Category Archives: TV

Posted in TV

CBC rearranges the deck chairs on local TV newscasts

Debra Arbec opens the 6pm newscast

Debra Arbec opens the 6pm newscast

The CBC rolled out revamped — and by revamped I mean cut — newscasts across the country on Monday. Some markets were reduced to 60 minutes while others, including Montreal, get only 30 minutes during the supper hour to offer local news.

The new newscast has a somewhat different feel to it — including some different music — but most of the changes don’t seem to have much of a real purpose to them. For one, there’s more standing anchor wandering the set, and there’s a lot more use of monitors in the studio, and having the anchor look at them:

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Posted in TV

CTV Montreal GM Louis Douville swept out in next wave of Bell Media purge

Louis Douville

A dramatic top-down purge at Bell Media, that swept out top executives Phil King (programming), Chris Gordon (radio and local TV), Adam Ashton and Charles Benoit (top man in Quebec) in August, then people like Discovery Channel head Paul Lewis and Quebec content chief Mario Clément in September, has now filtered down another level, and more managers are getting the boot.

They include the heads of specialty channels Canal Vie (Lyne Denault), Z (Jacques Mathieu) and CTV News Channel (Lisa Beaton), regional managers in Atlantic Canada (Mike Elgie), Abitibi (Marlène Trottier), Victoria (Kevin Bell), Peterborough (Steve Fawcett), Edmonton (Lloyd Lewis) and Windsor (Eric Proksch), and Louis Douville, the general manager of CTV Montreal. (Jean Martin, the manager for the Mauricie region, is also leaving, but that departure is being announced separately as a retirement.)

A Bell Media spokesperson said Martin Spalding, vice-president of radio operations and local sales in Quebec, would take over Douville’s duties. But an internal memo also listed Jed Kahane, CTV Montreal’s news director, as taking Douville’s reports “in the interim”. Those three words prompted a lot of speculation about who might be on the chopping block when the next round of cuts happen.

That is expected to be in about six weeks, which doesn’t exactly leave Bell Media employees in a relaxed state.

Douville, who grew up in Montreal, has been general manager of CTV Montreal since January 2012, taking over from Don Bastien. Before that he was general manager of CTV Ottawa for almost 11 years, and before that worked in sales at CTV stations in Edmonton and Saskatchewan. In all, he worked for CTV for 30 years.

He had recently taken over additional responsibilities, running the Bell Local (now Bell TV1) community channels in Montreal as well as Bell’s radio stations in the city.

On a personal level, I’ll add that Douville was a very good source, never ducking my phone calls, always helpful, always willing to explain the tough decisions and being honest about how things work, while other managers would try to avoid talking about bad news or find some way to obfuscate the issue. For that I’ll miss him.

Bell says these changes are necessary to remain competitive (even though it’s the largest media company in Canada) and operate efficiently. This despite the fact that Bell Media’s profits (before interest and taxes) increased to $734 million last year and $215 million in the last quarter.

UPDATE: Douville wrote a message to his friends on Facebook and forwarded it to me:

It reads like the script for the final episode of the television program The Amazing Race…
4 Provinces…7 Cities…7,266 Kilometres…33 years…Hundreds of amazing colleagues…Thousands of brilliant business partners… An incredibly supportive family…And one Amazing career !

This week my great adventure with Bell Media came to an end, and what a ride it has been !!!

I have been so fortunate to work in the field of my choice for so many years, growing through the ranks until I attained the goals I had set for myself.

I learned so much along the way, mostly about the importance of treating people like human beings, recognizing the contribution my colleagues made every day, and creating a work environment where people thrive and are happy to come to work.

Now it is time to look to the future and see what new and exciting adventures await me.
No matter what they are, I will always stay true to my values and I will always enjoy every minute of every day.

Thank you to all of you who have crossed my path over the years, you have truly enriched my life and made me a better man.

I look forward to seeing you soon !

Posted in TV

Tamy takes on America

Tamy Emma Pepin in #TamyUSA

Tamy Emma Pepin in #TamyUSA

A year and a half after taking a social-media-fuelled trip through the U.K., Tamy Emma Pepin is back with another similar travel show for Évasion: #TamyUSA, which starts this week with a show from Seattle.

#TamyUSA follows Pepin through a road trip along the U.S. west coast, exploring the sights of its cities by meeting with people in them who are active on Instagram.

Unlike Tamy @ Royaume-Uni, in which Pepin would go to bed not knowing what she was doing the next day, this time her activities are much more planned. It’s much less chaotic and stressful this way, Pepin tells me.

There are also changes behind the scenes. It’s a different production company, for one. Toxa has been replaced by the tiny Parce Que Films, which has more experience in music videos than television series.

And the series is being put together in a hurry. Pepin returned from the U.S. trip only last month, and with only 40 days between the end of filming and the airing of the first episode, she has spent long nights in the editing room since then.

But the feel of the show is the same as before. From the low-contrast colouring to the creative music selection (thanks to Third Side Music), and particularly the stunning visuals from director of photography Émilie Ricard-Harvey, it’s very familiar to those who followed the U.K. adventure.

And, of course, Tamy is Tamy, a very charismatic host who can be bubbly without being fake, fun-loving without being irresponsible. It’s fun to explore the world with her because her genuine enthusiasm for discovery shines through the camera.

Plus, since Tamy is travelling through another English-speaking country, the show is effectively bilingual, with most interviews happening in English and subtitled in French.

The series isn’t available online, and no one finds that more frustrating than Pepin, who said she’s trying to change that. But Évasion, owned by independent Groupe Serdy, needs shows like this to drive subscriptions to the channel, particularly with rule changes that are pushing people toward pick-and-pay cable packages.

According to the latest data from the CRTC, Évasion gets 78% of its revenue from subscriptions, and a profit margin below 10% with its subscriber base stable at about 2 million subscribers.

Nevertheless, #TamyUSA has a very active website, and after each show premieres on Monday night there’s a free webcast chatting with local Instagrammers in her living room. That’s much less visually interesting than the show, though.

#TamyUSA airs Mondays at 8pm, and rebroadcasts Tuesday 10am, Wednesday 1pm, Friday 3am, Saturday 9am and 8pm and Sunday 4pm on Évasion.

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Posted in Montreal, TV

MAtv begins English programming with five shows

Two years after Videotron first proposed creating an English-language community channel for its Montreal-area subscribers, the first English programs on MAtv began airing today, making the service bilingual (about 20% English, which represents about the proportion of the area that speaks English at home).

Over the next two weeks, MAtv launches five new shows in English. Another eight are set to air later in the year, and of the 13 total series, Videotron says 10 were submitted by the public.

The five English shows MAtv starts now are three community-submitted shows and two local shows that MAtv put together.

Community access programs

Street Speaks host Paul Shore

Street Speaks host Paul Shore

The Street Speaks: Submitted and hosted by Paul Shore, this “speaker’s corner” type series features interviews with “everyday” people on the street, which are then cut up and edited into shows on specific themes. Shore notes in his introduction that most people have never been asked their opinions on issues, and this is his attempt to bring their opinions to light.

Living 2 Gether host Vahid Vidah, left, with first filmmaker Andrew Andreoli

Living 2 Gether host Vahid Vidah, left, with first filmmaker Andrew Andreoli

Living 2 Gether: Submitted by Vahid Vidah, each episode of this half-hour series hands the camera over to an amateur filmmaker and has them explore some aspect of the social fabric of the city.

StartLine: Submitted by Gregory Fortin-Vidah, this series doesn’t have a host, but is a documentary-style series about local businesses in the food, arts, multimedia and entrepreneurial sectors.

MAtv local programs

Montreal Billboard is basically Montréalité in English, right down to the weird leave-the-first-guest-sitting-alone-while-you-talk-to-the-next-guest thing.

Montreal Billboard is basically Montréalité in English, right down to the weird leave-the-first-guest-sitting-alone-while-you-talk-to-the-next-guest thing.

Montreal Billboard: Hosted by Richard Dagenais, who was let go from Global Montreal earlier this year, this series features interviews with people who are involved with local community organizations. It’s similar in style (and uses the same set) as Montréalité, hosted by Katerine-Lune Rollet, and is basically an English version of that program. Regular contributors include Amie Watson.

Anyone who watched Dagenais hosting Focus Montreal on Global will find this pretty familiar. In fact, both Montreal Billboard and Focus Montreal this week started their shows with interviews with people from the N.D.G. Food Depot.

CityLife host Tina Tenneriello

CityLife host Tina Tenneriello

CityLife: Hosted by Tina Tenneriello, formerly of CJAD, this show is a weekly current affairs talk show about Montreal, and is basically an English version of Mise à Jour. Contributors include Martin Patriquin on politics, Toula Drimonis on women’s issues, and Egbert Gaye on social and minority issues.

I haven’t listed times for these shows because each one is in about a dozen spots on the schedule. You can look for them here.

I’ll have more on these series and the state of community television in an upcoming feature. In the meantime, enjoy the shows. And if you have an idea for your own, MAtv is eager to hear it.

Posted in TV

Antenna work on Mount Royal tower means more overnight transmitter shutdowns

Mount Royal tower.

Mount Royal tower. (Fagstein file photo)

I’ve been getting a lot of questions (and a few conspiracy theories) from irate over-the-air TV watchers over the past few weeks because Montreal-based stations have been going off the air overnight.

Overnight shutdowns aren’t new. The same thing happened last year when they installed a microwave receiver on the tower.

So I asked Martin Marcotte, director of transmission for CBC, which owns the tower, what was up. He explained that this time they’re installing a standby antenna for UHF digital TV stations — CBC, Radio-Canada, Global and V — which allows those stations to be switched to that antenna in case the main one fails. (Ironically, that requires shutting down the transmitters for safety reasons.)

“Our current UHF antenna for DTV is now over 30 years old. Because of new code restrictions on work in confined spaces, we are no longer able to service that antenna. So the standby antenna is required to ensure continuity of service if ever there are problems on our main antenna as we can no longer repair the main antenna,” Marcotte explains.

The shutdowns, which start shortly after midnight, don’t just affect the four stations broadcasting on the UHF DTV antenna, but also the two using the VHF antenna (CTV and TVA) as well as most of Montreal’s FM radio stations, though most of those have standby facilities that allow them to stay on the air at reduced power (you may have noticed some of them being a bit noisy at night — Virgin Radio in particular seems to have a very poor standby signal).

The plan is to keep the UHF DTV antenna until 2022 when it’s scheduled to be replaced. If something breaks before then, that replacement would be moved up.

Installation work for the standby antenna is continuing. It’s expected to be done by Sept. 18, but that assumes ideal weather and no unforeseen problems.

Delivery of TV and radio signals through cable, satellite and online are not affected by this work.

The work has annoyed OTA viewers partly because the CBC doesn’t have a webpage that explains what they’re doing, and partly because there are often things to watch just after midnight. People missed Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show on CTV and part of Stephen Colbert’s first Late Show on Global because of these shutdowns.

You might wonder if delaying the start of work until, say, 1am each night might solve that problem. But then it would either have to continue later into the morning or be extended over more days.

So I guess you’re just going to have to live with it for another week.

Posted in Radio, TV

CBC Daybreak on TV: Slightly enhanced radio makes for awful television

Host Mike Finnerty, right, with sports reporter Andie Bennett in the Daybreak studio.

Host Mike Finnerty, right, in the Daybreak studio.

For almost two weeks now, CBC has been broadcasting an hour of Montreal radio morning show Daybreak on television, with cameras installed in the radio studio. Managing Director Shelagh Kinch explains a bit how it works on her blog. But basically, a handful of cameras are set up in the studio that allow us to see the people on the air as they’re speaking. Because the cameras are voice-activated, the switching happens without the need for human intervention (i.e. without needing to hire someone for it).

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Posted in TV

Shakeup in management at City Montreal: Jeffrey Feldman out, Renato Zane in

Updated with comments from Feldman

Jeffrey Feldman, right, takes a picture of the Breakfast Television cast at a fall upfront event in June 2014.

Jeffrey Feldman, right, takes a picture of the Breakfast Television cast at a fall upfront event in June 2014.

A year after its founding executive producer, Bob Babinski, decided to quit to pursue freelance production work, City Montreal has parted ways with Breakfast Television’s supervising producer, Jeffrey Feldman.

Feldman, who worked as a Montreal producer for Bell Media’s eTalk and Fashion Television before joining City in 2013, is no longer with the company, a Rogers Media spokesperson confirmed.

Staff at City Montreal are tight-lipped about Feldman’s departure, referring me to corporate PR in Toronto.

UPDATE: I finally got in touch with Feldman himself. He insists his departure is amicable.

“It was just time to move on,” he said.

He’s considering moving back to his hometown of Toronto, where his family is, but is also considering an offer in Montreal. In the meantime, he’s taking his first real vacation in three years.

But Feldman says he enjoyed his time at City. “It was an amazing two years,” he said.

He said he turned off his Twitter account because he no longer needed it for work, and he didn’t think there was much there anyway.

As for why there was no on-air goodbye or social media well wishes from his colleagues, Feldman noted that he believes “producers’ jobs are supposed to be behind the camera” and he never wanted to draw attention to himself on air.

I guess that makes sense, but it’s still odd that no one has commented on his departure. Feldman mentioned that “I’ve always kept my professional relationships professional”, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t friends with the staff.

He also has only kind words for Renato Zane, the new executive producer (see below), calling him a great guy.

Renato Zane

Renato Zane

Zane, formerly director of news and current affairs at OMNI, has actually been working here for some time now. I met him (and took his photo) in April, and the decision for him to come here had been made, but Rogers wanted me not to reveal his new post until it was official. For some reason that took months.

Zane, who fills Babinski’s former job, admitted he’s new to Montreal, which is a stark contrast to most of the staff at the station, who have strong roots in this city. But he is eager to learn.

On Wednesday, Breakfast Television marked its second anniversary.

Antenna work

People watching City Montreal over the air have been noticing reception issues. Says Rogers: “We are currently in the process of returning the tower to our engineering standards, a long-term solution that will improve both the quality of our signal and its over-the-air reception by viewers; we hope to have these repairs completed very soon.”

City Montreal (CJNT-DT) broadcasts from a small tower next to the CBC Mount Royal antenna tower, which is undergoing its own maintenance this summer. Its lower height and 4kW power have made it more difficult to receive than other Montreal stations.

Posted in Opinion, TV

Another step in Global’s faking of local news

When Global TV decided to have late-night and weekend newscasts for its less popular markets anchored out of Toronto, it described it as an innovation, a way to increase local news instead of reducing it.

The day before it began in Montreal, it was described as something that will “allow for more local news gathering in the field.”

While it’s still early to judge something so new, after watching a few episodes of the newscast, I think I can at least evaluate Global’s promise of “more local news gathering”, at least as far as it concerns those newscasts:

It’s total bullshit.

The amount of local news gathering is about the same on weekends. What’s different is that it’s now presented by an anchor who has at best a vague understanding of the local market. Not that one is necessary for most of the show because after the first 10 minutes or so it stops reporting on local news.

Let’s break down the newscasts to explain this.


The show starts with the usual teasers and an announcer saying “From the Global News Centre, the Evening News with Kris Reyes.”

Global’s use of green-screen virtual sets means Global can make Reyes appear to be anywhere just by inserting the word “Montreal” behind her in a computer.


The same goes for the Montreal skyline inserted behind her at the desk when she presents more local news. It almost looks like she’s in the Global Montreal studio.


Coming back from the first commercial break, the background changes. Suddenly she’s in front of a control room that has lots of screens but no people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this corresponds to the part of the local newscast devoid of local news. Putting Reyes in a generic could-be-anywhere set allows Global to produce part of a newscast filled with national and international news and copy-paste it into local newscasts across the country.

This is similar to what they’ve done with the Morning News, which goes back and forth between local and national segments.


Another commercial break and we’re back to the Montreal cityscape, and an usual sight for Global, the weather presenter sitting at the anchor desk. This wasn’t possible before because the weather presenter has been in Toronto for years. Moving the anchor there too means they can be seen on camera together instead of in a double box.

Judging by the radar maps used, the weather segments appear to be recorded 1-2 hours before the newscast. That’s not much worse than before — because the weatherman was shared with Global Toronto, they were prerecorded before this change too. And weather forecasts don’t change that much in an hour (says the guy whose newspaper includes weather forecasts which, by the time anyone reads them, are at least 12 hours old).


Back to Generic Set, and Reyes introduces Megan Robinson doing the sports roundup. Previously, Global Montreal’s local newscasts didn’t have sports segments because they didn’t have sportscasters. (They’d do quick highlights of local games, but that’s about it.)

Of course, the Blue Jays are the top story. Even though Michael Sam had made history the previous night in an Alouettes game, neither Sam nor the game made the Aug. 8 sports roundup. But you’ll be happy to know that they got in a roundup of the Shaw Charity Classic golf tournament in Calgary.


After more time-filling news stories from elsewhere, Reyes does a goodbye that seems to be carefully generic so it can be copy-pasted anywhere. Heck, they could just rerun the same clip at the end of every newscast every day. She might not be wearing the same dress next time, but if viewers haven’t spotted all the other trickery going on, they probably won’t notice that.


Finally, a 30-second collection of cityscape videos that appear to have been taken in the spring because people are wearing sweaters and winter jackets, we’re off to Global National.

The first newscast had two packaged reports from local reporters. I found this suspicious because normally there aren’t that many local resources available on weekends. Sure enough, the next weekend it was down to one local reporter.

Even with those two local reporters, the total amount of local news represented only six minutes of the local newscast. If you add the weather segments, which are also done out of Toronto, it goes up to 10.5 minutes. Add the 30-second cityscape montage to close the newscast (looks like the timing was off for the first show), and it’s 11 minutes, out of a 22-minute newscast.

Production-wise, the newscast went smoothly (aside from being a bit short). There were no technical errors or awkward silences or glitches that I could see. Having the newscast anchored out of Toronto didn’t seem to be that noticeable, except for the changing backdrops and the awkward pronunciations of French names and the use of terms like “Honoré Mercier” (for the Mercier Bridge) that are dead giveaways that someone isn’t from around here.

Day 2, 3…

For the first late newscast, it was much of the same, except that the sports segment began with a roundup of that night’s Montreal Impact game. A 22-second roundup. Followed by a minute and 20 seconds on the day’s Toronto Blue Jays game.

Day 2, the evening news started four minutes late because of golf, but still finished on time. The evening news sports segment consisted entirely of highlights of the Blue Jays game. At 11pm, it also included PGA golf and the Shaw tournament, and ran through a list of Quebec athletes who won medals at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

The second weekend is, I’m assuming, more representative of what we should expect from this newscast. I watched the Aug. 15 6pm newscast with a stopwatch and broke it down. Those elements in bold are local stories:

  • 0:00-0:43 Intro
  • 0:43-3:00 Billy Shields on missing man
  • 3:00-3:24 Accident brief
  • 3:24-3:42 Lane closures brief
  • 3:42-4:34 Horses brief (SOT)
  • 4:34-4:58 PKP wedding brief
  • 4:58-5:36 Roosh V Toronto brief
  • 5:36-6:47 Weather short-term forecast
  • 6:47-7:40 Slide the City brief (SOT)
  • 7:40-8:06 Promos
  • 8:06-10:25 Commercials
  • 10:25-11:08 Trudeau on the campaign trail
  • 11:08-11:38 Fires in western Canada
  • 11:38-13:29 California drought/fires
  • 13:29-15:05 Beijing explosion
  • 15:05-15:35 Promos
  • 15:35-18:21 Commercials
  • 18:21-21:27 Weather forecast
  • 21:27-24:26 Sports with Anthony Bruno
  • 24:26-24:43 Promos
  • 24:43-27:53 Commercials
  • 27:53-29:30 Straight Outta Compton story from Florida
  • 29:30-30:00 Outro

Added up, this amounts to five minutes and eight seconds of local news. Add in the four minutes and 17 seconds of local weather, and you have 9:25 total in that half hour. Another 8:15 were commercials, 2:36 consisted of promos and the goodbye, 2:59 on sports, and the other 6:45 were national and international news stories. Broken down percentage-wise:

  • 17% local news
  • 14% local weather
  • 10% sports
  • 9% promos and filler
  • 22.5% national and international news
  • 27.5% commercials

When there’s more national and international news than local news, you wonder if it can really be called a local newscast.

Saturday’s late newscast was about the same, though it included a story about Michael Sam leaving football again. The story, whose original reporting consisted of a Skype interview, was reported by Jennifer Tryon out of Toronto.

If only all local news could be reported that way.


This outsourcing of local news is just the latest step in a long process of saving money by centralizing work for small local stations. Even before the change, evening and late-night newscasts were produced in another city, with a weather presenter in Toronto and only local journalists and the local anchor in Montreal. And even before the change, much of these half-hour local newscasts, especially on weekends, were filled with reports from other Global markets or foreign news services.

And though the union has protested the whole way, the last time the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission looked at it, it passed on the opportunity to conclude that Global was no longer producing local programming.

Does the location of the anchor make much of a difference here? We might see the commission be forced to re-evaluate the situation. But it’s hard not to think the boat has already sailed here.

On one hand, Shaw Media is a private company, so it can do what it wants. If it wants to treat local news this way, it can. If it believes that copy-pasting prerecorded segments in Toronto results in a better product than a live local newscast made in Montreal, it can do that.

But on the other hand, it’s trying to sell us on the idea that it’s adding local newsgathering resources when it’s not, and more importantly it’s pretending to the CRTC that this constitutes 30 minutes of local programming when less than a third of it is in any way local.

I understand Shaw’s motivation. The late-night and weekend newscasts have poor ratings. (There wasn’t exactly any protest online when this change happened, because so few people were watching anyway.) And it is adding some resources, including a soon-to-launch noon local newscast.

But I don’t like being deceived, especially by journalists. And so much of this new system seems designed to deceive us into thinking that this is a local newscast when at best it’s half that. If you’re going to anchor a Montreal newscast out of Toronto, just be straight with us instead of using TV magic to try to hide it.

I get that local news doesn’t pay. But local programming is what broadcasters are expected to provide in exchange for the privileges that come with having a television station. If Global doesn’t want to do local news here, maybe it should consider some other form of local programming, or just offer the airtime to community groups that can offer something that truly reflects Montreal.

Because having a Toronto anchor introduce a story from Calgary and calling it local Montreal news is an insult to our intelligence.

The Toronto-produced Evening News and News Final air at 6pm and 11pm, respectively, on Saturdays and Sundays. The weeknight News Final will be similarly moved to Toronto starting in September. Global News at Noon starts Aug. 27.

News at Noon begins

Today was the first episode of News at Noon, a new half-hour local newscast that is produced out of Montreal. Jamie Orchard is the permanent host, but Camille Ross took over those duties today while staff is shuffled because of vacations.


The show had about what you’d expect from a noon newscast: two live hits from reporters in the field (morning reporter Kelly Greig and evening reporter Tim Sargeant), a packaged report from the previous night, and some briefs.

I won’t do a detailed breakdown because I suspect the first show might not be representative of what we should expect on a regular basis. I’ll wait until a future date to give this a more thorough evaluation. But it followed a formula similar to the weekend newscasts, with the first half of it local news and weather and the second half mainly national news and packages and video from other Global stations, particularly in western Canada.

Two of the briefs dated to Saturday, which is a bit of a stretch for a Monday noon newscast. Worse, Global failed to send a camera to the Péladeau-Snyder wedding in Quebec City, so it relied on TVA footage, photos posted to social media and file video of the couple attending Jacques Parizeau’s funeral instead.

Despite all this, it went better than I expected. The production was smooth and it felt more live and local than the stuff I’d been watching on the weekend. We’ll see if they can keep that up.


I don’t know what hope this newscast can have against CTV News at Noon, which has far more reporting resources and viewer loyalty. But it’s better to have this than not to have it.

Posted in TV

Global Montreal begins outsourcing weekend newscasts tonight

A plan to have local newscasts on Global Montreal anchored out of Toronto begins tonight, Shaw Media has confirmed.

The change means that we won’t see usual weekend anchor Peter Anthony Holder on the air tonight, but the company says the timing isn’t related to recent controversy surrounding him.

Holder was criticized by Bloc Québécois candidate Catherine Fournier for retweeting this tweet last week, and replying that he agreed and thought it was funny. That led to several news stories about it, and Holder deleted his tweets and apologized.

Shaw Media wouldn’t comment on Holder, and Holder himself did not respond to a request for comment (both he and the station have ignored or refused requests for comment since the beginning), but the rumour is that Holder won’t be returning to the station in any role, even as occasional fill-in anchor or reporter.

Despite being the main weekend news anchor, Holder was technically considered a freelancer, which means the company doesn’t have to justify firing him.

The outsourced newscasts, in which a Toronto anchor does local news for all markets except Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, will be hosted by Kris Reyes, who had been part of the national Morning Show at 9am weekdays.

Shaw Media reiterates that this change is meant to “allow for more local news gathering in the field” and it’s an “innovative way to deliver quality programming with more local news to viewers.”

We’ll see.

The 11pm weeknight newscast is also being similarly outsourced (insourced? Whatever.) But that starts in early September. The original plan had been a one-hour newscast, but after Global picked up the rights to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, that was shortened to 35 minutes to allow for simulcasting with CBS.


Noon newscast to start Aug. 27, hosted by Jamie Orchard

Another previously announced change, the addition of a half-hour noon newscast, has a start date. Global News at noon starts Aug. 27, and Jamie Orchard, who does the 6pm newscast (soon to become the 5:30pm newscast) will be the anchor.

Eventually, anyway. She’s on vacation for the first two weeks of the show, so Elysia Bryan-Baynes and Camille Ross will share anchor duties for those weeks. (After that, Bryan-Baynes returns to 11pm for just two nights. Her last late newscast is Sept. 4.)

New hires

  • Kelly Greig, the former Sportsnet Central Montreal reporter recently hired as a videojournalist at Global, is joining the morning show. She starts on Monday. A news reporter is something the morning show really needs, especially since the launch of Breakfast Television on City, which has had a live in-the-field reporter since the beginning.
  • Brian Daly, a former CTV Montreal staffer who joined QMI Agency and the Sun News Network until that went belly-up, has been hired as the new lineup editor, and will help in the production of the noon newscast. He started Aug. 4.


Posted in Opinion, TV

The federal leaders’ debate was good, but the analysis of it was awful

Though it was in the middle of a busy newsroom close to deadline, I tried my best to watch and listen to the federal leaders’ debate last night. It could be the only time during this election season that we see those four party leaders on a stage together.

If you missed it, it’s on YouTube (I can’t embed it here because Maclean’s doesn’t want me to).

Especially in the context of a simultaneous circus of clowns south of the border, it was nice to see four smart, articulate leaders lay out their policies and policy differences under the bright lights. I saw Stephen Harper defend his record on his own without his party machine behind him. I saw Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau set out their economic policies and criticize the current government on its record, all without losing their temper. And I saw Elizabeth May, my pick as winner of the debate, establish herself as an excellent debater with a solid grasp of economic issues.

Sure, there were some annoying things about the debate itself, like the constant interrupting, the repeating of scripted talking points, and the useless closing messages. And limiting the debate to four topics meant a lot of stuff did not get addressed, which is a big issue if Harper doesn’t want to engage in any more general-issue debates in English.

But in general, I was pretty well informed. Maclean’s, moderator Paul Wells and broadcaster City TV deserve credit for this.

Unfortunately, I also watched the hour-long post-debate analysis show, as well as three useless non-commercial breaks during the debate, and it sent me into a bit of a rage.

Rather than discuss whose economic policies make more sense, or fact-check what the leaders said, or really discuss the issues in any way, we got the same old post-debate “who won” discussion, as if leading a country is more about showing off your dramatic presentation skills than having a better plan.

It’s one thing if you don’t take yourself too seriously (like BuzzFeed), but I expected better from the official broadcaster of the debate (even though Rogers pushed the analysis show to OMNI so it could air another U.S. primetime drama on City).

A discussion of a useless Facebook poll after about 20 minutes of debate.

A discussion of a useless Facebook poll after about 20 minutes of debate with Kevin Chan, right.

After the first half-hour, City took a three-minute break to give us an interview with a journalism student in Toronto and a Facebook poll that its analyst admitted wasn’t really based on anything said during the debate because people hadn’t had the chance to listen to the leaders yet. Even though the result of 50% for Mulcair should have been a dead giveaway that the poll is not at all reflective of the Canadian population, they went with it anyway. They also broadcast results showing Canadians almost unanimously in favour of proportional representation and carbon taxes, even though actual scientific polls don’t show anything even remotely similar. And there was the stunning revelation that people in Alberta talk more about oil than the rest of the country.

How this was useful to viewers is beyond me.

Twitter's Steve Ladurantaye, left, discusses how much people were talking about the leaders.

Twitter’s Steve Ladurantaye, left, discusses how much people were talking about the leaders.

Then there was the Twitter discussion, in which they analyzed how much people were talking about the leaders. What they were saying, of course, wasn’t important, and wasn’t discussed.

I guess what we can learn from this is that Donald Trump would make a great Canadian prime minister. Because volume is more important than content.

"Body language expert" Mark Bowden, right, criticizes Elizabeth May's glasses and dress during OMNI's post-debate analysis show with Gord Martineau, left.

“Body language expert” Mark Bowden, right, criticizes Elizabeth May’s glasses and dress during OMNI’s post-debate analysis show with Gord Martineau, left.

But what infuriated me most was when they brought on a body language expert to literally discuss style over substance. Setting aside the sexist criticisms of Elizabeth May’s attire (there was no mention of how any of the other leaders were dressed), the segment reinforced the fact that during a debate, what you say isn’t as important as how you say it.

Throughout the three-hour broadcast, there were panel discussions about who was winning the debate. Some of that discussion was based on what the leaders said, but much of it was about how they said what they said. Were the leaders confident? Did they make any gaffes?

Don’t get me wrong, the leader of a country should have good public speaking skills. A big part of being a leader is being able to convince people to do things for you, so style matters. But this incessant focus on treating the debate like a boxing match or tennis tournament just hammers in the idea that the issues don’t really matter. That if you want to be a politician, it’s better to hone your skills in theatre school than law school.

We Canadians like to think we’re better than the Americans when it comes to our politicians. We look at Donald Trump and we laugh. But based on what I saw of this debate analysis, I don’t see why, if Trump was in this debate, the media wouldn’t have been unanimous in concluding that he would have “won” it.

Posted in Montreal, TV

CBC’s Absolutely Quebec series starts tonight

Every summer, CBC Montreal broadcasts six hour-long one-off shows, usually documentaries, that have a local or regional focus. And every summer it gets largely ignored and poorly promoted.

This year, I had to do some searching to even discover it’s happening, and found only this page online listing what’s on the slate for this year. The first episode, Hacking Montreal, about the “hackathon” movement that CBC Montreal itself has been promoting recently, airs tonight at 7pm. The series then takes almost a month off because of the Pan Am Games, and returns with the five others in August and early September.

Of note here is that at least two of these documentaries focus on regions far from Montreal — Northern Quebec and Eastern Quebec. For these regions, it’s incredibly rare to see themselves reflected in English-language television.

Here’s the schedule:

Hacking Montreal
Montreal is a global hub for ‘hackathons,’ weekend-long contests for innovating technology. CBC Montreal looks at how local infrastructure, healthcare, transportation and leisure are being improved by volunteer maverick thinkers.
Airs Saturday, July 04, at 7 p.m. ET

A City Is An Island
A DIY, behind-the-scenes look at the linguistic divide in the music and lifestyles of Montreal musicians Mac DeMarco, Patrick Watson, Sean Nicholas Savage, Tim Hecker, Colin Stetson and many more.
Airs Saturday, Aug 01, at 7 p.m. ET

Living on the Edge
Photographer and garlic farmer Joan Sullivan seeks to capture how people living along the rural coast of eastern Quebec adapt to major climate change events.
Airs Saturday, Aug 08, at 7 p.m. ET

Seth’s Dominion
NFB’s award-winning documentary profiling Canadian cartoonist Gregory Gallant, better known as Seth, creator of Palookaville.
Airs Saturday, Aug 22, at 7 p.m. ET

Okpik’s Dream
A 60-year-old champion dog musher and amputee in Quaqtaq, Nunavik, prepares to race in the Ivakkak–a grueling, 600-kilometre Inuit sled dog race across the Quebec Arctic.
Airs Saturday, Aug 29, at 7 p.m. ET

One Weekend
Multiple generations of one family indulge over Labour Day weekend in a disappearing way of life–the cottage way of life.
Airs Saturday, Sep 05, at 7 p.m. ET

If you missed last year’s Absolutely Quebec series, you can still watch those episodes online. As are those from 2013.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Vermont PBS turns its eye to Montreal

If you’re watching TV tonight, you might want to tune to Vermont PBS (WETK) to catch two shows the focus on Montreal. Or you can watch both online.

At 7:30pm, the weekly panel discussion show Vermont This Week presents its Canada special, focusing on Canada-U.S. relations. The panel includes Montreal Gazette Managing Editor Michelle Richardson and Global Montreal reporter Tim Sargeant. They talk road construction, Quebec-Vermont economic cooperation, Quebec politics and tourism.

Then at 8:30pm, it presents Qulture, a documentary-style show about Montreal culture produced with Cult MTL. This episode, described as a pilot, but with no clear indication whether there will be other episodes, discusses comedian Sugar Sammy, graffiti artists and the local vaudeville scene, and a bit about Cult itself along the way.

Vermont PBS is available on Channel 55 on Videotron Illico, Channel 57 on Videotron analog cable (Western Montreal only), Channel 224/1224 on Bell Fibe, and Channel 33.1 over the air.

Posted in TV

Did Global suspend or fire Domenic Fazioli?

Domenic Fazioli (Global News photo)

Domenic Fazioli (Global News photo)

Is Domenic Fazioli an employee of Global News? It’s a seemingly simple question, but no one I’ve asked it to (including Fazioli himself) is willing to answer yes or no.

For about a month now, Fazioli hasn’t been seen on the air on Global Montreal. He hasn’t filed any stories, he hasn’t posted anything on Twitter, and his name and photo don’t appear on the list of personalities on the station’s website, even though he’s one of their most veteran reporters.

Even his colleagues don’t know exactly what’s going on. His desk has been cleared, and employees were told that a videojournalist would be hired soon to fill a recent vacancy.

Fazioli’s disappearance coincides with news coming out that he’s facing an assault charge brought on by his wife, first reported by the Montreal Gazette and picked up by a couple of other media including Global itself. The stories are not clear about the nature of the alleged assault and threats, which makes it hard to judge their severity, even if they turn out to be true.

My attempts to get information about Fazioli’s employment status has hit dead ends. The union won’t disclose his current status. A spokesperson for Global News said the company can’t comment on “internal personnel issues.” A message to the station manager didn’t elicit a response.

Reached on the phone, Fazioli himself responded “no comment” to all my questions, refusing to speak about the legal case or his status at Global. But he did say that his father’s health has taken a turn for the worse (in 2012, his father received a kidney transplant as part of an exchange that saw Fazioli donate one of his own kidneys), and that this has been a very difficult time for Fazioli and his family. He asked for privacy during this time. He added later that the situation with his wife was a “misunderstanding”, and that she supports him, without confirming whether the case has anything to do with him being off the air. (I haven’t spoken with his wife — I’ll let the court deal with sorting out that situation.)

Fazioli was noticeably distraught when I spoke with him. Whatever is happening, it’s obviously not good.

Is this newsworthy?

I had a discussion with a colleague recently about whether the Gazette should have published the story about Fazioli in the first place, which seemed to boil down to whether a local TV news reporter is a public figure. For obvious reasons, I believe they are. But even then I can acknowledge that whether to report on it is a judgment call. Domestic violence cases that don’t result in death or serious injury don’t get reported in the media because they are unfortunately far too common. And often they can be exaggerated (such as when a couple is going through a messy divorce). Often information that is public about a known personality because of a case in a court or tribunal isn’t reported on by the media because there’s no case to be made that it’s in the public interest.

But, of course, a TV reporter mysteriously disappearing from the airwaves has a more solid case behind it. If Global did remove him from his position because of this news coming out, there are questions that can be asked about whether that’s justified, questions that themselves may become public if that decision is itself challenged in court.

UPDATE (Sept. 4): All charges against Fazioli have been dropped. But it’s unclear if this means he would be able to go back to work. His lawyer notes that he remains married.

UPDATE (Sept. 30): A story in the Suburban blames the entire affair on an “individual” who has been harassing the family.

Posted in TV

Global Montreal planning a noon local newscast this fall (but why?)

It’s Upfront Week in Canada, where the big TV networks show off their fall schedules to advertisers and hype their newly acquired programs (most of which come from the U.S.)

Shaw Media’s announcements included the usual hype for new shows (The Muppets!), but also a change in late night: It has picked up the Canadian rights to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which airs at 11:35 p.m. on CBS. (Rogers had the Canadian rights to the Letterman Late Show, and it aired on OMNI.)

But putting a late-night talk show at 11:35 causes a conflict with a change announced in April, that late-night newscasts were being expanded to an hour in Montreal. (They’re already an hour in Toronto and B.C., which would also be affected.)

So Global changed its plans. The late-night news in B.C. (including Okanagan), Toronto, Montreal, New Brunswick and Halifax will be 35 minutes, and Montreal is instead getting its Evening News expanded to an hour, plus a new half-hour noon newscast.

I lay down how the day will look in this story for the Montreal Gazette, which includes previously announced changes.


Having the Evening News start at 5:30pm instead of 6 is an interesting idea, and probably a good one since it takes the first half of the newscast out of direct competition with CTV. Even more so since CBC is cutting its evening news to half an hour starting at 6 this fall. Global will be able to claim it’s first with the news every evening.

But the station has also tried this before. In 2000 (back when it was Global Quebec), it introduced a newscast at 5:30pm anchored by Jamie Orchard that led into another 6pm newscast co-hosted with Jonathan Freed.

It lasted two years.

Here’s how the news director of the time, Ward Smith, described it to the Gazette’s Basem Boshra in 2002:

I wouldn’t say it was a bad idea. But we were spending so much of our budget on a time when people just weren’t home to watch. (And in putting on an hour-long newscast) we were all over the map. We were creeping into national and international news and stepping on (host of Global’s 6:30 p.m. national news show) Kevin Newman’s toes. Now, with us coming out swinging at 6, doing what we do best — covering news throughout Quebec – and Newman coming on at 6:30 with the national and international news, we can deliver a seamless, solid hour that gives viewers everything they need in terms of the day’s news.

Has the situation changed in the 13 years since? Are more people home by 5:30pm now? Is there more content to fill a local newscast without stepping on the toes of Global National?

The addition of a noon newscast is very interesting. I’m told it will be locally produced, and there will be hires (including a lineup editor and videojournalist), but the details (including an anchor) aren’t being announced publicly yet. I hope to get some more details in the coming weeks.

Either way, Global was already the English-language station that was (technically) producing the most local programming in Montreal, and these changes will increase that number to five hours every weekday and 27.5 hours a week. CTV is next at 16 hours, then City at 15.5, then CBC at 11 (whether it stays there depends on whether you consider CBC Daybreak on the TV as local programming).

Posted in Technology, TV

Videotron jumps onto Apple Watch bandwagon with kinda-useful Illico app

Illico Apple Watch app with shuffle function

Illico Apple Watch app with shuffle function

On Monday, I was among a half-dozen journalists invited to a demonstration of Videotron’s new Apple Watch application for the Illico digital TV system.

This app is, as far as anyone working for Videotron knows, the first of its kind. (Except for a similar one launched simultaneously by its main competitor.) It allows users with next-generation Illico TV terminals to control them using the watch. At least a little bit.

Jean-Pierre Gauvin, principal director of development and planning for Illico, said they wanted to start simple, and not try to replicate the features of the remote control onto a tiny watch app.

So instead, the app has two screens and two basic functions. The one the team seemed the most excited about was shuffle. By pressing a yellow button, the TV is commanded to pick a channel at random, from among those you subscribe to or from a preset list (sports, family, film, music, news, anglo, franco and HD only). It’s a function that doesn’t exist on other platforms, though the team is open to the idea of incorporating it if there’s client demand.

Mind you, when I asked about client demand for a shuffle function in the first place, they admitted there didn’t seem to be any.

Illico Apple Watch app with play/pause and skip functions.

Illico Apple Watch app with play/pause and skip functions.

The first screen of the app seems to me the one that will get the more use. It features play/pause button, and skip ahead/back buttons, similar to those that exist on remotes now.

I could see this actually getting use. For example, if you’re going to the kitchen and want to get something to eat, you can tap your watch to pause the TV.

But there’s a lot of stuff that’s missing from this app. There’s no way to tune to a specific channel directly. No record button. No channel up or down or volume adjustment function. No voice interaction. Nor can you actually watch video on the watch (not that too many people would want to do that). Even its main feature, the shuffle, can’t be set to a user-defined playlist.

Gauvin said they wanted to start with basic stuff, get the app out there, and then add new functions later. That’s fair.

“What’s important is hearing the feedback of our users,” he said. “We’re definitely going to add functionality.”

Videotron estimates it has maybe 1,000 or 1,500 users who have Apple Watches, so “it’s really for early adopters.” Those early adopters will expect a lot more functionality, and fast.

And they might get annoyed by the fact that what little functionality is there is buggy. The demonstration got off to a rough start when it seemed the watch lost its connection to the phone and didn’t work. Tapping the shuffle button often didn’t work, requiring another tap before it would change the channel. And despite their claims of instantaneous reaction, most of the time it took about a second for the tap to result in a change on the screen. The fact that the signal travels from the watch to the phone via Bluetooth, then from the phone to Videotron via WiFi/cable, then to the box through the Videotron network, explains the delay, but probably won’t satisfy users much.

I’ve yet to be convinced that the Apple Watch is anything but an expensive gimmick, but if you have one and you’re a Videotron subscriber with a compatible terminal, there’s no reason not to add this app.

The Illico Apple Watch app is available by updating the Illico app for iPhone in the Apple store.

Asked why this was developed for the Apple Watch and not other Android-based smart watches (such as the Samsung Gear), Gauvin explained that the closed Apple environment made development and testing easier. They’re looking at creating a similar app for Android.

See also