Category Archives: Montreal

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 Montreal, My articles

That Weird Al concert was fantastic, despite the rain

Weird Al Yankovic performs Canadian Idiot (because obviously) at Place des Festivals on Tuesday night.

Weird Al Yankovic performs Canadian Idiot (because obviously) at Place des Festivals on Tuesday night.

(TL;DR version: I like Weird Al, and I reviewed his show for the Gazette.)

I was looking forward to Tuesday night’s concert before I knew it existed.

It’s no secret that Weird Al Yankovic is my favourite musical artist. By simple quantitative measure, I have more of his songs than songs by any other. And I enjoy listening to them.

So I was excited when he announced his Mandatory World Tour in January, until I looked through the list of tour dates and couldn’t find Montreal on it. Surely this is a mistake. He’s performing in London, Ont., and Halifax, and Burlington, Vt., but not Montreal?

Super sleuths noted that his schedule had some holes in it around late July and early August. Perhaps he was booked for Osheaga, whose lineup hadn’t been announced yet.

But then Osheaga unveiled its lineup, and he wasn’t on that either.

Maybe Just for Laughs? He’s been here before, and the timing would be about right. Maybe he’d host a gala, or have a solo show at one of the big theatres, or even the Bell Centre. I didn’t care how much it would cost, I’d be there. I’ve never seen this man perform live before (I missed his last appearance at JFL in 2011), and I was determined to do so this year.

So you can imagine my shock when Just for Laughs announced that not only is he coming here, he’s performing a free show at the Place des Festivals.

It might not seem so shocking to hear of a free show during festival season, but these are usually done for the Jazz Festival, or Francofolies, or Pop Montreal. Just for Laughs has outdoor activities, but not big international names.

But Weird Al is both a comedian and a musician, so if anyone’s well suited to this, it’s him.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the entertainment editor at the Gazette. She asked me to review the show for the paper. I hesitated at first, because I’m not a music critic, and I’m hardly objective about Weird Al. But she wanted me because I’m a fan and I know his work.

Reviewing a concert for deadline is a challenge. The show started at 9pm, and the story for the early edition had to be filed by 9:30, only a couple of songs into it. Not nearly enough to provide a proper picture of what happened.

I spoke with Robbie Praw, the Just for Laughs vice-president of programming, to get an idea of why this was made into an outdoor show. His comments provided the bulk of the copy for the early edition. He said they wanted to make a “big statement” and create buzz for the festival. They were booking him for an indoor show, but decided the chance to put him outside was too big to pass up.

Praw said he didn’t lose any sleep over keeping me in suspense for several months about Weird Al coming here.

He also mentioned that his first involvement with Just for Laughs was seeing Al in concert at the Old Port in 1996. That was the last time he did a solo show here. (He came in 2011 to host a musical comedy show featuring other artists, but he only performed a few of his songs there.)

VIP treatment

A half hour before the show, I had to make a decision. I was hanging out with a couple of friends about 20 feet from the stage. The view was great from there, but the crowd was getting more dense. Would I seriously be able to sit down and write on my laptop in the middle of this concert with people dancing all around me?

On the other side of the plaza, a VIP section had been set up for JFL bigwigs, invited guests and media. From there, I was much further from the stage, but I could see the crowd, and I had a chair and a table. Even though part of the reason my friends came was to see me go nuts at a Weird Al concert, I had to abandon them for the sake of work.

It turned out to be the better decision, because a few minutes after I got to the table, the skies opened up. I cowered beneath my umbrella with my laptop, hoping it would pass.

Eventually the organizers set up a tent to shield us from the rain. We ended up watching the show with a partially obstructed view. But I can’t really complain, because I got to see Weird Al live for free from a VIP section.

(I’ve always resented VIP sections and other forms of special treatment. If I hadn’t been filing a story for deadline, I wouldn’t have taken advantage of it.)

Amazing Al

I don’t go to those big Bell Centre concerts, so I don’t know what the standard is for those things these days. I know Taylor Swift had that big elevated rotating stage thing during her show, and she and others have regular costume changes between songs.

Weird Al had those too, donning costumes similar or identical to those he used in the videos for them. He had a giant purple octopus costume for Perform This Way, a dark suit and sunglasses for Party at the CIA, a tool belt for Handy.

But it was his outfit for Fat, one of his first big hits, that impressed me most. Not only did he don the fat suit from the video, but he also had a prosthetic fat face on. I wasn’t close enough to really judge the quality of the makeup, but from a distance it looked incredible for something that was done in under five minutes.

Yankovic played his classic hits from the decades, and several songs from his latest album (but not Tacky?). You could tell which ones were the crowd favourites.

Speaking of which, the crowd wasn’t the biggest this town has ever seen for a free show (I’m guessing it would have been much, much larger had it not rained), but it was dedicated. Every downpour was met with a cheer and chants of “Weird Al” before the show. Many came in aluminum foil hats, referencing his Lorde parody Foil. Many came in garish Hawaiian shirts. One guy looked like he walked right out of a Weird Al lookalike contest.

But did I like it?

What impresses me most about Yankovic and his band is how versatile they are. They can perform rock songs, pop songs, country songs, rap songs, and of course polka, and they all sound good. Some songs are straight-up parodies with nearly identical music. Others are style parodies, that sound like a particular artist or style but don’t copy a particular song. And others are straight-up originals. And though they weren’t as present during the show, the more original songs are the ones I like the most.

I can’t say it was an ideal concert. The rain didn’t help matters as far as crowd enjoyment, and having to write a story was a distraction. But Yankovic himself was fantastic. He’s 55, and he can still kick over his head. His energy was infectious, even though he’s in the middle of a gruelling tour schedule that has shows almost every night.

My biggest complaint about the show, the one that left me actually disappointed emotionally, was that it ended. They could have done another half hour before they would have been forced to shut it down by the city. They could have performed more of my personal favourites.

And then Al and I could have chatted afterwards and become best friends.

Maybe that’s asking too much, though. I had a lot of fun, he put on a great show, and it didn’t cost me a nickel.

Thanks, Al. And come back soon.

Set list

(This is based off my notes, not any official source, so I may have missed a song or two)

  1. Now That’s What I Call Polka!
  2. Perform This Way
  3. Dare To Be Stupid
  4. Fat
  5. Foil
  6. Smells Like Nirvana
  7. Party In The CIA
  8. It’s All About the Pentiums
  9. Handy
  10. Bedrock Anthem
  11. Another One Rides the Bus
  12. Ode to a Superhero
  13. Gump
  14. Inactive
  15. eBay
  16. Canadian Idiot
  17. Eat It*
  18. I Lost on Jeopardy*
  19. I Love Rocky Road*
  20. Like a Surgeon*
  21. White and Nerdy
  22. Word Crimes
  23. Amish Paradise
  24. Yoda (encore)

* These songs were performed to the tune of other songs. Eat It was done to the tune of Eric Clapton’s Layla (the acoustic version). Others to a more jazz-y melody.

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 Montreal, Radio

Radio Fierté is now officially broadcasting

As of 6am today, a little over three months after it began on-air testing, CHRF Radio Fierté 980 is officially on the air, the first French-language LGBT radio station in North America according to their promo ads.

You can listen to the first four minutes of the first morning show here:

We now have a full idea of the programming schedule and on-air personalities. For a station that’s supposed to blend music and talk, it’s pretty light on the talk with only five hosts announced:

  • Michel Duchesne and Sylvain Verstricht host the morning show Les Barbus from 6am to 9am weekdays. Duchesne is an author and television writer who worked at Radio-Canada for 14 years (La Presse recently profiled him). Verstricht comes from CIBL 101.5 FM and writes the bilingual culture blog Local Gestures.
  • Marie-Noëlle (Marino) Gagnon hosts Marino et ses Diamants from 1 to 3pm and La Chansonnette avec Marino from 9 to 11am on Sundays, and serves as the station’s music director. She comes from RNC Media where she worked at Radio X 91.9 in Montreal.
  • Joe Bocan and Miguel Doucet host Les Pétards from 5 to 6pm weekdays (Bocan as of Feb. 9). Bocan is a singer who was very successful in the 1980s and early 90s, but withdrew from the public view to raise her children. La Presse profiled her desire to return to her career last year. Doucet is an aspiring actor. Doucet also hosts Ta Playlist from 6:30 to 7pm weekdays.

Weekends also include Le Top 10 Franco with Duchesne, Verstricht and Doucet at 11am Saturdays and Le Top Anglo at noon.

If you missed any of that, Joe Bocan can repeat it for you:

Radio Fierté can be streamed from its website or its mobile app. It’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

CFMB 1280 AM sells to Evanov Radio for $1.125 million

Control room at CFMB's main studio in the basement of its office

CFMB’s studios in Westmount

Evanov Radio hasn’t launched its first radio station in Quebec, but it’s already working on its third.

Earlier today, staff at CFMB 1280 AM were informed that the station has been sold to the Toronto-based company. The sale, for $1.125 million, has to be approved by the CRTC, for which an application was filed last Friday.

I have more details about the acquisition in this story for the Montreal Gazette, which appears in Wednesday’s paper, and this story at, which gives a more national perspective about Evanov.

The sale ends a 52-year run for CFMB under the ownership of founder Casimir Stanczykowski and his family. After his death in a car accident in 1981, it was up to his widow Anne-Marie and son Stefan to manage it with business partner and minority owner Andrew Mielewczyk.

But Mielewczyk and Anne-Marie Stanczykowski are well past ready to retire, and Stefan Stanczykowski is a lawyer who wants to return to that practice. Though he describes the decision to sell as bittersweet, and it was originally turned down a couple of years ago, he said he believes it’s the best decision for the future of the station.

For its part, Evanov doesn’t plan any cuts among the station’s staff of about 50. The vision is to eventually move the station’s offices and studios to co-locate with Radio Fierté on Papineau Ave. downtown. And there could be shared programming with Evanov’s other multilingual stations, CIAO 530 in Toronto and CKJS 810 in Winnipeg (the latter was also founded by Casimir Stanczykowski, but later sold to Newcap, who sold it to Evanov).

Radio Fierté 980 AM and another station, The Jewel 106.7 (CHSV-FM) in Hudson/St-Lazare, are in on-air testing and set to launch once that’s complete, officially before Christmas but with major announcements in the new year. Both will employ about 20 people.

If approved by the CRTC, CFMB would become the 18th radio station in the Evanov group, of which 14 stations (15 including this one) were launched or acquired in the past 10 years.

I wrote more about CFMB in a feature story that appeared in 2012 for its 50th anniversary.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the frequency of CIAO AM in Toronto. It’s 530, not 540.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

TTP Media says news-talk stations are six to nine months until launch

From left: Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy, partners in 7954689 Canada Inc., aka Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media

From left: Paul Tietolman, Nicolas Tétrault and Rajiv Pancholy, partners in 7954689 Canada Inc., aka Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media

Every now and then people ask me about the Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy group, which has licenses for three high-power AM talk radio stations in Montreal, the first one granted in 2011, but hasn’t made any announcements in more than a year.

Rumours abounded that something was wrong. That the group had bitten off more than it could chew. That there was a problem with the three-way partnership and that one or more partners would be bought out by the others. It’s been a year since I posted a story because people were wondering what happened to them.

Now we have some more news. On Sept. 19, the CRTC approved applications from the group for extensions on the deadlines to launch its two news-talk stations, a French one at 940 AM and an English one at 600 AM, for another year.

Because the group had already asked for an extension on the 940 station last year, this extension is the last one the commission will give. If the station does not launch by Nov. 21, 2015, its license becomes void.

The English station, which was first approved in 2012, gets an extension until Nov. 9, 2015. That extension could be extended another year if needed, consistent with CRTC precedent on these matters.

The group also has a license for a French-language sports talk station at 850 AM. That licence was granted in June 2013, so they have until June 2015 to launch it or ask for a first extension.

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Posted in Media, Montreal, Radio, TV, Video

Montreal media personalities dump water on their heads

The latest viral craze sweeping the western world is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people dump ice water on their heads in exchange for a chance to nominate three (or more) other people to do the same. Videos of celebrities and athletes doing this are all over the Internet now, and the campaign has recently spread to certain parts of Montreal media.

The challenge has been criticized as a gimmicky fad that’s more about doing silly stuff than actually raising money or awareness. Kind of like Movember. And there’s something to that. But the ALS Association has also seen eight times the amount of donations it normally does for this time of year. That’s more than $10 million that would otherwise not have been donated.

In Montreal, the challenge has begun sweeping the local media scene, and is continuing to spread (I’ve updated this post several times to add new ones).

Here are some links to videos of their dunkings, which I’ll be adding to as it spreads further. (Most are posted to Facebook, and some of those might not be accessible to everyone. If you’re going to post one of these videos to Facebook, be sure to make it public — or better yet, post it to YouTube instead — and don’t shoot it vertically for crying out loud).

If nothing else, they provide insight into what your favourite TV and radio personalities’ backyards look like.

CBC Montreal

Sabrina Marandola got Andrew Chang in on it, and he decided to spice things up.

CTV Montreal

Global Montreal

City Montreal

City Toronto has compiled videos of these challenges from City personalities across the country



The Beat

The Beat also got former colleague Jeremy White to take the challenge, and former PD Leo Da Estrela.


Virgin Radio 96

This video combines the following:

  • Morning host Freeway Frank Depalo
  • Afternoon host Mark Bergman
  • Evening host Tony Stark
  • Overnight host Mike D
  • Weekend host Kelly Alexander
  • Weekend host MC Mario

TSN Radio 690

KIC Country

The Gazette


I made my $100 donation through the Tony Proudfoot Fund. The Gazette has reposted Proudfoot’s stories chronicling his life with ALS.

Posted in In the news, Montreal, Opinion, Photos

“Homeless spikes” are gone — but what about Montreal’s other homeless deterrents?

Scars on the concrete outside a window of Archambault on Berri St., where spikes had been installed to deter people from sitting or lying down there.

Scars on the concrete outside a window of Archambault on Berri St., where spikes had been installed to deter people from sitting or lying down there.

When Le Devoir came out with a story this week noting the presence of anti-homeless spikes outside of a downtown business, the outrage was immediate. Heartless, disgusting, inhuman, dangerous. All sorts of angry comments directed at Archambault, the music and book store who Le Devoir said installed them.

Mayor Denis Coderre, outraged, promised to have them removed by any means necessary within the day.

As it turns out, Archambault wasn’t at fault, it was the owner of the building. And public pressure resulted in a crew removing the spikes by noon. News outlets discussed the issue, offering comments from the public who again noted their outrage. There was a comparison with a similar thing being done in London, another move that was reversed after public outcry. Or with a similar thing at a McDonald’s two blocks away as seen in Google Street View images taken in 2012, but those had already been removed.

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Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio


Since the announcement last month that Concordia’s CJLO radio station has applied for an FM retransmitter downtown to allow listeners at the downtown campus to hear it, but would block out Vermont Public Radio for many more, there’s been a lot of questions, debate and differences of opinion about this proposal.

The CRTC has already received 645 interventions, almost all of whom are radio listeners who support one side or the other. The majority are VPR listeners responding to the organization’s public call-out on its website. Others are CJLO fans who want to be able to hear the station on the downtown campus and say this is the only practical way to do so.

In most (but not all) cases, the interveners don’t have bad things to say about the other side. The VPR fans hope for an alternative solution to the reception problem. Both CJLO and VPR say they support the other and don’t want to prevent anyone from being able to listen to the other.

I look a bit deeper into this application in this story for The Gazette, which appears in Friday’s paper. Below, I’ll tackle some of the questions and perceptions that people have and try to come up with some unbiased answers to them.

A map of potential interference between VPR and CJLO on 107.9 FM, based on terrain data, created by Yves R. Hamel and Associates (click for larger)

A map of potential interference between VPR and CJLO on 107.9 FM, based on terrain data, created by Yves R. Hamel and Associates (click for larger)

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Posted in Montreal, TV, Video

ICI est là: Ethnic TV station posts its programs on YouTube

When the cooperative local ethnic television station ICI launched last fall, its website wasn’t a primary consideration. I asked its manager about posting its original programming online, but he was more concerned about getting the transmitter up and getting that programming on the air first.

Four months later, ICI has started making its programs available online in the simplest and most effective manor: By posting them to YouTube. Over the past two weeks, 171 videos have been posted, representing almost all of its local original programming, which makes up almost all of its schedule (it has only a couple of non-original programs, the Portuguese soap opera Bem-Vindos a Beirais, the dated OMNI cooking show South Asian Veggie Table, and the religious show Il est écrit).

The episodes are posted in their entirety, and for the moment anyway are without any restrictions or (additional) ads.

Being a television station that produces its own programming (or, more accurately, works with producers who create programming and sell their own ads for it) means there’s a lot more freedom to get video out without being stuck with geoblocking or custom video platforms.

Posting to YouTube is easy, offloads bandwidth costs, and is versatile, employing all of YouTube’s features from automatic captions to website embedding.

The videos show that, for the most part, ICI is doing what it promised. Many of its shows have left the confines of the green-screen studio and gone out into the field. Those that are shot in studio have unrealistic virtual sets where even the tables aren’t real, but they’re still better than anything we saw on CJNT.

Most of the shows still consist of dry interviews that demonstrate how little experience many of the people involved, particularly in front of the camera, have with television. But they’re improving. The shows are becoming more watchable as each week goes by.

The big question will be how long they can keep this up.

Posted in Montreal, Opinion

No safe option for cyclists through Plateau/Rosemont underpasses

Which of these options is safer: Sharing a narrow lane with a car, or a narrow sidewalk with pedestrians?

Which of these options is safer: Sharing a narrow lane with a car, or a narrow sidewalk with pedestrians?

The accidental death of a cyclist riding a Bixi through an underpass on Saint-Denis St. got to me. Because I’ve ridden a Bixi through that underpass (under Des Carrières St. and a railway line) many times going to and from work, and I’m aware of how dangerous it is.

We don’t know the details of the accident yet. Did she fall off and then get hit? Was there a collision? Did she veer into the truck or did it hit her from behind? It’s important to figure this out not so much to assign blame, but to determine what safety measures are at issue.

Flowers and other objects mark a memorial to a cyclist killed at a St-Denis underpass.

Flowers and other objects mark a memorial to a cyclist killed at a St-Denis underpass.

The death was controversial because right next to the accident scene was a sidewalk with bollards preventing cyclists from using the sidewalk. In this case, at least, had the cyclist used the sidewalk, she probably would have lived.

So in response, elected officials acted quickly, removing the bollards and announcing plans to allow cyclists to use the sidewalk through these underpasses. The mayor of the Rosemont borough announced that new signs were installed Friday morning allowing cyclists to share the sidewalk with pedestrians.

This applies not only at St-Denis, but at similar underpasses below that rail line where there is no bicycle path, underpasses that have been described as “tunnels de la mort”.

But is that really a better solution? To find out, I grabbed a tape measure and headed down to the underpass to measure the width of the sidewalks. (I ended up running into a guy doing the exact same thing while I was there.)

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Posted in Montreal, Radio

CJLO applies for FM retransmitter at downtown campus

A rough guide to the range of the proposed CJLO FM transmitter. Red areas would experience interference from WVPS in Vermont.

A rough guide to the range of the proposed CJLO FM transmitter. Red areas would experience interference from WVPS in Vermont.

After much study, Concordia student radio station CJLO 1690 AM believes it has found a solution to reception problems it is experiencing at the university’s downtown campus. A long-rumoured application for a low-power FM retransmitter was published Friday by the CRTC.

If approved, the transmitter would operate on 107.9 FM, from an antenna on the Henry F. Hall Building, at 100 watts.

VPR interference

The frequency is one that has been previously identified as potentially usable in Montreal, but it comes with one big downside: It’s the same frequency as WVPS, the Vermont Public Radio transmitter in Burlington, and the only U.S. public radio station that reaches into Montreal.

Because of co-channel interference from the 48kW VPR transmitter, the CJLO FM retransmitter would have a very limited range, basically covering the core of downtown and not much else. On the other hand, areas around downtown will experience a great deal of interference, likely hearing both stations at the same time, and neither very well. (I can’t get too specific about this because the maps submitted with the application are blurry and black-and-white because they were sent by fax).

Though VPR’s 107.9FM signal reaches Montreal remarkably well, it is not protected in this city. We learned this two years ago when a proposed station in Hudson offered 107.9 FM as an alternate frequency if its first choice of 106.7 was rejected. The CRTC received some comments from VPR listeners upset at the potential of no longer being able to hear that station.

CJLO's AM antenna on Norman St. Increasing its power, or putting a transmitter like this downtown, are impractical solutions to downtown reception problems,

CJLO’s AM antenna on Norman St. Increasing its power, or putting a transmitter like this downtown, are impractical solutions to downtown reception problems.

Bad signal

CJLO’s report, prepared by broadcasting consultant Michel Mathieu, notes that signal strength readings were taken along Sherbrooke St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. downtown, and they showed that the signal is particularly bad in the heart of downtown where Concordia’s downtown campus is. The signal starts dropping around Atwater St., and returns around Berri. The reason? Downtown skyscrapers absorbing the AM signal.

Even Laval, more than twice the distance away, shows a signal 10 times better than in some downtown blocks.

In case the quantitative data isn’t enough, the application also includes a dozen letters from CJLO listeners complaining of the signal quality downtown.

There’s clearly a problem here, and a low-power FM retransmitter makes the most sense as a way to solve it, even though the choice of frequency might not be to everyone’s liking. (Mathieu notes that even VPR’s signal is hard to receive downtown because of the same interference problems that CJLO experiences.)

Alternatives studied

CJLO’s application noted that it studied other options:

  • Increasing the power of its 1,000W transmitter in Lachine’s St-Pierre district was rejected because it wouldn’t solve the problem. Even TSN 690, operating with giant towers at 50,000 watts on a clear channel, has signal reception problems in downtown buildings.
  • An AM repeater (it’s unclear if this would have been on the same frequency or another one) “became out of the question” because of practical and cost limitations, being unable to put a 75-foot antenna on top of the Hall Building.

The report doesn’t mention looking at other FM frequencies, but with the FM band effectively at capacity in the city, it would be difficult to locate one to put even a low-power transmitter without causing interference

CJLO’s application can be downloaded here (2.8MB .zip file). The CRTC is accepting comments on CJLO’s application until 8pm on May 26. They can be submitted using this form. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

UPDATE (May 4): CKUT’s International Radio Report devoted its show on Sunday to this application, with comments from supporters of CJLO and VPR. You can listen to the show here in MP3 format.

Meanwhile, VPR is warning its listeners about the CRTC application and its consequences.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

CRTC says Radio X Montreal can remove jazz music programming

Planète Jazz is no more.

Two years after RNC Media first requested that CKLX-FM 91.9 in Montreal be relieved of its conditions of licence requiring a specialty jazz format, and a year after an initial denial, the CRTC approved the request on Tuesday as part of the station’s licence renewal.

Under the new licence, the station would remain under a specialty format, but one that requires at least 50% of its programming to be spoken word.

The new licence, which is for a short term because the CRTC found that the station failed to comply with terms of its existing licence (including incorrectly classifying some popular music as jazz to meet its specialty licence requirements), takes effect on Sept. 1. But a CRTC spokesperson tells me that the change relating to format takes effect immediately.

When it denied the same application a year ago, the CRTC cited two main reasons: the fact that the station appeared to be failing to meet its current licence, and the fact that it has approved another French-language talk station in Montreal (TTP Media’s news-talk station at 940 AM) and that granting this request could threaten the financial viability of that station.

So why the change of heart? Two reasons: One, since this is a licence renewal decision, the CRTC is more open to changes to that licence. The commission doesn’t like rewarding non-complying stations by changing their licence conditions during their licence term. And it says in this decision that it monitored programming last fall and found the station had rectified its licence compliance issues.

As for competition with TTP Media, the CRTC said that “the Commission’s standard practice is to not consider applications for new stations intended to serve the market in question within two years of the publication of its decision to approve a new station when it was licensed following a call for applications.”

The French TTP Media station was approved on Nov. 21, 2011. It was supposed to launch two years later, but was granted a one-year extension to Nov. 21, 2014. But there’s no similar extension to a de facto moratorium on new competing formats. So the CRTC felt it no longer had to consider that issue. The commission also notes that TTP Media did not write to the commission to oppose this application.

Those issues dealt with, it came down to the basic question: Is there an economic need to justify this change?

The CRTC found a year ago that there was one. And that situation hasn’t changed.

CKLX-FM was first approved by the CRTC in 2003, along with others including CJLV 1570 AM in Laval, CKDG-FM 105.1 in Montreal, and the 104.7 FM transmitter for CBC Radio One.

The logic at the time was that because the Montreal International Jazz Festival was so popular, a jazz music radio station would also be so, or at least popular enough that it could be profitable. So Spectra, the company that runs the festival, partnered with broadcaster RNC Media and applied for a licence for a radio station, which was later approved.

But it didn’t work that way. Jazz music simply wasn’t that popular. Some fans have argued that’s because the station’s music was poorly programmed, but after a decade, it was clear it could not be made profitable. Spectra was bought out as a partner, and RNC made the decision to change Planète Jazz to Radio X, copying its mega-successful programming format in Quebec City.

That decision hasn’t been that successful either. The station has only a 1% market share among francophones in the latest BBM ratings, and 3% among francophones age 25-54. The station has argued that it’s growing, but it still has a long way to go.

The new CRTC licence means that now Radio X Montreal must have at least 50% talk programming, and has no requirement at all for jazz. It would likely mean a more CHOI-like programming schedule, with more talk in the evenings and more rock music on weekends. Right now, the station switches to jazz music at 7pm every day, and runs jazz all weekend except in the afternoons when it has a rock music show.

In an on-air discussion after the decision was published, station management said there would be an evaluation of programming options over the coming weeks, and no changes would be announced right away.

Radio X has posted photos of staff drinking champagne after the decision.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Radio X’s licence change takes effect Sept. 1. Though RNC Media apparently believes this to be the case, the CRTC tells me that it actually takes effect immediately.

UPDATE (April 15): Jazz was removed from Radio X’s schedule over the weekend. It now airs rock music all weekend and repeats overnight.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Bravo renews English version of 19-2 for second 10-episode season

The cast of 19-2. (Photo: Bell Media)

The cast of 19-2. (Photo: Bell Media)

So it looks like 19-2 is as much of a success adapted in English as it had in the original French. Bell Media announced on Tuesday that the Montreal-set cop series will be renewed for a second 10-episode season.

The French series, created by and starring Réal Bossé and Claude Legault, debuted in 2011 on Radio-Canada to critical and ratings success. It was praised in particular for the realistic portrayal of police officers. Bossé and Legault spent time with Montreal police to learn what life is really like on the job.

Fans of the French series have had to show patience, though. Because of various delays, the series has only aired 20 episodes (two 10-episode seasons) in three years. A fourth season is only slated to air in January 2015.

Bell’s press release doesn’t give an idea of when Season 2 of 19-2 would air.

The English 19-2 was originally ordered as a pilot for CBC, but was picked up by Bravo when CBC passed on it, a decision the public broadcaster is hopefully regretting. It’s basically a shot-by-shot remake, with nearly identical plot, the same characters (except for Bossé’s Nick Berrof, who becomes Nick Barron, played by Adrian Holmes), same music and same cinematographic style. The actors are different (with the exception of Benz Antoine, who plays the alcoholic cop Tyler), and Podz, the director whose mark is so clearly felt in the French version, is not behind the camera in the English one. Still, the English version is as compelling as the French one, and worth watching even for those of us who already know what’s going to happen next.

19-2 is the first English drama in forever that is clearly set in Montreal. This leads to some odd things we just have to accept, such as the fact that even though Montreal is a French city and French signs are everywhere, nobody ever actually speaks the language or even has a strong accent. There are also the occasional geographical head-scratchers.

But it’s fun to see our fair city on the small screen in English without the producers trying to tone down its character so it can pass for any American city.

Bell has qualified 19-2’s first season run on Bravo as a big success, reaching an average of 190,000 viewers a week, making it the No. 3 show on the network. The series got a boost the first week with a day-after airing on CTV, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the season rerun on the main network similar to what it did for Space’s Orphan Black.

Assuming Season 2 of the English series goes the same way the French one does, it’ll be a roller-coaster plot-wise, starting the first episode with a school shooting (in the French version, the school shooting scene was done as a 13-minute continuous take, though it’s not clear if the English version will repeat that experiment and Podz is going to direct it again in English) and ending with a big reveal where … well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Bell also notes that the English series, produced by Sphère Média Plus and Echo Media, will be going to Cannes to be shopped to international broadcasters around as part of the MIPTV conference there next week.

The first nine episodes of 19-2 are available for viewing at The first season finale airs Wednesday, April 2, at 9pm on Bravo.