Category Archives: Media

Media News Digest: CTV Vancouver anchors fired, La Gatineau paper shuts down, Monique Lacombe leaves CBC

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Sportsnet keeps Jets playoff games off CBC

The Toronto Maple Leafs are Canada’s team. Or at least the CBC’s.

That much has been made abundantly clear this season. Every Saturday night, if the Leafs are playing, they’re on CBC (except when CBC was broadcasting the Olympics). With a market that encompasses a third of Canada’s population, it makes sense that this team would get more attention, but the one-sidedness has been particularly striking.

Habs fans too cheap to pay for Sportsnet have been complaining the past couple of seasons that Canadiens games on Hockey Night in Canada have been punted to Sportsnet rather than broadcast on free TV channels CBC or City. Sportsnet has admitted this was done mainly to drive subscriptions to Sportsnet.

And as the NHL playoffs begin tonight, and CBC devoting its entire primetime schedule to hockey, it seems they’re doing it again, this time to the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets and Leafs are the only two Canadian teams to make the playoffs, and even though their games both start at 7pm ET (6pm in Winnipeg, but in the playoffs you need to be either an early game or a late game), not a single one of the up to 14 games involving the two teams overlap — they’re all scheduled on different nights.

But there won’t be any Jets games on CBC, at least not until Game 5 and likely not until next round at the earliest. Instead, all Leafs games will be broadcast on CBC but all Jets games are on Sportsnet. And while the Jets are on Sportsnet, CBC viewers will get to watch the all-American Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series instead. Even those in Winnipeg.

I asked Sportsnet about the decision, and this was the response I got:

As you can imagine, there are numerous factors taken into consideration when coordinating the broadcast schedule for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In this case, with two series featuring Canadian teams in the first round, the decision was made that Sportsnet and CBC would each have the opportunity to broadcast one of those two series. Winnipeg is a key priority for Sportsnet and Sportsnet is thrilled to be broadcasting the entire Jets series to Canadians from coast-to-coast.

In other words, the Jets are on Sportsnet because Sportsnet wanted a Canadian series. Which sounds reasonable (similar to how CBC and TSN split playoff series before the Sportsnet/NHL deal) until you remember that Sportsnet controls the CBC broadcast as well.

So why keep the Jets off CBC during a time when lots of casual fans might tune in, and Sportsnet is looking to maximize ratings?

Because of money. Of the 82 regular-season Jets games, 60 are on TSN3. Casual Jets fans in Manitoba don’t have much incentive to subscribe to Sportsnet if they’re not otherwise interested in sports. So Sportsnet is hoping to drive subscriptions from those potential fans, even if it means many fans just won’t watch the games and they’ll lose potential ad revenue.

But, of course, that logic doesn’t apply to the Leafs. The Leafs are so popular that ad revenue is more important than subscription revenue. So the Leafs get CBC.

On one hand, Manitoba Jets fans should just subscribe to Sportsnet (it’s available over-the-top for $25 a month). On the other hand, this definitely does feel like a middle finger to a market that has had to suffer for a long time, and hasn’t seen a playoff game win in more than 20 years.

TVA Sports, by the way, is also not giving priority to the Jets. Of the first four matches, three will be broadcast on TVA Sports 2 because of conflicts with Flyers-Penguins or Capitals-Blue Jackets.

The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday with the Jets and Wild playing at 7pm on Sportsnet. The Leafs and Bruins play Game 1 on Thursday at 7pm on CBC. For channel assignments for these and other series, see sportsnet.ca/schedule.

Media News Digest: CBC’s new CEO, Workopolis sold, Michèle Ouimet’s final column

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Toronto Star rebranding Metro newspapers to form pseudo national chain

Metro is dead. Long live StarMetro.

Torstar, which owns the Toronto Star and the remaining Metro newspapers in English Canada, announced Monday that it will be rebranding the Metro papers to StarMetro and bringing them closer to the Star fold, moving their websites to thestar.com and sharing stories between the two. At the same time it is adding 20 journalists to three of the Metro newspapers — Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The Star’s story on the announcement, as well as nearly identical insert-city-name-here stories in each of the Metro papers (Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax), don’t give much details beyond that, but expect to see more Metro content in the Toronto Star, and more Toronto Star content in the Metro papers.

Despite the this-is-good-news nature of the announcement, there are no plans to resurrect Metro papers that have been killed recently. Metro Ottawa and Winnipeg were sold to Postmedia in November to be shut down. Metro also previously had papers in London, Regina and Saskatoon, plus digital-only editions in four other cities.

Métro Montréal, Canada’s only French-language version of the paper, is owned by Transcontinental, which has put it up for sale.

The Torstar changes take effect on April 10. At that point, the Metro app will also be shut down, and visitors to the metronews.ca websites redirected to The Star’s new pages for each city.

Media News Digest: CAJ awards, Quebec budget goodies, details of the sale of Comedy Gold

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Media News Digest: NNA noms, Attraction selling radio stations, feds probe Postmedia-Torstar conspiracy

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Media News Digest: Journalist arrested for email, GameTV sold again, Competition Bureau raids Postmedia and Torstar

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Yet another “Ways to fix the Canadian Screen Awards” post

I watched Sunday’s Canadian Screen Awards. Not because I was really excited by it, but because I felt some sort of civic (and professional) duty to do so.

I’ve seen several of these, so I know what to expect. Hosts trying their best with not very good comedic material. Nominees and winners that most of the audience is unfamiliar with. Quebec movie stars feeling like fish out of water in this very English Canada environment. And overall a gala and broadcast that tries to be like the Oscars or the Emmys or even the Screen Actors Guild Awards but with much fewer resources.

The budget issue won’t change unless the CSAs become as big a spectacle as the American awards shows, and we’re pretty far from that.

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Media News Digest: Disappointing budget, Radio-Canada affiliate shuts down, Bad Blood gets Season 2

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My top 2018 Olympic moments

Well, it’s over. After 16 days of competition, 29 medals for Canada and dozens of stories of triumph, heartbreak and fun (and only one DUI that we know of), the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games are over.

It was a good year for Canada. The number of total medals was a record, though when you take event inflation into account we did about as well as Sochi and Turin and a bit behind Vancouver.

There were great stories about medallists like Kim Boutin, Ted-Jan Bloemen, Alex Gough and of course Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. There were equally great stories about athletes who didn’t make the podium. And, thanks to the hard-working team at CBC Sports, we got to see as many of those stories as they could cram into their coverage.

I was glued to the Olympics, sacrificing sleep to wake up at 6am to watch competitions live. It was fun to be so caught up in it, cheering every victory and feeling for every defeat. The Olympics are big money, and for the athletes involved it’s their entire lives, but for the rest of us, it’s two weeks of entertainment before we go back to our regular day-to-day.

It might come as cold comfort to those who were expected to win and didn’t, but the Olympics are a crapshot. For most sports, the level of competition is so high that the margin for error is virtually nonexistent. And, frankly, if the results could be so well known in advance, there wouldn’t be much fun doing it in the first place.

So while not every Canadian could finish on the podium, or in the top 10, the more that achieve that level of greatness, the more chances the country has of finding success in unexpected places.

Anyway, based on my experience watching these games, here are some top (mostly Canadian) moments, in chronological order, that got me right in the feels.

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Barry Wilson returns with his Postscripts on YouTube

Barry Wilson said he wasn’t ready to retire when he was laid off in November. And on Friday he showed it by launching a YouTube version of his Postscript political opinion series.

The first video, which tackles the same subjects he did weekly on CTV Montreal, albeit shot at home and illustrated with still photos instead of video, is well produced, thanks mainly to Dave Maynard, former chief director and operations manager at CFCF.

Wilson has also launched a website and Facebook page for his new venture.

“I think the English speaking community of Quebec needs as many voices as it can get and I’m so happy to be part of the dialogue,” he explains on the website. “Quebec politics never ceases to surprise me. It is never boring. And the challenges it presents to our community are sometimes formidable. I hope my voice can continue to be part of the conversation because as I have said so many times, ‘This is our home’.”

What happens now is a good question. Can this gain a large enough audience to be viable economically? Will someone take notice and offer him a paying gig out of it? Or will it just be a side project that keeps his name in the conversation, perhaps supplemented by some freelance work that can keep the money flowing?

“This is more of a sideline than anything,” Wilson tells me. “I realized after I had been laid off that Postscript was more popular than I had even believed. It really struck a nerve with a lot of people. Bringing back an online version was Dave’s idea and we will see how it goes. Not expecting to make money with this. But it’s nice to know that (there) can be life after corporate media. It’s nice to have another voice out there for English-speaking Quebecer, especially in an election year.”

Wilson’s new Postscript, like its TV incarnation, is planned to be published every Friday, and he says he’ll try to keep to that schedule. In the meantime, he says he’s “still open to other opportunities.”

Media News Digest: English on Télé-Québec, Le Soleil stops printing Sundays, CBC poaches Vassy Kapelos

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At the CRTC

  • Télé-Québec’s CRTC licence is up for renewal, and among the interventions was one from the English Language Arts Network, which Vincent Brousseau-Pouliot found, writing a story about its demand that English be more represented in TQ’s programming, and even a 10% English quota imposed. Specifically, ELAN is asking the CRTC to:
    • Require TQ to develop and publish a policy to reflect the full diversity of Quebec society,
    • Require TQ to develop and publish an action plan for creation of content that fulfils its diversity policy and a promotion policy to encourage viewership from members of Quebec society who have not traditionally felt reflected, 
    • Require TQ to track the language of its viewers so that it knows which language groups are watching which programs,
    • Create a consultative committee that includes the diversity of Quebec society, which will advise the board of directors on issues concerning the broadcasters diversity of programming throughout the license period.
    • Place ads in English-language media when pertinent programming for the English- speaking minority is scheduled and when new programs are being developed,
    • Create an on-line playlist of Anglo-Que?be?cois reflective content (following the NFB’s example),
    • Require TQ to increase the production and programming of content reflecting the Quebec minorities, especially English-language, indigenous, and visible minority communities to at least 20% of the schedule, and at least 20% of the production budget; and
    • Require TQ to establish English-language programming for 10% of its schedule, and 10% of its production budget, to reflect the English-language community in Quebec.
  • The commission has approved the acquisition of four Ontario radio stations by Bell Media, which will pay $15.64 million to Larche Communications for CICZ-FM Midland, CICX-FM Orillia, CJOS-FM Owen Sound and CICS-FM Sudbury. Bell will pay $1,022,004 to various funds and development initiatives as a CRTC-mandated tax on the acquisition.
  • The CRTC has dismissed a complaint by Electronic Box (aka EBOX) against Bell Media, which accused the company of refusing to make Bell’s specialty channels available for a TV distribution service EBOX plans to launch in Ontario and Quebec. Bell says it is willing to negotiate, and the CRTC agreed Bell was willing to act in good faith. If they can’t come to an agreement, they can come back to the commission for mediation or arbitration.
  • TVA is appealing a CRTC arbitration decision to the federal court of appeal, arguing that the commission was wrong to accept a Bell deal that would set Bell TV per-subscriber rates for TVA Sports lower than Bell’s RDS.

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CTV Montreal adds local news updates to Your Morning (UPDATED)

Caroline Van Vlaardingen anchors her first morning news break on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.

Of Montreal’s three English-language local TV stations, CTV is the only one without any local programming. Starting Monday, they fix that with the addition of local news updates to the Toronto-based Your Morning show.

Caroline Van Vlaardingen will anchor the segments, which will be inserted into the show just before each half-hour except the last.

Your Morning, the Canada AM replacement hosted by Ben Mulroney and Anne-Marie Mediwake out of Toronto, has a segment each half hour that, in Toronto, is filled with a brief local newscast anchored by Lindsey Deluce. In other markets that don’t have local cut-ins, and on CTV News Channel, it has a local news story taken from a CTV newscast somewhere in the country. (Originally it was an additional national weather update — if you wondered why there seemed to be so much weather on Your Morning, this was why). These segments last two and a half minutes, including pre-recorded intro.

Starting Monday, Montreal adds its own local cut-ins during this segment.

It’s a far cry from a local morning show like you see on City’s Breakfast Television, and not even the two-thirds-local morning show on Global, but it’s better than nothing, or the local ticker updates that Canada AM had after CTV Montreal last had a local morning newscast or local cut-ins.

CTV Montreal News Director Jed Kahane didn’t want to comment beyond the press release, but I’m told that the newscast’s staff was hired internally, giving a bit more work to existing part-timers, and that the newscast will run for a three-month trial period. There is no dedicated morning reporter (though there is an overnight cameraman chasing fires and car accidents), so any overnight updates will be the anchor’s job.

This move comes just under six months after CTV Montreal and other local stations added 5pm weekday newscasts, which similarly tried to produce more local news without making significant additions to staff.

UPDATE (Feb. 20): I watched the first two episodes of Your Morning with the new local inserts, and here’s how it breaks down:

Each insert is a firm two and a half minutes:

  • The Newsbreak intro graphic that you’ve seen during afternoon commercial breaks on CTV
  • A live shot from the roof camera as the anchor begins talking about weather
  • Current weather conditions graphic (temperature, humidity, pressure, wind)
  • Between four and six local news briefs, usually about 15-20 seconds each. Almost all consist of an anchor voice-over with B-roll
  • A live shot from a remote camera showing a traffic location (it changes each day but stays the same throughout the morning), with anchor voice-over about traffic conditions
  • A five-day forecast, and if there’s time, a daily planner forecast and/or current temperatures map
  • A quick goodbye

Generally, one new brief will be inserted in each half-hour break. Often the briefs are quick recaps of news from the previous day, and sometimes new briefs that come from overnight emergencies. In one case there was a short sound clip, but otherwise it’s all voice-over and there are no packaged reports.

Media News Digest: La Presse Olympics editions, new Gazette columnists, L.A. Times sold

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Videotron reaches last-minute deal to keep AMC

A month after telling subscribers it is being forced to drop AMC because it couldn’t reach a deal on renewing its contract, Videotron announced on Friday that it has reached a new deal with the popular American channel on the last business day before the channel was to be dropped.

Videotron tells me that “thanks to much effort and perseverance” it has managed to “make the voices of our clients heard.”

Details are confidential, and Videotron declined to tell me even how long their new deal is, but it says the deal “responds to the reality of our regional market” and is satisfactory to both parties. Videotron had previously suggested that AMC’s previous offer was unreasonable because it’s in a francophone market where a smaller fraction of its subscribers would be interested in such a channel.

Videotron tells me that there will be no change to AMC’s packaging. The channel is in some grandfathered theme packages, the Movie Network package, build-your-own packages (with a $2/month surcharge), or completely à la carte for $10 a month.

Thanks to the new deal, there will be a free preview for all digital cable subscribers, from Feb. 12 to 28.

AMC isn’t quite as popular as during the days of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but it still has The Walking Dead, whose new season begins Feb. 25, as well as series like Better Call Saul and Halt and Catch Fire.

UPDATE (Feb. 10): Videotron’s press release is here.