Category Archives: Media

CRTC orders CJMS 1040 AM to shut down Aug. 31

After more than a decade of the station failing to meet its licence obligations, the CRTC decided Friday it has had enough, and refused to renew the licence of St-Constant country music station CJMS 1040 AM. As a result, it will no longer legally be allowed on the air after Aug. 31.

The decision reads:

In light of the severity and recurrence of the current instances of non-compliance; of the station’s history of non-compliance and the licensee’s actions, which demonstrate a poor understanding of its conditions of licence and regulatory obligations, or a lack of willingness to respect them; of its inability to implement the necessary measures to ensure compliance; and of its disregard for the Commission’s authority and for its responsibilities as a broadcaster, the Commission is convinced that the imposition of conditions of licence or of mandatory orders, a suspension, or a short-term licence renewal would not be effective measures. Consequently, the Commission finds that not renewing the licence is the only appropriate measure in the circumstances.

In a separate decision also released Friday, the commission also refused to renew the licence of troublesome station CFOR-FM Maniwaki.

CJMS, which launched in 1999, has a long history of licence compliance issues, and might have had the licence revoked in 2013 had its owner of the time, Alexandre Azoulay, not agreed to sell it to Jean Ernest Pierre, owner of Haitian station CJWI (CPAM 1410). When CJMS was last asked to appear before the commission, Azoulay surprised the commissioners by blaming his father’s dementia for the compliance issues.

There’s also the fact that Michel Mathieu, a broadcast consultant who was the original licensee of CJMS, filed a strongly-worded intervention demanding the CRTC pull the license.

The decision should worry Pierre about the future of CJWI, which like CJMS has a long list of compliance issues and was the subject of mandatory orders that appeared to be insufficient to keep it in line. But CJWI has more original programming and is more vital to its community than CJMS, and the fact that the CRTC didn’t issue a decision Friday, giving the stations exactly one month before they were to shut down, suggests it might be given one last chance.

CJMS could appeal the decision, by asking the federal government to intervene or by asking the federal court to overturn the decision if it can find some error in law. Pierre told the Journal de Montréal he’s looking at options. But neither are likely to succeed. Instead, if someone wants to start a new commercial radio station serving St-Constant, there’s a transmitter that can probably be bought for pretty cheap.

Other country options

So if you’re a fan of country music in Montreal, where can you go for your fix? There aren’t any big commercial country stations here like in other Canadian markets, but you have options besides going online:

CJMS 1040 AM, CJWI 1410 AM fight for their lives in CRTC hearing

Jean Ernest Pierre is appearing in front of the CRTC on Wednesday hoping to save the two radio stations he owns.

Country music station CJMS 1040 AM and Haitian station CPAM Radio Union (CJWI 1410 AM) are two of the five stations that were told to appear at a CRTC hearing in Gatineau to justify their licence renewal applications, and explain why those renewals should not be for short terms or straight up denied because of their repeated non-compliance with their licence obligations. (The hearing, originally scheduled in person on May 12, will now be by teleconference June 16-18.)

Both CJMS and CJWI not only have short-term licences already, but both are subject to mandatory orders to require they remain in compliance with their obligations. Both stations have nevertheless had compliance issues, the commission says.

CJWI and CJMS had their licences renewed for two years in 2018 and three mandatory orders issued to each station after failure to comply with mainly paperwork-related issues.

For CJMS, which hasn’t had a compliant licence term since it was first licensed in 1998, “the Commission remains concerned that CJMS continues to be in severe and recurring non-compliance and that this is the fifth consecutive licence term in which the station has been found in non-compliance with regulatory requirements,” it said two years ago. Now, in its sixth licence term, it is still not compliant.

Compliance issues

CJMS

  • Missing financial statements for the 2018-19 broadcast year. Pierre blamed this on the accountant uploading a file that may have been too large for the CRTC’s server.
  • Inaccurate music lists, comparing the station’s auto-evaluation report with its music list for the period of Nov. 4-10, 2018. Pierre said some songs were miscategorized.

CJWI

  • Missing financial statements for the 2018-19 broadcast year. Pierre blamed this on the accountant uploading a file that may have been too large for the CRTC’s server.
  • Music quotas (based on a self-evaluation and music list for the period of July 7-13, 2019):
    • Too much popular music (31.32% vs. 30% maximum)
    • Too much francophone popular music (25.6% vs. 15% maximum)
    • Not enough world beat and international music (68.68% vs. 70% minimum)
    • Not enough of its world beat and international music selections were Canadian (15.8% vs. 35% minimum)
  • Inaccurate music lists (based on the same self-evaluation and music list). Pierre said music-related non-conformities were because some songs played in the system but were muted by the host and so never actually broadcast.

In addition to these, both stations are accused of failing to abide by mandatory orders requiring them to remain in compliance with their licence conditions.

Interventions

The applications prompted four interventions, all of which were sent by fax and seemed to share a similar format. Broadcast consultant Michel Mathieu, who co-founded CJMS, and three others said the commission should not renew the licences because of the compliance issues, and brought up additional ones, including that CJMS had been filled with “ethnic” programming from the Haitian station and that CJMS had been continuing to broadcast repeat programming hosted by Pascal Poudrier, who died two years ago.

Pierre called criticisms of Haitian-Canadians on CJMS “racist” and said conformity issues were due to “technical problems” and non-renewal of licences would be an extreme reaction to this.

The CRTC hearing into licence renewals of non-compliant stations begins June 16 with CICR-FM Parrsboro, N.S., and CKMN-FM Rimouski/Mont-Joli, Quebec, followed by CJWI and CJMS on June 17 and CFOR-FM Maniwaki on June 18. Mathieu has been invited to speak as an intervener on the 17th, following which Pierre will be given a chance to respond.

Radio-Classique 99,5 is dead; WKND 99,5 launches June 17

Those who hadn’t paid attention when the financial and regulatory process was under way were probably surprised when they tuned to their favourite classical music station on Sunday and heart franco pop music instead.

Leclerc Communication, which got CRTC approval for its acquisition of CJPX-FM in April, officially took over the station at 2pm on Friday, according to a Facebook post from Nicolas Leclerc, vice-president of sales and marketing. Quebec City’s CJSQ-FM was not part of the sale and remains a Radio Classique station, though who knows how long it can hold out without a Montreal big brother.

Leclerc will relaunch CJPX-FM as WKND 99,5, with the same branding as its Quebec City station, on Wednesday at 5pm. Until then, its programming is 100% francophone music. Leclerc says the station will start with 100% music programming for the first few weeks before official programming begins.

WKND’s website is montreal.wknd.fm. No spoilers there about programming.

Énergie 98,9 drops talk format, goes back to rock music

Maybe Quebec City isn’t such a strange creature after all. On Friday, Énergie 98,9 (CHIK-FM) told its talk personalities their services are no longer required and it would go back to being a rock music station.

Let go were afternoon host Jérôme Landry, who had been there for four years, plus morning host Stéphane Gasse, as well as Laurent Gaulin, Samuel Matte, Alexandre Tétreault, Marie-Josée Longval, Pierre-Yves Boies and Nicolas Lacroix.

Bell Media told me it would not comment on layoffs or say how many there were.

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Radio ratings: COVID-19 causes sports radio audiences to plummet

I had an idea for a blog post with a cool analysis showing the changes in radio listening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would show, through a bunch of number-crunching, that Canadians turned away from music radio stations as they stopped going to work, but kept in touch with news-talk stations.

Unfortunately, the data didn’t have my back here. I compared average minute audience measured by Numeris from this spring (March to May) versus last spring, and looked at the relative change in audience. While some news-talkers did well (98.5 and CJAD in Montreal), others did badly (CBC Radio One here and in some other cities).

There were some undeniable trends, though, and they aren’t terribly surprising:

Sports radio: Without sports, there’s much less interest in hearing it or talking about it. Every sports-talk station in Canada’s five largest markets lost audience, between 50% to 72%. Hardest hit was Montreal’s 91,9 Sports.

All-traffic stations were also hit, but because there are only two of them in Canada and they have very low audience, it’s hard to really quantify that.

Less listening overall: Montreal’s total average-minute audience was 202,600 a year ago, and 167,400 this spring, the lowest level since Numeris began publishing overall AMA numbers in 2015. Across Canada, the same deal, with each of the five major markets losing between 10 and 18% of its average audience.

So with that out of the way, here’s how the ratings break down by city:

Montreal

Total average minute audience, spring 2020 (vs. spring 2019):

  1. 98,5fm: 38,900 (up from 32,000)
  2. Rythme FM; 20,200 (down from 22,000)
  3. ICI Radio-Canada Première: 18,700 (down from 21,800)
  4. CJAD: 14,500 (up from 14,100)
  5. CKOI: 12,300 (down from 19,000)
  6. CHOM 97.7: 12,100 (down from 15,900)
  7. The Beat 92.5: 11,600 (down from 17,200)
  8. Rouge: 11,100 (down from 19,700)
  9. Énergie 94,3: 8,300 (down from 11,700)
  10. Virgin Radio 95.9: 6,700 (down from 9,700)
  11. ICI Musique: 4,100 (down from 5,100)
  12. CBC Radio One: 3,900 (down from 6,100)
  13. CBC Music: 1,400 (down from 1,700)
  14. CHRF AM 980: 1,400 (up from 500)
  15. TSN Radio 690: 1,200 (down from 2,500)
  16. 91,9 Sports: 900 (down from 3,300)
  17. Radio Circulation 730: 100 (down from 300)

Of the 17 measured stations, only three (which I’ve bolded here) saw ratings increases from a year ago. One is CHRF, which has since shut down. The other two are commercial talk stations.

Anglo average minute audience:

  1. CJAD: 13,500
  2. The Beat: 6,800
  3. CHOM: 5,600
  4. CBC Radio One: 3,600
  5. Virgin: 3,100
  6. CBC Music: 1,200
  7. TSN 690: 1,100
  8. 98,5fm: 900
  9. ICI Première: 700
  10. Rythme: 600
  11. Énergie: 600

Things got so bad for TSN Radio it dropped below CBC Music in terms of audience share, both among anglos and overall. Meanwhile, Virgin Radio is still behind CBC Radio One and less than half the audience of The Beat. “Montreal’s #1 Hit Music Station” is going to have to do more than replace its morning team to fix this disparity.

Self-congratulations

Toronto

Biggest gains:

  1. Jazz.FM91: 28%*
  2. Q107: 22%
  3. CHFI: 17%
  4. CBC Radio One: 14%

Biggest losses:

  1. TSN Radio 1050: 67%
  2. Sportsnet 590: 67%
  3. G98.7: 53%*
  4. Virgin Radio: 48%
  5. Jewel 88.5: 48%
  6. Energy 95.3: 43%*
  7. Zoomer AM740: 41%

*Station-specific issues probably had a bigger role in these changes: Internal turmoil at Jazz FM and G98.7, and a format change at Energy (formerly Fresh 95.3).

Calgary

Biggest gains:

  1. CBC Music: 38%
  2. 101.5 Today: 32%
  3. Funny 1060: 25%

Biggest losses:

  1. Sportsnet 960: 50%
  2. 90.3 AMP: 50%
  3. Virgin Radio: 36%

Edmonton

Biggest gains:

  1. 840 CFCW: 39%
  2. CBC Radio One: 10%

Biggest losses:

  1. TSN 1260: 61%
  2. Kiss 91.7: 37%
  3. CISN Country: 35%
  4. 95.7 Cruz FM: 34%
  5. 102.3 Now!: 32%

Vancouver

Biggest gains:

  1. CBC Music: 57%
  2. Peak 102.7: 48%
  3. JRfm: 37%
  4. Global News Radio: 37%
  5. BNN Bloomberg: 33%*

Biggest losses:

  1. Sportsnet 650: 71%
  2. AM730 (Traffic): 70%*
  3. Rock 101: 34%
  4. CBC Radio One: 33%
  5. TSN 1040: 23%

*Stations with very low audience will see exaggerated relative changes.

Evanov Radio shuts down CHRF 980 AM

Evanov Radio’s CHRF 980 AM in Montreal announced it has shut down effective midnight Sunday.

Host Serge Plaisance announced on the station’s website that he’s moving to its sister station, CFMB 1280 AM:

Ici Serge Plaisance,

Chers amis auditrices et auditeurs du AM980, CHRF, c’est avec regret que nous vous annonçons la fermeture définitive du AM980, ce dimanche, 31 mai 2020, à minuit.

Un énorme merci de votre écoute, mais heureusement, nous avons une autre station du groupe de Radio Evanov à Montréal, soit le AM 1280, CFMB, une station multilingue, aussi d’une puissance de 50,000 Watts, 24 heures sur 24.

Je vous reverrai, j’espère à cette antenne, avec une nouvelle émission, LES AIIRS DE PLAISANCE , diffusée tous les dimanches de 16 à 18 heures. Prenez note que Johanne Verdon Naturopathe aura son émission tous les lundis de 14 à 15 heures, SANTÉ 360 DEGRÉ et Mario Lipari pour ARCOBALENO MUSICALE, y sera les jeudis de 14 à 15 heures.

C’est un nouveau rendez-vous sur AM 1280 CFMB,

À très bientôt

Serge Plaisance pour Evanov Radio

The news was met with some disappointment from fans on the station’s Facebook page.

Carmela Laurignano, vice-president of Evanov, confirmed to me the company was giving up the licence for the station. Shortly thereafter, the CRTC published a notice that it has revoked the licence at the licensee’s request.

At the end, because of previous cutbacks and COVID-related ones, CHRF was only employing two people, Laurignano said. Both remain with the company, working for CFMB and Evanov’s other Quebec station, CHSV-FM (Jewel 106.7 Hudson).

As I explain in this story for Cartt.ca, Evanov had several reasons for shutting the station down, from the COVID-19 pandemic to a miscalculation of market demand for music on AM and even an obligation to subscribe to Numeris ratings (Numeris policy is all-or-nothing for large broadcasters, with some exceptions that didn’t apply to CHRF). Evanov also puts some blame at the foot of the CRTC for rejecting applications to improve its signals in Toronto that would have given it access to more ad revenue.

CHRF was Evanov’s only French-language radio station. It was awarded the licence as part of a surprisingly competitive CRTC proceeding in 2011 that also saw TSN Radio awarded the 690 frequency (Evanov was given its old 990 frequency and then changed to 980) and TTP Media given a licence for 940 AM.

The plan was for a station called “Radio Fierté” which would target Montreal’s LGBTQ+ community, modelled after the “Pride FM” format in downtown Toronto. But the format lasted less than a year and by the holidays it dropped the brand and moved to a format of Christmas music and Jewel-like easy listening.

“The biggest challenge for the station was that it had to be operated almost as a standalone,” Laurignano said. “There were no programming synergies with our other stations. The news could not be shared in terms of language production. Station imaging, even the sales force for that matter. It requires a dedicated sales force. It just became a situation of the station being subsidized for a long time.”

She didn’t have an exact cumulative figure, but said the losses are in the millions.

Laurignano stressed that the move is in part to protect Evanov’s other Quebec stations. CFMB will remain at the Papineau Ave. studio, and “we’re very dedicated” to it and The Jewel.

The shutdown means a vacancy at 980 (or 990) in Montreal. But even though there were five applicants for two (or three) frequencies in that 2011 hearing, there isn’t much demand for a new full-power AM station here. TTP Media got a licence for its second station at 600 AM (plus a French-language sports station at 850 AM, which it gave up for technical reasons), and Cogeco abandoned plans for an English-language traffic station.

Julia Caron gets to show her love for Quebec City as Quebec AM host

Julia Caron is the new host of Quebec AM (photo: Simon Dumas, via CBC)

I learned a lot about Julia Caron this week, after CBC named her the new permanent host of Quebec AM, the radio show in Quebec City broadcast throughout the province except Montreal and Gatineau.

Over a longer-than-I-expected phone call, she told me about her childhood, her education, her family, her career. But beyond that, I was also interested in hearing from someone who has worked in English in Quebec City for more than a decade about why an anglophone might like to work in a place where few people speak the same language.

But Julia Caron is not an anglophone. Nor is she a francophone. She’s an interesting hybrid of the two, which helps make her a good fit to succeed Susan Campbell in the big chair of that small studio on rue Saint-Jean.

Caron, 34, was born in Halifax, but moved out of there when she was three and spent most of her upbringing in Ontario as part of a military family. “Name a military base in Ontario and I lived there,” she tells me half-jokingly.

The closest thing she has to a home town is Petawawa, Ont., northwest of Ottawa and right on the border of Quebec. Her maternal grandparents live there.

“People like to guess that I’m a franco-ontarian,” she says. And that’s sort of true. Until moving to Quebec City in 2007, she’d never lived in this province, even though all her grandparents have a connection to it. But the franco part isn’t accurate.

“I hate it when people ask me if I’m a francophone or an anglophone,” she says. (She prefers to call herself a franglophone.)

In 2007, the last year of her undergraduate degree studying women’s studies and history at Trent University in Peterborough, Caron took part in an exchange program between Quebec and Ontario. It was a way to ensure she wouldn’t lose her French.

She worked as a tour guide at J.A. Vachon in Ste-Marie-de-Beauce. “Any questions you have about the benefits of Jos Louis,” she told me with a laugh.

“I just felt this warmth here,” she said.

In 2008, she made the move to Quebec City.

For a while, she did what comes naturally to a fully bilingual person in Quebec City: teaching English. But it was hard to earn a living that way, and riding a bus an hour and a half from Cap-Rouge downtown to teach a one-hour course was not ideal.

Enter the 2010 Olympics.

In December 2009, the Olympic torch made its way to Quebec City, and Caron decided to check it out. At one point a journalist asked if she spoke English and could talk about what was going on for the radio.

The journalist was Jacquie Czernin, whose name and voice was very familiar to Caron as an avid CBC Radio listener at the time, but whose face she didn’t immediately recognize.

“After she finished interviewing me, she asked me: are you looking for work?”

Finding someone who can articulate well in English in Quebec City isn’t easy.

Czernin “strongly encouraged me to send my CV to Kim Garrity, who is now my producer,” Caron said.

Caron has worked for CBC in Quebec City ever since. Mostly it was an off-air role, as the researcher for Quebec AM or researcher-technician for Breakaway, a job she still officially had until this week’s announcement. (“Apply for my old gig, it’s a great one,” she interjects.) She also filled in as CBC’s travelling journalist, reporting from communities across Quebec.

With the Quebec AM host chair vacated by Susan Campbell, first as part of a medical leave and then choosing to try another role at CBC, Caron was brought in as a fill-in host, and applied for the permanent job in February.

“It’s been a super-long process,” she tells me. (Even by CBC standards this took a while.) “The pandemic changed everything.”

Since she was already doing the job, and had so many ideas for the show that her interviewers had to ask her to stop listing them, the choice was pretty clear.

So what should listeners expect from the new Julia Caron Quebec AM?

Not much change, at least in the short term. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted most other things to the back burner. “The focus is really on the audience and what they need to know, because things are changing day by day,” she said.

But eventually,  “you might hear a bit more of my passion for the arts,” she said. “It’s one thing I really love doing as a host and haven’t been able to do for a while.”

She also has a bunch of story ideas. One she was willing to share:

“There has been such an expansive appetite for camper vans in Quebec,” she said. Caron bought a 1976 Dodge Tradesman 200 van in 2015 “and it’s been an amazing way to see the province relatively on the cheap.”

Expect to hear about that soon.

And expect to hear more about Caron’s love for her home.

“I absolutely adore everything about Quebec City,” she says. “It’s such a huge privilege to get to (work in English here). … Our listeners are so kind, they’re the kindest people I’ve met in my whole life.”

I asked her what she would say to an anglophone who was considering moving there for a job. Her answer was short: “Do it.”

Despite what outsiders like myself might think, “there is a surprisingly active English-speaking community in Quebec City, you just have to know how to find it.” Even she took a while to find out where anglo culture was thriving there. It may not be the most diverse community, especially when you’re comparing it to greater Toronto, but it’s alive.

“I still would not live anywhere else,” she says.

Not that she could just pick up and go if she wanted to.

Enter Feist.

Caron was going to see a concert featuring the Canadian indie-pop singer and indie rocket Chad VanGaalen when she met a man named Simon “who very quickly charmed me.”

“After my summer in Quebec he promised to visit me in Ontario. I didn’t believe him (but) he did.”

They’ve been together ever since and have a four-year-old daughter together. So she’s in this to stay.

Quebec AM airs 6-8:30am weekdays on CBC Radio One on the Quebec Community Network (CBVE-FM 104.7 and transmitters throughout the province). You can follow Julia Caron on Twitter and Instagram.

Nancy Wood leaves anchor chair: Meanwhile in Montreal, Nancy Wood announced she is leaving her anchor chair this summer, at least temporarily, to join the web desk and try something new. “I may or may not come back to TV…we’ll see how it goes!” she writesSean Henry moves from weekends to fill in for her.

Torstar sold for $52 million — will entrepreneurs fix its business model?

The Toronto Star’s new prospective owners, Jordan Bitove, left, and Paul Rivett (photo: Nordstar Capital)

Since news broke late Tuesday that the Toronto Star’s parent company had agreed to a sale to a pair of investors for the equivalent of $52 million, lots of people have been looking at the political angle, convinced that either:

(a) because the new owners had made donations to Conservative parties (including Maxime Bernier’s leadership campaign), Toronto’s last left-wing paper would become a right-wing one like the rest; or

(b) because they had tipped former Ontario Liberal premier David Peterson as its vice-chair, the paper would become more entrenched as the Red Star so-liberal-its-actually-communist propaganda machine.

In reality, neither is true. In the short term, at least, the Star (and its other newspapers, the Hamilton Spectator, the Waterloo Region Record, the St. Catharines Standard, the Niagara Falls Review, the Welland Tribune, the Peterborough Examiner, Sing Tao and all of the Metroland community papers) will stay the same. The last thing a new investor wants to do is scare off a loyal customer base.

That’s not to say that political allegiances, whether real or imagined, aren’t a problem. It’s uncomfortable, not to mention demoralizing, when journalists are told they can’t participate in protests or express controversial opinions when their bosses openly donate money to political parties and/or used to work for them.

But more important than ensuring its apparent impartiality is ensuring its survival. Torstar as a whole was sold for $52 million. Its 63-cent buyout offer is a premium on its current share price, but a tiny fraction of Torstar’s value before the internet hacked away at its business model. In 2003, Torstar was worth up to $30 a share.

By comparison, Postmedia bought out the Canwest newspapers in 2010 for $1.1 billion, out of bankruptcy protection. Postmedia bought Sun Media in 2015 for $316 million. TVA bought Transcontinental’s 14 magazines for $55.5 million in 2015. Two years earlier, Quebecor sold 74 community newspapers to Transcontinental for $75 million. In 2007, Quebecor’s Sun Media bought Osprey Media (20 dailies and 34 weeklies) for $575 million.

Is Torstar really worth less than all of these? Unfortunately, yes. Because the newspaper business model has collapsed, especially over the past 15 years.

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For my newspaper, 15 years feels like a lifetime

It was 15 years ago today that I walked into the offices of The Gazette, got trained on how to use their software, and began my career as a professional copy editor.

More than a third of my life has been spent employed by this newspaper. And in that time, I’ve never wanted to do anything else, because there’s always something new.

In the past week, as I’ve been doing some pandemic-related cleaning up of old stuff, I went through some old issues I had lying around from years ago, and it amazes me how much this newspaper has changed in that decade and a half.

Of course, I’ve worked with many people who would tell stories about the good ol’ days of hot type, constantly-crashing computer systems, typesetters, darkrooms, presses in the building, managers working late with ashtrays on their desks and alcohol inside them. But those were long before my time, and those times changed mainly because of technology.

In the past 15 years, though, it’s the business that has changed the most. The revenue side of the newspaper business model has crumbled away, and years of cutbacks have forced a much more efficient newsroom that focuses on its core mission to the detriment of the rest. Meanwhile, the demands of an increasingly online readership (and the hope that digital revenue will take over from print before the business collapses) have meant more resources being focused on digital platforms that didn’t exist back then.

To give you an idea of how things have changed, I figured I’d give you a tour of The Gazette in May 2005.

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Media News Digest: COVID, Canadian Jewish News shuts again, NNAs name wrong winner

Hi there. It’s been a while. Might want to sit down for this one, because it’s a bit long.

News about news, COVID-19 edition

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CRTC approves Radio Classique 99.5 sale to Leclerc, conversion to pop music station

Montreal radio listeners who tune to 99.5 FM to hear classical music will soon have to find another source for those runes. On Friday, the CRTC announced it is approving a sale of CJPX-FM from Radio Classique to Leclerc Communication, which will turn it into a pop music with the same WKND brand it uses in Quebec City.

Radio Classique’s other station, CJSQ-FM 92.7 in Quebec City, will remain a classical music station, but I wouldn’t count on it surviving for long now that its big brother has been sold off. Radio Classique is also maintaining its online streaming.

The sale is valued at $4.89 million, with Leclerc having to pay an additional 6% of that value to go to independent funds per the CRTC’s tangible benefits policy.

Leclerc, which tried the same thing with CKLX-FM 91.9 in 2018 (a deal that failed when the CRTC said it couldn’t also buy CHOI Radio X in Quebec City), said it was happy with the decision, and will convert 99.5 to WKND “in the coming months.”

UPDATE (April 28): The CRTC has published the rationale behind the decision. It says there’s no diversity of voices concern since one independent owner has been replaced with another, and “the entry of Leclerc would maintain musical diversity in Montréal, although the musical offering would differ from that currently broadcast by the station.” It also noted that the station had not been profitable since 2014, and other broadcasters (Radio-Canada, Stingray and SiriusXM) also provide classical music programming, though none are on analog FM.

CRTC approves Bell’s purchase of V

In a decision released Friday afternoon, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced it has approved the acquisition of the V television network by Bell Media, filling one of the few remaining holes in Bell’s multi-platform empire.

The V network’s five owned-and-operated stations (it also has three affiliate stations that aren’t affected by the transaction) will become part of the Bell group as of Sept. 1, and have new conditions of licence, including an incremental increase to the amount of local programming and local news they are required to broadcast:

2020-21:

  • All stations: 5 hours local programming and 2.5 hours locally reflective programming per week

2021-22:

  • CFJP-DT Montréal and CFAP-DT Québec: 8.5 hours local programming and 4.25 hours locally reflective programming per week
  • Other stations (Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Sherbrooke): Same as 2020-21

Bell has committed to exceeding those requirements.

The CRTC has also increased Bell’s requirements for Canadian programming, which were 35% for its French channels (RDS, Canal Vie, Vrak, Canal D et al) and 10% for V, up to 40% to for the combined group.

For Programs of National Interest (mainly expensive scripted programs), which became a point of contention in this proceeding, the CRTC has sided with critics that said Bell should be forced to keep it at 18% for the entire group instead of averaging the group between the 18% for its existing French-language channels and the 10% that V was previously subject to.

The CRTC calculated tangible benefits at $3.1 million, split between the Canada Media Fund (60%) and the Bell Fund (40%). The latter, a certified independent production fund, will spend the money solely on French-language initiatives.

Bell welcomed the decision, without giving any specifics on its plans. The company told the CRTC it would expect to get newsrooms back running at the V stations by next January, and those newsrooms would be independent from those run by CTV.

The acquisition also includes Noovo.ca, which is V’s online video hub and whose change of ownership does not require CRTC approval.

The specialty channels Elle Fictions (formerly MusiquePlus) and MAX (formerly Musimax) remain under the control of Maxime Rémillard and with the same minority shareholders including the Caisse de dépôt, Investissement Québec and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ. Another CRTC decision regroups them as their own separate group, whose name is to be determined.

UPDATE (May 7): Quebecor has filed notice in court that it may appeal the decision, once the CRTC releases its reasons.

Quebec’s regional dailies go weekly as COVID-19 devastates news media

The Coopérative nationale de l’information indépendante, the group that took over the six regional dailies formerly owned by Groupe Capitales Médias, has decided to suspend daily print editions and keep only the Saturday edition of each of those newspapers as they face a sudden disappearance of commercial ad revenue.

Affected are Le Soleil in Quebec City, Le Droit in Ottawa/Gatineau, La Tribune in Sherbrooke, La Voix de l’Est in Granby, Le Nouvelliste in Trois-Rivières and Le Quotidien in Saguenay.

They’re also laying off 143 workers, almost half their staff, temporarily during this crisis.

And no refunds “for the moment” because they don’t have enough staff to handle that.

This, less than a month after the group said it expected to be profitable in two years.

It’s just the latest media outlet to have to make drastic measures as COVID-19 causes traditional advertisers to pull their ads in what BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman calls a “media extinction event.”

Among the dramatic changes in Canada:

If the crisis continues over the long term, the situation is likely to get worse.

It’s a perfect storm of problems:

  • The crisis itself has put increased pressure on news outlets, particularly television and radio, to increase coverage
  • Absences due to sickness or self-isolation measures
  • Event advertisers pulling ads because there are no more events to advertise
  • Local businesses pulling ads because they’re closed
  • Online advertisers opting out of placing ads on pages related to the outbreak
  • Fewer newsstand sales of newspapers because of those closed businesses
  • Less subscription revenue because newspapers and TV channels have considered themselves morally obligated to provide COVID-19 coverage for free
  • No more sports or arts to drive audience numbers

There are some effects working in the other direction — higher audience for news content, some virus-related government advertising — but the impact on the bottom line is very negative.

Governments have acknowledged this, and in Quebec at least, we may see some additional direct financial assistance to the media. Unifor is calling for emergency measures from the federal government, and it looked like they listened, with Justin Trudeau announcing new measures would be coming, but that turned out to be false.

So for now, the guillotine continues to fall day after day.

UPDATE: J-Source has mapped out how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected media across the country.

CBC suspends local TV newscasts amid COVID-19 outbreak

Updated April 15 with some 11pm newscasts returning.

Local news is vital. It provides an essential service, especially in times of emergency. People rely on local broadcasters to provide them up-to-the-minute information told by local journalists.

So what does the CBC do during an unprecedented public health crisis? It shuts it all down.

The public broadcaster announced Wednesday that effective immediately it is “consolidating” its TV news coverage, and replacing the 6pm and 11pm local newscasts at all of its stations (except CBC North, which provides news in Inuktitut) with CBC News Network.

According to a memo sent to staff this morning, the decision was made because of a lack of staff at CBC’s Toronto Broadcast Centre, which handles master control (why it has a lack of staff is not explained), as well as “much stricter newsgathering protocols.”

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Radio ratings: Virgin fails to catch up, CJAD in long-term decline

Numeris has released its top-line PPM ratings data for Nov. 25 to Feb. 23.

The numbers for Montreal show little change from the previous quarter, or the past few years, really, with CJAD at the top among anglophones and CHMP-FM 98,5 ahead among francophones.

This lack of change is bad news for Virgin Radio 95.9, which spent a lot of effort promoting its new morning show hosted by Vinny Barrucco and Shannon King. We’re two full quarters into this change and The Beat still has twice the audience of Virgin. The sacking of program director Mark Bergman (who’s now at The Beat) and Freeway and Natasha haven’t moved the overall numbers.

Meanwhile, down the hall at CJAD, the long-term trend continues downward. In 2015, the average minute audience overall (averaged over 24/7) was 15,000. Now it’s around 12,000.

The Beat, CBC, CHOM and TSN 690 have kept about flat over that time, and haven’t shown any major change this winter.

On the francophone side, Rythme FM is continuing to re-establish itself as the dominant music station after facing more competition from Rouge, and 98,5fm is holding off Radio-Canada.

Horn-tooting

Meanwhile, in Toronto, TSN 1050 finally beat Sportsnet’s 590 The Fan with its morning and afternoon shows (among men 25-54 anyway), which Toronto Sports Media notes has a lot to do with how unstable The Fan’s lineup has been.