Posted in Radio

Radio 9 plans all-sports format, third format change in three years

RNC Média is still trying to figure out a winning formula for its FM station in Montreal, and after failing at jazz, right-wing talk and serious news-talk, it’s moving to sports talk.

The news was first reported by La Presse after the company dismissed its star hosts Louis Lemieux, Josélito Michaud and Caroline Proulx. The news was confirmed on air and online by the station, but with only a promise of details soon.

Radio-Canada reports 15 of 28 jobs have been cut at the station.

CKLX-FM 91.9 began in 2004 as Planète Jazz, under the assumption that the city with one of the world’s biggest jazz festivals would be interested in a station devoted to that music. That didn’t work, and in 2012 the company asked the CRTC to adopt a spoken-word format. It switched the station’s brand to Radio X and adopted a format similar to the Quebec City station that has found ratings success with right-wingers complaining about things, decried by critics as “radio poubelle”.

But Radio X didn’t work here, so last fall it rebranded as Radio 9, hired former RDI host Louis Lemieux and tried to get more serious.

But that didn’t work either, and the station couldn’t climb out of the ratings basement while its direct competitor CHMP-FM 98.5 dominated.

This format change, which doesn’t require CRTC approval because it remains a spoken word station, brings a full-time sports radio station in French back to Montreal for the first time since CKAC went from all-sports to traffic information in 2011, moving some of its sports talk to 98.5.

The road will be difficult for this station in a sports format, because 98.5 has popular sports shows in the evenings and has exclusive rights to Canadiens and Alouettes games. It also recently acquired rights to some Impact games. CKLX-FM might pick up the remaining Impact games, and rights to other sports, but those won’t have nearly the same ratings draw.

There’s also another factor in play here: Two years ago the CRTC authorized the launch of a French-language all-sports station at 850 AM owned by 7954689 Canada Inc. (Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media). The deadline to launch that station passed 11 days ago, but the CRTC says it has received a request for an extension and is studying it. Normally stations can get a one-year extension to launch a radio station if they ask for it before the deadline.

This change for RNC Média might force TTP Media to rethink its plans for 850 AM, or even abandon the project entirely.

TTP Media has been dormant (comatose, really) since it acquired its three licences, except for its requests for extensions to launch. The last of those, nine months ago, said its stations were six to nine months to launch. The uncertainty about this company will likely end in November, when the final extension for its first licence (a French news-talk station at 940 AM) expires, and it’s either on the air or it loses its authorization for good.

Posted in Media

(Probably incomplete) list of Quebec journalists turned politician

Remember the good old days when politicians were all lawyers?

Well, actually politicians have come from all sorts of jobs for a long time now, though lawyers and doctors tend to be over-represented. And journalism is among the former jobs of those who enter the political arena. But it seems like recently it’s become more prevalent. Just this week, former Montreal Gazette journalist Sue Montgomery announced she’s seeking the NDP nomination in N.D.G.-Westmount, and former TVA journalist Réjean Léveillé announced he’s running for the Conservatives.

Since the beginning of 2014, I count 14 Quebec journalists or former journalists who sought provincial or federal office by at least entering a nomination race. And since I find no list online of these people, I created one below. I’m adding to it as more announce, and there are undoubtedly plenty of former cases (particularly candidates that didn’t win) that I’m missing. Feel free to suggest additions below.

Some ground rules for the list though:

  • This list includes only actual politicians, meaning people who have sought elected office (entering a nomination race is enough). It doesn’t include journalists who became political attachés or public relations officials. Nor does it include lieutenant-governors or governors-general.
  • I’ve only included those seeking provincial or federal office. Expanding to include municipal, school board or other positions would make this list far too long and obscure to be manageable.
  • I only include those who entered politics after 1955. Sorry, Henri Bourassa.
  • The person must have been a journalist or worked in a related function (news anchor, news radio host, etc.) Just because someone was in the media doesn’t mean they were a journalist. I’ve excluded Lise Payette, for example, even though she was a figure on Radio-Canada before becoming an MNA. I’ve also excluded Pierre Karl Péladeau and others that owned media without being a journalist.
  • The journalism career must have been non-partisan. By that I mean that people who worked for media with obvious partisan political goals are excluded. (Pierre Trudeau is sometimes listed as a former journalist, but the journal he founded was partisan.)
  • I don’t put a limit on the time between when they were a journalist and when they became a politician. But the journalism job must have been a significant part of their careers. Doing an internship 20 years ago doesn’t count.

Here are the names I have so far, the parties they ran for, and the news outlets they used to work for. Those who actually got elected are in bold.

1956: Pierre Laporte (Independent) — Le Devoir — Went back into journalism after losing and re-entered politics as a Quebec Liberal in 1961

1960: René Lévesque (PLQ, then PQ) — Radio-Canada

1965: Gérard Pelletier (LPC) — Le Devoir, La Presse

1966: Yves Michaud (PLQ, PQ) — Clairon maskoutain, La Patrie

1972: Jeanne Sauvé (LPC) — CBC/Radio-Canada — Later served as governor general

1976: Jean-Pierre Charbonneau (PQ) — CKAC, CKVL, Le Devoir, La Presse

1976: Gérald Godin (PQ) — La Presse

1978: Claude Ryan (PLQ) — Le Devoir

1994: André Arthur (Independent) — TVA, CHRC — Lost this provincial election, but was elected federally in 2006

1994: Matthias Rioux (PQ) — CKAC, CKVL

2003: Dominique Vien (PLQ) — Radio-Canada, Radio Bellechasse

2004: André Bellavance (BQ) — KYQ-FM

2007: Pierre Arcand (PLQ) — CKAC, Metromedia

2007: Christine St-Pierre (PLQ) — Radio-Canada

2007: Bernard Drainville (PQ) — Radio-Canada

2008: Gérard Deltell (ADQ) — TQS

2008: Anne Lagacé-Dowson (NDP) — CBC

2008: Éric Boucher (PQ) — L’Actuel — Ran again for Québec solidaire in 2012

2009: Jean D’Amour (PLQ) — CJFP, CIBM

2011: Raymond Archambault (PQ) — Radio-Canada — Became president of the Parti Québécois in addition to a candidate

2012: Pierre Duchesne (PQ) — Radio-Canada

2012: Jean-François Lisée (PQ) — La Presse, L’Actualité

2012: Sophie Stanké (PQ) — Canal M, La Semaine

2012: Nathalie Roy (CAQ) — TQS, Radio-Canada, TVA

2014: Alexis Deschênes (PQ) — TVA

2014: François Paradis (CAQ) — TVA

2014: Armand Dubois (PLQ) — TVA, Radio-Canada, Radio Ville-Marie

2014: Marie-Louise Séguin (PQ) — Radio-Canada — Previously had a career in municipal politics

2014: Dominique Payette (PQ) — Radio-Canada

2014: Yvon Moreau (BQ) — RNC Média

2014: Sylvain Rochon (PQ) — CJSO

2015: Pascale Déry (CPC) — TVA

2015: Jocelyne Cazin (CAQ) — TVA

2015: Sébastien Couture (PQ) — Écho du Lac

2015: Véronyque Tremblay (PLQ) — TQS, TVA, FM93

2015: Martin Leclerc (NDP) — Journal de Montréal, Radio-Canada

2015: Sue Montgomery (NDP) — Montreal Gazette

2015: Réjean Léveillé (CPC) — TVA

2015: Dominique Trottier (NDP) — TVA

Posted in Radio

Why the CRTC decided it was fed up with Aboriginal Voices Radio

Updated with news of court injunction. See below.

In a decision that shocks only the people who haven’t been paying attention, the CRTC today decided to revoke all the licences of Aboriginal Voices Radio, a network of FM stations in major markets that were designed to provide programming to aboriginal Canadians living off-reserve. In a press release, it said it was doing so “to help improve radio service for urban Aboriginal listeners”, which sounds a bit like Orwellian doublespeak but is actually more true than false.

The decision requires AVR to cease broadcasting within a month (July 25), and will open up FM frequencies in the very competitive markets of Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. (AVR also had stations in Montreal and Kitchener that they later dropped, and authorizations for stations in Regina and Saskatoon that never went on the air.) The commission says it will call for new applications for those cities, but “will give priority to proposals for services that will serve Aboriginal communities.”

To understand the decision, I could point to licence renewal decisions in which the CRTC got promises from AVR that it would come into compliance with its obligations, and then fail to do so. I could point to the programming on the air, of which none is local and little seems specifically targeted at aboriginals.

But instead, I’ll just point you to the transcript of the CRTC hearing of May 13 that AVR was asked to attend to explain itself.

AVR brought in external consultants from Bray & Partners who promised to bring the stations into compliance with their licenses. (It included a news team led by Steve Kowch, former CJAD and CFRB program director.) Bray representatives and AVR president Jamie Hill made the usual we’re-so-sorry and we-take-this-very-seriously statements as everyone does when they’re called to a CRTC hearing for non-compliance.

But every time a CRTC commissioner would ask about their coming into compliance, the answer wasn’t “we’ve fixed it” but “we’ll fix it”. And this clearly annoyed the commissioners, because AVR had been making promises to fix it for years.

A few excerpts from the transcript, with key points highlighted by me, are below. It’s long, but in short, AVR has spent a decade failing to meet its licence obligations, it came to the hearing with a half-baked, improvised and incomplete business plan, almost none of which had yet been implemented. The stations were providing no local programming and had no on-air staff, and as a last resort AVR tried to claim CRTC policies are discriminatory.

This wasn’t just about being delayed in filing a form, or being a few percentage points under on Canadian content. The stations were zombies — the Ottawa one had even been off the air since last fall — and there was no real plan to bring them back.

In short, it was all far too little, and far too late. The Canadian Association of Aboriginal Broadcasters also came to the hearing asking the CRTC to call for new applications to serve the communities, and that’s what the commission will do.

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Posted in Radio

New ratings book shows The Beat’s surprise gains disappear

In March, when Numeris last released its quarterly ratings, the numbers showed an unusual spike in listenership for The Beat 92.5 (CKBE-FM). It was several points above competitor Virgin Radio 96 and won in key demographics for the first time. For the station, it was a trend, a sign that changes including a new program director had brought more listening hours to them, and it was something that was likely to continue. For Virgin (CJFM-FM) and owner Bell Media, it was a fluke, a figure explained mainly by the fact that the rating period covered Christmas and The Beat tends to do better with Christmas music.

I said we’d know in the next ratings book which side was right. And in the numbers that came out from Numeris this month, it looks like it’s Bell.

What was a 5.7-point lead in overall (ages 2+) listening share has been cut by more than half to 2.1 points. The new numbers are more consistent with what The Beat has been showing over the past couple of years.

Not that this is such a horrible position to be in. It still leads overall (though both stations fall well behind CJAD among all anglophone listeners), and it has a larger reach than it did before. The station’s press release also points out that for the key advertiser-friendly demographic of adults 25-54, which has been mostly won by Virgin recently, The Beat is now better during the work day (9am to 5pm).

Bell Media’s press release, also republished below, notes that Virgin is top among anglos 25-54, and its morning and afternoon drive shows are “dominating” in those demos. And since Bell also owns all the other English-language commercial stations in Montreal, it notes that Bell Media overall has a 72.4% share among anglo listeners.

Among the other stations, there isn’t that much new. CJAD still dominates overall with a quarter of all anglo listening hours. TSN 690 had a good book, matching its spring 2014 share among all listeners thanks to a strong Canadiens playoff run. CBC Radio One is well within that range of 7-8.5% that it usually sits in. Radio Two had its worst rating in at least the past four years with a 1.5% share, though that could just as easily be statistical error as anything else.

Among francophone audiences, CHMP 98.5 still dominates, and The Beat barely edges Virgin in listening hours, though Virgin has the larger reach.

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Posted in TV

Did Global suspend or fire Domenic Fazioli?

Domenic Fazioli (Global News photo)

Domenic Fazioli (Global News photo)

Is Domenic Fazioli an employee of Global News? It’s a seemingly simple question, but no one I’ve asked it to (including Fazioli himself) is willing to answer yes or no.

For about a month now, Fazioli hasn’t been seen on the air on Global Montreal. He hasn’t filed any stories, he hasn’t posted anything on Twitter, and his name and photo don’t appear on the list of personalities on the station’s website, even though he’s one of their most veteran reporters.

Even his colleagues don’t know exactly what’s going on. His desk has been cleared, and employees were told that a videojournalist would be hired soon to fill a recent vacancy.

Fazioli’s disappearance coincides with news coming out that he’s facing an assault charge brought on by his wife, first reported by the Montreal Gazette and picked up by a couple of other media including Global itself. The stories are not clear about the nature of the alleged assault and threats, which makes it hard to judge their severity, even if they turn out to be true.

My attempts to get information about Fazioli’s employment status has hit dead ends. The union won’t disclose his current status. A spokesperson for Global News said the company can’t comment on “internal personnel issues.” A message to the station manager didn’t elicit a response.

Reached on the phone, Fazioli himself responded “no comment” to all my questions, refusing to speak about the legal case or his status at Global. But he did say that his father’s health has taken a turn for the worse (in 2012, his father received a kidney transplant as part of an exchange that saw Fazioli donate one of his own kidneys), and that this has been a very difficult time for Fazioli and his family. He asked for privacy during this time. He added later that the situation with his wife was a “misunderstanding”, and that she supports him, without confirming whether the case has anything to do with him being off the air. (I haven’t spoken with his wife — I’ll let the court deal with sorting out that situation.)

Fazioli was noticeably distraught when I spoke with him. Whatever is happening, it’s obviously not good.

Is this newsworthy?

I had a discussion with a colleague recently about whether the Gazette should have published the story about Fazioli in the first place, which seemed to boil down to whether a local TV news reporter is a public figure. For obvious reasons, I believe they are. But even then I can acknowledge that whether to report on it is a judgment call. Domestic violence cases that don’t result in death or serious injury don’t get reported in the media because they are unfortunately far too common. And often they can be exaggerated (such as when a couple is going through a messy divorce). Often information that is public about a known personality because of a case in a court or tribunal isn’t reported on by the media because there’s no case to be made that it’s in the public interest.

But, of course, a TV reporter mysteriously disappearing from the airwaves has a more solid case behind it. If Global did remove him from his position because of this news coming out, there are questions that can be asked about whether that’s justified, questions that themselves may become public if that decision is itself challenged in court.

Posted in Radio

CBC’s Bernard St-Laurent announces his retirement

Bernard St-Laurent

Bernard St-Laurent

CBC doesn’t usually send press releases about the retirement of its journalists. But Bernard St-Laurent isn’t a simple journalist. The senior political analyst announced today he’s finally hanging up the microphone after 40 years in the business. His last day is June 26.

St-Laurent has a long career as a broadcaster, not only hosting local radio shows like Radio Noon and Homerun and the national program C’est la vie, but guest hosting on just about every national radio show and contributing in various ways to CBC.

Though in his later years his standing as a broadcaster seemed to wane a bit, and he always sounded on air as if he was out of breath, his colleagues are remembering him today as a mentor, a friend, and a wealth of institutional knowledge about Quebec.

Bernard St-Laurent in a class photo at the press gallery in Quebec City

Bernard St-Laurent in a 1978 class photo at the parliamentary press gallery in Quebec City.

Enjoy your retirement, Bernie.

UPDATE: Montreal Gazette story on St-Laurent’s retirement. It notes that C’est la vie, the CBC radio show about francophone Quebec culture, will continue with a new host.

St-Laurent was also on CBC News, doing his job talking about provincial by-elections and then commiserated briefly about missing his colleagues and listeners.

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Posted in TV

Global Montreal planning a noon local newscast this fall (but why?)

It’s Upfront Week in Canada, where the big TV networks show off their fall schedules to advertisers and hype their newly acquired programs (most of which come from the U.S.)

Shaw Media’s announcements included the usual hype for new shows (The Muppets!), but also a change in late night: It has picked up the Canadian rights to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which airs at 11:35 p.m. on CBS. (Rogers had the Canadian rights to the Letterman Late Show, and it aired on OMNI.)

But putting a late-night talk show at 11:35 causes a conflict with a change announced in April, that late-night newscasts were being expanded to an hour in Montreal. (They’re already an hour in Toronto and B.C., which would also be affected.)

So Global changed its plans. The late-night news in B.C. (including Okanagan), Toronto, Montreal, New Brunswick and Halifax will be 35 minutes, and Montreal is instead getting its Evening News expanded to an hour, plus a new half-hour noon newscast.

I lay down how the day will look in this story for the Montreal Gazette, which includes previously announced changes.

Strategy

Having the Evening News start at 5:30pm instead of 6 is an interesting idea, and probably a good one since it takes the first half of the newscast out of direct competition with CTV. Even more so since CBC is cutting its evening news to half an hour starting at 6 this fall. Global will be able to claim it’s first with the news every evening.

But the station has also tried this before. In 2000 (back when it was Global Quebec), it introduced a newscast at 5:30pm anchored by Jamie Orchard that led into another 6pm newscast co-hosted with Jonathan Freed.

It lasted two years.

Here’s how the news director of the time, Ward Smith, described it to the Gazette’s Basem Boshra in 2002:

I wouldn’t say it was a bad idea. But we were spending so much of our budget on a time when people just weren’t home to watch. (And in putting on an hour-long newscast) we were all over the map. We were creeping into national and international news and stepping on (host of Global’s 6:30 p.m. national news show) Kevin Newman’s toes. Now, with us coming out swinging at 6, doing what we do best — covering news throughout Quebec – and Newman coming on at 6:30 with the national and international news, we can deliver a seamless, solid hour that gives viewers everything they need in terms of the day’s news.

Has the situation changed in the 13 years since? Are more people home by 5:30pm now? Is there more content to fill a local newscast without stepping on the toes of Global National?

The addition of a noon newscast is very interesting. I’m told it will be locally produced, and there will be hires (including a lineup editor and videojournalist), but the details (including an anchor) aren’t being announced publicly yet. I hope to get some more details in the coming weeks.

Either way, Global was already the English-language station that was (technically) producing the most local programming in Montreal, and these changes will increase that number to five hours every weekday and 27.5 hours a week. CTV is next at 16 hours, then City at 15.5, then CBC at 11 (whether it stays there depends on whether you consider CBC Daybreak on the TV as local programming).

Posted in Media, Opinion

7 things francophone media pundits say (or imply) Jay Baruchel said or thought that he didn’t

It was a simple Q&A as a sidebar to a Saturday feature about Montreal actor Jay Baruchel, but the recounting of Baruchel’s reasons for leaving Montreal for Toronto has prompted a lot of debate in Quebec, particularly among the francophone media. We’re barely back at work on Monday and already five francophone pundits have written to condemn Baruchel’s statements, at least one of whom is demanding apologies, and another is diagnosing a mental disorder.

Nevermind that his reasons for moving are clearly more about economics (English movies are made in Toronto, not Montreal) than about politics, or that he’s hardly the first person in history to find Quebec identity politics to be tiresome and annoying. Jay Baruchel has attacked Quebec, and his personal feelings about his life here are apparently incorrect.

It’s notable that none of these reaction pieces actually interviews Baruchel to expand on his 300 words of commentary about Quebec politics. And perhaps for that reason, a lot of the stories about his comments exaggerate his comments, make inferences about his thoughts that are not supported by evidence, or just plain shove so many words into his mouth I’m worried he’s going to choke.

Here’s the pundit count so far:

And here are seven opinions these pundits are outraged over Baruchel having that the story doesn’t say he actually has.

What he’s accused of saying: Quebec is like Syria (Bock-Côté, Durocher, Longpré, Petrowski, Ravary)

What he actually said: N.D.G. “happens to be located in a pretty difficult part of the world.”

It’s perfectly legitimate to criticize Baruchel for lacking some perspective, to point out that there are far more difficult parts of the world than Quebec. But Baruchel never compares Quebec to a third-world country or to war zones like Syria. He merely says it’s difficult.

What he’s accused of saying: Quebec sovereignists are stupid (Durocher, Ravary)

What he actually said: (In referring to the referendum debate) “Aside from that silly stuff, which I wish would just go away but it won’t…”

I guess French doesn’t have the proper translation for “silly”, but there’s a difference between calling an issue silly and saying the people talking about it are stupid.

I disagree with Baruchel. I think the Quebec sovereignty debate is an important one. But I can also sympathize with the argument that we’ve had two referendums already and there’s no serious move to have another one because it’s clear the province doesn’t want it.

What he’s accused of saying: Francophones celebrating their culture and defending their language gives him a headache (Bock-Côté, Durocher)

What he actually said: It’s the “kind of poisonous ethnic dialogue, which really, really left a sour taste in my mouth. It didn’t feel like the place that Mom wanted me to live in.”

Baruchel makes it clear he likes the diversity of language in Montreal. But it’s the “editorial subject matter in Quebec” and the political debate over language that is making his head hurt. He also wants to be able to go outside and speak in English without it becoming “a loaded or political deed of any kind.”

What he’s accused of saying: Montreal has been taken hostage by sovereignists who refuse to die (Bock-Côté)

What he actually said: Nothing that under even the most ridiculous of interpretations could come close to saying this.

What he’s accused of saying: He’s afraid the Charter of Values will return (Bock-Côté, Durocher)

What he actually said: It’s the “poisonous ethnic dialogue”, not the law, that was the problem.

The Charter isn’t coming back, at least not in the form presented by the PQ. But the people who defended it are still here. The debate hasn’t disappeared.

What he’s accused of saying: French should not be the language of power in Quebec (Bock-Côté)

What he actually said: (In Toronto) “when I go outside and speak English, it’s not a loaded or political deed of any kind.”

There’s a difference between what language someone speaks on the street and what language is spoken in the National Assembly.

What he’s accused of saying: He was traumatized by the 2012 election because the PQ won it (Longpré)

What he actually said: “The last election was very traumatic in a way.”

Longpré assumes Baruchel is either wrong or being misquoted, and provides no evidence for why her interpretation, based on a translation of an article, is more correct than the original article it’s based on.

Baruchel’s comments are controversial even if anglos quitting Quebec for both political and economic reasons has been a cliché for decades. And let’s have a difference of opinion with him over those reasons. But let’s not be outraged about things that were not said.

UPDATE (June 4): Unsurprisingly, some of the columnists mentioned here (Durocher in particular) challenge my assertion that they’re putting words into Baruchel’s mouth by saying they’re not quoting him saying these things.

To be clear, I’m not accusing anyone of making up direct quotes. But it’s clear from the texts they write that they’re attributing opinions to Baruchel that he doesn’t actually express. When Durocher writes “Indépendance = idiot” in a headline, one reasonably infers not that this is her opinion, but that she thinks this is Baruchel’s. When Bock-Côté writes “la défense du français, c’est super vilain”, it’s clear he’s sarcastically mocking what he believes is Baruchel’s opinion. And when just about everyone mentions Syria, it’s clear they’re challenging a comparison they don’t believe is fair.

We can play semantic battles over what precisely was quoted or alleged here, but the implications of these columns and blog posts are clear, and what matters is what conclusions a reasonable reader would come to after reading them.

I’ve added the words “or imply” to the title of this post for added clarity, but I still believe these columnists are challenging opinions they have projected onto Baruchel that he didn’t express.

Posted in Radio

Gregory Charles looks to add classic jazz to Radio Classique, simulcast more, host his own show

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

Almost half a year after the announcement that a company owned by musician Gregory Charles has agreed to buy Radio Classique stations CJPX-FM 99.5 Montreal and CJSQ-FM 92.7 Quebec City, the CRTC has published the application for a transfer of ownership, and we have some details about the sale and his plans for the stations.

The application confirms a purchase price of $10.5 million for the two stations — $6.78 million for CJPX and $3.72 million for CJSQ. The purchase is $7 million in cash and $3.5 million in shares in the new company that must be repurchased by the buyer within four years. There’s also a consulting contract of $8,750 a month ($420,000 total over four years) for existing ownership so long as they still have those shares. The purchase is an acquisition of assets rather than a purchase of the companies that own the stations. There’s also a non-competition clause that lasts three years preventing the current owners from owning or managing a broadcasting or online radio station, or soliciting clients.

The new owner will be Média ClassiQ inc., controlled 100% by Gregory Charles. The stations are currently owned 90% by Jean-Pierre Coallier and 10% by Pierre Barbeau.

If CRTC approval is not acquired by Dec. 31, either party can terminate the agreement, with the buyer paying a $100,000 penalty to the seller.

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Posted in Media, Navel-gazing

The difference 10 years makes

Did they know what they were getting into?

Did they know what they were getting into?

This week marks 10 years since I walked into an office building at 1010 Ste-Catherine St. W. and began a career as a professional journalist.

It was the day after the Journée nationale des patriotes, and I began an internship as a copy editor at The Gazette, a newspaper owned by the Canwest media empire.

Through the decade, the path hasn’t been easy or always positive. I was laid off three times, the second one resulting in more than a year of unemployment in which I tried doing some freelance writing and started a blog for fun. But thanks to hard work on my part, and some managers who for whatever reason thought I was worth it, they always brought me back. And now with a permanent job, I don’t have to worry (as much) that I’ll be let go because not enough people got pregnant.

In those 10 years, I’ve made many mistakes, and learned from them. I’ve grown, matured, relaxed, and become more of an adult. I went from someone who had only a passing knowledge of sports to someone who can talk with some insight about the latest news (even if I really have no opinion on what to do about the power play or what position Alex Galcheyuk should play). I went from a green newbie who had no idea of the paper’s history to one of those veterans who brings out a “Back in my day…” during intern season. Plus, of course, I have a lot more money than I did 10 years ago.

But my employer has changed, too, and in much more dramatic fashion.

The Gazette added the word “Montreal” to its name, its parent company is now Postmedia, and it has no relation to Global TV (though we still share the same building). The paper has been radically redesigned, it’s smaller in both page size and thickness, it publishes only six days a week, it has colour on every page, and some features and regular columnists have disappeared, with other new ones taking their place.

The website no longer looks like this. Instead of stories being posted automatically by a machine importing them from that morning’s paper, stories are written directly into WordPress and then copies are made for print.

A bunch of ideas were tried, some of which were successful, others not so much.

We went from editing pages in QuarkXPress 3.32 (which was already nine years old when I started) on a Power Macintosh G3 to editing stories in a web browser using brand-new MacBook Air (reporters) and MacBook Pro (editors) laptops, with a stop in between when we used PCs.

And the team is much smaller than it used to be. I took out a schedule from 10 years ago, and it listed 34 copy editors, including myself, on the news desk, and a further 13 on the features desk, or 47 total. And all of them worked for the print paper. Today, there are 20 copy editors split between four platforms. The person who first hired me no longer works there. Neither does my first boss. Or her boss. Or his boss. Or his boss. Or the CEO.

Many of the print jobs have since been centralized, as Canwest and then Postmedia decided it was more efficient for stories that appear in different papers across the chain to be edited once. Others — including the Gazette’s entire printing plant — were eliminated as the company decided to outsource various functions it considered non-core.

There are changes I agree with, and those I strongly disagree with. There are changes that made things better, and changes that made things worse. There are changes the union has fought (and is still fighting), and there are changes everyone has accepted or welcomed. I’ve heard all the complaints, and I agree with many of them. But I also know it’s a struggle to produce quality journalism when no one wants to pay for it. And if no one finds that magic business model that saves newspapers before it’s too late and they all die, then at least I’ll have done my part to keep its heart beating one more day. Because despite everything, newspapers like the Montreal Gazette expose stories that would not otherwise be exposed. And that’s something we need as a society.

Through it all, I remain grateful, to the organization and its employees past and present who helped me grow, who gave it their all even while they worried about their future or complained about things they didn’t like, and particularly those who thought this Steve Faguy guy was worth keeping around.

 

Posted in Radio

CHOI plummets from first to fourth in Quebec City radio ratings

Numeris released its spring radio ratings report for diary markets today, and it’s really bad news for Quebec City’s controversial talk station CHOI-FM. It goes from having a 17.7% market share last fall to only a 9.5% share this spring, dropping from first to fourth in the market.

The top three stations are tight, with CJMF-FM (FM93) having a 15.5 share, followed by CBV-FM (Première Chaîne) at 14.5, and CITF-FM (Rouge) at 14.1.

Looking deeper into the numbers suggests it’s not that Quebec City radio listeners are tuning away from CHOI-type programming, but rather that other stations are using that very style of talk to lure away listeners. In particular, NRJ’s decision to hire away CHOI star Stephan Dupont made a big difference, more than doubling NRJ’s morning show audience and cutting CHOI’s noon-hour show’s audience by half.

The FM93 show with Eric Duhaime and Nathalie Normandeau also managed to create a boost and more than double its audience for the noon hour.

Most of the music stations have about the same share as they did before. Bringing up the rear is CBC Radio One, which registers a 0.7% share, much higher than the 0.2% share of last fall, but the margin of error is too big to draw conclusions from that.

More details from Le Soleil and the Journal de Québec.

Sherbrooke: Bell Media still dominates

Not much change in Sherbrooke, though CITE-FM-1 (Rouge) has edged CIMO-FM (NRJ) in market share, with 21.9 to 19.9, respectively, and CKOY-FM (fm 107.7) has climbed well above CFGE-FM (Rythme) for fourth place behind Première Chaîne. Rouge and NRJ are both owned by Bell, and Rythme and 107.7 are owned by Cogeco.

More details in La Tribune

Trois-Rivières: Status quo

Rythme FM (CJEB-FM) is still the top station here, now up more than five points on its nearest rivals, CIGB-FM (NRJ) at 15.6, and CHEY-FM (Rouge) at 14.7. Première Chaîne follows the at 9.6, then Cogeco talk station 106.9 fm (CKOB-FM) at 6.2 and the Bécancour independent station CKBN-FM at 5.2.

Saguenay: Rythme format is working

In Saguenay, there’s little change for the top stations: Rouge (CFIX-FM) at 25.3, NRJ (CJAB-FM) at 20.6, KYK Radio X (CKYK-FM) at 13.2, and Première Chaîne (CBJ-FM) at 9.8. But the transformation of Attraction Radio’s CKRS-FM from a talk station to a Rythme FM affiliate (and change of callsign to CILM-FM) brought its share up from 6.8 to 8.9. It still has a way to go, but it’s headed in the right direction.

Ottawa-Gatineau: Both country stations lose audience

On the English side, the numbers worth analyzing are for the country music stations. Bell Media’s CKKL-FM went from Bob to New Country 94 last November. But its market share nevertheless dipped from 3.3 to 2.7, about the same as it was last spring. Its direct competitor, Rogers’s CKBY-FM (Country 101) in Smiths Falls, saw a greater ratings drop, from 6.7 to 4.2.

On the franco side, Rouge FM (CIMF-FM) is still king with a 24.4 rating, followed by Première Chaîne at 15.5. They’re followed by NRJ (CKTF-FM) at 9.4 and Cogeco’s talk station CKOF-FM at 8.2. All other stations are below 5, including CHLX-FM , whose affiliation to the Rythme FM network hasn’t had much of an impact on its share.

More details from Le Droit.

The next report for PPM markets, including Montreal, will come out on June 11.

Posted in Technology, TV

Videotron jumps onto Apple Watch bandwagon with kinda-useful Illico app

Illico Apple Watch app with shuffle function

Illico Apple Watch app with shuffle function

On Monday, I was among a half-dozen journalists invited to a demonstration of Videotron’s new Apple Watch application for the Illico digital TV system.

This app is, as far as anyone working for Videotron knows, the first of its kind. (Except for a similar one launched simultaneously by its main competitor.) It allows users with next-generation Illico TV terminals to control them using the watch. At least a little bit.

Jean-Pierre Gauvin, principal director of development and planning for Illico, said they wanted to start simple, and not try to replicate the features of the remote control onto a tiny watch app.

So instead, the app has two screens and two basic functions. The one the team seemed the most excited about was shuffle. By pressing a yellow button, the TV is commanded to pick a channel at random, from among those you subscribe to or from a preset list (sports, family, film, music, news, anglo, franco and HD only). It’s a function that doesn’t exist on other platforms, though the team is open to the idea of incorporating it if there’s client demand.

Mind you, when I asked about client demand for a shuffle function in the first place, they admitted there didn’t seem to be any.

Illico Apple Watch app with play/pause and skip functions.

Illico Apple Watch app with play/pause and skip functions.

The first screen of the app seems to me the one that will get the more use. It features play/pause button, and skip ahead/back buttons, similar to those that exist on remotes now.

I could see this actually getting use. For example, if you’re going to the kitchen and want to get something to eat, you can tap your watch to pause the TV.

But there’s a lot of stuff that’s missing from this app. There’s no way to tune to a specific channel directly. No record button. No channel up or down or volume adjustment function. No voice interaction. Nor can you actually watch video on the watch (not that too many people would want to do that). Even its main feature, the shuffle, can’t be set to a user-defined playlist.

Gauvin said they wanted to start with basic stuff, get the app out there, and then add new functions later. That’s fair.

“What’s important is hearing the feedback of our users,” he said. “We’re definitely going to add functionality.”

Videotron estimates it has maybe 1,000 or 1,500 users who have Apple Watches, so “it’s really for early adopters.” Those early adopters will expect a lot more functionality, and fast.

And they might get annoyed by the fact that what little functionality is there is buggy. The demonstration got off to a rough start when it seemed the watch lost its connection to the phone and didn’t work. Tapping the shuffle button often didn’t work, requiring another tap before it would change the channel. And despite their claims of instantaneous reaction, most of the time it took about a second for the tap to result in a change on the screen. The fact that the signal travels from the watch to the phone via Bluetooth, then from the phone to Videotron via WiFi/cable, then to the box through the Videotron network, explains the delay, but probably won’t satisfy users much.

I’ve yet to be convinced that the Apple Watch is anything but an expensive gimmick, but if you have one and you’re a Videotron subscriber with a compatible terminal, there’s no reason not to add this app.

The Illico Apple Watch app is available by updating the Illico app for iPhone in the Apple store.

Asked why this was developed for the Apple Watch and not other Android-based smart watches (such as the Samsung Gear), Gauvin explained that the closed Apple environment made development and testing easier. They’re looking at creating a similar app for Android.

See also

Posted in Media

François Bugingo admits to fabricating his international reporting

UPDATE (May 29): Bugingo admits to “romancing” stories in a long Facebook post, but still believes the “veritable lynching” by the media as a result of it was unfair.

“François Bugingo: des reportages inventés de toutes pièces” reads the headline today in La Presse: An investigative report by Isabelle Hachey reveals the Quebec journalist famous for his international reporting lied about his trips abroad and reported as first-hand accounts things he merely heard about or did not exist.

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Posted in TV

Review: New Global Morning News is a mess of disconnected hosts

When Global announced last month that there would be yet more centralization of local programming in eastern Canada, I didn’t exactly have my hopes up. They promised the centralization of resources would only affect non-local stories, and that the amount of actual local stuff would remain the same or even improve.

This week was the first under the new system for Global Montreal Morning News. And my analysis of the episodes that have aired so far suggest that Global has not lived up to that promise.

Not only that, but the melding of local and national elements creates this confusing mess of different on-camera personalities that is no better than someone switching channels at every commercial break.

Two shows in one

Co-host? What co-host? (Please pay no attention to that Twitter handle in the ticker)

Co-host? What co-host? (Please pay no attention to that Twitter handle in the ticker)

Like other morning shows, Global’s Morning News is broken up into six half-hour blocks, which are in turn broken up into three segments separated by commercial breaks. Here’s how the average half-hour block breaks down, rounded to about the nearest minute:

  • :00 Welcome/coming up plus quick weather hit
  • :01 Traffic
  • :02 Local news (including one packaged report)
  • :08 Local weather
  • :10 Commercial break
  • :12 National segment
  • :19 Commercial break
  • :21 Local weather
  • :23 Traffic
  • :24 Local interview segment (or two packaged reports)
  • :27 Commercial break

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Posted in Radio

CKOD-FM Valleyfield being sold to Torres Media

CKOD-FM 103.1, the Valleyfield radio station whose history goes back to 1961, is being revived after being off the air for months thanks to a sale to Torres Media, or rather Torres Media Valleyfield, a company owned by Ed Torres, Frank Torres, Todd Bernard and Yves Trottier.

Torres Media also owns Dawg FM (CIDG) 101.9 in Ottawa, and has a licence for an unlaunched station in Uxbridge, Ont.

CKOD has been off the air since Jan. 29, and was evicted from its offices in February for non-payment of rent, according to the local newspaper. CKOD is licensed to Radio Express Inc., owned by Robert Brunet.

In order to get the station back on the air as soon as possible, the station has applied for — and the CRTC has granted — permission to temporarily transfer management of the station to Torres, which according to a brief management agreement signed on April 7 would assume all the expenses and collect all the revenue from broadcasting operations. This deal will be followed by a formal acquisition of assets, which will require a CRTC hearing.

The CRTC approved the application on May 8 but only posted it online today.

Details on sale price or Torres’s plans for the station are not included in the application. I’ll update this once I hear back from the parties involved.

UPDATE: Some information about the sale from InfoSuroit.com

Torres paying $150k+ for community station to swap frequencies

Speaking of Torres Media, the broadcaster is also waiting for a CRTC decision on an unrelated matter that would see Dawg FM swap frequencies with bilingual community station CHIP-FM 101.7 in Fort Coulonge, Quebec, 80 kilometres to the northwest.

The frequency swap would allow Dawg FM to increase power from 5.5 kW to 19.5 kW max ERP, and improve its coverage of the Ottawa region, because it would not have to offer as much protection to stations on 101.9 in Cornwall and Kingston. According to Torres, Dawg FM covers only 75% of the Ottawa region as defined by Numeris, and parts of Ottawa receive the Cornwall station better than the Ottawa one.

Existing (purple) and proposed (black) coverage map for CIDG-FM Ottawa.

Existing (purple) and proposed (black) coverage map for CIDG-FM Ottawa.

The improvement would be particularly noticeable toward the southwest, in areas like Nepean and Kanata.

For CHIP-FM, the change in frequency would make little difference to coverage area, but there’s a big financial boost. The amount is apparently confidential, but financial projections from CHIP-FM show $168,000 in additional revenue over three years coming from this agreement. It’s unclear if the deal involves further payments past these three years or if this includes payments related to the frequency change, which Torres has agreed to pay for, including engineering reports, legal services for the drafting of the agreement, and technical changes.

The public comment period for this application has closed, and a decision should be forthcoming in the coming weeks. The actual change would take a while after that because Dawg FM would be changing transmitter sites.

This kind of deal is not unprecedented. In 2013, the CRTC approved an application by Rock 95 Broadcasting, owner of Indie 88 Toronto, that proposed technical changes to three stations (all on 88.1 FM) so that Indie 88 could increase its power. Rock 95 agreed to compensate the other stations for the technical changes required.