBC

TV

  • Corus’s W Network has greenlit a new The Bachelor Canada, based on the success of The Bachelorette Canada. No mention is made of the previous The Bachelor Canada, which produced two unsuccessful relationships over two seasons on City TV.
  • The Cooking Channel, which launches Dec. 12 (as a rebrand of W Movies), has announced programming highlights. The channel will be available on most providers.
  • The first leg of the Montreal-Toronto MLS Eastern Conference final set a record as the most-watched MLS game in TSN history, almost doubling the previous record, which was the Montreal-Toronto playoff game last year.
  • Videotron looks to finally add The Comedy Network and CTV News Channel in high definition (though only for subscribers with next-generation Illico boxes), according to illicotech.com. Others are MTV Canada, E!, Gusto, Nickelodeon Canada, Treehouse and Haiti HD. There are still some more it could upgrade, like TVO, BNN and MSNBC, but Comedy and CTV News, both owned by Bell Media, were probably the most in demand.

Radio

Print

Movies

Online

News about people

Good reads

Obituaries

Jobs

Upcoming events

Media News Digest: FPJQ conference, fake news, plagiarism at La Presse, changes at Montreal Gazette

FPJQ

News about news

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has published a post explaining the measures his company will take to combat fake news. The task is a delicate one, both because fake news is hard to identify in a way everyone will agree with, and because Facebook doesn’t want to put itself in a position of having to censor the Internet.
  • La Presse has suspended columnist Suzanne Colpron after discovering her stories had repeatedly plagiarized quotes from other publications, including Le Devoir. The suspension is indefinite, and surprisingly not permanent. La Clique du Plateau notes that one of Colpron’s recent columns denounced Melania Trump for plagiarizing Michelle Obama in her speech at the Republican National Convention.
  • CBC remains a punching bag at Canadian Heritage committee hearings. Here’s the Globe and Mail. This week at the CRTC, TVA and V piled on, and today Maxime Bernier, candidate for the Conservative leadership, pledged to reduce the CBC’s budget. They all seem to agree on one point: The CBC should not have government subsidies to compete with private broadcasters and news outlets. CBC’s Hubert Lacroix finally had enough and wrote an open letter to the committee defending its existence.
  • Donald Trump met with the New York Times, after the meeting was originally called off over a difference about what was on and off the record. The transcript is here.
  • Access to information requests are often used by journalists to get things like emails between government officials that were never meant to be public. Some have even used the law to get access to emails that talk about how a government agency will respond to a journalist’s request. But Winnipeg police made use of the law for an inventive purpose: Looking into a journalist. The journalist had inquired about a police officer accused of drug trafficking, and the police queried the justice department for records about communications with the journalist. Needless to say, the media is very concerned about this.

At the CRTC

  • The commission is currently holding a hearing in Laval into TV licence renewals for French-language private broadcasting groups — TVA, V, Bell Media and Corus. I’m covering the hearing for Cartt.ca, and subscribers can find the recap of Tuesday’s session here. All four companies are calling for flexibility and resisting new rules related to local news and spending on Canadian content. But TVA and V are not seeking to reduce the amount of local programming they do outside Montreal. A transcript of the hearing is here, all 63,477 words of it. And La Presse’s Vincent Brousseau-Pouliot also gives his highlights.
  • The CRTC gave one-year licence renewals to major cable companies after reviewing how they’re handling their obligations to provide pick-and-pay channels (even though they only come into effect fully next week). The decision establishes “best practices” to not screw over customers, but doesn’t establish any new conditions of licence. It won’t regulate set-top box prices (which aren’t included in the $25/month skinny basic), or the price of individual channels (which are high enough to make it more expensive than buying packages) or prohibit IPTV providers from requiring Internet service be purchased first to get TV, but it suggests that providers who don’t follow these “best practices” might have conditions imposed on them next year. The one-year licence renewal isn’t punishment, but rather because many other issues related to their licences haven’t been explored yet, including community television programming, which has several outstanding complaints for major providers.

TV

  • Videotron has launched its new TV packaging strategy online in advance of next week’s implementation of the new CRTC pick-and-pay regulations (though Videotron was already largely compliant and had been for years). The focus is still on custom packages, with sports channels being available at a higher tier. Most channels cost $5 à la carte, while TSN 1-5, Sportsnet regional channels, RDS 1/2 and TVA Sports 1/2 cost $15 each, the same as premium channels like TMN/HBO. In most cases it’s easier to take a pick-your-own package than build one à la carte, but there isn’t a very good option for people who want a lot of the cheaper channels.
  • The Montreal Gazette’s Brendan Kelly has a story about 21 Thunder, a soccer-themed drama series for CBC that was shot in Montreal.
  • Speaking of English TV series being shot in Montreal, Bill Brioux notes for Canadian Press that this seems to be an upward trend, despite 19-2 winding down and Quantico moving production to New York.
  • VMedia, a new TV distribution company based in Ontario, has lost a court case against Bell Media after it launched a new service that distributed television signals over the Internet to Roku devices. VMedia interpreted its system as being part of its licensed distribution service, while Bell argued successfully that it was actually an online over-the-top service that requires Bell’s permission to rebroadcast CTV and CTV Two. The judge said ultimately it should be the CRTC resolving this issue. Allowing licensed distributors to offer channels over-the-top would allow them to compete nationwide without setting up expensive wired networks or leasing space from cable and phone companies.
  • VRAK has cancelled its year-end sketch show Meilleur avant le 31, bon pareil le 1er, but it won’t get out of year-end specials entirely. It announced its new comedic news analysis show ALT will have a year-in-review special on New Year’s Eve.
  • TVA is working on a dance reality show and Julie Snyder is appearing more often on Radio-Canada shows these days.
  • Le clan, a Radio-Canada drama series about a man living in rural Quebec under a witness protection program, that the network buried on Saturday nights during its first season, has been picked up for a U.S. pilot in English. Maybe this, along with its popularity here, will convince the broadcaster that the show is more than just a way of fulfilling its obligations to have some dramatic television produced outside of Montreal.
  • 30 vies, the English version of 19-2 and CBC’s Interrupt This Program were all nominated for the International Emmy Awards. They all came back emptyhanded.
  • Sphère Média Plus, which developed 19-2 and Nouvelle adresse into English-language Canadian versions, wants to do the same with its latest hit, L’imposteur, which just wrapped up its first season on TVA. Bell Media is attached to the project.
  • Canadiens behind-the-scenes docu-infomercial 24CH is back for a fifth season on Canal D, RDS, CTV Montreal and TSN. The first episode aired in French last Saturday and will air in English tonight at midnight on TSN5 and Saturday at 1:30pm on CTV Montreal. French episodes air Saturdays 6pm on Canal D and 6:30pm on RDS.
  • Vice has launched Viceland in France. In Quebec, V told the CRTC on Tuesday that Vice shows will begin airing on V and MusiquePlus in February. A Quebec Viceland channel is also planned some time in 2017.

Radio

  • CFNV 940 AM had a deadline of Monday, Nov. 21, to launch. It’s broadcasting music with recorded messages asking people to report reception/interference issues, which suggests it’s still in the on-air testing phase. I’ve asked the CRTC for clarification on its status. In the meantime, it has a Twitter account, which notes in a reply that regular programming should begin at the beginning of 2017. Still no website, or even really a brand beyond its frequency. And a video posted last month and then deleted, in which partner Nicolas Tétrault shows off the transmitter site, has been reposted to YouTube.
  • A Winnipeg Free Press profile of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network notes that it plans a U.S. expansion, but also that it has made a proposal to re-establish a network of urban indigenous radio stations that was once Aboriginal Voices Radio. AVR lost its licences for stations in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver last year after the CRTC decided its repeated violations of licence conditions were too much. It has called for new applications for those frequencies, with indigenous stations given priority, but that process is on hold while AVR appeals the CRTC’s decision.
  • Bell Media has re-assembled a 24-station network that will broadcast the Grey Cup on Sunday. It includes TSN Radio stations, naturally, but also many others. It’s much heavier out west than east, with only two stations east of Ottawa: Montreal’s TSN 690 and Halifax’s News 95.7.

Print

Movies

Online/other

  • The CBC podcast Someone Knows Something, aka Canadian Serial, is back for a second season.
  • Gilbert Rozon has apologized after an ad for Montreal’s 375th anniversary showed only white Quebec artists. Rozon is rightfully accepting the blame, but it’s as much an indication of the whiteness of the artistic community (particularly its biggest stars) as it is the cluelessness of the organizing committee.
  • Wind Mobile, now owned by Shaw, has been renamed as Freedom Mobile. The Globe and Mail suggests they didn’t just go with Shaw Mobile mainly because they need to improve the network before attaching that brand to it.

News about people

Good reads

  • The New York Times on how a single tweet based on an incorrect assumption led to partisan news coverage and eventually a tweet by Donald Trump.
  • A fake news writer speaks to the Washington Post about how right-wing people don’t fact-check his stories and he feels bad that Donald Trump, who he hates, has ended up in the White House because of people like him and conspiracy theories and false information like what he peddles that people eat up.

Obituaries

Jobs

Upcoming events

CJAD fires Barry Morgan, hires Leslie Roberts in daytime shuffle

Barry Morgan

Barry Morgan (and soon posters of him as well) are no longer with the company.

The headline on CJAD’s website is that Tommy Schnurmacher is moving to afternoons and reducing his schedule to an hour a day.

But the real story, not mentioned at all in that article, is that Barry Morgan, who hosted noon to 3pm weekdays, has been let go. His name and photo disappeared from the station’s website over the weekend, and Ken Connors has been moved to his time slot this week to fill in.

UPDATE (Nov. 23): CJAD announced this morning its new daytime lineup:

  • 9am-12pm: Leslie Roberts
  • 12pm-1pm: The Gang of Four with Tommy Schnurmacher
  • 1pm-3pm: Natasha Hall

Roberts resigned from the anchor chair at Global Toronto last year after a Toronto Star investigation found that he owned a PR firm and his clients were appearing on his show without any disclosure. CJAD’s story about Roberts’s hiring makes no mention of this, but it does note that Roberts’s father and grandfather all worked for CJAD.

CJAD program director Chris Bury tells the Gazette’s Bill Brownstein that Roberts has served his time outside the industry:

“That happened nearly two years ago and he was out of the industry for a spell, but he has moved on, and we’re moving on. We’re turning the page. There is absolutely zero reason to be concerned about that issue going forward. Leslie has been so transparent about it all, so above board, in order to have a clean slate going forward.”

Asked whether Roberts still has ties to BuzzPR, Bury said he “no longer has a stake in any PR company. And, as with anyone on the station, we insist that any potential conflict of interests be declared and we manage them proactively.”

Hall was hired by CJAD from The Beat just last month to co-host the 8pm show, renamed The Night Side. Her first job in radio was at 940 AM (940 News) after winning a contest.

Jon Pole, who hosted The Night Side Mondays and Tuesdays, will take over Hall’s shifts the rest of the week, at least for now, Bury said. “We don’t have anything finalized but I’m a huge fan of his creativity and drive.”

Schnurmacher’s hour-long show is being billed as a way for him to reduce his schedule so he can focus on other projects. He’ll be bringing his Gang of Four with him to his new time.

Station management had no comment about Morgan’s departure and Morgan himself could not be reached for comment. But Bury told Brownstein that “I wish him the very best. The industry is constantly evolving, and sometimes that means making hard choices.”

Morgan has been at CJAD for decades, as a sports reporter and eventually upgraded to evening and then afternoon host. Schnurmacher just marked 20 years at the station, most of it in that 9am to noon time slot.

UPDATE (Nov. 26): Brownstein interviews the new daytime lineup, starting with Roberts, who says he takes “I accept full responsibility” for his mistake at Global.

TTP Media’s CFNV 940 AM begins on-air testing

After occasional sputters of an audible tone a few hours a day over a few weeks, 940 AM has actual audio for the first time in almost seven years as TTP Media’s first AM radio station has officially begun testing.

The programming consists of music in English and French, with a 23-second announcement about the station about every 15 minutes confirming its callsign of CFNV and asking people with reception issues to call 1-855-732-5940. It says the station will launch “progressivement sous peu” or “très bientôt” (the message varies slightly).

CFNV will be a French-language talk station when it launches, which the CRTC has said it must do by Nov. 21. The licence was first authorized in 2011, and the deadline extended three times (one more than usual).

The deadline to launch an English station at 600 AM passed on Nov. 9. The CRTC confirms to me it has received an application for an extension to that deadline (which was supposed to be final) but has not made a decision yet.

A third station, a French sports-talk at 850 AM, had its authorization expire this summer with no request for extension.

940 AM, which is assigned to Montreal as a clear channel, so this station will have a very large footprint at night, was last used by AM 940, a Corus-owned station that began as 940 News and kept cutting resources and changing formats until it finally shut down in 2010.

Media News Digest: CRTC chair criticizes, on-air protest at Radio Centre-Ville, Radio-Canada aboriginal website

News about news

At the CRTC

  • Days before a hearing on TV licence renewals, a temporary fill-in CRTC commissioner has been named: civil servant Judith LaRocque. She has a six-month term, enough to serve as a francophone commissioner studying the renewals of TVA and V.
  • CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais gave a keynote speech to the Canadian chapter of the International Institute of Communications today. The speech goes over the past four years of the commission’s work (what a coincidence, that happens to be the amount of time he’s been there) and is mainly self-congratulatory. He also criticizes Canada’s television creative community for overstating the effect of a reduction in Canadian content requirements, he criticizes the “news media” for “spilled ink and exhaled air”, he criticizes online media for not having the training to replace traditional media reporters, he criticizes Shomi for pulling the plug too early and being lazy, and he criticizes “naysayers” in general for making “false and misleading statements.”

TV

Radio

  • Last week the deadline passed for the launch of the TTP Media station at 600 AM in Montreal. The commission confirmed to me that an application for an extension to that deadline has been filed, but no decision has been reached yet. The last extension said it would be the final one, but the CRTC said the same two years ago about 940 and gave another extension anyway. They have until Nov. 21 to inform the commission that they are ready to launch the 940 station, which has been doing some on-air testing.
  • There was an on-air occupation by staff of Radio Centre-Ville (CINQ-FM 102.3) on the weekend. Contributors to the community-run ethnic radio station are complaining about management decisions to rent out airtime to stem a financial crisis. They’ve called for a special general assembly so they can discuss and vote on what to do about the situation.
  • West Island Gazette columnist Victor Schukov writes that the West Island needs its own radio station. He dismissed The Jewel 106.7 in Hudson (with comments that pissed off staff at that station), and noted that CFOX, the former West Island AM radio station, shut down because it wouldn’t work financially. Setting aside the lack of available FM frequencies, there doesn’t seem to be much of a case that West Islanders are not properly served by CJAD or other stations that broadcast from downtown.

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Media News Digest: Stéphane Giroux to lead FPJQ, TVA cancels Le Banquier, 91.9 Sports gets Laval Rocket game rights

And a bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with what happened in the midwest U.S. yesterday.

News about news

At the CRTC

  • The commission has released what it calls a policy about blocking of nuisance phone calls. It addresses the main points of the policy (What is a nuisance call? Do you block or just redirect? Do you implement network-wide or allow subscribers to choose?), but mainly kicks the can down the road hoping for more solutions from the industry. One thing it is concretely moving toward, however, is blocking of calls with blatantly illegitimate caller IDs (000-0000, your number, or a local number when it’s a long-distance call).
  • The CBC has filed an “as-built” application with the CRTC for CBMT-DT Montreal (CBC Television) so that the commission’s records match what is actually being used. The location, height and signal range are identical, but the transmitter power is actually 363,000 watts ERP instead of 436,340W.

TV

Radio

Print

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Jobs

Upcoming events

Media News Digest: Job cuts at Quebecor, job cuts at Radio-Canada, job cuts at Les Affaires

Because apparently things happened in the media universe this week that didn’t involve Patrick Lagacé…

News about news

At the CRTC

  • Groupe V Média, which owns V, MusiquePlus and Max (formerly Musimax) has filed a complaint against Bell Canada over the latter’s decision to repackage those two specialty channels. Bell has three packages, Good, Better and Best (Bon, Mieux and Meilleur in Quebec) and is moving them from the Good/Bon ($35/month) to Best/Meilleur ($98/month) in addition to having them available à la carte as the CRTC requires. V looked at the numbers and concluded that this would cost them a lot of subscribers. The exact numbers are redacted, but apparently the vast majority of Bell subscribers who have one of these three packages (many others are on grandfathered packages) have the lowest level. And not like slightly more than half, more like about 95%. This could cost them hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The CRTC has ordered Bell to keep MP and Max in their lowest-tier package until this is resolved. (You can download the complaint letter here. The CRTC has expedited the process and the deadline to comment is tonight at 8pm ET.)
  • The commission is holding off on imposing accuracy rules for closed captioning after broadcasters formed a working group that will propose an alternative method. They have two years to do so.
  • The CRTC has set new standard conditions of licence for TV services. Among the changes, pay TV channels like The Movie Network, Super Channel and Family can now broadcast ads, there is no limit on the broadcast of music videos (since MuchMusic, MusiquePlus et al no longer have genre protection), and pay-per-view and video-on-demand services no longer have to give 100% of revenues from distribution of Canadian feature films to their creators. Other changes could come as a result of a hearing later this month looking at licence renewals for the major broadcasters and a review of local and community programming.
  • The commission has released a working document in advance of the hearing on big companies’ TV licence renewals, which outlines some key issues to be discussed. Besides the usual discussions of Canadian programming expenditure requirements, issues include:
  • Bell has won the right to appeal the CRTC decision on Super Bowl simultaneous substitution, but the court has turned down a request to suspend the decision until the outcome of the case. This means that Super Bowl LI will likely be available with American ads on Fox.

TV

Radio

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Good reads

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Obituaries

Media News Digest: FPJQ award finalists, TVA launches app, Gannett cuts hundreds of U.S. newspaper jobs

News about news

  • Finalists for the FPJQ’s Judith Jasmin awards have been announced. The awards honour the best in Quebec journalism. Since you’re looking for the penis-measuring stuff, here’s how it breaks down by organization:
    • La Presse: 9 (including a sweep of the opinion category)
    • Radio-Canada: 5
    • Le Devoir: 2
    • Montreal Gazette (Postmedia): 2
    • Journal de Montréal (Quebecor): 2
    • Le Droit (Capitales Médias): 1
    • Le Guide de Montréal-Nord (TC Media): 1
    • Canal D (Bell Media): 1
  • Speaking of the FPJQ, the organization also does its elections during its annual conference. The candidate for president is a familiar name to anglo Montrealers: CTV’s Stéphane Giroux, who has been on the board for three years.
  • CBC executives appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Tuesday. We didn’t learn much that’s new (mainly politicians questioning their competition for ad dollars and dealing with pet gripes), but I wrote a story about it anyway for Cartt.ca.
  • Val d’Or police officers are suing Radio-Canada because of an Enquête program that broadcast allegations of abuse and assault of local aboriginal people.

At the CRTC

  • The commission has released its annual Communications Monitoring Report. Look at all the statistics! There’s enough of them to push whatever agenda you want. But generally, traditional broadcasting is in slow decline, TV subscriptions are flat (as the population grows), and specialty TV channels generally still make a lot of money. One concerning statistic though, young people (ages 12-24) listen to half the traditional radio that other age groups do (partly because of technological changes, but party I’m thinking because that group doesn’t have cars).
  • The commission issued a series of mandatory orders against broadcasters who were using licences for tourist information stations in Surrey, B.C., to broadcast general programming.

TV

Radio

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Former Mix 96 morning man Andre Maisonneuve dies, leaving radio community in mourning

Montreal’s radio community is in mourning this weekend, with the news that Andre Maisonneuve, the morning and afternoon host on Mix 96, has died of cancer.

The Ottawa Citizen has a story on Maisonneuve, speaking to his brother and a long-time friend.

Outside of Montreal, Maisonneuve was better known as “Katfish Morgan”, and for the past decade worked at Live 88.5 in Ottawa. The station, owned by Newcap Radio, posted a tribute to him on Saturday.

Maisonneuve worked in radio for 18 years before getting a gig here in his hometown, at stations in London, Ont., Calgary, Halifax and Toronto. In 1998, he was named the morning man at Mix 96, along with Ted Bird. A year later, Bird reunited with Terry DiMonte on CHOM and Maisonneuve was paired with Nat Lauzon. (They notably inaugurated their new show by driving a Zamboni to Toronto, which garnered them some media attention in small towns along the 401.)

Lauzon, who had also worked with Maisonneuve at Mix 99.9 in Toronto a couple of years earlier, took the news particularly hard. Even before he died, she had often shared cherished memories of the Andre and Nat show on her Facebook page.

I asked Lauzon for comment about her friend’s passing. She didn’t want to talk on the phone because of her fragile emotional state, so she wrote this to me instead:

In a terrible year where we have lost so many of the greats, I consider Andre among them.

Andre could do anything. He was that rare blend of uber-talented jock but with the kind of vulnerability that allowed listeners to know him as a person, too. He was warm, kind, interested, creative and genuinely, naturally funny. On the air, Andre would take you places that were silly and ridiculous, then grow them and explore them without fear. And if they bombed, so what? And if they were winners, so what? The joy was in getting there, the reward was in trying. He was never afraid to be the foil or take chances. But more so, he was happy to stand back and let you shine. He could trust a moment and let it breathe instead of filling it will noise. He knew how to work WITH people, on the air. He was a careful listener and built the moment instead of clamouring for punchlines. (I don’t need to tell any “radio person” how rare a quality this is.)

He was a master of voices, with an impressive and ever-expanding stable of impersonations and characters. In a radio age, where so many “bits” come packaged from prep services, we wrote our own. Because Andre could handle any special voice requirements those bits entailed — from impersonations to accents to singing … it was endless, often surprising even himself! We laughed. So much. Andre had a winning, engaging laugh.

What I’ve said here of course, is all radio-related and barely scratches the surface of who he was personally (and at one point, I hope to write more on that), but it’s not difficult to find echoes of these same sentiments from across the country, from folks who knew Andre at various points in his lengthy radio career.

Andre was my colleague, but he was also my big brother and my teacher and my friend. His is a huge loss to radio — but also to those who loved him. My heart breaks for his two amazing kids, who he was fiercely proud of. I am hardly alone in admitting that losing him has me roiling with grief and anger. Very simply, I adored him. I will love and miss him always.

Maisonneuve and Lauzon broke up (work-wise) in 2002 when the station’s lineup was shuffled and both moved to other parts of the day. He went back to the morning show in 2004, paired with Lisa Player. In 2005, Maisonneuve moved to Ottawa for the launch of Live 88.5 (CILV-FM) and became Katfish Morgan again. He stayed there until just recently, when his disease forced him off the air, though he didn’t publicize that fact.

The station’s tribute reads in part:

Andre was a great broadcaster, a tremendous team player and a fearless leader.

Andre gave birth to LiVE 88.5. He “lived life large” and he was an absolutely magnificent human being. He taught us all to live in and for the moment. All those that enjoyed the pleasure of his company on and off the air knew and felt that he was always “present.” We built an entire radio station on those very same principles.

Andre was a truly loyal friend to all who knew him. He had a real zeal and a “lust for life” like no one we have ever known.

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Postmedia to cut another 20% of its workforce as losses escalate

Postmedia, my employer, posted its year-end financial results today, which includes a $100-million quarterly loss and a bunch of other numbers that don’t look good.

For those who don’t have a financial stake in Postmedia, these numbers may not matter to you. But more significant for people in the media industry is the company’s response: It wants to cut its total payroll by 20%. After implementing changes over the past year, including staff reductions, that reduced its operating expenses by $75 million a year, it’s doing the same again, cutting a fifth out of its $361-million payroll.

Assuming the cuts are evenly spread, this would mean Postmedia losing about 800 of its 4,000 employees at newspapers including the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Toronto Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Sun/Province and lots of smaller papers.

The company plans to do this in part through a voluntary buy-out program, which means I may lose some more colleagues. And I’m not 100% reassured that my own job is safe.

This is only the latest triple-digit staff reduction to come to a Canadian media giant in the past decade. Bell, Rogers, Quebecor, CBC and others have also made significant cuts, which increases the supply of journalists in the marketplace and makes it harder for others, particularly young people, to find jobs in the field.

The CWA union, representing many Postmedia employees, is urging the government to take action, and presumably order Postmedia broken up.

More coverage in the Postmedia-owned Financial Post, or The Canadian Press.

Media News Digest: Ezra appeals to Justin, deal on Torstar culture review, Rogers getting a new CEO

News about news

  • Ezra Levant is appealing to his favourite shiny pony, Justin Trudeau, after The Rebel was barred from covering a UN climate change conference because it’s an “advocacy media”. Canadian journalism organizations are supporting The Rebel, and an organization like the UN should be as open as possible within reason, though no one could really argue that The Rebel isn’t more about advocacy than journalism.

At the CRTC

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TTP Media comes back from the dead with weeks to go until deadline

After five years of almost nothing happening, could the mythical TTP Media be on course to get an AM radio station on the air in a month?

Though it looked this summer as if the company had all but abandoned its quest to become a news-talk radio powerhouse in Montreal, a major development suggests the project has been revived, even though there’s less than a month to go until the first final deadline to get a station on the air.

Nicolas Tétrault, one of the partners in 7954689 Canada Inc., posted two videos to YouTube last week that showed the Kahnawake transmitter site that the new stations at 600 and 940 AM are set to broadcast from. In one of them, Tétrault describes the installation as having been purchased that week from Cogeco Media.

The videos were removed shortly after they were noticed and I sent an inquiry to Tétrault about the status of the stations.

But Richard Lachance, president of Cogeco Media, confirmed to me that the transmitters, towers and other assets at the site were indeed sold. The purchase price, he said, is confidential.

Meanwhile, the ttpmedia.ca domain name that the group had let lapse was re-registered about the same time, Oct. 11. It’s a parked domain and the records don’t indicate its owner. An email sent to Tétrault’s address, which bounced this summer, seems to have gone through this time, but I don’t know for sure if he received it.

Though these signs are encouraging — the transmitter purchase would make no sense if they weren’t serious about putting these stations up — the group is up against tight deadlines.

On Nov. 9, the CRTC’s “final” deadline to launch the English news-talk station at 600 AM hits. And Nov. 21 is the “final” deadline to launch the French station at 940 AM. I write “final” in quotes because the CRTC’s first “final” deadline to launch at 940 was actually November 2015, but they changed their mind and granted another one.

Technically, the deadlines are to get the stations operational, which requires a period of on-air testing first. But it’s possible the CRTC would be lenient if at the deadline the station is at least doing said testing. This, of course, says nothing about all the other issues involved, like programming. There have been no high-profile (or even, to my knowledge, low-profile) poachings of staff from other radio stations or other announcements that would suggest they’re lining up talent yet.

A check of the 600 and 940 AM frequencies also shows no test signal on either.

It’s a small step and we know little else, since the partners still won’t talk. But the purchase of the site, even though it was supposedly being finalized a year ago but only closed this month, is a solid step forward.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said the YouTube video mentioned only the 940 station. Someone who watched it heard mention of 600 as well, so maybe my memory is faulty.

Yet more journalists of tomorrow

Concordia journalism bursary winners from 2014-15.

Concordia journalism bursary winners from 2015-16.

On Monday, the Montreal Gazette will be presenting awards in the form of bursaries to students in Concordia University’s Journalism department. As has become sort of a tradition for the past half-decade, I’m so lazy that I’m only now writing up my interviews with the winners of last year’s awards (which to be fair, were given out in January) and the year before (uhh, my dog ate it?).

I chatted with each of them briefly about their origins, their futures, and what they think about journalism. Here’s what they had to say:

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CRTC rules CKIN-FM is not breaking its licence conditions with Arabic-language focus

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has dismissed a complaint against CKIN-FM 106.3 by Radio Moyen Orient (CHOU 1450 AM) that it is not respecting its licence conditions by drastically increasing the amount of Arabic programming it broadcasts.

The complaint, filed in the spring by the city’s incumbent Arabic radio station, said that when Neeti P. Ray purchased CKIN-FM from Groupe CHCR (owner of CKDG-FM 105.1), it promised to maintain the station’s ethnic focus and serve the same languages. But after the acquisition closed, the station essentially turned itself into an Arabic station, broadcasting Arabic programming daily from midnight to 7pm, Spanish music until midnight on weekdays, and relegating the six other languages to an hour each on Saturday and Sunday nights.

For CHOU, this meant direct competition, which it judged was unfair. (CKIN-FM’s media kit boasts that FM is better than AM, without naming CHOU directly.)

But as I noted, and as Ray noted, and as the CRTC noted, nothing in the conditions of licence prevents them from doing this. The ethnic broadcasting policy incorporated into the licence conditions says that a certain number of languages and ethnic groups have to be served, but does not place a minimum or maximum number of hours.

The only place where CKIN-FM broke its licence conditions was (coincidentally?) during the week sampled by CHOU when it came two languages short of its required eight. The station explained this by saying that there was a schedule change, and two programs that aired on Saturday one weekend and Sunday the next were just outside the sample week (weeks are defined as Sunday to Saturday). This is a very reasonable explanation (though broadcasters should exceed their requirements to give themselves more flexibility and avoid situations like this), and the CRTC agreed.

CKIN-FM’s licence is up next August, and issues of licence compliance can come up again when the CRTC considers licence renewal.

It shouldn’t be this hard to watch the hockey games you want

Ever since the fall of 2014, when Rogers began a 12-year broadcasting rights deal with the National Hockey League, hockey fans (and Montreal Canadiens fans in particular) have been scratching their heads, pulling their hair out and engaging in other clichés trying to figure out how to watch their games.

There were several changes that took place all at the same time:

  • Rogers acquired national rights to NHL games, which includes Saturday night games (formerly CBC), Wednesday night games (formerly TSN) and Sunday night games (a new national window)
  • Rogers changed the way Hockey Night in Canada worked. Rather than split the CBC TV network and assign different stations different games, it used its multiple channels to make every broadcast national. On the plus side, it made it easier for people in Vancouver or Toronto to watch a Canadiens game, but on the minus side, it made it harder for the sometimes fan to catch their local team if that team wasn’t the Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • Rogers sub-licensed French-language national rights to TVA Sports, taking those rights away from RDS. For the first time in a decade, RDS did not have a monopoly on French-language NHL rights and would not broadcast all 82 Canadiens games.
  • Rather than let TVA Sports broadcast all Canadiens games, the team signed a separate regional rights deal with RDS, which meant the network would have to be blacked out outside the team’s region. Similarly for the Senators, which RDS also picked up regional rights to.
  • Some teams signed new regional rights deals. The Canadiens signed an English deal with Sportsnet, whereas before TSN had some regional games. The Senators went from Sportsnet to TSN for its regional rights. And the Maple Leafs had its regional rights split between TSN and Sportsnet, leaving Leafs TV without any games.
  • TSN went to five channels, ending part-time special regional channels for the Jets and Canadiens and making TSN3, TSN4 and TSN5 the main channel for regions served by the Jets, Leafs and Senators, respectively.
  • Rogers took control of NHL GameCentre Live, and made changes to that service.

To help people out, I wrote a story for the Montreal Gazette explaining the changes as best I could and included a full-page chart of every Canadiens game and what channels it would be available on.

A year later, there were enough demands from readers for another one that the sports editor asked me to repeat it.

And once again this year. Despite the situation being very similar to last year, the Gazette devoted another full page to the TV schedule and a story explaining what’s different. (I’ve also updated a story from last year for fans outside the Canadiens’ broadcast region.)

Don’t blame Rogers

Because these changes happened after Rogers took over as the national broadcaster, many fans blame the company for every blackout, complication or lack of availability of broadcasts. Some of that is earned, but most of it is not. It’s the National Hockey League, not Rogers, that sets the rules.

The anger is particularly high for Montreal Canadiens fans, who are used to seeing every game on RDS. The sub-licensing with TVA Sports meant that not only would Saturday night games move to the competing network, but RDS’s remaining games would have to be blacked out in most of Ontario and western Canada. The fact that Rogers made all 82 games available in English for the first time ever wasn’t enough to counteract that.

The NHL lets its teams sell rights to most of their games on a regional basis, meant to protect teams’ markets from competition for viewers. There are also games, usually on specific nights, where the league sells the rights on a national basis and there are no blackouts. It’s the same in Canada and the United States, and it also exists in other leagues (you think it’s complicated up here, look at the mess that is regional sports networks in the U.S.)

So I find myself spending a lot of time explaining to people how it works, that broadcasters don’t want to black out their channels, that it’s not just a money grab by Rogers, that it has nothing to do with the CRTC or whether a team has sold out a home game (that’s an NFL rule).

But knowing all that I do, there are some things that even I don’t understand, and that I think could be changed.

Do we need regional rights anymore?

The idea behind regional rights blackouts, whether it’s the NHL, MLB or the NFL, is to protect a sports team’s home market. If you’re starting a new Major League Baseball team in, say, Vermont or Connecticut, you want people in that area to be fans of your team. So you carve out an exclusive territory, and you make sure that other teams can’t broadcast all their games in that territory. You don’t want to make it as easy for people in your area to become Yankees fans.

But as fans here continually complain, that kind of thing won’t make them change allegiances, it’ll just frustrate them. A Habs fan in Toronto is going to stay a Habs fan, regardless of how many games are available to them on TV. And the regional rights blackouts don’t help when teams are close enough together that they can’t really have separate regions. (The Oilers and Flames share identical regions, as do the Canadiens and Senators, and many teams of different leagues in the New York area and southern California.)

What if we just eliminated them? Keep the split between rights sold by the league and those sold by individual teams, but end out-of-region blackouts.

The Canadian Football League doesn’t have regional blackouts. All games for all teams are national, and TSN holds the rights. And yet teams serving smaller markets, like the Ottawa Redblacks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, aren’t complaining about people from their region being able to watch Toronto or Montreal games. And the Saskatchewan Roughriders are still crazy popular in that province.

In Canada, Major League Soccer splits game rights between national and team-sold broadcast deals. That’s why RDS (national) and TVA Sports (team-based) split the rights to Montreal Impact games. But there are no MLS regional blackouts in this country.

It’s too late to renegotiate existing agreements (mainly because too many parties are involved), but when the national deal comes up in 2026, Rogers (or Bell, or whoever) and the NHL should sit down and explore the possibility of lifting these blackouts in Canada.

Let me pay for it

An even more frustrating problem is for people who pay for services set up to watch out-of-market teams: NHL Centre Ice and NHL GameCentre Live. There, we have the reverse problem: Those broadcasts that are available on regular TV are blacked out in these services. (Though Rogers has made national games available in GCL and some in-region regional games as well.)

I get the need to protect regional rights holders. But if I’m paying $200 a year to watch NHL games, I should be able to watch everything. The NHL should either tell regional rights-holders to live with the competition, or come to some agreement whereby some of that $200 goes to compensate the regional rights-holder for the money they would otherwise get from a subscription to their TV channel. (And, of course, making sure that it’s their feed that’s used, ensuring that viewers see their ads.)

There’s progress being made. Making national games available on GCL is a big step forward. Making regional games available for authenticated subscribers is another, but Bell, Rogers and Quebecor need to sit down with each other and finally hammer out an agreement that allows their services to be fully available to each other’s TV subscribers. It only serves to annoy subscribers and alienate fans when Videotron subscribers can’t access Sportsnet Now and Bell subscribers can’t stream TVA Sports.

Other things can also be done, like linking GameCentre Live and NHL Centre Ice so you only have to pay for one of them to get both. Or creating new packages that make it easier and cheaper to follow a single team rather than the entire league.

More and more fans are saying screw it and watching pirated streams online. Some are even paying a few bucks a month for it, because it’s simple and reliable. As a recent Sportsnet Now ad showed, that’s the real competition here.

If people are willing to pay $200 a season to watch hockey, the least you could do is not make them jump through hoops on top of that.

This is your problem, NHL. Fix it before you lose even more fans and even more potential revenue.