Category Archives: Navel-gazing

Posted in My articles, TV

Videotron adding TSN1, TSN3 and TSN4 after customer complaints

Two months after TSN expanded from two to five channels, and after a bunch of complaints from subscribers missing programming that didn’t air on TSN2 or TSN5, Videotron is joining all the other major TV providers in the country and offering all five feeds.

I wrote this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette, after a regional Senators game in Florida meant that Videotron customers couldn’t get the Monday Night Football NFL game on TV.

That problem, which generated a flood of complaints to both Videotron and TSN, has apparently pushed the former to move up the launch date of TSN1, which will now be added on Monday, in time for the next MNF game (even though that game will also air on TSN5, the main TSN feed in Quebec).

TSN3 and TSN4, whose main feature will be blacked-out Jets and Leafs games, and occasionally a different Premier League soccer match or college football on weekends, will be added on Oct. 29.

Some information for Videotron customers:

  • All five channels are free with TSN. And selecting TSN1-5 will count for only one channel in custom packages. So you won’t be paying any extra for these other channels.
  • All five channels will be in high definition. And they will be available in all regions.
  • The TSN channels will be moving to keep them together. Starting Oct. 29, they will be at 186-190 in SD and 786-790 in HD.
  • Analog subscribers will continue getting just TSN5, which includes regional Ottawa Senators games.
  • About the same time, TSN and RDS will be pulled from Videotron’s Illico TV mobile service. Videotron blames blackouts for making these channels less desirable. Though it is looking at alternatives.

For details, read the Gazette story or this previous post on TSN’s expansion.

Posted in My articles, Radio

Where to find country music on the radio in Montreal

As a sidebar to my story on Mohawk radio stations near Montreal, I included a list of country music stations that can be heard here, all of which transmit from off the island. Country music is very popular among Mohawks, and so it is as well on their radio stations. And with Montreal missing a big-name country music station, many assume it isn’t available here.

The list brought me one rebuke from the host of a country music program on a local station. And it’s true that there’s plenty of country music on other stations. So here’s a longer list, including the country music programs that appear on radio stations that can be heard in Montreal, based off those station’s posted program schedules.

Stations in bold should be relatively easy to hear, the rest are more difficult and can be heard only in certain parts of the Montreal region.

This list doesn’t include shows playing folk music, blues or other related genres. It also doesn’t include all-request shows, local artist programs or others where much of the music might be country but the show itself isn’t limited to the genre.

I’m almost certain to have missed some show or some station. If you know of another show to add to this schedule, or a correction to an existing one, leave a comment below.

Posted in My articles, TV

CRTC megahearing on TV begins Monday

10 days, 118 presentations. That’s what’s on the agenda for a CRTC hearing that begins on Monday. There’s the usual big players like Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor, Telus and Cogeco. There’s the interest groups like the Canada Media Fund, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Writers Guild of Canada, and labour unions. And there are some individuals thrown in as well.

But there’s also Google, Netflix, Disney.

It’s hard to oversell the importance of this hearing. It isn’t about reviewing a single policy, or approving a single acquisition or new licence. It’s about everything having to do with television regulation in Canada. A working document posted Aug. 21 contains 28 proposals concerning television policy (and a 29th about when to implement changes). It ranges from how consumers choose which channels to buy from their distributor to how accessible programming is for those who can’t see or hear to things that could change the very nature of specialty channels or how you define local television.

And the CRTC is going to try to review this all in two weeks, and rather than deal with the issues one at a time, it’s going to deal with them all simultaneously as each group steps forward to present its opinions.

I put together a story in Saturday’s Gazette that lists the big issues at stake that affect consumers (the online version contains some more issues than the print one does). Packaging flexibility is the big focus of media, and simultaneous substitution is also mentioned a lot, but there are far more issues.

The commission is clear that the proposals outlined in its discussion paper aren’t necessarily what it’s going to do, but are meant to start discussions. Nevertheless, it gives a lot of insight into how it’s thinking. And even with just the changes proposed there, a lot of how we watch and pay for television would change.

For more on the issues at stake, I would invite you to read the series posted on Cartt.ca (a website I’ve written for, though not for this series) and the series posted to Media in Canada or my post from June outlining the issues as they were presented then. Or you can read all 2,552 interventions filed in this proceeding.

Unusually, the CRTC will continue accepting comments about these policies during the hearings, through that most sober and intelligent method: online discussion forums. They’ll be open until the end of the hearing on Sept. 19.

If you want to watch the hearings, CPAC will be webcasting them. The CRTC will also have audio feeds in English, French and with no translation. Or you can go to 140 Promenade du Portage in Gatineau and see the hearings in person.

For Twitter commentary, good bets are Cartt.ca editor Greg O’Brien, policy wonk Kelly Lynne Ashton, the CRTC Hearings official Twitter (which will post links to documents) and the hashtags #CRTC and #TalkTV.

Further reading

 

Posted in My articles, Photos, Radio, Video

K103 moves into new building, and says goodbye to 30 years of history

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

For this community where tradition is so important, the move of K103 to a new building in July was bittersweet, even if it was a long time coming. Staff and supporters were excited about entering a much larger building and sitting down to state-of-the-art equipment, but it also meant leaving the building that the station had occupied since it launched in 1981, and bringing with them only small relics of the memories that were made there.

I talk about the K103 station move, as well as two other radio stations on Mohawk reserves near Montreal — KIC Country (CKKI-FM 89.9) and Kanesatake United Voices Radio (CKHQ-FM 101.7) in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette.

Below are videos, photos and more about the K103 move. (I’ll have posts about the other stations soon.)

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Posted in Media, Navel-gazing

Changes at The Gazette this fall

The Gazette printing plant on St-Jacques St. will be decommissioned and the land sold.

The Gazette printing plant on St-Jacques St. will be decommissioned and the land sold.

Things are changing at my employer this fall. I can’t spill all the beans, partly because as an employee I’m given some information that’s not meant for public consumption, and partly because there’s a lot of details I just don’t know. But here’s some stuff that has either already been reported publicly or that I’ve gotten permission to share:

Four-platform redesign

The biggest change will be a relaunch of The Gazette on four platforms — print, web, tablet and smartphone. Each will have its own design, content and strategy. No date has been set for the relaunch, but it should happen some time this fall.

For an idea of what it will look like, you can look at the Ottawa Citizen, which went through a similar relaunch and redesign in May. The Gazette’s will be very similar. The Calgary Herald will be the next paper to go through the process, followed by all the other Postmedia papers (except the Vancouver Province and the National Post).

Rather than present the same stories written in the same way on all platforms, the redesigned environment will see stories done differently for the different platforms. Smartphone users will get short stories and breaking news. Tablet users will get a more magazine-like experience (with one edition a day coming out in the afternoon). Print users will get a design-y paper that’s more visually interesting and presents news in context. And website users will … uhh, I’ll throw in some buzz words here later.

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Posted in My articles, Radio

CRTC wants to crack down on cross-border stations

UPDATED below with CRTC’s notice of hearing.

Tim Thompson, centre, heads Montreal sales for 94.7 Hits FM (WYUL) and other U.S. stations targetting Montreal.

Tim Thompson, centre, heads Montreal sales for 94.7 Hits FM (WYUL) and other U.S. stations targetting Montreal.

In an office building next to the Holiday Inn Pointe-Claire, Tim Thompson and his team of 10 salespeople and four promotions people are trying to get Montrealers to tune away from the big three music stations they’re used to — CHOM, Virgin Radio and The Beat — and tune into a station beaming its signal into the city from across the border in Chateaugay, N.Y., near Malone.

94.7 Hits FM (WYUL) markets itself as “Montreal’s Hit Music Channel“. While technically licensed by the FCC to serve this tiny New York town, its real goal is to get a foothold in Montreal with its 50,000-watt signal. And it succeeds, reaching most of the western half of the island.

The advantage to being a cross-border station is regulatory freedom. CHOM, Virgin and The Beat have to ensure 35% of the music they broadcast is Canadian. They have to ensure no more than half the music they broadcast is or was hit music (a condition originally meant to protect AM stations, now used to protect French stations in Montreal and Ottawa). They’re not allowed to air advertising in French.

As an American station, WYUL doesn’t have any of those obligations. It can broadcast whatever music it wants and programming in whatever language it wants.

“We really just play top 40, and that’s the beauty of our station,” says Marketing Director Tina Paylan.

Not only does the station target Montreal listeners, but advertisers as well, with about 90% of its advertising coming from this region. (It also targets Cornwall in eastern Ontario, in addition to Malone.)

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Posted in My articles, TV

Catherine Sherriffs isn’t coming back to CTV Montreal

Catherine Sherriffs

Catherine Sherriffs

Catherine Sherriffs, who left her job as late-night anchor at CTV Montreal a year ago to go on maternity leave, is not coming back.

Sherriffs, who was given the anchor chair in 2011 after Debra Arbec left for CBC, was scheduled to return to work earlier in July. But her position was not waiting for her. Instead, the station felt that the system it put in place when she left, having Mutsumi Takahashi anchor the noon and 6pm newscasts and Paul Karwatsky anchor at 6pm and 11:30pm, was “working very well the way it is,” explained CTV Montreal General Manager Louis Douville.

“We offered her another project, something new that we wanted to start experimenting with, and she didn’t see that as a fit to her new life,” Douville explained. He wouldn’t go into detail about what that position entails, but I understand it was an anchor-like position with a web focus.

Apparently that idea didn’t sit well with her, either because of the hours, which meant she would be going through rush-hour traffic to and from her home in the Laurentians (she grew up in Morin Heights), or because of the apparent demotion, or both.

My attempts to contact Sherriffs for comment have not yet been met with a response (her Facebook profile is locked down and she hasn’t posted anything to Twitter). I’ll update this if I hear from her.

Though CTV Montreal management would disagree, it’s hard not to see this as a forced demotion (at the very least it’s a forced reassignment). And worse, one that seems to come as an indirect result of a maternity leave. It’s that leave that put Karwatsky in the late-night chair and led to the decision to keep him there.

Douville insists that the decision was made “in the last (few) months” and had not been planned before Sherriffs’s leave.

“We love Catherine. She’s a fantastic employee and a great journalist,” Douville said. And indeed, there’s little reason to believe that this decision was in any way related to her performance in the anchor chair. Rather, it allows the station to go from having four anchors to three and save money.

Sherriffs graduated from Concordia University’s journalism program in 2007, and got her start in radio, working at CJAD. She joined CTV Montreal in 2009 as a reporter before being promoted to late-night anchor.

Sherriffs isn’t the only person leaving CTV Montreal. The station let go of its human resources manager this week, and is looking to cut its workforce by 10 to 12 people (out of about 100 total employees) over the coming months, as I explain in this story in The Gazette.

Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio

Q&A: CJLO vs. VPR

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 My articles, Radio

CRTC approves two new ethnic radio stations in Montreal serving south Asian community

UPDATE (May 22): See also a story about this in The Gazette.

Last year, the CRTC received two apparently competing applications for new radio stations serving Montreal’s south Asian community. Today, it approved both of them.

ITR, 102.9 FM

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station (click for larger)

Broadcast contours and interference zones for proposed new FM station at 102.9 FM (click for larger)

The first, by AGNI Communications, would broadcast at 102.9 FM with a weak 50-watt transmitter on Chabanel St. near Highway 15, which would allow it to reach Ahuntsic and surrounding boroughs, but no farther than that because of interference from stations in Sherbrooke, St-Jérôme, Valleyfield and St-Jacques-le-Mineur on the same or adjacent frequencies.

The service already exists as on a subcarrier of CISM-FM on 89.3. It specifically targets the Tamil community, and the location of its transmitter will, it believes, cover the majority of Montreal’s Tamil-speaking community.

Radio Humsafar, 1610 AM

Projected broadcast pattern of Radio Humsafar on 1610AM

Projected broadcast pattern of Radio Humsafar on 1610AM

The second station is Radio Humsafar, which exists as an online, subcarrier and phone-in audio service. Its programming would be in English, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Pashto.

The station would operate with a 1kW transmitter sharing the transmission site of CJLO 1690 AM on Norman St. in St-Pierre. Because the two would have the same antenna and operate at the same power, their patterns should be similar, so if you can hear CJLO you should be able to hear this station.

Humsafar has been trying for years to get a radio station on the air in Montreal, where it’s based. It had originally applied for 1400 AM, but the long-delayed move of CJWI (CPAM Radio Union) from 1610 to 1410 delayed that application and changed its frequency to 1610. Humsafar also owns CJLV 1570 in Laval and had tried to convert that into an ethnic station, an application the CRTC denied in 2012.

Radio Humsafar’s president, Jasvir Singh Sandhu, tells me he’ll begin discussions with engineers about quickly getting the station on the air, which should happen in the coming months. He projects hiring a handful of people as Humsafar expands the number of languages it broadcasts in. The phone-in and online streaming services will continue after the station is on the air, but the SCMO subcarrier it rents on CKUT will be discontinued after a few months of simulcasting. Sandhu also issued a press release which is republished below.

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Posted in Media, My articles

CBC cuts affect 10 jobs at CBC Montreal; five people let go

For three weeks after CBC President Hubert Lacroix announced cuts equivalent to 657 full-time positions at the public broadcaster, employees at the CBC Montreal office finally learned how those cuts would trickle down at the local level.

This week, I met with Shelagh Kinch, the Quebec regional director for English services, who laid it out for me: 10 positions are being “affected” by the cuts, and at this point it looks like five people will be leaving the CBC as a result.

I explain it all in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette.

The changes break down as follows:

  • Management is being restructured, eliminating the job of news director. Mary-Jo Barr has been let go. Helen Evans will be in charge of both news and current affairs, while Meredith Dellandrea will be in charge of non-daily programs (like Cinq à six, À propos and Our Montreal) and have “a major role” in the CBC Montreal website. “Helen has an extensive background with us,” Kinch said. “She’s probably produced every one of those programs for us. She also has very strong leadership skills. I need somebody that people are behind and people want to work with.”
  • Two retirements won’t be replaced: journalist Ivan Slobod, who left in September after 30 years at the CBC, and Sally Caudwell, who produces Radio Noon.
  • The two part-time jobs producing Cinq à six and À propos are being replaced by one full-time producer. Tanya Birkbeck, who produced Cinq à six, will stay at the CBC as a news reporter. Sophie Laurent, who produced À propos, is out of a job. Frank Opolko will take over producing both jobs.
  • Web development is being centralized in Toronto, and a local developer is being made redundant. The person in that position will be able to apply to the Toronto job, Kinch said.
  • A communications officer position is being made redundant. Catherine Megelas is the unlucky one. She said in a Facebook post that it was “a super shitty day” the day she was told. Redundancy means that the union will try to find another job for her to fill, a process that could take up to 90 days.
  • A late-night camera operator is being reassigned.
  • One arts reporter position is being eliminated. Pierre Landry, the arts reporter for Homerun, is the only one who’s on contract, so his won’t be renewed past the end of June.
  • One position, described as a reassignment, that CBC said it couldn’t give any details on. (UPDATE: It’s anchor Andrew Chang, who’s taking up a new job at CBC outside of Montreal)

The departures will be staggered over the summer, as contracts end, notices are given and alternative jobs explored. But by September, the changes should have taken effect.

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Posted in My articles, TV

ICTV vs. MYtv: Taking sides in the fight over Videotron’s community television channel

A complaint by a group of Montreal activists against Videotron is taking on a greater significance as groups are lining up on both sides of a battle for control over Videotron’s community television service.

Last month, I wrote about ICTV, a group headed by people associated with CKUT Radio McGill and others formerly associated with Concordia’s CUTV.

After that article appeared, I was contacted by someone who wanted to set up a meeting with Isabelle Dessureault, the president of MAtv, who wanted to clear up any misconc… let’s just call a spade a spade, wanted to drive the discussion a bit more to Videotron’s favour.

Dessureault confirmed that the CRTC is not moving forward with the Videotron application for an English-language version of the MAtv community television channel, and that this process could delay the launch of that channel by a year or more. MYtv on ice became the basis for another story in The Gazette.

There was also the matter of a lawyer’s letter to ICTV from Videotron ordering it to retract statements about the company that it considered defamatory. (It doesn’t directly threaten legal action, but certainly suggests that would be the next step. Videotron confirmed the letter was sent but said “Quebecor Media is studying its options.”) ICTV refused, saying the CRTC process was the place to settle their differences of opinion.

Since then, two important organizations have backed the two sides of this battle.

ELAN backs MYtv

The English Language Arts Network, a group that supports anglophone artists in Quebec, has decided to back Videotron instead of ICTV. Executive Director Guy Rodgers and President Peter MacGibbon lay out their argument in this opinion piece published last week in The Gazette. The arguments boil down to two main points:

  1. ELAN prefers a more professional, high-quality model of community television in which artists are paid for their work instead of volunteers working for free. It believes Videotron’s model is better than ICTV’s in this regard
  2. ELAN believes that ICTV’s proposal for a single multilingual television channel would not be as good as Videotron’s proposal for two channels, one in each language.

The ICTV folks took ELAN’s stance in the measured, respectful way one expects from Montreal’s activist community: Writing an open letter with the headline “ELAN betrayed our communities by selling out community TV to PKP’s Vidéotron.” It accuses ELAN of being intentionally misleading and of supporting a “segregationist” idea of community television.

ELAN’s opinion makes sense when you consider that it represents artists, such as independent television producers, rather than the community at large. Its view has to be taken in that context. It doesn’t make them evil, and I got no impression whatsoever during their community meetings over this issue that they discouraged other people from expressing their views on the matter, nor do I think they’ve sold out to Videotron.

CACTUS backs ICTV

The other voice to take a stand here is CACTUS, the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations. The group’s executive director, Catherine Edwards, presents her group’s views in this Gazette opinion piece, which was published alongside ELAN’s.

CACTUS believes in general that community television should be taken out of the hands of cable companies, and that even if there was once a reason for cable to control community television channels, technology has made that reason obsolete.

Edwards argues that community television should be in the hands of the community, not the cable companies.

CACTUS also opposes dividing community channels by language. Among the reasons for being against this are that doing this divides the two communities, leaves no place for third languages, and allows cable companies to double the amount of money they can keep in house rather than give over to Canadian content funds.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting also has a page with one-sided information collecting comments in favour of ICTV.

The case vs. the policy

One important thing to consider in this whole affair is the difference between whether Videotron is properly following the CRTC’s community television policy and whether that community television policy is properly written to begin with.

The policy has been revised numerous times, the latest in 2010. But there’s a lot of ambiguity there. For example, the key part of community television is community access programming, but the CRTC sets only two criteria for such programming: That the idea come from a member of the community not employed by a cable company, and that this person be involved with the programming in a significant on-camera or off-camera role.

That leaves a lot of loopholes. What if the person is an employee of a company related to a cable company? Can the cable company claim copyright over the programming produced this way?

CACTUS, ICTV and others take exception to the fact that community TV channels run by cable companies are exclusive to customers of those companies. But the CRTC has chosen not to require open distribution of such community channels.

The community television policy could change soon. The CRTC has begun a year-long process of reviewing television policy, and the cable companies and CACTUS will undoubtedly be lending their voices to that process. Until then, though, the ICTV vs. Videotron complaint will be judged on existing policy.

Videotron wants to change … kinda

In my discussions with MAtv president Isabelle Dessureault and general manager Steve Desgagné, they have been trying their best to appear reasonable about this issue. They say Videotron is trying its best to be representative of the community, that it doesn’t reject proposals for community TV programs unless they fail to meet the criteria, and that despite this dispute they are open to proposals from ICTV members. (They note that they have yet to receive any.)

Videotron admits it has gotten some things wrong, most significantly its failure to properly represent the anglophone community in Montreal (an error it is trying to fix with the MYtv application). Dessureault also says MAtv will reform some of the ways it presents information to the public, by changing its end-of-show credits to emphasize the contributions from the community and by volunteers. It also plans to create an annual report for the public that outlines their accomplishments for the year.

And Videotron plans to, by the end of the year, set up an advisory committee for MAtv that would provide feedback on programming. (It had already planned to set up such a committee for MYtv once it was approved.)

Dessureault also said MAtv will be launching a new project in June that will facilitate community contributions to television. The concept is a bit fuzzy to me, but involves a website where people can contribute ideas and content, which will then be given to someone to turn into TV shows or documentaries. The purpose is to allow people to contribute without having to commit to running a weekly show.

But on the fundamentals, there are no changes planned. Most programs are still being produced by Videotron, and Videotron retains control over programming.

Community programming isn’t easy

Dessureault stresses that getting communities involved with community TV isn’t easy, though they’re trying.

ICTV, however, argues that it has the resources to make it work. It points to CKUT, a radio station where volunteers fill an entire week’s worth of airtime without the need for repeats. It believes it can do the same on television.

The money issue

The big issue here, of course, isn’t access, it’s money. ICTV could produce hours of video and post it to YouTube. But unless it wins its battle at the CRTC, it won’t get the millions of free cable money needed to pay for it.

Cable companies have community TV channels because they’d have to spend the money anyway, and otherwise it would be outside of their control.

There’s a conspiracy theory floating around (and has been expressed by commenters on this blog) that Videotron and others use community TV for monetary profit, by charging their own community TV channels for technical services.

Dessureault says MAtv’s finances are audited, both internally and by the CRTC, and attempts to cook the books wouldn’t succeed. But she does admit that MAtv does use some of its money to pay for things provided by Quebecor. MAtv shares human resources staff with Videotron, for example, to reduce costs. It also pays rent to TVA for production space (though at “well below market rates,” Dessureault said). Dessureault said these things are a very small portion of MAtv’s budget, which she said goes mainly to programming.

The CRTC has access to MAtv’s finances, and its experts are sticklers for attempts by big companies to take liberties with finances in order to reduce their obligations. So I seriously doubt that Videotron would get away with, say, overcharging MAtv for Internet access or rent in order to suck away some of its budget.

But there’s a legitimate question to be raised over whether such expenses should be paid for by the cable company, separate from the 2% of revenues it can allocate to community programming.

That, too, may be an issue if the CRTC decides to review its community television policy.

Until then, it will be judging Videotron based on its compliance with the current policy, and that policy leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

The CRTC is accepting comments on ICTV’s complaint against Videotron until 8pm ET on April 22. You can file comments using this form. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

Further reading

Note: A slightly edited version of this post was published on the opinion page of The Gazette on April 23.

Posted in My articles, TV

Tamy Emma Pepin’s bilingual trip through the UK

Tamy Emma Pepin certainly seems to have had a pretty successful career in the media. A contributor to TQS, the Journal de Montréal, and TVA as a freelancer. An editor for Huffington Post Québec. A social media ambassador for Tourism Montreal.

More recently, she was a contributor to Cap sur l’été on Radio-Canada, and she was one of the hosts of local lifestyle series Only in Montreal. That series, sadly, has not been renewed, but she quickly moved on to her next project: a travel series produced by Toxa (the company behind Urbania) and airing on Évasion.

The 13-episode one-hour series, Tamy @ Royaume-Uni, was shot last fall, and debuts Thursday at 8pm. So I had a chat with Pepin and another with producer Raphaëlle Huysmans about the show for a story that appears in Thursday’s Gazette.

It’s a French channel, and voiceovers and explanations to the camera happen in French, but because this is Britain, most of the stuff that happens is in English (which is thankfully subtitled rather than dubbed). Rather than sounding like an instructional video or sales pitch, the series takes a more documentary-style approach, following Pepin around as she plays tourist.

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Posted in My articles, TV

Did the CRTC require Sun News be added to analog cable?

We’re now a month away from all (licensed) cable, satellite and IPTV companies in Canada being required to add the Sun News Network to their systems, but one important question remains unanswered: Does Sun News have to be added to analog cable as well as digital?

It may seem like a simple question, but I’ve gotten contradictory answers on it, as I write in this story at Cartt.ca.

When the CRTC made its decision two months ago that all licensed TV distributors in Canada had to make all five national news channels available to all subscribers, it gave them until March 19 to come into compliance with the more important part of its order: adding Sun News to their systems. (Most of them already carry the other four channels — CBC News Network, RDI, CTV News Channel and LCN.) The TV distributors have a further two months, until May 20, to comply with other aspects of the order, requiring the channels to be added to the “best” packages “consistent with their genre and programming,” requiring that each be available à la carte (where possible) and filing affiliation agreements with the CRTC.

But the order, and the decision that led to it, don’t say anything about analog cable. This despite the fact that Sun News made distribution on analog one of its key arguments in favour of a mandatory distribution order. Sun argued that its audience skews older and rural, and that those viewers are more likely to have analog cable service.

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Posted in My articles, Opinion, Radio, TV

Why is CBC refusing ads from radio stations?

It sounded like the kind of story that even Sun News Network couldn’t make up: The CBC saying no to money from private industry for the sole reason that it wants to compete with it.

A complaint has been filed with the CRTC by Leclerc Communication, the company that bought Quebec City stations CKOI (CFEL-FM) and WKND (CJEC-FM) when Cogeco was told it couldn’t keep them after its purchase of Corus Quebec. The complaint alleges that the stations have been trying to book advertisements on Radio-Canada’s television station in Quebec City to promote the stations, and that Radio-Canada has issued a blanket refusal because it has a policy not to accept ads from competitors.

This would seem to go against a very clear CRTC policy that says that media companies can’t give themselves preference over their competitors in things like this.

Convinced there must have been a misunderstanding, I contacted the CBC and asked the public broadcaster about the allegation.

Radio-Canada actually confirmed it. CBC and Radio-Canada don’t accept ads from commercial radio stations because they compete with CBC services. And they don’t see anything wrong with that.

I explain the positions of Leclerc and Radio-Canada in this story at Cartt.ca. In short, Leclerc wants to advertise on RadCan because it finds that the demographics of RadCan viewers match the listeners it’s trying to target. And Radio-Canada refuses because its advertising policy prevents it from accepting ads for competitors.

The policy is CBC Programming Policy 1.3.11: Unacceptable advertising. It bans tobacco ads, ads for religious viewpoints, “any advertisement that could place the CBC/Radio-Canada at the centre of a controversy or public debate” and “advertisements for services considered competitive with CBC/Radio-Canada services.”

Now, we can argue whether two Quebec City music stations with personalities like Les Justiciers masqués are competitive with Première and Espace Musique. But even if they were, so what? These are television ads, first of all, not radio ads, and if Leclerc wants to spend money this way, why should the public broadcaster say no?

More importantly, can it even do so legally?

The television broadcasting regulations, which Radio-Canada and all other television broadcasters have to abide by, says a licensee may not “give an undue preference to any person, including itself, or subject any person to an undue disadvantage.”

A similar provision exists for TV distribution, which is why Videotron can’t give Quebecor-owned channels advantages over their competitors unless it can find a good reason to back it up.

But the CBC doesn’t quite see it that way. It argues that it’s not giving anyone an undue advantage, because it’s not accepting ads from anyone. Everyone’s being treated equally, so there’s no advantage.

Leclerc points out, though, that Radio-Canada’s radio services get plenty of advertisement on its television network. And giving free ads to its own radio stations and refusing ads from all competitors is pretty well exactly what this rule was meant to prevent.

Radio-Canada confirmed that the programming policy is set by the CBC board of directors, not by legislation or CRTC condition of licence. So logic would suggest that CRTC regulations take precedence over internal rules at the CBC.

The CBC rule becomes all the more absurd when you consider it in context. The CBC is facing a major cash crunch, seeing government funding tightened and now losing the rights to NHL games. CBC’s president is talking about “dark clouds on the horizon” because of lower revenue. So why say no to what is practically free money?

It would be one thing if this was a big corporate player wanting to buy airtime on the CBC to encourage people not to listen to Radio One or something. But this is a small independent broadcaster that just wants to expose his radio stations to Radio-Canada’s audience in Quebec City.

The CBC is going to have to come up with some real good justification for shutting the door to competitors. Bell or Shaw or Rogers would never be allowed to get away with something like this, and I don’t see why the CBC should be able to.

And if the CBC doesn’t come up with a good reason to refuse these ads, they should expect to be told to shut up and take Leclerc’s money.

Leclerc’s complaint letter can be read here. The full file is on the CRTC’s website in this .zip file. The CRTC is accepting comments on this complaint until March 6. You can submit comments here. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

(So far, only the Journal de Québec has covered this story aside from myself. We’ll see if others pick it up before the deadline.)

Posted in Navel-gazing

Fagstein turns 7: Ask me anything

It was seven years ago today that I posted my first blog post, having no idea what would become of it. Since then, it has grown from a series of short, uninformed, simplistic sarcastic rants about a bunch of random stuff into a series of longer, somewhat informed simplistic sarcastic rants about a bunch of random stuff (but mainly about local media).

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who read this blog on a regular basis, or follow me on Twitter (just passed the 8,000 mark recently, and I assume at least a small portion of that is real people).

But I particularly want to thank those anonymous cowards heroes who have sent me tips over the years, about personalities being fired, scandals brewing or any other developments that don’t get summarized in press releases. A lot of the scoops that have appeared here came as the result of unsolicited tips, people emailing me out of the blue saying “did you hear about this” or “you probably already know this but” followed by my attempts (sometimes frustratingly long) to confirm the news.

To celebrate, I’ll open up this blog post to questions from the audience as I work on other more important stories spend the day watching the Olympics. I’ll sometimes get random questions thrown at me in off-topic posts that I have to delete because they have no value to the next person who reads that post. So here’s your chance to throw out questions that you’ve had at the back of your head, about me, about the blog, about local media, about public transit, or anything else you might want my opinion on. I don’t want to set limits on what can be asked, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to answer everything. Despite what some people think of me, there’s a lot of stuff I just don’t know. (History, in particular, is one of my weak points.)

So, I’m Steve Faguy. I run the Fagstein blog. Ask me anything.