Category Archives: Media

Media News Digest: PKP’s back at Quebecor, TVO backtracks on TV transmitter shutdown, RIP Stuart McLean

News about news

At the CRTC

  • The federal government has extended until March 6 the deadline to apply for four CRTC commissioner positions, including chairman.
  • RIDE TV, a specialty channel all about horses, has been approved for distribution in Canada. Telus applied for the authorization.
  • The commission has formally revoked the licence of CJBN-TV Kenora, Ont., after Shaw decided not to renew the tiny-market station’s licence. The station, which wasn’t part of the Global TV network, shut down on Jan. 27. Its local programming continues on the local Shaw community TV channel.
  • Radio station CKRW (The Rush) in Whitehorse has applied to the CRTC to temporarily switch its main transmitter from a 50-year-old 1,000-watt AM transmitter to its FM retransmitter, after getting an engineering report that the AM antenna has degraded to the point where it is no longer safe. The temporary switch will be followed by another application to do the same thing on a permanent basis. CKRW also has seven other transmitters in Yukon and one in the Northwest Territories.
  • Former CRTC Quebec commissioner Suzanne Lamarre has joined law firm Therrien Couture, where she will work at its St-Hyacinthe office.

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Media News Digest: Fake news to promote a movie, MLS games on CTV, Véro.tv launches

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The Rebel’s reporting on the Quebec mosque shooting, annotated

The Rebel, the website started by former Sun News personality Ezra Levant after the all-news network was shut down, likes to ask a lot of questions.

It’s good to ask questions. Journalism is about questions. Unfortunately too many of The Rebel’s questions are directed at its audience, rather than the people who would actually know the answers to its questions. The result is that the audience is left to guess at answers, and that doesn’t always lead to the truth.

Within hours of the Quebec City mosque shooting that left six Muslim men dead and more than a dozen injured, The Rebel had registered the domain quebecterror.com (Levant loves to register domain names) and was asking questions. Many of them were directed at the so-called mainstream media.

Since I happen to work for a daily newspaper, the most mainstream of mainstream media, perhaps I can offer some insight. So here is The Rebel’s reporting on the “Quebec terror” attack, annotated with notes from myself.

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Elliott Price to host morning show on The Fan 590 in Toronto

Elliott Price

Well, now we know the real reason why Elliott Price canned his daily show on CFMB 1280: He’s moving to Toronto.

Sportsnet announced today that Price takes over as morning co-host at 590 The Fan starting Feb. 27, along with Greg Brady and Hugh Burrill. Their show will be called Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup with Brady & Price, weekdays from 5:30-9am.

I spoke with Price for a story in the Montreal Gazette that appears in Thursday’s paper.

The new show replaces Dean Blundell & Co., which was terminated effective immediately. Blundell said it was a mutual decision.

In Twitter posts (his account is now protected), Blundell gave thanks to Sportsnet:

Thanks to all at Rogers and Sportsnet. Owe a great deal of gratitude. Mutual and in both our best interest to not renew….Everyone at the Fan was super kind to me. Sports deserves people that live it and breathe it. I can’t wait to swim with both arms….and look forward to what’s next.

Because Blundell was such a controversial figure in the biggest market in the country, there’s a lot of coverage of this story from that angle in Toronto: Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Toronto Sports Media, Barrett Sports Media and The Canadian Press, each with different details and quotes.

Price developed a relationship with Sportsnet, and in particular 590 The Fan program director Dave Cadeau, with his CFMB show, even rebranding it as Sportsnet Tonight.

This change will mean leaving the market he’s worked in for decades, but entering the largest one in the country, and in a prestigious position on top of that. Toronto has both a Sportsnet and TSN radio station, with the Sportsnet station having a 4% overall market share and the TSN station a 0.5% share. But following the popular (though controversial) Blundell won’t be easy.

Price also hasn’t forgotten his former co-host, and sent a public note to his former home suggesting they hire him:

“This is good”

I spoke with Price on Wednesday. He confirmed the obvious, that he knew of his new job when he ended the CFMB show. “They made it clear that they were interested in my services for a couple of months,” he said. “They phoned and said we’re interested in bringing you down here.”

I asked him how long it took for him to say yes.

“Shorter than it took to answer this question,” he said.

Price has spent almost all his broadcasting career in Montreal, at CJAD, CFCF/CIQC, and CKGM (Team 990/TSN 690). Before that he spent three years in New Brunswick and three days in Regina. (“I was out covering a press conference and CJAD called me,” he said of the decision to leave that job so quickly.)

But moving to Toronto wasn’t a difficult decision. “The day the Expos left we were ready to go anywhere and we’ve been in that mood for 12 years,” he said.

Not only is the new job a big step up from CFMB and even a step up from his old one at CKGM — it’s in Canada’s largest sports market, and at a higher-rated sports station — but it gives him a chance to talk less about hockey.

“I’m a baseball fan. I love to talk baseball. I’m glad I get to talk about baseball again. (Montreal is) a one-horse town. There’s the Alouettes and Impact, but people want to hear you talk Habs. I have more interests. I love baseball, I love basketball.”

In Toronto, the Leafs are king, but there are also the Blue Jays and the Raptors.

“There’s no better job (in Montreal) than where I’m going. It would have been easier to just stay in my hometown, but this is good.”

So he’s looking for a place to stay in Toronto. Or, well, his family is looking. “I’m not the boss,” he said. “The boss is scouting.”

What about leaving Montreal? Having to talk about the Leafs instead of the Habs? No problem for Price, since he’s kind of indifferent about either team.

“The Canadiens and the Leafs there’s no difference for me,” he said. “When things go bad, I like to see them go really bad. When they’re good I like to see them go good.”

But he hates the Bruins. And that won’t change in Toronto.

Even talking about the Jays gets him to talk about baseball. The Expos don’t exist anymore, so that rivalry isn’t an issue.

And if the Expos came back?

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” he said. “The Expos have been gone for 12 years now, that’s a long time.”

So what will he miss about Montreal?

“Smoked meat and bagels,” he said. He definitely won’t be the first Montreal ex-pat in Toronto who misses Schwartz’s and St-Viateur Bagel.

I also asked him about what he posted to Facebook when he ended the CFMB show, about the English radio market in Montreal and lack of advertisers.

“The problem with the market here is the dwindling language demographic,” he said. He asked me how big Montreal’s English-language market is, and I said it was about the size of Winnipeg. He didn’t really believe it. (Numeris, the company that measures radio ratings, gives Greater Montreal’s anglo market a size of 805,000, and WInnipeg 705,460 in its latest reports.)

But while he said he thought his show was viable, mainly because he didn’t have to worry about covering a lot of overhead in his show’s budget, he put a lot of the blame on himself.

“I did everything, but I’m not a salesman, and I really didn’t do a good job. I did well because I built up a cachet in this town,” he said, noting that a lot of advertisers came to him after he left TSN 690. “I didn’t get out there and sell, and I need to and I didn’t.”

Price is the second former Montreal radio personality to get a job in Toronto this month. Sarah Bartok announced last week she’s joining 93.5 The Move.

UPDATE (Feb. 9): Brady has a long, honest Facebook post today talking about his career, what it’s like to have gotten pushed aside for Blundell, and his new team including Price.

Media News Digest: Ottawa won’t help journalists, layoffs at Maclean’s, Postmedia CEO interviewed

News about news

At the CRTC

  • The broadcasting side is pretty quiet while the commission focuses on the review of its Wireless Code this week.
  • The commission has approved a new FM transmitter for ICI Radio-Canada Première in Sarnia, Ont.
  • The commission has approved the transfer of ownership of Serdy Média (owner of the Évasion and Zeste specialty channels) from Serge Arsenault to his son Sébastien Arsenault.
  • Community radio station CHGA-FM Maniwaki has applied to increase its power as the antenna tower undergoes major maintenance. The new signal would be 16.9kW, up from 2.877kW. It says the increase is necessary to compensate for hilly terrain in the area.

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Analysis: Comparing Super Bowl ads on CTV and FOX

Well, it’s over. After weeks of arguing over whether letting Canadians watch U.S. Super Bowl ads was something we want as a society (often using dubious arguments on either side), Sunday saw the actual broadcast of the first Super Bowl in decades that wasn’t substituted on Canadian television.

The result was predictable. While the U.S. broadcast saw a slight decline in viewership and RDS saw a slight increase (to a new record), CTV saw its audience decline 39% from last year to 4.47 million. Since Nielsen doesn’t track Canadians, and nobody is compiling Fox numbers with Canada’s Numeris, we don’t know exactly how many were watching the U.S. feed, but 40% sounds about as predicted. (Another survey put the number around 33%)

CTV tried to think big to keep viewers on its broadcast, throwing $300,000 in prize money at the problem. That might have worked (it got more than a million entries), but the contest caused problems for many users early on who got errant notifications that their texts were rejected because they didn’t come in time. Bell tells the Globe and Mail it was a glitch, that the entries were valid, and that it was fixed by the second quarter.

But as much as Watch to Win hosts Kate Beirness and Tessa Bonhomme did their best through at least 10 live commercial breaks (most of which were 30 seconds long), their constant presence — taking up almost six minutes of the three-hour game — probably turned some people off.

The bigger problem remains, though: People want to watch the commercials. And Canada’s Super Bowl commercials just don’t have anywhere near the same impact as the U.S. ones, most of which didn’t air on CTV.

To give you an idea of the difference, I recorded the Super Bowl on both channels on Sunday, and listed every advertisement during the actual game below. Where available, I’ve embedded YouTube videos of the ads (many advertisers put longer versions on YouTube than what was seen on TV, I’ve noted that below where it happens).

Note that these numbers are based on the CTV station being CFCF Montreal, with some local ads, and the Fox station being WFFF Burlington, also with some local Vermont ads. The substitution times are based on Videotron’s substitution of the standard-definition digital channel. (Since substitution is done by the TV provider, there could be some variance across providers.)

Not including movie trailers, there were only four or five (depending on your definition) of the classic type of “big game” ads that appeared on both CTV and Fox — big budget, new, and either funny or inspiring. Most of the most talked-about ones never made it to Canadian television.

Those ads that did air only in Canada were mostly the same type of hard-sell car ads, bank ads and network promos we’ve seen hundreds of times before. There were a few ads that came close — A Peoples jewellery ad, a 60-second ad from Wealthsimple, one from National Car Rental, and a cute Coca-Cola ad that would have had more of an impact had it not been almost a year old. But between mostly reheated leftovers and the real deal, it’s unsurprising many Canadians went with Fox.

If CTV is going to really get people to watch the Super Bowl on Canadian TV, it needs to give them a reason to. A contest is one way, but a better one would be to have some of those same big-game ads, preferably with a Canadian twist to them. The kind of ads that get people talking afterward. Like this one that Netflix did:

Or maybe they can cut some better network promos to promote they Canadian content.

Or, alternatively, they could provide other programming during commercial breaks or part of commercial breaks that people would want to watch. Bonus coverage from the Super Bowl itself, if such a thing is possible, for example.

I know it’s not easy. But as the traditional commercial break becomes less relevant in an era of PVRs and 30-second skip buttons, Canadian broadcasters are going to have to find a way to evolve anyway. And as much as this change hurts the Canadian broadcasting industry, it’s too popular for either the CRTC or the federal government to want to overturn.

By the numbers

  • Total length of non-substituted Super Bowl, including ads: 170 minutes
  • Total time of ads: 3,580 seconds (59 minutes, 40 seconds)
  • Percentage of total length made up of ads: 35%
  • CTV (CFCF):
    • Time spent on CTV’s Watch to Win contest (including promos): 355 seconds (5 minutes, 55 seconds)
    • Time spent on network promos (CTV, TSN, Discovery, Crave TV): 420 seconds (7 minutes)
    • Time spent on local ads: 90 seconds
    • Time spent on Bell Canada ads (excluding Bell Media): 205 seconds (3 minutes, 25 seconds)
  • Fox (WFFF):
    • Time spent on network promos (Fox, Fox Sports, FX): 380 seconds (6 minutes, 20 seconds)
    • Time spent on local ads: 375 seconds (6 minutes, 15 seconds)

Note: This post is broken up into several pages because of all the YouTube embeds. Continue to Page 2

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Sarah Bartok hired by Toronto’s 93.5 The Move

Sarah Bartok is back on the air (93.5 The Move)

Those hoping that Sarah Bartok would find another on-air job after being let go from The Beat 92.5 last spring (chiefly among them Bartok herself) had their wish granted this week, though those hoping it would be in Montreal will be left disappointed.

Instead, Bartok’s new job is as a swing announcer on Toronto’s CFXJ-FM (93.5 The Move), owned by Newcap Radio. Her first shift was Saturday, and she’ll be filling in on the schedule where needed, including on the morning show Monday to Wednesday this week.

Bartok made the announcement on her Facebook page on Friday.

The Move (formerly Flow 93.5) has a pop music format similar to the station she left (not to mention the purple colour on the website). The 16-year-old station, which was owned by CHUM, sold to Bell and then offloaded to Newcap when Bell bought Astral and hit ownership limits in Toronto, has a 3.7kW signal and a 2.2% market share in the latest Numeris ratings report, which is low even in a market so saturated that not a single station has a double-digit share. But Toronto’s a much bigger market than Montreal, so she’ll still have plenty of listeners.

Elliott Price ends show on CFMB

Elliott Price

UPDATE (Feb. 8): Sportsnet has announced that Elliott Price will be co-host of the morning show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto.

Elliott Price is pulling the plug on Sportsnet Tonight after a year on CFMB 1280 AM.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Price thanked sponsors, contributors and listeners, but had a message for those who didn’t choose to advertise, as well as Montreal’s English community in general:

Many had a chance to advertise and chose not to.
Although reaching out to you was not one of my strengths.
I hope in the future you can see past your wallets.

If you have a chance and a few dollars and think it important, please invest in our future or soon none of us will live here or our culture will be completely gone.

Price said he’ll take a vacation as he contemplates what next to do with his life.

Price began airing a show on CFMB on Valentine’s Day 2016, three months after he was laid off by TSN 690. It started as a weekly Sunday night show called Price is Right, but was upgraded to a two-hour daily show in June. In August, it announced a deal with Sportsnet and changed its name to Sportsnet Tonight with Elliott Price. At the time, I asked whether the show was viable, and Price said it was about halfway to that point. It seems he couldn’t get it the rest of the way there.

Sportsnet Tonight’s final show is tonight, 8-10pm, on CFMB 1280 AM. There’s been no announcement of what will replace it on CFMB’s schedule.

Media News Digest: Shattered Mirror critics, La Presse+ readership numbers, RIP Benoît Aubin

Wilder Weir was up to his old tricks again last night.

News about news

  • The Public Policy Forum report on the future of journalism in Canada (called Shattered Mirror) has some critics in journalism. Andrew Potter, former editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Citizen, tackles ideas that would have the government deciding what is journalism, and goes on a rant about journalism schools. Paul Wells also is against government meddling in journalism, in a more general sense. Michael Geist unsurprisingly raises an alarm about talk of tightening the fair dealing exception to copyright law.
  • The Union des artistes has reached a deal with Radio-Canada to compensate artists who appear on talk shows or other similar programs. It used to be they’d get to plug themselves (a series or movie they’re in, an upcoming album, a stage tour) but get no money. Now they’ll get $110 for appearing on RDI.
  • The Globe and Mail’s public editor explains how the paper reported on the Quebec City mosque shooting in the hours that followed it, and why it was the second most prominent story on the front page Monday instead of the most prominent one. Sylvia Stead says journalists were working hard to confirm facts, but little was known about the shooting in the first couple of hours, and the Globe wanted to be cautious about reporting details. Her column also notes that the Globe doesn’t have a journalist in Quebec City.

At the CRTC

  • The commission’s biggest story is happening in a courtroom in Toronto, where Raj Shoan, the former commissioner who was fired by the government after a harassment complaint and falling out with chair Jean-Pierre Blais, is challenging his dismissal in court.

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Be careful what you wish for from all-news channels

“C’est le terrorisme à l’envers.”

Those were words that Pierre Bruneau would have liked to have had back (he apologized for them on Monday). He said them during a live telephone interview with Montreal mayor Denis Coderre just before midnight Sunday on TVA, hours after a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City left six people dead.

Bruneau was thinking out loud about how this was an apparent terrorist attack against Muslims, when we normally think of terrorism committed by Muslims (even though, with one major exception, such attacks are extremely rare in North America). He didn’t mean to say something ignorant or racist, but it kind of came out that way, at least for many of the now hundreds of thousands who have seen a video of the exchange on Facebook.

Bruneau is a veteran and a professional. He’s been dealing with breaking news for decades. And when even he starts mouthing off about n’importe quoi, it’s because there’s something wrong with the situation he’s been put in.

On Sunday evening, as news spread about the attack, people were hungry for information. Many of them lashed out on Twitter about the lack of live coverage on all-news channels. While LCN and RDI went live with special programming, CTV News Channel and CBC News Network did not at first. Critics tied the lack of live coverage to budget cuts, laziness and ignorance of anything happening outside of Toronto. John Doyle at the Globe and Mail made a column out of it. Even Le Soleil’s Richard Therrien blasted Radio-Canada for not more aggressively cutting into its main network programming, and then only doing so locally.

There are legitimate reasons to criticize CTV, CBC or other broadcasters. They’ve all had to undergo cuts to their newsrooms (mainly because their revenue has decreased as the market for TV advertising goes down). They tend to have minimal or even no staffing on weekends and overnight, and in a place like Quebec City where there’s no local English TV station, merely a bureau at the National Assembly, your immediate coverage is dependent on a single journalist and her cameraman.

The English networks could have gone live from Toronto, as the French ones did from Montreal, after the news broke around 9pm. But with the Quebec City reporter still rushing to the scene, and few details to go on, they’d be stuck spending 30 seconds recapping what they know (there was a shooting at a mosque, several people are dead and more injured, police have made arrests) and then filling the rest of every hour with their imaginations.

I’m one of those people who think 24-hour news networks should be focused on breaking news. After all, that’s what they’re there for, right? But I’m not sure special programming right off the bat is necessarily the way to go for an incident that is not a safety threat to the public. If they’d done that, we’d probably be roasting them over the coals for all the stupid ignorant stuff they said over the air to fill time, like we’re doing to Bruneau.

So let me propose a different solution to breaking news on all-news channels (and their related over-the-air networks):

  1. On the news channel, break into programming to announce what happened once it’s confirmed something actually did happen. Explain what you know and what you don’t know, and promise regular updates. Go back to regular or filler programming.
  2. Add a banner, ticker or other permanent on-screen element to whatever programming is airing explaining the news and giving the latest details. (This is standard on RDI when major news breaks but they can’t go live yet.)
  3. If your network has an over-the-air station in the affected market, and there’s a possible public safety issue, put that banner or ticker on top of programming there, include whatever public safety information needs to be communicated, and direct people to the news channel for more information. When the news channel has special programming ready, duplicate that channel’s feed on the local station.
  4. For the rest of the network, air a 30-second report instead of the first commercial at the next commercial break, directing people to the all-news channel (or if you don’t have one, your website) for more information.
  5. On the news channel, every half hour, give a 30-second (or however long it takes) update from the anchor desk, again being as transparent as possible about what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re working on and cautioning that early information (even from official sources) can be wrong.
  6. When enough resources are mobilized that you’re confident you can have enough real information to air without having to resort to speculation to fill airtime, begin full-time special programming.
  7. Find things that can be cued or cut to when your anchor has run out of information to give. Maybe a two-minute roundup of the other headlines of the day. Even something simple like a graphic wall of text summarizing the known information so far. Do everything you can to resist the urge to start speculating, or asking other people to speculate, about breaking news.
  8. Once the influx of news has died down, especially if it’s now late at night, sign off from special programming and go back to updates every half-hour or hour.

Networks that run news channels need to do better jobs when news breaks late at night. So many major stories — the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the disaster in Lac-Mégantic and this — broke at night on the weekend, limiting the networks’ ability to cover them.

But like with those stories, there was plenty of coverage eventually. Every network and all the major newspapers sent reporters to Quebec City, either Sunday night or Monday morning. In fact, all three English-language national newscasts were anchored from Quebec City on Monday night (what journalistic use there is sending the anchors to Quebec City so they could deliver a newscast outside in the cold is still beyond my comprehension).

Plus, most of the information people were getting on Twitter or online came from the same journalists that were covering the incident for the major networks or newspapers. And yet people say stupid things like how they don’t need mainstream news because they have Twitter.

So the issue wasn’t a lack of interest, it was a lack of information early on, combined with difficulty mobilizing journalistic resources in an area that has few English-language journalists and at a time when most journalists in general aren’t working.

There are things that can be worked on there (though, of course, no consumer wants to pay for it) that may speed up the process a bit. But there is no circumstance in which you can produce a journalistically solid hour-long newscast about a breaking news event on a half-hour’s notice. You can’t make the authorities work faster, nor can you do their job for them. So in the first few hours of any breaking news story, you’re still left with some bad choices: wait before going live and continue with regular programming (pissing off the John Doyles of the world), produce live programming that repeats little information ad nauseam, have a lot of dead air, or ask your journalists to start doing what people on social media were doing on Sunday night: Repeating rumours, speculation and poorly-informed hot takes and emotional reactions rather than facts.

Which would you choose? My proposal above is the closest thing I can come to a compromise, but even the best-laid plans can easily fail when something big happens without warning.

Heather Backman, Paul Beauregard laid off at CHOM

Heather Backman

Heather Backman, who was Terry DiMonte’s co-host on CHOM’s morning show since he returned to Montreal in 2012, is no longer in that role. Backman updated her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles to remove references to the station, and CHOM’s website no longer lists her as co-host for the morning show.

Paul Beauregard, who returned to CHOM recently to fill in on various shifts, is also out.

I wrote about their layoffs in a story for the Montreal Gazette, which also includes some analysis of the financial situation of Bell Media’s radio stations and the market (albeit with figures from 2014-15).

Matthew Garrow, Director of News, Local Stations, Sports, Discovery Networks & Community Investment for Bell Media, confirmed that there are layoffs happening at CHOM, without mentioning any names:

I can confirm that we are reducing several positions at CHOM. These changes are the result of the challenges Bell Media and other Canadian media companies are facing due to increasing international competition, the evolution of broadcast technologies, and advertising and regulatory pressure.

We have no further comment on the matter at this time.

Backman herself had no immediate comment, but posted a message to Facebook on Tuesday morning thanking DiMonte, producer Esteban Vargas and former bosses Martin Spalding and the late André Lallier.

Beauregard also declined to comment.

The cuts at CHOM are part of wider cuts at Bell Media nationwide. They include:

Bell hasn’t said how many people it’s letting go across the country, where they are, or if there are other cuts to come.

UPDATE (Jan. 31): DiMonte addressed Backman’s departure at the beginning of Tuesday’s morning show, saying the decision was “not mine to make”, and citing the disruptive nature of employment in the industry. He said the position of morning show co-host has been eliminated and the show would “take a new direction, and we’re moving forward without Heather.” He said Monday was “tough” and she will be missed but the station wishes her the best. (He posted a nearly identical message on his Facebook page.)

This was DiMonte’s only unprompted statement about Backman during Tuesday’s show, so most listeners didn’t hear it. But it was brought up during the 7am hour when contributor Pierre Houde brought it up to pay tribute. Here’s what he said:

The Beat’s Nat Lauzon was among those local personalities to (at least publicly) show support to her dismissed friend:

Kim Sullivan, who worked at both Virgin Radio and The Beat, also paid tribute:

CTV hopes $300,000 in prizes will keep Canadians on its Super Bowl feed

Bell Media has had two years to prepare for the implementation of the CRTC’s simultaneous substitution decision. Now, with a little more than a week to go until Super Bowl LI, the first that will be exempt from simsub, CTV has announced how it will try to keep Canadians glued to its feed instead of switching to Fox for the U.S. commercials:

  • Prizes. The headliner is $300,000 in cash prizes (including the $150,000 grand prize), plus a 2017 Nissan Titan and tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis. During the broadcast, “hosted by TSN’s Kate Beirness and Tessa Bonhomme, who will reveal the winning keyword for each prize. To be entered into each draw, fans can simply text the winning keyword along with their name and city.” Obviously, this will only be available on the Canadian feed.
  • Pregame and postgame shows. The CRTC has clarified that the simsub rule exemption applies only during the game itself. The hours and hours of pregame shows will be simsubbed, as will a half-hour postgame show featuring the awarding of the Vince Lombardi trophy. This means that CTV, rather than rushing to start an hour-long drama at 10pm when the game is just ending, will stick with the postgame broadcast for half an hour and have a smoother transition.
  • More channels. In addition to CTV, the game will also be broadcast on CTV Two and TSN. This isn’t really necessary, since few Canadians have access to CTV Two or TSN but not CTV, but putting the Super Bowl on these other channels increases the chances that someone picking a channel randomly from their guide will stumble on a Bell-controlled Canadian feed rather than a U.S. Fox affiliate. The game will also be streamed online on CTV.ca and CTV Go. That online rebroadcast is not regulated by the CRTC, and there will be no (legal) way to watch a Fox station online in Canada.
  • Letterkenny. Rather than an hour-long drama at 10pm, CTV will air, for the first time on regular television, the first episode of the Crave TV original comedy series Letterkenny, commercial-free, at 10:30pm after the postgame show. (Because the series has really coarse language, CTV is going to delay the airings in the Mountain and Pacific time zones so they air at 10:30pm local time instead of just after the game.) Fox is airing 24: Legacy, whose Canadian rights are held by City TV. CTV has, to their credit, been using the coveted post-Super Bowl spot about half the time to showcase original Canadian series. Here are CTV’s Super Bowl leadout shows since it won the rights in 2007 (2010 was the only case in which CTV also aired the program the U.S. Super Bowl broadcaster followed up the game with):
    • 2008: Nip/Tuck (U.S.)
    • 2009: The Mentalist (U.S.)
    • 2010: Undercover Boss (U.S.)*
    • 2011: Flashpoint (Canada)
    • 2012: The Voice (U.S.)
    • 2013: Motive (Canada)
    • 2014: Masterchef Canada
    • 2015: Masterchef Canada
    • 2016: Legends of Tomorrow (U.S.)
  • Pushing pre-viewing of U.S. ads. CTV is encouraging Canadians to visit BigGameAds.ca to watch “all the latest American SUPER BOWL ads.” That sounds like an interesting project until you learn that the page is just a redirect to an unaffiliated website that is embedding YouTube videos of some ads. Other ads haven’t been released yet, and in some cases we’re only going to see trailers for ads until they actually air live. A redirect to YouTube’s AdBlitz channel might have made more sense.

One thing that wasn’t announced is anything special about the Canadian ads themselves. Bell says it has spots from Nissan, Coca-Cola, The Keg, Mazda, Scotiabank, Subway, Sun Life Financial and Tim Hortons, and no doubt some of them will have put decent money into those ads, but Tim Hortons isn’t exactly Budweiser.

Will the contest and other measures be enough? No. But maybe CTV won’t lose as many viewers to Fox as it had worried it would. And if it keeps most of its viewers, the Super Bowl on CTV could easily remain the most watched television program of the year in Canada.

Super Bowl LI airs Sunday, Feb. 5 at 6:30pm on CTV, CTV Two, TSN, RDS and Fox, the latter with American commercials between kickoff and the end of the game.

 

Media News Digest: CRTC hiring, Chronicle-Herald strike hits 1 year, layoffs at Postmedia

News about news

At the CRTC

  • With the commission’s seats slowly emptying out, the federal government has finally started the process of filling them, posting notices for several jobs: chair, vice-chair broadcasting, and members for Ontario and Manitoba/Saskatchewan. Deadlines to apply are Feb. 20. The non-chair positions say that “With the exception of decision-making responsibilities, Members report to the Chairperson,” which is actually a point under some contention at the moment in a legal appeal by the former Ontario member, Raj Shoan. Chair Jean-Pierre Blais’s term ends this year, but the posting of his position doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be re-appointed.
  • The commission has approved the purchase, for $1.5 million, of a majority stake (80.1% of voting shares, 50% of non-voting shares) of World Fishing Network to Keywest Marketing, owned by Canadians Mark Yelic and Hugh McKinnon.

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20 bogus arguments about the CRTC and Super Bowl ads

With less than three weeks to go until Super Bowl LI, the rhetoric is heating up about a decision made by the CRTC two years ago to end simultaneous substitution during the Super Bowl, now that it’s about to finally come into effect.

There’s good reason for this. Simultaneous substitution is worth $250 million to the Canadian television industry, according to one estimate, and substitution for the Super Bowl alone — the most watched program on Canadian TV every year with an average around 7 million (plus another 1 million on RDS) — is worth $18 million a year to Bell Media, which owns the Canadian rights through 2019. There’s a huge financial interest for Bell to keep fighting this.

And so the decision is facing an appeal by Bell Media, though the court declined to stay the decision in the meantime, so it remains in force pending a decision.

Ever more desperate, Bell Media, the NFL and other allies in the fight appealed to the government directly, lobbying them to engage in creative manoeuvres to overrule the CRTC. The government appears disinterested in stepping in to overturn a populist decision by a supposedly arm’s-length regulator.

In the arguments for and against the decision, from interest groups, newspaper columnists and others, there have been a lot of good points and a lot of poor ones made. Those who want to oversimplify this issue have taken plenty of logical short cuts that can lead casual observers to incorrect conclusions.

Here are some of the arguments used by both sides that I’ve heard over the past few weeks (in some cases I’ve included links to those who have used them or implied them), and why I think those arguments are invalid.

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  • Clare Hollingworth, war correspondent who broke the news about the start of the Second World War.

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