Category Archives: Uncategorized

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CRTC application would see HuffPost Live channel on cable TV

HuffPost Live’s studio.

 

We’ve got CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera and BBC World News, but could we see Huffington Post added to our cable channels in the near future?

Evan Kosiner, who’s described as a “serial entrepreneur” in his Wikipedia biography and has been behind many applications to the CRTC that ultimately went nowhere, has applied to add HuffPost Live to the list of foreign TV channels authorized for distribution in Canada.

The application comes with the blessing of HuffPost owner AOL, and Kosiner says there is interest from Canadian distributors to add HuffPost Live to their lineups.

HuffPost Live broadcasts eight hours live a day, mainly featuring interviews conducted by Skype about current events. Kosiner breaks down the broadcast as about 60% news and information and about 40% lifestyle. It doesn’t have shows per se, but rather a series of segments back to back. On the electronic program guide, it would be listed simply as “HuffPost Live” 24 hours a day.

Presumably the other 16 hours a day would be repeat programming.

What’s unclear is whether getting paid distribution in Canada would mean cutting off HuffPost Live’s free livestream to this country. Though it would be uncharacteristic for HuffPost to start geoblocking its content, and if that’s the case, I wouldn’t expect cable companies to pay high wholesale fees to carry an otherwise free channel.

The CRTC is accepting comments on the application (which you can download here) until Jan. 19. You can file comments here. Note that all information submitted becomes part of the public record.

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Desmarais family buys Tampa Bay Rays, moves them to private ballpark in Sagard


raysHopes that Major League Baseball could return to Montreal by relocating the struggling Tampa Bay Rays franchise were dashed this morning when it was announced that the Desmarais family, which owns Power Corporation and various companies including newspaper publisher Gesca, has purchased the team and will be moving it to their exclusive private ballpark in their 76.3-square-kilometre estate in Sagard, Quebec, after this season.

The Desmarais family did not provide any further details, such as what they would name the team, but did say that the ballpark would remain private and games would be attended on an invite-only basis.

Buying the Rays (the cheapest valued MLB team, but still a hefty $485 million) simply to provide some entertainment to a handful of VIP guests a couple of times a year seems a bit excessive. But I think it’s best to wait until we get a better idea of their plans before we make judgments.

Many questions remain unanswered, such as what television rights would look like, or whether the team would try to build a fan base in Quebec City or Montreal. Perhaps a few home games could even be moved to Olympic Stadium.

All we can say for sure is that geographically speaking, there aren’t too many Montrealers who will make the six-hour one-way drive to Sagard to see a weeknight game.

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New radio station Emo FM proposes songs-to-make-you-want-to-kill-yourself format

EMO FM

Tired of upbeat pop music on the radio? Maybe you should give Emo FM a try.

An application was filed with the CRTC recently for a new English-language radio station in Montreal with an all-depressing-music format.

It’s not clear what kind of music exactly will air, but the application hints at a playlist that includes songs by Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead and lots and lots of Coldplay.

“People have been telling us that the music they hear on Virgin and The Beat make them want to cut themselves,” said prospective owner Everil DaPwasson. “So we’re proposing an innovative new format that connects those disaffected radio listeners with the kind of songs they want: the ones that they can listen to after they make that one last, deep cut or wait for the pills to kick in.”

DaPwasson sees a large untapped market of depressed teenagers out there. He believes he can sell that audience to advertisers, who are constantly looking for ways to reach younger audiences. But he says it might be a challenge “keeping them alive long enough to buy our advertisers’ products.”

The station would have a transmitter on Mount Royal, transmitting at a symbolic 666 watts, which would give it a moderate signal similar to that of Mike FM.

The CRTC is accepting public comment about the Emo FM application until May 1.

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Legault’s wife seizes control of CAQ in overnight bloodless coup

Isabelle Brais is now leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec.

Brais, the wife of previous leader François Legault, seized control of the party early Tuesday morning after her troops stormed the party bus and headquarters in what is being referred to as a bloodless coup. Forces loyal to Legault laid down their arms, deciding not to fight back to avoid the negative publicity.

Brais has been very visible on the campaign trail even though she’s not a candidate, and has been playfully teasing Legault all along. Analysts say a takeover was inevitable, though they are surprised it happened in the middle of the campaign like this.

Legault’s candidates quickly lined up to pledge loyalty to Brais, wanting to avoid the appearance of a civil war so close to voting day. Legault himself has not been seen or heard from and is believed to be living in exile in Cornwall. It’s not clear what will happen to his seat in the National Assembly if he wins it on Monday.

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Quebec tells Marois it’s ready for a referendum now

Jean-Pierre Ferland delivers the news on behalf of Quebecers

Jean-Pierre Ferland delivers the news on behalf of Quebecers

After repeating several times that she would not hold a referendum on sovereignty until Quebecers are ready, PQ leader Pauline Marois was visibly emotional when she was told on stage during a campaign event that Quebec has decided it is ready.

“We thought we were against it,” Jean-Pierre Ferland said of Quebec’s attitude, “but in the end all we want to do is make you happy. And if a referendum is what it takes, we’re ready to make that leap with you.”

Ferland’s message came a day after all eight million Quebecers gathered at a local bar with their buddies and had a long talk about their future. There, they decided that it had to be now or never, and so they went for it. The referendum proposal was a surprise, and quickly brought the Quebec premier to tears when it happened live on stage on Monday night.

Friends of both Marois and the province said it was about time they stopped talking about the referendum and finally made it official. “I could swear she’s been planning ballot formats for years now, and figuring out which dress she’s going to wear,” said Bernard Drainville. “We can’t wait until the big day.”

Marois and the province haven’t set a date yet. “I don’t want to wait forever, that’s for sure,” Marois said. “But there’s so much planning to do. This will be the biggest day of my life, so I want it to be absolutely perfect.”

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PQ outraged after learning about secret anglo-only expressway

Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois says she plans to call a public inquiry after learning about anglo Quebec’s best-kept secret: an exclusive expressway that avoids traffic jams and brings anglo drivers from the West Island to downtown in under 20 minutes.

News of the secret expressway, known to all Quebec anglophones but to no one who speaks French, leaked out on Monday evening after former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said he heard someone talk about it while he was at CTV Montreal’s studios for an interview on the election campaign. He said he was horrified to learn that this secret road had existed for years and that anglo drivers had been using it, all the while “laughing at Quebec’s francophone majority every morning and evening.”

The expressway’s route isn’t entirely clear, but appears to go from just west of Highway 13 and Highway 40 all the way to downtown Montreal through a tunnel that emerges in an out-of-the-way spot near the Ville-Marie Expressway.

“This is unacceptable,” Marois said.

It’s unclear how, if the Quebec transport ministry is unaware of this passage, how it’s maintained. Some people who had used it regularly said it was self-financed, charging tolls to the anglos who drove through it, as well as rent to a few businesses set up inside (gas stations, coffee shops and the like).

Marois said the passage should be immediately shut down until it can be determined that it’s safe. She worried in particular about its structural soundness and whether it had proper ventilation.

A preliminary report is expected within the month.

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Hospitals report surge in head injuries after Québec solidaire voters take suggestion literally

Québec solidaire campaign poster

Québec solidaire campaign poster

An embarrassed Québec solidaire had to ask voters to please not take the party’s campaign posters literally after hospitals in Montreal reported dozens of cases of the party’s supporters causing themselves injuries trying to vote with their heads in advance polling this weekend.

Doctors said the injuries suggested some people tried to hold their pencils with their teeth in the voting booth and accidentally swallowed them. Others simply laid their ballots flat on the desk in the voting booth and bashed their head against the name of the candidate they were voting for, giving themselves a concussion.

There was also one report of a voter trying to cast his vote in blood, although it’s unclear if this was a Québec solidaire supporter or if he or she was doing that because of misreading a poster or for some other reason.

(I’m unclear if voting with blood is considered legal.)

“We want our supporters to actually vote the normal way,” said spokesperson Françoise David. “We want them to choose with their heads. … And their hearts.”

David jokingly suggested that volunteers would go around town and add stickers to the posters that say “pas littéralement”.

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Bell Media complains after The Beat rebrands itself “Fur Gym Radio”

Fur Gym Radio

Bell Media has sent legal letters, complained to the CRTC and is raising all the hell it can after news leaked that Virgin Radio competitor The Beat 92.5 is planning to rebrand once again, this time using what Bell calls a “confusingly similar” name: Fur Gym Radio.

Described in an internal branding strategy document as a way to attract the female demographic by reminding them two things they love — expensive clothes and places to meet buff guys — Fur Gym Radio 92.5 would keep the same hot adult contemporary music format, but would reflect a name that focus groups identified with more positively than the blandly-named The Beat.

Bell argues in a strongly-worded legal threat against The Beat’s owner Cogeco Diffusion that “Fur Gym Radio” sounds too much like “Virgin Radio” and that it is a “blatant attempt to confuse listeners into believing” that The Beat is associated with or endorsed by the Virgin brand.

Cogeco representatives wouldn’t comment on the threat or the rebranding exercise. As far as anyone at the station is concerned, it’s still status quo as “92.5 The Beat”.

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Montreal Stars to give fans free pizza if they attend games next season

Montreal Stars

The Montreal Stars Canadian Women’s Hockey League team is so desperate for people to actually come to its games that not only is it eliminating the $10 entrance fee but it’s going to offer free pizza for certain games.

The change comes as the result of a new sponsorship deal, which will solve the team’s financial problems if they can guarantee at least 500 people per game. That will be difficult for certain early games, hence the free pizza.

Next year’s schedule hasn’t been set yet, but the team’s spokesperson said about a third of the games would be part of the promotion, whereby anyone who stayed past the second period would get one slice of free pizza. Double Pizza has already been brought on as the sponsor. The company has provided post-game pizzas for the team in the past and will provide game pizzas for significantly reduced costs in exchange for promotional consideration.

I’m told the free pizza will be plain.

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Canadiens players complain they were also denied additions to Quebec electoral list

Canadiens players Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Rene Bourque, Brendan Gallagher, Travis Moen, Brandon Prust and Ryan White, who are all Canadian citizens who were born outside Quebec, all signed a letter complaining to the chief electoral officer after they said they were denied applications to add their names to the Quebec electoral list over the weekend.

The letter, which was made public overnight after journalists heard rumours about it, says that the group tried to register at the same time on Sunday, but that a representative of the Directeur général des élections du Québec refused to accept their documentation proving they are domiciled in Quebec.

“This lady asked me if I was a student, then she asked a bunch of other questions about my travel and how serious I was about staying in Quebec,” Subban said. “It was bizarre.”

The DGE is under fire after reports of students from outside the province studying in Quebec being denied the right to vote because election officials challenged whether they were truly “domiciled” here. That has resulted in a court case.

Similar logic seems to be used here. The letter alleges that Canadiens players were told that they had no roots in this province because they could be traded at any time, they spend most of their time travelling, they live out of hotels and they don’t speak French.

The DGE has not confirmed these statements or given any comment yet.

Mike Weaver and Dale Weise are also Canadian citizens, though they would not qualify to vote either way because they have not been living here more than six months.

Daniel Brière, David Desharnais and Michael Bournival are Quebec-born and had no trouble updating their names on the electoral list.

Special electoral revisions take place until Thursday. After that there’s no way to register to vote. Voting day is Monday. The Canadiens will be in town, departing next Tuesday for their final road game, Wednesday April 9 in Chicago.

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St. Patrick’s Parade organizers fined for illegal support of Green Party

The queen's float during the St. Patrick's Parade on March 16.

The queen’s float during the St. Patrick’s Parade on March 16.

Be careful what colours you put on during an election campaign.

That’s the message that’s being heard after the Directeur général des élections du Québec fined the United Irish Societies of Montreal on Monday after an investigation showed that many of the activities during and around the St. Patrick’s Parade on March 16 were unfair free advertisement for the Green Party of Quebec during an election campaign.

Needless to say the UIS disagrees with the assessment, suggesting sarcastically that the DGE is trying to ban the colour green.

The truth is a bit muddier than that. The DGE’s decision states that slogans or signs that clearly indicate a link to Irish heritage are fine, but that signs that say things like “Think Green” and “Kiss Me I’m Green” could be misinterpreted as support for the Green Party, making them election expenses prohibited by the law.

The situation gets more complex because the investigation showed that Green Party activists were present at the parade handing out paraphernalia. Some was official, showing the name of the official agent and properly expensed. But some other stuff, including T-shirts that said “This St-Patrick’s, I’m Going Green” didn’t carry a party logo or the name of an official agent.

Two of the people found to be distributing the T-shirts denied that they were advocating in favour of a party. They said they were simply trying to get people to be more environmentally conscious.

The UIS, which is being fined because it allowed the distribution to happen during a parade it controlled, says it will appeal the fine, even though it’s of a nominal amount of $100.

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PKP agrees to sell Quebecor to government, nationalizing Quebecor Media

Representing Quebecor, from left: Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau, Videotron President Robert Dépatie, Groupe TVA President Pierre Dion

Former Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau, left, current CEO Robert Dépatie, and Groupe TVA President Pierre Dion.

In the end, it was probably the most sensible decision. Pierre Karl Péladeau, who owns a controlling stake in Quebecor Inc. and its subsidiary Quebecor Media Inc., which became a problem when he became a candidate for the Parti Québécois, has agreed to sell his entire stake in the company to the Quebec government for an undisclosed price. The news was reported in this morning’s Journal de Montréal (of course).

The sale, which will effectively nationalize Quebecor Media, owner of the Journal de Montréal, Journal de Québec, Videotron, TVA and a bunch of other companies, will keep its control in Quebec. Keeping control here was the big reason why Quebecor bought Videotron and TVA in 2001.

It’s not clear exactly how the process would go through, whether it would be the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which already owns a significant share of Quebecor Media, buying the rest, or whether there would be some other branch of the provincial government created to run the company. Péladeau and PQ leader Pauline Marois said the deal would not affect senior executives or staff at Quebecor, and that Quebecor’s editorial independence would be assured. Marois left open the possibility that assets such as the newspapers or Videotron might be sold, but said there was no question that control of those assets would remain in Quebec.

Péladeau said the deal would go through regardless of who wins the April 7 election if he wins his seat. He didn’t say exactly what would happen if he’s not elected to the National Assembly. He also said he discussed the deal with Quebecor CEO Robert Depatie and Quebecor’s board.

Since Videotron and TVA are regulated by the CRTC, the deal would need to be approved by the regulator first. There might be other federal and provincial bodies having a say considering the unusualness of this deal.

The implications of this deal are a bit too out there to ponder right now, so I’ll let it digest before I analyze it further.

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CRTC looking at bringing HD Radio to Canada

While the CRTC is engaging in a wide-ranging review of television policy, it’s also in the process of reviewing certain policies when it comes to radio. Most of them are about the regulatory process itself, such as how to handle applications for new stations in small markets, or how to ensure stations comply with their licenses, or how to distinguish national and local advertising.

But perhaps the most interesting topic for discussion is whether Canada should adopt HD Radio. The technology, not to be confused with high-definition television, is widely used in the United States, and replaces analog AM and FM signals with hybrid analog-digital ones (it can also be used in all-digital mode, but it’s the hybrid version that has the most appeal). Analog receivers continue to hear the stations, but people with HD Radio receivers can get a digital version of the station’s audio, which may be of higher quality or just devoid of any noise, as well as metadata (like the name of the song that’s playing) and audio subchannels, similar to subchannels offered by some digital television stations. It can also transmit other information like weather and traffic updates and even listings of gas station prices.

Continue reading

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Jean-François Lisée joins Equality Party: Good omen for anglos?

Jean-François Lisée Equality Party

Jean-François Lisée waves to an excited but skeptical crowd at an Equality Party event on Monday morning in Westmount.

By now you’ve heard the news announced this morning that Jean-François Lisée, the Quebec minister responsible for anglophones, has pulled a reverse Richard Holden and quit his party and cushy job to join the resurrected Equality Party as its only current MNA.

While surprising to some, and certainly a gutsy move to go from being in the government to being a one-man party, the move comes as much less of a surprise to people who have followed Lisée and his actions over the past few months.

From his appearances at anglophone events to his secret meetings with important figures in the anglophone community, Lisée became fast friends with key people in the community. And though they were very skeptical of what he had to say as the official turd polisher of the Parti Québécois, the mood changed significantly in the past few weeks. Some anglo leaders started to speak of Lisée as the one good guy at the PQ.

As anglos became more comfortable with Lisée, the other side became less so. Lisée’s thinly-veiled attacks on fellow minister Diane de Courcy (responsible for language policy) certainly didn’t earn him too many friends, nor did his suggestion that the STM be bilingual. His public comments earned the minister a lemon prize from language group Impératif français.

According to people with knowledge of PQ cabinet discussions, Lisée was even more disagreeable behind closed doors, questioning language policies, pleading for the party to kill Bill 14 and even questioning some of the fundamentals of Bill 101.

His views don’t represent a complete reversal of position. Lisée was famously responsible for a speech Lucien Bouchard gave at the Centaur Theatre saying anglos are an important part of Quebec. The speech, and statements contained in it, were not universally accepted among his colleagues.

It remains to be seen just how militant Lisée will be on the other side. Will he call for the repeal of the Quebec language charter and all special protections for the French language? So far, all he’s said is that he wants both languages to be equally protected in Quebec (he said something similar at the CBC’s recent Living English event, though to the guffaws of the crowd). He also said the fight for French isn’t over, and that he will work hard to ensure language equality in other provinces as well. (I guess that means he’s a federalist now too?)

The other question is whether Premier Pauline Marois will replace Lisée. Clearly he’s no longer a minister. Will she name someone else as minister responsible for anglophones, or will she decide not to, for fear that someone else might be turned to the dark side?

The standings

With Lisée’s defection, the National Assembly is left with 53 PQ members, 50 Liberals (including speaker Jacques Chagnon), 19 CAQ members, the two Québec solidaire MNAs and Lisée’s Equality Parti/Parti Égalité. It doesn’t shift the balance of power, but it does make things tougher for the PQ.

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City decides “fuck it, we’ll just go with dirt roads”

With public opposition growing to the city of Montreal’s plans to award contracts to ethically questionable companies to fix potholes, and public demand still high for those potholes to be filled nonetheless, Montreal’s city council has finally found a third option that everyone can live with: Tear up the asphalt and just leave dirt roads everywhere.

The Applebaum administration announced the move the way it usually does, via a tweet from councillor Marvin Rotrand. He said the independents and the three city hall parties came to the unusual agreement that roads in poor state outside the downtown core would be stripped of their asphalt and left with dirt or gravel roads (most of the a mix of the two) until a more permanent solution could be devised. Those in the downtown core would still be repaved, since dust covering downtown would be more of a problem than switching to dirt roads would solve.

Highways and bridges, which are managed by the provincial (or, for some bridges, federal) government, are not affected by this measure.

While dirt and gravel roads sound like an interesting (if dirty) solution, they won’t come without a price. Even dirt roads need maintenance, and contractors will still need to be hired to tear up the roads and lay down the dirt. Fortunately for us, out-of-province construction companies can handle that job (dirt, unlike asphalt, doesn’t have to be poured immediately).

The conversion will happen in stages, with the most deteriorated roads getting the highest priority.

Rotrand said some practical elements, like how you mark lanes on a dirt road, will also need to be figured out. He hopes to get some ideas from a handful of European cities that have made the same transition, reportedly with quite a bit of success.

The measure will be put to city council at its emergency meeting this week for a vote. Rotrand said tearing up of streets could happen within two weeks of the special bylaw passing.