Category Archives: Media

Quebec’s regional dailies go weekly as COVID-19 devastates news media

The Coopérative nationale de l’information indépendante, the group that took over the six regional dailies formerly owned by Groupe Capitales Médias, has decided to suspend daily print editions and keep only the Saturday edition of each of those newspapers as they face a sudden disappearance of commercial ad revenue.

Affected are Le Soleil in Quebec City, Le Droit in Ottawa/Gatineau, La Tribune in Sherbrooke, La Voix de l’Est in Granby, Le Nouvelliste in Trois-Rivières and Le Quotidien in Saguenay.

They’re also laying off 143 workers, almost half their staff, temporarily during this crisis.

And no refunds “for the moment” because they don’t have enough staff to handle that.

This, less than a month after the group said it expected to be profitable in two years.

It’s just the latest media outlet to have to make drastic measures as COVID-19 causes traditional advertisers to pull their ads in what BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman calls a “media extinction event.”

Among the dramatic changes in Canada:

If the crisis continues over the long term, the situation is likely to get worse.

It’s a perfect storm of problems:

  • The crisis itself has put increased pressure on news outlets, particularly television and radio, to increase coverage
  • Absences due to sickness or self-isolation measures
  • Event advertisers pulling ads because there are no more events to advertise
  • Local businesses pulling ads because they’re closed
  • Online advertisers opting out of placing ads on pages related to the outbreak
  • Fewer newsstand sales of newspapers because of those closed businesses
  • Less subscription revenue because newspapers and TV channels have considered themselves morally obligated to provide COVID-19 coverage for free
  • No more sports or arts to drive audience numbers

There are some effects working in the other direction — higher audience for news content, some virus-related government advertising — but the impact on the bottom line is very negative.

Governments have acknowledged this, and in Quebec at least, we may see some additional direct financial assistance to the media. Unifor is calling for emergency measures from the federal government, and it looked like they listened, with Justin Trudeau announcing new measures would be coming, but that turned out to be false.

So for now, the guillotine continues to fall day after day.

CBC suspends local TV newscasts amid COVID-19 outbreak

Updated March 24 with news of progressive return.

Local news is vital. It provides an essential service, especially in times of emergency. People rely on local broadcasters to provide them up-to-the-minute information told by local journalists.

So what does the CBC do during an unprecedented public health crisis? It shuts it all down.

The public broadcaster announced Wednesday that effective immediately it is “consolidating” its TV news coverage, and replacing the 6pm and 11pm local newscasts at all of its stations (except CBC North, which provides news in Inuktitut) with CBC News Network.

According to a memo sent to staff this morning, the decision was made because of a lack of staff at CBC’s Toronto Broadcast Centre, which handles master control (why it has a lack of staff is not explained), as well as “much stricter newsgathering protocols.”

Continue reading

Radio ratings: Virgin fails to catch up, CJAD in long-term decline

Numeris has released its top-line PPM ratings data for Nov. 25 to Feb. 23.

The numbers for Montreal show little change from the previous quarter, or the past few years, really, with CJAD at the top among anglophones and CHMP-FM 98,5 ahead among francophones.

This lack of change is bad news for Virgin Radio 95.9, which spent a lot of effort promoting its new morning show hosted by Vinny Barrucco and Shannon King. We’re two full quarters into this change and The Beat still has twice the audience of Virgin. The sacking of program director Mark Bergman (who’s now at The Beat) and Freeway and Natasha haven’t moved the overall numbers.

Meanwhile, down the hall at CJAD, the long-term trend continues downward. In 2015, the average minute audience overall (averaged over 24/7) was 15,000. Now it’s around 12,000.

The Beat, CBC, CHOM and TSN 690 have kept about flat over that time, and haven’t shown any major change this winter.

On the francophone side, Rythme FM is continuing to re-establish itself as the dominant music station after facing more competition from Rouge, and 98,5fm is holding off Radio-Canada.

Horn-tooting

Media News Digest: Les Affaires goes monthly, local journalism jobs, Elysia Bryan-Baynes retires

News about news

Continue reading

How Canadians can watch Super Bowl LIV with American ads (the 2020 guide)

Letter from CTV to TV providers, provided to me by a helpful source

The free ride is over. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that the CRTC had overstepped its authority in the way it created an exception to simultaneous substitution rules, CTV will once again be taking over the U.S. feed for the Super Bowl on Sunday for Canadian cable and satellite TV subscribers.

And that means Canadians will be looking for loopholes to get around those rules. So here they are.

Continue reading

CBC looking for new host for Quebec AM

Susan Campbell won’t be returning to the Quebec AM host chair.

Listeners of the CBC Radio One show Quebec AM, which is the morning show for most of Quebec outside of Montreal and the Gatineau region, have been wondering for a little more than a year now when its host Susan Campbell will be coming back. At the end of 2018 she left for an unspecified medical issue, she wrote in a Facebook post last March. At the time she said her doctor recommended she extend her leave to at least the fall.

Unfortunately, she’s not coming back, CBC announced to listeners in December. Last week, the broadcaster posted a job for the permanent host of Quebec AM (technically a one-year contract, which is how CBC hires hosts these days), based in its Quebec City studio. The deadline is Feb. 6.

The CBC wouldn’t comment in detail on what is essentially a personnel matter, but did say Campbell will be staying with CBC Quebec when she returns from her medical leave.

“We’re excited about her next role, but we’re not ready to announce it just yet,” says managing editor Helen Evans, who clarified that it was Campbell’s decision to make this change.

Campbell herself didn’t have anything to add, and hasn’t spoken much about her leave despite being active on social media.

Campbell has been the host of Quebec AM since 2007, when she joined previous host Tim Belford, who was her co-host out of Sherbrooke until his retirement in 2011.

BTLR panel report sides with much more regulation of online media

We can talk about making Netflix charge GST, or phasing out ads from the CBC, or the various proposed changes to telecom policy that will have a huge financial impact for the industry but be largely invisible to end users, but the real headline out of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel report released on Wednesday is this: A big expansion of government regulation in media.

I’d say this wasn’t a surprise looking at the backgrounds of the panel members, but that would be unfair. The panel was made up of legal experts with experience all over the industry, including with telecommunication providers who would be largely against these kinds of additional regulatory burdens. And, frankly, it was a surprise that they would push for this much additional regulation.

Certainly, going boldly in the other direction wasn’t an option. The terms of reference that guided the panel made it clear that the government hasn’t changed its objectives in terms of getting the industry to promote Canadian content, ensuring diversity and accessibility, protecting local news and the CBC, and ensuring that additional costs won’t be assumed (directly) by the consumer. If you have issues with those objectives, take it up with the government, not the panel.

And in any case, those 97 recommendations are in the hands of that same federal government, and it will be up to them to decide which of those recommendations to follow and which to ignore. Those recommendations that are less politically popular should get filtered out at that stage, as well as those that would be too disruptive to take the political risk.

The recommendations are summarized in various news stories about the report (CBC, Globe and Mail, Wire Report, iPolitics, Cartt.ca, The Logic, Global News, Postmedia, Toronto Star)

Here are some highlights of what the panel has proposed:

Streaming and online media

  • Make all online media subject to government oversight. Not just Netflix, but Facebook, Google, Apple, even news media websites. While they would not have to be licensed by the CRTC, the larger ones would have to at least register (and have many of the same obligations), and report confidential information. (A suggested order would make this apply only to those with more than $10 million in Canadian revenue a year.)
  • Require “curators” (media providers with editorial control over their media) to devote a portion of their content budgets to Canadian programming. (Or impose a levy where such a quota is inappropriate.)
  • Require “aggregators” and “sharers” (those without editorial control) to give a portion of their Canadian revenues to the Canadian system, including news.
  • Make foreign streaming services subject to sales tax. Quebec and Saskatchewan already do this at the provincial level, and Canadian streaming services are already subject to this, so it was kind of a no-brainer.
  • Allow the CRTC to collect data (including recommendation algorithms) from media producers and publish that data in aggregate form.
  • Require “media content undertakings” to devote portions of their catalogues to Canadian content and ensure a certain prominence to Canadian content, including in things like app stores.
  • Monitor and if necessary intervene in large media companies’ use of “Big Data” that may have privacy implications for Canadians.
  • (Carefully) establish liability for digital providers for harmful content distributed using their systems, while protecting freedom of expression.

CBC/Radio-Canada

  • Phase out all advertising within five years.
  • Set up a five-year funding guarantee for the CBC instead of having it set its budget based on parliamentary appropriations that can change with every federal budget.
  • Add “taking creative risks” to CBC’s mandate.
  • Remove specific references to radio and television from CBC’s mandate.
  • Move away from the CRTC licensing CBC’s individual services

Internet service providers

  • No new ISP tax. The panel recommended against the idea of taxing internet service directly to support Canadian media.
  • Require the CRTC to, if they deem it necessary, implement “measures to improve affordability for marginalized Canadians from diverse social locations.”

Telecommunications

  • A much larger role for the CRTC in establishing rules for how telecoms do business with each other and interconnect.
  • Give the CRTC power over “passive infrastructure” like street furniture to make it easier for telecom companies to install equipment.
  • More power to the CRTC to regulate access to telecommunications infrastructure inside large apartment and condo buildings to ensure competition.
  • Require the CRTC consult municipalities before granting permission to install telecom facilities.
  • Expand the CRTC’s jurisdiction to cover all “electronic communications services” being provided in Canada, regardless of if they’re Canadian-owned or have a presence here.
  • Direct disputes over tower sharing to the CRTC.

News media

  • Expand the federal journalism tax credit to include broadcast media.
  • Require sharing and aggregation websites like Facebook and YouTube to provide “links to the websites of Canadian sources of accurate, trusted, and reliable sources of news with a view to ensuring a diversity of voices” and require “prominence” of such links.
  • Require social media platforms abide by regulated terms of trade that balance “negotiating power” with news producers so news producers are compensated for their content being shared online.

The CRTC

  • Rename the commission the Canadian Communications Commission (which sounds a lot like a “Canadian FCC”).
  • Give the commission more powers to do market research and regulate proactively rather than based solely on industry applications.
  • Allow the commission to issue conditional and interim broadcasting decisions, fine broadcasters, and issue ex parte decisions where warranted.
  • Reduce the maximum number of commissioners to a chair, one vice-chair and seven other members, down from the current 13 total, and have all members based out of the Ottawa region.
  • Create a Public Interest Committee of experts that would “provide advice as part of the decision-making process.” The panel cites the OFCOM Consumer Panel in the U.K. as a model.
  • Create and fund an accessibility advisory committee.
  • Allow sharing of confidential information between the commission and the Competition Bureau as well as the Privacy Commissioner.
  • Synchronize rules related to powers and procedures between the telecom and broadcasting side.
  • Establish a firm 120-day deadline to review a decision when asked through an appeal by a party to it.
  • Strengthen rules that provide funding for public interest interventions in CRTC proceedings.

Production funds

  • Combine the Canada Media Fund and Telefilm Canada, which finance TV and movie production, respectively.
  • Redirect cable and satellite companies’ required contributions to the Canada Media Fund be redirected to certified independent production funds, like the Bell Fund, Fonds Quebecor, Shaw Rocket Fund etc.

Devices

  • Make it illegal to “operate devices, equipment, or components to receive unlawfully decrypted subscription programs” online (borrowing from the anti-satellite-piracy law).
  • Make the minister of industry responsible for ensuring “communications devices and their operating systems respect security requirements, protect users’ privacy, and incorporate accessibility features.”

That’s a lot. Even if there are exemptions for small businesses, this new regulatory regime would cover a large part of the online industry. And if these new laws and the regulations that stem from them aren’t very carefully implemented, there could be a lot of undesired side-effects, including many online businesses blocking out Canada because they don’t think it’s worth going through the regulatory burden.

And even those who will participate because there’s so much money at stake (like Netflix) will certainly balk at some of the regulatory obligations like submitting their algorithms to audits. When the CRTC tried to get some basic information out of Netflix as part of its Let’s Talk TV proceeding five years ago, Netflix flat-out refused, and the commission had no power to force the company to comply, so it just gave up. Stronger laws could change that (especially if other countries have similar laws), but expect a lot of resistance.

There’s also a lot unclear about how this will affect those currently licensed by the CRTC. The proposal would change the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, and (though this isn’t laid out explicitly) remove the requirement that Canadian broadcasting be Canadian-owned. That could have serious implications if, say, it allows Bell and Corus to be bought by American media giants.

The federal government has said it plans to have legislation by the end of the year. I look forward to seeing how much of this radical change it has the stomach for, especially in a minority parliament.

Bell makes Crave bilingual, opening another front in its war with Quebecor

I regret to inform you that Bell and Quebecor are at it again.

The latest skirmish? Bell’s announcement that it is launching a French version of its Crave streaming service, or more accurately making its existing Crave service bilingual. This adds a third player to the (paid) Canadian French-language TV streaming market, joining Radio-Canada’s Tou.tv Extra and Quebecor’s Club Illico.

That sounds pretty simple, and generally good news for the market. Annoying for Quebecor, obviously, to have a new competitor, but hardly something they can complain about.

Except at the same time, Bell is doing with its Super Écran pay TV channel what it did with The Movie Network in 2018: Integrating it into Crave and forcing TV providers into a new deal to get access to Super Écran’s on-demand content for their subscribers. (Super Écran will, thankfully, keep its branding though, and be referred to as a Super Écran add-on to Crave.)

Bell has reached such deals with some providers, but not Videotron, which is calling foul because Bell has shut down Super Écran Go, through which Videotron customers subscribed to Super Écran could access its content online.

The 2018 Crave-Videotron war didn’t last too long, but it needed a $100-million lawsuit to settle. And Bell and Quebecor aren’t exactly great at negotiating these days.

Continue reading

Quebecor’s shifting arguments against Tou.tv

It will come as no surprise to you that Quebecor and Canada’s public broadcaster are not the best of friends. Quebecor’s controlling shareholder and CEO, Pierre Karl Péladeau, has complained about it many times in the past. (He also complains about La Presse, Bell, the Quebec Liberal Party, the Quebec government and others.)

This week, Quebec’s largest telecom and media company filed a complaint with the CRTC demanding that it order CBC/Radio-Canada to shut down its Tou.tv Extra streaming service. Not all of Tou.tv, just the $7/month premium version that charges for premium content.

I examine the application in this article for Cartt.ca subscribers. In short, Quebecor is arguing that:

  • As a public broadcaster, it’s improper for CBC/Radio-Canada to charge for access to content paid for by taxpayers, and goes against its mandate.
  • Since it licenses some content from other broadcasters (Télé-Québec, V, Canal Vie, TV5 and others), it is a de facto TV provider and should be licensed as such, including obligations to spend 5% of its revenue on Canadian programming funds.
  • Its deal with Telus giving Telus’s customers free access to Tou.tv Extra is an illegal undue preference and against the rules for digital media broadcasters.
  • CBC’s last licence renewal in 2013 included a note from the CRTC that said it does not charge for access to its streaming service (Tou.tv Extra launched in 2014), which Quebecor argues is a de facto condition of acceptance.

Quebecor lays it on pretty thick in the application, saying CBC/Radio-Canada is “short-circuiting the Canadian broadcasting system with taxpayer money” and “creating two-tier public television: enriched content, exclusives and offers first to the better off, and regular content and reruns to the masses.”

In a procedural letter, the CRTC says that issues related to CBC’s mandate should be dealt with in the CBC licence renewal proceeding, which is currently under way. Other issues of fairness can be dealt with in the context of an “undue preference” proceeding, which it will examine.

I could point out some of the obvious counter-arguments to Quebecor’s argument (Tou.tv Extra does not offer live streaming of cable channels, only some of their content on demand; there is no condition of licence requiring it to be free; it’s basically the same model as Quebecor’s own Club Illico; the deal offered to Telus was offered to others as well including Videotron, who choose not to take it; even if there is undue preference, it does not mean Tou.tv Extra needs to cease its operations), but what struck me today as I was doing some Google searching is a post I wrote 10 years ago just after Tou.tv first launched, when Péladeau complained about it then. Here’s a paragraph I excerpted from an open letter he wrote:

Furthermore, the CBC has launched the Tou.tv website without consulting the industry, a move that jeopardizes Canada’s broadcasting system by providing free, heavily subsidized television content on the Internet without concern for the revenue losses that may result, not only for the CBC but also for other stakeholders, including writers and directors.

So, in 2010 Péladeau argued that Tou.tv threatened the broadcasting system by not charging a fee.

And in 2020 Péladeau argues that Tou.tv Extra threatens the broadcasting system by charging a fee.

You have to give this to Péladeau: He’s got quite the ability to argue. It must be fun working in his regulatory affairs department.

Media News Digest: GCM coop goes ahead, CBC licence renewal, a bunch of people retire

It’s been a month and a half since the last one of these, and frankly it’s quite the load on my time. I’m going to have to explore ways of lowering the workload if I’m going to keep doing this. In the meantime, I’ve dropped the jobs section and may drop others that are less popular and/or have better sources elsewhere.

News about news

Continue reading

CRTC rules Bell TV unfairly packaged TVA Sports

So Quebecor was right all along.

Kinda.

In a decision published on Thursday, the CRTC ruled that Bell TV unduly showed preference to its related channel RDS to the detriment of competitor TVA Sports by choosing to put the former in its most popular package in Quebec, but not the latter.

It gives Bell until Feb. 5 to tell the commission how it will rectify the situation. The two obvious options are to either add TVA Sports to the package, or take RDS out of it.

Like most TV providers, Bell offers discretionary channels on an à la carte basis, but most people have them as part of larger packages. With Bell, these larger packages are organized in tiers: Good, Better and Best in English, and Bon, Meilleur and Mieux in French. The data show that the lowest-end package of that group is by far the more popular. In Quebec, about 90% of subscribers with one of these packages has the “Bon” package, which has RDS but not TVA Sports.

Bell had argued that its contract with Quebecor only required TVA Sports to have similar packaging to RDS2, and that even that clause doesn’t apply anymore. Quebecor, meanwhile, argued that TVA Sports has greatly transformed since it launched in 2011, and is now on par with RDS, particularly since it picked up the national rights to NHL games.

The CRTC sided with Quebecor, and said “Bell deprived TVA Sports of a significant number of subscribers and several millions of dollars per year of subscription and advertising revenues, resulting in a significant loss of income.”

Quebecor’s back-of-the-envelope calculations suggested that if Bell TV treated TVA Sports the same as RDS (including paying the same per-subscriber rate), TVA Sports would not be in deficit. The rate isn’t part of this decision, but rather was decided as part of final offer arbitration in a separate case (Quebecor is mad about that one too, since the CRTC sided with Bell).

This apparent unfairness was the major reason Quebecor decided in April to cut the TVA Sports feed from Bell, until ordered by the court to re-establish it.

We’ll see what Bell does to rectify the situation. Quebecor would obviously prefer more subscribers to TVA Sports, but Bell could choose to take RDS out of the “Bon” package instead, especially if it can get away with grandfathering those who already have it.

Bell complaint dismissed

In a separate decision also released Thursday, the CRTC also sided with Quebecor in a case over packaging of Super Écran on Videotron. The decision, in response to a Bell complaint, found that Videotron did treat Super Écran differently from Quebecor’s own Club Illico when it removed Super Écran from the “Premium” group of channels, but that there was insufficient evidence that Super Écran suffered financially because of it.

Videotron’s pick-your-own-package model, which is the main way they’re selling TV services these days, invites customers to choose a certain number of channels. Separate from that are “Premium” services that cost more. Most Videotron packages allow one or two “Premium” selections from a list of services, that used to include Super Écran and The Movie Network (now Crave), plus Super Channel, the over-the-top service Club Illico, and a package that includes FX, AMC and U.S. super stations.

Videotron removed Super Écran and Crave from the “Premium” offer after Bell increased its per-subscriber fee. It argued it was just too expensive to continue to be a throw-in like that. Instead, you have to search under “other specialties” to find them among the ethnic channels and pay an extra $17 (Super Écran) or $20 (Crave/HBO) a month.

The decision seems to suggest the issue could be revisited if Bell can prove there was significant financial impact on Super Écran as a result of this change.

Supreme Court overturns CRTC order banning ad substitution during Super Bowl

After three years of Canadian cable TV subscribers having access to American ads during the Super Bowl, we’ll be going back to the previous system after all.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the CRTC exceeded its authority when it issued an order that required cable and satellite TV companies to not substitute U.S. feeds with Canadian ones during the Super Bowl, in response to demands from Canadians to be able to watch the U.S. Super Bowl ads.

The 7-2 decision explicitly leaves open the possibility that the CRTC could use its authority under other sections of the Broadcasting Act to possibly reach the same result. The most obvious way would be under article 4(3) of the Simultaneous Substitution Regulations, which state that the CRTC can declare a condition whereby simultaneous substitution would not be in the public interest, and prohibit it accordingly.

But that won’t happen before the next Super Bowl less than two months away.

Specifically, the court found that article 9(1)h of the Broadcasting Act, the same article that allows the CRTC to require TV distributors to include certain channels in their basic packages and collect fees from every subscriber for them, “does not empower the CRTC to impose terms and conditions on the distribution of programming services generally,” and since the order the CRTC issued in 2016 does not require these companies to distribute the Super Bowl, its wording is invalid.

The article states that the CRTC may “require any licensee who is authorized to carry on a distribution undertaking to carry, on such terms and conditions as the Commission deems appropriate, programming services specified by the Commission.”

The majority found that this wording can’t be stretched to give the CRTC a bunch of powers it doesn’t say it has. The CRTC can order providers to carry certain channels, but that’s not what the Super Bowl order does.

This is notably the third time that an order issued under article 9(1)h has been rejected for this reason. Previous orders invalidated the CRTC’s “value for signal” regime that would have required providers pay for local TV stations, and a requirement for TV providers to abide by the Wholesale Code.

The court did not make decisions on other arguments, such as whether the CRTC has the power to regulate individual programs, or whether the CRTC’s order conflicts with the Copyright Act.

The two dissenting judges found that Bell and the NFL had not met their burden to prove that the CRTC decision was unreasonable, and generally deferred to the CRTC and its expertise in interpreting the section of the Broadcasting Act it was citing. It also found the CRTC’s decision was not invalidated by the Copyright Act.

The decision probably only accelerates a process that was coming anyway, as the Canadian government had already agreed as part of negotiations on a new trade agreement with the U.S. and Mexico to overturn the CRTC’s order.

And, of course, there are still other ways to watch the U.S. Super Bowl ads.

Radio Centre-Ville lawsuit ends with dissidents dropping case at trial

The legal battle between Radio Centre-Ville (CINQ-FM 102.3) and a group of dissidents over control of the community station is over. But the emotional repercussions of the bitter three-year dispute will likely continue for some time to come.

The case was finally heard on Monday before judge Marc St-Pierre at Quebec Superior Court. But after hearing from only two witnesses, the plaintiff, representing the dissidents, proposed abandoning the lawsuit, which was quickly accepted. (Both sides pay their own legal costs.)

The dispute started in the fall of 2016, with a proposal by station management that, to control a financial crisis that risked pushing the station into bankruptcy and losing its building on St-Laurent Blvd., it begin selling airtime to independent producers. That proposal may or may not have been rejected at a general assembly of members in September 2016, depending which side you talk to.

Two other general assemblies followed, one in December 2016 and one in January 2017, to elect members to the station’s board of directors, and each side says the other one was illegal. Since then, the two have continued to battle for control, each with its own board — General Manager Wanex Lalanne and his allies remained in control of the station itself, while the dissident group was the one listed on Quebec’s business registry, and had control of the station’s Facebook page. The dissident group also often got its messages broadcast on the station, as well as through other media like CKUT.

Radio Centre-Ville General Manager Wanex Lalanne addresses listeners during an on-air press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.

To say the battle has been acrimonious would be an understatement. During a press conference broadcast live on-air on Tuesday, Lalanne and his supporters talked about defamatory statements made against him, and Lalanne did not discount the possibility of a civil lawsuit for defamation. (The threat of such a countersuit may have been a factor in the dissidents deciding to drop their case.) Lalanne said he would take some time to recover from this ordeal before taking such decisions, and it’s up to the station’s board of directors as far as the next steps on behalf of the organization.

Continue reading

TTP Media’s 600 and 940 stations go off the air

Damage to the transmitter caused by a wind storm caused TTP Media’s two Montreal radio stations to go off the air, and the need to order parts means it will be early in the new year before they’re transmitting again, co-owner Nicolas Tétrault tells me.

CFNV 940 AM and CFQR 600 AM have been on the air since 2016 and 2017, respectively, each taking five years to get on the air after getting their licences from the CRTC.

For nearly a decade, Montrealers unsatisfied with commercial talk radio stations have been eagerly anticipating what was promised. But that eagerness has faded as year after year brings no news about programming (except for a deal CFNV reached with the similarly-named CNV to provide mainly music programming).

Tétrault says talk programming is coming soon, and they are very proactive on setting it up. Talk programs on CFQR, the English station, could start as early as February, he told me.

Considering past promises of launching soon, it’s best not to hold your breath waiting for it.

UPDATE (Feb. 19): CFQR 600 AM is back on the air.

Fall radio ratings: Could The Beat surpass CJAD?

Numeris released its quarterly ratings report for metered markets on Wednesday, and for Montreal the only surprising thing is how much The Beat continues to dominate over Virgin Radio. With a 21.5% share, it has more than twice the average listeners than Virgin Radio at 9.4%. And not only it it the fourth straight quarter that The Beat has been more than twice Virgin’s share, it’s the third straight where Virgin has fallen behind CHOM for third place among English music stations.

The 21.5% share is The Beat’s highest since it launched in 2011, and less than four points below perennial leader CJAD 800. Could we see a future where The Beat isn’t just the most popular music station and the most popular among that advertiser-friendly 25-54 audience, but among all ages and formats as well?

The book is more bad news for Virgin Radio, which tried to turn things around by letting go of program director Mark Bergman (he’s now at The Beat) and morning hosts Freeway Frank and Natasha Gargiulo and stealing Vinny Barrucco back from The Beat to lead its new morning show. The Beat’s morning show, headed by Vinny’s former co-host Nikki Balch, is still ahead. It’s still early — this is the first full book with Barrucco hosting the morning show with Shannon King — but they have a lot of ground to cover, and Virgin has lost a lot of ground that it has to make up.

TSN 690 is at the bottom of the anglo commercial radio pack, but it had its best share since 2017. CBC Radio One, meanwhile, which had good numbers from 2017 until this spring, has fallen back below 7% in market share.

On the francophone side, the top line hasn’t changed much, except for a rebound for CHMP-FM 98.5 (which always tends to dip in the summer with replacement hosts and less news), and a drop for CKOI 96.9.

Bragging rights