Posted in TV

Bell Media shuts down CTV transmitter in Wiarton, Ont., after spat with neighbour over trees

There’s no longer a CTV television transmitter in Wiarton, Ont. And all because of a dispute with a neighbour that started with an apparent misunderstanding over the cutting of trees.

The story is contained in an application owner Bell Media filed with the CRTC on July 10 to revoke the broadcasting licence of CKCO-TV-2, a 100kW transmitter in Wiarton, which is on the Bruce Peninsula separating Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It’s one of two retransmitters of CKCO-DT in Kitchener. The other is in Oil Springs, Ont., covering Sarnia.

As Bell tells it, it has had trouble accessing the transmission tower, even though it owns the land the tower sits on, because the access road to it is on property owned by a neighbour. For years, there was a verbal agreement with that property owner to access the site using his road (which leads to a street officially called Tower Road). But three years ago, the property was sold. The new owner had a falling out with Bell after “Bell Media rightfully prevented the new owner from cutting trees located on our property.” In January 2014, the new owner demanded Bell pay $1,000 a month to use his road, plus $34,000 in back pay going back to when he originally purchased the land.

Naturally, Bell thought this was a ridiculous sum and offered to pay $5,000 a year, with no back pay. The owner refused, and so Bell could no longer get a vehicle to its tower.

The next month, the power went out at the tower. Bell discovered a serious fault in the electrical system which required a series of repairs, but again the owner of the road denied access. Bell’s only access to the tower was through a tiny strip of land connecting its land to the road. Which meant travelling on foot. And since this was February in rural Ontario, this meant going by snowshoe.

Without the ability to fix the electricity, the diesel backup generator stopped working and CKCO-TV-2 went off the air.

Other than the TV transmitter, there’s only one other tenant, Spectrum Communications, a company that provides two-way radios and other specialized communications for businesses and institutions. It pays $14,000 a year until its lease expires in August 2015, which isn’t enough to justify the $91,000 a year it costs to run the tower and its transmitters.

So Bell has decided to give up on the 230-metre-high tower and hand back the licence for CKCO-TV-2. It’s unclear if they plan to sell the tower, dismantle it or do something else.

Continue reading

Posted in Radio

CFMB gets licence renewal, permission to reduce number of languages

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has renewed the licence of ethnic station CFMB 1280 AM for seven years, and as part of that decision has agreed to reduce the requirements in that licence as far as the number of languages it must broadcast in and the number of cultural groups it has to serve.

CFMB’s existing licence had been to serve 19 cultural groups in 18 different languages, but as co-owner and president Stefan Stanczykowski explains in the application, it is difficult to maintain that many different types of programming:

“(An) ethnic broadcaster, unlike (a) conventional broadcaster, has very limited pool of talent to choose from. More often than not our on-air staff has to be trained on the job to fit this description, therefore in the event of loss of an announcer for specific ethnic program, it is very hard and sometimes impossible to replace immediately or for a long time such a person.”

“Adding to this problem is also ethnic community for which the program was produced. Many ethnic producers are discouraged by the feedback or lack of it; others give up for lack of sufficient revenue or personal time.”

Another factor is increased competition. Montreal has many ethnic broadcasters, including CINQ 102.3 (various), CKDG 105.1 (mainly Greek), CKIN 106.3 (various), CJWI 1410 (Haitian), CHOU 1450 (Middle East), CJRS 1650 (Jewish), plus two licensed but unlaunched stations serving South Asian communities. And there’s ICI, the ethnic TV station, plus plenty of third-language TV channels and online services.

“In the Commission’s view, the request would represent only a slight decrease in the number of groups served and languages broadcast by the station,” the commission said in its decision. “The licensee would maintain a fairly high level of diversity of languages and cultural groups and would continue to meet the broad service requirements of the Ethnic broadcasting policy as set out in Public Notice 1999-117. In addition, the Commission considers that the ethnic communities in the Montréal radio market are well served by the six ethnic stations and notes that two additional ethnic stations have been approved by the Commission but have not yet launched.”

CFMB already operates in 16 languages and will continue with its current programming targeting these cultural groups:

  • Algerian (Berber)
  • Cambodian (Khmer)
  • Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Greek
  • Haitian (Creole)
  • Italian
  • Jewish (English/Hebrew)
  • Lithuanian
  • Moroccan (Maghreb/Arabic)
  • Pakistani (Urdu)
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Latin-American (Spanish)
  • Ukrainian

There’s an argument to be made that, in a market like Montreal with several ethnic radio stations, they should be allowed to reduce the number of languages they broadcast in to reduce duplication. CINQ, CKDG and CFMB all have programming for the Greek community, for example. Several stations target the Middle East or South Asia. You’d think these communities would be better served if all their programs were on the same station rather than being scattered across the dial.

 

Posted in Radio

The Beat appoints Sam Zniber as new program director

The Beat announced this morning that “veteran radio executive” Sam Zniber has been hired as the new program director for 92.5 The Beat, effective immediately.

Zniber replaces Leo Da Estrela, who decided almost a year ago that he wanted to leave the job and focus on his side business providing custom radio stations for businesses. Da Estrela was supposed to leave this spring, but stuck around on a part-time basis to help with the transition. His last day is Friday, he says.

Zniber, whose resume is posted on his website, has no apparent previous connection to Montreal, having spent most his career in Europe.

The memo announcing his hiring is copied below:

Continue reading

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 TV

Andrew Chang to host CBC News Vancouver

Debra Arbec and Andrew Chang before Chang abandoned Arbec and fled to the other coast.

Debra Arbec and Andrew Chang before Chang abandoned Arbec and fled to the other coast. (Last chance to use this file photo, I guess.)

Two months after Andrew Chang left CBC Montreal on paternity leave and announced he wasn’t coming back, we finally know what super-secret job he’s taking on. CBC announced on Wednesday that Chang will be the new anchor of CBC News Vancouver at 5 and 6, starting Sept. 1.

Chang replaces Gloria Macarenko, who moves on to hosting CBC Radio’s The Story From Here, a cheap content repackaging show a “curation of stories” from local CBC radio stations. Macarenko will also continue hosting Our Vancouver, a cheap content repackaging show week-in-review and arts/lifestyle show, and do segments for TV, including a regular one-on-one interview segment.

The job is also one held by B.C. broadcasting star Tony Parsons until last December.

Chang, who filled in on The Current after coming back from paternity leave, won’t be replaced in Montreal. Debra Arbec will continue anchoring the evening newscast here solo. Though putting Doug Gelevan on the evening news full-time means she can be with him and weatherman Frank Cavallaro on promotional material and feel more like she’s part of a team.

“The team at CBC Vancouver has proven time and time again that they are the best at investigative and original journalism,” Chang is quoted as saying in a CBC News story, which I guess means that he thinks CBC Vancouver is better than CBC Montreal.

Continue reading

Posted in Radio

CRTC approves Attraction’s acquisition of CJLM 103.5 Joliette

M103.5, the “coeur de Lanaudière”, will soon have a new owner.

On Wednesday, the CRTC approved the acquisition of CJLM-FM 103.5 Joliette by Attraction Radio, a company controlled by Richard Speer.

CJLM, which can be heard on the air from the eastern half of Montreal, becomes Attraction’s sixth station. Others include CKRS-FM in Saguenay (a former Corus station which it’s trying to turn into a Rythme FM affiliate), CKGS-FM (Kool 105.5) in nearby La Baie, CHEQ-FM 101.5 in Sainte-Marie, CKYQ-FM in Plessisville/Victoriaville, and CJIT-FM in Lac-Mégantic.

Formerly an AM station whose history dates back to 1960, CJLM moved to FM in 1992 hoping that it would turn its financial situation around. It didn’t, and in 1995 the station went bankrupt. It was bought out by a cooperative of its employees and went back on the air. It’s this cooperative that is selling the station to Attraction.

The purchase price is $750,000, which includes the studio’s building and equipment, the transmission tower and the land it sits on. It does not include any debt. The deal was reached in October 2012 and announced in January 2013. It includes a two-year non-compete agreement preventing employees and investors from starting a competing radio station or luring away advertisers.

Since CJLM has lost money in the past three years, the CRTC has allowed the purchase without imposing a requirement for tangible benefits to the broadcasting system. The station’s licence remains unchanged.

Attraction says its business model is based on running these stations not as a network but as individual brands. “The stations run by Attraction Radio continue to offer essentially local programming produced by the resources of the station, programming that specifically responds to the needs of each of the markets that they serve,” the company says in its CRTC application. “These stations can also count on the support in terms of programming, sales, administration and regulatory affairs.”

The deal is expected to close shortly.

Posted in Radio, TV

CBC Montreal ends sports reporter rotation; Doug Gelevan, Andie Bennett get stable gigs

Douglas Gelevan will work full-time as sports anchor on CBC Montreal's evening newscast and as sports columnist for Homerun

Douglas Gelevan will work full-time as sports anchor on CBC Montreal’s evening newscast and as sports columnist for Homerun

Three years after creating a two-person sports unit and rotating them regularly between morning and afternoon jobs, CBC Montreal has finally come to its senses and is giving them more stable schedules.

Douglas Gelevan announced on Friday that he’s moving to a full-time job as TV sports anchor and afternoon radio sports columnist as of Monday.

“We’re going to experiment with exactly how the daily work flow will work with me over the next month,” Gelevan tells me. “By fall the permanent structure should be in place. I know the plan is to create a workflow that will get sports more involved in the 6 to 6:30 part of the program in addition to a sportscast in the 5. A back and forth scenario between the TV and Homerun studio is likely, but I can’t say for sure.”

Since Homerun airs from 3 to 6pm and the TV newscast is from 5 to 6:30pm, there’s some overlap, meaning the schedule has to be figured out (especially because it takes a couple of minutes to run from one studio to the other). But the team had been doing radio hits at 5:50pm after anchoring a sportscast during the 5pm block, so it should be manageable.

I asked Gelevan if he’ll enjoy the fact that he won’t have to get up as early for Daybreak. For a sports reporter especially, those kinds of hours can be very difficult.

But “it’s never been a issue for me,” he said. “Working on Daybreak is feels like getting fired out of canon as soon as you wake up. I’ll miss that aspect of being on the show for sure. And working side by side Mike, Monique, Jeanette and Brendan… They’re awesome.”

Andie Bennett remains on Daybreak full-time

Andie Bennett remains on Daybreak full-time

It’s been three years since Andie Bennett left what was then Team 990 to join CBC, prompting the creation of the sports unit. The move meant going on TV regularly, which clearly took some time getting used to, though viewers have seen her get more comfortable in the role as time has passed.

“I’m a radio girl at heart and we were all in agreement that it is better to have consistency on the airwaves,” Bennett said. “The TV work has been a great experience and I will still be doing some TV from time to time, ideally doing maybe one item a month that will be a bit more in-depth, thought-out, creative type of story.”

Aside from giving these two broadcasters more stable schedules, the change solves some practical problems. Promotions for either Daybreak or the TV newscast would either have to include both of them or neither. Now, Gelevan can stand next to Debra Arbec and Frank Cavallaro on those TV posters and Bennett can be more prominent in the B-roll they shoot for those tomorrow-on-Daybreak TV commercials.

“With Andrew Chang’s departure, we wanted to create a consistent on-air team for CBC News at 5:00, 5:30 and 6:00,” said CBC Quebec content manager Meredith Dellandrea (who’s filling in for other managers on vacation). “Doug Gelevan is great in the TV sports role and we’re so happy he agreed to this change. We are also pleased that Andie Bennett — also great on TV and radio — has agreed to be the Daybreak sports reporter on a daily basis.”

Both Bennett and Gelevan describe this as a win-win.

“It’s good news for everyone I think,” Bennett said. “I wanted to return to radio full-time and Doug does great work in the scripted TV format.”

And they insist they’re still a team. Their “sports unit” stories, where they go out together and try out new sports for our amusement, will continue.

With all the common sense that went into this, it makes you wonder why it took three years to get here.

Posted in TV

Videotron applies to CRTC to make Canal Indigo pay-per-view bilingual

Less than a week after Bell Media formally announced that Viewers Choice pay-per-view would be shut down on Sept. 30 (though about a month after it was privately informed of the decision), Videotron has applied to the CRTC to modify the licence of its own Canal Indigo service to make it bilingual.

The application, which can be downloaded here but doesn’t say much more than it wants to make the service bilingual, is open to public comment until Aug. 21 (comments can be submitted here). Since pay-per-view services are now subject to standard conditions of licence, it’s unlikely the CRTC will oppose the application.

The only sticking point might be language. Currently the CRTC’s standard policy regarding bilingual pay-per-view services sets a ratio of 1:3 of French to English services

17. Finally, licensees of bilingual PPV services, in addition to being subject to the requirements for English- and French-language PPV services, must ensure a ratio of 1:3 French- to English-language channels in markets where a bilingual service is offered, with a minimum of five French-language signals as well as the French-language barker channel.

As Videotron points out, this ratio makes sense in English Canada, where special protections are needed to ensure francophones have access to PPV services, but they don’t make much sense for Videotron, which operates almost exclusively in Quebec. Instead, Videotron proposes a 4:1 ratio of French to English, with eight French channels and two English ones.

Videotron currently distributes 11 standard-definition and three high-definition Canal Indigo channels, and eight standard-definition and one high-definition Viewers Choice channels.

The application makes it clear that Videotron plans to go in-house to replace Viewers Choice rather than seek another provider of pay-per-view services. Bell and Rogers said it would work with other providers carrying Viewers Choice to ensure they would be provided with another service.

Posted in Business

Videotron: We’re fibre too!

The latest indication that Videotron is feeling the heat from competition by Bell Canada is that it has rebranded its Internet packages to include the word “fibre”.

Now, rather than “High Speed” or “Ultimate Speed”, the packages are being referred to as “Fibre Hybrid”. This term reflects the fact that, while the telecom company has 30,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable, the cable that actually gets into people’s homes is still the same coaxial copper cable that’s been used for cable TV for decades.

Such a setup, in which the backbone is fibre-optic but that last connection to individual homes is a conventional line, is called fibre-to-the-node or fibre-to-the-neighbourhood. It contrasts with fibre-to-the-home, in which fibre-optic cable actually goes all the way to a person’s home, giving them access to very high data transfer rates and room to grow.

Bell Fibe, which isn’t even five years old yet, has been spreading in Montreal, offering for many the first non-satellite alternative for cable TV and high-speed Internet. We don’t know exactly how many customers it’s stolen from Videotron, but we do know that the powers that be at the Quebecor-owned company are very nervous.

Because fibre-optics is so central to Bell that it’s even in the name of the fibre-optic package, Videotron apparently decided it wanted to make sure everyone knows that it too uses fibre. Ads in newspapers boast that Videotron had a fibre network before Bell set one up.

But Videotron’s network, and much of Bell’s, isn’t really fibre. It’s FTTN, not FTTH. And both of them will need to come up with something even more buzzword-worthy when they do bring fibre right into people’s TVs. (Bell has some FTTH customers, but many with “Bell Fibe” don’t have fibre entering their homes.)

As these two companies continue their pissing contest, La Presse’s Jean-François Codère did a comparison between Bell and Videotron in terms of Internet packages. Bell comes out slightly better in some areas while for others you’re better off with Videotron (assuming Internet speed and download caps are all you care about.

It would be nice to say healthy competition is forcing both Videotron and Bell to put consumers first, but Bell just told clients it’s dramatically increasing its prices And Videotron booting its prices is a yearly occurrence.

Maybe we can just amuse ourself in the assumption that if it weren’t for competition, those price increases would be higher. But don’t hold your breath hoping for more. Cogeco just announced it’s abandoning its plans for an IP-based data link to residential subscribers, saying it’s too complicated.

Posted in TV

Bell Media to lay off dozens at Much, MTV

Despite its very profitable operation overall, Bell Media is making deep cuts to Toronto-based television production and cutting up to 120 jobs. On Wednesday, we learned that dozens of those jobs will come from Much, MTV Canada and related channels, and will have a big impact on in-house productions. We already know that indie music show The Wedge is being cancelled, as is Video On Trial and Today’s Top 10s. On MTV, we’re losing 1 Girl 5 Gays, After Degrassi, Losing It and MTV News, according to reports.

The notice of layoff, posted on the Unifor local’s website, list the 72 positions being made redundant. We (and they) won’t know exactly who’s being cut until the process is completed, including bumping of people with less seniority in other classifications.

Much aka MuchMusic, the biggest of the specialty channels in the group, had a decent profit margin, but from 2011 to 2013 experienced an $8 million drop in annual advertising revenue and a $7 million increase in programming expenses, conspiring to push the channel in the red, according to CRTC figures. This despite a significant increase in the number of subscribers. It reported an average staff count of 75, though Unifor’s seniority list has 100 full-time and eight part-time people at the Much production unit.

And in a bit of irony, one of Much’s iconic shows, Degrassi (formerly Degrassi: The Next Generation) was just nominated for an Emmy for outstanding children’s program. It’s the show’s third nomination in four years.