Media News Digest: National Newspaper Awards, Shoan fired again, Le Devoir archives online

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Media News Digest: Michener finalists, Shoan back at CRTC, mass resignations at K103

Happy World Press Freedom Day!

News about news

At the CRTC

  • He’s baaack! After he won a court challenge to the government’s decision to fire him as a CRTC commissioner (which was itself partly based on a report that was also overturned by a judge), Raj Shoan is once again listed on the CRTC website as the commissioner for Ontario. To say things will be awkward between him and chairperson Jean-Pierre Blais is an understatement, but presumably both will attempt to be professional about it. The judge’s decision wasn’t a complete victory for Shoan, and some of his actions (like meeting with groups that have business before the CRTC) are “troubling”, so another review could still find cause for his dismissal. Or maybe Blais just minimizes his involvement (the chairperson decides who sits on any panels, and Blais did not choose Shoan for anything important) until his term is up next year. (Assuming Blais is re-appointed — his own term ends sooner.)
  • CBC Quebec held its biannual public consultation on Tuesday. The video is here if you want to watch it.
  • The commission has approved the privatization of Sirius XM Canada. The biggest issue for the commission was determining whether the transaction, which would see the CBC sell its shares and three groups (including Sirius XM U.S.) have minority stakes in the company, is considered a change in effective control. The CRTC determined that yes, it is, which means a 6% tax on the value of the transaction to fund Canadian content development. That works out to $29 million, to be paid out over seven years.
  • CBC/Radio-Canada has asked the CRTC for permission to move its Radio One and ICI Première transmitters in Timmins, Ont., from a tower north of the city to its old TV tower much closer. It would be able to cover the same area better by using a higher antenna at lower power.
  • The commission said no to a proposal by Vista Radio to change the licence for CJLT-FM in Medicine Hat, Alta., so it could move from its Christian music programming to more mainstream indie/alternative music. The commission found that the change would have an undue financial impact on existing stations in the market.

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  • There’s more drama at K103 in Kahnawake. Four of the five board members resigned on the same day last week, leaving only Lance Delisle in charge. The people resigning gave various reasons, which they did not elaborate on, but it’s clear that at least some of them are fed up of whatever conflicts are going on at the station. Unfortunately we don’t have details because the people involved aren’t talking.
  • An entry in the Industry Canada broadcasting database has appeared for CFGL-HD, which means that Montreal’s Rythme FM station expects to begin using HD Radio soon. Station owner Cogeco Media also owns CKAC 730 AM, so an FM HD rebroadcast of Radio Circulation seems likely. Other possible uses include a niche music channel or a spillover channel for 98.5FM’s sports coverage. Cogeco also indicated to the CRTC that a move of CKOI-FM to the Mount Royal antenna could allow it to broadcast in HD.
  • CKLW 800 AM in Windsor was knocked off the air by a fire at its transmitter site. It quickly took over the transmitter of sister station AM 580 so people could get news-talk programming.

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Media News Digest: Canada less free, no more Montreal Billboard, Rogers buys Vancouver AM station

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CRTC: Videotron’s Unlimited Music program is illegal

In a big step toward the principle of net neutrality, the CRTC today established policies about differential pricing of Internet data (both wireless and wired) and ruled that a Videotron promotion that offers free streaming of music from selected music streaming services is against the rules.

The Videotron promotion in question is called Unlimited Music, which it debuted in August 2015. And the way it worked was it reached agreements with several music providers like Spotify and Google Play and Apple Music and exempted that data from its data caps for premium data plans. People with those higher-end plans could stream as much music as they wanted and never worry about busting their data caps.

But even though just about anyone was invited to join the program, it wasn’t automatic. And radio stations were not invited to join in.

It took minutes for net neutrality advocates to say this was wrong. I literally came out of the press conference announcing it and was on the phone with the head of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre who immediately said it was against the rules. But it took a year and a half for the CRTC process to unfold to declare it so.

Videotron said at the time it believed that because it wasn’t giving undue preference to its own music service, that the program was legal. It was mistaken.

The CRTC’s decision not only makes Unlimited Music illegal, but any plan from any provider that treats data differently depending on where it’s going or what kind of data it is. So a plan that offered no data but free access to Facebook, or a plan that didn’t count email downloads toward the data cap, those are now illegal.

There are some exceptions. One is for administrative functions. If you’re checking with your provider how much data you’ve used up on your plan, that could be exempted from data charges. Another is for “content-agnostic” stuff, like charging different rates depending on different times of day. So long as everything on the Internet gets treated the same, it’s OK.

The commission also leaves the door open to other exceptions opening up, and providers applying for pre-approval of new ideas. CRTC staff tell me such applications would go through the usual application process.

Otherwise, the commission will use guidelines established in its policy to evaluate (after the fact, following complaints) whether a service or program is compliant. These include whether the pricing is offered only on certain data plans, whether any money exchanges hands with third parties, how exclusive the offer is for certain services or subscribers, and “impact on Internet openness and innovation.”

Under the CRTC’s analysis, Unlimited Music did not meet the criteria of agnostic treatment of data, lack of exclusivity, and lack of negative impact on Internet openness and innovation. And there were no exceptional circumstances to warrant an exception to the rules.

So Videotron has until July 19 to bring Unlimited Music into compliance with the rules. But there’s likely no way to do so, so expect it to be withdrawn.

To be clear, this decision relates to data pricing only. Promotions like Rogers offering free Spotify subscriptions to certain users are still legal. But Rogers must treat the data from Spotify like any other Internet data. It can’t exempt that data from its data caps. (And it doesn’t.)

UPDATE: Videotron says it’s disappointed in the decision, and will analyze it in the coming days to figure out how to respond. In the meantime, the Unlimited Music offer remains in effect until further notice, and it promises to keep subscribers up to date.

Media News Digest: Canadian Film Day, Junos go back to CBC, saving jobs in Vancouver

News about news

At the CRTC

  • CHOD-FM, a French-language community radio station serving eastern Ontario, needs to improve its signal, so it has applied to the CRTC for a second transmitter. The second transmitter would use the same frequency (92.1 MHz) and would be located in Dunvegan, along the 417 about halfway between Ottawa and Vaudreuil. Having a synchronized transmitter on the same frequency is hard, especially for a low-budget community station. People between the transmitters will hear a lot of interference if it’s not done perfectly. CHAI-FM 101.9 in Châteauguay tried it with a retransmitter in Candiac, but abandoned that plan and replaced its two-transmitter system with a single transmitter. In a few years we could see CHOD-FM do the same.
  • The CRTC has released its three-year plan. Not much new here, though it finally expects to do its review of French-language music quotas on radio in 2017-18.
  • The commission’s decision on differential pricing and zero-rating, a process prompted by a complain about Videotron making access to online music services exempt from data charges and data caps, will be delivered Thursday at 4pm.

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  • The union representing staff at Postmedia’s Vancouver papers has reached a tentative agreement with the company to save 21 of the 54 jobs cut recently. The deal would see most employees work only four days every other week. Union members will vote on the deal today.
  • The Boston Globe is reorganizing its staff as newspapers have tended to do these days. They’ll be broken down into teams, some covering breaking news, others on beats and investigations, and a dedicated print team.
  • The New York Times is changing the way it does placelines because readers don’t understand what they mean. (The fact that many news organizations use fake placelines when covering a story from a distance doesn’t help.) Instead of putting, say, “BEIRUT —” at the beginning of a story, the location of the journalist will go in the byline, as “by Steve Faguy in Beirut”. Purists might scoff at this change, but remember that the NYT refers to these as “datelines” because back in the day when stories would take more than a day to travel around the world, these lines also contained the date a story was written.

Online

  • One of the things I really like about how the CBC approaches digital video is its embrace of YouTube, not just for posting promos and extras, but full programs to ensure they get as wide an audience as possible. Here, a short 14-minute documentary on a Mohawk school in Kahnawake and the adults working hard to keep it going.
  • Montreal-based WatchMojo.com has started a new web video series called The Lineup, which is a kind of fantasy hockey game show, hosted by Adam Reid.
  • Alex Jones’s lawyer says he’s a “performance artist”. Which I’m sure comes as great comfort to Sandy Hook parents who have been harassed by his supporters because he says the murder of dozens of children was faked by the government.

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Who wants to buy Transcontinental’s community newspapers in Quebec?

As was rumoured last week when it sold its Atlantic Canadian newspaper portfolio to the owners of the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Transcontinental announced this morning that it has put its remaining newspapers, including Métro in Montreal, up for sale. This includes 93 publications, almost all of which are community newspapers in Quebec (there’s also the Seaway News in Cornwall, Ont.). And Transcontinental has grouped them into 27 groups, mainly by region.

The magazine Les Affaires and things like Publisac are not part of the sale process.

No buyer has been announced, and the process should “span several months.” Transcontinental will remain in charge of the newspapers during the process, and “will also continue to be the publisher of newspapers that may remain unsold.”

It’s unusual to announce a sale without a buyer lined up already. But there are also no obvious buyers for a collection of newspapers like this. Nevertheless, let’s go through the possibilities.

Quebecor

Many of these newspapers used to be owned by Quebecor, until they were sold en masse to Transcontinental in a deal first announced more than three years ago. (That deal also evaluated the newspapers at roughly $1 million apiece on average.) So buying them back, even at a discount, would be a big step back for this company that has shed assets to focus on its core properties Videotron and TVA.

On the other hand, Quebecor is going back to the past a bit, bringing Pierre Karl Péladeau back as CEO. If he wasn’t crazy about the sale of the newspapers in the first place (PKP stepped down a few months before it was announced), he could bring them back.

Buying the newspapers would let Quebecor re-establish a Quebec-wide source of local news, which would feed not only those local papers but also the Journal de Montréal/Québec and TVA.

But with Videotron spending a lot of money on building its wireless network and upgrading its cable network, TVA still trying to pull TVA Sports into the black, and the company prioritizing buying back the stake in it held by the Caisse de dépôt, there isn’t much extra cash lying around.

Groupe Capitales Médias

The owner of the half-dozen newspapers that used to be part of the Gesca chain (except La Presse) has regional news coverage as its core mission, so this purchase would make sense in that way.

Unfortunately we know little about GCM’s finances because it’s privately owned and Martin Cauchon still hasn’t been very forthcoming about where he got the money to buy the papers in the first place.

There’s also the fact that this purchase would further drive down competition, though the Postmedia/Sun Media deal effectively established that the Competition Bureau doesn’t care about that anymore.

Torstar

There are several community newspaper publishers in English Canada. Among them, Torstar would seem the most likely candidate to make a bid here. Postmedia doesn’t exactly have a lot of extra money lying around, Black Press and Glacier Media operate only in western Canada and the new Saltwire Network is too new to think about expanding right away (and if it was interested, it might have already bought them).

Torstar co-owns the other Metro newspapers in Canada, so it makes sense to buy Métro Montreal, perhaps separately from the others. And it had an interest in buying the Canwest chain until it lost out to Postmedia in the bidding. Its financial situation isn’t nearly as precarious as Postmedia’s.

But language is a big barrier for Torstar and the others. You can’t share articles or editors or page layouts when you’re working in a different language, and none of their current assets operate in French. There wouldn’t be that much efficiency in sharing resources.

XPND Capital

Alexandre Taillefer has made it a thing to try to rescue industries in need of innovation. He launched Téo Taxi to help the taxi industry compete against Uber. He bought Voir, and when Rogers decided to offload its Quebec publications he bought L’Actualité as well.

He definitely has the money, but does he think he can turn a profit on community newspapers?

Various local owners

An interview Transcontinental president François Olivier did with Presse Canadienne suggests this is the company’s actual vision, to sell off “at least half” of the publications to local owners who would be responsible for editorial and marketing, and would keep Transcontinental as their printer. Olivier also says that the newspapers are profitable, though that’s a difficult thing to measure on an individual basis when so much of newspaper operation is centralized.

There have been a few side deals where papers have been sold to entrepreneurs in their communities interested in buying. Others could be found to take over many of the remaining newspapers, but it’s almost impossible to find buyers for all 93. So going this route might mean many of them eventually get shut down, despite Transcontinental’s promise. (Olivier repeats in his interview that this won’t happen because the papers are profitable.) It would also mean breaking up the network, which relies a lot on centralized resources like editing, pagination and administration.

Rogers, Bell or some other rich media company that doesn’t own newspapers

Anything is possible, but why would they?

Someone rich who’s new to the media industry

Anyone who works at a struggling newspaper company fantasizes about a rich benefactor who buys the paper, doesn’t care about wasted money and doesn’t impose any editorial views. Unfortunately very few people like this exist. But there could be someone who decides to jump in and try to save the industry. We saw it with Cauchon’s purchase of the GCM papers, and with Taillefer’s purchase of Voir and L’Actualité.

It could even be someone, or a group of people, within Transcontinental itself that decide to start a new business. Some of them have decades of experience with community newspapers and could decide to become entrepreneurs.

No one

Finally, there’s the possibility that Transcontinental doesn’t find any takers for the majority of its collection. If they’re making money, it could decide to cancel the sale process and keep them. If they’re not, it could be the beginning of the end. They could remain running for a bit longer, but eventually the company would throw in the towel, and when it does there won’t be another sale offer, everything will just be shut down.

You

Got about $100 million lying around? How about $75 million? Or maybe just a few million for a few papers in your region? If so, contact Allison Dent (dent.allison@rcgt.com) or Arnaud Vital (vital.arnaud@rcgt.com).

We’ll see which of these options comes true in the coming months.

Newspapers for sale

  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue
    • Le Citoyen Rouyn-Noranda
    • Le Citoyen de la Vallée-de-l’Or
    • L’Écho Abitibien
    • La Frontière
  • Chambly
    • Journal de Chambly
  • Chaudière-Appalaches – (Portfolio 1)
    • Le Peuple Lévis
    • Le Peuple Lotbinière
  • Chaudière-Appalaches – (Portfolio 2)
    • Beauce Média
    • L’Éclaireur Progrès
    • Hebdo Régional
    • La Voix du Sud
  • Cornwall (Ontario)
    • Seaway News
  • Drummondville
    • L’Express (Wednesday/Sunday)
  • Estrie
    • Le Progrès de Coaticook
    • Le Reflet du Lac
  • Gaspésie
    • L’Avantage Gaspésien
    • L’Avant-Poste
    • L’Écho de la Baie
    • Le Havre
    • Le Pharillon
    • Vision Terre et Forêt
  • Granby/Cowansville
    • L’Avenir et des Rivières
    • Granby Express
    • Journal Le Guide
  • Lanaudière
    • L’Action D’Autray
    • L’Action (Wednesday/weekend)
    • L’Express Montcalm
  • Laurentides – (Portfolio 1)
    • Journal Le Nord
    • Le Mirabel
  • Laurentides – (Portfolio 2)
    • L’Information du Nord Mont-Tremblant
    • L’Information du Nord Sainte-Agathe
    • L’Information du Nord Vallée de la Rouge
  • Laval
    • Courrier Laval
  • Longueuil
    • Brossard Éclair
    • Le Courrier du Sud
    • L’Information d’Affaires Rive-Sud
    • Le Reflet
  • Mauricie
    • Le Courrier Sud
    • L’Écho de la Tuque
    • L’Écho de Maskinongé
    • L’Hebdo du Saint-Maurice
    • L’Hebdo Journal
  • Montreal (Portfolio 1)
    • Ambiance/Rendez Vous
    • L’Avenir de l’Est
    • Cités Nouvelles
    • Courrier Ahuntsic
    • Courrier Bordeaux-Cartierville
    • Corriere Italiano
    • L’Express d’Outremont
    • L’Express Mont-Royal
    • Le Flambeau Mercier-Anjou
    • Le Guide Montréal-Nord
    • Le Magazine de l’Île-des-Sœurs
    • L’Informateur de Rivière-des-Prairies
    • Journal de Rosemont
    • Messager Lachine & Dorval
    • Le Messager LaSalle
    • Le Messager Verdun
    • Nouvelles Hochelaga-Maisonneuve
    • Les Nouvelles Saint-Laurent News
    • Le Plateau
    • Progrès Saint-Léonard
    • Villeray?Parc-Ex Petite Patrie
    • La Voix Pop
  • Montreal (Portfolio 2)
    • Métro Montreal
  • Outaouais
    • Le Bulletin
    • La Petite-Nation
    • La Revue
  • Quebec City
    • L’Actuel
    • L’Appel
    • L’Autre Voix
    • Beauport Express
    • Charlesbourg Express
    • Le Jacques-Cartier
    • Journal Habitation
    • Le Québec Express
    • Québec Hebdo (website only)
  • Repentigny
    • Hebdo Rive-Nord
  • Rimouski
    • L’Avantage votre journal
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean
    • Le Courrier de Saguenay
    • L’Étoile du Lac
    • Le Lac-St-Jean
    • Les Nouvelles Hebdo
  • Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu
    • Le Canada Français
    • Le Richelieu
  • Sorel
    • Les 2 Rives
  • Thetford Mines
    • Courrier Frontenac
  • Valleyfield
    • Coup d’œil
    • Le Journal Saint-François
    • Le Soleil de Châteauguay
  • Victoriaville and Plessisville
    • L’Avenir de l’Érable
    • La Nouvelle-Union (Wednesday/Sunday)

Bell Media radio rehires The Beat’s program director

Since 92.5 FM in Montreal became The Beat in 2011, the station has made much of its staff lineup by poaching personalities from direct competitor Virgin Radio. Cat Spencer, Vinny Barrucco and Nat Lauzon were hired directly from Virgin, and Nikki Balch and Rob Kemp also previously worked at 1717 René-Lévesque Blvd. (for Virgin and CHOM, respectively).

With The Beat’s ratings being solidly ahead of Virgin for what seems to be a sustainable period, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Bell Media hit back.

Martin Tremblay (via Facebook)

This week we learned that it has poached from the top, hiring Martin Tremblay to lead the Énergie, Rouge FM and Virgin Radio Montreal stations. Tremblay was hired as interim program director at The Beat a year ago. Before that, he spent six years in what is basically the same job he’s now going back to, leading the Montreal French music stations and Virgin at Astral and then Bell Media.

His CV also includes plenty of work for radio stations as part of his consulting company Oumf! Communications. They include:

  • Helping RNC Media create a Rythme FM affiliate in Gatineau, which lasted two and a half years until RNC decided to rebrand it as WOW FM.
  • Helping Attraction Radio turn CKRS-FM in Saguenay into another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC Media turn CHOA-FM in Abitibi into yet another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC transforming its struggling CKLX-FM into 91.9 Sports in Montreal, and later turning Capitale Rock 96.5 in Gatineau into a partial affiliate of it. While 91.9 Sports is going strong and RNC finally seems happy with that format, the Gatineau station has dropped sports programming and is now Pop 96.5.
  • Launching Groupe Puissance Média, an ad sales group that works with both RNC Media and Cogeco Media TV and radio outlets in the Outaouais region.
  • Work for Rogers’s Kiss 105.3 in Ottawa.

Tremblay starts his new job Aug. 7. Like the on-air personalities who made the jump, he’s bound by the terms of a non-compete clause in his contract that prevents him from working for Bell Media right away. “So enjoying my free time,” he tells me.

I asked Bell Media how this affects existing management at these stations. Mark Bergman is the current program director at VIrgin Radio. Will his role change?

“We have no comments to make at this time,” was the response from Bell Media communications director Simon Céré. I also asked Bergman and Martin Spalding, who heads local TV and radio in Quebec, for comment, and will update this if I hear back.

Chris Bury takes over PD role at CHOM

Chris Bury, program director of CJAD, TSN 690 and now CHOM 97.7

Meanwhile, the other three radio stations at Bell Media in Montreal will all come under the control of Chris Bury, currently the PD for CJAD and TSN 690.

“As CHOM’s Assistant Program Director and Music Director, Picard will work directly with Chris,” notes a memo to staff.

Bury’s expanded duties means that more will be delegated to CJAD/TSN 690 Assistant Program Director Mathew Wood, who takes on a larger role at TSN.

“Mathew will now handle day-to-day responsibilities at TSN 690 and Picard will continue to do that for CHOM,” Bury explains to me by email. “I’ll be involved in brainstorming, strategy, long-term planning, major decisions etc.”

I asked Bury if we should expect any changes at CHOM with this announcement. “It’s too early to get specific but, for me, the general goal is always the same: produce the most compelling content possible — as consistently as you can,” he responded. “That can mean introducing new segments or features or executing the ones we have a little more effectively.”

“I’ll add that… It’s an honour to be working on CHOM, in any way. The station carries a powerful legacy in Montreal. And the team at CHOM are as passionate about their station as anyone else. I’m excited to get going and to help however I can. And, although I do have some music programming experience, there will certainly be a learning curve. It’ll be a fun challenge.”

These management changes took effect immediately when they were announced to staff earlier this week. CHOM has been without a program director since the death of André Lallier in 2015.

Meanwhile, at The Beat, there are decisions to make. The station is led by general manager Luc Tremblay, who was also hired as head of digital strategy at Cogeco Media last June.

 

Transcontinental/Chronicle Herald sale continues regional monopolization of newspapers

The Halifax Chronicle Herald surprised me this morning by announcing it is purchasing almost all of Transcontinental’s print assets in Atlantic Canada, including 27 newspapers, one online-only news outlet, and four of Transcon’s six printing plants. (This despite the fact that the paper is 15 months into a general strike.)

Included in the sale are newspapers like the St. John’s Telegram and Charlottetown Guardian. The sale takes effect immediately, Transcontinental said. No word on purchase price, but we’ll probably learn that at Transcontinental’s next financial report to shareholders.

This sale follows several recent region-wide newspaper selloffs, including Quebecor selling 74 community papers in Quebec to Transcontinental, Transcontinental selling its 13 Saskatchewan newspapers to Star News Publishing, Transcontinental buying all of Rogers’s business-to-business magazines, Gesca selling all its newspapers except La Presse, and swaps of newspapers between Black Press and Glacier Media in B.C. (Not to mention the whole Postmedia/Sun Media thing.)

The result of most of these transactions is that the country is being divided up regionally, and community newspapers are avoiding competition so much that their owners are swapping assets to stay away from each other’s markets.

After the Transcon/Chronicle Herald deal, the new owners (who have incorporated as Saltwire Network) made it clear they have no plans to expand into New Brunswick (beyond the purchased Sackville Tribune Post, which is on the Nova Scotia border) to avoid competing with the Irving-owned Brunswick News. The Transcontinental-Quebecor deal ended the companies’ competition in Quebec, which had heated up a few years earlier when Quebecor decided to launch some new publications on Transcontinental territory.

A look at which groups own more than a nominal number of newspapers in each province shows how fragmented it has become (numbers are based on a quick count and may not be exact):

  • British Columbia: Black Press (77), Glacier Media (25)
  • Alberta: Postmedia (36), Glacier Media (17), Black Press (12)
  • Saskatchewan: Glacier Media (15)
  • Manitoba: Glacier Media (9), Postmedia (9), FP Newspapers (9)
  • Ontario: Torstar (115), Postmedia (61)
  • Quebec: Transcontinental (100)
  • New Brunswick: Brunswick News (24)
  • Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island/Newfoundland and Labrador: Saltwire Network (34)

Besides Alberta and Manitoba, no province has more than two major community newspaper publishers (as measured by number of titles). But just as importantly, no publisher operates substantial operations in more than four provinces.

As a result of the latest sale, Transcontinental will drop to being a Quebec-only newspaper publisher (except for papers in Cornwall, Ont., and its partnership in the Halifax Metro free daily).

The transactions make sense from a business perspective, and as much as we can complain about lack of competition, the truth is that healthy competition in community newspapers just isn’t possible as the industry continues its slow death march.

We may see further consolidation (particularly in western provinces) in the future, and if the situation doesn’t improve, major shutdowns. And if one of these companies goes under and is forced to shut down completely, it could leave an entire province without community media.

Media News Digest: Pulitzers, lawsuit settlements, NHL playoffs, Aislin’s 50th

Now that it looks like it’s finally dying down, here’s who’s written about that Andrew Potter Maclean’s piece and McGill’s reaction to it, in alphabetical order (not including letters to the editor or social media posts):

  1. Paul Adams, iPolitics
  2. Jérémie Bédard-Wien, Ricochet
  3. Frédéric Bérard, Métro
  4. Denise Bombardier, Journal de Montréal
  5. Ann Brocklehurst
  6. Michael Byers, Globe and Mail
  7. Lucinda Chodan, Montreal Gazette
  8. Colby Cosh, National Post
  9. Andrew Coyne, National Post
  10. Dan Delmar, Montreal Gazette
  11. Raymond J. de Souza, National Post
  12. Bernard Drainville, 98.5fm
  13. Sophie Durocher, Journal de Montréal
  14. Sophie Durocher again, Journal de Montréal
  15. Joseph Facal, Journal de Montréal
  16. Michael Friscolanti, Maclean’s
  17. Lysiane Gagnon, La Presse
  18. Jamie Gilcig, Cornwall Free News
  19. Scott Gilmore, Maclean’s
  20. Matt Gurney, The Walrus
  21. Graeme Hamilton, National Post
  22. Allison Hanes, Montreal Gazette
  23. Trevor Hanna, Ricochet
  24. Michael Harris, iPolitics
  25. Joseph Heath, In Due Course
  26. Chantal Hébert, Toronto Star
  27. Barbara Kay, National Post
  28. Jonathan Kay, The Walrus
  29. Philippe Labrecque, Huffington Post Québec
  30. Patrick Lagacé, La Presse
  31. Patrick Lagacé in English, Globe and Mail
  32. Josée Legault, Journal de Montréal
  33. Josée Legault again, Journal de Montréal
  34. Peter Loewen, National Post
  35. Emmett Macfarlane, Maclean’s
  36. Don Macpherson, Montreal Gazette
  37. Candice Malcolm, Toronto Sun
  38. Mylène Moisan, La Presse
  39. Éric Montpetit, Globe and Mail
  40. Brian Myles, Le Devoir
  41. Michèle Ouimet, La Presse
  42. Natalie Pendergast, Journal Pioneer
  43. Nathalie Petrowski, La Presse
  44. Joseph Quesnel, Local XPress
  45. Lise Ravary, Journal de Montréal
  46. Sandrine Ricci, Ricochet
  47. Chris Selley, National Post
  48. Michel Seymour, Huffington Post Québec
  49. Evan Solomon, Maclean’s
  50. Michael Taube, Troy Media
  51. William Watson, National Post
  52. Daniel Weinstock, In Due Course
  53. Ira Wells, Literary Review of Canada
  54. Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail
  55. Suzanne Wexler, Huffington Post
  56. Peter Wheeland, Cult MTL
  57. Barry Wilson, CTV Montreal

Plus:

News about news

At the CRTC

  • As mandated by the CRTC once every two years, CBC Quebec is holding a public consultation with the anglophone community on May 2 in Montreal. Attendance is free and open, but you’re asked to RSVP.
  • First notice of hearing in a while. The applications:
    1. A low-power Native FM station in Potlotek First Nation in St. Peter’s, N.S.
    2. Converting a 5W developmental community FM station in Val-des-Lacs (106.5 FM, near Mont Tremblant) to a low-power community station.
    3. A new French-language community radio station in Ottawa-Gatineau at 1350 AM. This station would use the same frequency, site and signal as the former Radio Centre-Ville Ville-Marie (CIRA-5) retransmitter there (1000W daytime, 180W nighttime).
    4. Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio) acquiring Christian music station CFWC-FM Brantford, Ont., from Sound of Faith Broadcasting, for $440,000.
    5. Dufferin converting ethnic station CKJS Winnipeg (810 AM) from AM to FM (92.5 MHz, 35,000W). In its application, the company reveals sister station CFJL-FM (Hot 100.5) has lost $700,000 in four years.
    6. A corporate re-organization at Blackgold Broadcasting

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(Note that NBC staff here is for Game 1 of each series only.)

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CRTC radio licence renewal applications: Radio Ville-Marie has several compliance issues

There was a dump of licence renewal applications posted online March 1, March 6 and March 30 for radio stations. Most were found to be compliant with their licence conditions, while some had issues. Here are stations up for renewal in Montreal and surrounding markets. For those still open for comment, you can find their applications here.

CIRA-FM 91.3 Montreal (Radio Ville-Marie) plus retransmitters in Trois-Rivières, Victoriaville and Rimouski: Several compliance issues — Financial statements using the calendar year instead of the broadcast year, financial statements reported late, annual report missing (blamed on a move and the absence of their director of finance), noisy recordings (which the station blamed on a power failure and faulty equipment), failure to properly categorize songs (which they say they actually did), failure to respond to requests for information (lost in the shuffle of other demands, they say),

One other thing they’re accused of is being “alarmist” in fundraising requests. According to CRTC policy, it is considered unethical for solicitation announcements to be unduly coercive or to suggest that a show or station would disappear from the air if enough money wasn’t received. Radio Ville-Marie (like just about every non-profit on the planet) did exactly that, saying on air that “without your financial support, we can’t continue our mission”, which sounds accurate but is apparently against the rules.

For most of the compliance issues, the station gave identical answers on how they would be solved: the creation of a committee to ensure compliance. Asked about the possibility of a short-term licence renewal or other sanctions, the station downplayed the problems as “administrative” and not affecting programming or their mission. This is the kind of statement that will likely irk people at the commission.

CKIN-FM 106.3 Montreal: Despite the station’s troubled compliance history, and controversy about its very Arabic-centric programming schedule, the commission found only one issue in reviewing compliance for its first renewal under new owner Neeti P. Ray: A programming log failed to list the start times of each song broadcast. But even then, Ray notes that the regulations don’t require listing start times, but merely listing the songs played in order. Nevertheless, Ray responded with a revised list that included exact start times for each song played on air. The commission appears satisfied with this response and believes the station is in compliance with its licence conditions.

CKLX-FM 91.9 Montreal: No apparent compliance issues. RNC Media notes it appears to have found a winning formula with an all-sports format.

CJRS 1650 AM Montreal: Radio Shalom failed to install an alerting system by the March 31, 2015 deadline, but instead only installed it in September 2016. The station’s owner blamed a lack of funds. Similarly, there was an issue with payments to Musicaction in 2014, which the owner said were solved.

CJSO-FM 101.7 Sorel-Tracy: After two straight short-term licence renewals because of failure to meet licence conditions, the station is once again in apparent non-compliance at renewal time. The CRTC’s main issues are the lack of a public alerting system and incomplete records of music broadcast, which means classification issues that put them in non-compliance with Canadian and French-language music quotas. The station’s replies were brief, noting that the new owner took control 12 days before the deadline to install the public alerting system (“I had other priorities”) and there was confusion on how some songs should be classified in terms of popular versus specialty.

CFOU-FM 89.1 Trois-Rivières: The UQTR campus station failed to provide financial reports for the years 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, because the financial reports they filed correspond to their fiscal year instead of the CRTC-mandated broadcast year of Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.

CITE-FM-1 102.7 Sherbrooke plus retransmitter CITE-FM-2 94.5: No apparent compliance issues.

CFAK-FM 88.3 Sherbrooke: No apparent compliance issues for the Sherbrooke campus station.

CHXX-FM 100.9 Donnacona (Quebec City) and retransmitter CHXX-FM-1 105.5 Ste-Croix-De-Lotbinière: Radio X2 failed to comply with its 65% francophone music quota, reaching only 63.5% during a sampled week in February. It blames this on certain songs it believed were French but were actually more than 50% English. This would be its second straight non-compliance finding. The commission suggested it may impose additional contributions to Canadian content development funds (a de facto fine) as a result of non-compliance. The station also says it wants to once again rid itself of conditions of licence requiring it to maintain a presence in Donnacona, but it looks like that request will be treated separately.

CITF-FM 107.5 Quebec City: No apparent compliance issues. But ADISQ wrote in to demand access to reports Bell Media promised to file when it acquired Astral Media on its program to promote independent artists.

CJLL-FM 97.9 Ottawa: No apparent compliance issues for this ethnic station.

Media News Digest: Bad week for CBC, Russell Peters, Pepsi and the Surrey Leader

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  • Ed The Sock helped announce some new network called FU Network, which is being billed as the spiritual successor to MuchMusic. It looks like it will be a streaming channel (maybe just a YouTube channel?) and Ed The Sock’s live show (see an example here) will be part of it, but other shows are also planned, depending how much money they can raise. (UPDATE: The YouTube video has been pulled, apparently because Bell Media is using its legal muscle to put a stop to this use of the MuchMusic brand.)
  • A video by Pepsi featuring Kendall Jenner was removed from YouTube and apologized for after people reacted very negatively to its message that a celebrity with a can of pepsi is all that’s needed to end police violence. This piece breaks down all the things wrong with it.

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You have a responsibility to help stop fake news: 12 things you should be doing

Happy April Fool’s Day, everybody.

We’re two months into the administration of President Donald J. Trump, and already it’s clear that the president and his chief spokesperson have no qualms about uttering bald-faced lies on easily verifiable things to satisfy their perverted need for political victory on petty issues.

The so-called mainstream media is waking up to this and calling out the government on its falsehoods. But that hasn’t stopped or even slowed down the proliferation of incorrect information through mainstream, alternative and social media.

And it’s not just Trump supporters pushing fake news. This hyper-partisan mistaken belief that you’re right and it’s the other side that’s trying to manipulate you is the main driver of this phenomenon, and it’s the first thing that needs to stop.

Living in Quebec, my social network skews left. But more importantly my social network also skews toward journalists. And it’s upsetting when people who consider themselves critical thinkers pass along poorly sourced garbage just because it agrees with their world view and sounds like it could probably be true. Often it’s things that don’t really matter — inspirational quotes falsely attributed to famous historical figures, too-good-to-be-true news stories about stupid people or that feature an ironic twist, or wildly exaggerated stories of government incompetence or corporate evil. But often it’s things that, if enough people believed them, could lead to society making poor decisions.

It’s not up to the media to fix this. Journalists have already lost the war of credibility to the hyper-partisans. And much of the way people get news bypasses journalists anyway. You’re the ones shaping the opinions of your friends through social media, which is now how more and more people get their news.

If fake news is going to be brought under control, if facts are going to matter again, it’s up to you to do something about it.

Here are some of those things you can do:

1. Fact check social media and your friends, especially those you agree with

It’s easy to call out fake news and point out inconsistencies when it’s your political opponent making the claims. But people live in ideological bubbles these days, and have taught themselves to dismiss all criticism of those they disagree with. It’s up to each side to call out their friends when false information is being spread, even if they may agree with the conclusion those made-up facts might lead to. You might agree that Donald Trump is not going to advance LGBT rights as much as Hillary Clinton would, but the LGBT page being “deleted” from the White House website doesn’t mean anything more than the State of the Union page being deleted. It’s a new administration, and it gets a new website, which it hasn’t put much on yet. That’s all.

If you’re sharing stories about the White House Photoshopping Donald Trump’s hands, or Trump being remote diagnosed with a mental illness, or any of these stories, you need to understand that you’re part of the problem. Fake news isn’t just an alt-right thing, it’s a problem facing the political left as well.

If you see some viral unsourced story, do a Google search. You’ll probably find a page about it on Snopes.com, or another fact-check somewhere else. If you discover that it’s fake or misleading, reply with a link to it.

2. Share original sources

It’s frustrating to see how often videos are stolen on Facebook, downloaded and reposted with some stupid caption to a “viral” page designed to profit off other people’s work. The original creator gets no revenue and not even credit or recognition for what they created. But because we’re too lazy to find out where the video comes from, we just like and share.

This has implications for fake news. The number of sources out there has exploded, and the rush to compete for clicks has meant many of those sources copying, citing or “aggregating” others’ reporting in order to steal away traffic. It’s not unusual to find a news article online about an interesting story that cites another source, which in turn cites another source, which in turn cites another. It can take several minutes to find out whoever originally reported something, and learn that through this game of broken telephone, facts have been exaggerated, assumed or selectively chosen to make a story more sensational than it is.

Instead of sharing the churned-out sensationalizing of a possibly misinterpreted fact from a news story, share the original news story. Give credit (and ad revenue) to the person who did the actual journalism, and who has a real interest in getting the facts right.

3. Ask questions

Sometimes, the most important question you can ask as a journalist is “how do you know that?” If someone says something that sounds like an outrageous fact, ask for their sources. Often you’ll get a vague answer about reading something online. Often it’ll be “Facebook”. We mock Trump for repeating stuff he heard from partisans on Facebook, but many of us are just as guilty as he is.

If you’re getting your news from your friends, you should be critical of them. If you read something that makes assumptions, ask about those assumptions. If there seems to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for something outrageous, ask if that was considered and why it was dismissed.

4. Learn before speaking

It’s infuriating when your read comments on Facebook posts that make it clear the person has not read the story being linked to. Don’t be that person. Don’t assume you know what a story is because you read the headline. If you don’t have time to read it, don’t comment.

Similarly, don’t pretend to be an expert on something you know nothing about. If you want to opine about something, read up on it first from an objective source, or preferably multiple sources, and cite those sources so people can check your facts.

5. Care when you get stuff wrong

If you share a story and someone responds with a Snopes.com or other link proving it’s false, don’t reply with “I don’t care” or “it doesn’t matter” or “but that’s not the point” or “lol whatever”. Apologize and delete it. It’s not okay just because it sounds like it could probably be true, or because it makes you feel good to believe comforting lies about your political opponent, or because you’re sure similar things have happened that are true, or because it’s an interesting fictional story.

6. Resist the urge to dismiss a big story because of a minor issue

Journalism should be all true. Not mostly true, not truthy, but true. Errors, no matter how minor, should be corrected. But a minor error does not make a story false. Don’t think that nitpicking is a proper way to discredit something you disagree with.

7. Stop listening to hyper-partisans driven by hate

There are those in every political camp who cater to the “red meat” base, those who are loyal beyond question, who care more about winning than they do about advancing society in any way. These people never admit they’re wrong, they never consider the other side of the argument, they always exaggerate arguments in their favour and ignore those that work against them. Stop being an audience for these people.

If someone is sharing news from a partisan source like “The Other 99%” or “Occupy Democrats” or The Rebel, be very skeptical. Check what other news sources not driven by agendas are reporting about it, or even what their political opponents say. Read original source material whenever possible. And consider sharing less biased sources that offer up the facts and let their audience draw their own conclusions.

If you get your information from a source that never corrects its errors, stop using that source.

8. Stop dehumanizing political opponents

Your hate for Donald Trump is driven mainly by his sexism and misogyny? Then why are you making degrading sexist comments about Melania Trump? You don’t like him because he’s vulgar? Then why are you using vulgar terms to describe him? You don’t like him because he’s superficial and rates women by their appearance? Then why are you making fun of his skin and hair?

Donald Trump is a grown man with lots of privilege and is now the most powerful person in the world (insert Vladimir Putin joke here). You don’t have to go easy on him. But if you’re going to criticize him, do it on issues that matter. The same goes for anyone you disagree with.

There are very few people in the world who are pure evil. Most people who do bad things believe they’re doing good. But there are far too many people who have let hate and frustration drive them, who believe the ends justify the means, who ignore that the person they disagree with is a human being with emotions and life experiences and morals.

Forgetting that people are human leads to the belief in a lot of insane stories. Be skeptical of any story that would require someone or a group of people to be pure evil for it to be true.

9. Don’t trust your memory

Remember that woman who won millions of dollars in a lawsuit against McDonald’s because she spilled coffee in her lap while driving? Yeah, that didn’t happen that way. Remember that 90s movie where Sinbad plays a genie? Didn’t exist.

Memory is unreliable, especially about things that happened long ago. Conventional wisdom about past events, or even current ones, is often wrong or exaggerated by people pushing agendas. Facts are often remembered based on what emotional impact they had, and this can skew people’s impressions of what really happened. Check your facts.

10. Don’t get emotional

Someone disagreed with you on Twitter? Block them! Someone dislikes political correctness on Facebook? Unfriend them! Someone questions the factual basis for something you said or wrote? Mercilessly mock and insult them!

Or you could not. Try breaking your bubble instead of reinforcing it. Read stories that make you uncomfortable. Listen to opinions that are different from yours. Open your mind to the idea that you, and the people you generally agree with, might be wrong about something. Don’t feed the trolls with your hate. Don’t make yourself feel better by bringing your opponents down.

Michelle Obama said “When they go low, we go high.” Consider actually following that advice rather than repeating it as a way of belittling your opponents.

11. Be the better person

Changes in the balance of power in politics usually result in dramatic reversals of position in terms of what’s acceptable behaviour. Questioning or disrespecting a sitting president is only unacceptable when it’s your guy in the office. Filibusters are obstructionist when it’s your policies they’re blocking, but a necessary check on abuse of power when it’s the other guy’s. Refusal to accept election results is shameful when they lose, but a moral duty when we do.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. And “they started it” is the argument of a five-year-old. Show by example that you’re better than that.

The ends justify the means is never an acceptable reason for spreading lies.

Even the most partisan hardliner will use facts from mainstream media, even if they don’t agree with their conclusions.

12. Stop treating “mainstream media” as if it’s a monolith with an agenda

There are legitimate criticisms to be made about newspapers, television stations, radio stations and online media, whether they’re corporately owned or independent. There are legitimate criticisms of individual columnists or journalists. There are real biases to point out across the industry (the bias that causes interesting outliers to get much more attention than the boring majority, for example).

But when you start dismissing the “mainstream media” as garbage because of a few stories you didn’t like, or when you call a newspaper “fake news” because you disagreed with a columnist, you’re part of the problem. So-called “mainstream media” is more likely to be professional, more likely to have a reputation to uphold, more likely to be accountable.

And when the president of the United States watches Fox News and his administration gives Breitbart preferential treatment in press briefings, well congratulations you’re mainstream now.

I’m not asking you to bite your tongue and avoid criticism. But rather, be specific. If you think a story is one-sided, call it out. If you think a journalist is biased, call that out (but expect to be asked to produce a lot of supporting material). And stop throwing “fake news” at things unless you’re sure that what their producing is something they know is wrong.

It won’t be easy, but together we can help fight back the wave of misinformation. If we can keep our hypocrisies at bay, and value knowledge over anger, we might begin to make some headway.

Media News Digest: CRTC hearing, settlement at CHCH, Quebec helps out newspapers

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With any luck this should return to its usual schedule starting next Wednesday.

Media News Digest: Pottergate, more awards, Bernie St-Laurent is back, RIP Denis McGrath

(Late this week because I survived the Great Steve Faguy Man Cold of 2017)

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There was a Class A shitstorm in Quebec media this week about a piece by Andrew Potter (former Ottawa Citizen editor and current McGill professor) tying the clustertruck on Highway 13 during last week’s snowstorm to some greater social malaise in Quebec. It includes statistics suggesting Quebecers are more socially distant than the rest of Canada, but also had some head-scratching generalizations about restaurants offering two bills and bank machines dispensing $50 bills.

Reaction was swift, with columnists (almost all from francophone Quebec-based media) piling on to condemn it: Jérémie Bédard-Wien, Denise Bombardier, Dan DelmarBernard DrainvilleSophie Durocher, Sophie Durocher againJoseph Facal, Patrick Lagacé, Patrick Lagacé in EnglishJosée Legault, Mylène MoisanMichèle OuimetNathalie Petrowski and Lise Ravary.

Le Soleil even did a fact-check, as did La Presse’s science blog, and even Maclean’s, all finding that Potter’s statistics about Quebec society were accurate, though his conclusion of a “pathological” problem was exaggerated (they say nothing about the anecdotal stuff like restaurant bills).

Potter finally apologized and distanced himself from his own story (earning at least some praise for that rare move). That wasn’t enough, though. McGill, after publicly throwing him under the bus, “accepted his resignation” from his job as head of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (a Maclean’s story says the resignation was not voluntary, citing anonymous sources who also say “numerous high-profile figures have contacted McGill since Monday to express their personal displeasure with the column”, which prompted figures as high as the prime minister’s office to deny involvement). McGill says academic freedom is not at stake, which convinced precisely no one.

The response prompted another wave of hot takes, this time mainly from anglo media (Paul AdamsFrédéric BérardAnn BrocklehurstMichael Byers, Lucinda ChodanColby CoshAndrew CoyneRaymond J. de SouzaMichael Friscolanti, Lysiane GagnonMatt GurneyAllison Hanes, Trevor Hanna, Michael HarrisJoseph HeathChantal Hébert, Barbara KayJonathan Kay, Philippe LabrecqueJosée Legault againPeter LoewenEmmett Macfarlane, Don Macpherson, Candice Malcolm, Éric Montpetit, Brian MylesJoseph QuesnelAaron RandChris Selley, Michel Seymour, Evan SolomonMichael Taube, William WatsonDaniel WeinstockIra WellsMargaret Wente, Suzanne WexlerPeter WheelandBarry Wilson, three professors in Maclean’sa discussion on CBC’s The Current, podcasts at Canadaland and Ricochet, and editorials from the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Maclean’s and Winnipeg Free Press, plus an untold number of letters to the editor and discussions on social media). The hot takes get even hotter, comparing this scandal to everything from a corrupt third-world government to the Rwandan genocide. And that awful episode of Canadaland was rightfully blasted by its own supporters on Facebook.

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Lori Graham on the CTV float

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Media News Digest: RTDNA Canada regional nominees, Canucks change radio station, more layoffs at Postmedia

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  • Newcap has asked the CRTC to drop its 15% special-interest music requirement for CHLG-FM 104.3 in Vancouver (one of the stations Bell got rid of after it bought Astral). It says the station lost $10 million in seven years.
  • CBC has applied to replace low-power AM transmitters with low-power FM transmitters in Lebel-sur-Quévillon and Senneterre.

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