Category Archives: Media

Media News Digest: Conflicts in sports broadcasting, CBC livestreams, CHOM kills Montreal Rocks

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Montreal radio ratings: Virgin Radio 96 slips to fourth place

Market share among anglophone Montrealers, based on Numeris data

Numeris published its latest quarterly report for metered markets today, and the data for Montreal is about the same as it always is, with one exception: Virgin Radio 96 has its lowest overall share ever, and for the first time has dipped below CHOM to fourth place among anglophones — 12.1% to CHOM’s 12.5%. Both stations are owned by Bell Media, so it’s not a huge deal in terms of competition, but the trend line for Virgin is clearly heading down, from a high of 20% in 2012.

I have no magical explanation for this trend, and I’m sure everyone has their theories, from its use of syndicated programming like Ryan Seacrest to its loss of popular announcers to The Beat, but the most likely explanation is that The Beat has a better idea of what music anglos want to listen to.

The Beat’s press release, announcing itself as the number one radio station (among adults 25-54) is here. Virgin decided to just go with its weekly reach number without trying to rank itself.

Market share among Montreal francophones, based on Numeris data.

On the French side, CHMP-FM 98.5 remains the top-rated station by far among all ages 12+, but Radio-Canada’s ICI Première has climbed into second place, edging out Rythme FM. The trend line for Radio-Canada is impressive, taking a big jump in the fall of 2016 and continuing to improve. (Alain Gravel took over as morning show host on the station in the fall of 2015.)

Both adult contemporary stations Rythme FM (Cogeco) and Rouge (Bell) have declined significantly over the past two years, with Rouge falling from third place to fifth. Its major shakeup this fall, bringing in most of the on-air staff from sister station Énergie, hasn’t done much to help yet. (And since the top of that list was Éric Salvail, it’s not getting better soon.) CKOI and Énergie are about the same as they were two years ago in terms of share, with Énergie getting about the same number of francophone listeners as the three English-language music stations (dotted lines in the chart above).

Bell Media tried to polish the ratings turd as well as it could, crowing about how Énergie is the most improved francophone music station in Montreal, and how Rouge FM is … also the most improved? … actually how Rouge has seen the biggest gain in overall reach in the past six months, and how the drive-home show is best among women 25-54 despite “un mois d’octobre tumultueux.”

At the bottom of the chart (I’m excluding stations below 1%), RNC Media’s 91.9 Sports continues to slowly improve its numbers. This is the first time since it was a jazz station that it has kept the same format and brand for more than two years. And it looks like the city’s only French-language full-time sports station has finally found something that works.

The chart line for CJPX-FM Radio Classique stops this summer. The station was not included in the Numeris report, meaning that it has stopped subscribing to the service.

Still below 1% are Evanov’s CHRF 980 AM, Cogeco traffic station Circulation 730, and community station CIBL 101.5, which have average minute audiences of 900, 300 and 100, respectively.

Media News Digest: Supreme Court to hear Vice case, changes at the Globe, Gregg Zaun and Matt Lauer fired

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Radio ratings: FM93 leads Quebec City

Numeris has released its top-line data from diary radio markets (mid-size cities that aren’t big enough to be measured by electronic meters). Here are some highlights:

Quebec City

Overall market share:

  1. FM93: 14.9%
  2. CHOI: 13.7%
  3. ICI Première: 13.5%
  4. Rouge: 9.7%
  5. WKND: 7.6%
  6. Énergie: 7.4%
  7. M: 7.3%
  8. Pop: 6.1%
  9. Blvd: 5.7%
  10. ICI Musique: 4.1%
  11. CBC: 0.4%

By owner:

  1. Cogeco: 22.2%
  2. RNC Media: 19.8%
  3. CBC/Radio-Canada: 18%
  4. Bell: 17.1%
  5. Leclerc: 13.3%

Compared to the spring, FM93 and Radio-Canada have lost some ground and CHOI has regained it to climb into second place overall. There was some shifting of the order, but the biggest change was to RNC Media’s Pop 100.9, which doubled its share. The last ratings period came just after they switched from rock to pop, which caused a dramatic decrease in ratings. Now they’re better than the 4.8% share they had a year ago as a rock station.

More coverage from the Journal de Québec and Le Soleil. Among the details noted, CHOI continues to do better in the suburbs while FM93 reigns in the central market, Jeff Fillion has the highest-rated noon show, and FM93’s move to all-talk weekends has had a negative impact on their ratings.

Sherbrooke

  1. Rouge FM: 22%
  2. Énergie: 18.5%
  3. ICI Première: 16.4%
  4. 107,7fm: 11.2%
  5. Rythme FM: 8.1%
  6. ICI Musique: 3.5%

Bell continues to dominate this market with its 40% share, double that of Cogeco, but Radio-Canada’s main network saw a bump.

Trois-Rivières

  1. Énergie: 19.7%
  2. Rouge FM: 16.8%
  3. Rythme FM: 12.2%
  4. ICI Première: 9.3%
  5. FM 90,5: 9.0%
  6. 106,9fm: 5.8%
  7. ICI Musique: 4.6%

Another Bell-dominated market. But the story here is CKBN-FM (FM 90,5), a community station on the south shore covering the Bécancour region, which has climbed above Cogeco talk station 106,9 to claim fifth place in the market.

Saguenay

  1. Rouge FM: 23.4%
  2. KYK Radio X: 21.0%
  3. Énergie: 18.7%
  4. ICI Première: 11.5%
  5. ICI Musique: 4.2%

Radio X is no longer king in blueberry country as Bell’s Rouge FM takes the lead. Énergie is also up, pushing Bell’s share from 38.5% to 42.1% since the spring.

Drummondville

  1. Rouge FM: 30.8%
  2. Énergie: 22.7%

The only two stations reporting in this market are both owned by Bell Media, so there isn’t much competition to talk about. But Rouge FM has pulled well ahead of Énergie after being a couple of points behind.

Ottawa-Gatineau

Anglo top 5:

  1. CBC Radio One: 21.3%
  2. Hot 89.9 (Newcap): 9.2%
  3. CFRA 580 (Bell): 8.7%
  4. CHEZ 106.1 (Rogers): 6.6%
  5. Majic 100.3 (Bell): 6.0%

With more than 20 stations in the region, only CBC cracks the 10% share in English. Newcap’s Hot 89.9 leads the music stations and CFRA leads the commercial talk stations, but beyond that it’s a very tight battle.

Torres Media, which owns CIDG-FM, sent me (unsolicited) some numbers showing the station’s growth since it changed frequency from 101.9 to 101.7 and increased power. An 82% increase in the adults 25-54 audience is impressive. But the station still has only a 2.9% share overall.

Franco:

  1. Rouge FM (Bell): 21.1%
  2. ICI Première: 15.4%
  3. Énergie (Bell): 8.5%
  4. 104,7fm (Cogeco): 7.8%
  5. ICI Musique: 5.1%
  6. Hot 89.9 (Newcap): 4.8%
  7. WOW (RNC): 4.5%
  8. Pop (RNC): 3.6%
  9. CHEZ 106.1 (Rogers): 3.5%
  10. Jump 106.9 (Corus): 2.5%

At least the top five stations are all French-language ones among francophones. But RNC’s one-syllable pop music stations are down with the top-rated English music stations.

Elsewhere

  • In Sydney, N.S., community station The Coast 89.7, licensed to Glace Bay, has been added, and reports a 13% share, good for fifth place out of eight stations (six plus CBC).
  • In London, Ont., CKOT-FM (Easy 101), which was purchased by Rogers a year ago, has started reporting ratings even though it’s licensed to Tillsonburg, 40km away. Numeris shows it’s the top-rated private station in the market, behind only CBC. In the spring it was behind Bell’s country station BX93 and Virgin Radio.
  • In Hamilton, CHTG-FM (92.9 The Grand) in Haldimand has begun reporting in that market after being bought by Durham Radio and switching from country to classic hits. It scores only a 1.2% share as a spill station.
  • In St. Catharines/Niagara, CIXL-FM (Giant FM) has taken the lead from Bell’s EZ Rock, gaining five share points in a year while EZ lost four. Bell’s 97.7 HTZ also saw a bump from 5.6% to 8.0% in a year, but we’ll see if that survives the recent layoffs at the station.
  • In Sudbury, Ont., which last year had four stations within 1.3 share points of the lead, KICX Country has climbed on top with a 20% share while the others fell below 15%. KICX is in the process of being purchased by Bell. Rogers’s 92.7 Rock jumped from sixth place to third by increasing its share by more than 50%. The market has six stations with shares above 10%.
  • In Winnipeg, Corus’s rebranding of Fresh Radio as Peggy 99.1 has had only a modest effect on ratings, going from 1.6% to 2.1%. ChrisD.ca and the Winnipeg Free Press have more analysis of Winnipeg ratings.
  • In Prince George, B.C., Vista’s CIRX-FM (The Goat) has climbed into a commanding lead with a 25% market share compared to second place with 19.7% a year ago. All five stations have at least a 14% share.
  • Castanet has details on ratings in Kelowna, B.C.

Postmedia/Torstar deal results in almost 300 jobs lost as dozens of newspapers shut down

It’s been a while since we had news about triple-digit job cuts. Today’s news is that Postmedia (my employer) and Torstar have come to an agreement where they swap dozens of newspapers and shut most of them down.

No cash is being exchanged in the transaction.

Most of the newspapers going either way are Ontario-based community publications, but there are four major-market free dailies affected: Metro Ottawa, Metro Winnipeg, 24 Hours Toronto and 24 Hours Vancouver. All will close.

J-Source reports that Postmedia’s closing of ex-Torstar papers will result in 244 job losses. Torstar’s closing of ex-Postmedia papers will lay off another 46, for a total of 290.

Competition Bureau approval is not required for the transaction, the companies say, so there’s no government regulatory step required for the deal. The bureau did nothing to stop the deal between Postmedia and Quebecor that saw major-market dailies come under the same roof. Nevertheless, the bureau says it will review the deal after the fact.

Unifor has unsurprisingly condemned the shutdown.

As bad as the news is, and as many communities are losing local coverage, the deal won’t be cutting the last local paper out of most communities. Many are community papers covering parts of cities that have a daily, or competed directly with another newspaper being kept. Exceptions are the tiny town of St. Marys, near London, and Meaford, near Owen Sound.

There’s also Barrie and Northumberland, which lose dailies but are still covered by weeklies.

More coverage and reaction from:

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Media News Digest: FPJQ winners, newspaper section shuffles, BNN hires Amanda Lang

News about news

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Tommy Schnurmacher announces retirement from CJAD

Tommy Schnurmacher, host of CJAD’s Gang of Four and a fixture on Montreal’s English-language talk radio scene for decades, announced today he’s hanging up his headphones for good. His last show will be Dec. 13:

Schnurmacher told listeners he will travel more and finish a novel, although he promises to continue to share the opinions that have earned him popularity and created debate: “I may be saying goodbye to daily radio deadlines but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will not be able to keep myself from holding court from time to time whether that’s on-air, off-air or on Twitter”.

(A video of Schnurmacher’s on-air announcement is posted on CJAD’s website.)

CJAD will replace his noon-hour show by moving the Natasha Hall show up to noon and adding a second hour to the nationally broadcast Evan Solomon Show from 2-4pm.

The move comes as Bell Media is in the process of cutting staff across the country (and some of them are billing their departures as retirements). I’m told that Schnurmacher’s leaving of his own accord here.

But it was only a year and a half ago that Schnurmacher said retirement wasn’t on the horizon. “No. I love doing this. I love the work, I don’t foresee retirement any time soon,” he told me in May 2016. In November, he cut down his hours at CJAD, leaving his late-morning show to Leslie Roberts and keeping just the Gang of Four part, which went an hour long at noon. In his on-air announcement, he said he has discovered in the past year that he enjoys travelling even more than he thought, and he wants to do more of it.

Schnurmacher’s final show will be a special broadcast in front of a live audience, with tickets being given out to CJAD listeners.

Media News Digest: Canal+ comes to Canada, Courrier Laval sold, Alexa and Google sign news deals

News about news

  • The Ottawa CItizen’s tradition of putting together a biography of a fallen soldier based on a name tweeted out at random at 11:11am on Remembrance Day continues. Here’s the latest edition.
  • CBC’s ombudsman put out a decision related to a CBC Halifax radio discussion about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ decision to visit the White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup win. A listener complained that more effort should have been made to find balance in their coverage of this, and find more pro-Trump sources. The ombudsman agreed, saying “the coverage was flawed.”
  • Various news organizations are reaching deals with these new smart speakers or assistants or whatever you call them: Google Home and Amazon Echo. Amazon’s Alexa service will carry content from CBC, Global News, CTV, TSN, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post and Montreal Gazette. Google Home has a deal with Postmedia.
  • Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant has pushed his defamation lawsuit against the man behind the @CanadianCynic Twitter account past a preliminary look at whether it’s an abusive suit against public comment. A judge found that Robert Day’s Twitter posts accusing Levant of fraud in a Fort MacMurray fundraiser were not public comment and not protected by the law.
  • Montreal city hall’s new administration is looking for an attaché(e) de presse. The previous media relations person for Montreal’s mayor, Catherine Maurice, previously worked for Projet Montréal before she jumped ship for Coderre’s team.

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CTV Montreal lays off executive producer Barry Wilson, CHOM drops Picard

Updated Nov. 16 with comment from Wilson, and news of other cuts.

Barry Wilson (CTV photo)

Barry Wilson is no longer an employee of Bell Media.

The executive producer of CTV Montreal, who viewers saw once a week during his Postscript opinion segments, has been with the station for decades, but his position has been eliminated, Bell Media confirmed to me today. Staff were told about the dismissal during the day.

“The position was eliminated as a cost-saving measure,” explains Matthew Garrow, director of communications for news and local stations at Bell Media. “Barry’s executive producer responsibilities will be assumed by (news director) Jed Kahane.”

“I worked with some of the best people in the business and am thankful for that,” Wilson told me Thursday after what he described as a “strange week.”

“It’s been a good run. Who knows what the next step is but I am not retired.”

He similarly updated his Twitter bio to say “Thanks to everyone who supported my efforts over the years. Not done yet.”

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Review: Municipal election night on English-language TV

I was busy last Sunday night, helping the Montreal Gazette put together its coverage of the Montreal municipal election. But my PVR recorded the broadcasts of three English-language television stations in the city to see how they covered the evening. Below, I offer some thoughts on how well they did, based primarily on the actual information they provided.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching an election results show, I’m looking for election results. Analysts are great for filling time, but the more data you can show me, the more races you can announce, the better.

So below, you’ll see me focus less on the in-studio analysts, who were all fine, and more on what someone would have actually learned watching the broadcast.

CBC Montreal

11:00-11:30pm (9:45-11:30pm on Facebook)

Anchor: Debra Arbec

In-studio analysts:

  • Reporter Jonathan Montpetit
  • Social media editor Molly Kohli
  • Reporter Sean Henry with results

Reporters:

  • Simon Nakonechny at Plante HQ
  • Ainslie MacLellan at Coderre HQ
  • Sabrina Marandola in Westmount
  • Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire (Facebook broadcast only)
  • Marika Wheeler in Quebec City (Facebook broadcast only)

Reported results — ticker (top three candidates, party, vote count, polls reporting):

  • Montreal mayor
  • All Montreal borough mayors
  • All Montreal city councillors

Reported results — graphic (top 2-4 candidates, party, vote count, lead):

  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Ahuntsic-Cartierville mayor
  • Lachine mayor
  • Sud-Ouest mayor
  • Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension mayor
  • Plateau-Mont-Royal mayor
  • Montreal city council standings (leading, elected, total)
  • Dorval mayor
  • Côte-Saint-Luc mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Westmount mayor

The public broadcaster clearly won in the graphics department, and was the only English-language network with a lower-third ticker with live results. The ticker showed only results from the city of Montreal, but it did not only the city mayor but also borough mayors and all borough councillor races. It took about nine minutes for the top of the ticker to do the rounds of all 64 elected city council seats, so viewers got to see each race about three times.

While CBC was the only station to include Montreal city council results, it failed to include anything off the island of Montreal — no mention of Quebec City, Saguenay, or even Longueuil or Laval.

CBC was also the only one to include a live speech in their broadcast, carrying 10 uninterrupted (and untranslated) minutes of Valérie Plante’s acceptance speech to lead off the half-hour show (which had no commercial interruption).

The broadcast actually started on Facebook, where it went for an hour and 45 minutes, but still didn’t start early enough to get the Plante victory call on live. It did mention the Laval, Longueuil, Quebec City and Sherbrooke races, which didn’t get into the TV broadcast, and had live hits from Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire and Marika Wheeler in Quebec City. And it carried Denis Coderre’s speech in full. My review here is based mainly on the television broadcast, but I’m adding this for the record.

For an election night broadcast with so many races to deal with, there was a lot of time devoted to analysis. And as much as I like listening to the soothing voice of Jonathan Montpetit, I didn’t learn much from him and Arbec repeating stuff that happened during the campaign, promises that were made and stuff that the candidates said in their speeches. Fortunately, they still managed to get a bunch of results into the broadcast, both on Facebook and TV.

Overall score: B+

CTV Montreal

11:30pm-12:04am

Anchor: Tarah Schwartz

In-studio analyst:

  • Former Westmount mayor Peter Trent

Reporters:

  • Cindy Sherwin at Plante HQ
  • Rob Lurie at Coderre HQ
  • Kelly Greig in Westmount (also reporting on Côte-St-Luc race)

Reported results (winner only unless otherwise noted):

  • Montreal mayor (with popular vote of top two)
  • Laval mayor
  • Westmount mayor
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Montreal city council makeup by party
  • Beaconsfield mayor
  • Brossard mayor
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Quebec City mayor
  • Dorval mayor
  • Longueuil mayor

CTV Montreal is the market leader. It has the most journalists, the largest audience, the most history. So it should be expected that they would slay election night coverage.

Which makes it all the more disappointing how little actual data was provided to viewers. Not only was there no ticker, but the individual race graphics didn’t even provide vote totals or party names. Instead, they just had names and photos and a checkmark next to the winner.

Only for the Montreal mayor’s race was any vote total given in an on-screen graphic. For the rest, well you’ll just have to guess.

This is the reason people tune in to election night broadcasts, and CTV’s viewers were left horribly underserved when it came to actual data.

It was the shortest of the three broadcasts, since it had four commercial breaks, and the last to start at 11:30pm. And CTV didn’t even think it was worth bringing in one of the two main anchors on a weekend shift, leaving the duties to regular weekend anchor Tarah Schwartz.

It had the fewest live reporters, which is surprising, and just about everything about this seemed like it was phoned in.

Still, CTV’s prestige meant it got the first live interview with the mayor-elect, right at the beginning at 11:30. And its reporters were more experienced and seemed to provide more useful information.

But overall, it should be embarrassing for CTV how poorly it did compared to its competitors.

Overall score: C-

Global Montreal

11:00pm-11:57pm

Anchor: Jamie Orchard

In-studio analysts:

  • Montreal Gazette columnist Celine Cooper
  • Former city councillor Karim Boulos

Reporters:

  • Amanda Jelowicki at Plante HQ
  • Tim Sargeant at Coderre HQ (also reporting on Pointe-Claire and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor’s races)
  • Elysia Bryan-Baynes in Westmount
  • Felicia Parillo in Côte-St-Luc

Reported results (vote totals for top 2-4 candidates, percentage of vote for each, percentage of polls reporting, and indication of incumbent):

  • Montreal mayor (x4)
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor (x2)
  • Pierrefonds-Roxboro mayor (x2)
  • Westmount mayor (x5)
  • Beaconsfield mayor (x2)
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor (x2)
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor (x4)
  • Dorval mayor (x2)
  • Pointe-Claire mayor (x2)
  • Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor
  • Senneville mayor (x2)
  • Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor (x2)
  • Montreal-West mayor (x2)
  • Brossard mayor (x2)
  • Longueuil mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lambert mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lazare mayor
  • Laval mayor
  • Anjou mayor

There are always two ways to judge Global Montreal when compared to its competitors: judge the quality alone, as a viewer probably would, or judge how well Global did with its limited resources.

By either measure, the station did well on this night. It extended its TV broadcast to a full hour, had informative graphics, and updated results through the night, though like its competitors it focused a lot on the island of Montreal and areas immediately adjacent.

The graphics weren’t as flashy as CBC, and there was no ticker, but you got vote totals, percentages, and an indication of who the incumbent was and the amount of polls reporting. Just missing the party affiliations.

Global also conducted an interview with Plante (just after CTV’s), and made good use of analysts and reporters.

They get extra points for being the longest broadcast, having a special “Decision 2017” opening theme, and putting in the extra effort. But it would have been nice for the only station that still has transmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke to actually mention the mayor’s races in those cities. I know it’s not Global Quebec anymore, but I’m sure viewers there would have appreciated it.

Overall score: B+

City Montreal

No election night special. We’ll see if that changes when they start having local newscast next year. They have four years to prepare for the next municipal election (and one year to prepare for the next provincial one).

Overall score: F

Media News Digest: Classic CanCon on YouTube, Moose Jaw paper to close, Transcon sells 21 more papers

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At the CRTC

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  • You all know about Twitter expanding to 280 characters, right? OK, moving on…

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Transcontinental sells 21 more Quebec community papers

The process by which Transcontinental is selling off its remaining community newspapers in Quebec (and Cornwall, Ont.) took its biggest step on Wednesday with the announcement that Icimédias Inc., led by Renel Bouchard, with Marc-Noël Ouellette, will buy 21 community papers and its Inmemoriam.ca website and take over 140 employees plus another 28 from TC’s production operations.

Bouchard had been an owner of Le Canada Français, a newspaper that’s part of the transaction, and Ouellette was a TC manager for 15 years.

The newspapers involved in the transaction, whose price was not disclosed but also involves an agreement for TC to print the newspapers, are:

  • Le Canada Français and Le Richelieu (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu)
  • Coup d’œil (Napierville)
  • L’Avenir et des Rivières (Farnham)
  • Le Guide (Cowansville)
  • Granby Express (Granby)
  • La Nouvelle union and La Nouvelle union week-end (Victoriaville)
  • L’Avenir de l’Érable (Plessisville)
  • La Voix du Sud (Lac-Etchemin)
  • Beauce Média (Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce)
  • L’Éclaireur Progrès and Hebdo Régional (Saint-Georges-de-Beauce)
  • Le Reflet du Lac (Magog)
  • Le Progrès de Coaticook (Coaticook)
  • L’Hebdo Journal (Trois-Rivières)
  • Le Courrier Sud (Nicolet)
  • L’Hebdo du Saint-Maurice (Shawinigan)
  • L’Écho La Tuque/Haut-St-Maurice (La Tuque)
  • L’Écho de Maskinongé (Maskinongé)
  • Courrier Frontenac (Thetford Mines)

Transcontinental has now sold more than half of the 93 publications it put up for sale in April, all to small local owners, through 10 transactions.

But as the months progress, the chances of remaining newspapers being sold diminishes. That includes titles in various Montreal neighbourhoods, Courrier Laval, and papers in the Outaouais and Abitibi regions.

The Canadian Press had a story recently about the Transcon sales and what local owners are hoping to do to revitalize the papers.

More coverage in Le Devoir and Le Canada français.

Media News Digest: Fantastiques sans Eric, magazine awards reunited, Aly Lozoff in Vegas

News about news

  • The Suburban held its election “debates”, which consisted of candidates writing answers to the same question, including Beryl Wajsman, who is a candidate for mayor of Westmount and editor of the newspaper. The issue with the answers includes a note from the publisher explaining that “Mr. Wajsman did not know the questions and agreed to have his answers recorded before any of the other candidates arrived, and has had no hand in any Westmount stories since May.” Christine Smith, the interim mayor who’s running against Wajsman, declined to participate because of Wajsman’s conflict.
  • The Montreal Gazette and La Presse collaborated on an investigation into Montreal city contracts. The collaboration is interesting if only because it means the articles need to be translated between French and English.
  • For those looking for live TV coverage of Sunday’s municipal elections, the pickings will be a bit slim. RDI and LCN will have live coverage throughout the night, and most media will have online coverage, but the local stations will have mostly regular programming during the evening. Global Montreal will extend its 11pm newscast to an hour for an election night special, while CTV and CBC will incorporate election results into its regular broadcasts, according to their TV schedules. CBC News Network and CTV News Channel don’t appear to have any plans for special programming.
  • Le Devoir looks at the new charter created by the Association de presse francophone, representing French-language media in English Canada.

At the CRTC

  • Quebec City radio station CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) has succeeded in getting its licence renewed by the CRTC despite coming short on its requirement for French-language music. Rather than issue a short-term renewal, it has de facto fined the station $920. And once again, the station has been shot down in its request to cut its conditions of licence requiring it to serve the Portneuf region. When it was first approved in 1995, the station was sold to the CRTC as being a local service to Portneuf. Its current owner RNC Media has repeatedly tried to eliminate the requirements to have a studio in Donnacona and 14 hours a week of programming for the region. The CRTC found there was insufficient evidence put forward that such a change was necessary to the station’s financial survival and that the change would be bad for people in the Portneuf region who have no other local station.
  • The commission has denied a request from Vancouver radio station CHLG-FM (LG 104.3) to amend its licence to eliminate the requirement that 15% of its music be special interest. The CRTC found there as no compelling economic reason to approve the change. CHLG-FM is owned by Newcap, purchased out of the Bell-Astral deal.

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Media News Digest: Inaccessible information, FPJQ finalists, and an interview with Bell’s Randy Lennox

News about news

Yet more Weinstein fallout

At the CRTC

  • The CRTC is holding a hearing Jan. 11 at which it will consider measures related to two radio stations with severe compliance issues: CFOR-FM Maniwaki and CKFG-FM Toronto. Both are accused of failing to meet a series of licence conditions and regulatory requirements, and could face sanctions as high as losing their licences.
  • The notice for the same hearing includes details on the Bell acquisition of four FM stations in Ontario from Larche Communications. The deal is worth $15.64 million.
  • Finally, three applications for new radio stations, all Christian music stations by different owners: Sydney, N.S., Regina, and Kelowna/Kamloops, B.C. Deadline for comments on all three of these is Nov. 24.
  • The coming review of mandatory distribution orders has all the applicants pushing for public support. AMI, APTN, Canal MTV5 and the Weather Network have put up websites asking for people to write letters of support to the CRTC. (TWN even has a video to guide people through the process.)
  • The commission is giving Cogeco an extension until March 31 to implement changes to its customer service contract required by the new TV service provider code that went into effect on Sept. 1. Cogeco said an “internal structuring project” was delayed, which meant it couldn’t meet the deadline.

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How a simple change to NAFTA could dramatically change how Canadians view television

One of the consequences of Donald Trump becoming president of the United States is that now Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are meeting to discuss amendments to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has threatened to pull out of entirely if he doesn’t get his way.

Canada has made clear that it plans to keep cultural exceptions to the free trade agreement, allowing it to continue to protect its cultural institutions from its much larger neighbour. So it might be tempting to think there won’t be any change here.

But there is one change being proposed that could make a huge difference to the Canadian television industry, and its one that proponents on both sides of the border would argue strengthens rather than weakens cultural protection.

It’s called retransmission consent.

CUSFTA, NAFTA and copyright law

When it comes to broadcasting law, NAFTA defers to the earlier Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, whose text is posted online in a PDF. Article 2006 of the CUSFTA lays out requirements and exceptions to copyright law when it comes to retransmission of distant television signals. Under its rules, each country must prohibit non-simultaneous retransmission, or altered retransmission, of signals that aren’t meant for over-the-air broadcast, without the consent of the copyright owner.

But the rules intentionally leave a big hole for simultaneous transmission of over-the-air stations without that consent. As a result, Canadian television distributors can distribute U.S. over-the-air stations (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and PBS) without those stations’ consent or compensation to them, following only the rules set by the CRTC.

This exception to copyright law dates back to the early days of cable TV, when providers picked up the cross-border stations over the air and distributed them to their customers. The rules have been codified since then (generally, providers can distribute two sets of what are called 4+1 stations — PBS is the +1 — and choose to take a group of Eastern time zone stations and a group in the Western time zone) but the essence remains in place to this day, enshrined as section 31 of the Copyright Act.

Some people want to change that, on both sides of the border.

Cross-border unity

On the Canadian side is Bell, which owns CTV stations. Appearing before a parliamentary committee hearing on Sept. 20, Rob Malcolmson, Senior Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs, suggested eliminating section 31 of the Copyright Act entirely, which would mean television providers would need to negotiate carriage of distant signals both Canadian and American. CTV and CTV Two stations being carried outside their markets would get some compensation as a result. (Current copyright law requires TV providers distributing distant stations to compensate rights holders, both Canadian and American, through a fund that taxes them at about $1 per subscriber per month, but that compensates the creators of the programming, not the stations broadcasting them, and it’s not optional.)

Requiring retransmission consent would change a lot for U.S. border stations. Giving them negotiation power would mean they too could get compensated, and just as important, they could set conditions on carriage, which could include things like blackouts for programs they don’t have the Canadian rights to. A content provider (like, say, the NFL) could make this a condition for being broadcast on border stations, and those border stations could make it a requirement for being rebroadcast in Canada.

Or the U.S. stations could simply decide not to be carried in Canada. And that’s exactly what some of them want.

Some U.S. border stations carried in Canada have formed the U.S. TV Coalition, a group that has been actively lobbying the Canadian government to change its laws so those stations have bargaining power or can take themselves out of Canada entirely. Its members include WXYZ-TV and WDIV-TV in Detroit, WIVB-TV and WNLO-TV in Buffalo, and KSTP-TV in Minneapolis.

KSTP in 2015 tried to ask the CRTC to remove its station from the list of those authorized for rebroadcast in Canada. The CRTC refused, saying their consent isn’t needed.

Making simsub moot

So what would happen if this simple but substantial change went through? It’s hard to say exactly, because the Canadian television system has been so reliant on the current scheme. But here are some things that could happen.

First, some U.S. stations could refuse to be carried in Canada, either because they don’t want to deal with getting Canadian rights to programming or because they don’t think they’re being compensated enough. Canadian TV providers would probably find others that would be game for replacing them, since for many U.S. markets (like Burlington/Plattsburgh or Buffalo), the Canadian market is a big source of their audience.

Then, U.S. rights-holders, probably starting with major sports leagues, could start demanding that signals be blacked out in Canada during their programming to protect the rights of their Canadian broadcast partners. The U.S. stations, which now have bargaining power, could impose this requirement on cable companies carrying their stations.

As new carriage agreements are signed with U.S. stations, they could demand direct fees for carriage (which would undoubtedly depend on whether their programming is subject to blackouts). Those fees would be passed on to the consumer, and the days of TV providers including U.S. stations for free in basic cable packages would be gone.

This doesn’t get much attention in Canada, but as Cartt.ca points out, there are also U.S. border communities where Canadian stations are carried on cable TV. Canadian stations could start making similar demands of U.S. cable providers.

If blackouts take hold during primetime series and sporting events, Canada’s simultaneous substitution system becomes moot. (Though an alternative would be to expand simsub so Canadian ads are seen on U.S. stations regardless of when the program airs or where.) If simsub is no longer a major factor in Canadian TV stations’ revenue, they suddenly get a lot more programming flexibility. Rather than CTV, CTV Two, Global and City building their schedules around having as many simultaneously broadcast U.S. network shows as possible, they could schedule their shows whenever they want.

Original Canadian series would no longer get bounced around the schedule. Programs that follow live sports (like NFL games) would no longer have to be delayed so they sync up with the U.S. network’s delay. Sports programming carried on U.S. network stations (particularly NFL games) could be moved to TSN or Sportsnet so local stations could continue to carry local news. Conversely, Canadian sports like the CFL’s Grey Cup could be moved to local stations because the Canadian over-the-air networks would no longer be reserved for simsubbable programming.

It could be a seismic shift in how English Canadians watch television, giving a lot more power and flexibility to Canadian TV networks.

Don’t hold your breath

Or maybe it won’t. Neither government has indicated it wants to press this as an issue, and though the U.S. TV coalition is pushing it, there isn’t much public support.

The reality is that Canadians like being able to watch ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS, and any move that would risk taking those channels away (or subjecting them to blackouts) would be deeply unpopular, no matter how much it might benefit the Canadian system. And it’s not like Canadians are desperate to make the lives and bottom lines of Bell, Corus and Rogers any better.

So this is more of an academic exercise than anything else. Realistically, the system will mostly stay the same until the point where Internet-based video consumption takes over from regulated TV distribution as the main source for popular video content. And the Internet has a separate scheme for ensuring that video doesn’t cross the border when a producer or broadcaster wants to protect their rights.