Category Archives: Media

Posted in Radio

The Jewel shuffles its lineup, moves Tasso to drivetime

Not even a month after he started, Tasso has gotten a promotion.

Starting Monday, Paul Zakaib and his alter-ego move to the afternoon drive slot (3-7pm) from mid-mornings.

That shift bumps Bob Coley to weekends. Kris Leblanc, who was doing weekends, will produce the Tasso show as well as doing weekend and fill-in work.

The move means that Tasso will for the second time be in the same time slot as former partner Aaron Rand. Though just as he did when he started doing afternoon drive at Mike FM, Tasso downplays the idea that his music show and Rand’s talk show are directly competing against teach other.

Posted in My articles, TV

How local is Global’s plan for local news?

Shaw Media calls it innovative and transformative. Critics and the union calls it cost-cutting at the expense of local programming. What the CRTC calls it might become an issue.

Earlier this month, Global announced changes to the way it does local news across the country. The biggest one is that 11pm and weekend newscasts will no longer be anchored locally. Instead, an anchor or anchors in Toronto will produce local newscasts for the various local stations, customized for those stations and containing local news.

I get into the details of what’s changing in this story for the Montreal Gazette.

This is a step beyond what they did in 2008, when they centralized newscast control rooms in four broadcast centres (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto) so that one team could produce several newscasts in a day instead of just one or two.

What we’re left with are newscasts that feature reports from local journalists and are presumably lined up by local staff, but where the anchor, weatherman, director and just about all technical staff are in another city. Can that really be considered local programming?

Morning show co-host Richard Dagenais is being let go from Global next month

Morning show co-host Richard Dagenais is being let go from Global next month. (File photo)

There are also changes to the morning show, which will soon feature eight-minute segments every half-hour produced nationally that will be identical for all markets. As a result, the morning show is losing three employees, including co-host Richard Dagenais.

The promises

The union representing Global Montreal employees isn’t happy. It sent out a press release last week (later corrected) that condemned the loss of local programming. Except for a couple of tweets, no one paid attention.

CUPE/SCFP tells me they will be watching the new shows with a stopwatch to see if Global is meeting its obligations to the CRTC, and will complain if they’re not.

Like all commercial television stations, Global Montreal has to ensure a minimum amount of local programming is aired. For stations in large markets like Montreal, that’s 14 hours a week.

Shaw also made a separate promise to create morning shows at least two hours long when it purchased Global from Canwest in 2010, and to keep them running until at least 2016-17, contributing $45 million to that cause ($5 million for Montreal). Because that’s a tangible benefit as part of a major acquisition, those 10 hours a week have to be in addition to the usual 14 hours a week of local programming.

If we consider Morning News, Evening News, News Final and Focus Montreal as local programming, including their repeats and best-of shows, Global is meeting that obligation of 24 hours a week.

But are they really local?

As far as I can tell, the CRTC only really got around to establishing a definition of local programming in 2009, when it established the since-terminated Local Programming Improvement Fund. In Paragraph 43, it decided on the following definition:

Local programming is defined as programming produced by local stations with local personnel or programming produced by locally-based independent producers that reflects the particular needs and interests of the market’s residents.

Are these late-night newscasts produced by local stations? Do they use local personnel? It depends how you define “produced” and “personnel”, I guess.

When Global first outsourced technical production in 2008, the unions complained then too, saying these newscasts were not really local. The CRTC didn’t see it that way,

In 2009, the commission decided that there was no evidence that Global was contravening its licence requirements by outsourcing production of local news. It confirmed this later that year in renewing the licences of Global stations, but said it “will continue to monitor the situation.”

There’s also a separate definition of “local presence”, which has three criteria:

  • providing seven-day-a-week original local news coverage distinct to the market;
  • employing full-time journalists on the ground in the market; and
  • operating a news bureau or news gathering office in the market.

Global’s new plan fits all three of these criteria, though the first might be arguable depending on how distinctive the newscasts really are.

Global points out that it’s not unprecedented to anchor local newscasts outside of the local market. Its New Brunswick newscast is anchored out of Halifax. Other small stations owned by Global and CTV have their local news produced out of neighbouring markets. And the CRTC hasn’t seemed to have a problem with that.

The CRTC will be reviewing its local television policy in the coming year, and this could become a central issue.

What the new Global Montreal will look like

So how will this affect what actually goes on air? Here’s what we know:

  • The 6pm newscast is unchanged. It will still be anchored locally by Jamie Orchard, and produced out of Edmonton with a weatherman in Toronto. Its news will still be local, since it’s followed directly by Global National at 6:30.
  • Focus Montreal is also unchanged.
  • The late-night and weekend newscasts will have a Toronto anchor, and 11pm newscasts will be expanded to a full hour.
  • The morning show will have more nationally-produced content.

Many details are still unclear, but here’s some things I’m predicting will happen:

  • The morning show will have national news, world news and entertainment segments that are nationally produced, but still have the local anchor doing local news. There may be a temptation to do sports nationally, but unless they do something like City where the national sports segment is customized to the local market, it would probably be better to leave that local. We might also see some national lifestyle segments produced for all markets, or special all-markets broadcasts like we’ve seen on City.
  • The quality of the morning show will decrease thanks to its staff cuts.
  • Late-night weeknight and weekend newscasts anchored out of Toronto will no longer be live. Which is fine because they’ll be mainly rehashes of the 6pm news anyway, with maybe a report from an evening reporter thrown in. The hour-long 11pm newscast will be heavy on national segments, including some sports content. The ability to make late changes because of breaking local news will be significantly diminished.

One thing that’s unclear is who will be running the show locally nights and weekends. Global says it will commit to having a local person exercising editorial control over those newscasts, but setting aside how hard it is to effectively use that control when everyone is in another city and there’s enormous pressure to not be different from other markets, who will be the person doing this?

Under the current system, the only person in the newsroom for most of the night or weekend is the anchor. They’re handling assignment duties, lining up the newscast, and even calling the cops to get updates. Will there still be a reporter doing this? And if so, why not just have that person still act as anchor?

Global’s plan is clearly to focus on content over its container. But I think the company is underestimating the contributions that anchors make to their newscasts. It’s not a job that involves only 30 minutes a day of work.

How will the viewers react? Well, when your late-night newscast gets a couple of thousand viewers, you might ask if it even matters. And will they even recognize that their anchor is in Toronto, with little or no knowledge of the city he’s describing every night?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter. After all, TV newscasts are so 20th century. And Global is looking toward the future. Its plans for Global News 1, which ironically involve hiring a bunch of staff instead of laying them off, is a similar blend of national and local where the local resources are all gathering news instead of producing newscasts. But we’re still waiting for the CRTC to publish the application for that proposed service.

Other reading

Posted in TV

UPDATED: Global to have late local newscasts anchored out of Toronto

Updated April 21 with new details. See also this Gazette story.

global-studio

You’d think that Global couldn’t go any further in centralizing the production of their regional newscasts. As it is, stations like Montreal have their control rooms in hubs thousands of kilometres away. All that’s left are the newsroom, the journalists, some ad sales and marketing people, and a small green studio with a desk and an anchor.

But they’ve managed to find a way to take it even further. On Thursday, Shaw Media announced that in eastern and central Canada, late-night and weekend newscasts will be done out of Toronto. Like what they did with control rooms, now even the anchors will produce multiple newscasts for different regional markets in one shift.

It’s part of what Global News boss Troy Reeb describes as a move to “a story-centric production model and that means moving past some of the traditional ways we’ve produced television newscasts.” In other words, the focus is on having local people work on the content, while saving as much money as possible on the container for that content.

This won’t be the first time Global has had people from Toronto do local news. Evening news weather man Anthony Farnell is based in Toronto, a fact that’s never made obvious to viewers.

But it’s odd that Global thinks that local anchors aren’t important. After all, they’re not just pretty faces that sit at their desks until they’re ready to go on air: They’re writing scripts and checking up on local news, work that presumably would need to be taken up by someone else if the anchors are taken out of their jobs.

In Montreal, the jobs affected would be those of late-night anchor Elysia Bryan-Baynes and weekend anchor Peter Anthony Holder. Bryan-Baynes is staying on as a reporter, but Holder, who’s technically a freelancer, is out of a job this fall.

Also gone are morning co-host Richard Dagenais, morning show associate producer Gloria Henriquez, and morning show control-room director Jim Connell. Connell is already gone, the others leave May 15.

Connell says he plans to return to freelancing. The others either declined to comment or didn’t respond when I asked them to.

“While we can’t comment on specific individuals, many of the impacted studio positions will be converted to field reporting which should help provide more local content not only for the late and weekend shows but for online and mobile,” Reeb told me.

Montreal station manager Karen Macdonald referred comment to national PR in Toronto.

Reeb put the cuts at less than 30 nationwide, which suggests maybe four or five on average per market affected.

No changes are planned for the evening newscast at 6pm, which will still be anchored locally, or for the weekly interview show Focus Montreal.

And on the plus side, the late-night news will be extended to an hour from the current half-hour when the change happens sometime over the summer. Late weeknight newscasts in New Brunswick and Halifax are also being extended to an hour.

National segments in local morning shows

The other major change is centralizing content for the local morning shows. Shaw promised to create local morning shows as part of its acquisition of Global in 2010. That promise included $5 million of total funding for Montreal’s morning show until 2016-17.

While the morning shows will still be three hours, still feature local anchors and still be produced locally, segments that are the same in different regions will be produced on a national level.

Reeb explains:

“Each half hour, an eight-minute segment covering national and international content will be produced centrally and will air in all shows. This is approximately equal to the amount of national content covered currently in each local show. Again, the goal is to eliminate the duplication that occurs when multiple anchor teams in multiple studios discuss the same trending stories, and to focus our local newsrooms on distinct, local content.”

I’m not sure how true it is that eight minutes each half-hour is of non-local content. There’s entertainment and sports news, sure, but in Montreal at least most of the morning show’s time is spent on local headlines and in-studio interviews.

This change is expected to roll out by the end of May.

The Global News 1 model

The strategy of centralizing news production and leaving local news to local journalists is nothing new. CTV makes use of its media empire to put business news from BNN and sports news from TSN on its newscasts. City TV’s local morning shows have sports updates from Sportsnet, personalized for each market.

But Global is taking it a step further with outsourced anchoring, giving us something a bit closer to what they have planned for their Global News 1 project. Submitted to the CRTC in September, the plan is to have news feeds for each market contain a mix of local and national news without requiring their own control rooms.

Global is still waiting for the CRTC to process and publish its application for the unique all-news service.

UPDATE (April 15): The Canadian Union of Public Employees has sent out a press release decrying the loss of local programming on Global Montreal. The statement says that the morning show will also be anchored out of Toronto, which contradicts the information I have above. I checked with Global, and a spokesperson responded by calling CUPE’s statement “inaccurate and misleading.” The way I describe the situation above is correct, Global says.

April 16: CUPE has sent out a correction, claiming it was given incorrect information from management the first time. The two stories are now consistent.

Posted in Media

Bell fires Kevin Crull — but that doesn’t solve the problem

Was Bell Media President Kevin Crull misinterpreted by the managers under him? Bell won't say.

Kevin Crull: Bad apple or scapegoat?

The head of Canada’s largest media company is suddenly out of a job. And the press release announcing the departure of Bell Media president Kevin Crull makes it clear the departure is related to Crull’s attempt to interfere in CTV News’s coverage of a recent CRTC decision:

“However, the independence of Bell Media’s news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians. There can be no doubt that Bell will always uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news,” said Mr. Cope.

At the same time, Bell announced other executive changes, including the appointment of Mary Ann Turcke to replace Crull as president of Bell Media.

I was highly critical of Crull’s interference in news (particularly because it wasn’t the first time he’d done it), but I don’t know if firing him (or whatever negotiated departure actually took place) is necessarily the right call. I’m willing to take his apology at face value, even if it seems in hindsight as if it might have been forced on him.

What is clear, though, is that this does little to guarantee that such interference in Bell’s news operations won’t repeat in the future. There has been no investigation into whether Crull or other Bell Media executives tried to influence news coverage, and no procedures or independent watchdog in place to protect CTV News, BNN and others from BCE executives in a conflict of interest.

Unless there’s an announcement about that next, it’s hard to be too optimistic that this is a big change. Though it will probably do a lot to reassure journalists working at Bell Media.

Shaw Media also announced executive changes, though not nearly as controversially.

UPDATE: Cue the conspiracy theories — Crull was set up by Bell — and more reasoned analysis: Crull was sacrificed to prevent the CRTC from getting even angrier.

Posted in Radio

The Jewel in Hudson hires Tasso for mid-morning show

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

The Jewel 106.7 FM in Hudson is running a listener contest to guess who their new on-air personality is. I hate to spoil the fun, but it’s Tasso.

Paul Zakaib, known on air as Tasso Patsikakis and Aaron Rand’s long-time morning show co-host on Q92, will be doing the 10am to noon shift on the easy-listening off-island station starting April 8, according to two independent sources who are in a position to know this but not in a position to publicly confirm it until the contest is over.

After being dumped from the Q’s morning show in 2009, he resurfaced in 2011 to do the afternoon show on ethnic station Mike FM with his friend and colleague Patrick Charles. Charles left the station, and in 2013 Tasso left too.

Zakaib and the station have been in talks for a while now. Some details are still unclear, such as how much of the old Aaron and Tasso morning show shtick Tasso will bring along with him.

Posted in TV

Videotron appoints advisory council for MAtv

Two weeks after the fact, Videotron announced today that it has met the March 15 deadline set by the CRTC in February to set up an advisory committee for community channel MAtv in Montreal. The commission made the requirement in response to a complaint that MAtv was not properly representing the community it serves.

The nine-person committee, which will serve in an advisory capacity but won’t be making the decisions about what goes on air, is composed of members of the arts, business and cultural communities, as well as a member of the English-speaking community, which presumably means we should start seeing English programming on the channel some time soon.

The members are as follows:

  • Fortner Anderson, English-Language ARTS Network (ELAN)
  • Éric Lefebvre, Director of Development, Quartier des spectacles Partnership
  • Annie Billington, Coordinator, Communications and Community Relations, Culture Montréal
  • Martin Frappier, Director of Communications, Chantier de l’économie sociale
  • Marie-Pier Veilleux, Director, Strategic Forums, International Leaders, and Special Projects, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
  • Cathy Wong, President, Conseil des Montréalaises (consultative body on gender equality)
  • Philippe Meilleur, Executive Director, Montreal Native Community Development Centre
  • Aïda Kamar, CEO, Vision Diversité
  • Vanessa Destiné, student, Université de Montréal; regional coordinator, Communautique; volunteer, MAtv
Posted in Radio

Marie-France Bazzo leaves Radio-Canada morning show after 19 months

Marie-France Bazzo, the host of ICI Radio-Canada Première’s Montreal radio morning show C’est pas trop tôt, surprised listeners this morning by announcing she was leaving the show because of a disagreement over the “orientation of the show.”

The news has been confirmed by Radio-Canada. It takes effect on April 3.

Bazzo, who was the first woman in the post, succeeding René Homier-Roy in 2013, also hosts Bazzo.tv on Télé-Québec. Before taking the job at Radio-Canada, she was a contributor to Paul Arcand’s morning show on 98.5 FM.

Richard Therrien of Le Soleil says the rumour is Radio-Canada wasn’t happy with the amount of time Bazzo was devoting to this show versus her other projects. That makes sense. We could have a long discussion about Quebec TV and radio hosts who have several regular jobs that you’d think would all be full-time gigs.

UPDATE: Rumours are already circulating about a possible replacement: Former TQS anchor and duo-tang nemesis Jean-Luc Mongrain.

Posted in Media, Radio, TV

Another wave of cuts at CBC will mean 9 jobs lost in English services in Quebec

The cuts just keep coming at the CBC. The latest wave, announced today, affects local services across the country in both English and French, with 144 and 100 jobs cut, respectively.

J-Source has a copy of the memo outlining the regional breakdown for English services, which says nine jobs will be cut in Quebec.

We don’t know which jobs those will be yet. “Affected people will be informed in the coming weeks,” says communications manager Debbie Hynes.

The cuts relate to changes in the way local programming is managed, including the reduction of evening TV newscasts from 90 to 30 minutes this fall. Local radio programming is not being cut.

On the French side, Louis Lalande give some details about the cuts, including shows on ICI Musique that will be cancelled.

Posted in Media, Opinion

Can CTV News and BNN be trusted to report on themselves? Depends on Kevin Crull’s mood

Was Bell Media President Kevin Crull misinterpreted by the managers under him? Bell won't say.

Bell Media President Kevin Crull made a major gaffe that cost CTV News its integrity.

CTV News has a solid reputation for integrity, built from decades of strong journalism and a deeply entrenched culture of professionalism. It’s not perfect, and it’s vulnerable to the same biases that affect all other media, but I have no doubt that if a source tried to use financial or other pressure to affect how a CTV News story was told, that person would justifiably be told to get lost.

So when people start spouting conspiracy theories about CTV News coverage, I’m very skeptical. Yeah, them not reporting on some minor thing involving a competitor could be direct orders from Bell Media’s president, but more likely it’s because some assignment editor didn’t think it was newsworthy.

Now, I’m starting to wonder if I should rethink the assumption that CTV News wouldn’t throw away decades of work building its reputation because of a senior executive’s narrow-minded attempt to intentionally bias a story.

On Wednesday, the Globe and Mail reported that Bell Media President Kevin Crull interfered in news coverage of last week’s CRTC decision involving channel packaging, effectively ordering CTV News President Wendy Freeman to forbid Bell-owned news outlets from interviewing CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

The report, based on sources that would not be named publicly, was damning:

Mr. Crull told Ms. Freeman he was in charge of the network and that Mr. Blais was not to appear on air again that day, according to accounts of the exchange.

After the call, sources say, Ms. Freeman contacted CTV staff to tell them of the directive from Mr. Crull and not to use clips of Mr. Blais, telling some she felt she would be fired if they did not comply. Other CTV employees were concerned for their jobs, according to a source.

Hours later, Blais issued a statement expressing concern about CTV News’s editorial independence. It amounts to little more than a wag of the finger, and does not suggest any consequences if Bell continues to act in this way. It says complaints should be directed to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, but doesn’t say the CRTC itself or its chairman will complain.

Finally, after initially downplaying the story through a spokesman, Bell Media issued a statement credited to Crull apologizing for his actions:

I reached out to the CTV News leadership team to let them know I felt the focus on the CRTC itself by CTV and other Canadian news organizations would be better placed on a broad and necessary discussion of the impacts of the CRTC’s decisions on consumers, our team members, and our business.

It was wrong of me to be anything but absolutely clear that editorial control always rests with the news team. I have apologized to the team directly for this mistake. Indeed their strong and straightforward reaction to my intrusion only heightens my appreciation of their independence, integrity and professionalism. It is crucial to note that CTV’s coverage of the CRTC’s decisions was fair, balanced and extensive, and stands up in comparison to coverage of the issue by any Canadian news organization.

In short, I’ve re-learned a valuable lesson from the best news team in the business.

Re-learned indeed. Because this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In 2013, Crull was accused of trying to meddle in CTV News coverage of a policy issue affecting Bell. There too, Bell’s statement said news decisions rest with the news team and are not directed by Crull. I asked Bell’s spokesperson if there was a failure of communication there, and if the news team should have been better educated that Crull does not direct news coverage. The response I got was a refusal to comment further.

Crull’s apology is a good step, but an entirely empty one. It contains no mention of any measures to prevent this from happening again. It fails to address the accusation that Crull told Freeman “he was in charge of the network” or reassure CTV News and BNN employees that their jobs are not in jeopardy if they cover a story in a way that Crull or BCE don’t like.

Crull credits the “strong and straightforward reaction to my intrusion” even though the reaction was the exact opposite of that. No one called Crull to defiantly say he had no business interfering in news coverage. They followed his order until finally by the time of CTV National News they decided to ignore it. Then they anonymously complained to the Globe and Mail. Nothing about this was straightforward.

That’s not a complaint against CTV News staff. It takes a lot of guts to go against the boss. My point is that if he thinks he has no influence over CTV News, he’s out of his mind. If the Globe’s report is accurate, Wendy Freeman thought she’d be fired. That’s serious, and it requires a much more serious response than “oops my bad but it was no big deal”

Crull also says “CTV’s coverage of the CRTC’s decisions was fair, balanced and extensive” which means either he thinks it doesn’t matter that they censored the commission’s chairman because they eventually stopped censoring him, or he doesn’t think it’s important for a TV story about a major CRTC decision to include comments from the CRTC.

If Crull is serious about respecting the editorial integrity of CTV News and protecting it from himself, some serious measures need to be put in place, because otherwise we have only Crull’s assurance that this won’t happen again after it already happened at least twice (and possibly more — Dwayne Winseck quotes a BNN employee saying it was common for Bell brass to get special treatment in their news coverage).

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is not the appropriate body to deal with this. It acts based on complaints, and if anonymous sources hadn’t come forward to the Globe and Mail, no one would have known about this intrusion.

Crull needs to do more than apologize. He needs to launch an independent investigation into the editorial integrity of Bell Media’s news operations when dealing with stories about Bell. He needs to put a stronger wall between himself and CTV News/BNN, which prevent him from contacting news managers about news coverage. And he needs to offer guaranteed assurance that whistleblowers exposing attempts to meddle in CTV News coverage won’t be punished for coming forward.

Meanwhile, other large media companies should similarly put in place measures to protect their newsrooms’ integrity: Quebecor, Shaw Media, Rogers, Cogeco, Transcontinental and others often put their journalists in positions where they have to report on their parent companies. What assurance do we have that they aren’t getting similar orders from their CEOs about how to do it?

Yes, this is an argument about vertical integration. But non-integrated companies are not immune to this kind of interference. Even the smallest community newspapers can have publishers who put the bottom line above journalistic integrity. The difference is that CTV News has the budgetary resources to hire an ombudsperson or other independent person who the public can trust to blow the whistle whenever journalism is threatened by self-interest.

Until these major steps are taken to restore and preserve trust, unfortunately Mr. Crull’s actions have caused CTV News to lose the benefit of the doubt.

UPDATE: CTV National News included a story about Crull. It did not include any interviews with Crull or anyone at CTV News.

And the Globe and Mail’s Tabatha Southey has a more satirical take on the news.

Posted in Media

Competition Bureau approves Postmedia’s acquisition of Sun Media

I’m about to acquire a lot of colleagues.

The Competition Bureau has approved (in the sense that it will not oppose) the $316-million acquisition of Sun Media’s 174 newspapers and publications in English Canada, the Canoe portal and other assets by my employer, Postmedia Network.

Press releases from Postmedia and Quebecor say the deal will close in the coming weeks. Once that happens, Postmedia will own the lion’s share of print media in English Canada, including three of six dailies in Toronto, and two paid dailies in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa.

The bureau appears to have agreed with Postmedia’s argument that competition from other forms of media, particularly online, will prevent this transaction from becoming anti-competitive. The bureau also points to “the lack of close rivalry between Postmedia’s broadsheet and Sun Media’s English-language tabloid newspapers” and “existing competition from free local daily newspapers” in its decision.

I’ll update my media ownership chart once news comes down that the transaction has closed.

Posted in My articles, Radio

The Beat beats Virgin: a fluke, or a turning point?

The quarterly radio ratings haven’t interested me much in a while, mainly because there’s few stations owned by even fewer owners, and the ranking never changes. People talk about a few extra listeners here and some demographic shift there, but overall it’s always the same: CJAD has the highest market share*, Virgin is No. 1 with adults 25-54, CHOM does best with men, and we ignore the fact that all three of those stations are owned by the same company.

This time though, there was a noticeable change. And it made a big difference. The Beat 92.5, which had been slightly ahead of Virgin Radio 96 in most reports the past two years but behind in the key demographics, shot ahead under both measures. Instead of them fighting it out at around 16% or 17% of the audience, The Beat had 20% and Virgin was under 15%.

That was enough to write a story for the Gazette and get the program directors on the record.

That wasn’t easy, mind you. Sam Zniber, who was hired last August at The Beat, flat-out refused to tell me what he thought contributed to the ratings increase, fearing his competitor would find out and copy him. He would only say it’s a team effort.

Mark Bergman at Virgin, meanwhile, did his best to put a positive spin on the ratings, pointing out that the station has a larger reach, and saying that because the measured period included December, the numbers biased in favour of The Beat.

That’s half true. Virgin’s market share does go down in the winter ratings period, but The Beat’s doesn’t spike during that period. And it wasn’t nearly this bad last winter, so it must be something else.

I listened to The Beat, trying to figure out what changed. Was it the announcers? No, because their lineup has been stable for the past year. Was it the amount of music? Anne-Marie Withenshaw’s lawsuit suggests a shift toward less time on air for announcers, and I’ve noticed that many breaks are very brief — like seven seconds brief. But studying the “recently played” lists of Virgin and The Beat, they play about the same number of songs per hour (about eight during peak hours when they have contests, traffic and other stuff, and about 13 an hour during off-peak hours).

The type of music played seems to have changed. Instead of just Katy Perry pop, it’s got more R&B, more dance. Its slogan “Montreal’s perfect mix” and describing itself as airing a “variety” of music make it seem more and more like The Beat of today is the Mix 96 of a decade ago.

Or maybe it’s a combination of factors — a new program director bringing in some new ideas, an experienced on-air staff (many of whom used to work at Virgin) keeping the audience loyal, a more popular mix of music, lots of contests and stunts to keep people engaged, a better-than-expected boost from Christmas music season, and a bit of luck.

We’ll know in three months (or maybe six) how sustainable this lead is. I suspect it won’t last long, but the trend (at least among 2+ audience) has clearly been in The Beat’s favour since it relaunched in 2011.

radioratings

* An earlier version of this post said CJAD had the “most listeners”. As a reader points out, if you count everyone who listens for at least a minute during a day or a measuring period, Virgin has more listeners. I’m more interested in the average, but for clarity I’ve referred instead to market share.

Wayne Bews let go from The Beat

Wayne Bews, hired only a year ago as general manager of The Beat, filling the role vacated by Mark Dickie, has once again fallen victim to corporate management deciding that a station doesn’t need its own general manager. Cogeco tells me that the position has been eliminated and his functions taken over by other people within the company.

Bews left his job at TSN 690 for similar reasons in the fall of 2013, though at least that time Bell got him a job at CTV Montreal.

Charli Paige is Virgin’s new evening announcer

Meanwhile, a new face at Virgin. Tony Stark’s old evening show has been given to Charli Paige, who comes from 101.3 The Bounce in Halifax, where she was Jillian Blinkhorn. Her show airs 6-11pm Mondays to Thursdays.

Stark, meanwhile, is in the middle of a contest at The Jump in Ottawa to find a morning co-host.

Posted in Media

Gesca sells six newspapers to Martin Cauchon, keeps only La Presse

This one hit like a ton of bricks: Gesca, the media company owned by Power Corporation, is selling six of its seven newspapers to Groupe Capitales Médias, a new company (literally formed on Monday and registered yesterday) owned by Martin Cauchon, former Liberal Party MP for Outremont.

The sold newspapers are:

  • Le Soleil in Quebec City
  • Le Droit in Ottawa
  • Le Nouvelliste in Trois-Rivières
  • La Tribune in Sherbrooke
  • La Voix de l’est in Granby
  • Le Quotidien in Saguenay

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. The new owner says current management at those papers will remain in place, including Claude Gagnon, who is president of the new company and remains in charge of the regional papers.

Gesca, for its part, says it wants to focus on La Presse+ and international sales of the platform it spent $40 million to develop. It never brought the other newspapers into this system, which many people found curious. Now I guess we know why. (Negotiations took several months — La Presse says it was a year — and other parties were interested in a purchase.)

UPDATE: Some details from InfoPresse: La Presse will continue selling national ads for the regional papers, and they will continue sharing copy. Plus La Presse+ and other technology will be shared with the regional papers, according to publisher Guy Crevier.

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Posted in Radio

The Jewel 106.7 Hudson launches Monday … live from Hawkesbury

The Jewel 106.7

Five years after the initial CRTC application for a new radio station serving Montreal’s western off-island community, two and a half years after it was given a licence, and four months after it started testing, CHSV-FM The Jewel 106.7 finally comes to life Monday morning with regular programming.

The lineup

As previously announced, Ted Bird is the big star being brought on to host the morning show, 5:30-10am weekdays. Joining him is Tanya Armstrong, a Montrealer who’s not as well known but who has been around Montreal radio many years. Her CV on LinkedIn lists experience with WebSports Media, the people behind the Montreal Hockey Talk show. Previously she worked as an intern on CHOM and did production on what was then Team 990. She’ll be handling news and traffic on the show.

Producing their show is Kris Leblanc, who will also be hosting on weekends. He’s worked previously at Mix 96, CJAD, 940 News and K103.

The afternoon drive show, from 3 to 7pm, will be hosted by Bob Coley, a voice-over artist who lives in Hudson and previously worked at CHOM and CKTS 900 AM in Sherbrooke. He’ll be joined by Sylvia Asche Bullard doing news and traffic. Bullard worked at CJMQ in Sherbrooke, the English-language Townships community station, as well as for the Canadian Traffic Network and The Jewel in Ottawa.

Leblanc, Coley and “another announcer still to be determined” will host weekend shows. The rest of the schedule will be syndicated, including middays (10am-3pm is John Tesh) and evenings (The Jewel’s The Lounge, 7-11pm).

Ted Silver, program director for The Jewel stations in Hudson and eastern Ontario, says there may still be “some surprise announcements” concerning programming.

The location

Even though they’ve been working on this station for half a decade, owner Evanov Radio hasn’t found it a home in Hudson yet, so for the time being it’ll be broadcasting out of the office of its sister station The Jewel 107.7 in Hawkesbury, Ont., 40 kilometres away. (Which I note is less than the distance between Hudson and downtown Montreal.)

I’ll be tagging along on Day 1, and will have more details in the coming days here and in the Montreal Gazette’s off-island section.

Posted in Media, Sports

It’s still not easy being a girl in the boys’ club of sports broadcasting

Women in sports broadcasting, from left: Amanda Stein (TSN 690), Andie Bennett (CBC), Jessica Rusnak (TSN 690), Kelly Greig (Sportsnet), Robyn Flynn (TSN 690)

Women in sports broadcasting, from left: Amanda Stein (TSN 690), Andie Bennett (CBC), Jessica Rusnak (TSN 690), Kelly Greig (Sportsnet), Robyn Flynn (TSN 690)

As we mark International Women’s Day on Sunday, we can choose to think of the injustices that still exist, of the women around the world who face injustice merely because of their gender in direct and indirect ways. We can choose to think of how far we’ve come as a society, ending some of those injustices and actively encouraging more women to come forward and become leaders and role models. Or better yet, we can do both.

In the media, we like to think of ourselves as more progressive than other industries. Look in most journalism classes and you’ll find more women than men. There are plenty of women working in print, radio, television and digital media, particularly in positions that expose them to the public.

But when we narrow that view to the sports department and dedicated sports media, a different picture appears, one where if there are women at all, they’re kept on the sidelines (literally).

On Thursday, as part of a week of activities at Vanier College, five women who work in sports broadcasting in Montreal were invited to talk about their experiences trying to find their place in this man’s world. It was eye-opening.

Here’s what I learned:

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Posted in Media

Montreal Gazette loses veteran reporters, Pierre Foglia retires from La Presse

While students in Quebec were heading out on spring break last Friday, veteran journalists in two newsrooms were packing their boxes.

Friday was the last day on the job for five journalists and one administrative assistant at the Montreal Gazette. They leave as part of the latest wave of buyouts meant to reduce operating costs at the newspaper, which means they won’t be replaced. Instead, other staff’s responsibilities will be shifted to cover their work.

Sue Montgomery was the Gazette’s justice reporter. She covered the trial of Luka Magnotta and many other lowlifes before him. Reviews of her career inevitably bring up her trip to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, her coverage of the sexual abuse at Les Frères Ste-Croix at Collège Notre Dame, and her work with Antonia Zerbisias to create the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported in the aftermath of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.

She was also very outspoken, sometimes to the displeasure of her employer.

In her farewell column, she writes:

I became a journalist almost 30 years ago, not so much because I loved the craft of writing, but more to give a voice to those who aren’t otherwise heard. I wasn’t interested in the politicians, who never seem to say anything meaningful, or the boring businessmen, incomprehensible sports stars or fake celebrities. None seemed real.

I was drawn to and intrigued by the everyday people like you and me who experience extraordinary loss, suffering and injustice and still manage to somehow carry on. We can all learn from such stories — about the resilience of the human spirit, empathy and strength.

You can read some of her work here. She also did an interview with CBC’s Daybreak.

Peggy Curran was the Gazette’s city columnist, returning to a writing job after a brief stint as city editor. Curran wrote in an almost poetic manner about the city and its problems (if I was nearly as good, I could have described her style better), and like Montgomery she preferred the stories about real people.

She has a wicked sense of humour, too. Along a wall of portraits of journalists past and present who have received awards for their work, there’s a photo of Curran leaning on the wall of her cubicle. Below her is a cutout of what looks like a tabloid headline she cut out and posted on her wall: “PSYCHO IRISH BITCH”.

In her farewell column, she worries about the future of the industry she’s leaving:

Being a journalist is a job of great intensity, more so as deadlines have multiplied. The daily miracle is now measured in minutes since the last update.

To do this right requires abundant energy and unconditional love.

Curran has compiled her five favourite stories here.

Pat Donnelly was the Gazette’s theatre critic (sandwiching a brief time as literary columnist), spending her evenings attending previews and performances, some of which were very good and many of which were very bad. Though in her farewell column, she focuses on the good:

As a theatre critic, I was privileged to witness one of the most exciting periods in Quebec theatre history, when Robert Lepage was first making waves, the Montreal Fringe Festival was born and Montreal’s bilingual Les Misérables won the admiration of the world. Sylvie Drapeau starred in all the best French plays. The Cirque du Soleil went from one triumph to another. Montrealer Richard Monette ruled the Stratford Festival. The biennial Festival TransAmériques, founded by the indomitable Marie-Hélène Falcon, expanded to became an annual hybrid of theatre and dance. And La Licorne, my favourite francophone theatre, began to lead the way with English surtitles.

Though theatre tends not to be on the radar of most people, Donnelly did manage to stir up some controversy, when she highlighted the use of blackface at a year-end review show at Théâtre du Rideau Vert. The story spread for more than a month afterward as people (mostly white) debated how offensive it is for white actors to put on dark makeup in Quebec.

Donnelly has compiled some highlights from her career here.

Lynn Moore was a journalist in the Gazette’s business department. She specialized in natural resources until she became the coordinator of the business section, tasked with the thankless job of putting together a section with few journalists and lots of news. She was also responsible for commissioning freelance pieces, including many from me.

You can read a small selection of her stories (including several Jazz Festival reviews) here.

François Shalom also worked in business, where he specialized in aerospace, an important beat in the city that is not only home to big industry players like Bombardier, Air Transat, CAE and Héroux-Devtek, but also the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Air Transport Association.

His last day as an employee came on the same day that Bombardier did its first flight test of its CS300 aircraft, though he didn’t get a chance to cover it.

You can read some of Shalom’s stories here.

These five people were colleagues, and I could probably write a lot of the same things about all of them: they had a good sense of humour, they cared about their work, they cared about the organization they worked for and the damage it has taken from its reductions in staff and quality, and they were kind people who nevertheless had little tolerance for bullshit.

And the Gazette will be worse off for having let them go. (Matthew Hays articulates part of what the paper is losing in this piece for Rover.)

The Gazette also lost a member of its support staff: Helen Ciampini had the title of “executive assistant” but was effectively responsible, with newsroom manager June Thompson, for all the little things that kept the operation running. The Gazette has lost almost all of the administrative staff it had when I was first hired, and has struggled to cope as a result.

None of the departing staff have indicated any future plans other than vacation.

« Ceci n’est pas une chronique d’adieu »

On the same day the Gazette lost staff with a combined experience of more than 100 years, La Presse lost a columnist who just about matches that by himself. Pierre Foglia announced in his Saturday column that he’s retiring, though he plans to contribute occasional stories about books.

Foglia, who has been with La Presse since 1972, according to Presse Canadienne, has been described as a unique columnist with a poetic style and wisdom that made him the envy of his colleagues.

Journal de Montréal blogger Marie-Claude Ducas writes a piece appreciating Foglia. As does Louise Latraverse a week later in La Presse.

UPDATE: Roberto Rocha, who held jobs including technology beat writer and, more recently, data journalist, left the paper a few weeks after his colleagues.