Posted in Uncategorized

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

Québec solidaire campaign poster

Québec solidaire campaign poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Fur Gym Radio

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Montreal Stars

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

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

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

I’m told the free pizza will be plain.

Posted in Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized

PKP agrees to sell Quebecor to government, nationalizing Quebecor Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Technology, TV

Videotron finally joins the iPhone club

One of many ads in Saturday papers announcing Videotron's introduction of the iPhone.

One of many ads in Saturday papers announcing Videotron’s introduction of the iPhone.

Three and a half years after launching its mobile network, Videotron has finally solved its biggest issue: Until now, you couldn’t get a plan with an iPhone.

At first, the problem was technological. The frequency spectrum Videotron acquired in the 2008 auction was in the 1700 MHz band (called the Advanced Wireless Services band), and the iPhone wasn’t compatible with that band. It wasn’t just an issue for Videotron — it also prevented the iPhone from being compatible with the T-Mobile network south of the border.

That changed last year, when Apple introduced a model of the iPhone 5 that was compatible with AWS and the T-Mobile and Videotron networks. By last fall, people could get their hands on an iPhone 5 and by adding a Videotron SIM card make it compatible with the carrier’s network.

After that, the issue stopped being a technological one and started being a legal one. Videotron didn’t have a deal to sell the iPhone, so the best it could do was encourage people to buy it at Apple stores and install a Videotron SIM card themselves.

A couple of weeks ago, in a brief and understated email (whose contents were strictly regulated by the terms of the deal between Videotron and Apple), the company announced it would start selling iPhones on March 28. On March 29, full-page ads came out in all the papers announcing the iPhone 5s was now available at Videotron retail outlets.

Not only does this mean that Videotron can join the big guys, but also that it can stop pretending that non-Apple products are just as good as Apple ones. Without the iPhone, Videotron pushed Android apps and devices, including the Google Nexus One, which was the hot new thing when the network launched. Parent company Quebecor did its best to wipe the iPhone out of its universe, even going so far as to push producers of fictional shows on TVA to replace characters’ iPhones with Android devices (Quebecor downplayed this as something similar to product placement).

All the while, it remained impatient, hoping that Apple would soon deem Videotron worthy of inclusion.

Illico TV app now available

On Monday Tuesday, Videotron will announce that the Illico TV app is available for iPhone users. The application allows subscribers to Videotron’s television service to access live TV channels and free video-on-demand shows on their iPhones. And for the most part, they can do this regardless of who their carrier is.

Using the app, which was added to the Apple app store on Friday, requires authenticating with Videotron to prove that you’re a Videotron cable TV customer, which gives you access to channels you subscribe to, including a bunch of live channel feeds.

One exception to the rule is RDS, which is the most expensive channel to get the rights to. You can access RDS’s live feed, including Canadiens games, only if you’re also a Videotron mobile customer as well. This is the result of the rights agreement between Videotron and RDS (owned by Bell Media). RDS sells its mobile rights through the mobile carriers.

Videotron’s iPhone app doesn’t allow purchases, so you can’t buy video-on-demand movies. The reason for this is simple math: Apple’s required percentage take of in-app purchases is so high (30%), that Videotron can’t make any money selling content this way.

The Illico Club Unlimited subscription video-on-demand service is also not available yet on the iPhone app.

New prices

Something that’s already making headlines is the prices that Videotron is using to sell them. Videotron is offering unlimited calling and 4GB data for $75 a month, while the Big Three are offering $110 a month for the same plans. Additionally, it’s offering the iPhone at an almost $500 discount for a 24-month plan. That means more than $20 a month of your iPhone plan with Videotron will be going just to pay off the discount you got for your device.

It’s almost as if Videotron has been waiting for this day for years.

Posted in Sports, TV

Alyson Lozoff leaves City, Sportsnet

Alyson Lozoff

Alyson Lozoff

City Montreal is barely a year old (and none of its local programs have even reached that anniversary) but it has already lost its first personality.

Alyson Lozoff, who was the Montreal reporter for Rogers Sportsnet and also the co-host of City TV’s local sports magazine show Montreal Connected, “is no longer with the company,” a Rogers Media spokesperson confirmed to me today.

She wouldn’t comment on why this is, and my attempts to reach Lozoff and City Montreal have failed to generate any response. Her Twitter account has been silent since March 22.

Lozoff’s departure was not addressed at all on the air. She last appeared on Montreal Connected on March 20 with co-host Wilder Weir as if everything was normal, without a hint that it would be her last show. During the week, the show’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were changed to list only Weir as the host.

Weir hosted this week’s episode solo, never explaining why his co-host from the previous week had suddenly disappeared.

This type of disappearance usually indicates a firing or unamicable resignation (say, to join a competitor). I have no idea which of these is the case.

Lozoff’s disappearance is curious because if anything Rogers should be hiring more people to be covering hockey in places like Montreal where it currently doesn’t have any broadcasting rights but will gain them starting this fall. On the other hand, it could be that in the process of re-evaluating its staffing across the country, the company has decided that Lozoff shouldn’t be part of the team.

Or maybe we’ll find out soon that she got hired by TSN or something. I really have no idea.

All I know is that the teeth on City Montreal just got a little less white.

Posted in TV, Video

Sun News Network 2012 debate translation highlights

This marks the second provincial election campaign in which TVA has decided to separate itself from the consortium that organizes televised leaders’ debates and go it alone with a series of one-on-one debates.

It almost didn’t happen. Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois said no at first, wanting to limit her to the other, more traditional debate that aired on Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec. But she later relented.

You might recall that the Sun News Network, which like TVA is owned by Quebecor Media, also aired the TVA face-à-face debates in 2012. Few people watched it on Sun News, but when a report about the debate that included two short clips were posted to Sun News’s website, it went a bit viral. The clips came to a total of about 23 seconds, and they were highlights picked by Sun News, so they didn’t show the worst parts.

Since the translated debates weren’t posted online, they might have been lost to history if not for one thing: I recorded all three hour-long debates on my PVR. And they’ve been sitting there ever since.

With the 2014 face-à-face debates only hours away, I recorded some clips from the debate and compiled them into eight minutes of highlights. The result is the video you see above.

A source at Sun News tells me that the network will air tonight’s debate, but that they have hired different translators.

I’ll be PVRing it anyway. Just in case.

TVA’s face-à-face debates air Thursday, March 27 from 8pm to 10pm on TVA and simultaneously translated on Sun News Network. It will also air on CPAC.

UPDATE: After posting the video to YouTube, I went in to clean the automatically-generated captions. But the captions generated for the debate clips were just so great that I couldn’t touch them. They include such gems as:

  • 2:06: “I wouldn’t victims contra months prego merman”
  • 5:28: “second spend your life getting minutes for me his / as Julia and modern yesterday sent / week with the mall butthead”
  • 6:14: “he added that the troops mister sister 20 as you go”
  • 6:34: “thank you so much as a queen of thank you so much musica”
  • 7:21: “and mister across america their leader / how to Chris you’re a doctor becker / he wouldn’t allow your the day all the balls we have”
  • 8:08: “going to help me fire a gritty / you lose my me I cannot do we”
  • 8:37: “your house layout so attacker 7,000 jobs that are you gonna cut people”
  • 8:49: “overheard the Cougar 30 Passa Passa”
  • 8:53: “I hope this exchange farewell lighting you for your torso”
Posted in Montreal, TV

The battle over Videotron’s community TV channel

It was supposed to be simple and non-controversial: An application by Videotron to create a second community television channel in Montreal to serve the anglophone community.

Anglophones had long complained that since Videotron bought CF Cable TV, they have not had a proper voice in community television. The CRTC even asked Videotron to do something about it. Just months before the announcement, the English Language Arts Network publicly called on Videotron to restore English community programming.

So when Videotron made its big splash about starting MYtv, the reaction seemed to be positive, at least at first. ELAN hosted a meeting in September to get input from the community, and though there were few people present, there were some tough questions for Videotron’s representatives.

Now, those questions have been formalized in a complaint to the CRTC.

The complaint, filed by a group calling itself Independent Community Television Montreal (ICTV), includes an 86-page document meticulously arguing that the programming that airs on MAtv does not meet CRTC requirements for a community channel. It argues that the CRTC should declare that MAtv is not complying with its licence conditions, and instead grand a licence to ICTV to operate a multilingual community channel that would replace both MAtv and MYtv.

I summarize the complaint in this story, which appears in Monday’s Gazette.

But as long as the story is, there’s still so much detail I had to leave out.

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Posted in Radio

Jeremy White moves from The Beat to Edmonton’s Virgin Radio

Jeremy White at The Beat's first anniversary party in 2012. That's CJ over his shoulder.

Jeremy White at The Beat’s first anniversary party in 2012. That’s CJ over his shoulder, and “hot fan girl” Amanda Kline on his arm.

As The Beat’s staff and selected guests were celebrating the station’s first anniversary under its new brand, I chatted with its general manager, Mark Dickie, and its program director Leo Da Estrela. Among the topics we discussed over the loud music was this guy, Jeremy White, an enthusiastic young personality out of Kahnawake who impressed his bosses with his work ethic.

If The Beat’s competitor had any sense, they told me, they’d have stolen White away from them and given him a job at CHOM.

They asked me to keep that to myself, since they didn’t want Astral to actually steal White away from them.

But now Dickie has moved on to another job, Da Estrela is preparing for his own departure, and White has finally been stolen by Bell Media.

The only catch is he won’t be working in Montreal.

Virgin Radio Edmonton announced on Wednesday that White has been hired as their evening host starting March 31. White relayed the news via social media early Thursday while he was still on the air at The Beat. He’s already overhauled his Twitter account with the new job info.

White has another week at The Beat before moving west.

The new job is a step up from his current one doing overnights at The Beat. (He briefly got bumped up to doing the evening job at the Beat after Paul Hayes left, to “give him some prime-time exposure,” and got bumped back when they hired Kim Sullivan. White also hosts the Saturday Party Jam on Saturday evenings.)

CFMG-FM bills itself as “Edmonton’s #1 Hit Music Station,” but it actually has just a 3.9% overall share, behind The Bear (rock), CFCW (country), The Bounce (CHR), Sonic (hot AC), K97 (classic rock), CISN (country), Up 99.3 (AC), Hot 107 (top 40), Cruz FM (adult hits), Fresh FM (hot AC), Now (hot AC) and Capital FM (classic hits), plus talk station CHED and CBC Radio One.

In short, it has a lot of work to do.

As you would expect, White says he’s excited about the new job, but will find it hard to leave Montreal.

Just add his address to the monthly shipment of smoked meat, bagels and poutine to Montreal expats in Alberta.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

Radio ratings: The Beat back above Virgin (but…)

Radio ratings March 2014

Total audience share for major ownership groups, winter 2013-14 (ages 2+). Cogeco Diffusion: 98.5 + Rythme FM + CKOI + The Beat + Radio Circulation; Bell Media: NRJ + Rouge FM + CJAD + CHOM + Virgin + TSN 690; CBC/Radio-Canada: CBC Radio One + CBC Radio Two + ICI Première + Espace musique; Other: CJPX Radio Classique + Radio X + non-reporting stations

One year after The Beat took a surprising lead over Virgin among all anglophone listeners, it has done so again. The latest BBM quarterly ratings report, released last week, shows The Beat with an 18.4% share among anglophones, slightly less than its record 18.6% in March 2013. That’s ahead of Virgin Radio at 15.1%.

When you factor in the francophone audience, where Virgin has a slight lead (4.1% vs. 3.9%), The Beat is still ahead overall, though just by a bit. This differs from last year, where Virgin had the lead among all listeners because it was stronger among francophones. The Beat last year had a 2.1% share among francophones, so there’s some significant improvement there.

What’s interesting about this jump back to number one (well, actually number two, behind CJAD) for The Beat is that it happened during the same time of the year last year, suggesting that there may be some seasonal aspect to it. Maybe The Beat has better Christmas music?

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Posted in My articles, TV

Tamy Emma Pepin’s bilingual trip through the UK

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

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

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

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

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