Postmedia/Torstar deal results in almost 300 jobs lost as dozens of newspapers shut down

It’s been a while since we had news about triple-digit job cuts. Today’s news is that Postmedia (my employer) and Torstar have come to an agreement where they swap dozens of newspapers and shut most of them down.

No cash is being exchanged in the transaction.

Most of the newspapers going either way are Ontario-based community publications, but there are four major-market free dailies affected: Metro Ottawa, Metro Winnipeg, 24 Hours Toronto and 24 Hours Vancouver. All will close.

J-Source reports that Postmedia’s closing of ex-Torstar papers will result in 244 job losses. Torstar’s closing of ex-Postmedia papers will lay off another 46, for a total of 290.

Competition Bureau approval is not required for the transaction, the companies say, so there’s no government regulatory step required for the deal. The bureau did nothing to stop the deal between Postmedia and Quebecor that saw major-market dailies come under the same roof. Nevertheless, the bureau says it will review the deal after the fact.

Unifor has unsurprisingly condemned the shutdown.

As bad as the news is, and as many communities are losing local coverage, the deal won’t be cutting the last local paper out of most communities. Many are community papers covering parts of cities that have a daily, or competed directly with another newspaper being kept. Exceptions are the tiny town of St. Marys, near London, and Meaford, near Owen Sound.

There’s also Barrie and Northumberland, which lose dailies but are still covered by weeklies.

More coverage and reaction from:

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Media News Digest: FPJQ winners, newspaper section shuffles, BNN hires Amanda Lang

News about news

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Tommy Schnurmacher announces retirement from CJAD

Tommy Schnurmacher, host of CJAD’s Gang of Four and a fixture on Montreal’s English-language talk radio scene for decades, announced today he’s hanging up his headphones for good. His last show will be Dec. 13:

Schnurmacher told listeners he will travel more and finish a novel, although he promises to continue to share the opinions that have earned him popularity and created debate: “I may be saying goodbye to daily radio deadlines but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will not be able to keep myself from holding court from time to time whether that’s on-air, off-air or on Twitter”.

(A video of Schnurmacher’s on-air announcement is posted on CJAD’s website.)

CJAD will replace his noon-hour show by moving the Natasha Hall show up to noon and adding a second hour to the nationally broadcast Evan Solomon Show from 2-4pm.

The move comes as Bell Media is in the process of cutting staff across the country (and some of them are billing their departures as retirements). I’m told that Schnurmacher’s leaving of his own accord here.

But it was only a year and a half ago that Schnurmacher said retirement wasn’t on the horizon. “No. I love doing this. I love the work, I don’t foresee retirement any time soon,” he told me in May 2016. In November, he cut down his hours at CJAD, leaving his late-morning show to Leslie Roberts and keeping just the Gang of Four part, which went an hour long at noon. In his on-air announcement, he said he has discovered in the past year that he enjoys travelling even more than he thought, and he wants to do more of it.

Schnurmacher’s final show will be a special broadcast in front of a live audience, with tickets being given out to CJAD listeners.

Media News Digest: Canal+ comes to Canada, Courrier Laval sold, Alexa and Google sign news deals

News about news

  • The Ottawa CItizen’s tradition of putting together a biography of a fallen soldier based on a name tweeted out at random at 11:11am on Remembrance Day continues. Here’s the latest edition.
  • CBC’s ombudsman put out a decision related to a CBC Halifax radio discussion about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ decision to visit the White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup win. A listener complained that more effort should have been made to find balance in their coverage of this, and find more pro-Trump sources. The ombudsman agreed, saying “the coverage was flawed.”
  • Various news organizations are reaching deals with these new smart speakers or assistants or whatever you call them: Google Home and Amazon Echo. Amazon’s Alexa service will carry content from CBC, Global News, CTV, TSN, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post and Montreal Gazette. Google Home has a deal with Postmedia.
  • Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant has pushed his defamation lawsuit against the man behind the @CanadianCynic Twitter account past a preliminary look at whether it’s an abusive suit against public comment. A judge found that Robert Day’s Twitter posts accusing Levant of fraud in a Fort MacMurray fundraiser were not public comment and not protected by the law.
  • Montreal city hall’s new administration is looking for an attaché(e) de presse. The previous media relations person for Montreal’s mayor, Catherine Maurice, previously worked for Projet Montréal before she jumped ship for Coderre’s team.

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CTV Montreal lays off executive producer Barry Wilson, CHOM drops Picard

Updated Nov. 16 with comment from Wilson, and news of other cuts.

Barry Wilson (CTV photo)

Barry Wilson is no longer an employee of Bell Media.

The executive producer of CTV Montreal, who viewers saw once a week during his Postscript opinion segments, has been with the station for decades, but his position has been eliminated, Bell Media confirmed to me today. Staff were told about the dismissal during the day.

“The position was eliminated as a cost-saving measure,” explains Matthew Garrow, director of communications for news and local stations at Bell Media. “Barry’s executive producer responsibilities will be assumed by (news director) Jed Kahane.”

“I worked with some of the best people in the business and am thankful for that,” Wilson told me Thursday after what he described as a “strange week.”

“It’s been a good run. Who knows what the next step is but I am not retired.”

He similarly updated his Twitter bio to say “Thanks to everyone who supported my efforts over the years. Not done yet.”

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Review: Municipal election night on English-language TV

I was busy last Sunday night, helping the Montreal Gazette put together its coverage of the Montreal municipal election. But my PVR recorded the broadcasts of three English-language television stations in the city to see how they covered the evening. Below, I offer some thoughts on how well they did, based primarily on the actual information they provided.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching an election results show, I’m looking for election results. Analysts are great for filling time, but the more data you can show me, the more races you can announce, the better.

So below, you’ll see me focus less on the in-studio analysts, who were all fine, and more on what someone would have actually learned watching the broadcast.

CBC Montreal

11:00-11:30pm (9:45-11:30pm on Facebook)

Anchor: Debra Arbec

In-studio analysts:

  • Reporter Jonathan Montpetit
  • Social media editor Molly Kohli
  • Reporter Sean Henry with results


  • Simon Nakonechny at Plante HQ
  • Ainslie MacLellan at Coderre HQ
  • Sabrina Marandola in Westmount
  • Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire (Facebook broadcast only)
  • Marika Wheeler in Quebec City (Facebook broadcast only)

Reported results — ticker (top three candidates, party, vote count, polls reporting):

  • Montreal mayor
  • All Montreal borough mayors
  • All Montreal city councillors

Reported results — graphic (top 2-4 candidates, party, vote count, lead):

  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Ahuntsic-Cartierville mayor
  • Lachine mayor
  • Sud-Ouest mayor
  • Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension mayor
  • Plateau-Mont-Royal mayor
  • Montreal city council standings (leading, elected, total)
  • Dorval mayor
  • Côte-Saint-Luc mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Westmount mayor

The public broadcaster clearly won in the graphics department, and was the only English-language network with a lower-third ticker with live results. The ticker showed only results from the city of Montreal, but it did not only the city mayor but also borough mayors and all borough councillor races. It took about nine minutes for the top of the ticker to do the rounds of all 64 elected city council seats, so viewers got to see each race about three times.

While CBC was the only station to include Montreal city council results, it failed to include anything off the island of Montreal — no mention of Quebec City, Saguenay, or even Longueuil or Laval.

CBC was also the only one to include a live speech in their broadcast, carrying 10 uninterrupted (and untranslated) minutes of Valérie Plante’s acceptance speech to lead off the half-hour show (which had no commercial interruption).

The broadcast actually started on Facebook, where it went for an hour and 45 minutes, but still didn’t start early enough to get the Plante victory call on live. It did mention the Laval, Longueuil, Quebec City and Sherbrooke races, which didn’t get into the TV broadcast, and had live hits from Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire and Marika Wheeler in Quebec City. And it carried Denis Coderre’s speech in full. My review here is based mainly on the television broadcast, but I’m adding this for the record.

For an election night broadcast with so many races to deal with, there was a lot of time devoted to analysis. And as much as I like listening to the soothing voice of Jonathan Montpetit, I didn’t learn much from him and Arbec repeating stuff that happened during the campaign, promises that were made and stuff that the candidates said in their speeches. Fortunately, they still managed to get a bunch of results into the broadcast, both on Facebook and TV.

Overall score: B+

CTV Montreal


Anchor: Tarah Schwartz

In-studio analyst:

  • Former Westmount mayor Peter Trent


  • Cindy Sherwin at Plante HQ
  • Rob Lurie at Coderre HQ
  • Kelly Greig in Westmount (also reporting on Côte-St-Luc race)

Reported results (winner only unless otherwise noted):

  • Montreal mayor (with popular vote of top two)
  • Laval mayor
  • Westmount mayor
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Montreal city council makeup by party
  • Beaconsfield mayor
  • Brossard mayor
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Quebec City mayor
  • Dorval mayor
  • Longueuil mayor

CTV Montreal is the market leader. It has the most journalists, the largest audience, the most history. So it should be expected that they would slay election night coverage.

Which makes it all the more disappointing how little actual data was provided to viewers. Not only was there no ticker, but the individual race graphics didn’t even provide vote totals or party names. Instead, they just had names and photos and a checkmark next to the winner.

Only for the Montreal mayor’s race was any vote total given in an on-screen graphic. For the rest, well you’ll just have to guess.

This is the reason people tune in to election night broadcasts, and CTV’s viewers were left horribly underserved when it came to actual data.

It was the shortest of the three broadcasts, since it had four commercial breaks, and the last to start at 11:30pm. And CTV didn’t even think it was worth bringing in one of the two main anchors on a weekend shift, leaving the duties to regular weekend anchor Tarah Schwartz.

It had the fewest live reporters, which is surprising, and just about everything about this seemed like it was phoned in.

Still, CTV’s prestige meant it got the first live interview with the mayor-elect, right at the beginning at 11:30. And its reporters were more experienced and seemed to provide more useful information.

But overall, it should be embarrassing for CTV how poorly it did compared to its competitors.

Overall score: C-

Global Montreal


Anchor: Jamie Orchard

In-studio analysts:

  • Montreal Gazette columnist Celine Cooper
  • Former city councillor Karim Boulos


  • Amanda Jelowicki at Plante HQ
  • Tim Sargeant at Coderre HQ (also reporting on Pointe-Claire and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor’s races)
  • Elysia Bryan-Baynes in Westmount
  • Felicia Parillo in Côte-St-Luc

Reported results (vote totals for top 2-4 candidates, percentage of vote for each, percentage of polls reporting, and indication of incumbent):

  • Montreal mayor (x4)
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor (x2)
  • Pierrefonds-Roxboro mayor (x2)
  • Westmount mayor (x5)
  • Beaconsfield mayor (x2)
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor (x2)
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor (x4)
  • Dorval mayor (x2)
  • Pointe-Claire mayor (x2)
  • Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor
  • Senneville mayor (x2)
  • Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor (x2)
  • Montreal-West mayor (x2)
  • Brossard mayor (x2)
  • Longueuil mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lambert mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lazare mayor
  • Laval mayor
  • Anjou mayor

There are always two ways to judge Global Montreal when compared to its competitors: judge the quality alone, as a viewer probably would, or judge how well Global did with its limited resources.

By either measure, the station did well on this night. It extended its TV broadcast to a full hour, had informative graphics, and updated results through the night, though like its competitors it focused a lot on the island of Montreal and areas immediately adjacent.

The graphics weren’t as flashy as CBC, and there was no ticker, but you got vote totals, percentages, and an indication of who the incumbent was and the amount of polls reporting. Just missing the party affiliations.

Global also conducted an interview with Plante (just after CTV’s), and made good use of analysts and reporters.

They get extra points for being the longest broadcast, having a special “Decision 2017” opening theme, and putting in the extra effort. But it would have been nice for the only station that still has transmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke to actually mention the mayor’s races in those cities. I know it’s not Global Quebec anymore, but I’m sure viewers there would have appreciated it.

Overall score: B+

City Montreal

No election night special. We’ll see if that changes when they start having local newscast next year. They have four years to prepare for the next municipal election (and one year to prepare for the next provincial one).

Overall score: F

Some thoughts about the municipal election

Coderre’s party switchers all lost

The day before voting day I said I’d be watching races involving people who switched parties since the last election. Of the 11 who switched to Coderre’s party (most from Projet but others from borough parties), all 11 lost their bid for re-election, either as a councillor or trying to upgrade to borough mayor:

  • Richard Bergeron (Ville-Marie councillor) from Projet to Coderre
  • Michelle Di Genova Zammit (Anjou borough councillor) from Équipe Anjou to Coderre
  • Éric Dugas (Ste-Geneviève borough councillor) from Équipe Richard Bélanger to Coderre
  • Marc-André Gadoury (Rosemont city councillor) from Projet to Coderre
  • Érika Duchesne (Rosemont city councillor) from Projet to Coderre (now running in Villeray)
  • Jean-François Cloutier (Lachine city councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Coderre
  • Lorraine Pagé (Ahuntsic city councillor) from Vrai changement to Coderre
  • Russell Copeman (CDN-NDG borough mayor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Réal Ménard (Mercier mayor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Kymberley Simonyik (Lachine borough councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Coderre
  • Elsie Lefebvre (Villeray city councillor) from Coalition to Coderre

Those who switched to Projet and were running again were all re-elected.

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Media News Digest: Classic CanCon on YouTube, Moose Jaw paper to close, Transcon sells 21 more papers

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Transcontinental sells 21 more Quebec community papers

The process by which Transcontinental is selling off its remaining community newspapers in Quebec (and Cornwall, Ont.) took its biggest step on Wednesday with the announcement that Icimédias Inc., led by Renel Bouchard, with Marc-Noël Ouellette, will buy 21 community papers and its website and take over 140 employees plus another 28 from TC’s production operations.

Bouchard had been an owner of Le Canada Français, a newspaper that’s part of the transaction, and Ouellette was a TC manager for 15 years.

The newspapers involved in the transaction, whose price was not disclosed but also involves an agreement for TC to print the newspapers, are:

  • Le Canada Français and Le Richelieu (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu)
  • Coup d’œil (Napierville)
  • L’Avenir et des Rivières (Farnham)
  • Le Guide (Cowansville)
  • Granby Express (Granby)
  • La Nouvelle union and La Nouvelle union week-end (Victoriaville)
  • L’Avenir de l’Érable (Plessisville)
  • La Voix du Sud (Lac-Etchemin)
  • Beauce Média (Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce)
  • L’Éclaireur Progrès and Hebdo Régional (Saint-Georges-de-Beauce)
  • Le Reflet du Lac (Magog)
  • Le Progrès de Coaticook (Coaticook)
  • L’Hebdo Journal (Trois-Rivières)
  • Le Courrier Sud (Nicolet)
  • L’Hebdo du Saint-Maurice (Shawinigan)
  • L’Écho La Tuque/Haut-St-Maurice (La Tuque)
  • L’Écho de Maskinongé (Maskinongé)
  • Courrier Frontenac (Thetford Mines)

Transcontinental has now sold more than half of the 93 publications it put up for sale in April, all to small local owners, through 10 transactions.

But as the months progress, the chances of remaining newspapers being sold diminishes. That includes titles in various Montreal neighbourhoods, Courrier Laval, and papers in the Outaouais and Abitibi regions.

The Canadian Press had a story recently about the Transcon sales and what local owners are hoping to do to revitalize the papers.

More coverage in Le Devoir and Le Canada français.

Municipal election races I’ll be watching on Sunday

It’s election day tomorrow. That’s always fun for a newsroom. All hands on deck, breathlessly following the results well into the night, coordinating stories from dozens of journalists, not knowing what the big headline will be at the end. Free dinner, and often drinks among colleagues afterwards.

I’ll be among many in the Montreal Gazette newsroom during the evening, handling two or three stories about individual races or a collection of them. But whenever I have a free second I’ll be following the results from across Quebec.

For most of the province’s municipalities, the results won’t be surprising. Incumbent mayors and city councillors are running again and will be easily re-elected. In some cases they’ve already won by acclamation, like every position in tiny Île-Dorval, or the mayors of Kirkland, Mount Royal and Hampstead, or the city council in Senneville.

Though they are facing opposition, the mayor’s races in cities like Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Gatineau and Trois-Rivières should easily go to the incumbents.

But other races, including mayor of Montreal, are going down to the wire. Here are the ones that will get my attention tomorrow:

Mayor of Montreal: Denis Coderre vs. Valérie Plante

The big one. The headline one. The one all the media has hyper-focused on. I don’t need to go over this campaign because if you haven’t heard about it you must really not care. Coderre, the authoritarian but well-meaning incumbent, trying to get a second term leading an experienced team. Plante, the cheerful and energetic challenger, hoping to succeed where her predecessor Richard Bergeron failed.

The polls have them neck and neck, but those numbers need to be taken with a big grain of salt. Coderre has the advantages of name recognition, on-the-ground political experience, an improving economy and residual resistance to some of Projet Montréal’s more radical platform points. Plante is the candidate of change, faces fewer major opponents than there were four years ago, and has run a virtually flawless campaign, rallying those Coderre has alienated, from dog lovers to those opposed to big government spending on art projects and sports venues.

Turnout will probably be the big difference, and advance polling has shown about the same level as four years ago. That makes a Coderre win more likely, though expect Projet Montréal to make gains on city council.

Projet’s potential borough control gains: Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Verdun, Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension

These four boroughs all have a mayor and a majority of the borough council with Coderre’s party, but one or more Projet Montréal councillors. Assuming the Plateau, Rosemont and Sud-Ouest boroughs are safe for the party, these would be the next likely pickups. Ahuntsic’s mayor’s race is between Coderre’s Harout Chitilian, former council speaker and Coderre’s pick to lead his executive committee, versus Projet councillor Émilie Thuillier. Mercier and Verdun are one seat away from switching majorities, and Villeray is next travelling up the leftist axis of St-Laurent Blvd.

The party switchers

It’s pretty crazy how many of Montreal’s 103 elected officials have switched parties since 2013. More than one in 10 candidates are incumbents running for a different party than they won for four years ago. As Vrai changement pour Montréal stumbled forward after the departure of founder Mélanie Joly, Coalition Montréal disintegrated following its loss and the death of its leader Marcel Côté, and some borough parties have lost their popularity, many have jumped ship for the safer confines of Projet Montréal and particularly Coderre’s party:

  • Benoit Dorais (Sud-Ouest mayor) from Coalition leader to Projet
  • Richard Bergeron (Ville-Marie councillor) from Projet to Coderre
  • Michelle Di Genova Zammit (Anjou borough councillor) from Équipe Anjou to Coderre
  • Éric Dugas (Ste-Geneviève borough councillor) from Équipe Richard Bélanger to Coderre
  • Marc-André Gadoury (Rosemont city councillor) from Projet to Coderre
  • Érika Duchesne (Rosemont city councillor) from Projet to Coderre (now running in Villeray)
  • Jean-François Cloutier (Lachine city councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Coderre
  • Lorraine Pagé (Ahuntsic city councillor) from Vrai changement to Coderre
  • Russell Copeman (CDN-NDG borough mayor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Maja Vodanovic (Lachine city councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Projet
  • Réal Ménard (Mercier mayor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Kymberley Simonyik (Lachine borough councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Coderre
  • Elsie Lefebvre (Villeray city councillor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Normand Marinacci (Île-Bizard mayor) from Vrai changement to Projet
  • Christian Larocque (Île-Bizard borough councillor) from Vrai changement to Projet
  • Jean-Dominic Lévesque-René (Île-Bizard borough councillor) from Vrai changement to Projet (not running again)
  • Gilles Beaudry (Anjou borough councillor) from Équipe Anjou to independent (running as independent)

The borough parties: Anjou, Lachine, LaSalle

Let’s not forget that before 2002, many of what are now Montreal’s boroughs were their own municipalities, and despite failing to meet the 2006 demerger criteria, they still have a strong connection to their local officials and long memories. Amid the corruption fiasco in 2013, several boroughs presented independent borough-level parties led by incumbent officials. Anjou and Lachine swept the table with their borough parties, and LaSalle and Outremont took borough mayors and majorities on their borough councils.

Four years later, Anjou and Lachine borough parties lost councillors to party switches, but are still in the game. As is LaSalle’s, which has all but one seat. Will voters in those boroughs stick with their local teams? Anjou’s and LaSalle’s are still pretty strong, but Lachine is anyone’s game.

Outremont: The shit show

Elected in 2013 as a split between the borough-level Équipe conservons Outremont (which held the mayor and two borough council seats), Projet borough councillor Mindy Pollak and independent Céline Forget, the borough council descended into chaos, being regularly mocked on Infoman. Within a year and a bit, the two ECO borough councillors left the party, one borough councillor resigned, and the council was split 2 vs 2 on just about everything, becoming entirely dysfunctional.

Borough mayor Marie Cinq-Mars isn’t running again, and the party doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, there’s a full slate of independent candidates, including two incumbent borough councillors. Will a new team bring some calm to the council, or will the petty political shenanigans continue?

Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce: Still room for independents?

Of the six seats on this borough council, there are three parties and an independent. It’s the only borough where Coalition Montréal is running a complete slate, and the only one with a Coalition incumbent — Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand.

The mayor’s race is between incumbent Russell Copeman, a former Liberal MNA with lots of name recognition and personal popularity, who defected from Coalition to join Coderre’s team, against Projet’s Sue Montgomery, a former Montreal Gazette justice reporter who failed to get the NDP nomination in NDG-Westmount for the last federal election. Are the borough’s Projet-friendly demographics going to be enough to counter Copeman’s popularity?

I don’t hold much hope for Coalition Montréal generally, but Rotrand is a survivor, known for being a hard worker for his constituents, and is running against two unknowns. Expect him to get re-elected, but his caucus meetings to be very lonely.

And then there’s Jeremy Searle. He ran as an independent for the Loyola seat in 2013 and won with 23% of the vote in a seven-candidate field. He then proceeded to make himself a complete embarrassment, failing to show up to meetings, making inappropriate comments and blaming an alcohol problem for his behaviour. Rather than get help, he’s up for re-election, with posters across the district. You might think there’s no way he gets re-elected, but this is the most contested race in the city (besides mayor) with six candidates — Coderre, Projet, Coalition and three independents. That could be enough for him to squeak through.

L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève: The old boss vs. the older boss

This borough had a borough-level party in 2013, Équipe Richard Bélanger, which held all the seats, but it was beat by a de facto borough-level party led by Normand Marinacci, a former mayor of an independent Île-Bizard. He took the mayor’s race and all but one of the council seats for Vrai changement, which became that party’s only borough mayor and borough majority. That had a lot more to do with the candidates than the party.

Since then, Marinacci and two councillors have jumped to Projet. Éric Dugas, the sole remnant of the Bélanger party, joined Coderre, and Stéphane Côté is Vrai changement’s only incumbent. Dugas and Côté are both running for mayor against Marinacci. Bélanger himself is running for Coderre as a councillor, as is Diane Gibb, a former Bélanger councillor.

Will this borough stick with Marinacci and vote Projet, will they switch back to the Bélanger/Dugas side and vote Coderre, or will they stay with Vrai changement even though its leader is long gone and its incumbents have switched parties?

Pierrefonds-Roxboro: Vrai changement’s last stand

The other West Island borough is also the only other place with a significant presence for Vrai changement. Rather than try for city mayor, party leader Justine McIntyre is running for borough mayor here against Coderre incumbent Dimitrios Jim Beis. Will an increased split of the vote between Coderre and Projet help McIntyre come up the middle, or will her party finally be wiped out here like it almost was in Île-Bizard?

Plateau Mont-Royal

Just kidding. Congratulations on your re-election, Luc.


The fewest names on the ballot, with only three city councillors and no borough mayor, but each of the three races is noteworthy:

  • Peter-McGill: Incumbent Steve Shanahan has Vrai changement’s only seat outside the West Island. Can he hold on? Coderre has star Cathy Wong on his team here, and the Coalition candidate is Jean Fortier, who has abandoned his run for mayor (though he’s still on the ballot).
  • Saint-Jacques: Former Projet leader Richard Bergeron won this easily four years ago, but now he’s on Coderre’s team running against the party he founded for the first time. Do the voters support Mr. Tramway or the Pink Line Party?
  • Sainte-Marie: This is the seat Valérie Plante will take if she’s not elected mayor. But Coderre has former councillor Pierre Mainville running here (Mainville had the privilege of being at different times a member of Vision Montreal, Coalition Montreal, Projet Montréal and Coderre’s team).

Côte-Saint-Luc: Brownstein vs. Libman

I honestly couldn’t tell you the political differences between these two guys. Their arguments, beyond personal insults and Brownstein’s attempt to tie Libman to a conflict of interest, seem to be about who can more strongly push for the Cavendish extension project to finally get done while also ensuring it’s a convenience to CSL residents and nobody else. Expect Brownstein to ride his incumbency to victory, but it won’t be easy.

Westmount: Smith vs. Wajsman

Peter Trent has stepped down, which opens up this race. His replacement, Christina Smith, has the incumbency advantage, but is facing competition from Beryl Wajsman, editor of The Suburban. Amazingly, Wajsman is allowed to remain editor of The Suburban during the campaign, and has even said he wants to keep the job after he’s elected. The Suburban’s solution to this obvious conflict of interest has been to simply not cover the Westmount election at all.

Will Smith prevail with Trent’s blessing? Or will Wajsman be forced to choose between media and politics? And regardless of who wins, how does The Suburban regain any credibility in covering Westmount?

Pointe-Claire: Time for the runner-up?

Mayor Morris Trudeau isn’t running again. Instead, we have the man he narrowly beat, John Belvedere, against three other candidates, including city councillor Aldo Iermieri. Who has the advantage here?

Senneville: McLeish again?

Jane Guest isn’t running for re-election as Senneville mayor, so instead we have a three-way race. The front-runner surely has to be former Senneville mayor George McLeish, 74. But his opponents are both two-term sitting councillors: Julie Brisebois and Charles Mickie. Will long memories prevail in this quiet town?

Montréal-Est: Two-way races

Incumbent Robert Coutu is running again with a full team, but his opponent is Jonathan Dauphinais-Fortin, and his Équipe du citoyen has two incumbent city councillors on board. Will their complaints about wasteful spending lead to a movement for change?

Longueuil: Three options

Caroline St-Hilaire isn’t running again, so there’s an opening for city mayor. And three parties are contesting every seat here: Action Longueuil, St-Hilaire’s party, now led by city councillor Sylvie Parent; Longueuil citoyen, led by city councillor Josée Latendresse; and Option Longueuil, led by Sadia Groguhé, which has picked up the Option Greenfield Park incumbents. All three have incumbent city councillors on their teams and have a shot in a city where demerger sentiment was high and borough independence is still an issue.

Laval: Partypalooza

Incumbent mayor Marc Demers has the advantage, especially in a large field of six challengers , but there are four parties with full slates — Action Laval, Avenir Laval, Parti Laval and Mouvement Lavallois — plus an association of independent candidates. Action’s Jean Claude Gobé, who came in second in 2013, is running again. The makeup of council could be far more split than in the past.

Hudson: Councillor Duff?

Ed Prévost decided not to run again, and died less than a month before the vote. Three candidates are vying to replace him — Joseph H. Eletr, William Nash and Jamie Nicholls, none of whom lead official parties. But my eye will be on the Heights East district race, which features former print and radio personality Jim Duff.



Three candidates are vying for mayor of the small town that put itself on the map in the most tragic ways in 2013. This will be its first regular election since the disaster. Colette Roy-Laroche is long gone and incumbent Jean-Guy Cloutier isn’t running again, so the field is wide open.

Saguenay: Néron vs. Blackburn

With foot-swallowing populist mayor Jean Tremblay stepping down, four candidates are vying to replace him, two of whom have parties behind them. The race seems to be between councillor Josée Néron of Équipe du renouveau démocratique, the only party that dates back to 2013, and independent Jean-Pierre Blackburn, a former federal minister under the Harper government (who until recently led the other party but left it at the last minute). A poll before the race put them neck and neck, but with a lot of undecideds. Néron’s party had a long runway to get going, but had to deal with the scandal of a candidate having an arson conviction.

Any others I should be looking at?

Media News Digest: Fantastiques sans Eric, magazine awards reunited, Aly Lozoff in Vegas

News about news

  • The Suburban held its election “debates”, which consisted of candidates writing answers to the same question, including Beryl Wajsman, who is a candidate for mayor of Westmount and editor of the newspaper. The issue with the answers includes a note from the publisher explaining that “Mr. Wajsman did not know the questions and agreed to have his answers recorded before any of the other candidates arrived, and has had no hand in any Westmount stories since May.” Christine Smith, the interim mayor who’s running against Wajsman, declined to participate because of Wajsman’s conflict.
  • The Montreal Gazette and La Presse collaborated on an investigation into Montreal city contracts. The collaboration is interesting if only because it means the articles need to be translated between French and English.
  • For those looking for live TV coverage of Sunday’s municipal elections, the pickings will be a bit slim. RDI and LCN will have live coverage throughout the night, and most media will have online coverage, but the local stations will have mostly regular programming during the evening. Global Montreal will extend its 11pm newscast to an hour for an election night special, while CTV and CBC will incorporate election results into its regular broadcasts, according to their TV schedules. CBC News Network and CTV News Channel don’t appear to have any plans for special programming.
  • Le Devoir looks at the new charter created by the Association de presse francophone, representing French-language media in English Canada.

At the CRTC

  • Quebec City radio station CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) has succeeded in getting its licence renewed by the CRTC despite coming short on its requirement for French-language music. Rather than issue a short-term renewal, it has de facto fined the station $920. And once again, the station has been shot down in its request to cut its conditions of licence requiring it to serve the Portneuf region. When it was first approved in 1995, the station was sold to the CRTC as being a local service to Portneuf. Its current owner RNC Media has repeatedly tried to eliminate the requirements to have a studio in Donnacona and 14 hours a week of programming for the region. The CRTC found there was insufficient evidence put forward that such a change was necessary to the station’s financial survival and that the change would be bad for people in the Portneuf region who have no other local station.
  • The commission has denied a request from Vancouver radio station CHLG-FM (LG 104.3) to amend its licence to eliminate the requirement that 15% of its music be special interest. The CRTC found there as no compelling economic reason to approve the change. CHLG-FM is owned by Newcap, purchased out of the Bell-Astral deal.




News about people


Upcoming events

Media News Digest: Inaccessible information, FPJQ finalists, and an interview with Bell’s Randy Lennox

News about news

Yet more Weinstein fallout

At the CRTC

  • The CRTC is holding a hearing Jan. 11 at which it will consider measures related to two radio stations with severe compliance issues: CFOR-FM Maniwaki and CKFG-FM Toronto. Both are accused of failing to meet a series of licence conditions and regulatory requirements, and could face sanctions as high as losing their licences.
  • The notice for the same hearing includes details on the Bell acquisition of four FM stations in Ontario from Larche Communications. The deal is worth $15.64 million.
  • Finally, three applications for new radio stations, all Christian music stations by different owners: Sydney, N.S., Regina, and Kelowna/Kamloops, B.C. Deadline for comments on all three of these is Nov. 24.
  • The coming review of mandatory distribution orders has all the applicants pushing for public support. AMI, APTN, Canal MTV5 and the Weather Network have put up websites asking for people to write letters of support to the CRTC. (TWN even has a video to guide people through the process.)
  • The commission is giving Cogeco an extension until March 31 to implement changes to its customer service contract required by the new TV service provider code that went into effect on Sept. 1. Cogeco said an “internal structuring project” was delayed, which meant it couldn’t meet the deadline.





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How a simple change to NAFTA could dramatically change how Canadians view television

One of the consequences of Donald Trump becoming president of the United States is that now Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are meeting to discuss amendments to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has threatened to pull out of entirely if he doesn’t get his way.

Canada has made clear that it plans to keep cultural exceptions to the free trade agreement, allowing it to continue to protect its cultural institutions from its much larger neighbour. So it might be tempting to think there won’t be any change here.

But there is one change being proposed that could make a huge difference to the Canadian television industry, and its one that proponents on both sides of the border would argue strengthens rather than weakens cultural protection.

It’s called retransmission consent.

CUSFTA, NAFTA and copyright law

When it comes to broadcasting law, NAFTA defers to the earlier Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, whose text is posted online in a PDF. Article 2006 of the CUSFTA lays out requirements and exceptions to copyright law when it comes to retransmission of distant television signals. Under its rules, each country must prohibit non-simultaneous retransmission, or altered retransmission, of signals that aren’t meant for over-the-air broadcast, without the consent of the copyright owner.

But the rules intentionally leave a big hole for simultaneous transmission of over-the-air stations without that consent. As a result, Canadian television distributors can distribute U.S. over-the-air stations (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and PBS) without those stations’ consent or compensation to them, following only the rules set by the CRTC.

This exception to copyright law dates back to the early days of cable TV, when providers picked up the cross-border stations over the air and distributed them to their customers. The rules have been codified since then (generally, providers can distribute two sets of what are called 4+1 stations — PBS is the +1 — and choose to take a group of Eastern time zone stations and a group in the Western time zone) but the essence remains in place to this day, enshrined as section 31 of the Copyright Act.

Some people want to change that, on both sides of the border.

Cross-border unity

On the Canadian side is Bell, which owns CTV stations. Appearing before a parliamentary committee hearing on Sept. 20, Rob Malcolmson, Senior Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs, suggested eliminating section 31 of the Copyright Act entirely, which would mean television providers would need to negotiate carriage of distant signals both Canadian and American. CTV and CTV Two stations being carried outside their markets would get some compensation as a result. (Current copyright law requires TV providers distributing distant stations to compensate rights holders, both Canadian and American, through a fund that taxes them at about $1 per subscriber per month, but that compensates the creators of the programming, not the stations broadcasting them, and it’s not optional.)

Requiring retransmission consent would change a lot for U.S. border stations. Giving them negotiation power would mean they too could get compensated, and just as important, they could set conditions on carriage, which could include things like blackouts for programs they don’t have the Canadian rights to. A content provider (like, say, the NFL) could make this a condition for being broadcast on border stations, and those border stations could make it a requirement for being rebroadcast in Canada.

Or the U.S. stations could simply decide not to be carried in Canada. And that’s exactly what some of them want.

Some U.S. border stations carried in Canada have formed the U.S. TV Coalition, a group that has been actively lobbying the Canadian government to change its laws so those stations have bargaining power or can take themselves out of Canada entirely. Its members include WXYZ-TV and WDIV-TV in Detroit, WIVB-TV and WNLO-TV in Buffalo, and KSTP-TV in Minneapolis.

KSTP in 2015 tried to ask the CRTC to remove its station from the list of those authorized for rebroadcast in Canada. The CRTC refused, saying their consent isn’t needed.

Making simsub moot

So what would happen if this simple but substantial change went through? It’s hard to say exactly, because the Canadian television system has been so reliant on the current scheme. But here are some things that could happen.

First, some U.S. stations could refuse to be carried in Canada, either because they don’t want to deal with getting Canadian rights to programming or because they don’t think they’re being compensated enough. Canadian TV providers would probably find others that would be game for replacing them, since for many U.S. markets (like Burlington/Plattsburgh or Buffalo), the Canadian market is a big source of their audience.

Then, U.S. rights-holders, probably starting with major sports leagues, could start demanding that signals be blacked out in Canada during their programming to protect the rights of their Canadian broadcast partners. The U.S. stations, which now have bargaining power, could impose this requirement on cable companies carrying their stations.

As new carriage agreements are signed with U.S. stations, they could demand direct fees for carriage (which would undoubtedly depend on whether their programming is subject to blackouts). Those fees would be passed on to the consumer, and the days of TV providers including U.S. stations for free in basic cable packages would be gone.

This doesn’t get much attention in Canada, but as points out, there are also U.S. border communities where Canadian stations are carried on cable TV. Canadian stations could start making similar demands of U.S. cable providers.

If blackouts take hold during primetime series and sporting events, Canada’s simultaneous substitution system becomes moot. (Though an alternative would be to expand simsub so Canadian ads are seen on U.S. stations regardless of when the program airs or where.) If simsub is no longer a major factor in Canadian TV stations’ revenue, they suddenly get a lot more programming flexibility. Rather than CTV, CTV Two, Global and City building their schedules around having as many simultaneously broadcast U.S. network shows as possible, they could schedule their shows whenever they want.

Original Canadian series would no longer get bounced around the schedule. Programs that follow live sports (like NFL games) would no longer have to be delayed so they sync up with the U.S. network’s delay. Sports programming carried on U.S. network stations (particularly NFL games) could be moved to TSN or Sportsnet so local stations could continue to carry local news. Conversely, Canadian sports like the CFL’s Grey Cup could be moved to local stations because the Canadian over-the-air networks would no longer be reserved for simsubbable programming.

It could be a seismic shift in how English Canadians watch television, giving a lot more power and flexibility to Canadian TV networks.

Don’t hold your breath

Or maybe it won’t. Neither government has indicated it wants to press this as an issue, and though the U.S. TV coalition is pushing it, there isn’t much public support.

The reality is that Canadians like being able to watch ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS, and any move that would risk taking those channels away (or subjecting them to blackouts) would be deeply unpopular, no matter how much it might benefit the Canadian system. And it’s not like Canadians are desperate to make the lives and bottom lines of Bell, Corus and Rogers any better.

So this is more of an academic exercise than anything else. Realistically, the system will mostly stay the same until the point where Internet-based video consumption takes over from regulated TV distribution as the main source for popular video content. And the Internet has a separate scheme for ensuring that video doesn’t cross the border when a producer or broadcaster wants to protect their rights.

Media News Digest: Salvail in trouble, CRTC to review must-carry orders, Mohawk Girls prepares final season

News about news

Harvey Weinstein fallout

I won’t begin to try to compile all the news reports, opinion pieces, hot takes and takedowns that came out of the Harvey Weinstein case (except the head of Amazon Studios being sacked for similar reasons), but I will point out a couple of things locally:

At the CRTC

  • The commission has begun its public hearing on the renewal of cable companies’ licences. The oral portion of the hearing focuses on three topics: how they’re dealing with new channel packaging rules, how they’re working toward a system to use set-top box data for ratings purposes, and how they’re supporting their community TV services. The latter part is getting a lot of attention as groups complain about community TV channels owned by cable companies. Transcripts of the hearing, which concludes Thursday, can be found here.
  • The CRTC has announced a hearing April 30, 2018, to discuss the renewals of most mandatory distribution orders, which require all TV subscribers to have certain channels in their basic service. Most services are requesting the status quo, but three are seeking increases to their per-subscriber wholesale rate: CPAC, from $0.12 to $0.13 a month, APTN from $0.31 to $0.36 a month, and audio service Canal M from $0.02 to $0.04 a month. APTN is also requesting a reduction in its CanCon quota from 75% to 70%. Other services requesting renewal are AMI, The Weather Network/MétéoMédia, TV5/Unis, and the Nunavut and NWT legislatures (whose distribution comes with no wholesale fee). Others, such as CBC NN, RDI, TVA and OMNI, will have theirs reviewed at a later date. In all, mandatory services would represent $1.63 in French-language markets (slightly less in English-language ones) if all the increases are approved, which in a world of $25 a month basic cable makes a big difference to distributors’ bottom lines.
  • The CRTC has published two complaints against OMNI over its decision to outsource the production of its Cantonese and Mandarin daily newscasts to Fairchild, which owns Canada’s Chinese-language TV channels. The main complaint by the Unifor union says that OMNI’s licence clearly says OMNI must “produce” the newscasts in question. Comments on the complaints are due Nov. 16.
  • The commission is suspending a proceeding involving a dispute between EBox and Bell Media while it determines how much of the information provided by Bell should be part of the public record.





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Corus agrees to sell Séries+ and Historia to Bell Media for $200 million

Bell Media, Canada’s largest television broadcaster, is getting even bigger by acquiring two French-language services from its closest English-language competitor.

Bell and Corus Entertainment announced Tuesday that they have a deal whereby Bell acquires Séries+ and Historia for a price Corus values at about $200 million, subject to closing costs.

The deal requires approval by the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

That could be difficult, because of the history of the two services. The two were launched in 2000 as a joint venture between Astral Media and Alliance Atlantis. Alliance was then bought by Canwest, then Canwest’s television assets were bought by Shaw. Astral held on to its half of the ownership stake until it was bought by Bell in 2013. As part of its (second) proposal for the acquisition, Bell and Shaw each agreed to sell their half of Séries+ and Historia to Corus.

Now Bell wants to buy it all back. And at a discount, too. When Corus bought them in 2013, each half was valued at about $140 million, for a total price of $280 million. This transaction would be a savings of 29%. PBIT earnings for Historia and Séries+ were $29,881,221 in 2013 and $21,427,553, or a 28% decrease. The change was due mainly to a sudden surge in Séries+’s programming expenses in 2015-16 and a slow decline in ad revenue for both channels.

Corus is selling primarily to cut down its debt, as it says in its statement, but also because the channels are “not core to advancing Corus’s strategic priorities at this time.” The main reason for that is language. Other than these channels, Corus’s only French-language assets are the bilingual channels Teletoon and Disney.

“In the 18 months since Corus acquired Shaw Media, we have demonstrated a resolute commitment to de-lever our balance sheet to 3.5 times net debt to segment profit by the end of fiscal 2017 and 3.0 times by the end of fiscal 2018,” said Doug Murphy, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We have successfully accomplished the first step in our journey through the disciplined execution of our integration plan and ongoing advancement of our strategic priorities in fiscal 2017.  As we reviewed our portfolio of assets this year, we determined that while Historia and Séries+ are excellent channels, they are not core to advancing Corus’ strategic priorities at this time. Furthermore, the increased financial flexibility this transaction provides will enable Corus to accelerate our transformation into an industry-leading integrated media and content company.

Corus was embroiled in controversy recently after news came out that Séries+ and Historia would no longer be commissioning original series. It’s unclear if that decision was made in anticipation of this announcement (La Presse first reported on Corus negotiating this deal back in May 2016). Corus remains in control of the channels until the deal is closed, which Bell predicts will happen in mid-2018.

From Bell’s statement:

“The addition of Séries+ and Historia perfectly complements our broad slate of French-language channels, further enhancing our competitiveness in the vibrant Québec media landscape,” said Randy Lennox, President, Bell Media. “We look forward to taking Séries+ and Historia further than ever before, reinforcing our commitment to invest and grow in Québec, and deliver even more opportunities for francophone viewers, producers, and advertisers.”

“Bell Media has had a proven track record of investing in original French-language production, commissioning over 530 original productions from more than 70 francophone producers, and representing nearly 2,700 hours of new programming,” said Gerry Frappier, Bell Media’s President, French-language TV and RDS. “Now with the addition of Séries+ and Historia, we look forward to bolstering our commitment to both francophone viewers and the Québec television production community even more.”

The CRTC’s common ownership policy says generally that deals where a company gets control of more than 35% of the viewing share will be reviewed to determine if it’s in the public interest, and anything higher than 45% would generally be denied. According to the CRTC’s latest Communications Monitoring Report, Bell’s English-language services represent about 37% of viewing hours outside Quebec’s francophone market, and 21% in the Quebec francophone market. Corus’s French-language services (which also include Teletoon) represent only 0.4% of Quebec francophone viewing share. So mathematically, the deal would seem to meet the CRTC’s criteria for approval.

But expect those who came out against the Bell-Astral deal, particularly Quebecor, Cogeco and Telus, to argue that this deal calls into question the integrity of the CRTC’s 2013 decision and that it should be denied as being against the public interest.

Since this is a change in ownership, the deal would also be subject to the CRTC’s tangible benefits policy, which requires 10% of the value of television ownership transactions be spent on funds and projects that benefit the broadcasting system. Under this policy, Bell would be expected to spend $20 million on new projects over the next seven years. No tangible benefits proposal has been released yet, but will become public when the CRTC publishes the application for change in ownership.