Category Archives: Montreal

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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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.

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.

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 Bravo.ca. The first season finale airs Wednesday, April 2, at 9pm on Bravo.

The battle over Videotron’s community TV channel

It was supposed to be simple and non-controversial: An application by Videotron to create a second community television channel in Montreal to serve the anglophone community.

Anglophones had long complained that since Videotron bought CF Cable TV, they have not had a proper voice in community television. The CRTC even asked Videotron to do something about it. Just months before the announcement, the English Language Arts Network publicly called on Videotron to restore English community programming.

So when Videotron made its big splash about starting MYtv, the reaction seemed to be positive, at least at first. ELAN hosted a meeting in September to get input from the community, and though there were few people present, there were some tough questions for Videotron’s representatives.

Now, those questions have been formalized in a complaint to the CRTC.

The complaint, filed by a group calling itself Independent Community Television Montreal (ICTV), includes an 86-page document meticulously arguing that the programming that airs on MAtv does not meet CRTC requirements for a community channel. It argues that the CRTC should declare that MAtv is not complying with its licence conditions, and instead grand a licence to ICTV to operate a multilingual community channel that would replace both MAtv and MYtv.

I summarize the complaint in this story, which appears in Monday’s Gazette.

But as long as the story is, there’s still so much detail I had to leave out.

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Radio ratings: The Beat back above Virgin (but…)

Radio ratings March 2014

Total audience share for major ownership groups, winter 2013-14 (ages 2+). Cogeco Diffusion: 98.5 + Rythme FM + CKOI + The Beat + Radio Circulation; Bell Media: NRJ + Rouge FM + CJAD + CHOM + Virgin + TSN 690; CBC/Radio-Canada: CBC Radio One + CBC Radio Two + ICI Première + Espace musique; Other: CJPX Radio Classique + Radio X + non-reporting stations

One year after The Beat took a surprising lead over Virgin among all anglophone listeners, it has done so again. The latest BBM quarterly ratings report, released last week, shows The Beat with an 18.4% share among anglophones, slightly less than its record 18.6% in March 2013. That’s ahead of Virgin Radio at 15.1%.

When you factor in the francophone audience, where Virgin has a slight lead (4.1% vs. 3.9%), The Beat is still ahead overall, though just by a bit. This differs from last year, where Virgin had the lead among all listeners because it was stronger among francophones. The Beat last year had a 2.1% share among francophones, so there’s some significant improvement there.

What’s interesting about this jump back to number one (well, actually number two, behind CJAD) for The Beat is that it happened during the same time of the year last year, suggesting that there may be some seasonal aspect to it. Maybe The Beat has better Christmas music?

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City won’t renew Only in Montreal (and won’t say why)

On Saturday at 7pm, City TV’s local lifestyle show will present three capsules, one each from its hosts Matt Silver, Tamy Emma Pepin and Dimitrios Koussioulas, as it airs its 30th episode. Which will also be its last.

Last month, Rogers Media confirmed to me that Only in Montreal is not being renewed past its first 30-episode run.

The news is disappointing because Only in Montreal, produced by Whalley-Abbey Media, was actually a really good show. It was well edited, well produced, fun and interesting, and introduced the city to three personalities they had known little of before. And it showcased the city in a way that has been missing on local television for far too long.

But what’s more disappointing is that the decision to cancel the show was made before the latest local TV ratings numbers came out. Since this was the first report since Only in Montreal came on the air last July, we can only conclude that the decision had nothing to do with ratings. And it’s tempting to further conclude that it therefore had nothing to do with the quality of the show.

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Midnight Poutine on indefinite hiatus, podcast finds new home

The Midnight Poutine podcast crew, from left: Theo Mathien, Amie Watson, Gabrielle LeFort, Gregory Bouchard

The Midnight Poutine podcast crew last summer. From left: Theo Mathien, Amie Watson, Gabrielle LeFort, Greg Bouchard

Midnight Poutine, the local culture/lifestyle/other stuff blog, has been shut down. But it’s coming back, someday. Hopefully.

The website stopped posting updates just before new year’s, and its homepage has been replaced by a page announcing a “new and improved” version launching “soon”.

The website, whose archives go back to September 2005, is owned by Toronto-based Fresh Daily, and is published by Tim Shore. Its sister site is the more popular Blogto, which continues running as normal. (A third Fresh Daily blog, Vancouver’s Beyond Robson, went dark in 2011.)

“We’re planning some big changes to the site — both in respect to the site design and content strategy — so we thought it would be best to put it on hiatus for a short time period,” Shore told me.

He wouldn’t elaborate on what those changes would be or what the focus of the new site would be. He also wouldn’t say when it’s coming back. “We’re not releasing either of these details to the public just yet,” he said. “Sorry.”

One thing that definitely won’t be back is the Midnight Poutine Weekend Playlist podcast, which passed the 300-episode mark in June. The last episode posted to Midnight Poutine’s website, No. 318, was dated Dec. 19, and featured the hosts saying goodbye and alerting listeners that they would be moving to a new site.

Greg Bouchard, who managed the podcast and acted as Midnight Poutine’s main editor, stepped down last month because he moved to Toronto for work. He insists there’s no animosity either way in his departure, but the podcast is being moved.

The new site is called Radio Cannon, and it’s owned by Bouchard. He describes it as a website devoted to helping people discover music through personal recommendations, and a complement to more automatic ways of recommending music used by sites like Rdio or Pandora.

“It was never the intention for the site to focus primarily on music,” Bouchard said of Midnight Poutine. “It was supposed to be a more balanced culture blog.”

But as a site that didn’t offer much (if any) money to contributors, it was a slave to what those people wished to contribute. More newsy elements of the site would come and go in waves, as new eager contributors came in and eventually got bored and stopped. In Bouchard’s case, his interest was mainly music, which meant the site had a strong music focus.

Bouchard wouldn’t get into much detail about his reasons for leaving, beyond the obvious one of having moved to Toronto. But he said he wanted to focus on music, and expand the podcast’s concept nationally, and Midnight Poutine did not seem to be the proper outlet for it.

Joining Bouchard at Radio Cannon are his podcast co-hosts Theo Mathien, Amie Watson and Emily Hill (Gabrielle LeFort, who was one of the podcast co-hosts last summer, left in September to take on a job with Evenko).

The Radio Cannon Montreal Podcast is basically identical to the Midnight Poutine one, right down to the “Hello Internet, salut cyberspace” introduction (though now enhanced with the sound of a cannon firing). Still about an hour a week of indie or underground music from bands that are playing at smaller venues in the city over the coming week, interspersed with some chatter about them (and details of their upcoming concerts) by the hosts.

Bouchard says he plans to start a similar one for Toronto in the next couple of weeks (he’s looking for a co-host) and eventually Vancouver as well. “As long as we can find the personnel, we’ll expand to other cities,” he said during the last Midnight Poutine podcast.

He notes that there’s a romanticized notion that Montreal’s music scene is more diverse or bigger than other cities, but at least in the case of Toronto “it’s just not true.”

He also wants to set up streaming music channels (some playlists are already up).

Will this turn into a business?

“It’s still a hobby, but we’d like to try to make a go at making it bigger,” Bouchard said. They’d be looking at getting sponsors, having audio ads incorporated into the podcasts, or finding other ways to generate revenue.

As for Midnight Poutine, its future is unclear. The rumour is that the relaunch would be more focused on food than music, but officially we don’t know anything. Will it be days, weeks, months? Who knows.

One thing is for sure: Without the podcast and its associated talent, it’s going to have to work much harder to build an audience. And to be successful, that work won’t come free.

UPDATE (March 13): Radio Cannon’s Toronto podcast has launched.

Montreal TV ratings: Global and City morning shows tied

Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross

Global Montreal’s Morning News, with Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure and Camille Ross, hasn’t fallen to new competitor Breakfast Television. At least not yet.

The first ratings report after the launch of City’s local programs is out, and so we can finally say which of the two local English morning shows has won the first ratings battle.

As it turns out, neither. They’re tied. Though both of them are far behind CTV’s Toronto-based Canada AM, which has three times more viewers in Montreal than the other two shows combined.

I have some analysis of ratings, and some quotes from the various parties, in this story, which appears in Friday’s Gazette.

But let’s get into some detail.

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No Pants Subway Ride this Sunday

As we continue to wade through a cold spell in a cold month, the timing seems about right for the annual No Pants Subway Ride.

Started by the group Improv Everywhere in New York in 2002, the event has grown in popularity and spawned copycat events throughout the world, including Montreal. It involves people going into the subway system, taking off their pants, and then getting onto trains as if everything’s normal. The fun is in seeing people’s reactions (which requires staying in character throughout the event).

The 2014 Montreal event is Sunday at 1:30pm, starting at the Université de Montréal metro station. It coincides with the flagship event in New York on the same day.

The Montreal event has about 50 people saying they’re going as I write this. Considering the Facebook ratio of “Going” to “actually show up”, expect a small event unless this goes a lot more viral between now and then.

One of the tricks with this event is that it can easily be ruined by professional or unprofessional journalists. It’s hard to pretend that everything’s normal when you have a cameraman lugging a giant HD camera on a tripod. Improv Everywhere has since set up official guidelines for journalists that basically say don’t take video of the event, use our B-roll from last year instead. (The group shoots the event using hidden cameras.)

Five years ago, a Montreal event was canned (well, mostly) because of all the photographers and cameramen that showed up.

Hopefully that won’t repeat itself this time. If you want to bring a camera, make sure it’s well hidden, or just talk to people before and after the event.

Katie Brioux, the new Montreal stamp lady

Katie Brioux shows off one of her stamps

Katie Brioux shows off one of her stamps

When Katie Brioux emailed me out of the blue to tell me she had started making and selling rubber stamps of Montreal’s architectural heritage, one of the big questions I had in my head was “that’s cool, but what would people do with these?”

As paper becomes less important a part of our daily lives, these stamps seem to be going the way of the dodo as well. And unlike the “APPROVED” and “PAID” and other useful office stamps you get at Bureau en Gros, these ones seem destined to lose their novelty quickly.

Thankfully Brioux isn’t making this her career. She’s a graphic designer, one I met two years ago when I was asked to speak to some journalism students and she was doing cool graphics for The Concordian. (I also follow her father, Bill Brioux, who writes about television for a living.)

As she explains in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette, she created a series of stamps as part of a Concordia Student Union orientation campaign. Inspired by the passports used at Expo 67, it was a way to get students to visit all of the venues and events, each of which would have a different stamp to mark their passports with.

Later, she brought those stamps to colleagues in the design industry, and they loved them, encouraging her to make more and sell them. And so a small business was born.

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ICI launches, giving Montreal its 10th local television station

Afromonde host Henry Ngaka on his virtual set, as seen through a monitor in ICI's studio.

Afromonde host Henry Ngaka on his virtual set, as seen through a monitor in ICI’s studio.

As radio stations that were supposed to launch in 2013 seek delays in whole or in part because of technical problems, an independent startup television station has managed to get on the air just under a year after getting a licence from the CRTC.

ICI began airing regular programming on Wednesday morning, launching on Videotron at the same time. (Apparently on Bell Fibe it’s still “coming soon”.) And so I’ve written about it in this story, which appears in Wednesday’s Gazette, and this story, from a more technical and business angle, for Cartt.ca.

As I’ve been watching the channel on and off on Wednesday, I notice it’s been lacking a bit of regularity right out of the gate. There were long awkward seconds of dead air, at one point a single ad or video aired three times in a row, leading to eight minutes between actual programming.

The station has very little advertising to start with, limited to some ads that look more like sponsorship messages, including one from Mike FM, whose parent company CHCR produces the Greek program. As a result, commercial breaks are only a few seconds long, enough for a station ID, and the hour is backfilled with music videos or other short-form programming.

For the quality of the actual programming, I’ll wait until they’ve had a chance to air more of it (and even then I can’t comment much on content because I can’t understand the language most of the time), but my first impression is that it’s uneven. Some of it looks like the kind of long-form talking-head shows that fit the stereotype of low-budget ethnic TV. The only thing that’s different is that it’s in a green-screen set and in high-definition, and has flashier computerized graphics (though not quite as well produced as the stuff you’ll find on the big national broadcasters). The shows are better when they take their cameras out in the field, which they do and want to do more (at least when the weather is nice).

It’s considered a soft launch, without a major marketing push behind it, and it’s being run by a group of people who, while they have experience in television production, don’t have much experience running television stations.

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Ethnic TV station ICI sets Dec. 11 launch date

Sam Norouzi in the control room at ICI's studios in Ahuntsic

Sam Norouzi in the control room at ICI’s studios in Ahuntsic

“I lose more and more hair,” Sam Norouzi says with a laugh, “and what’s left is getting more and more grey.”

The manager of CFHD-DT (ICI), Montreal’s newest television station, has had to deal with all sorts of technical headaches while trying to launch it. But with the last of the technical issues resolved, he has finally set an official launch date: Wednesday, Dec. 11.

It’s been almost a year since the CRTC granted Norouzi’s 4517466 Canada Inc. a licence to operate a new multilingual ethnic television station as part of a three-way deal that saw CJNT switch hands from Channel Zero to Rogers and become an English-language City station.

As part of that deal, ICI will receive $1.067 million from Rogers for programming, in addition to free content from Rogers’s OMNI network. It also gets a loan of up to $1 million from Channel Zero, plus five years of free master control services. All this for simply taking over CJNT’s ethnic programming obligations and clearing the way for a City station in Montreal.

ICI had hoped to launch by late spring or early summer, but a series of unforeseen problems caused delays. Like when his new antenna was delivered and parts of it were shattered in a million pieces. Or when, after finally getting a repaired antenna installed, it caused interference with a Sûreté du Québec antenna on the same tower (moving the SQ antenna up a bit solved that, but that took a long time because of all the coordination work involved).

And, of course, there was the legal threat from the CBC, which wants to use the “ICI” brand for itself. That case is still ongoing.

In August, the station began transmitting a test signal. It was then pulled off the air when the SQ interference problem came up. Last week, it returned, repeating an Italian-language program about Montreal’s Italian Week. The station is still officially testing until Dec. 9.

ICI green-screen studio with new HD cameras.

ICI green-screen studio with new HD cameras.

When the station does launch on Dec. 11, it will meet its requirement of 14 hours of original local programming a week, though Norouzi said that some of its producers are still waiting for some acquired programming.

ICI is run as a producers’ cooperative. So the producers who work in various languages will buy airtime and produce or acquire their own programming and sell their own ads with it. Norouzi’s production company Mi-Cam Communications has been put at their disposal to help with the technical production aspects.

ICI has a small green-screen studio at the Mi-Cam offices on Christophe-Colomb Ave. in Ahuntsic, though Norouzi said he wanted as much programming as possible to be shot in the field. No more poor-quality interview shows people are used to seeing on previous incarnations of Montreal’s ethnic television station.

Shows ready to go include a Portuguese soap opera Norouzi says looks very good, as well as a cooking show and other programming from OMNI. ICI will, at least at first, carry OMNI News programs in Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi about 2-3 days a week. But overall the amount of OMNI programming on the station is very small, Norouzi said.

Carriage: Norouzi said ICI will be carried on both Videotron cable and Bell Fibe when it launches. (Because ICI is a local station, its carriage is required by local cable companies, and that carriage comes without a fee.) He said he’s in talks with others (notably Bell satellite TV) for additional coverage.

CRTC says yes to Bell English community TV in Montreal

Subscribers to Bell Fibe TV will soon have access to English-language community television programming in Montreal.

On Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved an amendment to Bell’s broadcasting distribution licence allowing it to spend 2% of its gross revenues on each of a French and English community TV service in most cities of southern Quebec and Ontario.

CRTC policy requires that large cable companies spend 5% of their gross revenues on Canadian content, usually through contributions to funds like the Canadian Media Fund. But it also allows these companies to spend up to 2 of that 5% on a community television service. And recently it has allowed distributors to spend another 2% on a second community television service in the minority official language, leaving just 1% for other Canadian content contributions.

Where Bell’s community TV service differs from existing ones is that it is being made available exclusively on Bell’s video-on-demand service. There’s no linear channel to tune to. The advantage is that nobody has to worry about filling a 24/7 schedule, the programming can be of any length, and people can get the shows they want whenever they want. The disadvantage is that it’s harder to discover the content, and it’s harder to broadcast live content (like junior hockey games).

Bell Local has so far launched in English in Toronto and in French in Montreal. With this new licence amendment, an English service in Montreal will be in the works. Louis Douville, station manager for CTV Montreal and Bell’s point person for the Bell Local project here, tells me that they will now finalize the budget and start hiring staff. “I expect we should start delivering some programs early in the new year,” he said.

Videotron, the main distributor in Quebec, has also applied to the CRTC for an English community channel. Unlike Bell’s, Videotron’s would be a linear channel with 24/7 programming.

2013 Montreal election night coverage plans: TV prime time stays untouched

Graphics that will be used on Global Montreal's News Final election special.

Graphics that will be used on Global Montreal’s News Final election results special.

When the polls close at 8pm on Sunday, Montrealers will be turning to their televisions to watch the results come in. And many will be disappointed.

Though there are municipal elections happening throughout Quebec, and Montreal’s election in particular has been getting a lot of attention, none of the broadcast television stations in Montreal is carrying election coverage before 10pm. Most are keeping the lucrative Sunday primetime schedule as is, and holding live election coverage until the late evening.

For the all-news networks, meanwhile, it will depend on your preferred language (just like with every other story, Montreal/Quebec news is national news in French but not in English). RDI and LCN will have election coverage starting at 6:30pm (presumably covering cities across Quebec, not just Montreal), while the three English networks have no election specials planned.

Here’s what’s going on for each network:

Local television

  • Radio-Canada: Tout le monde en parle until 10:18pm, followed by Le Téléjournal (presumably leading with election news), then simulcasting RDI’s election special starting at 10:42pm going until about 1am
  • TVA: Regular Sunday night primetime (a special Le Banquier with Céline Dion, On connaît la chanson), followed by TVA Nouvelles at 10pm, then a movie at 11pm
  • V: No live election coverage (the network only airs newscasts in the morning now)
  • Télé-Québec: No live election coverage (Télé-Québec stopped having live news long ago)
  • MAtv Montréal: No live election coverage
  • CBC Television: Local news as usual at 11pm, focused on election results, hosted by Thomas Daigle. Prime time (Battle of the Blades) is untouched. Results throughout the night online.
  • CTV Montreal: Regular late local news at 11:30pm, focused on election results. Five field reporters, plus political panel. Hosted by Paul Karwatsky and Caroline Van Vlaardingen. Prime time remains untouched, but results are promised during “extended news breaks”, with an on-screen crawl when the winner is named, says news director Jed Kahane. Results throughout the night online.
  • Global Montreal: News Final is extended from half an hour to an hour, starting at 11pm. It will also be streamed online. Jamie Orchard hosts, with live reports from Tim Sargeant (Pointe-Claire), Elysia Bryan-Baynes (Beaconsfield) and Billy Shields (CDN/NDG). “We’re also working with the best election graphics in the industry,” says station manager Karen Macdonald. Former city councillor Karim Boulos will be in studio as an analyst. Online, election results and a live blog will be posted as of 8pm. Like its Focus Montreal mini debates, Global plans to focus on demerged on-island suburbs in results and analysis.
  • City Montreal: No live election coverage

Cable TV

On cable, we can expect extensive coverage from the French networks, but not so much from the English networks:

  • RDI: Election special from 6:30pm to at least 1am. Hosted by Patrice Roy, with Véronique Darveau providing results and Carole Aoun following social media. Reporters are promised at the four Montreal party HQs, plus Laval, the South Shore, Quebec City, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières, Estrie, Saguenay, Abitibi and eastern Quebec. Analysts include former mayor Jean Doré, former Quebec municipal affairs minister Rémy Trudel, former Baie St-Paul mayor Jacinthe Simard, and former CBC Montreal anchor Dennis Trudeau.
  • LCN: Election special from 6:30pm to at least midnight. Hosted by Pierre Bruneau, with Jean Lapierre and Mario Dumont as analysts.
  • CBC News Network: Nothing special scheduled. It will run The National from 9 to 10pm as usual, presumably with news from Quebec. Otherwise the primetime schedule is documentaries on Julian Assange, Princess Diana and a chimpanzee.
  • CTV News Channel: No election special, but CTV News Weekend with Scott Laurie is expected to check in regularly with Montreal reporters covering the election here from 6 to 10pm. After 10, it’s the usual plan of simulcasting CTV National News for the first half of each hour.
  • Sun News Network: Schedule lists the usual repeats of opinion shows from earlier in the week. There normally isn’t live programming after 5pm on Sundays.

Radio

On radio, things are much better, with news talk stations carrying live election coverage after polls close:

  • CBC Radio One (88.5 FM): Live coverage as of 8pm, hosted by Mike Finnerty, with analyst Bernard St-Laurent and results from Joanne Bayly.
  • CJAD 800: Live coverage as of 8pm (end time will depend on results, but probably at least midnight), hosted by Aaron Rand and Tommy Schnurmacher. “We will have a full complement of newscasters and reporters scattered on and off-island. We will also be providing a live feed of the victory speech of the next Mayor of Montreal,” says program director Chris Bury.
  • ICI Radio-Canada Première (95.1 FM): Live coverage from 8pm to 11pm, hosted by Michel C. Auger, with journalists Frank Desoer, Jean-Sébastien Bernatchez, Benoit Chapdelaine, Francine Plourde, Dominic Brassard and Alexandre Touchette. Bernard Généreux, president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities and mayor of Saint-Prime, will be an analyst. Coverage is promised from all regions of Quebec with Radio-Canada staff. Quebec City and Gatineau will have their own local election night specials from 8pm to 10pm, the rest of the network will carry Auger’s show.
  • CHMP 98.5 FM: Election special from 8pm to midnight hosted by Paul Houde. Panelists Marie Grégoire, Liza Frulla and Jean Fortier, guests Pierre Curzi, Jean Lapierre and Mario Dumont, and journalists Philippe Bonneville, Chantal Leblond, Catherine Brisson, Any Guillemette, Julie-Christine Gagnon and Geneviève Ruel. Other Cogeco Nouvelles stations will also have election specials from 8pm to midnight:
    • Jean-François Gilbert in Quebec City at 93.3 FM (starts at 8:30pm)
    • Martin Pelletier in Sherbooke at 107.7 FM (starts at 8:30pm)
    • Roch Cholette and Louis-Philippe Brûlé in Gatineau at 104.7 FM (8pm to 11:30pm or midnight, depending on results)
    • Claude Boucher in Trois-Rivières at 106.9 FM, which will also be presented on local community channels Cogeco TV and MaTV.

Online

And of course there’s online, where almost everyone is promising extensive coverage and live results.

I’ll be spending election night on the Gazette news desk, which has all reporting, editing and managing hands on deck, and will be feeding its website throughout the night.

Live blogs:

And, of course, you can just go to see the election results yourself.

The debates

The four main candidates for mayor were in what seemed like different debates every day, as just about everyone organize their own. If you missed them, here they are again (links to videos where I could find them):

In addition, Global Montreal held four short debates among mayoral candidates for demerged suburbs on the island on its weekly Focus Montreal show: Montreal West and Pointe-Claire on Oct. 19, and Beaconsfield and Hampstead on Oct. 26, and a debate among candidates for mayor of the Côte des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grâce borough on Nov. 2.