Category Archives: Media

The Supreme Court, “person with a vagina” and knee-jerk outrage culture

Did the Supreme Court of Canada ban the use of the word “woman” because it’s gotten too woke?

Reading the coverage of a recent decision, you might be justified in thinking that’s the case. It’s not, of course. A simple reading of the decision would confirm that by any reasonable analysis. But even when presented with the facts, the people who cranked the outrage machine insist they’re right.

Which is a bit concerning because they’re all people who work or have worked as journalists for mainstream media.

The decision in question is called R. v. Kruk, and dated March 8 (coincidentally, International Women’s Day). But the outrage circus started March 13 when the National Post published its daily opinion newsletter from Tristin Hopper, titled “Supreme Court decision opts for ‘person with a vagina’ over ‘woman'”. It starts as follows:

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a recent sexual assault case that it was “problematic” for a lower court judge to refer to the alleged victim as a “woman,” implying that the more appropriate term should have been “person with a vagina.”

In a decision published Friday, Justice Sheilah Martin wrote that a trial judge’s use of the word “a woman” may “have been unfortunate and engendered confusion.”

Martin does not specify why the word “woman” is confusing, but the next passage in her decision refers to the complainant as a “person with a vagina.” Notably, not one person in the entire case is identified as transgender, and the complainant is referred to throughout as a “she.”

Right-wing and clickbait social media accounts and websites and even news media pounced on Hopper’s interpretation of the decision, as did Journal de Montréal columnist Richard Martineau, who wrote in a column published the next day that “Il n’y a plus de femmes au Canada!” (There’s no more women in Canada!)

Martineau repeats the two key points of Hopper’s analysis, that the Supreme Court ruled a lower court’s use of the word “woman” was problematic, and that the Supreme Court says judgments should instead say “person with a vagina.”

Martineau’s column, in turn, prompted Martine Biron, Quebec’s minister responsible for the status of women, to present an emergency motion in the National Assembly condemning the Supreme Court’s words. Co-signed by Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Liberal MNA André Morin and independent (formerly Liberal) MNA Marie-Claude Nichols, it passed unanimously.

There’s just one problem. That stuff about the Supreme Court finding a problem with the word “woman”, and saying courts should use “person with a vagina” instead? It’s not true.

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Lite 106.7 drops Ted Bird

People who tuned in to 106.7 in Hudson/St-Lazare this morning to listen to the Terry and Ted show were disappointed and possibly confused that the show wasn’t on today.

Ted Bird confirmed to me today he is no longer employed by the station, and said it was the decision of owner Evanov Communications. The weekday morning show is listed on the station’s website without a host, and the Saturday morning Terry and Ted show has also been removed from the schedule. DiMonte also confirmed on social media that show is not returning.

The news of Bird’s departure is a bit surprising as it was only in January that Evanov began carrying Bird’s show on its Ottawa station at 98.5.

Bird joined CHSV-FM, then Jewel 106.7 when it launched in 2015 as the first English-language radio station serving the western off-island region. That ended five years of bouncing around local radio stations after Bird left CHOM-FM in a dispute with management. He worked at K103 in Kahnawake, TSN 690 and KIC 89.9 before landing at the Hudson station.

The Terry and Ted podcast Standing By is a separate venture and will go on. Bird says they’re recording Season 7 in April.

As for a new job, there are always options out there, but “I think I’m done with radio,” he says.

Bell’s MTV2 becomes latest casualty of specialty channel decline

If you’re a subscriber of Bell Media’s MTV2 channel, you may have already received a notice that the channel is being shut down at the end of March.

The shutdown is not too surprising. It was on my list of endangered channels along with ESPN Classic and Yoopa, which have seen dramatic declines in subscribers and advertising in recent years.

According to the latest CRTC data for the 2021-22 broadcast year, MTV2 had about 750,000 subscribers (including zero satellite TV subscribers), about $215,000 in total advertising revenue, and had cut expenses by 84% in four years to try to shrink itself back into profitability.

Billed as “the ultimate destination for Canada’s 12-24s”, the channel currently runs marathons of reality shows like The Real World, Teen Mom, Catfish, Geordie Shore and Canadian filler shows Cash Cab and Comedy Now!

The channel began service in 2001 during the digital specialty channel explosion, originally as Craig Media-owned MTV Canada, then rebranded to Razer and finally to MTV2. MTV still exists as a separate Bell Media channel under a separate licence, though Bell hasn’t done much more to promote that channel than it did MTV2, and it was also bleeding money according to CRTC data.

Natasha Hall, Mose Persico, Lise McAuley among Bell Media cuts in Montreal

Updated March 24 with more details.

Two weeks after BCE announced it was abolishing 4,800 jobs, we’re starting to learn how those losses are trickling down to the local level.

In Montreal, CTV News was hit hard. The station’s website confirms weather presenter Lise McAuley, assignment editor Derek Conlon and production assistant and movie reviewer Mosé Persico no longer work for the company. That’s decades of experience with CFCF gone.

Director Yves Marion and producer Helen Michailidis have also left the organization.

This doesn’t mean they were all let go. In fact, a source within CTV Montreal tells me most of them took voluntary retirement packages instead. (Persico confirms this was the case for him.)

CTV News also lost Montreal-based national reporter Vanessa Lee. There’s no official list nationally, but correspondent Judy Trinh notes some names gone at CTV National News. It includes Kevin Gallagher, who was formerly a local reporter with CTV Montreal.

On the radio side, CJAD cut afternoon co-host Natasha Hall and Trivia Show co-host Dan Laxer is also gone. The loss of Hall isn’t entirely unexpected — a schedule shuffle in 2021 to incorporate more unoriginal programming on the schedule meant merging her show with Aaron Rand’s and making them co-hosts. This made one of them an easier cut in the next round of layoffs.

Rand, no stranger to having to carry on after his co-hosts get fired, paid tribute to Hall in a Facebook post, calling her “a smart, talented, and a consummate radio professional who didn’t deserve this outcome.”

With Laxer’s departure, Ken Connors is listed as the sole host of the Sunday morning Trivia Show.

I haven’t seen any cuts at CHOM, Virgin Radio or TSN Radio in Montreal. Despite the sword of Damocles seeming to dangle above TSN 690’s head, the station itself seems to have survived the latest round of cuts.

As announced with the news of the layoffs, CTV has cancelled noon newscasts at local stations outside Toronto, as well as news on holidays. CTV Montreal’s weekend newscasts survived the cut, along with Ottawa and Toronto, but other CTV stations have seen those newscasts cut as well.

UPDATE: Persico has already announced a new gig to keep him busy: Host of the afternoon drive show on ethnic station Mike FM 105.1 starting April 1. The announcement confirms his Mose at the Movies segments will move to Mike FM’s platforms.

Jon Stewart is coming back to The Daily Show, but it’s not coming back to CTV

For those of you who miss the good ol’ days of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is the old host is coming back. Stewart will host the show Mondays during this presidential election cycle, starting Feb. 12, and be an executive producer.

The bad news is the show isn’t coming back to CTV or CTV Comedy. Paramount confirms the show’s Canadian rights will remain with the Paramount+ streaming service, where it had moved since the end of the writers strike.

The show will be available on Paramount+ the day after it airs on Comedy Central.

Many Canadians (including myself) were confused when they heard the show had resumed production in October but CTV continued airing The Big Bang Theory reruns at 12:05am weekdays. Bell Media would only say it no longer had the rights to the show.

Then Paramount+, a service few Canadians have heard of much less subscribe to, announced it was adding The Daily Show last month. But within weeks, the show disappeared from there too. Paramount told me it’s because they weren’t producing new episodes at the time. (Why they couldn’t have archived episodes available is unclear.)

Today’s news confirms that even with Stewart’s return, the show won’t be widely available in Canada. Paramount+, which also includes Yellowstone, Yellowstone spinoffs, a bunch of series you’ve never heard of and that Sylvester Stallone project you may have seen ads for, costs $10/month directly, or through Apple TV+ or Amazon Prime Video.

Bell Media has complained recently to the CRTC and others that big U.S. streaming services are unfairly competing for Canadian rights to shows, making it harder for Bell to make money. It used the example of Star Trek, which is also owned by Paramount. Though CTV and Space/CTV Sci-Fi has been Star Trek’s home since the days of The Next Generation, expect future Trek series to be exclusive to Paramount+ in Canada. (The service already has all the Star Trek series, but for now at least those rights are mostly non-exclusive.)

PWHL’s TV deals are a win for fans

As I’m writing this, the Professional Women’s Hockey League is playing its first regular-season game, featuring Toronto and New York (they don’t have names yet) at Mattamy Athletic Centre (aka the old Maple Leaf Gardens) in Toronto.

There were a lot of unanswered questions in the months leading up to this launch. Some, like names and logos, remain unanswered, but the league understandably wanted to get the players actually playing as soon as possible.

One thing that worried me was television coverage. You’re not going to build a fanbase if the fans can’t watch you play. And as the weeks went on without news, I started to get worried. Surely they can’t start the season without a broadcaster, can they?

On Dec. 20, I noticed that TSN had added “Hockey TBA” to its schedule coinciding with the first three PWHL games of the season, and RDS had added a “TBA” for Montreal’s first game. Then I saw Sportsnet added a game to Sportsnet One, and CBC put the inaugural game on its schedule.

The press releases only came out Dec. 29, three days before puck drop and in the middle of that news dead zone between Christmas and New Year’s. It confirmed that rights to the league would be shared between the networks:

  • 34 games on TSN, of which seven will be only on the TSN+ premium streaming service
  • 17 games on Sportsnet
  • 18 games on CBC, though most of those will be streaming-only. CBC will also air some games at 1:30am after Hockey Night in Canada.
  • 16 Montreal games on RDS
  • 8 Montreal games on Radio-Canada’s Ici Tou.tv
  • 24 New York games on MSG Networks
  • 24 Boston games on NESN (or NESN+)

No deal was announced for Minnesota games, so hopefully someone steps up soon to bring games to those fans. The deals allow for out-of-market broadcasts (MSG and NESN are regional networks) so hopefully other U.S. regional networks pick up rights to bring women’s hockey to their fans.

I compiled a full PWHL season schedule for Montreal for the Gazette. All 24 games will be available in at least one language, though three of them will be online-only in both.

This could have ended several other ways. The PWHL could have tried to launch its own paid streaming service, or signed an exclusive deal with one broadcaster. Instead, the first game is on three competing networks and all games are available on YouTube (the PWHL promises no geoblocking so people in other countries can watch the league through the world’s most accessible video streaming platform).

They’re probably not getting a lot of money out of these deals, if any, but right now what’s important is getting fans invested, and this is a good step toward that goal.

Montreal Gazette returns to being The Gazette after 9 years as a blue square

Two newspapers, one with a blue square "Montreal Gazette" logo on the front and the other with an Old English-style "The Gazette" logo

The Montreal Gazette’s front page, before (left) and after (right)

The Gazette is The Gazette again.

On Thursday, my employer brought back the familiar Old English-style logo that had graced its cover for decades (until Postmedia’s 2014 design changes that unified layout styles in broadsheets across the country). Friday’s paper was the first with the old logo, combined with a large Aislin cartoon to mark the occasion.

An editor’s note that appears in a wrap around Friday’s edition and was also posted online says the change “is more than symbolic, and serves as a powerful reminder that although the journalism of today is different than in generations past — and even though we tell stories using digital tools that would never have been imaginable in the 18th century — our high standards and promise to seek the truth remain the same.”

Postmedia also issued a press release on the matter. The rebrand (unrebrand?) comes with a new tagline: “There with you then. Here with you now” — which gets added to a long list of Gazette marketing slogans including “The English Language, daily.” “The Gazette IS Montreal” and “Words matter.”

Besides the logo, and a reconfiguration of the skyboxes to fit its new shape, the paper is the same as it was on Thursday. But there’s a bit of a morale boost among its staff.

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The Daily Show disappears from Canada after CTV drops it (UPDATED)

If you’re like me, you missed late-night shows during the U.S. writers and actors strikes. And though you moved on to other things during the summer, you were looking forward to seeing topical comedy again when they came back.

You might have tuned to CTV at 12:05am and seen another Big Bang Theory rerun and wondered how long it would be until The Daily Show resumed production. And then you might have been confused when you learned they had been producing new episodes for weeks.

Unfortunately, you won’t be seeing The Daily Show again on CTV, or CTV Comedy, any time soon. Bell Media has dropped the show.

When I asked about it, this is the entirety of the response I received from Bell:

I can confirm that Bell Media is no longer carrying THE DAILY SHOW.

I didn’t get a reply to follow-up questions, including the obvious “why?”

A convenient hole-filler

The existence of The Daily Show on CTV, and its popularity among Canadians, probably has as much to do with a scheduling quirk as anything else.

For decades, CTV’s schedule in most markets consists of prime-time programming mainly imported from the U.S. between 8 and 11pm, followed by CTV National News until 11:30 and then late local news until 12:05am. Because the CRTC set Canadian content rules defining prime time as 6pm-12am, the schedule made sense from a regulatory perspective. The more Canadian content (including news) you put in 6-8pm and 11pm-12am, the more U.S. imports you can put in 8-11pm.

After midnight, the rules are different and U.S. imports can come back in. But the two big late-night shows, NBC’s The Tonight Show and CBS’s The Late Show, both start at 11:35pm. ABCs Jimmy Kimmel Live started at midnight but now it too has moved to 11:35.

As a half-hour show, The Daily Show could fill a gap between the 12:05am end of the local news and the 12:35am start of the late-late shows. And during the post-9/11 Jon Stewart era, it gained popularity in both countries.

Now, for whatever reason, Bell has decided it no longer makes sense. Not because schedules have changed, but probably because of money.

The Daily Show isn’t what it was under Stewart. Besides Stewart himself, top talent have moved on to other shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Since Trevor Noah’s departure a year ago, it has had a parade of fill-in hosts.

Meanwhile, The Big Bang Theory is cheap and reruns are very popular in Canada. So for now, at least, CTV is going in that direction.

The Daily Show wasn’t part of CTV’s fall schedule announcement in the summer, which means the decision not to keep it probably dates to at least then.

Where can I watch it?

So if CTV no longer has the rights to the Daily Show, where can Canadians watch it?

The short answer is you can’t. At least not yet. It’s not on a competing network, it’s not on Netflix or Amazon. Your only option to watch it legally is to buy individual episodes on Apple TV.

UPDATE: Thanks to Chris for pointing this out — Paramount+ Canada is adding The Daily Show starting Dec. 5. Comedy Central is owned by Paramount.

There wasn’t another obvious home for The Daily Show on regular Canadian TV. Global has The Late Show, Citytv has Jimmy Kimmel, and there isn’t really another non-Bell-owned comedy channel it would be a good fit for.

UPDATE (Jan. 23, 2024): Some people have noticed The Daily Show disappearing from Paramount+. I asked Paramount about it, and they said “The Daily Show does not currently have new episodes which is why none are currently appearing on Paramount+, stay tuned for more information.”

The day after, Jon Stewart announced he was returning as host one day a week, and Paramount confirmed his shows will be exclusive to Paramount+ in Canada, the day after they’re broadcast.

YouTube blackout

Fans of Seth Meyers may have noticed there aren’t as many clips of his late night show on YouTube as there used to be. Unfortunately the clips are there, they just are being blocked in Canada, along with those of the Tonight Show. Both are Bell-licensed NBC shows. It’s unclear if this is at Bell’s request, to protect its rights, or if it’s NBC’s doing, cutting off non-U.S. countries. The Daily Show has the same problem, with just a handful of YouTube clips not being restricted here.

My questions to Bell on this subject did not elicit a response.

Fortunately, Seth Meyers clips are being posted to Facebook and those are still accessible here, and Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show is posting clips (mostly vertical, cuz the youths) to social media as well.

Rogers blames CRTC bureaucracy for decision to shut down CityNews Ottawa

This week, the CRTC published a decision officially confirming that Rogers Media Inc. has surrendered the broadcasting licence of CIWW 1310 AM in Ottawa, the city’s oldest radio station.

The letter from Rogers requesting the revocation of its licence is dated Oct. 26, the same day the company announced the shutdown of CityNews Ottawa, which at the time was being simulcast on both CIWW 1310 and CJET-FM 101.1 in nearby Smiths Falls.

While normally these letters are short and to the point, Rogers took the opportunity to lay out the reasonings for its decision, and complaining that the CRTC’s processes played a major role in it.

Saying the radio broadcasting industry is “subject to stringent and outdated regulations that offer little to no flexibility for allowing broadcasters to pivot and adjust accordingly to their new competitive reality,” Rogers explained that the issue was with its decision in 2020 to simulcast programming on both AM and FM stations without prior CRTC approval.

While the CRTC doesn’t regulate content or formats on radio stations generally, the regulations require approval before an FM station can switch to or from a specialty format, and spoken word programming, when it represents more than 50% of programming on a station, is considered a specialty format. (This rule does not apply to AM stations like CIWW.)

Before it became a CityNews station, 101.1 was a country music station (as CKBY-FM), so it would have needed approval to switch to a talk format.

What’s more, the CRTC also requires approval before a transmitter can be converted from a station to a retransmitter of another station.

“Rogers received a request for information from the Commission in February 2023 regarding the simulcast of the news/talk programming originating from CIWW on CJET-FM (101.1). In subsequent correspondence between the Commission and Rogers, Commission staff shared its view that both stations were in apparent non- compliance with the Radio Regulations, 1986 (Regulations),” Rogers writes in its letter.

Rogers says it “did not believe that its stations were in non-compliance” (it doesn’t explain why it felt this way), but it filed an application to change the licence of CJET-FM 101.1 to allow the simulcast, at least until the current licence expires in 2026.

Unfortunately for Rogers, the CRTC announced on Aug. 22 a two-year moratorium on new applications related to radio, “unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated that would justify, with supporting evidence when filing the request, the need to process them.”

“After several rounds of correspondence and performance evaluation analyses of both CJET-FM and CIWW,” Rogers writes, it chose to withdraw the application the next day. “The risk of non-compliance and the operational burden of the Commission’s review of the stations’ performance and financial situation coupled with the continued decline in revenues since the launch of the simulcast led us to make this decision much earlier than we were planning and were contemplating in our Application.”

“Unfortunately, the regulatory framework did not provide us with the tools to experiment and innovate without facing an untenable level of scrutiny and evaluation that we can ill afford given the competitive environment in which we are operating,” the letter continues. “For these reasons, we urge the Commission to prioritize the review of the Regulations impacting AM radio including the provisions related to simulcasting and the operation of a specialty format. These rules must be relaxed to ensure a viable path forward for AM news content on the FM band, which represents the only way to maintain audiences to local terrestrial radio and support our ability to deliver local news.”

In urging the CRTC to review its rules on AM radio, Rogers said “we remain concerned that, without a modernized and flexible approach, the future of other AM stations is at risk.”

Rogers owns eight other AM radio stations in Canada:

  • CFTR CityNews 680 in Toronto
  • CKGL CityNews 570 in Kitchener, Ont.
  • CFFR CityNews 660 in Calgary
  • CKWX CityNews 1130 in Vancouver
  • CJCL Sportsnet 590 in Toronto
  • CFAC Sportsnet 960 in Calgary
  • CISL Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver
  • CKAT 600 Country in North Bay, Ont.

I understand Rogers’ frustration with the CRTC’s rules, and in particular the commission’s baffling decision to just not do its job in terms of radio for a couple of years, but Rogers also must have been aware of the rules. And the implication that this is a simple bureaucratic matter holding up progress is not how I would describe it. Rogers took a radio station off the air for this to happen, and decided it should have the same content on two frequencies in a market that doesn’t have a lot of spare radio spectrum. Maybe that’s what’s best for the market, but it should at least have required approval.

Unfortunately, with everything going on, the result is the shutdown of another news radio station in Canada, and one more AM signal in the country going dark.

If you have a good idea for a radio station, a 50kW signal on 1310 AM in Ottawa is now available. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait two years before you can apply for it.

More call letter switching fun

Rogers also confirmed in its letter it is once again switching call letters for its FM stations in Smiths Falls. CKBY-FM, which belonged to Country 101 and was then switched to the Country 92.3 station, will go back to Country 101, while CJET-FM, which was Jack FM on 92.3 and then CityNews 101.1, is going back to 92.3. Rogers told the CRTC it would adopt a country music format separate from 101.1, but on Nov. 1 it switched to “Santa Radio Canada“, which has a very Jack-like branding to it, suggesting a move back to Jack FM might be in the cards in the new year.

TVA to replace Yoopa with TV version of QUB Radio

The fallout of the Bell-Quebecor war has another victim: Yoopa, which Bell pulled from its television service in retaliation for Quebecor’s Videotron pulling Bell channels Vrak and Z, is being shut down in January, replaced by a video version of Quebecor’s QUB Radio online radio service as of Jan. 11.

According to its annual filing with the CRTC, Yoopa had $2.6 million in revenue, all but $30,000 of which came from subscriptions, in 2021-22, and spent about $2 million on programming, a bit less than half of which was Canadian. It had 340,000 subscribers and a staff of three.

The loss leaves a hole for television targeting young children, though public broadcasters Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec devote much of their morning programming to programs for kids.

Meanwhile, Quebecor seems to be doubling down on its QUB Radio digital talk radio project, and will now be putting even more resources into it, even though it already has a 24/7 news channel in LCN. Quebecor doesn’t release ratings or financials for this online-only service so we have no idea if it’s successful. But it’s cheap, at least compared to the news programming we see on LCN.

Whether QUB Radio or its still-to-be-named TV version lasts is an open question. Honestly I’m a bit surprised it survived the latest round of media cuts at Quebecor.

In theory, QUB TV could apply to be a national news service, requiring other providers to carry it, but that would require having news bureaus and regular news updates, and the CRTC might have some questions if it tries to just piggyback on LCN’s resources to achieve that status.

Videotron will obviously embrace QUB Radio on TV. Bell is probably not interested. Whether others who carry Yoopa, like Cogeco, make the switch is an open question.

Could the end of Publisac kill community newspapers throughout Quebec?

As if things aren’t bad enough for small media outlets, TC Transcontinental announced on Friday it is rolling out its Publisac replacement throughout the province and into areas of Ontario and British Columbia that other flyer distributors have pulled out of.

This is leaving many Quebec publications worrying that what happened to Métro Média could happen to them.

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Desperate TVA cuts a third of its staff

In what the union representing TVA employees called “La journée la plus noire de notre histoire” (the darkest day of our history), the company announced on Thursday afternoon (after a leak from La Presse forced an order to halt trading on its stock) that it is eliminating 547 jobs, representing 31% of TVA Group’s current workforce.

Most of those jobs — 300 — will be in in-house productions through its TVA Productions subsidiary. Though most drama, variety and bid-budget primetime shows are already produced by independent companies, there are a few still done in-house, and three of them — game shows Le Tricheur and La Poule aux oeufs d’or plus trending-video magazine show VLOG — are being outsourced.

This leaves news and news-adjacent programming as the only stuff still done in-house. Newscasts, LCN, morning news/talk show Salut Bonjour, and some programs at TVA Sports.

The expectation is that many of the people working on producing these shows will be hired by the independent companies they will be outsourced to, and TVA “will begin discussions with its partners to encourage them to hire employees affected by the announced measures, according to their needs.”

But that doesn’t mean they’ll get the salary or benefits they did at TVA, and it probably means no longer being unionized.

What’s changing

So here’s a quick list of what has been announced:

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CTV adds national newscast at 5:30, taking a page from Global

A very disinterested-looking Sandie Rinaldo will host CTV National News at 5:30, but CTV wants to make sure it doesn’t take any of the spotlight off Omar Sachedina.

After decades of having local news at 6pm and national news at 11pm, CTV is mixing things up a bit, announcing this week that it is launching a new national newscast at 5:30pm weekdays on CTV stations across the country, hosted by Sandie Rinaldo.

On one hand, this could be seen as taking a direct shot at Global, which runs Global National during the supper hour, either before, after or sandwiched between local newscasts depending on the market.

On the other hand, this could be seen as CTV wanting to save some money by eliminating half an hour of local news every day and replacing it with national programming. This interpretation fits with CTV’s statement that National News “now also provides unique segments covering the key stories and events happening across Canada and around the world as part of the early evening CTV News local newscasts on Saturdays and Sundays.”

I asked Bell Media if this means cuts to local news staffing.

“We can confirm there are no impacts to staffing levels as a result of the launch of the 5:30 p.m. edition of CTV National News,” was the statement I got back.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be indirect impacts, but at least there are no layoff notices going out right away.

Starting Nov. 13, CTV stations that have been running 5pm local newscasts for the past six years will see those early programs cut to half an hour and replaced by National News. Then the 6pm local newscasts will be “intensely local-focused,” according to Bell Media, since they won’t have to include as much national and international news content. It might not mean less local news (90 minutes is still plenty) but it will mean having to fill less time, and getting a break during what is right now two straight hours of broadcasting from local stations.

Global already sandwiches national news between two local newscasts in several markets including Montreal, so expect a similar feel at CTV, with the assumption that most people will watch one of the local newscasts but not both.

What early national newscasts will look like is a good question. Will it be like local noon newscasts, where reporters do live hits explaining stories they’re just starting to cover that day? Will national reporters have to file earlier, making the 11pm national newscast mainly rehashing what was reported at 5:30pm, or will the 5:30pm newscast have a lot of stories repeated from 11pm the previous day, or some mix of the two? Or will it be like just watching half an hour of CTV News Channel, but with a somewhat larger budget?

Review

UPDATE (Nov. 16): I watched CTV National News from Nov. 15, its third day on the air. It looked like the same CTV National News we’re used to. There was a bit more of that afternoon live-on-the-scene feel, particularly with some breaking stories. More live throws to reporters, although many of them were probably “look-live” in which the reporter’s part was pre-recorded.

With one exception, the 11pm newscast with Omar Sachedina had the same stories as the 5:30pm one with Sandie Rinaldo, though most of the hard-news ones were updated with the evening’s developments and reporter standups that had less daylight outside.

As for the “intensely local-focused” 6pm newscast, it looked like any other. It stayed local for 20 minutes, but for the rest of the hour I counted a couple of local stories, a couple of local briefs, a live interview and weather segments, and the rest was national news, local news from other CTV stations, and various international stories, including one that mostly duplicated one from the national news. The 5pm local newscast, in its reduced 30-minute version, stayed almost entirely local.

10 ways the government can help the news industry without just giving them money

It’s hard times in the journalism industry, and the government wants to help.

The first part of that sentence isn’t really arguable. News outlets that haven’t shut down completely have significantly downsized, and though there are new sources of news these days, they don’t have anywhere near the kinds of resources that newspapers, magazines and television and radio stations used to have. As a result, many stories go unreported or underreported, and society is poorer for it.

Governments are aware of this and have put forward ways to help. Some make sense and are fairly uncontroversial, like tax credits for news subscriptions or allowing news outlets to receive charitable donations. Others have been spectacular failures, like Bill C-18. Most have been somewhere in between, consisting of direct or indirect funding to those organizations who qualify based on criteria set by bureaucrats at (hopefully) an arm’s length from the political machine.

Deciding who is and isn’t a journalist, and deciding how much money they should get, creates a lot of problems. It could lead to a slippery slope where some CRTC-like body starts micromanaging journalism and infringing (in fact or in practice) on our rights to free expression.

But handing out money isn’t the only thing that could help the news industry these days. Here are 10 suggestions from me on things the government can do that would make things better that don’t include direct handouts.

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CRTC adds Natyf TV to Quebec basic packages with 13 hours notice

If you’re a digital TV subscriber in Quebec, you’re soon going to start seeing a new TV channel in your basic package. Last week, the CRTC announced it was giving Quebec ethnic TV channel Natyf TV a broadcasting licence and ordering all providers to add it to their basic service and pay $0.12 per subscriber per month.

The order took effect Sept. 1, 2023, and lasts five years. The decision was announced at 11am on Aug. 31, 13 hours before the order came into effect. It was one of several decisions the commission put out in the days before the end of the broadcasting year as it rushed to meet its deadlines.

The next day, realizing that this may be a bit short notice, the CRTC wrote a letter saying providers should add the channel “as soon as reasonably possible.”

(For context, Natyf’s application was filed in April 2021 and the hearing to discuss it was held in January.)

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