Posted in TV

The best song parodies on TV this new year’s eve

It’s an annual French-Canadian media tradition: Criticizing a 75-minute sketch comedy show because it doesn’t meet our insanely inflated expectations.

So I’m just not going to partake. I could laud Bye-Bye 2015’s spot-on impersonations, impressively transformative makeup and prosthetics and expertly-done song parodies. Or, more likely, I could point out that it’s hit-and-miss on the laughs, occasionally politically insensitive or downright racist, and had a Montreal-centric (and certainly Quebec-centric) view of the year’s issues. I could declare Infoman the better of the New Year’s Eve specials, which is apparently de mode, or I could crap all over the Air Farce (and deservedly so).

But everyone else is doing that, so instead I’ll focus this post on something more enjoyable.

As a fan of Weird Al, you won’t be surprised to learn I’m big on song parodies. And there were a bunch of them on TV on New Year’s Eve. Some of them were lazy and unfunny. But some were very clever, and I feel they deserve more attention.

Here are my picks from the Canadian New Year’s Eve specials this year, in both official languages:

Continue reading

Posted in Opinion, Public transit

It’s time for the STM to get serious about New Year’s Eve service

The STM wants you to consider public transit if you’re going out to a New Year’s Eve party tonight. It’s promising “3700 designated drivers” to help take you home after you’ve been drinking.

Which is great. Except I can’t find any evidence that the STM is doing anything to improve service to make it easier for people to use public transit tonight.

This would seem like a perfect opportunity for the STM to run the metro all night, but it doesn’t do that. Nor is it running later than usual. Hell, they’re not even running it on a Saturday schedule, which would keep trains running an extra half hour. Instead, it’s the regular weekday schedule, which means the last trains leave Berri-UQAM just before 1am, and leave the terminuses as early as 12:30am. On the blue line, the last trains leave at 12:15. Which means to take one of them you basically have to yell “Happy New Year” as you’re walking out the door.

If you’re taking a bus to the metro, especially from somewhere like the West Island or Laval, you have to leave before midnight, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Demanding the metro run all night is a common request of STM users, and I understand why it can’t be met. Overnight is when the STM does maintenance on the tracks and in the tunnels, stuff that can’t be done while the trains are running.

But the metro has run all night before, such as during the annual Nuit Blanche event in February. Would it really be impossible to run it overnight one other night a year? Even at a reduced schedule, with trains every 20 minutes, would be far better than people waiting outside in the cold for buses.

Sure, it would cost money. Employees would have to work overtime, and because it’s Jan. 1 they’d get stat pay on top of that. But all the metro stations are open at the stroke of midnight, so metro employees are already missing the chance to drink champagne after a countdown.

Buses don’t solve the problem

The STM points to the night bus network as a way to get home after the metro is closed. And as a regular user of night buses, I can attest to their usefulness. But I can’t find any evidence that the STM is increasing service on night buses tonight, either. Instead, it’s the regular Thursday night schedule, in which most lines are running only once every 45 minutes. That’s a long wait out in the cold.

And of course the night buses don’t go everywhere. There are places in the West Island, St-Laurent borough and east end where the closest night bus stop is more than 1.5 km away. Starting from a home in Kirkland? You could be looking at a half-hour walk to the nearest stop.

Putting regular and night bus service on a Saturday schedule would be the least they could do. But they’re not. Or at least it’s not being announced, and if people don’t know the buses are coming they’re as good as useless.

This isn’t a complex problem to solve. It’s one night a year where a couple of extra hours of service would make a huge difference.

But instead, the STM is doing nothing except advertising “3700 designated drivers”, the vast majority of whom won’t be available after midnight tonight.

Posted in Media

The end of an era for La Presse as last weekday print edition is published

Among the many things that are changing as 2015 becomes 2016, La Presse is moving from a six-days-a-week newspaper to a Saturday-only one, publishing the other six days (including Sundays) on its tablet edition La Presse+.

In a note to readers, publisher Guy Crevier notes that the tablet app has more than half a million readers every week, and 70,000 new readers every week more weekly readers since Sept. 1*. And notes that with 283 employees, La Presse will still have the largest newsroom in Quebec.

We don’t know much more than we did in September when this move was announced, but it certainly feels more real now. And that’s not just for readers. With the reduction in printing, La Presse saves a lot of money, but much of that money went to people — printing plant employees, home delivery people, print advertising and layout people and others, whether directly employed by La Presse or a contractor. La Presse is cutting 158 jobs directly, which the union has been trying to fight. It recently scored a victory getting the company to offer buyouts, according to the Globe and Mail.

The Globe and other media (CBC, Radio-Canada, Journal de MontréalPresse Canadienne, CTV) have been reporting on the print edition’s demise, including interviews with print subscribers unhappy about switching to a tablet (or steadfastly refusing to do so).

For a more detailed analysis of La Presse+, I’ll point you to this post from two years ago, as well as this long series from the website NetNewsCheck.

The big thing that’s changed since then is that sales of iPads have slowed and even declined in the past two years. Whether that’s because they’re too expensive or people aren’t replacing them fast enough, I don’t know.

That’s not to say La Presse+ is doomed, since it already has those half a million readers. It’s because of La Presse+ that La Presse is more read now than the Journal de Montréal. But it emphasizes that this is a huge gamble, replacing something that’s more than a century old by something that’s about a decade old.

Not that newspapers have the luxury of playing it safe anymore.

*Corrected to note that the 70,000 new readers figure is since Sept. 1, not every week. Thanks to John D. for spotting this error.

UPDATE (Jan. 22): Le Devoir tells Radio-Canada its subscriptions have gone up 10-15% since the beginning of the year. Le Soleil and Le Nouvelliste have also reported print subscription increases. (No word on the Journal de Montréal.)

Posted in Media, Opinion

How independent are newsrooms from their owners?

Depending on your preconceived notions, there is either something very weird or very understandable going on in Las Vegas.

Recently, the century-old Las Vegas Review-Journal was purchased by a company that, bizarrely, refused to disclose who owned it. Eventually it was determined that the owner is Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who seems intent on spending a lot of his money supporting Republican candidates for political office.

It gets worse. After Adelson bought the paper, but before anyone found out it was him who owned it, reporters were told to investigate judges who were unfriendly to Adelson. Not asked, ordered. And perhaps the most bizarre part of this story is that the newspaper that broke it was the Review-Journal itself.

A newspaper deliberately embarrassing itself is not something you see every day. And the fact that they did that seems to be the main argument in favour of convincing readers that their editorial integrity remains intact.

An editorial published last week includes this unbelievable passage:

You can be assured that if the Adelsons attempt to skew coverage, by ordering some stories covered and others killed or watered down, the Review-Journal’s editors and reporters will fight it. How can you be sure? One way is to look at how we covered the secrecy surrounding the newspaper’s sale. We dug in. We refused to stand down. We will fight for your trust. Every. Single. Day. Even if our former owners and current operators don’t want us to.

How often does a newspaper vow to protect itself from its owner?

And yet, for all the proclamations that the new owners will protect the newsroom and only control the editorial page, the fact that the newspaper’s editor suddenly left the paper doesn’t inspire confidence. Nor does that whole judge thing, which still hasn’t been explained. It’s definitely still a scandal, and one that’s getting national attention.

Editorial interference in Canada

There have been several cases north of the border in which the question of ownership interference in newsrooms have come up. Among them:

  • Bell Media president Kevin Crull twice attempts to direct CTV News coverage of an issue affecting Bell. In the first, it’s chalked up to a misunderstanding. After the second, in which Crull’s orders were eventually ignored by CTV National News staff, Crull is fired. Bell cites the actions of its journalists, and its decision to fire Crull, as proof that Bell Media’s newsrooms are independent. But there is not a single measure in place to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.
  • Postmedia (my employer) orders Alberta papers to endorse the Progressive Conservative party in the Alberta provincial election. Months later, all Postmedia papers, including its recently purchased Sun Media chain, endorse the federal Conservatives, apparently on orders from Postmedia brass. The editorials in the Sun Media papers are signed “Postmedia Network”, while those in the other papers are unsigned, leading readers to believe they were written and decided on by the individual papers’ editorial boards. Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey states that it’s understood that ownership decides on endorsements, a statement that the chair of the Toronto Star board didn’t agree with.
  • Quebecor Media’s controlling shareholder remains Pierre Karl Péladeau, the leader of the Parti Québécois. Péladeau has placed his shares in trust, but it’s not a blind trust because the trustee cannot sell the shares. Because he is not a member of the cabinet, he is not obliged to use a blind trust, but the rules on conflict of interest weren’t designed for a case where the asset is a media giant. Though it’s whispered and rumoured everywhere that Péladeau was a control freak before he entered politics, there’s little proof that he personally attempted to interfere in any news coverage. When Enquête looked into the issue in 2011, the best it could find was a case where a Journal de Montréal manager tried to fix the results of a list of most influential personalities. Péladeau has repeatedly said that Quebecor’s newsrooms are independent, and specifically points to its collective agreements as proof, even though the Journal de Montréal just about dismantled its union in a long lockout.
  • Groupe Capitales Médias, a company owned by former politician Martin Cauchon, buys six newspapers from Gesca — every one but La Presse. Though there’s been no suggestion Cauchon attempted to interfere with editorial, he refuses to disclose where the financing came from for this purchase (or even the amount). That has led to unsubstantiated allegations from people in the Quebecor camp that Cauchon is merely a puppet of Power Corp., which owns Gesca.

There are countless other examples at smaller players, or cases where newsrooms act in such a way as to promote their owners’ interests (a Saturday Night Live preview in a Global TV newscast, or cross-promotion between the Journal de Montréal and TVA).

But how does it work on a daily basis?

I have limited experience working in other newsrooms, though I have plenty of friends and contacts who work for various media. And I can tell you two things for certain:

  1. It’s a caricature that owners, whether a single mega-rich person or the CEO of a publicly traded corporation, call up newspaper editors on a daily basis or write their own front-page headlines or decide how a TV newscast is lined up. The reality is that they don’t have time to do stuff like that, and most of the time they don’t care.
  2. Anyone who tells you a newsroom is completely independent of its ownership is lying.

There are plenty of cases of overt interference. Endorsements are a good example. It’s one of the few times an owner of a chain of newspapers will care about their editorials. There are also cases that are relatively benign, such as Bell Media putting all its news resources into promoting the annual Bell Let’s Talk charity campaign. And there are cases in between, where an editor is asked to run any particularly sensitive stories up the chain to get ownership’s okay, but the latter won’t censor news just because it might make them look bad.

But then there are all the cases of self-censorship, cases in which a journalist or editor will choose not to cover a story that makes the owners look bad, even if there wouldn’t have been any repercussions for doing so, even if they’re protected by their union, even if the owner has promised not to interfere.

I honestly don’t know — and most people in newsrooms I speak to don’t know for sure — whether owners pick up the phone and bark orders at middle managers on what to cover. I can only speak to what I see on the front lines, which is that journalists are almost always free to cover stories as they warrant. And when reporters are reined in, it’s almost always because of a legitimate, journalistic reason.

But it’s not absolute. And when one newspaper owner (Postmedia’s Godfrey) says it’s obvious ownership sets the editorial direction and another newspaper owner (Quebecor’s Péladeau) says it’s obvious newsrooms are independent of ownership, the only thing that’s obvious to me is that people don’t know which is true.

How do we fix this? Well, readers and outside organizations should continue to hold media owners’ feet to the fire to demand transparency, accountability and independence. And owners should make it abundantly clear that their newsrooms are independent, putting in place measures to prevent them from interfering, whether it’s a public editor or ombudsman or other independent body that has the power to expose any such interference.

But I think the better solution is healthy competition in media. If different outlets have different owners, it’s hard for one owner to keep a story under wraps. And if consumers make transparency and trust a priority when choosing what media to consume, the media will do whatever it can to earn that trust.

Posted in Radio

CBC Quebec says goodbye to Jacquie Czernin

Jacquie Czernin (CBC photo)

Jacquie Czernin (CBC photo)

It’s been almost two years since Jacqueline (Jacquie) Czernin left her job as host of Breakaway on CBC Radio to be with her ailing mother in Kelowna, B.C., on what was supposed to be a temporary leave. But every time she was supposed to return, the date got pushed back.

Finally, it reached the breaking point, and last month it was announced she wouldn’t be coming back.

Today, her show aired a long-distance conversation between her and Quebec AM host Susan Campbell about Czernin’s 25-year career at CBC, including some clips of Czernin’s work (like getting Brian Mulroney to sing).

The staff at Breakaway, which is based in Quebec City and can be heard on the Quebec Community Network (most CBC Radio One stations in Quebec outside Montreal), have been getting messages of support from listeners, and Czernin, who gets a bit emotional during the interview, repeatedly expresses gratitude.

A permanent replacement host hasn’t been announced publicly, but Rachelle Solomon, who has been hosting Breakaway since Czernin left, would be the obvious choice.

Posted in Radio

CRTC approves frequency swap allowing Ottawa station to boost power

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

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

In its last day of decisions for 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has approved a plan proposed by Torres Media’s CIDG-FM (Dawg FM) to pay a community station more than $150,000 to swap frequencies.

The plan, which I told you about in May, goes as follows:

  • CHIP-FM, a community radio station based in Fort Coulonge, Quebec, about 90km northwest of Gatineau, changes frequency from 101.7 to 101.9 MHz
  • CIDG-FM, a commercial station based in Ottawa, changes from 101.9 to 101.7, and because the new frequency has fewer restrictions on it, the station can increase its power from 5,500W to 19,500W.
  • Torres Media, which owns CIDG-FM, pays Pontiac Community Radio, owner of CHIP-FM. The amount isn’t disclosed in the application or decision, but a financial projection included in the application shows it’s at least six figures. It includes Torres Media taking care of all the expenses related to the application itself and the change in frequency for CHIP-FM.

As a result of the change, which also comes with a new transmitter site, Dawg FM would improve its signal considerably toward the southwest, areas like Nepean and Stittsville. The signal still wouldn’t be as good as the older FMs that have unrestricted allocations, but it would be able to fight on a slightly more even level.

Dawg FM, which broadcasts a blues/rock format and launched in 2011, has a 0.5% share among anglophones and 0.2% among francophones in the latest Numeris ratings.

Posted in TV

Derick Fage hired as Breakfast Television Montreal co-host

Derick Fage (Rogers Media photo)

Derick Fage (Rogers Media photo)

Less than three weeks after officially announcing the departure of Alexandre Despatie, Rogers Media has announced his replacement: Derick Fage, a host on the Rogers TV community channel in Ottawa who has filled in as host at BT Montreal this year.

He starts Jan. 4. Wilder Weir, who has been co-hosting with Joanne Vrakas in the interim, returns to his role as Live Eye reporter, in addition to being the host of Sportsnet Central Montreal.

“Derick’s contagious energy makes him a perfect fit for the Breakfast Television format. We believe Montreal viewers will look forward to waking up with Derick and Joanne for their daily dose of entertainment, news, and lifestyle information.”
— Jordan Schwartz, Vice President, In-House Productions, Rogers, in their press release

Posted in TV

CTV, Global appoint Quebec City bureau chiefs

It’s not just the Quebec government that pushed through some labour deals just before Christmas. This week both CTV and Global filled their vacant Quebec City bureau chief positions.

Maya Johnson (CTV News photo)

Maya Johnson (CTV News photo)

CTV’s choice is Maya Johnson, who has been at CTV Montreal for a decade now, and was working on Quebec politics while the position was vacant following Max Harrold’s move back to Montreal (he’s now an assignment editor at CTV Montreal). The choice was, frankly, obvious and you wonder what took them so long.

As a result of the Bell Media cuts, Johnson’s Montreal reporter job won’t be filled.

Hopefully this will give CTV’s Quebec City bureau the kind of stability it hasn’t seen since John Grant held the position.

Raquel Fletcher (Global News photo)

Raquel Fletcher (Global News photo)

Global News, meanwhile, went with Raquel Fletcher, who was the anchor of Focus Saskatchewan at Global TV in Regina. Before that she was at CTV Regina. Fletcher was born and raised in the rectangular province, which means she’ll have a steep learning curve in Quebec City. But she won’t be the first child of Saskatchewan who’s now reporting on Quebec.

Fletcher’s career path is similar to that of Global Montreal morning host Camille Ross, who worked at CTV in Yorkton and Global in Regina.

Fletcher succeeds Caroline Plante, who was hired by the Montreal Gazette this summer.

The National Assembly is recessed for the holidays and resumes on Feb. 9. That gives these reporters a bit of time to get settled in their new positions.

Daigle heading to London

Thomas Daigle (CBC photo)

Thomas Daigle (CBC photo)

Not to be outdone, there’s staffing news at CBC as well. Thomas Daigle, originally from Quispamsis, N.B., but based for several years now in Montreal, will be the new CBC News correspondent in London.

Daigle, 28, worked at CJAD, Global Montreal and Radio-Canada Acadie before joining CBC Montreal. He was named the anchor for weekend newscasts when CBC Montreal added them back to its schedule, then he was moved to the National Assembly and eventually into the position of national reporter in Montreal.

 

Posted in Media

No more paywall at the Journal de Montréal

“Autre nouvelle importante”, it starts, burying the lead a bit: The Journal de Montréal announced on Wednesday that all content on its website will now be free. Ditto for the Journal de Québec. No more paywall on either site.

The Quebecor-owned paid newspapers instituted their paywalls in 2012, putting some content behind it but leaving other content free. At the time, the purpose of the paywall was to protect the print edition’s subscription fees.

So what’s changed? La Presse asked, and the answer is basically that their priorities have changed: with the rise of social media, reach has become more important, and a paywall is a hindrance to that.

So the Journal falls back onto advertising as the primary source of digital revenue, even though digital advertising hasn’t exactly taken off. It’s in that line that it signed up for Facebook’s Instant Articles, which allows JdeM stories to be read directly in people’s Facebook feeds. Publishers can include ads in the feeds, which is supposed to be a way to increase revenue.

Other Canadian launch partners for Instant Articles are Chatelaine, Diply, The Huffington Post Canada, Maclean’s, Sportsnet, The Canadian Press and TVA Nouvelles, plus some international media like BuzzFeed.

The Journal de Montréal’s decision isn’t that surprising considering the context. Its competitors in francophone news, including La Presse, Radio-Canada, RDS, TVA Nouvelles, Métro and others don’t have paywalls. Le Devoir is the only major francophone publication that still has one up, and it’s not searching for as many hits as possible.

On the English side, we’ve seen the Toronto Star drop its paywall, but The Globe and Mail and Postmedia (my employer) still have them, porous as they may be. And they put them up after concluding it was a mistake to have content online free in the first place. Will they follow suit in determining it was a mistake to consider that a mistake?

The decision would be much easier if online advertising was a viable revenue source.

Meanwhile, this decision means the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec will be even more eager for as many clicks (or taps or whatever) as possible. There’s a huge incentive for clickbait, so don’t be surprised if it increases.

Posted in Radio

Fall radio ratings show status quo in Montreal

Montreal anglo radio ratings (2+, central market). Click for larger version.

Montreal anglo radio ratings (2+, central market). Click for larger version.

PPM radio ratings came out this week. And while there isn’t much that’s headline-grabbing on the anglo side, there’s a few things I noticed that are worth mentioning.

The top-line numbers show that, once again, CJAD is the most popular radio station among anglophone listeners. No shock there. And when you look at the chart above, you can see that over time their share has actually grown. Its their fourth consecutive book above 25%, after years of never getting above 25.2%.

Among the music stations, The Beat is once again the most popular overall (among both anglophones and francophones), but among the important demographic of adults 25-54, Virgin Radio beats it by five points, and the trend is in Virgin’s favour. Among younger adults (18-34), Virgin beats The Beat by nine points.

Among men 25-54, CHOM is still tops with a 28% share, but that barely edges out Virgin. TSN Radio 690 has only a 6% share among this group, a third of CJAD’s.

CBC Radio One, which peaked in the fall of 2014, has been declining since, with a 6.5% share overall. CBC Radio Two is at 1.5%, the third consecutive quarter at that level or below after being above it for at least four years.

Continue reading

Posted in TV

The day local TV died

CHCH, the superstation in Hamilton, Ont., was Canada’s last best hope for the idea of truly local television.

It failed.

On Friday at 4pm, the station aired a 90-second statement from Channel Zero CEO Romen Podzyhun, explaining that the station would be undergoing a major restructuring and would eliminate a large part of its local programming, and the jobs that go with that. The amount of local programming would reportedly drop from 80 hours to 17.5 hours a week, a little more than most large-market local TV stations in Canada. (Its licence requires a minimum of only seven.)

Rather than have local original programming from 4am (they prided themselves on being the first on the air weekday mornings) to 7pm weekdays, they’ll be left with 6pm and 11pm newscasts starting Saturday, and the morning show starting Tuesday.

Other, non-news programming gets cancelled.

The human cost: 129 full-time jobs, and 38 part-timers, according to the Hamilton Spectator. Of them, 58 full-time employees and 23 part-time will be offered new jobs. The cuts include the Niagara bureau, apparently in its entirety.

Channel 11 LP, the company that Channel Zero created to do its local news, and which technically employed CHCH’s news employees, has declared bankruptcy, with $1.6 million owed to employees. (This is being erroneously reported in the media as CHCH itself or its parent company declaring bankruptcy, which is not the case.) The consequence of this is that the company can wash its hands of its union obligations, and the union is not happy, though it focuses its blame on the CRTC and the government.

Continue reading

Posted in TV

Avis de recherche using desperate legal measures to stay on the air

Control room and studio at Avis de recherche

Control room and studio at Avis de recherche

Avis de recherche, the specialty channel devoted to listing missing people and wanted suspects and talking about other aspects of public safety, got a punch to the gut two and a half years ago when the CRTC decided to end its special status as a must-distribute service that every TV subscriber in Quebec was forced to pay for.

Without that mandatory distribution, providers would no longer want to carry the channel, it would lose its subscription revenue and would cease to exist. Owner Vincent Geracitano knows this well because before ADR got that status, he had to pay Videotron to distribute the channel.

Knowing the channel had value as a public service, the commission gave ADR a two-year grace period to find a new business model. That grace period ended on Aug. 31, 2015, despite ADR’s ill-fated request for another extension.

Now, ADR is using every trick in the book to stay alive:

  • It has politicians writing letters to the federal government asking it to order the CRTC to review and reverse its decision.
  • It filed an application to the federal court seeking a judicial review of the decision.
  • It filed a complaint with the RCMP, alleging political interference in the CRTC decision (based mainly in hearsay evidence).
  • It took Videotron to court, arguing it had a distribution agreement until Dec. 31 and got a temporary injunction keeping it on Videotron’s system.
  • For Bell, ADR has gone to the CRTC and filed for dispute resolution. (A standstill provision says Bell must continue distributing the channel while the dispute resolution process proceeds.) ADR also filed a complaint of undue preference, arguing that Bell’s decision to pull ADR benefits its similar service Canal D Investigation. (I find that hard to understand. ADR is a news and information channel, while Investigation is entertainment. It’s like saying the Weather Network competes with a channel that shows nothing but Sharknado movies.)
  • UPDATE (Jan. 31): ADR has also filed an undue preference complaint against Videotron, arguing ADR is similar to LCN.

ADR proposes some solutions to Bell’s actions, which basically involve ordering Bell to keep the channel. It suggests the commission use its power to order Bell to keep distributing the channel until 2018, when all specialty channels will have lost their protections as a result of decisions taken in the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV process.

Even if ADR is successful at keeping Bell and Videotron from pulling the channel, it’s just kicking the can down the road. Both distributors have made clear they have no desire to keep distributing the channel because there’s no demand for it.

A survey ADR provided in its application seems to confirm that. It shows only 16% of the 1,000 Quebecers surveyed had ever heard of the channel, and after being told what it was only 18% said they’d ever watched it.

Nevertheless, respondents said public security is important, and after some very leading questions about the value of such a channel, respondents expressed support for it and disagreement (69% vs. 18% support) with the CRTC’s decision to remove its mandatory status.

Respondents were asked how much they’d be willing to pay for it at four price points:

  • At its current 6 cents per month: 89% in favour
  • At 25 cents per month: 73% in favour
  • At 75 cents per month: 52% in favour
  • At $1 per month: 43% in favour

ADR makes it clear that without an order keeping it on some form of mandatory distribution, it would go off air “within days.”

The channel notes it is in a unique position as an independent service that once had mandatory distribution and has since lost it. And Geracitano has devoted his life to public service and this channel. It’s entirely understandable that he’s doing everything he can to keep it going.

But the CRTC has determined the public doesn’t absolutely need Avis de recherche, and it’s not about to change its mind on that. Rather than seek a way to offer programming that might generate demand, ADR is going all in on lawyers. I doubt it will work.

The CRTC is treating ADR’s complaint about Bell seriously but expeditiously, allowing only three days for comment. You can download the complaint here (.zip) and file comments here before 8pm ET on Friday, Dec. 11. Note that all information filed with the CRTC, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

UPDATE (Dec. 14): This proceeding has resulted in dozens of interventions, almost all of them from politicians, public safety agencies and non-profit groups lined up behind ADR.

One group definitely not on ADR’s side is Quebecor. It notes in its intervention that ADR is a Category B specialty service, which means distributors are free to drop it if they want. It suggests allowing ADR to stay on Bell’s system this way would open the door to abuse of process:

ADR doit se rendre à l’évidence qu’elle n’a pas d’autre choix que d’assumer sa part des risques liés aux différentes politiques du CRTC et d’accepter la perte de son statut de distribution obligatoire.

UPDATE (Dec. 17): Bell’s reply has been published by the commission. Among the key quotes (with my highlights):

  • ADR has known since 24 September 2015 that their service would be removed from carriage on 1 December 2015.  Yet they waited two months to file their second standstill request and to file the Application.
  • ADR has already had two years to adjust to the lack of access rights.  In particular, Decision 2013-372 extended ADR’s 9(1)(h) status for two years to allow the licensee time to adapt its business plan. Bell has not seen any evidence of ADR changing its business plan; rather its plan appears to be to argue for continued carriage at its existing wholesale rate.  Bell does not consider this to be adapting to new distribution circumstances.
  • Given that ADR’s programming is a public benefit for law enforcement agencies, it could attempt to obtain sponsorship from various levels of government. … If such an attempt was made and rejected, then it would appear that law enforcement agencies do not see the value in ADR.
  • At mediation, there was a good exchange of information between the parties, but in the end, Bell’s position did not change. Our subscribers see little or no value in receiving this service as evidenced by the viewership chart for the service provided further below.
  • There is no regulatory requirement for BDUs to make reasonable attempts to ensure that programming services remain viable if they do not believe the service appeals to their subscribers.
  • The Wholesale Code does not afford independent services, such as ADR, penetration guarantees; rather, it only allows them the ability to negotiate for one.
  • There is no similarity between the programming offered by ADR and Canal D/Investigation.
  • The programming on Canal D/Investigation takes the form of documentaries, dramas and reality television shows related to justice and forensic science. It is an entertainment service that broadcasts programs on resolved criminal stories of national and international scope, it is not interactive, nor is it a “Crimestoppers” channel.
  • ADR’s viewership pales in comparison to Canal D/Investigation.
  • There is no evidence on file of their ability to solve crimes.
  • ADR suggests … there is no evidence that Bell plans to rebate its customers for the loss of service of ADR. … We do not make rate adjustments each and every time the cost of a programming service increases or decreases or when a service is added or removed from a package.
  • This Application is simply another attempt to have the Commission extend its mandatory-to-basic 9(1)(h) distribution order; a proposal that has already been rejected.

Bell makes reference to viewership data for ADR above. Because ADR does not subscribe to Numeris, Bell instead used set-top box viewership data from Fibe TV customers. The figures it uses are redacted from the public record, because Bell argues that information is commercially sensitive. So we don’t know what ADR’s actual viewership is among Bell customers, either in real numbers or compared to Investigation, other than it being lower.

Posted in TV

Concordia students get $650,000 out of a Rogers acquisition

Sportsnet records its president announcing its donation at Concordia University's journalism building on Wednesday.

Sportsnet records its president announcing its donation at Concordia University’s journalism building on Wednesday.

Concordia University journalism students will be getting a financial boost in the coming years thanks to a $650,000 donation from Rogers Sportsnet.

 

More than half of the donation will be used for scholarships for students over five years:

  • Six scholarships of $3,000 each to undergraduate students
  • Seven scholarships of $4,000 each to graduate diploma students
  • Two scholarships of $6,000 each to masters students
  • Two prizes of $8,500 each to students based on sports journalism portfolios

This works out to $75,000 a year, or $375,000 over the five years of the program. The rest of the money will be used for things like new equipment purchases and other stuff whose details haven’t been finalized, said Concordia journalism department chair Brian Gabrial.

Other than the $8,500 prizes listed above, the scholarships are not specifically sports-related.

Students and staff at Concordia celebrate their donation with Sportsnet president Scott Moore (third from left).

Students and staff at Concordia celebrate their donation with Sportsnet president Scott Moore (third from left).

The donation, the largest in the department’s history, was celebrated with a wine-and-hors-d’oeuvres event at Concordia’s journalism and communications building on the Loyola campus on Wednesday, with Concordia president Alan Shepard Sportsnet president Scott Moore in attendance.

But while this is great news for the university, it’s worth noting where this money is coming from. It’s not something Rogers is doing spontaneously out of the kindness of its heart, but rather a mandatory funding initiative linked to Rogers’s 2013 acquisition of The Score (which it turned into Sportsnet 360).

When the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the acquisition of the sports news television channel in 2013, it mandated that 10% of its purchase price (valued at $172 million) be spent on tangible benefits, or donations to programs and initiatives that benefit the broadcasting system as a whole. This is the CRTC’s way of mitigating the loss of diversity that comes from consolidation of ownership.

Rogers had originally proposed more than half of that going to something called the “Sportsnet Winter Games”, an annual amateur sports event. But the commission rejected that, saying it was worried that this would be self-serving. Instead, Rogers broke down the proposed benefits as follows:

  • $5 million for a Sportsnet Independent Production Fund
  • $5 million for a Canadian University Sports Initiative
  • $2.5 million for digital media produciton scholarships
  • $4.7 million for amateur independent sports production

Moore confirmed that the $650,000 donation to Concordia comes out of this tangible benefits package, which has to be paid out over five years. He said internal bureaucracy at Rogers, combined with some major distractions, caused them to get a slow start on this.

Gabrial credits Bob Babinski for helping get this done. Babinski worked with Moore at CBC Sports, and after Moore moved to Rogers Media, he hired Babinski to launch City Montreal. Moore said he called up Babinski and asked about Concordia’s journalism program, and then Sportsnet approached Concordia asking them to put together a proposal.

Moore referred to the donation as an “investment” in the future of journalism. That’s a nice sentiment, though the CRTC rules prevent any quid pro quo.

Other Sportsnet university initiatives include the Sportsnet U Recruited program. Its first recruit is Julian McKenzie, a Concordia journalism student, former sports editor at The Link and producer at CJLO 1690 AM. After the event, McKenzie had lunch with Moore.

A fake Concordian front page announcing the donation.

A fake Concordian front page announcing the donation.

Posted in Radio

CJAD honours Balcan, Sinclair and Blackman as it opens a “hall of fame”

cjad-cartoons

Framed Aislin cartoons of George Balcan, left, Gord Sinclair and Ted Blackman.

This morning, on its 70th anniversary, CJAD 800 inaugurated what it officially calls a “hall of fame” but program director Chris Bury admitted would probably be more accurately described as a wall of fame. Its first three inductees, unveiled during the Andrew Carter morning show, are of no surprise: George Balcan, Gord Sinclair and Ted Blackman.

The three Montreal broadcasting icons, who all died between 2002 and 2004, were immortalized with caricatures produced by cartoonist Terry Mosher (Aislin), actually taken from cartoons he had already drawn of the three. “We had a few versions” for each of the three, Bury explained, and they decided to go that way rather than use old publicity photos, many of which were not in great condition, were poorly lit or seemed too serious.

The framed cartoons will be hung in the CJAD studio, where people who work at the station “can get a sense of the history of the radio station,” Bury said.

More CJAD personalities will join these three over the coming years. Bury said the plan is to induct one every six months or so until the 75th anniversary in 2020. “Nothing is set in stone” about who else will be inducted, though there are some obvious picks. Simple math would suggest about a dozen inductees in all, though that too hasn’t been set in stone.

“I don’t know how many other stations could do this,” Bury said after the ceremony.

Continue reading

Posted in Media

How would you spend $150 million a year at CBC/Radio-Canada?

We will protect the interests of our national broadcaster, in the interests of all Canadians. We will reverse Stephen Harper’s cuts and invest $150 million in new annual funding for CBC/Radio-Canada, to be delivered in consultation with the broadcaster and the Canadian cultural community.
Liberal Party of Canada platform (page 56)

Restore and increase funding for CBC/Radio-Canada, following consultation with the broadcaster and the Canadian cultural community.
Prime Minister’s mandate letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly

The Government will support CBC/Radio-Canada, encourage and promote the use of Canada’s official languages, and invest in Canada’s cultural and creative industries.
Speech from the Throne

Though the wording gets more vague with each iteration, the promise of the Liberal Party to add $150 million a year to CBC/Radio-Canada’s parliamentary appropriation looks like it’s going to happen. Mélanie Joly has been confirming it during just about every interview she’s given.

But there are no details yet on how that extra money will be spent. The promise calls for the money to be “delivered in consultation with the broadcaster and the Canadian cultural community.”

The CBC is a large organization that does a lot of things. It has been rightly criticized as trying to be everything to everyone, and yet no one can agree on what things it shouldn’t be.

There doesn’t seem to have been any attempt at public consultation, and it’s not clear if there ever will be, so I’ll do my part here. What would you like the CBC to do with this extra money? I’ve outlined some options below, a few with cost estimates. But there may be other options. Offer your suggestions in the comments below.

CBC funding options

Just reverse the cuts. Hire everyone back that wants to come back. Hire new people for those who don’t. That should work out to about $130 million, not including one-time costs.

Over-the-air broadcasting. Reinstate CBC/Radio-Canada’s network of hundreds of low-power over-the-air TV transmitters, this time digital ones. Offer to multicast with other broadcasters. (CBC says shutting down analog transmitters saved it $10 million a year, but installing digital transmitters would cost more than $1 billion, so would eat up this increase for about a decade.)

Improve local news. Bring back the 90-minute local newscast in major markets while keeping the hourly one-minute updates. Add staff to local newsrooms.

Expand into new markets. Instead of investing in markets like Montreal, Toronto and Calgary that have fierce competition from the private sector, expand television and radio into new smaller markets, giving them local programming for the first time. Restart plans to launch a station in London, Ont.

Improve national and international news. Add more foreign bureaus that can tell major world stories from a Canadian perspective. Increase the resources of investigative programs like The Fifth Estate and Enquête. Make CBC News Network and RDI robust enough that they can go live 24/7 with breaking news and offer more high-quality documentary-style programming.

Factual programming. Commission more documentaries reflecting Canada’s regions. Scrap the “Our [cityname]” shows and replace them with weekly series about local arts, culture and lifestyle.

Create new high-quality TV dramas and bring a scripted drama or two back to CBC Radio.

Eliminate advertising for CBC Radio Two and ICI Musique ($1.1 million), and reduce advertising on television channels ($150 million would do that by a little less than half, though CBC notes it would also need to commission more programming to fill the gap).

Eliminate subscriber fees for CBC/Radio-Canada specialty channels — CBC News Network, RDI, ARTV, Explora and Documentary ($133 million).

Launch new specialty channels offering programming that private broadcasters are not.

Put Radio Canada International back on shortwave. Rebuild the transmission site in Sackville, N.B., and bring back programming in a dozen languages. (RCI’s “transformation” was projected to save $10 million a year, but rebuilding the transmitter site will cost a lot more.)

Better serve aboriginals. Create new programming on TV and radio in aboriginal languages and reflecting various communities across the country. Offer more local programming so that Mohawks and Inuit aren’t treated like one homogeneous block. Invest in serious improvements to CBC North and new partnerships with services like APTN.

Go digital. Add more digital-only journalists and digital bureaus. Experiment with delivering news and other content by podcasts and YouTube rather than live over the air. Hire nerds to make cbc.ca and radio-canada.ca more interactive, fun, informative and adaptive to new platforms.

Become a service provider. Bring back the costume shop at Maison Radio-Canada, and find ways to offer its resources to other broadcasters and producers and the public at large. Explore setting up similar shops in other markets. Create studios that can be used by independent podcasters or YouTube creators. Offer expertise in broadcasting to small communities, particularly aboriginal ones, to help them get community radio and TV stations on the air. Pool resources with private broadcasters to do together what no one can do alone.

Open up the vault. Increase the resources in archives so more content that’s been locked away can be put online.

Jump back into sports. Rights to pro leagues are locked up forever, so invest more in amateur sports coverage instead: university sports, athletics and winter sports. Put our athletes on TV more than once every four years.

Stay in real estate. Cancel plans to sell off buildings and land. Purchase real estate where space is currently rented.

Give every union member a raise and/or improved benefits. At about 8,000 employees, that works out to $18,750 per employee per year.

Do a little bit of all the above in a way that will barely be noticeable to the audience.

SHUT DOWN THE CBC AND GIVE US OUR TAXES BACK!

Vote below (give up to five answers if you’d like, but remember you have only $150 million a year to work with):

What would you spend $150 million on at CBC/Radio-Canada?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...