Category Archives: Uncategorized

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24 Heures changes format, to be distributed as anarchist zine

Reeling from the recent loss of exclusive distribution rights in Montreal’s metro system, free daily 24 Heures announced today it will undergo a radical transformation, and as of Monday will be distributed as an anarchist zine.

The zine format, which will see the newspaper photocopied on 8.5×11″ letter-sized sheets folded in half, will give it a more edgy look, its publisher explains. The entire paper will be in black and white only, and editors will abandon the sleek digital layout tools they have been using for 15 years and instead lay articles out by hand.

“We hope these changes, combined with a new editorial focus, will help us better reach the youth market,” a note to readers explained. In an interview, the publisher (who did not want his name published) said the idea was to “be more like Vice News and other things the youth like.”

24 Heures will continue to be distributed by people on the street, particularly outside metro stations, but those distributors will change their looks. Gone will be the orange vests, replaced with black ones that have anti-government and anti-corporate stickers and pins all over them.

Distributor Marc Quenneville says he looks forward to adopting the new fight-the-man attitude. “Finally there will be a newspaper that stands up for the working man,” he said.

Monday’s first issue of the new 24 Heures will be sponsored by Subway.

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CBC admits it already spent $675 million in new federal money on coke-fuelled orgy

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is in hot water with federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly after admitting it already spent the promised $675-million in additional federal funding on a coke-filled orgy for top executives last month.

“We will be conducting an investigation into this incident, but I want to remind everyone that the CBC is an arms-length organization and the federal government will not dictate how it is to spend its money,” Joly explained today at a press conference in Montreal.

Details are sketchy, but it appears that some time around St. Patrick’s Day, senior executives including the board of directors and everyone at the vice-president level and above checked into an expensive hotel in Toronto and went to town on drugs and prostitutes. Cocaine was specifically referenced, but it’s believed heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs were also used, as well as “a considerable quantity” of marijuana.

Board member A. Prelfoulle is still in critical condition at a Toronto hospital being treated for an overdose.

Joly said it’s unfortunate more of the drugs and prostitutes were not shared with more front-line employees, who have also had it rough over the past few years. “I’m sure some of them would have liked this extra money,” she said, once again stressing that the government will not dictate how the corporation is to spend its money.

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Normand Brathwaite announces retirement as counterexample to criticisms of racism in Quebec media

Normand Brathwaite as François Bugingo parodying Uptown Funk

Normand Brathwaite in one of his last but-we-have-a-black-guy roles in Bye-Bye 2015

Normand Brathwaite, who for 35 years has proudly been Quebec’s go-to counterexample when confronted with criticisms of racism in the media, says he’s ready to hang up his token hat.

In an announcement posted to Facebook this morning, just after his latest contract with the Union des artistes expired, Brathwaite wrote that it’s time to pass the hat to a new generation of token black guys.

“In my 35 years in showbusiness, I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he wrote. “I went from being the only black guy in a room full of white people to being the only black guy in a room full of white people with a few arabs around.”

Brathwaite pointed to young black actors whose names I couldn’t recognize and said the future of making white people feel less guilty about profiting from a system that discriminates in their favour was in their hands.

But it’s expected that musician and TV and radio host Gregory Charles will take up much of the slack of being referenced by hard-line Quebec sovereignists and media executives alike in smug defiant response to people who say we’re not seeing enough diversity on television screens.

The Parti Québécois issued a statement congratulating Brathwaite for his service. “As an experienced counterexample myself, I know the amount of commitment it takes to be a perfect token, and the toll it takes on you to be constantly used in Twitter discussions between partisan trolls,” said Maka Kotto, on behalf of the entire PQ black caucus. “You should be proud, as I am, of how comfortable you’ve made white people feel for decades now.”

The sudden departure of Brathwaite has led to some scrambling from some quarters, with one Télé-Québec executive asking around if he could consider Adib Alkhalidey a black guy “or just a general ethnic.”

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CRTC proposes “hottie basic” rules that would offer all Canadians free TV porn

As Canadians look to new “skinny basic” packages by cable companies with a sense of disappointment, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has decided to try again to win consumers over with a new set of packaging rules.

The new proposal, to be released today, calls for all providers to offer a new “hottie basic” package that would include mandatory channels and at least two pornographic channels, at least one of which would have to be Canadian. The porn channels would have to be offered at a price of $0.69 each, CRTC commissioner Jean-Michel Rousseau said with a nudge.

Rumours of the proposal led to immediate questions about quality, and whether there would be a regulatory way to distinguish, say, Playboy TV from the kind of bland, poorly produced crap you can find anywhere on the Internet these days.

Rousseau said the commission has similar concerns, and has proposed a working group of himself and “mon chum Yannick” to personally monitor the channels offered to see if they meet the commission’s standards. “But we won’t do that together, because eww.”

If all goes according to plan, consumers could see their hottie basic packages as early as Valentine’s Day 2017.

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Bell makes $1.2-trillion offer for federal government

Bell parent company BCE Inc., in its most ambitious takeover move yet, has put together a hostile, $1.2-trillion offer for a majority stake in the Government of Canada.

The offer, which was just announced, would make BCE the largest company in the country, and make Canada the largest privately-owned country in the world.

“We were reaching the limits of what we could do under the current federal framework,” Bell says in a note to investors explaining the proposal. “Our board of directors concluded that the only way to continue our growth was to seek to acquire the federal government itself.”

Once the acquisition is complete, Bell would control Canada’s military, its banks, and transportation and telecommunications companies. “The increased flexibility that will come from having a controlling stake in regulatory bodies will give us the power to expand just about every aspect of our business,” the note said.

Analysts were mixed on the proposed deal. Ceci Etonpuassohn of RBC Capital Markets said BCE would be in a highly leveraged position if this deal were to go through, and he wasn’t convinced that the increased ability to levy taxes on 35 million customers would be enough to pay off the massive debt that would be undertaken. “I might have preferred a different option, like a joint deal with Shaw communications and Rogers, or maybe if they’d just started with buying a small province first, as a test run.”

If accepted by Canada’s current owner, Tim Horton, the deal would also require approval from the CRTC, since it changes its own effective ownership. This means approval would likely take another year.

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AM980 to adopt all-Star-Trek-talk format

Star Trek Radio

AM980, the radio station once known as Radio Fierté before the French-language LGBT format was abandoned last fall, will be reborn as NCC-980, an innovative new format devoted entirely to discussing Star Trek.

“We’re going to be the first of our kind in this part of the world,” explained Q’lolohk Nagh (born Benjamin Stankowski), who owner Evanov Radio has hired as program director for the station. “This format has cross-generational appeal, attracting a millennial male audience while also going after nostalgic baby boomers and Gen-Xers.”

Nagh said he’s already lined up a few on-air personalities, though he wouldn’t name any names. He’s also promised “bulkhead-to-bulkhead coverage” of the upcoming Montreal Comiccon in July, which has William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols and Kate Mulgrew lined up as guests. “I’m working hard to get them in studio, but nothing’s confirmed yet,” Nagh said.

While there will be the usual Kirk-vs-Picard debates, Nagh said that to fill a full 24/7 schedule, the discussions need to be more interesting than that. He plans to bring on philosophers to debate metaphysical issues (when you transport somewhere, is that really you that materializes?), have creators of fan art discuss their creations, follow the latest news about new series and movies, and of course discuss favourite episodes and movies. One show being planned will also discuss alternate-reality scenarios, a sort of what-if for various storylines.

And capitalizing on the popularity of the “rewatch podcast” format, there will be shows devoted to accompanying fans in the rewatching of classic episodes and movies.

“There’s going to be everything here for old fans, new fans and people who want to be fans,” Nagh said. “We want to be very inclusive. Not assimilated-by-the-Borg inclusive, but welcoming,” he said with a snort.

Nagh, 15, said details of the lineup and programming should be available this summer with the station launch planned this fall. And unlike the previous formats of AM980, which have included Christmas music and easy-listening music, “we intend Star Trek Radio to live long and prosper.”

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Jian Ghomeshi starts new podcast chronicling his search for the real assaulters

ghomeshi-pi

Having been vindicated in a court of law in his sexual assault case, Jian Ghomeshi spoke out for the first time since the ordeal began and announced he is starting a new podcast in which he will investigate what really happened to these women and who was truly responsible.

Called “Ghomeshi p.i.”, the independently produced podcast will come out once a week, and mainly feature Ghomeshi interviewing witnesses and experts as he investigates who really choked, slapped, punched and yanked the hair of those women over the years.

It’s kind of like Serial, but with a more personal touch, he said.

“Everyone thinks it was me,” he said. “So there’s no one who can do this but me.”

Ghomeshi said he’s trying to keep an open mind and is leaving all possibilities on the table. Early episodes will explore possibilities such as whether he has an evil twin brother, whether someone might have had their face surgically altered to resemble his, or whether it really was him, under some sort of mind control by the government or other outside forces.

“We’ll go wherever the evidence takes us,” he said. “Unlike people, the facts never lie.”

Ghomeshi said he hasn’t yet interviewed Lucy DeCoutere or the other complainants in the recent case, whose names are protected by a publication ban, but that his podcast wouldn’t be complete without giving them a chance to have their say. He suggested he may have a third party conduct those interviews because of the sensitive nature of the situation. “I don’t want to cause them any undue pain,” he said.

An episode will also go into detail about how this has affected him. “But I don’t want to dwell too much on that. This is also about the women who were abused and tricked into blaming it on an innocent man. We’re all victims here.”

The list of other staff involved in the show hasn’t been released, but Ghomeshi said he has a “cute little intern” producing for him.

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Toronto Star announces StarTouchTone, a new news-by-telephone service

Hot off the stellar success of Star Touch, the innovators at the Toronto Star announced today they will soon be launching a news-by-telephone service for subscribers.

StarTouchTone, which is set to launch this fall, will be a service where, using a touch-tone telephone, readers can call in to a special phone number, select stories they wish to listen to by going through a menu system, and enjoy their favourite writers reading their stories to them. Reporters and columnists like Kevin Donovan, Rosie DiManno and Heather Mallick will record themselves reading each of their stories, which the Star says will give them a more realistic feel than having them be read by automated screen readers.

It’s unclear whether there will be an additional cost for this service, or if it will be available to non-subscribers. “For now we’re worried about getting hundreds of telephone lines installed in our office,” explained publisher John Cruickshank.

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Rogers cancels NHL playoffs

With not a single Canadian NHL team making the playoffs this year, Rogers Media has decided it will shut down its coverage of the National Hockey League after the season ends on April 10, and it has asked the league to cancel the playoffs completely and simply hand the Stanley Cup to the team with the best record in the regular season, the Washington Capitals.

“Canadians have already moved on to other things,” explained Sportsnet spokesperson Avril F. Day, “and we’ve decided we should do the same. There are a lot of other things on our network, like Blue Jays games, that will keep Canadians much more entertained than the NHL playoffs.”

In the unlikely event that the league decides to continue with the playoffs, Day said Rogers might air the cup final “on Sportsnet One or something” unless Connor McDavid is doing something that requires their undivided attention.

Rogers, which paid $5.2 billion for 12 years of NHL games, part of which it resold to TVA Sports, said it would cost more to produce the broadcasts than they’d get in ad revenue from the “12 people who care how the Minnesota-Dallas playoff series will go.”

Instead, Rogers will find more interesting programming to air. Though nothing is confirmed yet, the company is looking at inventing another Canadian curling tournament.

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Quebec government eliminates all funding to everything but healthcare, says critics want sick people to die

In an unusual but predictable about-face on its budget proposal, the Couillard government says it will now eliminate all funding to everything and putting the entire $100 billion budget into emergency care at hospitals starting April 1, 2016.

Called the “Life First” policy, it states that “it is unconscionable for the government to take any taxpayer money away from saving lives and put it into luxuries like transportation, culture and education.”

The move was quickly criticized by the Parti Québécois as “insane”, but Premier Philippe Couillard had a strong comeback: “How many people must die to satisfy the PQ’s funding promises?”

Details of how other services will be delivered privately are still to be worked out. Roads will be sold to private companies so they can install tolls. The education system will be completely privatized (but still regulated by the government), and members of the National Assembly will work for free, though encouraged to raise their own money through endorsement contracts.

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CRTC chair confesses his battle with Bell stems from a bad customer service experience he had six years ago

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais has had to answer for decisions that the CRTC hasn't made or positions it hasn't proposed.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

If only a Bell customer service representative had properly dealt with a $17 overbilling in 2009, Bell might had had an easier time in front of the CRTC lately.

In testimony before a Senate committee this morning, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais let it slip that he had a bad experience as a Bell customer, and that if the giant telecom company had done a better job of treating those customers, he might not have taken such an aggressively pro-consumer stance as head of the broadcasting regulator.

“Someone needs to keep those jerks in line,” an angry Blais blurted out at the hearing in Ottawa. At first he tried to downplay his personal experience with the media giant, but senators pressed him on the details. Under oath, he reluctantly described what happened to him.

Blais said he was accidentally charged twice for a Bell Mobility calling plan. He called customer service, and waited on hold “for several hours” before a customer service agent replied. When he pointed out the error, “that asshole tried to make it seem like it was my fault or something.” Blais said he demanded to speak to the agent’s superior, “and he totally gave me the fucking runaround, then put me on with some bitch who LIED TO ME about when I would get my refund.”

The chairman became more agitated as he recounted his story. But he really exploded when one senator, apparently familiar with Bell’s billing process, asked if maybe Blais had been mistaken in thinking he had been charged twice for the same month.

“Who the hell are you?” Blais asked the senator. “I’m the goddamn head of the CRTC! I’m the king of telecom in this country! I know what the hell I’m talking about and I know how to read a goddamn bill! And if I don’t then that’s their fault, isn’t it? I worked in the fucking Department of Finance for the Government of Canada! You think I don’t know how to read a fucking telephone bill?”

The chair of the committee called for a recess, after which Blais apologized for his remarks. “But I’ll never apologize to Bell, those assholes. They get what they deserve.”

Among CRTC policies that have been implemented under Blais is a new consumer rights code that simplifies contracts and bills for wireless telephone services and makes them easier for consumers to understand.

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Citizens upset at health care cuts propose 24-hour boycott of emergency rooms

It worked so well for protesting gas prices and electricity prices, could it work for healthcare?

That’s what a group of people online are thinking, so they’ve proposed a 24-hour boycott of Quebec hospital emergency rooms on April 15.

“Seeing those ERs completely devoid of people should send a strong message to Gaétan Barrette that the population won’t stand for these drastic, inhumane cuts to our healthcare system,” says the description from the Facebook group.

In order to ensure everyone gets the message, volunteers from the group plan to picket outside ERs on that day to ask those who weren’t already aware of the boycott to decline emergency care for that day.

“It’ll be an inconvenience for sure, but I think once they realize how we’re trying to change the system they’ll quickly be on board,” the group’s founder says.

Those who can’t wait a day will be treated by a volunteer medic experienced in anti-austerity protests, who will administer a mixture of antacid and water to cure most ailments.

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TSN invents new sport of Canadaball

Trying to find creative ways of filling airtime now that Rogers has won the rights to NHL games, and with only so many new curling tournaments it can create, TSN has put its creative minds to work creating a new summer sport called Canadaball, and a league that it will own and have the exclusive rights to broadcast.

The sport, played indoors 12 months a year, consists of two teams of eight players each trying to get a ball in each other’s net. It’s sort of a cross between hockey, lacrosse and football, “except with the excitement factor turned up to 11,” the press release reads.

Full details of the rules are expected in the coming weeks, and the network says it will go on a national tour to promote the new sport and recruit players. Games should start being played this fall.

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CBC beta-testing new write-your-own-news application

Faced with budget cuts that are putting increasing strain on news-gathering resources, the CBC has begun experimenting with an innovative solution: Get its audience to write their own news stories, and edit them.

Under the proposed crowdsourced model, people write their own stories about their organization’s community event or some injustice they’ve experienced at the hands of some company, and submit it for peer review. Other users comb through submissions, edit them and vote on their importance. The most popular ones bubble up to the top.

It’s sort of like a combination of Wikipedia and Reddit, said Avril Fürsht, CBC managing editor for new newsgathering technologies. “At the beginning, CBC News journalists will be guiding the process, but eventually we hope to make it entirely self-sustaining.”

The hope is that eventually local CBC News websites would have a mix of professional stories and those submitted by the public. Having the public produce its own community stories will free up what few professional journalists are left to do investigative pieces and enterprise journalism, Fürsht said.

The system allows citizen journalists to posts photos with their submissions, and the plan is to soon allow them to upload video and audio clips as well. And CBC is asking users what they think about a plan to offer $20 per submission for complete packaged TV and radio reports, as a way of “giving back” to the community for the content it offers.

The first stories are already up on the website. You can see an example of a crowdsourced TV report here.

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Shaw Media to launch all-Simpsons rerun channel this month

Spurred by the CRTC’s recent decision to stop enforcing genre protection or nature-of-service requirements for specialty channels, Shaw Media wasted no time putting a plan in place to quickly capitalize on the newfound freedom. It announced that it will launch an all-Simpsons channel on April 15.

It won’t be all Simpsons, because of the requirement to have 35% Canadian programming. So the hours from 6am to 1pm will be devoted to classic Canadian comedies like Corner Gas.

In a press release filled with Simpsons references, Shaw said it was “totally having a cow” about the new channel, and that it would be “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” It implored people to “choo-choo-choose it” for their cable packages.

The Simpsons Channel will be available at launch on Shaw Cable and Shaw Direct. Other providers haven’t announced plans to carry it yet.

Shaw Media also said they’re planning other single-purpose channels in the coming months, including an all-Seinfeld channel, an all-NCIS channel, and an all-M*A*S*H channel.