Posted in Media

Bell fires Kevin Crull — but that doesn’t solve the problem

Was Bell Media President Kevin Crull misinterpreted by the managers under him? Bell won't say.

Kevin Crull: Bad apple or scapegoat?

The head of Canada’s largest media company is suddenly out of a job. And the press release announcing the departure of Bell Media president Kevin Crull makes it clear the departure is related to Crull’s attempt to interfere in CTV News’s coverage of a recent CRTC decision:

“However, the independence of Bell Media’s news operations is of paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians. There can be no doubt that Bell will always uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news,” said Mr. Cope.

At the same time, Bell announced other executive changes, including the appointment of Mary Ann Turcke to replace Crull as president of Bell Media.

I was highly critical of Crull’s interference in news (particularly because it wasn’t the first time he’d done it), but I don’t know if firing him (or whatever negotiated departure actually took place) is necessarily the right call. I’m willing to take his apology at face value, even if it seems in hindsight as if it might have been forced on him.

What is clear, though, is that this does little to guarantee that such interference in Bell’s news operations won’t repeat in the future. There has been no investigation into whether Crull or other Bell Media executives tried to influence news coverage, and no procedures or independent watchdog in place to protect CTV News, BNN and others from BCE executives in a conflict of interest.

Unless there’s an announcement about that next, it’s hard to be too optimistic that this is a big change. Though it will probably do a lot to reassure journalists working at Bell Media.

Shaw Media also announced executive changes, though not nearly as controversially.

UPDATE: Cue the conspiracy theories — Crull was set up by Bell — and more reasoned analysis: Crull was sacrificed to prevent the CRTC from getting even angrier.

Posted in Radio

The Jewel in Hudson hires Tasso for mid-morning show

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

Paul Zakaib, aka Tasso Patsikakis

The Jewel 106.7 FM in Hudson is running a listener contest to guess who their new on-air personality is. I hate to spoil the fun, but it’s Tasso.

Paul Zakaib, known on air as Tasso Patsikakis and Aaron Rand’s long-time morning show co-host on Q92, will be doing the 10am to noon shift on the easy-listening off-island station starting April 8, according to two independent sources who are in a position to know this but not in a position to publicly confirm it until the contest is over.

After being dumped from the Q’s morning show in 2009, he resurfaced in 2011 to do the afternoon show on ethnic station Mike FM with his friend and colleague Patrick Charles. Charles left the station, and in 2013 Tasso left too.

Zakaib and the station have been in talks for a while now. Some details are still unclear, such as how much of the old Aaron and Tasso morning show shtick Tasso will bring along with him.

Posted in TV

Videotron appoints advisory council for MAtv

Two weeks after the fact, Videotron announced today that it has met the March 15 deadline set by the CRTC in February to set up an advisory committee for community channel MAtv in Montreal. The commission made the requirement in response to a complaint that MAtv was not properly representing the community it serves.

The nine-person committee, which will serve in an advisory capacity but won’t be making the decisions about what goes on air, is composed of members of the arts, business and cultural communities, as well as a member of the English-speaking community, which presumably means we should start seeing English programming on the channel some time soon.

The members are as follows:

  • Fortner Anderson, English-Language ARTS Network (ELAN)
  • Éric Lefebvre, Director of Development, Quartier des spectacles Partnership
  • Annie Billington, Coordinator, Communications and Community Relations, Culture Montréal
  • Martin Frappier, Director of Communications, Chantier de l’économie sociale
  • Marie-Pier Veilleux, Director, Strategic Forums, International Leaders, and Special Projects, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
  • Cathy Wong, President, Conseil des Montréalaises (consultative body on gender equality)
  • Philippe Meilleur, Executive Director, Montreal Native Community Development Centre
  • Aïda Kamar, CEO, Vision Diversité
  • Vanessa Destiné, student, Université de Montréal; regional coordinator, Communautique; volunteer, MAtv
Posted in Uncategorized

Quebec government eliminates all funding to everything but healthcare, says critics want sick people to die

In an unusual but predictable about-face on its budget proposal, the Couillard government says it will now eliminate all funding to everything and putting the entire $100 billion budget into emergency care at hospitals starting April 1, 2016.

Called the “Life First” policy, it states that “it is unconscionable for the government to take any taxpayer money away from saving lives and put it into luxuries like transportation, culture and education.”

The move was quickly criticized by the Parti Québécois as “insane”, but Premier Philippe Couillard had a strong comeback: “How many people must die to satisfy the PQ’s funding promises?”

Details of how other services will be delivered privately are still to be worked out. Roads will be sold to private companies so they can install tolls. The education system will be completely privatized (but still regulated by the government), and members of the National Assembly will work for free, though encouraged to raise their own money through endorsement contracts.

Posted in Uncategorized

CRTC chair confesses his battle with Bell stems from a bad customer service experience he had six years ago

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais has had to answer for decisions that the CRTC hasn't made or positions it hasn't proposed.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

If only a Bell customer service representative had properly dealt with a $17 overbilling in 2009, Bell might had had an easier time in front of the CRTC lately.

In testimony before a Senate committee this morning, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais let it slip that he had a bad experience as a Bell customer, and that if the giant telecom company had done a better job of treating those customers, he might not have taken such an aggressively pro-consumer stance as head of the broadcasting regulator.

“Someone needs to keep those jerks in line,” an angry Blais blurted out at the hearing in Ottawa. At first he tried to downplay his personal experience with the media giant, but senators pressed him on the details. Under oath, he reluctantly described what happened to him.

Blais said he was accidentally charged twice for a Bell Mobility calling plan. He called customer service, and waited on hold “for several hours” before a customer service agent replied. When he pointed out the error, “that asshole tried to make it seem like it was my fault or something.” Blais said he demanded to speak to the agent’s superior, “and he totally gave me the fucking runaround, then put me on with some bitch who LIED TO ME about when I would get my refund.”

The chairman became more agitated as he recounted his story. But he really exploded when one senator, apparently familiar with Bell’s billing process, asked if maybe Blais had been mistaken in thinking he had been charged twice for the same month.

“Who the hell are you?” Blais asked the senator. “I’m the goddamn head of the CRTC! I’m the king of telecom in this country! I know what the hell I’m talking about and I know how to read a goddamn bill! And if I don’t then that’s their fault, isn’t it? I worked in the fucking Department of Finance for the Government of Canada! You think I don’t know how to read a fucking telephone bill?”

The chair of the committee called for a recess, after which Blais apologized for his remarks. “But I’ll never apologize to Bell, those assholes. They get what they deserve.”

Among CRTC policies that have been implemented under Blais is a new consumer rights code that simplifies contracts and bills for wireless telephone services and makes them easier for consumers to understand.

Posted in Uncategorized

Citizens upset at health care cuts propose 24-hour boycott of emergency rooms

It worked so well for protesting gas prices and electricity prices, could it work for healthcare?

That’s what a group of people online are thinking, so they’ve proposed a 24-hour boycott of Quebec hospital emergency rooms on April 15.

“Seeing those ERs completely devoid of people should send a strong message to Gaétan Barrette that the population won’t stand for these drastic, inhumane cuts to our healthcare system,” says the description from the Facebook group.

In order to ensure everyone gets the message, volunteers from the group plan to picket outside ERs on that day to ask those who weren’t already aware of the boycott to decline emergency care for that day.

“It’ll be an inconvenience for sure, but I think once they realize how we’re trying to change the system they’ll quickly be on board,” the group’s founder says.

Those who can’t wait a day will be treated by a volunteer medic experienced in anti-austerity protests, who will administer a mixture of antacid and water to cure most ailments.

Posted in Uncategorized

TSN invents new sport of Canadaball

Trying to find creative ways of filling airtime now that Rogers has won the rights to NHL games, and with only so many new curling tournaments it can create, TSN has put its creative minds to work creating a new summer sport called Canadaball, and a league that it will own and have the exclusive rights to broadcast.

The sport, played indoors 12 months a year, consists of two teams of eight players each trying to get a ball in each other’s net. It’s sort of a cross between hockey, lacrosse and football, “except with the excitement factor turned up to 11,” the press release reads.

Full details of the rules are expected in the coming weeks, and the network says it will go on a national tour to promote the new sport and recruit players. Games should start being played this fall.

Posted in Uncategorized

CBC beta-testing new write-your-own-news application

Faced with budget cuts that are putting increasing strain on news-gathering resources, the CBC has begun experimenting with an innovative solution: Get its audience to write their own news stories, and edit them.

Under the proposed crowdsourced model, people write their own stories about their organization’s community event or some injustice they’ve experienced at the hands of some company, and submit it for peer review. Other users comb through submissions, edit them and vote on their importance. The most popular ones bubble up to the top.

It’s sort of like a combination of Wikipedia and Reddit, said Avril Fürsht, CBC managing editor for new newsgathering technologies. “At the beginning, CBC News journalists will be guiding the process, but eventually we hope to make it entirely self-sustaining.”

The hope is that eventually local CBC News websites would have a mix of professional stories and those submitted by the public. Having the public produce its own community stories will free up what few professional journalists are left to do investigative pieces and enterprise journalism, Fürsht said.

The system allows citizen journalists to posts photos with their submissions, and the plan is to soon allow them to upload video and audio clips as well. And CBC is asking users what they think about a plan to offer $20 per submission for complete packaged TV and radio reports, as a way of “giving back” to the community for the content it offers.

The first stories are already up on the website. You can see an example of a crowdsourced TV report here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Shaw Media to launch all-Simpsons rerun channel this month

Spurred by the CRTC’s recent decision to stop enforcing genre protection or nature-of-service requirements for specialty channels, Shaw Media wasted no time putting a plan in place to quickly capitalize on the newfound freedom. It announced that it will launch an all-Simpsons channel on April 15.

It won’t be all Simpsons, because of the requirement to have 35% Canadian programming. So the hours from 6am to 1pm will be devoted to classic Canadian comedies like Corner Gas.

In a press release filled with Simpsons references, Shaw said it was “totally having a cow” about the new channel, and that it would be “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” It implored people to “choo-choo-choose it” for their cable packages.

The Simpsons Channel will be available at launch on Shaw Cable and Shaw Direct. Other providers haven’t announced plans to carry it yet.

Shaw Media also said they’re planning other single-purpose channels in the coming months, including an all-Seinfeld channel, an all-NCIS channel, and an all-M*A*S*H channel.

Posted in Uncategorized

MTL Blog to launch sister site covering National Assembly

MTL Blog, the ultra-popular viral news site, isn’t just expanding to Toronto, it’s also becoming only the second online-only journalism outlet to open a bureau at the National Assembly in Quebec City.

NatAss Blog, set to launch in a few weeks, will bring MTL Blog’s unique brand of award-winning journalism to Quebec politics. “Our goal is to turn it from boring to scoring,” the site’s press release says. A NatAss correspondent hasn’t been named yet, but “we’re well into the process of selecting” one, it says.

NatAss Blog promises stories not just about what bills are being presented and debated on the hill, but what goes on “behind the scenes” and in the personal lives of lawmakers and others who work there.

I haven’t seen any full stories yet, but some headlines from prewritten stories have been leaked. They include:

  • 10 best NatAss cafeteria menu items
  • 15 MNAs who are crazy about Nutella
  • 5 hottest PQ leadership candidates
  • Lorraine Richard’s 10 best places to eat in Quebec City
  • You won’t guess what the government spent $38,296 on last week
  • The 12 most insane provisions of Bill 193
  • Here’s a picture of a homeless man jerking off on Rue des Parlementaires
  • 20 reasons the Nordiques are totally coming back
  • 17 myths about the CAQ
  • 10 crazy ways to have fun during a budget lockup
  • The changes to the healthcare system that will totally make you facepalm
  • It’s official, Sylvain Rochon is joining the Committee on Citizen Relations
  • 19 political aides who are rumoured to be sleeping with the enemy
Posted in Uncategorized

Radio Classique becomes Radio Classique Hits

Months after news surfaced that CJPX Radio Classique and sister station CJSQ in Quebec City were being sold to Gregory Charles, the new owner just announced that the stations are being rebranded and will move to a francophone classic hits format, abandoning the classical music they’ve been long known for.

The news is bound to anger classical music fans (I see a few of them lashing out already on Twitter), but Charles says the classical music format simply wasn’t profitable because not enough people were listening to it. He said he heard from many people in Montreal and Quebec City who said they wanted to hear more music from the 70s, 80s and 90s on the radio.

There’s no word if the employees of Radio Classique will be kept for the new stations, whose format launches tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized

STM institutes new corpse storage policy to keep trains running after metro suicides

Responding to client frustration at being delayed an hour or more after some depressed person throws himself in front of a speeding metro train to end his life, the STM is testing out a new policy to dramatically cut down on delays caused by such incidents.

Under the old policy, the affected metro line would immediately come to a stop, emergency services personnel would be dispatched to the scene, and they would conduct an investigation while the station was evacuated. The driver would be treated for shock, the body would be carefully and respectfully removed, the area cleaned, and service would resume.

“We found that simply took too long,” the transit agency said in a statement. “So we’re finding ways to innovate and cut down on delays that frustrate users.”

As part of the new policy, once the the freshly deceased corpse will simply be pushed to the side of the track, underneath the platform of the station, to be picked up during overnight cleaning. A sheet would be left over the body so people on the opposing platform don’t gawk, and a surveillance camera would monitor the body to ensure it was not tampered with before police arrive to investigate the scene.

“Our simulations show this method cuts service interruptions down to about 10 minutes,” the STM said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the new system in action.”

Fast, efficient service is the top priority of any transit agency, and it’s nice to see this one is finding a way to deal with all-too-common incidents that cause serious inconveniences for others.

Posted in Uncategorized

Pierre Karl Péladeau names Julie Snyder as trustee of his blind trust

After months of talking about it, Parti Québécois MNA and leadership candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau has put in place the blind trust he has promised to rid him of any conflicts of interest that may come up because of his ownership of Quebecor. And he has appointed Quebec TV star and producer Julie Snyder as its trustee.

“Julie knows the Quebec media industry very well, and we have a great working relationship,” Péladeau explained to the media. “She understands my commitment to keep these assets in Quebec hands and I have no doubt she will be a great manager of my assets.”

Snyder and Péladeau have a history together: He once made a cameo on her game show Le Banquier.

While Snyder has a lot of experience in the media, she’s not a banker. She said she would leave the jobs of managing a large corporation to the people already in place, and she would focus on managing “the media side” including TVA and the Journal de Montréal. And while she will sit on the editorial board of each, she said she has complete confidence in the editorial teams and no one should expect to see major changes now that she’s in charge.

Péladeau is not legally obligated to put his assets in a blind trust unless he becomes a member of cabinet, but he promised to do so anyway if he becomes leader of the opposition.

Posted in Uncategorized

Postmedia to launch Montreal Sun newspaper

With the acquisition of Sun Media approved, my employer Postmedia has already announced plans for expansion of the dead-tree newspaper chain, and is hiring staff to create a Montreal edition of the Toronto/Ottawa/Calgary/Winnipeg/Edmonton Sun.

The tabloid would complement rather than compete against the Montreal Gazette, much like the Sun tabloids and Postmedia broadsheets complement each other. The Gazette would continue to have award-winning serious journalism, while the Sun would have the Sun staples that readers in other major cities have had for years: right-wing columnists, lots of sports, and the Sunshine Girl.

Postmedia says the new paper should launch some time in the fall.

Posted in Uncategorized

Radio-Canada appoints Gérald Tremblay as host of Montreal morning show

Former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay is joining the ranks of former politicians who become media personalities.

It was just announced on air that Tremblay will be the new host of Radio-Canada’s Montreal morning radio show C’est pas trop tôt, starting this fall. Tremblay replaces Marie-France Bazzo, who left the show over a disagreement with management.

Tremblay hasn’t been seen much since he stepped down as mayor on Nov. 5, 2012. But in an interview he expressed an interest in returning to public life.

“I hope to dig deep into the issues and expose the truth about the important problems of our society,” he said. “I’m going to ask the tough questions, and I won’t let anything get by me.”

Other Quebec politicians who jumped into the broadcasting game include former ADQ leader Mario Dumont and former Liberal cabinet minister Nathalie Normandeau.