Category Archives: TV

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.

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.

Strategy

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

Posted in TV

Review: New Global Morning News is a mess of disconnected hosts

When Global announced last month that there would be yet more centralization of local programming in eastern Canada, I didn’t exactly have my hopes up. They promised the centralization of resources would only affect non-local stories, and that the amount of actual local stuff would remain the same or even improve.

This week was the first under the new system for Global Montreal Morning News. And my analysis of the episodes that have aired so far suggest that Global has not lived up to that promise.

Not only that, but the melding of local and national elements creates this confusing mess of different on-camera personalities that is no better than someone switching channels at every commercial break.

Two shows in one

Co-host? What co-host? (Please pay no attention to that Twitter handle in the ticker)

Co-host? What co-host? (Please pay no attention to that Twitter handle in the ticker)

Like other morning shows, Global’s Morning News is broken up into six half-hour blocks, which are in turn broken up into three segments separated by commercial breaks. Here’s how the average half-hour block breaks down, rounded to about the nearest minute:

  • :00 Welcome/coming up plus quick weather hit
  • :01 Traffic
  • :02 Local news (including one packaged report)
  • :08 Local weather
  • :10 Commercial break
  • :12 National segment
  • :19 Commercial break
  • :21 Local weather
  • :23 Traffic
  • :24 Local interview segment (or two packaged reports)
  • :27 Commercial break

Continue reading

Posted in TV

Montreal TV station ICI launches free livestream

Without the benefit of a well-staffed PR machine, Montreal’s ethnic television station ICI has been quietly launching new local programs and improving its service since it launched a year and a half ago.

Today, the station launched a free high-definition livestream on its website.

Free livestreams of TV stations aren’t very common because of the difficulty securing online streaming rights to content. And livestreams of specialty services are even less so because distributors and consumers complain when they have to pay for a TV service that’s given away for free online.

ICI doesn’t have to deal with those problems, because most of its content is original or acquired cheap from foreign countries, and as an over-the-air station it broadcasts for free.

Posted in My articles, TV

How local is Global’s plan for local news?

Shaw Media calls it innovative and transformative. Critics and the union calls it cost-cutting at the expense of local programming. What the CRTC calls it might become an issue.

Earlier this month, Global announced changes to the way it does local news across the country. The biggest one is that 11pm and weekend newscasts will no longer be anchored locally. Instead, an anchor or anchors in Toronto will produce local newscasts for the various local stations, customized for those stations and containing local news.

I get into the details of what’s changing in this story for the Montreal Gazette.

This is a step beyond what they did in 2008, when they centralized newscast control rooms in four broadcast centres (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto) so that one team could produce several newscasts in a day instead of just one or two.

What we’re left with are newscasts that feature reports from local journalists and are presumably lined up by local staff, but where the anchor, weatherman, director and just about all technical staff are in another city. Can that really be considered local programming?

Morning show co-host Richard Dagenais is being let go from Global next month

Morning show co-host Richard Dagenais is being let go from Global next month. (File photo)

There are also changes to the morning show, which will soon feature eight-minute segments every half-hour produced nationally that will be identical for all markets. As a result, the morning show is losing three employees, including co-host Richard Dagenais.

The promises

The union representing Global Montreal employees isn’t happy. It sent out a press release last week (later corrected) that condemned the loss of local programming. Except for a couple of tweets, no one paid attention.

CUPE/SCFP tells me they will be watching the new shows with a stopwatch to see if Global is meeting its obligations to the CRTC, and will complain if they’re not.

Like all commercial television stations, Global Montreal has to ensure a minimum amount of local programming is aired. For stations in large markets like Montreal, that’s 14 hours a week.

Shaw also made a separate promise to create morning shows at least two hours long when it purchased Global from Canwest in 2010, and to keep them running until at least 2016-17, contributing $45 million to that cause ($5 million for Montreal). Because that’s a tangible benefit as part of a major acquisition, those 10 hours a week have to be in addition to the usual 14 hours a week of local programming.

If we consider Morning News, Evening News, News Final and Focus Montreal as local programming, including their repeats and best-of shows, Global is meeting that obligation of 24 hours a week.

But are they really local?

As far as I can tell, the CRTC only really got around to establishing a definition of local programming in 2009, when it established the since-terminated Local Programming Improvement Fund. In Paragraph 43, it decided on the following definition:

Local programming is defined as programming produced by local stations with local personnel or programming produced by locally-based independent producers that reflects the particular needs and interests of the market’s residents.

Are these late-night newscasts produced by local stations? Do they use local personnel? It depends how you define “produced” and “personnel”, I guess.

When Global first outsourced technical production in 2008, the unions complained then too, saying these newscasts were not really local. The CRTC didn’t see it that way,

In 2009, the commission decided that there was no evidence that Global was contravening its licence requirements by outsourcing production of local news. It confirmed this later that year in renewing the licences of Global stations, but said it “will continue to monitor the situation.”

There’s also a separate definition of “local presence”, which has three criteria:

  • providing seven-day-a-week original local news coverage distinct to the market;
  • employing full-time journalists on the ground in the market; and
  • operating a news bureau or news gathering office in the market.

Global’s new plan fits all three of these criteria, though the first might be arguable depending on how distinctive the newscasts really are.

Global points out that it’s not unprecedented to anchor local newscasts outside of the local market. Its New Brunswick newscast is anchored out of Halifax. Other small stations owned by Global and CTV have their local news produced out of neighbouring markets. And the CRTC hasn’t seemed to have a problem with that.

The CRTC will be reviewing its local television policy in the coming year, and this could become a central issue.

What the new Global Montreal will look like

So how will this affect what actually goes on air? Here’s what we know:

  • The 6pm newscast is unchanged. It will still be anchored locally by Jamie Orchard, and produced out of Edmonton with a weatherman in Toronto. Its news will still be local, since it’s followed directly by Global National at 6:30.
  • Focus Montreal is also unchanged.
  • The late-night and weekend newscasts will have a Toronto anchor, and 11pm newscasts will be expanded to a full hour.
  • The morning show will have more nationally-produced content.

Many details are still unclear, but here’s some things I’m predicting will happen:

  • The morning show will have national news, world news and entertainment segments that are nationally produced, but still have the local anchor doing local news. There may be a temptation to do sports nationally, but unless they do something like City where the national sports segment is customized to the local market, it would probably be better to leave that local. We might also see some national lifestyle segments produced for all markets, or special all-markets broadcasts like we’ve seen on City.
  • The quality of the morning show will decrease thanks to its staff cuts.
  • Late-night weeknight and weekend newscasts anchored out of Toronto will no longer be live. Which is fine because they’ll be mainly rehashes of the 6pm news anyway, with maybe a report from an evening reporter thrown in. The hour-long 11pm newscast will be heavy on national segments, including some sports content. The ability to make late changes because of breaking local news will be significantly diminished.

One thing that’s unclear is who will be running the show locally nights and weekends. Global says it will commit to having a local person exercising editorial control over those newscasts, but setting aside how hard it is to effectively use that control when everyone is in another city and there’s enormous pressure to not be different from other markets, who will be the person doing this?

Under the current system, the only person in the newsroom for most of the night or weekend is the anchor. They’re handling assignment duties, lining up the newscast, and even calling the cops to get updates. Will there still be a reporter doing this? And if so, why not just have that person still act as anchor?

Global’s plan is clearly to focus on content over its container. But I think the company is underestimating the contributions that anchors make to their newscasts. It’s not a job that involves only 30 minutes a day of work.

How will the viewers react? Well, when your late-night newscast gets a couple of thousand viewers, you might ask if it even matters. And will they even recognize that their anchor is in Toronto, with little or no knowledge of the city he’s describing every night?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter. After all, TV newscasts are so 20th century. And Global is looking toward the future. Its plans for Global News 1, which ironically involve hiring a bunch of staff instead of laying them off, is a similar blend of national and local where the local resources are all gathering news instead of producing newscasts. But we’re still waiting for the CRTC to publish the application for that proposed service.

Other reading

Posted in TV

UPDATED: Global to have late local newscasts anchored out of Toronto

Updated April 21 with new details. See also this Gazette story.

global-studio

You’d think that Global couldn’t go any further in centralizing the production of their regional newscasts. As it is, stations like Montreal have their control rooms in hubs thousands of kilometres away. All that’s left are the newsroom, the journalists, some ad sales and marketing people, and a small green studio with a desk and an anchor.

But they’ve managed to find a way to take it even further. On Thursday, Shaw Media announced that in eastern and central Canada, late-night and weekend newscasts will be done out of Toronto. Like what they did with control rooms, now even the anchors will produce multiple newscasts for different regional markets in one shift.

It’s part of what Global News boss Troy Reeb describes as a move to “a story-centric production model and that means moving past some of the traditional ways we’ve produced television newscasts.” In other words, the focus is on having local people work on the content, while saving as much money as possible on the container for that content.

This won’t be the first time Global has had people from Toronto do local news. Evening news weather man Anthony Farnell is based in Toronto, a fact that’s never made obvious to viewers.

But it’s odd that Global thinks that local anchors aren’t important. After all, they’re not just pretty faces that sit at their desks until they’re ready to go on air: They’re writing scripts and checking up on local news, work that presumably would need to be taken up by someone else if the anchors are taken out of their jobs.

In Montreal, the jobs affected would be those of late-night anchor Elysia Bryan-Baynes and weekend anchor Peter Anthony Holder. Bryan-Baynes is staying on as a reporter, but Holder, who’s technically a freelancer, is out of a job this fall.

Also gone are morning co-host Richard Dagenais, morning show associate producer Gloria Henriquez, and morning show control-room director Jim Connell. Connell is already gone, the others leave May 15.

Connell says he plans to return to freelancing. The others either declined to comment or didn’t respond when I asked them to.

“While we can’t comment on specific individuals, many of the impacted studio positions will be converted to field reporting which should help provide more local content not only for the late and weekend shows but for online and mobile,” Reeb told me.

Montreal station manager Karen Macdonald referred comment to national PR in Toronto.

Reeb put the cuts at less than 30 nationwide, which suggests maybe four or five on average per market affected.

No changes are planned for the evening newscast at 6pm, which will still be anchored locally, or for the weekly interview show Focus Montreal.

And on the plus side, the late-night news will be extended to an hour from the current half-hour when the change happens sometime over the summer. Late weeknight newscasts in New Brunswick and Halifax are also being extended to an hour.

National segments in local morning shows

The other major change is centralizing content for the local morning shows. Shaw promised to create local morning shows as part of its acquisition of Global in 2010. That promise included $5 million of total funding for Montreal’s morning show until 2016-17.

While the morning shows will still be three hours, still feature local anchors and still be produced locally, segments that are the same in different regions will be produced on a national level.

Reeb explains:

“Each half hour, an eight-minute segment covering national and international content will be produced centrally and will air in all shows. This is approximately equal to the amount of national content covered currently in each local show. Again, the goal is to eliminate the duplication that occurs when multiple anchor teams in multiple studios discuss the same trending stories, and to focus our local newsrooms on distinct, local content.”

I’m not sure how true it is that eight minutes each half-hour is of non-local content. There’s entertainment and sports news, sure, but in Montreal at least most of the morning show’s time is spent on local headlines and in-studio interviews.

This change is expected to roll out by the end of May.

The Global News 1 model

The strategy of centralizing news production and leaving local news to local journalists is nothing new. CTV makes use of its media empire to put business news from BNN and sports news from TSN on its newscasts. City TV’s local morning shows have sports updates from Sportsnet, personalized for each market.

But Global is taking it a step further with outsourced anchoring, giving us something a bit closer to what they have planned for their Global News 1 project. Submitted to the CRTC in September, the plan is to have news feeds for each market contain a mix of local and national news without requiring their own control rooms.

Global is still waiting for the CRTC to process and publish its application for the unique all-news service.

UPDATE (April 15): The Canadian Union of Public Employees has sent out a press release decrying the loss of local programming on Global Montreal. The statement says that the morning show will also be anchored out of Toronto, which contradicts the information I have above. I checked with Global, and a spokesperson responded by calling CUPE’s statement “inaccurate and misleading.” The way I describe the situation above is correct, Global says.

April 16: CUPE has sent out a correction, claiming it was given incorrect information from management the first time. The two stories are now consistent.

June 7: Dagenais was heard on the air doing the weekend morning newscasts on CJAD.

Posted in TV

Videotron appoints advisory council for MAtv

Two weeks after the fact, Videotron announced today that it has met the March 15 deadline set by the CRTC in February to set up an advisory committee for community channel MAtv in Montreal. The commission made the requirement in response to a complaint that MAtv was not properly representing the community it serves.

The nine-person committee, which will serve in an advisory capacity but won’t be making the decisions about what goes on air, is composed of members of the arts, business and cultural communities, as well as a member of the English-speaking community, which presumably means we should start seeing English programming on the channel some time soon.

The members are as follows:

  • Fortner Anderson, English-Language ARTS Network (ELAN)
  • Éric Lefebvre, Director of Development, Quartier des spectacles Partnership
  • Annie Billington, Coordinator, Communications and Community Relations, Culture Montréal
  • Martin Frappier, Director of Communications, Chantier de l’économie sociale
  • Marie-Pier Veilleux, Director, Strategic Forums, International Leaders, and Special Projects, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
  • Cathy Wong, President, Conseil des Montréalaises (consultative body on gender equality)
  • Philippe Meilleur, Executive Director, Montreal Native Community Development Centre
  • Aïda Kamar, CEO, Vision Diversité
  • Vanessa Destiné, student, Université de Montréal; regional coordinator, Communautique; volunteer, MAtv
Posted in Media, Radio, TV

Another wave of cuts at CBC will mean 9 jobs lost in English services in Quebec

The cuts just keep coming at the CBC. The latest wave, announced today, affects local services across the country in both English and French, with 144 and 100 jobs cut, respectively.

J-Source has a copy of the memo outlining the regional breakdown for English services, which says nine jobs will be cut in Quebec.

We don’t know which jobs those will be yet. “Affected people will be informed in the coming weeks,” says communications manager Debbie Hynes.

The cuts relate to changes in the way local programming is managed, including the reduction of evening TV newscasts from 90 to 30 minutes this fall. Local radio programming is not being cut.

On the French side, Louis Lalande give some details about the cuts, including shows on ICI Musique that will be cancelled.

Posted in Canadiens, TV

TVA Sports to expand to three feeds during NHL playoffs

tvasports3

When TVA Sports launched, people wondered if it could fill 24 hours. When it acquired NHL rights, it had to expand to two channels even though it only really had scheduling conflicts on Saturday nights.

Now, with the NHL playoffs coming, and TVA having rights to all playoff games, Quebecor has decided to add a third feed to the service.

TVA Sports 3 will come online on April 15 on Videotron, Rogers, Bell Fibe/satellite and Telus Optik TV. It will be free to all subscribers who have TVA Sports and TVA Sports 2 in their packages. (Some subscribers have TVA Sports but not TVA Sports 2, and probably won’t get this new channel.)

In the two weeks leading up to that, from April 2 to 14, TVA Sports and TVA Sports 2 will have a free preview. (There’s only one Saturday night Canadiens game in that span, the season finale against the Maple Leafs.)

The most interesting thing about TVA Sports 3 is that it’s a temporary channel, and will be removed at the end of May, when the first two (three?) playoff rounds are over and there aren’t any more scheduling conflicts. That doesn’t mean it can’t return in the future, though. There’s a lot of sports out there.

If you only have TVA Sports, by the way, there’s probably no need to worry. They haven’t put any Canadiens games on TVA Sports 2, and there’s no reason they would start now. (RDS only moved a regular-season Canadiens game to RDS2 once, and that was during the World Series.)

Yes, it’s necessary

TVA Sports 3 is needed because there are situations, especially in the first round of the NHL playoffs, where two channels isn’t enough. Last year, TSN had to give away a playoff game to Sportsnet because it had the Raptors on the main network and it couldn’t put two simultaneous games on TSN2. (Now that TSN has five channels, that’s no longer a problem.)

The NHL tries to schedule the playoffs so there is as little overlap as possible, but when western conference teams play 8pm or 9pm starts (because many teams are in Central or Mountain time zones), you can have three going at once.

And jokes aside, TVA Sports does have rights to other sports. It has some Impact games, some Blue Jays games, some NFL games and some tennis events. It still has a long way to go to catch up to RDS, but it’s working on it.

Some context

Three channels might seem like a lot, but there’s a long list of sports channels in Canada owned by Bell and Rogers:

Bell (English): TSN1-5, ESPN Classic, plus minority stakes in NHL Network, Leafs TV, GOL TV, NBA TV, and CTV and CTV Two can air sports programming

Bell (French): RDS, RDS2, RDS Info

Rogers (English): Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet One/Vancouver/Oilers/Flames, Sportsnet World, OLN, plus minority stakes in Leafs TV, GOL TV, NBA TV, and City, OMNI and FX Canada can air sports programming, plus its deal with CBC for hockey

And on top of that there’s NFL Network, MLB Network, Golf Channel and others with English programming that TVA could pick up the French rights to.

Don’t expect Canadiens on TVA

Since the TVA NHL deal was first announced, people have been asking about Canadiens games on the main TVA network. Rogers even assumed it would happen in some early schedule mockups, and TVA never ruled out the possibility.

The press release isn’t clear, but seems to imply Canadiens playoff games will be on TVA Sports. Remember that Quebecor spent a lot of money securing these rights, and no NHL team draws francophone audiences nearly as much as the Canadiens. If they’d gotten all 82 Canadiens games, then a Saturday night free-to-air game might have made sense, but as it stands it needs Canadiens fans to subscribe to the sports channel.

Things might change if the Canadiens go deep in the playoffs. Most if not all Canadiens playoff games should be available for free in English on CBC or City, so casual fans jumping on the bandwagon might decide to forgo a TVA Sports subscription and just watch the games in English. If the Canadiens make the Stanley Cup final, TVA might decide that advertising revenue for such a huge audience outweighs the potential gains in temporary TVA Sports subscriptions.

Posted in TV

CBC greenlights English adaptation of Radio-Canada’s Nouvelle adresse

On the same day it holds a public consultation in Montreal asking its audience how it can best represent English-speaking Quebec in its programming, CBC announced it has green-lit an English-language drama set in Montreal.

The new series is an English adaptation of Nouvelle adresse, the Radio-Canada drama written by Richard Blaimert and starring Macha Grenon as a journalist whose extended family is turned upside down after she learns that she has an incurable cancer. The series, which began last fall, is already in its second season, and though it faces tough competition from TVA’s Lance et compte in the Monday 9pm timeslot, it’s seen its audience steadily grow over the past few weeks.

New Address, for which Blaimert will be a consultant but not the writer, will begin production this summer and could be on air as early as this fall, CBC says. We don’t have too much detail (no cast announcement yet), but we know that the series will be set in Montreal, and that the family name is being changed from Lapointe in the French version to Lawson in the English.

Both the French series and its English adaptation are produced by Sphère Média Plus, which is responsible for several attempts to turn its French-language hits into English versions, with mixed success:

  • Sophie, the English adaptation of the comedy Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin, about a talent agent whose life goes nuts, which lasted two seasons and 32 episodes on CBC before being cancelled because of poor ratings. (That series was also written by Blaimert, though he defends it a bit to La Presse.)
  • Rumours, the adaptation of the half-hour comedy Rumeurs about a group of magazine employees, which lasted 20 episodes on CBC.
  • And, of course, 19-2, the adaptation of the Radio-Canada cop drama of the same name, which is now in its second season on Bravo, where it is both a critical and popular success. It landed there after CBC passed on the chance to pick up the series.

The company was also commissioned by NBC to create a pilot that adapted the dramatic comedy Le monde de Charlotte. It never got picked up.

UPDATE (Feb. 26): Now comes news that it’s going to adapt Mémoires vives in English for Rogers, which could put it on City or FX Canada.

Can this be the one that works?

The success of 19-2 compared to the lack of same from Sophie and Rumours probably leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the programming decision-makers at CBC Television. But it doesn’t change the fact that these Sphère Média Plus adaptations are more likely to fail than succeed.

Nouvelle adresse is a good series, well-written, well-acted, and will probably pick up several awards come awards season. But then again Sophie and Rumours were based on series that picked up more than a dozen Gémeaux awards, so that’s not a guarantee of anything.

I’m a fan of Nouvelle adresse, even though it, like 19-2, is pretty heavy. But while 19-2 has police officers with guns patrolling gritty streets, Nouvelle adresse is about middle-class families dealing with disease, divorce and drama. I’m not sure how well that will translate.

A big difference will probably be the cast chosen for the English version. Though I doubt it would happen, Grenon is bilingual and could theoretically reprise her role in the language of Shakespeare. Among anglo Quebecers, she’s still remembered best as the lady from the Pharmaprix commercials of the 90s:

On jase, as they say in French. Sphère Média Plus’s success with 19-2 has earned it another chance at turning a Radio-Canada hit into a CBC one. Let’s be cautiously hopeful that it succeeds, if only because it’s nice to see another series set in Montreal on English-language television in Canada.

UPDATE: Brendan Kelly has more on the adaptation of Nouvelle adresse, including quotes from the creators.

No Unité 9 en anglais

Richard Therrien at Le Soleil tells us that CBC couldn’t come to an agreement to adapt the Quebec mega-hit Unité 9 into an English series. Apparently the CBC’s desire to cut down on the number of episodes was a problem for author/producer Fabienne Larouche.

Posted in Media, My articles, Radio, TV

CBC holding its first public consultation for English-language minority in Quebec

The CBC wants to hear from you, not just because it wants to, but because it’s required to by a condition of licence.

In fact, it’s the very first condition of licence for CBC’s English and French-language services in a new CRTC licence approved in May 2013: The public broadcaster has to consult with minority-language communities: Francophones in Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Western Canada and the North, and anglophones in Quebec. It has to happen once every two years and it has to be reported to the CRTC.

As CBC Quebec Managing Director Shelagh Kinch explains in this story I wrote for the Montreal Gazette, this is merely a formalizing of regular consultations the CBC did with anglophone community groups in Quebec and collection of audience feedback.

The consultation takes place Tuesday (Feb. 24) from 6:30pm to 8pm at Salle Raymond David of the Maison Radio-Canada in Montreal. You can also tune in via live webcast and participate on Twitter using the hashtag #CBCconsults.

In addition to Kinch and a panel of local journalists (All in a Weekend/Our Montreal host Sonali Karnick, C’est la vie host and political columnist Bernard St-Laurent, Shari Okeke and Raffy Boudjikanian, plus travelling journalist Marika Wheeler), there will also be two bigwigs from CBC who can make a real difference: Jennifer McGuire, editor-in-chief of CBC News (who is also responsible for local radio across the country) and Sally Catto, general manager of programming for CBC Television. (Sadly, there isn’t anyone from national CBC radio, nor is CEO Hubert Lacroix on the panel.)

The CRTC imposed this condition of licence among several changes in the last licence renewal to ensure CBC is fulfilling its mandate toward minority language communities that aren’t large enough to have commercial broadcasters catering to them. And while Montreal is big enough that we have four English TV stations and several commercial radio stations, the rest of Quebec is pretty underserved. The only major broadcaster catering to them directly is the CBC Radio One station in Quebec City.

So if you have some beef with CBC’s programming, or feel as though it needs to better reflect your reality, whether you live on the Plateau or in Gaspé, this is your chance to make yourself heard.

And yeah, the just-shut-down-the-CBC suggestion has already been made.

The Facebook event for the discussion is here.

I can’t make it because of a meeting I have to be at, so I won’t get a chance to ask why our public broadcaster took a pass on the only English-language Canadian scripted drama series that’s actually set in Montreal.