Category Archives: Media

Former Gazette hockey columnist Red Fisher dies — here are some obituaries to read

Red Fisher died on Friday. The legendary writer (one of the few people I don’t hesitate to use that overused term for) covered the Montreal Canadiens for the Montreal Star and Gazette from 1955 until he retired in 2012, covering 17 of the team’s 24 Stanley Cups and earning the admiration and respect of an entire industry.

He comes from another era of sports journalism, when a reporter could talk directly with the players outside of well-managed availabilities authorized by the PR department, when they could exchange information off the record, and players would even ask advice from an encyclopedia of hockey.

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Media News Digest: Debra Arbec gets CSA nomination, Spike becomes Paramount, Kim Sullivan wants to be a mom

News about news

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CIBL has saviours, but it needs a business plan

Montreal community radio station CIBL-FM 101.5 is in a financial crisis. On Jan. 5, it laid off all 13 of its employees and cancelled all programming, replacing all its shows with an automated music playlist.

Its board of directors has launched a committee to try to figure out how to get the station back on track. Its now-former employees, meanwhile, are mobilizing to save the station. Their efforts can be seen on the Facebook page they’ve started. More than 200 people have signed up for memberships, and other groups have raised money or attention for their cause.

But while there’s plenty of nostalgia and compiling lists of famous people who got their start there (RBO, Marie-France Bazzo, Jean-René Dufort), and lots of talk about the importance of the station and community radio in general, there aren’t a lot of concrete proposals for how to get CIBL out of its financial mess, one that is in large part its own making.

Fortunately, CIBL still has a lot of good will, and people with the power to do something are stepping up and offering to help, like entrepreneur Alexandre Taillefer (who is on the board of directors of the Société de developpement Angus, which owns the building housing CIBL) and Cogeco Media president Richard Lachance.

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Media News Digest: BNN partners with Bloomberg, TSB releases Lapierre crash report, Métro buyer drops out

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At the CRTC

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Review: CTV’s The Launch is an interesting concept with some implementation issues

Contestant Logan Staats with mentor Shania Twain (photo: Bell Media)

If you haven’t heard about this new music competition series on CTV called The Launch, then there are some heartbroken people at Bell Media, because they’ve been pulling out all the stops promoting it.

The six-episode series (with a special seventh episode added to revisit the artists) tries something new with the singing competition format that has been tried and toyed with a dozen times. Rather than just having singers compete against each other for a record contract at the end of the series, each episode ends with a contestant’s career being launched with a new single (that’s available for download or streaming, and gets generous airtime on Bell-owned radio stations).

Based on the first episode, which aired on Wednesday, the show is divided into three roughly equal parts: the auditions, in which five artists compete to be among the two selected to record a song; the recording, in which the two finalists record a sure-to-be-a-hit pop song provided to them by a guest writer/producer; and the performance, in which both finalists perform the song live in front of an audience, and one is selected to launch with that song.

Julia Tomlinson’s audition was cut from the first episode of The Launch. (photo: Bell Media)

Those who paid attention during the first episode might be asking themselves why I said “five” above, since they only saw three auditions. Two artists, Julia Tomlinson and Alex Zaichkowski (aka Havelin), had their entire auditions cut from the episode (presumably for time), which really really sucks for them. They’re on the website, listed among the artists, and the post-episode press release even says they were in the episode, but all you saw of them was a 10-second voiceover during which it’s explained that they didn’t make it through. Their auditions are posted online at the links above if you want to see them.

In these kinds of shows, at least you can say the artists that don’t make it got some national television exposure. These two didn’t even get that.

UPDATE: I asked Bell Media about the cuts, and whether we should expect the same for future episodes. The answer, unfortunately, is yes:

THE LAUNCH is an entirely new format that has been evolving since it was greenlit. During the editing process which began after the show was shot in August, September, and October, it became obvious to our original production team that there was so much amazing footage we knew it would not fit into a conventional hour-long TV show. But we still wanted to showcase and promote all of the talent who were chosen for the series. So we made the decision to make the show a full 360 experience with audition footage of each episode’s five artists featured on and on YouTube and in the extended cut on CraveTV.

Alex Zaichkowski, who performs under the name Havelin (Photo: Bell Media)

Laura Heath Potter, Director of Communications for CTV, said the affected artists were advised prior to broadcast. She also noted that all the artists got to promote themselves as they promoted the series:

Bell Media has supported all 30 artists that participated in the series through interviews on national, local and radio outlets, as well as in our on air promotion campaign and digital extras on and paid digital promo over the past few months. We are building a new format and are grateful to have 30 Canadian artists act as ambassadors to the series and what it is attempting to accomplish — creating new original singles by Canadian artists that resonate with music fans and viewers.

Episodes are still being edited and finalized, but for all the upcoming episodes that have been through a final cut, each of the artists that have auditions being offered exclusively as part of the extended directors’ cut and separately on and YouTube have been informed already.

The song

One of the strengths of this series is that you see how the sausage is made. Not all pop stars write and compose their own songs. Many of them have the music and lyrics handed to them and just add their voice for a producer to mix together. That’s the case here — the song is written and ready before the panel even meets the contestant at the audition. The discussion afterward is about whether the producer can make the song work with that artist. And they have 48 hours to do so.

The song for the first episode is called The Lucky Ones, and you hear it throughout the episode so it gets stuck in your head by the end. It’s a pop song, with uninspiring lyrics like “close your eyes and hold me close tonight” (to say nothing about the misogynistic objectifying parts like “I never want to see your heart happy with another”), and a melody that doesn’t really set it apart from anything else you’ll hear on Virgin Radio. It has six writers and four producers listed for it, and … well, it sounds like a song created by committee.

As much as I’m critical of the song, it might have been good if the episode spent some more time actually introducing us to it. All we got was 15 seconds of producer busbee saying it’s about how much he loves his wife as we listened to a production demo performed by an unnamed artist.

The experts

The series has lined up a long list of music industry professionals to help the artists through the process, and each episode has its own mentor (Fergie, Alessia Cara and Boy George are among the others) and producer (most of which are Grammy … nominated). The constant presence is Scott Borchetta, one of the executive producers of the show, whose claim to fame is having discovered Taylor Swift. Having real experts gives the series some authenticity. Unfortunately Borchetta is a bit stiff on camera.

Though there’s no Simon-Cowell-type bad guy, the feedback from the panel is interesting and productive. Particularly in the middle segment in the studio, you get to see a real producer working with real artists, making sure they have the tempo right, that they’re on the right note, that they make sure to pronounce the lyrics well. It’s played up a bit for drama, but it’s interesting to watch.

The narration

Hopefully it’s just a first-episode-introduction thing, but the hour was overly narrated by a voice we’re not introduced to. (If she sounds familiar, that’s because it’s former Virgin Radio 96 announcer Andrea Collins.) There’s a lot of stating-the-obvious and repetition here that could be considerably cut down, and the narration is done in an announcer’s tone that works for a 10-second TV promo but less so for a full hour.

The format

The Launch doesn’t have gimmicks. There are no swivelling chairs, no coloured lights to indicate success or failure, there isn’t even an audience vote component. The experts choose who gets to record the song, and they choose which artist to launch at the end of the episode. (The live performance is in front of an audience, which looks odd because not one of them is holding a cellphone.) This is good for people who want to see a show about music and artists, and works to The Launch’s advantage. It’s not as glitzy and expensive as The Voice, America’s Got Talent or American Idol, but it owns that.

The editing (less oh-gosh-who-do-we-pick and more studio time and performance) and narration could use a bit of work, and the songs could be a bit more original, though these things don’t prevent us from enjoying the show.

But for goodness sake, if you’re a show about respecting artists, don’t cut entire artists out of it and make them feel stupid for promoting the episode that has so unceremoniously cut them out of it.

The Launch is an original format, and one of the big ways Bell Media head Randy Lennox has made his musical mark on CTV. I think it has some potential as a format that could be exportable elsewhere, despite its flaws. And I’ll be tuning in for the rest of the season.

The Launch airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CTV and can be watched on demand at

Videotron decides AMC isn’t worth the cost

UPDATE (Feb. 9): Videotron has reached a last-minute deal to keep the channel.

It didn’t take long after Videotron started informing clients that it was dropping AMC as of Feb. 12 for those clients to start complaining.

I contacted Videotron and asked them why they’re dropping the channel, and their response was about what I expected: They just can’t meet AMC’s carriage demands.

I wrote a short story about the decision for For non-subscribers, the previous sentence summarizes Videotron’s reasoning.

It’s too expensive, AMC’s carriage demands (which aren’t just about the per-subscriber fee) are too onerous, and all this for a channel that most of its clients aren’t interested in and whose viewership has been trending downward.

We don’t know exactly what AMC’s demands are, because negotiations and carriage contracts are secret, but it’s likely there was something along the lines of a minimum penetration guarantee or penetration-based rate card, which effectively force a provider to make sure a large number of its clients subscribe to the channel.

For national providers like Bell (Videotron’s main competitor), Rogers and Shaw, AMC’s demands may be more acceptable (though I doubt any of them are happy with the conditions). But for Videotron, which operates in Quebec and has mainly a francophone audience, it looks like it just became too much.

We’ve been here before. Before Videotron finally added AMC in 2013, it was among the most requested channels by subscribers. This was back in the day when AMC’s original series were very hot: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead. Because of AMC’s contract requirements, Videotron had to add it to its most popular large packages — Anglo, Telemax and Mega — despite its high cost.

Five years later, AMC’s biggest shows are The Walking Dead, a Breaking Bad spinoff and Mad Men reruns. Not terribly impressive.

Does it make sense for Videotron to jump through so many hoops to keep this channel in their lineup?

For some customers, this will no doubt be a deal-breaker. Combined with the usual price hikes, they’ll jump ship to Bell, which still carries AMC. Videotron has taken that into account with its decision, and it still makes more sense to let AMC go.

And don’t think this is some negotiation tactic, either. AMC has all the power in this relationship, with a billion dollars in annual revenue and more than 90 million subscribers to its flagship channel in the U.S. It won’t care that much about losing a few thousand subscribers in Quebec. And besides, subscribers will blame Videotron for this, not AMC, unless Videotron says exactly what AMC was demanding, which it can’t because of confidentiality agreements.

Ideally, it wouldn’t have to be this way. In 2015, with its Wholesale Code, the CRTC made it illegal for broadcasters to impose abusive penetration-based rates or minimum revenue guarantees. But AMC is an American channel, and doesn’t have to answer to the CRTC. Though the commission said it “expects” foreign channels to abide by the same rules, and said it could use its powers to, for example, make authorization for distribution in Canada conditional upon accepting the same rules, it has yet to step in when it comes to a foreign channel’s distribution agreement.

(AMC Networks also owns IFC and the Sundance channel, but the versions of those distributed in Canada are actually Canadian channels owned by Corus, which must follow the CRTC’s rules.)

It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this. We’ll see if other Canadian providers decide they too are fed up with AMC. The same year Videotron finally added AMC, Telus was so annoyed by their negotiation tactics that it sued in a U.S. court, and negotiations with Rogers got so bad that AMC started a campaign aimed at Rogers customers. If enough of them reject it, and AMC risks being shut out of Canada, it might change its demands. But what are the chances of enough Canadian providers being willing to alienate their own customers?

Media News Digest: RIP 2017, La Presse’s paper edition, and Ralph Noseworthy

Here’s what you missed over the holidays.

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Media News Digest: The TVA mosque imbroglio, Tommy’s last day on CJAD, Pete Marier back on CHOM

The TVA mosque debacle

It took almost three days, but TVA Nouvelles has finally apologized and retracted a story it published Tuesday about a Côte-des-Neiges mosque demanding a city construction crew not have women working on Fridays — and getting that request enshrined “noir sur blanc” in their contract, and several women being reassigned as a result.

The Parti Québécois and influencers like Marie-France Bazzo and Bernard Drainville were quick to denounce the mosque, and right-wing anti-immigrant group La Meute announced a protest at the mosque (it has since cancelled).

The story started smelling fishy almost immediately. The Journal de Montréal posted the TVA story to its website on Tuesday and assigned a reporter to cover it, but pulled the story quickly after discovering facts that contradicted TVA’s report. (The paper has yet to publish a single story about the whole affair.) The mosque issued a statement denying everything and expressing anger that TVA didn’t try to contact them for comment. La Presse summarizes the denials here.

The Quebec Press Council has received at least two complaints about the story.

On Thursday evening, TVA Nouvelles issued a “mise au point” in which it said the facts have “evolved” (you know, from true to false). It was instantly criticized for not including an apology. On Friday morning, another mise-au-point which included an apology and promises of an internal investigation.

Still, many groups still believe the story is true, and many stories published by other media, like The Rebel (which used the term “no-go zone”, suggesting irresponsibly that the area is dangerous), haven’t been corrected. In some cases, wild and nonsensical conspiracy theories have been concocted to save face.

Among the things the investigation should look at:

  • Why did the journalist not attempt to contact the mosque before going with this story?
  • Were any attempts made to verify what the contractor told her?
  • Why did she insist on describing the demand as “noir-sur-blanc” despite never having seen it herself?
  • Was she lying when she told the mosque’s representatives that she had “filmed” their written demand that women be excluded? Was her confrontational attitude during this exchange justified?
  • Why did TVA broadcast and publish the story before seeking comment from the mosque?
  • Why did TVA Nouvelles take so long to retract the story and even longer to apologize?

I’m also not too optimistic that the results of this investigation will be made public.

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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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


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.


  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.


  • 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%. 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.

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

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